AMS Planning & Research Corp.
Writers Theatre

Writers Theatre Grand Opening

AMS is proud to celebrate with longtime client Writers Theatre of Glencoe, IL, on the Grand Opening of its new Theatre Center. The Grand Opening Gala takes place February 8 and the inaugural performance, of Tom Stoppard’s ‘Arcadia’, will open on March 24.

Writers Theatre

Steve Hall, Hedrick Blessing Photography

The 36,000-square-foot facility, designed by Studio Gang Architects, contains a 250-seat main stage, 99-seat flexible black box venue, atrium, VIP room, terrace, rehearsal hall, and artist support spaces. Working closely with the theater’s building committee, AMS provided planning and development services to Writers’ Theater from the outset of the project in 2008.

For more information on the facility see this article from the Chicago Tribune. Or, click here for the WTTW video broadcast.

Links to additional articles related the project and the Grand Opening are available on the Writers Theatre website.

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AMS Launches PACStats 3.0

Performing Arts Centers (PAC) are complex enterprises in a rapidly evolving world. Their successful operation requires clear, compelling, and comparable information. For more than a decade, PACStats has been the standard‐setting benchmarking and performance measurement tool providing that insight to North America’s leading performing arts centers. And now the standard has been raised again.

PACStatsAMS is excited to announce the official release of PACStats 3.0. Reimagined and entirely rebuilt in close collaboration with PAC executives and industry experts, PACStats 3.0 offers exceptional insight and invaluable information for any performing arts center leadership team. PACStats gathers, analyzes, and compares hundreds of data points from dozens of performing arts centers each year.

The full service upgrade includes:

  • An all new PACStats Community Site and URL (, to share and learn with your colleagues
  • A single, password-protected, home page for everything PACStats
  • New functionality, including threaded discussions, with Q&A and spot surveys
  • Expanded collection of activity information

Introducing the PAC Stats Community Site

We are very excited to launch a brand new landing page for PACStats and an initiative called the PACStats Community Site. This portal is the central location for participating in the full array of PACStats benefits. You can now access your surveys, reports and all of the PACStats functionality using one login and password at

PACStats CommunityThis password-protected site is only available to PACStats subscribers and includes exclusive new content. We are posting meeting presentations, study reports, and news from your peers. Threaded discussions and Q&A’s allow you to ask questions to your colleagues and AMS in a facilitated, user-friendly format. There is also a complete directory of all PAC Stats users and interactive polls that provide immediate results.

The PACStats community includes CEOs, COOs, CFOs, and key staff from arts centers across North America who utilize and help define PACStats data to discuss the state of the field, identify critical areas of organizational performance and operations, and exchange ideas for maximizing arts effectiveness and impact.

Documenting Total Activity

Based on feedback, we are expanding the PACStats benchmarking survey to allow subscribers to add all venues that are used for significant activity, whether on-site or off; from theaters to classrooms. Across North America, significant numbers of community members are served outside of the traditional performance venues and it is important to document this impact. PACStats now lets you capture that activity.

PACStats Venues

This is a first step to a more contemporaneous collection of activity data and direct links to your scheduling software. We are already working with VenueCubeTM, Ungerboeck and Artifax to make their reporting compatible with Q2 and will be looking into more automated connections in future releases.

Contact AMS for a Demonstration

AMS looks forward to sharing the expanded capability of our latest program iteration, and the expansion of the PACStats user community.

For more information or a product demonstration, please contact PACStats project manager, Kate Scorza Ingram, at or (203) 256-1616.

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redefining arts and culture

Webinar: Redefining Arts and Culture

AMS Planning & Research Principal Steven A. Wolff discussed the evolving state of the arts and arts leadership in a webinar hosted by Patron Technology in July 2015. Video from the webinar is available below, and through this link.

redefining arts and culture
Things You Need to Know: Redefining Arts and Culture
The arts and cultural sectors are changing. Where art is presented, who’s attending, and how audiences are being engaged are all evolving. AMS Planning & Research Principal, Steven A. Wolff, discusses how arts and culture are being redefined and rethinking success within the current environment.


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Hanako O'Leary

Summer Project Staff

Hanako O'LearyAMS is delighted to welcome Hanako O’Leary, who is with us through the summer working in AMS’s Seattle office. Hanako is a candidate in the MFA in Arts Leadership program at Seattle University.

While at AMS, she will focus on research and analysis for a variety of projects. We look forward to introducing Hanako to our work in the arts and cultural sector.

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Beaverton Arts and Culture Center

New Arts at Creekside

AMS congratulates the Beaverton, Oregon, City Council on their plans to develop four acres of their downtown core, which will include a new 40,000 sq.ft. Arts and Culture Center within the city’s Creekside district.

Beaverton Arts and Culture CenterAMS assisted EcoNorthwest and ZGF Architects in the project planning effort by providing review and commentary on potential Creekside sites that included citing realistic ideas of space and functional requirements. The project, to be located on the Westgate site, currently a parking lot, is anticipated to include a 400-seat theatre, a second, smaller performance space, a lobby/gallery area to accommodate visual art exhibits and cultural events, as wells as classrooms, a catering kitchen, and café.

More information on the Beaverton development is available through this news article, or through the Arts and Culture Center’s website.

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Arts Centre Melbourne

The Evolved Performing Arts Center

An essential element of “rethinking success” for arts organizations is the continual effort to define and deliver “public value.” In a recent article for Arts Centre Melbourne’s magazine, Encore (excerpted below), AMS Principal Steven A. Wolff details the evolution of that value for a particularly complex group of arts organizations: performing arts centers.

A complete version of the article is available for download (PDF format).


Arts Centre Melbourne

Arts Center Melbourne (photo: Flickr OZinOH)

Modern performing arts centers like Arts Centre Melbourne which officially opened in 1984 were relatively new concepts that dated back only to the 1960s. But now, they have become highly sophisticated businesses run by expert professional staff and guided by deeply engaged boards.

A highly visible and complex enterprise, the contemporary performing arts center (PAC) is often one of the largest and most diverse arts organizations in a community. It is expected to be a leader in the arts sector and support civic priorities.

But, the environment in which performing arts centers operate is one of dramatic change. From rapidly changing and diversifying communities to universal on-demand access to content via the internet; from a new, more sophisticated definition of the marketplace and high customer expectations; who today’s “artists” are and new economic realities; it is no longer possible for a performing arts center simply to be what it once was envisioned to be, an “island of culture.”

Over the past sixty years, the PAC has evolved, in fits and starts, through four, possibly five, distinct generations:

Generation One – Arts Center as “Home”
While cities and their leaders have been building theaters throughout recorded history, the prototypical modern performing arts center, comprising a complex of several genre-specific performance spaces, dates only back to the 1960s and early 1970s with the development of New York’s Lincoln Center, London’s National Theatre and the Sydney Opera House.

These first modern performing arts centers created a nexus of activity largely targeted to the community’s elite. This strategy was about creating a “home” for the “high arts”; a place to see and be seen.

Generation Two – Arts Center as “Place”
By the late 1970s and early 1980s, these early PACs had demonstrated a valuable secondary effect – the density of activity and people (artists, artistic companies, audiences) that they created often resulted in secondary development (or redevelopment) in the surrounding neighborhood.

Cities around the world recognized that performing arts centers could drive activation or revitalization of their urban cores at a time when many residents and businesses were leaving for the suburbs. Planners and community leaders recognized the arts as a key anchor for city center vibrancy; breathing life into precincts through performances, the presence of artists and the support of their patrons.

Generation Three – The Community’s “Center”
The third evolution of PACs began in the early 1990s, as centers sought to carve out a broader, more organic role connected to the fabric of their community. They became nexuses of civic activity, interlocutors, incubators, meeting places and centers of discourse and learning. Their activities became about better community access, serving more children and families and bringing diverse communities together.

Generation Three centers often offer school-time performances, master classes, pre- and post-performance discussions, talent searches, scholarships, summer theatre camps and more – all strategies to create additional points of entry for the community. The goal was to make the PAC more accessible to a broader and more diverse community.

Click to download full article (PDF format)

Generation Four – Creativity and Innovation
The Generation Four PAC creates public value opportunity by making diverse programs accessible to diverse audiences. It provides critical support for high quality programs, enables innovation in the development of content and delivery, and provides essential support to emerging ideas of artistic expression.

The Generation Four PAC must also be nimble, provide a high level of technical and functional accommodation, look beyond its traditional performance venues and usual delivery mechanisms to meet its audiences where they want to engage and be able to take risk to supplement programs already present in the community.

A Generation Four PAC is a learning environment through which new experiences are generated and new knowledge is created that enhances cultural awareness, expression and understanding

Looking ahead, the successful Generation Four PAC will have many different roles, from home and host to thought leader and enabler among others, assuring that its particular community is served with the broadest possible arts and cultural opportunity that is relevant, authentic and in demand.

What’s Next?

In our rapidly changing world, it’s possible that the next evolution in performing arts centers, Generation Five, is emerging. Operating models are changing, delivery systems are adapting and producers and presenters alike are exploring ways to adapt content to 21st century realities. We will explore this evolution in future posts as well.

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Van Weze Performing Arts Hall

Van Wezel Rises to No. 1

Congratulations to our colleagues at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the City of Sarasota, Florida, for their latest milestone. According to the county’s tourism agency, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall ranked as the No. 1 attraction in Sarasota County in the first quarter of 2015, the region’s “high season.” The hall drew more visitors in that period than even the most popular shopping and dining locations.

Van Weze Performing Arts HallThe record-setting attendance numbers are just one indication of the impact and effectiveness of the hall and its programming.

AMS has been honored to work with the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the City of Sarasota for well over a decade. From defining the local and regional market to strategic and long-term organizational planning, AMS has helped venue and city leadership build their success, and position the organization for future success.

AMS is currently working with the Van Wezel Foundation to assure that the Hall continues as a community anchor and cultural icon for the next 50 years. Our work includes renovation/expansion planning, and coordination with a larger planning initiatives by both the Sarasota Orchestra and a group of non-profits coming together under the banner of Bayfront 20:20, working to develop 42+ acres of Sarasota Bayfront.

Read more about the Visit Sarasota attendance report online.

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Melora Cybul

AMS Welcomes Melora Cybul

Melora Cybul

Melora Cybul

AMS is delighted to welcome Melora Cybul to our team as an Analyst.

Melora recently received her MBA and MFA in Arts Management from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where her culminating research focused on financial and annual reporting by nonprofit arts organizations. While in Tuscaloosa, Melora served as the patron services manager, marketing manager and operations manager for UA Theatre & Dance. She also holds a BS in Theatre Education from Columbus State University in Columbus, Georgia.

Before joining AMS, Melora worked with organizations including the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Sewanee Summer Music Festival and Georgia Thespians. She has presented research at Theatre Symposium and the Performing Arts Managers Conference, and will participate at the IAVM Venue Management School this summer.

Melora will be serving in AMS’s Southport, CT, office where her primary responsibilities will include market and consumer research, project research, and analysis.

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Number 9

Nine Essential Innovations

In previous posts on “Rethinking Success,” we have described a broad framework for re-considering the value, support, and capacity that make vital arts organizations and initiatives successful. We’ve suggested that excellence and efficiency are still part of the equation but no longer sufficient in a world that demands effectiveness and entanglement. And we’ve proposed that arts organizations will succeed not just by incremental improvement toward a previous concept of success, but by redefining what success means, and forging paths toward that new definition.

Number 9

photo: Leo Reynolds (flickr)

But our experience, research, and insight across hundreds of clients teach us that broad frameworks don’t make real change. They offer a map and sometimes a direction, but not a path. At the center of discussion is really fundamental change in the way our organizations are organized and how they do business. To help draw that path in sharper detail, we have identified nine ‘essential innovations’ or different ways to think about and become more effective and engaged arts and cultural institutions. This post will introduce those innovations. Future posts will explore each one in more depth and provide exemplars and insights from leaders who have successfully implemented them.

Drawing upon the three elements of Moore and Leonard’s strategic triangle of value, support, and capacity, we have defined three essential innovations in each element that can be combined and connected to yield powerful results.

Strategic Triangle, Revisited

The Strategic Triangle, Revisited

Rethinking Value
We start with innovations around what we consider most important – the outcomes that contribute positive impacts to our communities. Much has been written about, and much is being invested in, the benefits of arts and cultural activity well beyond the traditional performance or exhibition. Impacts from placemaking to wellness, social justice to civic engagement, are just a few of the powerful benefits our sector creates and has started to document and demonstrate. In Rethinking Success, the three essential innovations we propose in this category are:

  • Public Value
    Moving our focus from internal measures of output and efficiency toward external concepts of effectiveness and entanglement, in service of building public value.
  • Shifting Expectations
    Listening to and learning from our changing communities and constituencies to know where we connect and how we enhance their lives.
  • Broader Impacts
    Exploring, defining, and describing the wide and various impacts ignited by our work, but also those experienced beyond our events or programs.

Rethinking Support
There is no question that the institutionalized, “not-for-profit” arts and culture sector has been a locus of creative energy for the last half-century. But the beginning of the 21st century has shown those traditional structures to be less relevant and less ready for the world around them. Needing to be resourced, nimble and ready for change suggests three essential innovations relating to how we govern our organizations, how we consider their contributed income, and how we define our financial relationships.

  • Outcome-Based Investment
    Contributed income is traditionally considered as a “gap filler,” or the money that fills the difference between what we spend on the art and what we can’t earn back from the audience through the generosity of “patrons.” Increasingly, supporters and funders are thinking as investors and organizations are thinking of all forms of revenue as “the capital” they need to operate effectively rather than distinct revenue streams.
  • Governance as Leadership
    Rethinking success will also require us to shift our expectations of lay leadership – the “trustees” who represent the public owners of our organizations. Informed by the work of Richard P. Chait and others, we need to update our expectations of our boards; move them beyond “oversight” to more generative roles and multi-dimensional engagement.
  • New Math
    We must re-align the thinking that encourages us to consider earned and contributed revenue as “above the line” and “below the line.” A shift from expense-driven budgeting to revenue-based planning would redirect the conversation from “deficits” and “subsidy” to the realities of delivering high-standard content and experiences.

Rethinking Capacity
Perhaps the easiest sector to rethink is our own capacity to deliver our work and the concepts, skills and structures we deploy to operate with both efficiency and effectiveness. Three essential innovations in this category are:

  • Capitalization
    It is time to rethink how we use our capital resources to enable internal returns. And it is time to invest more thoughtfully in the allocations of capital that move us forward. Vital organizations must build their own capacity by focusing on net revenue and creating other internal capital returns, and by re-investing that revenue in their growing success. We need to encourage funding partners to understand the challenge in the same way.
  • Shifting Focus
    Much of that capital in the arts is represented by cultural facilities. It is also time to move beyond the notion of a facility as a signal of permanence and respect toward an alternate definition of “the quality of being easily performed.”
  • Matrix Operations
    Much of the business world has come to recognize that entities organized around lines of business rather than traditional functional criteria are more effective, more nimble and more productive. There is an opportunity to coordinate effort around the ways communities connect to our work — content, experience, learning, resources, and so on — rather than around established silos of programming, marketing, development, and operations.

In future posts, we will explore each of these innovations in greater detail, and offer examples and insights from cultural professionals who have applied them. We are not so bold to suggest that these nine are the only innovations that can or should be considered or that they automatically advance an organization on their path to success. But our experience suggests they offer a good place to start the conversation.

Join the discussion; let us know what you think by posting a comment.

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Bag&Baggage Productions

From Bank to Blackbox

AMS teamed with Jill Burnette Consulting and Opsis Architecture to assist the City of Hillsboro, OR, in evaluating Bag & Baggage Productions’ inspiring plans to reimagine a downtown bank building as a 150-seat blackbox theatre. The organization is a mainstay of Hillsboro’s cultural scene and hopes to anchor the downtown by providing year-round cultural activity.

Bag&Baggage ProductionsAMS explored several different scenarios for City involvement in the project, to maximize financial sustainability and health for Bag & Baggage while minimizing costs and risk. Our work concluded with the provision of “next steps” to confirm project feasibility, including solidifying financial agreements, defining project costs, and outlining capital campaign capacity.

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