Faculty of Law, School of Government and Victoria Business School, 2018
If marketing is ‘the bridge between art and the audience’, then respect is its foundation. Respect for the art, artist or creative practitioner you are trying to promote, and the ability to empathise with them has been the mindset fostered by Dr Kate Daellenbach in her 300 level Arts Marketing class since it started almost fifteen years ago.
At that time, Arts Marketing at Victoria was just a murmuring in the wings but was something Professor Peter Thirkell was keen to introduce into the marketing programme. Kate’s ten years in senior marketing and fundraising roles in the creative industries naturally cast her in the director’s chair. She sculpted the course into what is still the only one of its kind in the country, and one of two in Australasia. The course attracts students from across a wide range of disciplines—from fine arts, to theatre, music and tourism—who all thrive on applying marketing knowledge to the creative sector.
The student experience involves a series of case studies examining arts organisations and events from around the world, as well as those that give Wellington its reputation of the “coolest little capital in the world”. These introduce students to the biggest challenges in promoting the arts: selling something you have never seen, where the benefits are intangible, experiential and often defy definition.
Individuals’ experience of the arts is largely subjective and it’s these emotional responses that prove to be the biggest barrier to arts attendance. Anxiety of the unknown, of associated etiquette, and a clear-cut idea of whether they’ll like it or ‘get it’ are all common fears that limit arts’ accessibility. A trip to the Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi on the Kelburn Campus was a clear opportunity to put students in the positions of their potential future markets while at the same time inviting them to step into the shoes of a marketer, developing a strategy to attract visitors to the Gallery. With the help of the Gallery’s Director, Christina Barton, the Arts Marketing class visits the Gallery each year. What’s become a ‘small legacy of the class’ helps to stimulate an important shift in thinking for many students: that not all commercial decision-making is driven by economic factors.
One of the course’s key teachings is the way the arts can provide intellectual, emotional and spiritual release for both consumers and creators; something special and sacred that’s not easily vocalised or quantified. At times, this seems to create a shift in focus for the students. There is a realisation that people have needs, desires and talents to create art and that’s part of New Zealand’s heritage. Taking Arts Marketing at Victoria opens your eyes to the abundance and diversity of New Zealand arts, and the strength of the Māori and Pasifika voices coursing through it.
Kate always engages her students in generating recommendations for live business cases they’ve analysed in class. This we can thank for the signage that makes the Adam Art Gallery easier to find. She has established a mutually beneficial knowledge-sharing model between students and industry that sees Victoria’s students and graduates become a valued part of the Wellington arts-sector economy. Over time, this approach has led to case studies and partnerships with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand International Arts Festival, and a musical ensemble, Stroma. Kate’s own shift into academia was driven by a desire to research; she saw a significant shortage in useful data on and for the New Zealand arts sector and hopes her work and that of the students proves to be a “resource for the arts in New Zealand”.
A recent collaboration took place in 2015 and 2016, when New Zealand Chamber Music funded summer scholarship programmes for students to provide insight into their branding and consumer behaviour. In both years alumni from Arts Marketing were chosen for this work. With Arts Marketing being a clear draw-card for artists, class alumni have included musicians, actors, producers, and arts administrators. Within the course, assignments are distinctly local, encouraging students to make their research available to the organisations they chose to study. One student and aspiring DJ developed a marketing plan for his own creative practice. Kate’s interest in the arts, education, and current research into transformative learning affirms that real-life examples are key to unlocking students’ critical thinking—here, especially in our valued arts sector.