CultureSource Develops IXITI to Enhance Arts & Culture in Southeast Michigan

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mike Gallagher
CMF Editorial Correspondent

It’s called IXITI and its developers say they expect it to soon revolutionize arts and culture in southeastern Michigan.  IXITI is the brainchild of CultureSource, a Detroit-based professional association of more than 115 organizations serving seven counties throughout the region, with a goal of promoting, supporting and enhancing the area’s cultural experience for everyone.

Maud Lyon, executive director of CultureSource, describes IXITI as a “cutting-edge, informational marketing infrastructure where residents and visitors alike can soon connect to all arts and entertainment offerings through one powerful, interactive and comprehensive web portal.”

Lyon shared the vision and goals of CultureSources’ newest innovation with foundation leaders the September 2013 Detroit Area Grantmakers (DAG) meeting held at the Rattlesnake Club in the Motor City.

Noting the impetus behind creating IXITI, Lyon says, “More than 8.6 million people attend arts and culture each year in our region and their audiences spend over $47 million in addition to the price of tickets and admissions.

“If we could increase this 5%, it would bring another $6.3 million to the region,” she predicts. “Right now we see 94% of our audience will be local residents and 6% will be tourists.”

Arts and culture is a visible measure of community health, says Lyon, adding that concerts, festivals, exhibitions, performances, public art and other forms of artistic expression make neighborhoods and downtowns vibrant and attractive, attracting residents and business customers.

“Arts and culture is also a key asset for education, civic engagement, diversity and an openness that welcomes everyone – all are essential for a high quality of life,” notes Lyon.

IXITI – which is slated for a “soft” internal launch in late January 2014 - is designed to help the southeastern Michigan arts region realize its full potential, she adds, “and it’s a whole lot more than just an average website.”

Providing the funders a sneak peek at the design, composition, infrastructure and data that viewers will soon be able to access at, Lyon said the site is built around themes of what she calls The Experience Engine; For The Kids Loud & Fun; Free; and Quiet & Contemplative.  Visitors to the website will be able to choose between various “buttons of interest” that include calendar of events, articles, reviews, etc., for music (by genre), museums, art studios, events, concerts, things to do, and more.

“Each button will provide the viewer with access to what they are interested in specifically,” says Lyon. “We also will have individual sections created especially for such groups as young creatives, families and cultural enthusiasts. But there’s even more.”

IXITI also will provide viewers/visitors with an opportunity to tell their stories and post photographs, cultural events, discuss artists and great venues that they want to share with others.  Additionally, IXITI is being designed to share resources and provide training on arts and cultural marketing for those working in the cross-range of artistic genres to generate the biggest cumulative effect.

These resources include a “year-out” editorial calendar that will allow those in the field and the media to plan ahead; information to connect individuals in the arts to other community issues and initiatives; and instructions for creation, posting and linking of videos promoting the field.

Currently, CultureSource is in an “IXITI pre-launch phase” from September through December testing and building the site’s technology (i.e. loading events and information); building partnerships; training members on how to use the site; and identifying ambassadors “to get the word out,” says Lyon.

Phase 2 will be the official public launch of IXITI in Spring 2014 with the unveiling of billboards, new mobile apps and digital ads as part of an intensive marketing campaign, she says.

Foundation support is the key to the current – and future – success of this wide-ranging project, Lyon told the DAG members, praising the grants and expertise shared by founding supporters MASCO Corporation Foundation, Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, Ford Foundation, Ford Motor Company Fund and DTE Energy.

Lyon says the funding goal for launching and making IXITI sustainable is $2.6 million for the first four years and then $3 million per annum thereafter. She estimated the annual cost of adding to and maintaining the web portal at between $250,000 and $300,000 per year.  Metrics that will be used to determine the success and viability of the project will be:

  • Increased participation in and use of IXITI
  • Increased positive economic impact to the community
  • Attraction of more volunteers
  • Securing more donors and contributions
  • Building the value of arts and culture among southeast Michigan residents and visitors

“Thanks to the help given us by our foundation partners, we see IXITI as an incredible new initiative that can really have a powerful impact for positive change through creativity, innovation, collaboration and advocacy in support of all our arts and culture,” says Lyon.

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