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


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...]

That’s going to dampen fundraising

In the Doghouse

There are a lot of learning moments in this recent story out of Pennsylvania about a grand jury, a nonprofit, and the museum in the middle. And there's a gut-punching sentence that might encourage you to learn from them: ''The grand jury requested the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office investigate and forcibly dissolve the nonprofit if it finds the museum has failed its mission.'' Ouch. … [Read more...]

Curiouser and curiouser


Last week I had the pleasure of keynoting the CAPACOA conference in Toronto - a charming bundle of Canadian performing arts presenters, managers, artists, and related professionals. The topic, as assigned, was curiosity. Which led me to wonder a few things: what is curiosity, how does it work, and what might a cultural manager do differently if he or she knew some answers to question one and two? … [Read more...]

The Culture of Curiosity

Culture of Curiosity

I'm off to Toronto to offer the opening keynote and conversation session for the 2014 CAPACOA conference. Their theme this year is "The Culture of Curiosity," which turned out to be an intriguing topic to explore and explain. I'll share some of my key points from the keynote in a future post. … [Read more...]