World Café and beyond: ACT's strategic planning process continues

On May 30, the Arts Council of Tamworth convened a group of 35 to engage in the second stage of ACT’s ongoing strategic planning process. The group, which met in the spacious Coleman Great Room at Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Albany, NH, included representatives from many local arts organizations as well as artists, musicians, storytellers, teachers, local business people, non-profit board members, and others.

Facilitators Vince Pelote and Lynne Route of daVinci Consulting in Intervale, NH led the group through a series of diverse activities. Each participant contributed his or her particular gifts and point of view in a unique format called the World Café. From the discussions, the ACT board can now begin to identify action items and a timeline for reaching its goals.

World Café facilitator and ACT board member Vince Pelote of DaVinci Consulting
World Café facilitator and ACT board member Vince Pelote of DaVinci Consulting

During the first stage of ACT’s strategic planning, ACT’s steering committee and board members interviewed community members and ACT patrons, asking them about the role of ACT in their lives and the community as a whole. The task of the World Café group was to take the themes that emerged in these interviews and turn them into bold dream statements. From these dream statements, participants created a vision of where ACT will be in 2015 and what role it will play in nurturing creativity and community in the Mount Washington Valley and Lakes Region of New Hampshire.

Five themes emerged from the interviews and the World Café. The first two were these: ACT brings diverse and talented musicians and artists to the area, which fosters global awareness, and ACT creates opportunities for audiences and performers to connect with one another. The Mamadou Diabate concert this past year was a case in point. The multi-age audience was able to cluster on stage during intermission to examine at close hand the 21-stringed kora Mamadou built with his father, and they listened with rapt attention as Mamadou explained the history of the instrument, its construction, and his role as a member of a family who has passed on the music and culture of Mali for seven centuries. The day after the concert, Sandwich, NH photographer Susan Lirakis interviewed and photographed Mamadou as part of a current project of photographing people who are fulfilling their dreams.

The third and fourth themes were these: ACT exposes multiple generations to the arts, and ACT fosters the artistic development of our youth. Examples from this past year included the broad range of ages who gathered to listen to the riveting storyteller Simon Brooks, the senior citizens who came to the Albert Kim concert, appreciative that it was held in the afternoon, the young and old piano students who attended the Albert Kim concert, kids exploring painting on silk, modern dance and eco art, and the opportunity Brett School students had to sing and dance on stage with the Revels Repertory Company in May.

The final theme was endless partnerships. Examples of successful partnerships included ACT’s collaboration with the Brett School to present the Revels Repertory Company and the co-sponsorship, with the Chocorua Public Library, of a New Hampshire Humanities Council presentation on the art of film.

Working in small groups and all together, the World Café group deepened their understanding of these themes, told stories, shared ideas, and in the end created their dream statements.

The group envisioned bringing youth representation onto ACT’s program committee to ensure that ACT programming appeals to kids and teens as well as adults, and talked about mentoring youth to participate as producers and performers. They also discussed outreach to help parents understand the value of artistic development in their children, and the possibility of making an inventory of what programs are already available to local kids and developing new programs to fill in gaps. They talked about programming that can reach multiple age groups and about making sure programs are physically accessible to people of all ages, and to those who may need help with transportation or cost. The group envisioned ACT using technology to broaden its audience while continuing to bring the community together at live performances and workshops. The group also discussed the kinds of partnerships possible, from working more frequently with schools on combined artist residencies and performances to creating closer relationships with other local nonprofits in order to share resources and provide greater diversity of opportunity to the local community.

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The ACT board is now moving ahead with creating and implementing an action plan. First steps include a decision to make performances free for children 12 and under in the hope that more children will be exposed to ACT’s diverse performances and parents will feel more fiscally able to participate with their children. The board is exploring grants to provide transportation for those senior citizens who require it, and is working to create opportunities for local arts organizations to come together for further discussion of pooling resources and partnership possibilities. ACT is also seeking a teen representative for its programming committee. ACT will continue to share details of its strategic planning process with the community as they develop, and information about all of ACT’s activities can always be found here on our website.

ACT always welcomes input from community members. If you have ideas for projects you would like to see ACT involved in, wish to volunteer or support ACT in some other way, or have a young person you would like to see nominated for programming committee, please visit us here or call 603-323-8104.

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