Which circle do you serve?

Which circle do you serve?

ArtsEmerson's David Dower had a bit of a Jerry Maguire moment recently when learning new stuff about negotiation and influence. And no, I don't mean a "You complete me" moment, nor a "Show me the money" moment (although, kind of). I mean a crisis of conscience moment as appears in the opening scenes (remember?).  … [Read more...]

Harry Potter and the Disregarded Entity

Disregarded Entity

What if you could form an organization that maintained a persistent and separate legal presence, protected its founders from liability, could receive tax-exempt contributions, but didn't require the usual baggage of a nonstock corporate structure, an IRS tax ruling, an annual tax return, or a separate governing board? In short, what if you could garner the benefits of being a 501(c)3 exempt corporation without actually being one? Welcome, my friends, to the 'disregarded entity'. … [Read more...]

Mayor, Governor, President

Mayor, Governor, President

Freakonomics Radio offers a great conversation on the differences between serving the public as a mayor, a governor, or a president. All serve in the executive branch. All are accountable come election time. But the tools, tactics, and tone of their public service are dramatically (and necessarily) different. … [Read more...]

Disassembling something that nobody owns


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...]