Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Yerba Buena
Center for the Arts

Storytelling + Storydoing

by Russell Volckmann

Drumbeats echoing off the burghal canyons.
Reverberating in rhythmic staccato.
As waterfalls drizzled and slapped onto distant rocks.
A lone cellist bowing Baroquely in a nestled glade.
Old men playing chess on benches.
Crimson and jade brushstrokes swishing brightly on canvas.

The scene: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA).
Cultural anchor of San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Gardens.
Refreshing refrain from the urban bustle between Mission and Howard.
The lush biosphere brimming with life, live musicians and artists en plein air is the prelude to entering a world-renowned contemporary arts oasis.

But under the surface, all was not well.
The curators were troubled.

The SOS came as I was finishing a FaceTime call with Hawaii. “Come at once. The situation is precarious…” texted the head curator.

As I leapt onto the next train, tablet in hand, I wasn’t sure what adventures were in store; or what dangers lay ahead. The next hours would reveal all…

When I arrived, the executive director spoke urgently, “We’ve 100 Big Ideas, but nobody’s listening, and the Big Ideas are not even that effective for the curators themselves. Our visual arts, film, innovation, science, humanities, events, performances, facilities rentals—what this is all about at YBCA does not hang together. Our relationships are very complicated. We’re a vital influence, recognized nationally, internationally. We’re important to the rest of the world, but Bay Area audiences don’t care.”

After some time, I weighed in, “Would you be open to developing a better story?”

Yes, we gave YBCA the insights, perspectives and storytelling tools that would empower them to connect with a diverse array of audiences in new ways that mattered—a story platform and messaging that even this diverse organization could embrace.

A clear story

Fast-forward to now: Complexity eliminated, better understood, people passionately sharing and spreading the word.

Business prospers

Donations, patrons, revenues + marketing efficiency steadily rise. Previously complex and misunderstood—a new clear, epic story that inspires people, drives actions, and improves the business bottom line.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) Logo Blue and Yellow

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA)—the most prominent contemporary arts organization in the San Francisco Bay Area, perhaps the world. Happening here 365 days a year, find the most dynamic array of innovation, the arts, ideas, thinking, events, entertainment, and exhibits with profound relevance for diverse audiences.

Kathy Budas, YBCA Marketing Director

“The primary stakeholders, the curators, the development people, the events people… they all felt that their voices were really heard.”

Like to work with me?
To create an epic story?
That spreads and grows your business?

Contact Russell
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