Alan Brown is a leading researcher and management consultant in the nonprofit arts industry. His work focuses on understanding consumer demand for cultural experiences and helping cultural institutions, foundations and agencies see new opportunities, make informed decisions and respond to changing conditions. His studies have introduced new vocabulary to the lexicon of cultural participation and propelled the field towards a clearer view of the rapidly changing cultural landscape.
For 2014-15, Alan’s work will follow several veins. Assessing the intrinsic impacts of arts experiences continues be a focus of his work, most recently through projects with the Australia Council for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Theatre Bay Area. His paper, “Measuring the intrinsic impacts of arts attendance” (co-authored with Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard) was published in the journal Cultural Trends in 2013. Building on a successful pilot study in 2012, Alan and his staff will collaborate over the next two years with over 50 performing arts grantees of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation on a capacity building initiative to learn from audiences.
With funding support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Alan recently completed a major study of student engagement in the performing arts for a consortium of university presenters led by the Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, and an assessment of concert format innovations for the New World Symphony in Miami Beach. His essay, “All the World’s a Stage: Venues and Settings and the role they play in shaping patterns of arts participation” was published in 2012 by Grantmakers in the Arts, and appears in the book, The audience experience: A critical analysis of audiences in the performing arts (University of Chicago Press, 2013). Also in 2014, Alan is leading a project commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts to develop a new national benchmarking system for tracking institutional support of individual artists.
Another focus of Alan’s work is developing measurement systems that communities can use to reliably and repeatedly track levels of public engagement in arts and culture, including the Philadelphia Cultural Engagement Index, a Province-wide study of arts participation for the Ontario Arts Council, and a study of patterns of arts participation in Greater Cincinnati for ArtsWave. With Jennifer L. Novak-Leonard, Alan helped to prepare Research Report #54 for the National Endowment for the Arts, Beyond Attendance: A Multi-Modal Understanding of Arts Participation, which was released in 2011.
Customer segmentation remains a thrust of Alan’s work, with recent studies for Steppenwolf, Welsh National Opera, Pacific Symphony, South Coast Rep, Major University Presenters (MUP) consortium and Glyndebourne Opera Festival (in partnership with Baker Richards). He is presently working to develop improved methods for incorporating customer preference data from survey research into ticketing databases.
In partnership with Arthur Nacht, Alan is leading a multi-year evaluation of Nonprofit Finance Fund’s Leading For The Future initiative, a groundbreaking grant program building on the principles of capitalization to transform nonprofit arts organizations, with funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Over the coming years, he will serve as lead evaluator for two additional Duke-funded grant programs, the Doris Duke Building Demand for the Arts program, and the Building Bridges grant program administered through the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (jointly funded with the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art).
Alan is the founder of CultureLab, a partnership between the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago and an international consortium of arts consultants who aim to build a bridge between academic research and everyday practice, and to speed the diffusion of promising practice into the cultural sector. He has served on the organizing committee of the National Arts Marketing Project annual conference since its inception, and speaks frequently at conferences in the U.S. and overseas.
Prior to his consulting career, Alan served for five years as Executive Director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, where he presented Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn and many other artists. He holds three degrees from the University of Michigan: a Master of Business Administration, a Master of Music in Arts Administration and a Bachelor of Musical Arts in vocal performance.