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Monday, January 23, 2012

A Report from Centerfest Focus Groups 

Are you curious about those focus groups on Centerfest the Durham Arts Council has been holding, dear readers? Us too!

Fortunately, we have a special guest columnist who attended the first meeting and generously gives us, Durham, a sense of the room. Please welcome to the pages of the Clarion Content, for what we hope will be the first of many dispatches, LiLa front man and Durham native, Eli McDuffie.

Durham's Five Points, once the heart of Centerfest

Centerfest Focus Group One

observations by: Eli McDuffie

Durham Arts Council head, Sherry DeVries, moderated and guided the group toward three questions:

1)Which artists do we invite?

2)How do we publicize the event/artists?

3)How do we attract the large crowds?

The first question was the easiest to answer. There was a solid consensus on the demographic of artists. Mentions of inclusion of young student artists and discussions ratios of local to national artists were met with overall agreement.

As the audience touched on different ideas I observed an unmistakable wealth of wisdom being shared, but I also sensed a cautionary undertone. The artists present were seasoned not only in their art, but also in testing economic climates. This was no naïvely optimistic crew. The Durham Arts Council and the artists shared a similar concern for the festival: how can Centerfest best be carried out to maximize its entertainment value to the community, without leaving someone to foot the bill?

The finer details of whether or not to have a juried competition for the artists and where resources would be deployed were still unresolved as the small blue stickers got passed out to the audience to vote.

As the voting commenced and the results were reviewed by Ms. DeVreis and the panel, the common theme, the point of agreement, amongst the artists was publicity...How to bring as much public awareness as possible to the artists and their mediums.

There is no doubt that all the important pieces were present, one only has to look at the title of the focus group sessions: Creative Community, Food, Music, Performing Arts, Site-Venues, Format… But undertones of caution still lingered, tinged with worry. Durham has fallen short in recent years of creating a sustainable event. Organizers emphasize that profitability or at least reasonable cost control must be a priority. Just hinting at the range performers and number food trucks that could grace Centerfest provided some reassurance to the audience, but that topic was left to be resolved in another focus group.

See you next time, Room 209, Durham Arts Council.

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