As part of the next series of posts for this blog, I’ll be asking some questions of the experts behind the Digital R&D Fund to see how their answers compare and what other, perhaps smaller arts organisations can learn from…
Question 1: What do you think the key to success has been with this particular project?
Jo Johnson, digital marketing manager at the London Symphony Orchestra, says that the project’s success was dependent on good project management.
“The nature of our project was such that good project management was key. We had quite a short amount of time to get something planned, built, tested and out into the market and the only way to get this done on time was to set out the deadlines, requirements and expectations from the start and stick to them rigidly.
“Of course it helped that we had a very clear idea of what the project was before we took it into the application process, so we were able to get going on it before the ink on the contract was even dry! And because we were basing it on an already existing student scheme, with an already existing audience to market it to and test it on, the only question as to whether it would succeed was whether the students would adapt to this new bit of technology easily or not, rather than whether the idea itself would work. Thankfully they did!”
In the last update from the Culture Cloud project, and in my last catch up with Skinder Hundal – one of those heading up the project – we talked about the digital difficulties of putting art online. In this next round of updates, and in our second catch up, we spoke about the importance of communication and how a strong team will always guarantee success.
How important was communication to the Culture Cloud project?
Communication is a critical part of success, be that written, verbal, physical or virtual. Communication can be complex in partnership projects like Culture Cloud, which involves new partnerships and tried and tested ones all in the same mix. The dynamics and ideologies and working practices of the different sectors often need to be thought through and negotiated – be them commercial, technology firms, universities or national visual arts organisations.
Communicating time scales, and expectations of roles and responsibilities plays a critical role in determining successful outcomes. The methodology and regularity of communication is also key – be that via text, phone, face to face, email or blogs.
Successful projects have great ideas, vision and dynamic multi-functioning teams – there have to be instigators, responders and mediators. I borrow the term ‘threeing’ from an artist called Paul Ryan featuring in dOCUMENTA (13), Kassel at the moment in fact. It means a team where someone leads, a group respond and a smaller group mediate the ideas and differences – it really makes a difference. In totality though what makes success is leadership, passion and drive, forward planning, and great ideas delivered pragmatically with skilled and knowledgeable team players. It is always a combination of these components successfully blending in time and space that make the difference.
If you could do the project again, what would you do differently?
We have had approximately 40,000 voting engagements with Culture Cloud online via social media and the Culture Cloud platform on Artfinder. This has been brilliant, but the model needs refining so thinking this through in more detail would be really important. The model works so that artists and audiences have more control and power in the outcome of whether they get to exhibit in an international space. Those less networked and more introvert can get left behind though, so ensuring that an audience engagement platform can work so it has even more value as we develop the model for the future is important.
On the whole the project has exceeded expectations and we are delighted about this; we are now at the stage where we are promoting the sales of digital prints selected from the Top 40. This is a relatively new area for us as a public contemporary art gallery based in an inner city area. To do this well, thinking through a tighter commercial strategy would be really good with a dedicated team who can engage audiences with the work and also instigate new collectors of art and buyers of digital print so that artists, audience and project partners all benefit together.
Matthew Caines is a journalist currently blogging and posting updates from all eight projects involved in the Digital R&D Fund for Arts and Culture
Find out more about the Culture Cloud project here
This is the second in the Arts Council’s Arts Digital R&D podcast series – podcast 2 is all about using mobile and location-based technology and gaming to engage arts and culture audiences.
The series, hosted by arts and culture broadcaster and journalist John Wilson, explores the innovative use of digital technology in the arts and cultural sectors and features discussion and debate from expert studio guests and pioneering case study examples of digital projects.
Each programme in the series will focus on one of the themes at the core of the new Digital R&D Fund for the Arts: User generated content and social media; Digital distribution and exhibition; Mobile, location and games; Data and archives; Resources; and Education and learning.
The next batch of blogposts from each of the projects will be released soon so keep your eyes on the blog!