Salt Lake's Eccles Theater

Salt Lake Project Gets a Name

AMS congratulates our friends and colleagues in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County on the recent naming of their new downtown theater project. The performing arts venue, now under construction, will be called the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater, thanks to a $15 million donation from the Eccles Foundation. The center, expected to open in Fall 2016, will host touring Broadway, popular entertainment and community events in a 2,500 seat theater, a black box studio, winter garden, and public plaza.

Salt Lake's Eccles TheaterAMS has been an important partner in many aspects of the city and county’s cultural animation:

  • We helped develop the Salt Lake County Arts Facilities master plan and funding request evaluation process.
  • We provided initial market and business planning for the Utah Performing Arts Center, now called the Eccles Theater.
  • We supported Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County in developing a dedicated funding source for promoting the arts downtown, called The Cultural Core.
  • And, since 2012, we’ve worked with Salt Lake County and their Center for the Fine Arts division to build organizational capacity to operate the new center, along with Abravenal Hall, Capitol Theater / Ballet West Center, Rose Wagner Theater Center, and ArtTix.

We’re deeply honored to be part of the extraordinary team of civic leaders and cultural professionals infusing new life into the city and county.

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New Jersey Performing Arts Center

Urban Transformation through Culture

In the last 30 years there has been an explosion of capital investment in urban cultural facilities, and AMS Planning & Research has been a key partner and advisor to many. Belief in the cultural and community development benefits of significant capital investment in the arts has driven projects in cities around the globe. But when is this strategy the right strategy for cities? And what is the actual impact?

New Jersey Performing Arts Center

photo by Scott Miller/Flickr

On October 9th and 10th, AMS will take part in an International Conference on Cultural Institutions and Urban Transformation, which will focus on the qualitative and quantitative impact cultural institutions have on cities. What has worked? What hasn’t? What are the lessons? Larry Goldman, past President & CEO of New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at Rutgers University School of Public Affairs & Administration, is leading the development of an international conference to address these and other questions.

The conference, co-hosted by the Rutgers and NJPAC, will bring together academics, non-profit executives, leading funders, public officials, economic development professionals, and others interested in arts institutions as stimulators of urban change. AMS Principal Steven Wolff and Adrian Ellis of AEA Consulting will lead a debate examining the role of these institutions in catalyzing urban development.

NJPAC, a past AMS client, is among the leading examples of how an arts center has successfully driven the transformation of a challenged neighborhood.  Wolff and Ellis will examine this and other examples around the world in an effort to dig deeper into this complex phenomenon.

Conference attendance is by invitation only, and is limited to 125 people.  For more information or to express interest in attending the conference, visit

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Strategic Triangle Revisited

The Strategic Triangle

In our first post of this series, we introduced the notion that ”success” in an arts enterprise means moving beyond ”sustainable” to become a ”vital” actor in your community by creating public value. But how does that value come to be? And what steps can cultural or community leaders take to create and cultivate that vitality? In this post, we’ll introduce a framework that we’ve found productive in helping clients and communities ”rethink success.” The framework is called the ”Strategic Triangle.”

The Strategic Triangle

The Strategic Triangle

Professors at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, including Mark Moore, Herman Leonard, and Robert Kaplan among others, have been studying high-performing non-government organizations (NGOs) and not-for-profits for nearly two decades. This extensive work led them to develop and describe the Strategic Triangle**, an essential relationship and intersection between three key concepts:

    What essential public benefit does the product or service provide?
    What authority, legitimacy, and resources does the organization need to take positive action in dynamic ways?
    What skills, abilities, or competencies are required to create real and durable value within the support environment?

The Strategic Triangle suggests that there is no single element for success, but rather a balance among multiple elements. It shifts the definition of value from an organizational to a community perspective. It combines ”money” into a broader framework of legitimacy and support. And it acknowledges organizational capacity as an essential leg of the stool.

In 2005, Arts Midwest commissioned Professor Moore to apply this construct to state arts agencies and bridge the general discoveries about not-for-profits and NGOs to specific insights about arts and culture. The resulting report, Creating Public Value through State Arts Agencies (available in PDF format), captured both the history of shifting public values related to the arts, as well as the essential strategies to recapture or reconstruct that value through focused action. We’ll explore that history in a future post.

In ”rethinking success,” we suggest it’s time to move beyond traditional goals of delivering the highest quality arts (excellence) in the most cost-effective manner (efficiency). It’s time to refocus our thinking and our actions toward impact (effectiveness) and value (entanglement). We believe that Moore’s Strategic Triangle – perhaps updated for our sector and the current decade – offers a useful path for that journey.

Strategic Triangle, Revisited

The Strategic Triangle, Revisited

For example, in our work, we simplify Moore’s three concepts to Value, Support, and Capacity. And we consider them to be overlapping rather than separate, with ‘success’ living at the intersection of all three.

Over the course of the next months, we will introduce a dozen essential innovations to transform our organizations – drawn from our work, excellent research by colleagues, and success illustrated by exemplary organizations. We hope that you will contribute to the conversation by sharing your ideas, your experiments, your success and failures with the field.

The comment system is open. Join the conversation!

**For more on the strategic triangle as it relates to government, see Mark H. Moore, Creating Public Value: Strategic Management in Government (Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press, 1995).

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New Ideas Need Old Buildings

Discussing Adaptive Reuse for Museums

New Ideas Need Old BuildingsAt the recent American Alliance of Museums (AAM) Conference, held in Seattle Washington May 18 – 21, 2014, AMS Director Katie Oman led a wide-ranging discussion with a panel of museum leaders and architects entitled “New Ideas Need Old Buildings: Museums, Cities, and Adaptive Reuse.”

The session addressed museums’ relationships with their communities and neighborhoods at a variety of scales, as well as the opportunities and pitfalls of developing capital projects in existing spaces.  The group examined a number of important examples in Seattle including: Storefronts Seattle with Matthew Richter, the City of Seattle’s Cultural Space Liaison; The Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience with Executive Director Beth Takekawa and architect Rick Sundberg (Sundberg Kennedy Ly-Au Young Architects); Chihuly Garden and Glass with architect Owen Richards (ORA), and the Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) with Executive Director Leonard Garfield and architect Sam Miller (LMN Architects).

The panelists discussed topics ranging from the ecological sustainability of building reuse, to engaging community and design partners for a collaborative development process, to urbanism and cultural economics.  The session’s handout is available for download (PDF format).

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Exploring El Paso

Exploring El Paso

Exploring El Paso

AMS’ Amy Ben-Kiki presents in El Paso

AMS has partnered with HKS Urban Design Studio on a cultural facilities masterplan for El Paso, TX. The downtown district is considered the ideal location for the new facilities, which will include a children’s museum, Hispanic Cultural Center, and the city’s future multi-purpose arena.

AMS’ role includes a market study and financial analysis for the new museum and cultural center. It will focus on establishing parameters for brand recognition and financial resources to maximize attendance and participation. The city’s new cultural destinations will create a vibrancy that will serve as a springboard for attracting people and investment.

Construction on the new facilities is anticipated to begin after 2015. Read more online in this news item.

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Sustainable to Vital

From Sustainable to Vital

For more than 25 years, our AMS team has had the good fortune to engage with many of the world’s most thoughtful and successful arts and culture enterprises, leaders, and supporters. Behind all the complex questions we’ve helped them answer over those two and a half decades, a short and simple question has been the most persistent: “What’s next?”

Sustainable to Vital

Photo by Dave Campbell

Artists, professionals, supporters, and advisors across the sector have become increasingly proficient at a now traditional understanding of arts and cultural enterprise. But many among them are seeing a need to consider and embrace systemic change.

In an era where there is nearly universal, on-demand access to all forms of content, thanks to the tremendous technological advances of the last few decades, and where traditional means of support and art-making are challenged, the sector is in a state of flux. Art forms are evolving, new strategies to grow audience participation are being tried and tested, alternate delivery mechanisms are emerging, new business models are rising and falling, and fundamental economic assumptions are being re-thought.

At AMS, we’ve been working deeply with our clients and colleagues in these developing strategies and tactics. But we’ve also been discovering a larger and more cohesive opportunity not only to rethink the work and the traditional delivery system, but also to “rethink success.”

Viable, Sustainable, VitalTo our way of thinking, it is no longer enough to deliver the best possible “art” in the most “efficient” manner. In our review of research (from our sector and others), and in work we have conducted with hundreds of clients and communities, we have come to believe that the 21st century arts and culture enterprise must move beyond the now traditional notion of sustainability to become vital. We must not only do our work differently, but do different work. Success in the next era means becoming an “effective” organization that has an impact (causes change) on the people it serves, and becoming so deeply “entangled” in the community that it is recognized widely as a “vital” contributor to its community’s success.

In work first commissioned by The Columbus Foundation (Columbus, Ohio) and developed further in Providence, Rhode Island, AMS was asked to assess the depth, breadth, and sustainability of these city’s cultural sectors. Columbus Foundation CEO Douglas Kridler challenged our team and the entire community “to better understand the opportunities for the arts sector in Columbus, and how to implement a strategic vision and generate resources to help the market succeed.”

By analyzing fourteen peer or competitive cities to Columbus, and later ten for Providence, we identified key drivers for the success of the arts and culture sectors in those communities. Not only were we able to identify these key variables of success, but also to develop a logic model that revealed the characteristics of “vital” cultural enterprises.

“The arts have enormous and unique public value in our community,” Kridler said. “AMS helped us to identify critical investments, position our agreement for engagement and refine how we defined success.”

Building on a framework from United Nations community development efforts, the two studies demonstrated that the arts and culture sector could both deliver excellent art and be an effective partner in community success by: 1) securing access to resources – including leadership, human and financial resources, 2) building internal return on capital – including financial, social and political assets, and 3) maximizing “public value” by aligning with community goals.

By seeking to become “vital” players, individual organizations and the entire arts and cultural sector can be re-positioned as essential actors in a community’s success, and could enter a virtuous cycle of more resources, more connections, and more impact.

This first article launches a series of posts, links, and conversations around the concepts of “rethinking success,” where we hope to share what we’re learning, and to learn from your insights as well. There’s an essential journey ahead of us in the move from “sustainable” to “vital” cultural enterprise. We hope you will join us as we explore that road together.

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Salt Lake City

Making Way in Utah

Salt Lake CityCongratulations to our colleagues in Salt Lake City, where demolition began to make way for the New Performing Arts Center. The center will be a 2,500-seat, state-of-the-art venue with groundbreaking expected this year and completion potentially by 2016.

AMS was an adviser to the initiative, which was part of the City’s Downtown Rising vision created in 2006. 

More information on the venue and its process is available online.

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Brown University

Building a Better Brown

Brown UniversityBrown University was looking for renewed focus and reconfigured facilities to engage the creative arts as much as it does the liberal arts. Now, they’ve turned to AMS to help them.

Brown president Christina Paxson shares a vision for new arts spaces and creative opportunities in this article from the Brown Daily Herald, saying:

“I want Brown to be known as an incredibly attractive place for students and for scholars who are artists, who understand the value of a liberal education and want to integrate those two things,” she said. “But there’s a lot of building we can do to make that more so.”

AMS will work closely with the administration, with key constituents including the Departments of Africana Studies, Modern Culture and Media, Music and Theater Arts and Performance Studies, with student performance groups, and with cultural professionals such as the Trinity Repertory Company, to facilitate and develop the new strategy.

The Ivy League institution, founded in 1764, has always been a vibrant place. This new initiative both proves and improves that strength, while signaling an ability to change and grow. AMS is proud to be a partner with Brown on this important work.

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Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts

Progress in Orlando

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing ArtsThe Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, Florida, is well on its way to grand opening in November.

AMS Planning & Research Corp. is proud to be a long-time advisor to the project, working alongside civic leaders and community members to ensure a facility and a future equal to their aspirations. We helped develop an operating and governance plan for the facility, and as owner’s council we’ve updated the business model and continue to provide additional operational guidance as needed.

This photo was taken at a recent workshop held in anticipation of their opening.

Pictured, from L to R:  Joan Squires, President, Omaha Performing Arts Society; Larry Goldman, Founding President & CEO, NJPAC; Larry Wilker, Principal, TheatreDreams; Steven Wolff, Principal, AMS Planning & Research; Kathy Ramsberger, President, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts; and Amy Ben-Kiki, Project Manager, AMS Planning & Research.

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Theatre for a New Audience

New home for Theatre for a New Audience

Theatre for a New AudienceOn January 7, Project Managers Lynette Turner and Kate Scorza Ingram had the pleasure of attending Theatre for a New Audience’s Inaugural production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the brand new Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn, New York.

AMS has worked with Theatre for a New Audience for the last six years as management counsel and to assist with strategic planning. The production was directed by Julie Taymor and described by Ben Brantley in the New York Times as “…when the moments are this beautiful, they take root in your mind and assume lives of their own. Don’t be surprised when they start showing up in your own dreams.”

It was an exciting night, as we were able to have a pre-performance snack and beverage at the café and a brief tour of the facility, now fully realized.

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