Skip to main content Skip to site map (in footer)

This is Art!

  • Date: 25 January 2011
  • Artform: None
  • Area: Midlands
A montage of a pair of ballet shoes, a camera and a couple dancing Lincolnshire's This is Art! brand has helped raise awareness of the arts in the county, image courtesy of Lincolnshire County Council

Arts Council England works in partnership with local authorities to help us achieve our mission of great art for everyone. Through our funding, brokerage and development role, we aim to maximise our investment in the arts by building positive relationships with local councils and working with cultural organisations to increase engagement in the arts.

Lincolnshire developed a county-wide audience development and marketing campaign based on a specially designed This is Art! brand. Launched on Lincolnshire Day on 1 October 2009, the campaign rapidly achieved high brand visibility across the county, raised the profile and levels of engagement in the arts and encouraged venues to work together. Initiatives included:

  • high profile promotions such as Street Talking - street events to launch a new programme season at 12 venues simultaneously across the county under the This is Art! brand
  • mass participation events such as a This is Art! photography competition
  • development of website www.thisisartlincs.org.uk and a Facebook page
  • design and distribution of a wide range of This is Art! branded materials, from bookmarks in every library book issued to pull-up banners for outdoor events

Main challenges and how they were tackled

Focusing and energising partners

Arts Council England provided funding to Lincolnshire under its organisational development Thrive! programme from 2006-2010. The Lincolnshire One project targeted support for improved working and shared services between the arts community, the county council and the seven district councils.

In 2009 Lincolnshire County Council set a local target to increase adult engagement in the arts. This created the 'perfect storm' to focus and energise the Lincolnshire One venue and marketing partners. Developing the This is Art! brand provided the catalyst for collaboration and formed the basis for a marketing campaign and audience development activity.

Achieving the right brand concept

This is Art! is defined as an advocacy brand, not a marketing or quality brand. Although guidelines are available on how to use it, anyone can use the brand however they wish as long as they promote participation in the arts in an inclusive way. Promotional materials are well designed and convey strong messages about local participation in arts activity through images and words. They make no reference to Lincolnshire County Council or its district council partners. As a result, use and recognition of the brand as a sign of rich and exciting arts activity spread quickly and widely across the county.

Getting buy-in to the campaign

Lincolnshire achieved partner buy-in at both delivery and strategic levels through:

  • a matrix project management team, which drew on skills and experience from across Lincolnshire County Council's cultural services and adult education directorate
  • Lincolnshire Senior Cultural Officers Group - every council in the county incorporated the marketing campaign in their action plans
  • Lincolnshire One Steering Group - this kept all eight local authority chief executives and cultural portfolio holders informed about the campaign
  • a participative approach that put decision-making in the hands of stakeholders - for example, enabling the arts community to choose the brand and how to promote it, and to decide how to spend a £50,000 grant from the Arts Council
  • boosting the community grants scheme to fund projects aimed at specific audience segments - this connected the campaign to the voluntary and community sector 

Measuring progress

Lincolnshire County Council started to collect proxy data in 2009 to measure progress across the county in increasing levels of adult engagement in the arts. Quarterly surveys carried out by library, adult education and heritage services include questions about attendance and participation in creative, artistic, theatrical or musical events or activities. The results are broken down by geographic area and survey site. Overall figures are reported to senior managers and councillors, promoting a positive message about engagement in the arts in Lincolnshire.

Results

The 12 Lincolnshire One venues have developed a pool of marketing expertise and recognise the strengths of collaborative working to reach new audiences.

Local figures indicate that the number of adults engaging in the arts across Lincolnshire increased throughout 2009/10. These figures are significantly higher than the target figure based on national data. However, comparisons need to be treated with caution due to sampling and methodology differences between the local and national surveys. 

Learnings

What worked well

  • a clear target for increasing engagement in the arts proved an effective tool to bring about organisational change; it provided the glue that bound everything together
  • engaging with all the strategic partners (council leaders, portfolio holders, chief executives and senior managers) from the start ensured their support
  • an advocacy brand aligned to other initiatives brought early wins
  • collecting local data meant progress could be tracked and reported to decision makers

What worked less well

  • reaching the voluntary and community sector is harder to achieve and takes more effort
  • developing a new website within a local authority context is a slow process

Next steps

Future plans are to broaden the This is Art! brand across the wider cultural sector and embed it within a new culture network, to create a sustainable model outside the county council.

For more information, contact Chris Heighton, Arts Development Officer, Lincolnshire County Council, or visit www.thisisartlincs.org.uk or www.myebook.com/lincolnshireone.

Browse more local authority case studies.