ArtifaxEvent at Abrons Arts Center
James Powell - October 07, 2019
At our latest ArtifaxEvent North American User Group we interviewed Jon Harper, the Director of Operations and Facilities at the Abrons Arts Center in New York.
Abrons Arts Center has used ArtifaxEvent for several years now and it has become an integral part of the organization. During the interview, we hear some history as to how in need the Center was for a venue management software. Jon gives us an overview of how fundamental a centralized calendar is and how the implementation of ArtifaxEvent gave them the unexpected opportunity to reflect on their organizational practices and systems.
Can you tell us about the Abrons Arts Center and your role at the organization?
We have three theaters, classrooms, studios and rehearsal spaces, a few galleries and things like that. We do a lot of different programming. Some of it is stuff we present, some of it is rental, and then we have an education department that puts on an entire season of classes for adults and kids. We also have education programs that are out in classrooms across the city so we provide teaching artists for all those.
I’m the Director of Operations and Facilities here, I was formerly the Director of Production and just in charge of the theaters when we started building out Artifax. And since we created this position and I moved into it, I have a bit of a bigger picture view of everything that goes on at the center.
How did the decision come about to implement Artifax and what were you using to manage spaces before?
We really needed an event management software when I first came to work here six and a half years ago. We were using an Excel document to book the theaters that the Artistic Director kept on his desktop and then would occasionally share with us when there were changes and then would also occasionally forget to share those changes with us. There was a paper calendar on the General Manager’s desk and there was a front desk calendar and it was just absolute chaos.
Artifax was a way for us to have one calendar system for everyone and the rule now is if it’s not in Artifax, it doesn’t exist. Anything anyone books has to go into the system and if there is ever a conflict, which there really isn’t these days, whatever is already in Artifax takes priority.
We also set up these mechanisms within Artifax for when someone tries to book over something else that is already happening. First, they get a pop-up warning of the overlap. Then, there is an email that happens where if they said “yes” to the overlap pop-up, they and the person that they overlapped get an email about it so the overlapped person can say “wait a minute, that doesn’t work” if need be. Because of this system, we pretty much never have double bookings anymore.
Can you describe the process of how the organization became so integrated with Artifax?
We went all in with Artifax from the start, we wanted to roll it out in a month which was silly and then realized it was going to take a little bit longer to build out the system. So then I think it was three months or something when we officially changed over to where the only calendar was in Artifax.
It was a lot of setting up the system, figuring out what our systems were and how that would apply to Artifax and making decisions along the way which is actually really helpful for us as an organization to be like, why do we do it this way? How do we allocated space, who gets to decide on these things, and what gets priority over others. It was a good analysis of ourselves as an organization as well just to be setting up this system to begin with. And then as we are moving forward, it is still an active discussion.
Can we take a bit about your Artifax standards and best practices document?
We want people to come in and make sure they’re putting these in the same way so that then our reporting can make sense, including the fiscal year in Arrangement descriptions, for example, so we could differentiate which arrangement was which.
Jon shared his Artifax Standards/Best Practices with us and it is available for download here.