Organizations don’t evolve, they cope

Frog on a Stick

I've been part of a rather long list of conversations about the next evolution of arts organizations. I'm not blaming anyone but myself, as I love those conversations. And I'm as frustrated as anyone at the current struggles of the field. The board-governed, professionally managed, mixed-diet (earned and contributed), high-fixed-cost nonprofit organization seems increasingly ill-equipped for its changing environment. It seems a creature of a previous ecosystem. It seems in need of evolution. Yet, therein lies the problem. … [Read more...]

Taking side projects seriously


Designer Tina Roth Eisenberg (aka swissmiss) is a cool-project machine. She and her team have launched the monthly breakfast idea-network of CreativeMornings, the TeuxDeux to-do list system, the artsy temporary tattoo business Tattly, and the Brooklyn shared workspace venue Studiomates. She has just posted her SXSW talk, and it's well worth watching (embedded below). … [Read more...]

Measuring only when we mean it

An old ruler

There are all sorts of interesting things about Netflix, and their recent incursion into program development in addition to content delivery. The company that used to mail you DVDs (and killed Blockbuster Video in the process) is now producing and presenting HBO-quality content through the Internet (and making television studios anxious in the process). But what caught my attention (at least this month) was their strategy for measuring success in these new ventures. Internally, they're defining and observing metrics about ''engagement'' with … [Read more...]

The prose and the passion

SOURCE: Flickr user e-codices

Marian Godfrey offers some bold and beautiful words in the current Grantmaker in the Arts Reader about her life between prose and passion, supporting the mechanics of artistic enterprise as a funder while engaging the joy and discovery of expressive works. Her essay/manifesto covers a lot of ground, and demands a full reading (so go read it). But I was particularly struck by her disdain for the language we've come to use in arts and cultural management. … [Read more...]

Are we the hacker, or the hacked?

MIT fire hydrant hack

Hacker/artist Evan Roth offers a compelling TEDx presentation on both hackers and artists, and the ideals the two communities share. Hackers are individuals who strive for clever, shared, and often playful solutions to problems through computer code or resourceful intervention. Their work abducts or adapts existing systems toward purposes for which they weren't designed. … [Read more...]

The accidental strategist

The Accidental Strategist

Author and reformed management consultant Matthew Stewart once wrote in The Atlantic that ''management theory is what happens to philosophers when you pay them too much.'' He wasn't deriding philosophers (which is usually what happens). Rather, he was labeling management consultants and theorists as bloated, undisciplined, and unworthy stepchildren of philosophy, who also deny their lineage. … [Read more...]

Beauty and the Brain, February 22

Beauty and the Brain

When you hope to be a successful and high-impact professional in your field, it helps to understand deeply the process or product you seek to serve. If you run a retail store, you understand supply chains and consumer behavior. If you run a bank, you understand financial systems and the financial lives and needs of your clients. And if you're an arts manager, you understand how the human brain constructs meaning from its sensory environment … [Read more...]

Exceptional, enjoyable, reliable…pick (at least) two

Neil Gaiman, photo by Kyle Cassidy

Author/graphic novelist Neil Gaiman's commencement speech last year to the University of the Arts in Philadelphia has many great moments about life as an artist and the art of life, which made it a much-referred and much-watched video online. But his insight that keeps coming back to me is not about how artists make or get work, but about they keep getting work over time. Says he: … [Read more...]