Back in June, I was working with some colleagues and a team of graduate students to explore and capture the conversations during the massive National Performing Arts Convention in Denver. We had been commissioned by the convention partners to bring a sociological perspective to the convening — watching not only what was talked about among the cross-disciplinary attendees, but also how they talked. The larger purpose was to understand better whether and how the performing arts, writ large, might advance collective action — or work as a field to improve the policies, resources, connections, and potential for their entire field.
The convention, after all, was primarily intended to craft a national performing arts agenda, and to inspire action toward that agenda.
The final report of our work is now available on-line as a pdf download through the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt. Says the report:
Sociologists and civic activists have come to understand collective action as encompassing a broad range of organized activity intended to produce political and cultural change. Collective action takes many forms, including advocacy and lobbying, legal action and protest, research and education, strategic partnering and novel collaborations, and change and sharing of business practices. Further, these forms of collective action may be coordinated and enacted at the international, national, regional, local, and organizational/individual levels.
Our academic and graduate student team was equal parts Arts Administration, Sociology, and Policy, making for fabulous conversations in our snack-filled workroom. More thoughts on the findings of this report, and the thinking I’ve evolved since then, in the months to come.