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An ice cream truck that visits Palm Beach County neighborhoods and dispenses frosty treats along with free tickets to local arts and cultural venues.
An interactive treasure hunt map that would reward children with stickers and prizes for visiting area cultural attractions such as the Norton Museum of Art, the Society of the Four Arts and the Palm Beach Zoo.
Those were just two of the six pitches that cultural arts professionals from around the world presented at a two-hour “Shark Tank”-like event June 17 at The Society of the Four Arts. Participants from 19 countries were paired in groups of 10 with leaders from Palm Beach County cultural organizations during five days of brainstorming.
Their goal was to craft practical solutions to overcome obstacles the local cultural organizations face such as not reaching underserved communities, failing to collaborate with each other and finding ways to boost attendance by attracting people outside of their regular attendees.
The event was the first time the Global Leaders Program’s Innovation Exchange Residence was held in the United States, said Mark Gillespie, co-founder and CEO of the 10-year-old nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. The event has been held in Poland, Mexico and twice in Chile.
“We are competing with beaches and palm trees,” said Sofia Vollmer Maduro, the Four Arts director of programs. “How do you get people into our darkened hallways and our beautiful auditoriums?”
The initiative is perfectly aligned with the Four Arts’ mission to encourage and cultivate a taste for music, literature, dance and the visual arts and to bring, in communication with each other, all those who desire to elevate the standard of the arts in Palm Beach County and promote their enjoyment, Maduro said.
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A five-judge panel of “sharks” and the program’s attendees voted “Take Part in Art,” as the winner. The group proposed bringing the arts to the Historic Northwest District in West Palm Beach. The predominantly Black community of 1,200 residents is bounded by Tamarind Avenue, 11th Street, Rosemary Avenue and Third Street. Established in 1890, it is in the midst of revitalization.
The winning idea focused on connecting the residents to the local arts community with workshops on dance, visual arts, music and the spoken word to be held in the Northwest neighborhood. The effort would culminate in a parade that would start at The Square on Rosemary Avenue in West Palm Beach and end at the historic Sunset Lounge and Heart and Soul Park. The West Palm Beach Center for Arts and Technology would take the lead.
The proposals will come to fruition only if the local cultural groups decide to work on one of them or to combine several of the ideas and move forward with those, Gillespie said. The previous Innovation Exchange Residence programs all resulted in implementation of something new.
Sharks Ricardo Obert, chairman of Fundación Azteca Mexico, and Juan Antonio Cuéllar, CEO of the National Symphony Orchestra and the National Symphonic Association of Colombia, selected the proposal to bring the arts to the Northwest neighborhood as their top choice.
“All the teams had interesting positions. We could blend them all. We could use all of those as tools to get to the community,” Obert said.
Dave Lawrence, president and CEO of the Cultural Council for Palm Beach County, who served as one of the “sharks,” congratulated all the teams for their work.
Lawrence’s top choice was Artists Co-Lab, a proposal that involved a Palm Tran bus traveling to different neighborhoods with artists and musicians who would give residents an opportunity to experience the arts. It ranked third in the vote count.
“The arts truly are for all,” Lawrence said. “We need to find ways we are continually reaching out and finding people.”
Sharks Hilda Ochoa-Brillembourg, founder and chairman of Arlington, Va.-based Strategic Investment Group, and Robert Forbes, Four Arts vice chairman of the board of trustees, both chose the treasure map proposal “Treasures of the Palm Beaches,” as their first choice. It came in second place.
“I love the idea of a treasure hunt,” Forbes said. “Kids love treasure hunts, and guess what, so do the grownups. It’s a great idea and a great way for people to become aware of what is in their community. It gets them engaged and gets them away from a screen. I thought this was good fun, and I thought it would be relatively easy to implement.”
Ranking fourth was “Open Gates Consortium,” a data-based platform aimed at increasing collaboration among the arts organizations. The ice cream truck proposal placed fifth. “Arts Connect,” a proposal to hold 120 pop-up concerts and a festival to bring the arts community together placed sixth.
Gillespie said the theme across all the presentations was shifting the top of the pyramid from the decision makers in the arts organizations to the audience and giving power to the community.
“The whole point here is trying to force ideas and perspectives to come together,” Gillespie said. “The ingredients for change are already right in front of your eyes. You don’t need a whole bunch of new resources. You just shift or flip what you already have. That is the idea of innovation.”
The “Shark Tank”-like event is part of the Global Leaders Program’s 12-month Executive Graduate Certificate program designed to empower cultural changemakers to grow organizations that impact communities. Harvard, Duke and McGill universities are among the nine institutions that curate the program offered to 60 arts professionals each year.
Participating local arts organizations included Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, Cultural Council for Palm Beach County, Dreyfoos School of the Arts Foundation, Lynn Conservatory of Music, Norton Museum of Art, Palm Beach Atlantic University Department of Music, Palm Beach Opera, Palm Beach Symphony, the School District of Palm Beach County, the Four Arts, Young Singers of the Palm Beaches and Youth Orchestra of Palm Beach County.
The arts professionals, from fields as diverse as theater, opera and art, were housed at PBAU. France, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, Mexico, Venezuela, The Netherlands, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador were among the countries the participants call home.
Palm Beach County cultural statistics presented at the Global Leaders Program:
- Tourists spend $155 million annually on arts and culture and attended 2.3 arts and cultural destinations.
- Residents spend $180 million annually on arts and culture.
- Fifty-nine percent of Palm Beach County residents did not visit the cultural corridor in the last 12 months.
- Thirty-seven percent of Palm Beach County cultural organizations do not engage people outside of their core audiences.