I’m just back from two conferences in Philly: first a presentation at the Wallace Foundation’s grantee conference for its audience participation funding; then the annual conference of the Association of Arts Administration Educators of which I’m president. Lots of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. I’ll spin out some of it over the coming weeks.
In the meanwhile, a general impression lingered from both convenings. A severe external shock, such as the economic and systemic shock we began last fall, fosters an extraordinary opportunity to learn. Participants in the Wallace meeting, while already a group that had proven themselves curious and committed enough to get a Wallace grant, were newly curious about basic elements of how communities work, how capital and cash worked, and how they might forge new connections with their audiences. My peers from other university programs in Arts Administration were suddenly seeing new connections between their academic skills in research, teaching, and applied theory at the center of an international conversation, instead of at the edges.
When the machines are working and the fuel that runs them is flowing well, we can easily discount the need for critical thinking, relentless questioning, and evidence-based decisions. But when those machines run low on fuel and reveal their design flaws, there’s extraordinary opportunity for all of those essential attributes.
I’ve continually been frustrated at the disconnect between my brilliant peers in academia, and my brilliant peers in the world of professional practice. At this particular moment, they need each other desperately. And that’s a start.