Disassembling something that nobody owns

Deconstruct

In voting for the dissolution of the San Diego Opera last month, the organization's board was attempting something that's all but impossible in a cultural nonprofit: acknowledging insolvency before actual insolvency. General Manager Ian Campbell called the vote an attempt to close ''with dignity and grace, making every effort to fulfill our financial obligations, rather than inevitably entering bankruptcy....'' Other constituents disagreed. … [Read more...]

Al Prieve and the Sum of the Parts

E. Arthur Prieve

All that I think or write or teach or wonder or learn about the management of cultural organizations connects back to Dr. E. Arthur "Al" Prieve. Not only was he my first professor of Arts Administration, he was my on-going reference for how things connect. He passed away last Wednesday. But his lessons continue. … [Read more...]

Respecting the craft

Clay Wheel

Terry Gross on NPR's Fresh Air shares a beautiful interview with author Colm Toibin which weaves through religion and ritual and beauty and faith. While the whole thing is worth a listen, I was struck by the last little bits of their conversation. Gross notes that Toibin dislikes the label 'storyteller' and the assumption that his gifts for writing come from the oral tradition of his Irish heritage. … [Read more...]

About place

Napa Valley

Sarah Lutman, formerly of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and currently of the consulting world, shares an essential and compelling treatise on art and place, and the interplay between the two. She focuses on Minnesota Orchestra's possible future, given its recent stormy past. But her framing is important for any arts organization. … [Read more...]

Structure matters

Atomium, Belgium

In a favorite scene from a favorite movie (Stranger than Fiction, 2006, trailer below), Dustin Hoffman describes the consequence of dramatic structure to Will Ferrell: "In a tragedy, you die. In a comedy, you get hitched." Ferrell plays Harold Crick, an IRS agent who starts hearing his life being narrated by a British woman's voice (Emma Thompson). Hoffman, as a literature professor, suggests that Crick find out which dramatic structure he's in -- tragedy or comedy -- to determine his likely fate. … [Read more...]

Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product

In a 'traditional' start-up or new project initiative, a company develops a concept, builds a budget and market plan, gathers resources, assembles working teams, and constructs a full-blown, feature-rich version of their idea before releasing it for sale to grateful consumers. If consumers turn out to be less grateful than anticipated, you are, essentially, screwed. … [Read more...]

Risk and privilege

Risk and Priviledge

This week's public theater discussion at Arena Stage (aka, The Summit), caused quite a stir on the interwebs, primarily around questions of diversity and equity -- or lack thereof -- in the Washington, DC, theater scene. The Summit is a series of live discussions, curated and facilitated by journalist Peter Marks (described here by Mr. Marks, himself). The first session featured artistic leadership from many area companies. … [Read more...]

The components of risk

Crevasse

I've been in a lot of arts discussions lately that wander around the question of risk. Most have been about risk-taking in audiences or communities. Some have been about risk tolerance and philanthropy. In these conversations, our language suggests that risk is a single variable, and that the individual is the best unit of analysis (a person is generically either risk-averse, risk-tolerant, or risk-seeking). But that increasingly feels like an inelegant and unproductive path. … [Read more...]

New art vs. old growth

New art and old growth

Science fiction author Bruce Sterling is a far better writer than public speaker. But in both media he can capture a compelling tension, conflict, or possibility. In his recent keynote to the transmediale conference, he shares quite a few. Some are particularly resonant to the recent past and possible future of the arts. … [Read more...]

Fostering critical response to complex experience

Critical Response

During the CAPACOA conference in Toronto, I attended a fantastic workshop on the 'Critical Response Protocol' -- a process developed to encourage reflection, connection, and inclusion in group discussions about artworks, texts, lessons, performances, or any other complex shared experience. Facilitators Judy Harquail and Tim Yerxa had been trained in the protocol, and talked us through it after we had all experienced a performance work by Tara Cheyenne Friedenberg. … [Read more...]