The University of Notre Dame Manages Their Performing Arts Center With A Purpose
Most businesses operate with some kind of mission or vision. Many performing arts centers have a mission or vision directly associated with the arts, but most typically find a way to tie back business objectives to their bottom line. Imagine if the mission of the businesses was greater than that, what could you personally accomplish, and what would that look like? The University of Notre Dame manages performing arts with a very specific purpose and vision.
We recently had the chance to discuss this subject with Tony Costantino, the Operations/IT Program Manager, at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center; which is a part of the University of Notre Dame. Tony spoke with us about how the University of Notre Dame has managed to have such a successful performing arts center despite the fact that they do not employ a sales force or rely on big ticket booking agreements.
Our conversation centers around the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s mission-driven management; which keeps the core mission of the University as the foundation and focus of all of its business and marketing efforts. DeBartolo Performing Arts Center paints a shining picture of what many performing arts venues seek to achieve when enhancing the attendee experience. The values of the University are portrayed in all aspects of the performing arts center’s operations. DeBartolo has become a time-honored and well-respected performing arts center, largely due to an extreme attention to detail, and the attendee’s and performer’s experience while inside their space.
Read our summarized conversation with Tony below to get a full picture of what he’s helping the performing art center accomplish.
Tony tells us more about The University of Notre Dame
Q: DeBartolo does not use a salesforce to book the events and shows, describe how that dynamic works?
What Tony Told Us: The performing arts center is intended to support the University. Most of the events held at the venue consist of student performances and other university-affiliated productions. The performing arts departments are the primary users of the venue’s space, therefore the center does not need to elicit people to use the space. Academic users take up 90% of the calendar. The University’s main mission is to create well-rounded graduates and Notre Dame believes that the arts are part of a well-rounded undergraduate education and so provides many opportunities to experience the arts. Aside from student performances, the center curates special guest programming in which these guests become, essentially, part-time professors giving performances, Q&A sessions, master classes, workshops, and other residency activities.
Q: What is something that the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center does exceptionally well, in your opinion?
What Tony Told Us: The goal from an operations or back-of-house standpoint is to “be the best stop on the tour.” This means that the back-of-house creates the absolute best experience for the performers. This is executed by the center’s knowledgeable, talented, and detail-oriented employees.
Q: You say you want to be the best stop on the artist’s tour. Is that a business objective or is it really just about reinforcing the brand?
What Tony Told Us: It’s about reinforcing the brand. What would Our Lady want us to do? How would Jesus want us to treat our guests or visitors? The Catholic values and tradition that sets Notre Dame apart, “treat others the way you want to be treated,” is portrayed in this manner. Yes, the center is paying these artists to come and share their art with the University, but we also want to serve them because when we serve the artist the best we can that helps the artist perform their art the best that they can.”
Q: What are the challenges for the dynamic you serve?
What Tony Told Us: The performing arts center is an extension of the University and does not raise its own budget. The center isn’t autonomous but works with the University’s budget office. The operations of the performing arts center reports all the way up to the Provost. Due to the large size of the University, there is a lot of planning necessary and nothing gets done quickly when this is the case. The performing arts center has the challenge of communicating our objectives, value and the importance of meeting our financial objectives in line with all the other financial objectives within the University. DeBartolo operates as its own organization yet it’s not fully autonomous.
Q: What things have changed for your organization in the last 2 to 3 years or have they changed?
What Tony Told Us: Most of the users are from the University and so when things change for DeBartolo it’s because they are changing for the University. The University has been around since 1842 and a significant change continues to be growth. Specifically, the music department is growing and adding an additional recital hall that will house some of the performances.
Q: Does the football team affect you? Or even more so how does the local economy affect the center?
What Tony Told Us: At the times that the team is doing well, it does bring in more attendees for the University’s performances. We are susceptible to the same economic flows as the local economy. When the students and community have more discretionary income, the attendance increases. We focus on and want our guest artists to have a really excellent visit with us, but we also want our patrons to do so as well. We want our patrons coming to attend a show to feel like it’s really an experience and not just something to do. We call them patrons because they are patrons of the arts, they give up their time and money to experience and be enriched by someone else’s time and energy, in the form of their art.
Q: It sounds like you have put a lot of thought into creating a dynamic attendee experience.
What Tony Told Us: Yes, we want the patrons to continue to come back. Art is about changing someone’s life in whatever degree you can — whether that be mind-blowing or small, doesn’t matter — it’s just about getting people to experience something new. We want them to come back not just because it’s good business and because they help sustain what we do, but because it supports our mission.
Notre Dame’s performing arts center is an excellent example of how successful mission-driven principles can positively influence business operations. Their Catholic values are supported through the entire university. Notre Dame’s mission is to create well-rounded graduates. The performing arts center supports the mission by providing ways for all university stakeholders to experience and enrich themselves in the arts, all while learning and growing along the way. When the goal of a business is to provide the best experience possible and all the operations support that, the business speaks for itself and that is often better than anything sales and marketing can do.
It was very interesting getting Tony’s perspective. The University of Notre Dame manages performing arts with a purpose and have essentially accomplished something with their performing arts center that many others are still attempting today; all by being focused on a mission. It's an interesting approach that puts the mission before all other typical components of an organization. In the case of the University of Notre Dame, it is a huge success.
We want to thank Tony Costantino for opening his doors to Ungerboeck for this awesome peak at DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
To learn more about the software the Tony and his team use to execute flawless events check out Ungerboeck's performing arts center solutions.