CVB Moves Forward with Cultural Marketing Resource Center Print
News/Features - Local News
Written by Megan Stephenson   
Friday, 28 August 2009 14:41

Representatives from roughly 60 arts, culture, heritage, and festival organizations on August 26 agreed to create what's tentatively being called the Cultural Marketing Resource Center to facilitate coordinated marketing for Quad Cities attractions and events.

Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau President and CEO Joe Taylor will apply for grants to jump-start the program, with a goal of opening the center by the beginning of 2010. Taylor said that if enough money isn't raised by November, the opening will be delayed. He added that the center could be funded for two years - including the salary of a director dedicated to arts and culture events - for $150,000. Other sources of revenue discussed at Wednesday's meeting were hotel/motel taxes, membership fees, and contributions from private and public sources.

A 2004 study commissioned by the Quad Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau suggested the Cultural Marketing Resource Center. (See "Can Arts and Culture Put Heads in Beds?", River Cities' Reader Issue 496, September 29-October 5, 2004.) But Taylor said the idea didn't gain traction because cultural organizations didn't see a pressing need.

That's changed, he said. Ticket sales and sponsorships have decreased with the sluggish economy, and "judging by the size of the turnout [on Wednesday], these organizations are looking for an extra boost - in audience development, resources, advocacy," he said.

Taylor said the local economy will benefit in the long run by using the center to bring in more visitors.

Similar efforts, such as the Midwest Arts Mecca in 2001, lacked the infrastructure that Taylor said the Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) can provide. Although his organization was unable to lead the effort five years ago, now "the CVB has stepped up to 'drive the bus,'" Taylor said in an e-mail. And while the Quad City Presenters is a coalition of more than 40 arts and cultural organizations, it's not comprehensive.

"Everyone's been so busy keeping the lights on in their individual organizations, it's been difficult collaborating," Taylor said.

The Cultural Marketing Resource Center will be housed in CVB offices at the newly renovated Union Station in downtown Davenport, providing a place for residents and visitors to learn about arts and culture events and attractions in the Quad Cities. Another element of the initiative is a centralized online community calendar, with individual organizations responsible for plugging in their events. A director will be the point of contact for all arts and cultural organizations, and will undertake outreach and fundraising. Taylor also said the center will have a 14-person advisory committee.

The center is modeled after the Cedar Rapids-based Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance, in particular its Web site (CulturalCorridor.org) and community calendar. The alliance has 150 members, and its site gets roughly a million hits per month. Executive Director Joe Jennison - who attended the Quad Cities meeting - said in an interview that his organization has roughly the same budget as has been proposed for the Cultural Marketing Resource Center. He said his job is to be the face of and advocate for arts and culture in the community. Jennison's way of promoting himself as the go-to guy for arts and culture is what attracted Taylor to the concept.

At the August 26 meeting, participants also discussed advertising outside of the Quad Cities, including in major metropolitan areas such as Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Kim Findlay of the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre said she has met many families who find that the Quad Cities offer as much as many big cities, but with easier parking.

Susan Skora, CEO of Community Foundation of the Great River Bend, attended the meeting to see if the new cultural center was a good candidate for grant funding. The foundation gave approximately $4 million in grants and scholarships last year, and Skora said she liked the meeting's outcome and would welcome an application. "I support collaboration, and I support a creative way of doing things," she said.

From institutions such as Quad City Arts and the Putnam Museum & IMAX Theatre to festivals such as Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Jazz Festival to smaller heritage groups such as the Scottish-American Society of the Quad Cities, those at the meeting emphasized that the Cultural Marketing Resource Center is needed to help the organizations speak with one voice.

Sheila Craig, a founding member of the Scottish-American Society, said that while institutions such as the Figge Art Museum have the money to advertise, smaller cultural or heritage societies don't have the budget. She said this center can provide resources to help smaller organizations.


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