Promoting inclusivity through art: Erin Brown-John [profile]
Working in nonprofit is a labor of love, and nonprofit communicators must believe in their organization’s mission to have a maximum impact. Such is the case for Erin Brown-John. She has worked in various capacities of the cultural sector for several years and, most recently, is the marketing coordinator for the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Arts Council in Maple Ridge, British Columbia.
“It’s really important to me that I believe that what I’m selling has a benefit for people,” says Erin. “I think the arts enrich people’s lives. At their best, they inspire people, connect them with their community and help broaden their horizons, exposing them to different ideas and cultures.”
The Arts Council is a not-for-profit society dedicated to “Bringing Arts to the Heart of our Community” by building vibrant arts and culture in the region and providing excellence in artistic presentations, customer and member services.
As part of a three-person communications team, Erin’s role is to ensure that the Arts Council remains relevant and active as a source of local arts news and resources. This means promoting exhibits, programs and special events and overseeing web marketing, including managing their website, social media and targeted email campaigns to engage their audience.
Staying fresh and inspired
Erin experienced the impact grassroots activities can have through her internships at OpenMedia and FreshMedia. Erin says they have great success in translating online grassroots organizing into offline results, and in gaining a broad base of support from very different groups.
Using what she learned, Erin works with Changemakers Vancouver in her personal time to put on networking events and share information through email campaigns for a broad group of people interested in social and environmental change.
“We work in a way that is very collaborative and unstructured, very different from the way we do things at my day job. But I think it helps me bring a different perspective into my work that complements well with my manager’s background, which is far more corporate,” she says.
Building the value of arts and culture
Erin says public perception is a challenge many nonprofit arts organizations face, and even the Arts Council isn’t immune.
“There is a very pervasive attitude that arts are exclusive, or they have no value or should not be funded,” Erin says. “We encounter people in our community who are concerned about the government providing funding for a theatre facility, and who see arts funding as coming at the expense of funding other things that they would consider more urgent or worthy.”
Erin points out that there are numerous studies linking participation in the arts with all sorts of positive outcomes, including promoting better mental health, fostering identity and local pride and improving the academic success of students, among others.
However, the community is currently experiencing a population increase which provides unique opportunities for the Arts Council to reach out to more people.
“Through our programming we provide a lot of opportunities for people to connect with their community through art, and our building is an important gathering space for many other groups. It’s often buzzing with activity,” Erin says. “Our staff has really taken inclusivity to heart and tries to make this a welcoming space for everyone.”