Bill Clinton was president. Cher topped the charts. The millennium loomed. And the Chicago Symphony Orchestra wanted a little help with audience research.

We began working with cultural organizations in 1999, starting in our hometown—first with the CSO and, eighteen months later, with the Art Institute of Chicago. Both of those projects turned into years-long relationships and led to engagements with other renowned museums and performing arts organizations around the country. Our research began to challenge longstanding assumptions and shine light on new possibilities.

In 2003, we started working with science museums, public media producers, and foundations that support the arts.

Then, in 2005, our founders—Cheryl Slover-Linett and Peter Linett—were joined by Chloe Chittick Patton, Sarah Lee, and other colleagues who helped grow Slover Linett into one of the leading cultural research consultancies in the U.S.

2005 also saw us move into our current offices in a converted factory building in Chicago’s Ravenswood Corridor. (Well, not entirely converted. There’s still a manual elevator straight out of a Bogart movie.)

The rest has been a story of learning with and from our clients – and with and from their audience, communities, and participants. Each year, it seems, we take on new and more complex research about how culture works, how participation is changing, and how experimentation can lead to relevance.

Years ago, we were bummed when one of our freelance data-entry workers told us he had to quit: his band was going on tour. That band? The Arcade Fire. That young man? Multi-instrumentalist and composer Richard Reed Parry.

Next door to our suite in the building on Ravenswood was the political office of Rod Blagogevich, then governor of Illinois. So we shouldn’t have been surprised one morning to find federal agents blocking the hallway and carting out his files. Wire fraud, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to solicit bribes? “That’s the Chicago way.”

We used to work in higher education as well as the cultural sector, helping universities like Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, and the University of Chicago understand their applicants, students, and alumni. That practice was acquired by Huron Consulting in 2013.

Over the years, our staff of researchers-by-day has included a circus performer, a classical pianist, a BMX bike-dancer, and a theater director. It still includes some people who might surprise you.

To me, research is a means to an end, not an end in itself. That’s why we don’t go into a project advocating a particular method in advance. We always try to better understand what an organization or funder is trying to accomplish through cultural engagement. Then we pick from the many tools in our toolkit:  frameworks, models, and methods from our various disciplines and backgrounds.”

Tanya Treptow, PhD

Vice President & Co-director of Research

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Ashley Ann Wolfe@AshleyAnnWolfe

Lots of exciting announcements coming soon from @SloverLinett!

cc:@cgarfin @vvp317 @jenbenoitbryan

2. Laughter isn't the opposite of seriousness; it's the most profound way to get serious about something. And it opens the doors wider.

"...giggle your way in. It's not the normal way to do it, but if you can, you bring a much bigger group."

Two deep lessons about public engagement from @rkrulwich, looking back on 15 years co-hosting @Radiolab:

1. What really draws people in isn't mostly the "content"; it's the human warmth and joy of the hosts. ("When two people are having real fun, it's sort of like a warm fire.")

Like I’ve been saying... Love what you’re stirring in the #classicalmusic pot, Aubrey. And I would add: human-centered research is a crucial element of the experimentation process - how we learn with (not just about) #audiences.

Twitter feed video.Like I’ve been saying... Love what you’re stirring in the #classicalmusic pot, Aubrey. And I would add: human-centered research is a crucial element of the experimentation process - how we learn with (not just about) #audiences.
Aubrey Bergauer@AubreyBergauer

I get asked all the time about what we can change in orchestra administration culture, and my answer is always the same.

Embrace experimentation.

If we focus too much on short term goals, we don't try new things, leaving bold ideas on the table that could deliver huge results.

#ICYMI: Check out this stunning sketch animation by @ATJCagan from last week's #AAASmtg session on millennial science engagement, featuring @jenbenoitbryan & @TheGeoffHunt.

cc: @PLinett @MeetAScientist @labxNAS

Twitter feed video.#ICYMI: Check out this stunning sketch animation by @ATJCagan from last week's #AAASmtg session on millennial science engagement, featuring @jenbenoitbryan & @TheGeoffHunt. 

cc: @PLinett @MeetAScientist @labxNAS
Alex Cagan@ATJCagan

In the interest of open data and methods sharing - here’s the whole process! Impressions from a session on communicating science to millennials #AAASmtg

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