Blog: Robb Woulfe

In a city that packs in crowds nearing 110,000 on football Saturdays, can art eclipse sport? Robb Woulfe, executive director of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, a showcase  for the performing arts, will write about how a festival's identity strengthens its host community and how it can be an economic catalyst.

Post 3: Our Festival's Future, Or Will "Capital Steps" Be Back in 2025?

Preparing to celebrate our 28th season from June 17 through July 10, 2011, the festival offers a progressive mix of regional, national, and international artists of all disciplines. Attracting a diverse audience of more than 60,000 people each year, the festival continues to grow as a major cultural event in the Ann Arbor community, and as an internationally recognized celebration of arts that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region.

As part of our mission, the festival is committed to enhancing the quality of life in our community. Attracting a spectrum of talent and a diverse audience in terms of age, interest, ethnicity, economic background, education, and gender, we bring the world to Ann Arbor.  Our festival has an estimated direct local impact of over $1 million. We partner with outstanding organizations to form a vibrant creative community and build a larger constituency for the arts. Our education and outreach activities nurture future audiences and offer students of all ages an opportunity to express their own talent. Free outdoor concerts and subsidized tickets to indoor attractions bring diverse audiences who gather to explore a wide range of artistic possibilities. With over 100 events each season, and 85 percent of those activities being admission-free to the public, the festival provides a multitude of creative ways to engage our fans and supporters.

As the festival enters this next phase of its development, we continue to attract a diverse audience of thousands, and the best performers from around the world, to a small, Midwestern city that revels in welcoming them. As witnessed in the past few years, the festival is becoming more of a cultural and social destination, and less about a specific concert-going experience. The dramatic growth of the festival in size and range of offerings parallels its growth in reputation as a major cultural event in the Ann Arbor community, and as a premiere artistic enterprise in the national and international festival-presenting arena.

Moving forward, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival will continue to present the best possible artistic experiences to as many people as possible through excellence, diversity, and relevance. Building upon an already successful model, the festival will begin to introduce a greater variety of events, venues, ticket prices, and program partners.  With the green of Ingalls Mall serving as the nucleus of all activity, the festival will take place in multiple Ann Arbor venues, both indoor and outdoor.  

Ultimately, it is our vision to see Ann Arbor transformed into a destination city during festival season featuring world-class culture, award-winning dining, and eclectic shopping – all catalyzed by the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.

To create a roadmap for ourselves, we recently completed a thorough strategic planning and visioning initiative to determine where we see the festival in the coming years. For more information on those directives, please visit our website to read the festival's five-year strategic plan, which articulates an understanding of who we are, what we do, and the values by which we define ourselves. It also details our vision, five overarching goals we believe we must meet in order to achieve that vision, and an assessment of where the festival stands today as we rededicate ourselves to these shared objectives.

Lastly, if you enjoy the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, I ask you to please consider making a donation to the festival to help us maintain the high quality programs that you have come to love.  Your contributions help us to offer the finest arts and cultural experiences from around the world, and to support local and regional artists by providing a platform for their creative aspirations and collaborations.

See you on the lawn in 2011!