Hands On Consulting: From Concept to Curtains Up
Values-Driven Arts Consulting, from Idea to Implementation
Julie Ritchey works collaboratively with arts clients to deliver exceptional cultural experiences while aligning with strategic goals. With over fifteen years of experience in nonprofit arts management, youth and community engagement, and program development, Julie knows first-hand the need for innovative strategy, savvy risk-taking, and maintaining audience trust. She brings creativity and care to her client relationships. Whether you need sound advice or hands-on support, Julie can help you define and reach your goals.
Youth and community outreach strategy
Introducing youth and family programming to adult-centric organizations
Values-driven program development
Past Consulting Projects
St. Louis Orchestra
Challenge: During the Covid-19 lockdowns, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra needed a creative and effective way to continue to engage with school partners. Typically, their educational offerings involve in-person concerts in Powell Hall, and serve thousands of students each year. With those offerings unavailable, the SLSO wanted to create a unique digital program that would stand out in a crowded field of online offerings, while providing artistic and educational value to St. Louis music students.
Solution: Julie created SoundLab, a video offering that included social and emotional learning goals alongside the standard music curriculum. Since students were unable to attend class in person due to the pandemic, Julie and her team highlighted music’s ability to help us express difficult feelings, connect across long distances, and memorialize a time in history. SoundLab was created through a series of workshops with youth musicians, ensuring that the content was relevant to their experiences. The young people also appeared in the final digital program with professional musicians.
Impact: SoundLab reached over 35,000 students in classrooms throughout St. Louis the year of its release. But its impact has continued beyond that, due to its effectiveness and flexibility as an educational tour. Educators from around the world - including Turkey and Brazil - have shared SoundLab with their classrooms, and it continues to be used by thousands of local students year over year.
In The Grove
Friends of the Forest Preserves
Challenge: Program officers at the Friends of the Forest Preserves in Cook County, IL wanted to boost engagement in the forest preserve regions of Calumet known as Eggers Grove. It’s a primarily Spanish-speaking community with lots of young families, and Friends needed a custom program to meet the needs of that community.
Solution: Julie and her team created in the grove, a bi-lingual nature play specifically targeted at 18-month to 3 year olds and their caregivers, as a site-specific performance in Eggers Grove. The small audience size, use of music and facilitated play, and invitation to explore the space welcomed newcomers into an unfamiliar environment with gentleness and care, and created an authentic outreach opportunity to historically excluded audience.
Impact: The piece brought new families to the forest preserves in the Calumet region, over 80% of whom had never been to Eggers Grove before. The program was so successful in its initial run, that it was revived for additional performances the subsequent year, with ongoing plans to tour to additional forest preserve locations. Excerpts from in the grove were featured at the TYA/USA National Conference, highlighting excellence and innovation in theatre for young audiences.
Spark: A Youth-Curated New Work Development Program
Challenge: In the Covid-19 lockdown, Filament Theatre was struggling to connect with young audience members and their families in a way that authentically reflected their values while connecting with a fatigued, over-Zoomed demographic. Filament was seeking a programming offering that would strategically lay groundwork for reopening their venue and returning to conventional programming, while engaging meaningfully with stakeholders.
Solution: Julie created Spark, a new-work development program entirely programmed by young people ages 8-13. The entirely cost-free program engages a small team of youth curators, who receive training on the art of curation, and learn Filament’s specific goals and organizational strategies. The youth curators then select three artists from a competitive pool of applicants. Artists receive funding and development support from Filament Theatre. The youth-curatorial model laid the groundwork for Filament’s ongoing season planning, and identified crucial stakeholders for ongoing engagement.
Impact: The initial Spark engaged a dozen youth curators, 60% of whom went on to additional leadership roles with the organization. Two youth curators presented at the IPAY International Festival and Conference, aligning with Filament’s value of elevating youth voices. Crucially, the Spark process gave Filament leadership important insights into the needs and wishes of its target demographic, leading to better, more relevant programming. One of the pieces selected by the Spark youth curators was featured as a mainstage play the following season. Spark has become one of Filament’s core programs, and is now in its fourth year.
“Working with Julie was a gift. She is a thoughtful and giving collaborator whose goal is to create beautiful art with others.
She knows in her bones that great work can come from anywhere, and she knows how to bring it out of even the most stubborn of skeptics.”