Stephen Sondheim’s 1984 musical (with a book by James Lapine) dug deep into the artistic process, and spanned a century between acts. In the first act, a fictionalized version of impressionist Georges Seurat is consumed so much by his artistic vision, that he destroys the connections with those around him. In act two, a completely fictitious great grandson, also an artist but now of laser light installations, is consumed so much by the political and business process of the art world, that he loses connection with his own artistic vision.
The musical annoyed some critics for its lack of a traditional plot, and its minimalist-inspired music. But it stands with Sweeney Todd as one of Sondheim’s most powerful and profound works. Plus, it includes what could be the anthem of modern arts management, the conflicted and dizzying early number in act two: “Putting it Together.”
So why is this Broadway musical relevant to the management of arts and culture? Because it explores a reality that we’ve only begun to discuss in our field: that the process of creating, supporting, promoting, marketing, and distributing creative works is, itself, the cause of the many challenges we face as managers. The disconnected audience, the detached artist, the obsession over funding, ticket sales, and building infrastructure all seem to eclipse the art itself. These are tidal forces, not subject to direct command and control, requiring a very different approach to management than we’re used to.
see it on Amazon.com…
(any purchase benefits the Bolz Center for Arts Administration library fund…not much, admittedly, but a bit)