It’s June 16. After more than ten days of intense media coverage from all the major print, web, and broadcast media, Luminato has wrapped at last.
And you know what? I’m still confused about whether it was successful or unsuccessful, accessible or elitist, public fete or public failure. I headed out to events. I saw some public art. I read the coverage. I listened to my friends and acquaintances in the arts and urban advocacy community. (Including Matthew Hague, who did a great post on the Link boat earlier today.) And I still can’t tell.
Such confusion is exacerbated when fellow commentators like Martin Knelman—who I do think can have a lot of valuable things to say at times—reports that we needn’t worry about accessibility at LuminaTO because it has â€œ143 events and 860,000 moments over 10 days, and more than 70 percent of them free.â€
Excuse me if we skipped this in my undergrad physics and stats classes, but I’m quite unclear on what a â€œmomentâ€ means statistically. One second? Ten? Must tears or laughter—or Kodak—be involved?
And this magic number of â€œ860,000 momentsâ€—where on earth did that come from? One second times 860,000 projected spectators/passerby? Do you count, as Luminato did on their events calendar, things like the CN Tower being lit up—which it is every night anyway—and people seeing that from the Gardiner? Or, um, not?
In a fit of being straight-up nerdy, I decided to come up with my own data using the â€œevents by dateâ€ lists on the Luminato website. There I counted 96 free events out of 186 events total for the period of June 6 to 15. That’s 52 percent free.
But those free events did include the omnipresent CN Tower lights. And several panel discussions—the most dry form of entertainment known to mankind. And repeated days of public installations. Should I have counted those or not? What about if some really rocked—like the Regent Park pasteups—or sucked? Should they have been weighted more or less heavily?
What this little exercise highlighted for me (beyond my terminal geekitude) is that we need more genuine measures—qualitative, quantitative, or both—on how all our arts fests and institutions are doing.
These measures are most urgently needed on access and equity, where creative accounting gets most flamboyant.
But they are also needed on value-for-public-investment fronts too. This is particularly so when public provincial monies of $15-million were being handed out to one fest—Luminato—after it had already secured $7.5 mil for the three years of operation. Knelman argues that this “was not money that would have gone to other arts groups instead.”
But how does he know for sure? And what impact could those monies have had elsewhere? The $40 million that the Ontario Arts Council doled out in its last operating year funded 1,300 artists and 874 organizations in 252 communities across Ontario. And last year’s Nuit Blanche, while imperfect in its own right, provided 143 events, all free—for a couple mil.
Today, Luminato provided its summary press release on the fest, with the main quantitative improvement noted being an 8 percent rise in attendance at ticketed events. Even they must know that doesn’t come off as spectacular given all the ad money they sunk into the sophomore event. And they themselves might be hurting for some more accurate performance measures than the nattering of cheerleaders and critics on the sidelines.
So… what do you think a good arts access or success measurement tool could look like? I’m open to any that have been developed. (And anybody who can explain to me what a moment actually is.)