You may have noticed (or may not have, which is cool) that I’ve been away from blogging for a rather long while. And when I WAS blogging, the posts were few and far between. Part of that gap, I’ve come to recognize, was because my brain is still moving. My body and my business location moved five months ago to Washington, DC, and American University. My brain is still moving, thanks to my new environment, my fantastic new faculty colleagues here at AU, and my deep dive into tenure-worthy research. Pardon the dust.
But here, I think, is where my brain is moving: through the generic and into the specific. I’m increasingly discovering that, for me, generic topics about the business of arts and culture aren’t particularly productive. Generic topics generate lots of noise, but not much signal. Lots of heat, but not much light.
For example, here are a few generic subjects that I will work very hard NOT to discuss in generic terms in 2013:
- Business Models
Honestly, among the most useless topics to discuss in generic terms. A business model is a brutally specific response designed to achieve an objective with certain resources in a certain context at a certain time. Let’s stop talking about the subject as if “the arts” have a set of business models, and that we need “new ones”. There are archetypes and patterns that can help us focus our work. But let’s stop talking about them in the aggregate.
It’s reasonably clear from chatter in the arts that we all should be doing more advocacy. Also, we all should also be consuming more fiber and eating more leafy greens (which is true, please go do it). But ‘advocacy,’ absent specifics, is a bit of a democratic dust-bunny…taking up space without making much difference. Advocacy is always about a specific action we’re encouraging a specific audience to take toward a specific outcome.
We’ve come a very long way in expanding our international discussion of value in the arts, and value OF the arts. We’ve come to generic awareness that arts and expressive activity have intrinsic and instrumental values across a wide spectrum of outcomes. And there have been some fantastic efforts to define specific values, and to help individual organizations clarify their own. But 2013 is the year to begin the deeper dive in to details for each expressive endeavor. Or, perhaps paradoxically, to admit that much of our value conversation is a retro-fit to justify our deeper beliefs that creation, itself, is the value.
The trouble with specifics (and the reason this move is blocking my blogging habits) is that they’re really, really hard to discern and discuss. The devil, as they say, is in the details. And the devil is a wily coyote. I’m committing my efforts in 2013 to grabbing that critter by the tail.