Recreation, Arts and Culture
Keen Independent helps recreation, arts and cultural institutions better connect with their current and potential audiences. We understand the constant change in consumer demand for and leisure activities, and we remain current with this fluidity by maintaining a national database of arts, recreation and cultural organizations.
In addition, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has been the leading provider of information on arts, recreation and leisure in the United States since the 1980s. Keen Independent has helped organizations use these data to find meaningful results that address the tough issues, and implement proactive solutions that benefit the community. David Keen has served as lead researcher for the NEA in repeat Surveys of Public Participation in the arts and currently sits on the NEA research evaluation panel.
Studies for performing arts venues. Keen Independent is currently conducting feasibility studies for performing arts organizations and recently completed a similar study for an arts venue.
Denver Performing Arts Complex Feasibility Study. Keen Independent directed a feasibility study and long-term business planning assignment for the City and County of Denver, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Opera Colorado and Colorado Ballet. This study was one of the largest of its kind.
The Keen Independent study team collaborated with a diverse array of community members, elected officials, and staff of the City and County of Denver. Throughout the study process, Keen Independent engaged more than 250 stakeholders including venue managers, leaders of arts organizations and other community members in workshops and in-depth interviews to determine future demand for and the needs of performing arts organizations in the Denver area.
The project involved identifying practical and technical needs of arts organizations seeking to perform and rehearse in downtown venues, especially those serving diverse audiences. We also evaluated potential artistic and operating synergies among different performing arts organizations, educational institutions and community groups to identify potential solutions making the Denver Performing Arts Complex more accessible to diverse community organizations.
The study team developed capital and operating budgets and recommended business models consistent with our comprehensive plan for moving the Arts Complex facilities to the next phase of development. Keen Independent brought, new, diverse voices into this planning process.
Keen Independent provided short-, mid- and long-term recommendations to help achieve the goals of the Arts Complex, resident companies and community stakeholders. One major study recommendation involved replacing Boettcher Concert Hall with a smaller venue that best fits the size needs of the Colorado Symphony, Boettcher Concert Hall’s primary user. Through demand projects and a complex analysis of the Symphony’s ticket sales, the study team determined an ideal seat count for the recommended new concert hall. This new concert hall is now in the design build stage.
For more information on the Denver Performing Arts Complex Venue Market Analysis and Feasibility Study, visit: www.keenindependent.com/2019artscomplexmarketanalysis
City of Waco Arts Feasibility Study. Keen Independent is currently directing a cultural facility consulting assignment for the City of Waco, Texas. Keen Independent is performing a market analysis and comprehensive needs assessment as well as developing an operating plan and budget for a potential new performing arts facility that supports the community.
As key part of this study, Keen Independent conducted regional outreach designed to encourage input from diverse groups representative of the communities a new center would serve. The study team is conducting public meetings, virtual workshops, in-depth interviews and survey research. So far, more than 300 community members have provided input on the study. This project has been so well-received by the community that the Waco Tribune-Herald published on its front page that one of our community events brought an “overflow crowd.”
We will be developing short-, mid- and long-term recommendations for the city that considers the immediate impact that COVID-19 has had on the community. The study team is also analyzing the economic impact of each recommendation.
Ent Center for the Arts Management and Business and Strategic Planning. The Ent Center for the Arts is a 92,000 square foot center that opened in January 2018. This building contains three theaters, a contemporary art gallery and studio space, all of which support the University of Colorado Colorado Springs (UCCS) programs and resident companies.
This study includes extensive stakeholder engagement, an assessment of venue operations, a comparative venue analysis of similar multivenue university facilities in similar communities, a comparative rental price analysis and financial, ticketing and utilization analyses. Keen Independent is using all study findings to develop a new operating pro forma, governance and staffing structure and budget for the Ent Center.
Wheeler Opera House Facility Expansion Feasibility Study. Keen Independent, in concert with Theatre Projects, conducted a feasibility and community needs study that assessed the possibility of an expansion to the Wheeler Opera House. Keen Independent’s analysis included forecasting demand for different types of performing arts and community engagement activities in Aspen and the Roaring Fork Valley that could be accommodated at the Wheeler Opera House.
Due to community concerns regarding construction fatigue in the city and the requirement to close the Opera House for multiple years during the potential renovation process, the study team deemed the expansion of the Wheeler Opera House to be infeasible. However, the community indicated that they still need support and access to performance spaces, so the study team offered alternative options for the use of available City capital funds.
Keen Independent and Theatre Projects were re-engaged for a follow-up study that assessed the management of the facility and its employees. This follow-up project involved conducting comprehensive venue utilization, ticketing, revenue and salary analyses to assess the operations of the Wheeler Opera House and provide future staffing, capital planning and financial recommendations.
Denver Staenberg-Loup Jewish Community Center (JCC) Feasibility Study, Strategic Planning, Programming and Management Consulting. Keen Independent assisted the JCC Mizel Arts and Culture Center with developing a sustainable business model, increasing educational community arts collaborations and providing a roadmap for organizational restructuring. Alex Keen worked closely with JCC leadership and board members to develop solutions for a more efficient and impactful community cultural center.
The Keen Independent study team along with leadership from the JCC reinvented its current model to incorporate more arts community rentals due to the common belief of their resources are being underutilized. Keen Independent provided a roadmap for organizational change and a clear way to test this model. We developed tools to give the JCC a strong position within the Denver marketplace.
Upon completion of this assignment, the JCC reengaged Keen Independent for further management, programming and strategic planning consulting through the COVID-19 pandemic. The study team worked with JCC staff to develop program performance metrics and measure each programs’ impact and alignment with the JCC mission.
2019 May Bonfils Stanton Theater Feasibility Study. Keen Independent explored the feasibility of reviving the May Bonfils Stanton Theater at Loretto Heights. This study included an analysis of capacity and demand for performing arts venues in southwest Denver, including community interest and needs. The study team also assessed the facility’s condition, renovation options and potential operating models for the theater.
For more information on the May Bonfils Stanton Theater Feasibility Study, visit: www.keenindependent.com/maybonfilsstantontheater
History is not dead (in Kansas). David Keen performed site visits, intercept surveys, telephone surveys, focus groups, executive interviews and other research for the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), which operates the Kansas Museum of History and the Center for Historical Research in Topeka and 16 historic sites throughout the state. Although the assignment was initially intended to focus on changes to individual KSHS products and services, the best ways to market KSHS, and other specific issues (e.g., naming, signage, logo), Mr. Keen found the challenges that KSHS faced to be much bigger — people were not going to KSHS facilities, even though they are of high quality. KSHS market penetration was about one-half of one percent of the Kansas population, with a downward trend.
Dave Keen asked, “Is history dead?” He explored the public’s interest in history, researched other facilities (Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia reported a 50 percent drop in attendance since its peak in the 1970s) and documented the intense competition for leisure time in the Kansas market. However, Kansans still displayed an interest in history and going to history museums and centers. One-third of Kansans research their own family history.
Mr. Keen went on to ask, “Are museums and libraries dead?” He concluded “yes” for a physical library such as the Center for Historical Research, but “no” for an online information source, which he urged KSHS to launch.
He then asked, “Is Kansas dead?” Although KSHS leadership didn’t use this term, Kansas being a poor market for their product was often voiced as an explanation for KSHS’ declining performance. Mr. Keen easily dismissed this argument, and in fact found that Kansas was a favorable market for the product.
After exploring other possible explanations for poor performance, Dave Keen concluded that Kansas were simply not thinking about KSHS experiences, which was the fault of KSHS, not the potential visitor. He recommended ways to re-launch KSHS products, capturing any customer who interacts with a KSHS offering (get name and email, enroll in an online community, and cross-promote). He helped the organization start to redefine its mission, develop an integrated marketing plan, reallocate limited resources, build new partnership and reach new geographic areas. (A copy of the Summary Report is provided separately.)
Reinvention of an aging recreation provider. In many communities, for many years, the YMCA was the center of its recreation activities — basketball started at a YMCA, the local Y taught many generations how to swim, and going to “the gym” and going to “the Y” were synonymous. Over the years, the YMCA has lost this place in the community, especially in the Denver area. In the 1980s and 1990s, suburban municipalities competed in building their own lavish recreation centers.
The YMCA of Metropolitan Denver barely weathered these challenges, nearly closing its doors. After a restructuring of its assets, the Y retained a team led by David Keen to examine the market for recreation and community services, perceptions of the Y brand and service offerings, and potential strategies to regain its relevance in the metropolitan area. Dave Keen urged the organization to reach beyond its traditional “bricks and mortar” model to deliver Y services where its audience already was, including the same community recreation centers that were threatening its existence. Mr. Keen worked closely with the board and senior management to fully understand its existing and potential members, explore alternative strategies, assess financial feasibility, and recommend a long-term path for the organization. Today, the YMCA of Metropolitan Denver operates five of its own campuses, manages six other facilities and brings programming into Denver and Adams County Schools.
Building bridges that link communities. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati explores courageous steps for freedom, yesterday and today. It is a bridge between communities in the Cincinnati region, the nation and the world, and continues the fight to end modern-day slavery and human trafficking.
When creating the Freedom Center, civic and business leaders, including senior management from Procter & Gamble, sought to develop deep and long-lasting relationships across communities in the Cincinnati region. David Keen worked with leadership and other outside consultants to segment audiences, further refine programming, develop membership and other offerings to connect audiences with the Freedom Center, and test marketing approaches. He also helped the Center explore how to develop networks of supporters throughout the United States.
The Center successfully opened and is an important organization that links Cincinnati residents. Its work now reaches around the world.
Bringing customer relationship-building to arts and cultural organizations. Many arts and cultural organizations take a “build it, they will come” approach to their audiences. David Keen completed a groundbreaking research effort into customer profiling for the Colorado Symphony to help them better understand their audience and develop more efficient ways of marketing. Mr. Keen applied a proprietary segmentation system that grouped past and potential ticket-buyers and subscribers into households with similar demographic and psychographic characteristics. David Keen explored how customers select entertainment options, how they choose to go to the symphony and how they experience their relationship with the symphony inside and outside the concert hall.
To help the Colorado Symphony organization (including its musicians) understand different customer types, attitudes and relationships, Dave Keen developed “names” for key customers segments along with detailed lifestyles and motivations. He then helped to educate symphony musicians and management on how different audiences relate to the symphony and how they could better deliver the symphony experience (from receiving a mailing, to going to the symphony, to talk-backs and other post-performance activities). Opportunities for personal connections with musicians were discussed. Finally, he helped the staff fine-tune subscription packages and direct mail marketing.
Find yourself in the arts. For many years, Dave Keen worked with Denver area organizations to jointly market and promote arts and cultural offerings. He convinced institutions to pool customer data in order to create a relational database of 250,000 local area households attending the arts. Mr. Keen used data to track buying behavior for segments, especially success of cross-promotion.
Mr. Keen also partnered with a marketing firm to develop and launch the Find yourself in the arts marketing campaign.
How to behave (and not behave) in a park. David Keen and Annette Humm Keen conducted observation and intercept surveys in City Park in Denver to identify who uses the park, when, how and why, and whether there were barriers to additional park visitation. The Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Zoo and City and County of Denver used this information to better plan for and market the park. This research was awarded an American Marketing Association Gold Peak Award for Market Research.
Other examples. Keen Independent has also helped to build communities of supporters, create new exhibits and programming, revise pricing and increase community impact for more than 20 arts and cultural institutions such as:
- Smithsonian National Zoo;
- A developer of horse tracks;
- Denver Museum of Nature & Science (recognized with awards from the American Marketing Association);
- Philadelphia Museum of Art;
- Denver Film Society;
- Museum of Science, Boston;
- History Colorado;
- Children’s Museum of Denver; and
- Vilar Center for the Performing Arts in Beaver Creek.
“We needed information about our market to better allocate marketing resources. [They] helped us understand who we needed to reach and how we needed to reach them.” – Marketing Manager, Vilar Center for the Performing Arts