Our consulting process: who, what, and how
Cultural Mapping with the Arts Council of Placer County, California
Welcome to the third issue of Making Change, Forecast’s quarterly consulting newsletter. We’re excited to share with you the projects we have been working on across the country. In each issue, we’ll share the who, what, and how, to give you insight into our process. Written by our Senior Project Manager, Mark Salinas, this issue features our approach to creating a two-phased cultural mapping study utilizing engagement work we did with the Arts Council of Placer County, California. Thanks for being here.
Placer County is a destination for visitors from around the world, but for its local residents, there is a personal pride of how fortunate they are to live, work and play in such a stunning landscape. Within its 1400 square miles, picturesque farm land and Gold-Rush era towns dot the oak-covered foothills. Craggy peaks, forests, tumbling rivers and clear alpine lakes create the natural terrain of the High Country. The gem of Placer County is scenic North Lake Tahoe, known for its beauty, size and clarity, but the county also has numerous small towns known for their unique and rich heritage that make up the landscape along Interstate 80.
If you are an outdoor enthusiast, there is no better place to be than Placer County with its natural lakes, rivers and streams for whitewater rafting and fishing, while also being home to more than one million acres of national forest land filled with trails for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking. Culture seekers marvel at the array of artisans, galleries and events. Wine connoisseurs, craft beer aficionados, foodies, shoppers, and history buffs all delight in the bounty of Placer County.
In August 2021, the Art Council of Placer County (ACPC), a Local Arts Agency, posted a RFQ in search of a consultant to develop a Cultural Mapping Study. The reason? To identify racially and economically under-served communities in this largely rural county that would benefit from agency programming. The study also sought to identify existing cultural assets and creative resources. Those resources would be flagged as development and strategy tools for the agency and other arts organizations.
The results of this study would provide the agency with a recommended strategy for the agency and other arts organizations to implement outreach, partnership, and impactful collaboration with such communities. Like all good plans, it aimed to include details on specific, attainable, realistic and time-based goals and measurable outcomes, from concept to completion.
In October 2021, Forecast was awarded the project which was led by Mark Salinas, Senior Project Manager. We hired Historic Resource Consultant Gretchen Hilyard Boyce as a Placer County-based associate consultant for the duration of the project which was divided into two phases.
Phase One: Community Identification + Inventory of Cultural Assets
Our team structured the first phase on a series of community outreach initiatives intended to identify existing cultural assets and creative resources that the ACPC and other arts organizations could use, share, and support. During the series of individual interviews, focus group discussions, and a county-wide public survey, three areas of county-wide need for development surfaced again and again:
Focus Group Ideas
Phase Two: An Implementation + Marketing Plan
Our team generated a marketing plan and implementation on the results of the Phase One Report. We recommended developing agency capacity of building Finance, Operations, Communications + Marketing, and Programming to address the three areas of county-wide need for development. Phase Two included a Five-Year Plan which prioritized and benchmarked actions for the agency to undertake to address the three identified common areas of need as well as A Daily Plan for Arts and Culture Organizations in Placer County. This latter document was created as a strategic collaboration to be shared among Placer County arts and culture organizations that wanted to augment and expedite agency efforts. These daily recommendations and reminders created a pathway for organizations to generate dialogue around the topics on hyperlocal levels.
Community outreach and engagement – as well as the maintenance of these relations – is key in creating long-term sustainability towards any type of change. We encouraged the ACPC to apply both an internal and external lens to their strategy.
An internal lens focused upon a five-year ACPC road map, reflecting the county’s needs while being inspirational and idea-driven.
Consultant recommendations for newly created or modified ACPC operations and/or services would impact agency capacity in some manner, even if incremental. Therefore, our team established an audit of current Internal Agency Operations, based upon consultant research and observation, to guide future endeavors.
There are four standard components of Internal Agency Operations, which can be considered commonplace among most Local Arts Agencies despite variance in region, population, staffing, and budget: 1) Finance, 2) Operations, 3) Communication + Design, and 4) Programming.
Once the current Internal agency capacity was evaluated, we made recommendations to provide the bandwidth for the agency to strengthen or modify existing programming in areas of need. The synthesis of data collected during Phase One was supported by applicable programming examples from other arts councils of similar sized rural/urban populations.
An external lens focused upon a practice of community outreach, input, planning, and engagement that Placer County arts and culture organizations could act upon to address the three areas of county-wide need for development.
With everyday examples that span organizational pursuits (gallery, performance, studio tour, music, etc.) this worksheet approach introduced steps towards diversity, equity, and inclusion at an organizational level, complimenting ACPC long-term efforts to promote Placer County’s cultural assets.
With the ACPC working in tandem with its county arts organizations on both daily and long-term plans, inevitably Placer County will advance its communities equitably.
How have you engaged community members in your projects? How do you think about balancing history and future in your work?
MEET OUR TEAM
Mark Salinas is the Senior Project Manager at Forecast Public Art, based in Reno, Nevada. For nearly two decades he has served in a variety of leadership roles for public, private, and nonprofit sectors by providing public art consulting, creative content, and program management in both rural and urban communities.
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