College of Saint Benedict / Saint John’s University

St Benedict and Saint John's

HunterSage partnered with the Fine Arts Programming staff at St. Ben’s on an ambitious, grant-funded audience development project. The project targeted two hard-to-engage audiences: disenfranchised members of the St. Cloud community and non-arts people.

We started by conducting story circles to understand people's reluctance to attend the arts. We invited the first group to co-create a dance piece based on the Native American legend of the Dream Catcher. Then we integrated their feedback into residency activities and pre- and post-performance talks. We learned that non-arts goers considered dance to be “femme,” so we focused our marketing messages on the physicality of the performance and the larger-than-life props, including a 16’ flywheel.

The results far surpassed expectations. The College sold out 22 performances, greatly diversified its audience and created genuine enthusiasm for avant garde dance in Central Minnesota.

Anne Hunter