Four of Concord’s non-profit arts organizations have come together to give more value to their members and expose patrons to more cultural opportunities.
Under the initiative of Carol Bagan of the Friends of the Concord City Auditorium, the Community Players of Concord, Concord Community Concert Association, Granite State Symphony Orchestra and Red River Theatres are all collaborating and have formed Arts Coming Together (ACT). What this means for patrons is free tickets, because subscribers of each group get a free ticket to a show from each of the other three organizations. For example, if someone is a fan of the symphony and buys season tickets to the Granite State Symphony Orchestra, that person will then get vouchers and will be able to see one performance by the Community Players of Concord, one by the Concord Community Concert Association and a film at Red River Theatres, for free.
“The idea is to expand the community arts events and opportunities,” Bagan said. “We hope to include more people than ever before.”
All these organizations use the Concord City Auditorium, which was first opened in 1904 and saved from becoming office space in 1991 by the formation of the Friends of the Concord City Auditorium. In her role with that organization, Bagan had a unique perspective and vision, according to Lorrie J. Carey, co-president of the Concord Community Concert Association. Carey said Bagan goes to all the events and noticed that a lot of people who went to one show (like the symphony) might not go to another show (like the Community Players’). These people who already attend performances might be likely to attend other ones if properly motivated. Carey said people might appreciate another art form but the cost of the ticket could discourage them from attending. When money is tight people must make choices on their entertainment; the voucher program takes away the need to deliberate.
Carey said the Concord Community Concert Association, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this season, began during the Depression when people could not afford to attend musical performances. The Association is always reaching out to attract new audiences. That is one of the reasons why if a parent buys a membership, children up to age 18 can attend the performances for free.
“Someone might think ‘I’m a musical theater person’ but has never been to the symphony,” Bagan said. “We feel like this opportunity might spur them to go and see a show. Then who knows? Maybe they really enjoy it and come back for more.”
The vouchers can be used for any show throughout the season, so Bagan said there can be no excuse that someone is away that weekend. They can also be used as gifts for friends. The concept of a voucher is nothing new, as the Community Players of Concord have been using them for a few years now. But, as president Wayland Bunnell pointed out, it is rewarding to see the idea take root and spread to other organizations, and cooperation among groups is a great help in surviving rough economic times.
Bagan said the organizations came together inside the Concord City Auditorium and discussed different ideas for more than two hours before deciding on the voucher idea. This discussion was very beneficial, according to Carey.
“We get so focused on our own issues that we sometimes forget to reach out to others and work as a team,” Carey said.
The memberships are just being sent out, and as this is the inaugural season of the voucher program, it is not known yet how effective it will be. But Bagan is hopeful and believes the formula and collaboration, which costs nothing more than postage, is something that could spread to other cities in the state.