Anna Prushinskaya

Please note: This post is part of series, look for more this spring.

At UMS, we’re proud and excited to have been selected for the Wallace Foundation’s Building Audiences for Sustainability effort – a new, six-year, $52-million initiative aimed at developing practical insights into how exemplary performing arts organizations can successfully expand their audiences.

Our project is an effort to deepen and measure community connection with UMS Renegade, a collection of performances across multiple disciplines that explores artists who, in their own time and context, push the boundaries of their artistic practice, and who make game-changing impacts on their contemporaries, their cultures, and society at large. The Wallace Foundation is providing substantial funding for related UMS programs for four years, starting with the 2015-16 season.

The first phase: Research

The first phase of this project is research. Through surveys and formal and informal focus groups, we have aimed to explore connections between the artistic “renegade” concept and audiences. In other words, who comes to a performance that possesses “renegade” qualities? What interests these audience members? How can we meaningfully connect to our community around this concept?

UMS set out to work on this research with a hypothesis, that “renegade” creativity in the arts has a counterpart in the tech tech and entrepreneurial sector, which is bustling in Ann Arbor and Southeast Michigan. Therefore, as part of this initial research, we ventured to neighboring tech firms, and what we heard about the ways in which creativity factors into their work inspired us to think more creatively about the work we do as well.

Creativity, technically speaking

Creativity, as framed within our informal research focus groups, highlights:

  • Creativity arises when we continuously transfer knowledge across the team. Structure work to avoid “pillars of knowledge.” 
  • Regarding creativity in (software) programming: When it’s done well, the programming is done ahead of time and what is left is typing. 
  • Creativity in projects: You don’t know where you’re going, but you’re definitely going there.
  • Creativity in management: How do we motivate people to actualize their potential?
  • Creativity with respect to performances: “Renegade” is the event, not the artist.

Our team was so energized after hosting these conversations for several days. One of the immediate outcomes of these conversations is that we have been inspired us to think of our relationship with the tech and entrepreneurial sector as a two-way street. Our new, additional guiding question: What can we learn about creativity and performance from these alternate contexts for creativity? We are at the very beginning of this journey.

These informal focus group conversations, combined with the research from formal focus groups, in-depth interviews, and online surveys, will inform marketing and program design as we move toward a deeper understanding of our Renegade programming. Stay tuned for more information about this process in my next post in the series.

Meanwhile, maybe these conversations will spark something for you, too. Where do you find your creativity?


Everybody knows that one of the most important issues for programmers is creative thinking, however somebody states that they should only do their programming job and do not care about anything else. Sometimes it is just great to know that you can hire professionals any time and they will do their work perfectly.

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