On the occasion of its arts council’s 50th anniversary, I was recently invited to Fort Worth to design and facilitate a “visioning” session by which 75 community leaders – representing an array of civic, municipal, political and arts & cultural interests – asked, “What investments in arts & culture might we make today that will pay our community dividends over the next 50 years?”
Such a refreshing conversation!
No speeches. No sales pitches. Nothing but a wide open agenda!
And what resulted was about as profound and practical a discussion of the responsibilities and opportunities of arts & cultural leadership as I’ve ever witnessed. They discussed:
- What about arts & culture makes our community distinct?
- What role can arts & culture play in advancing the future vibrancy of our community?
- Who are (and who, frankly, are not) our audiences – and what should we do about that?
- How might arts & cultural organizations work together in new ways to pursue goals of mutual importance?
- What past decisions have most helped us become the great arts & cultural community we are today?
As with any community dialogue, the purpose is neither to answer the questions quickly nor definitely. The virtue of these questions is in their ability to spark an even further-reaching community dialogue that will attract many people, deepen their appreciation and encourage their further participation, uncover new resources, welcome new perspectives and unleash wildly creative thinking.
I call such a visioning process “STARTEGY” (and that’s not a typo) because the ENTIRE objective is just to get the process started. Such visioning is a very brave effort – because it raises public expectations and opens a wide variety of possibilities without having pre-determined the end result. How thrilling that can be!
Keep an eye on Fort Worth, they’re asking all the right questions.
Around the country, many arts & cultural organizations remain understandably “hunkered down” while waiting for the economic storm to pass. Having recently been in survival mode with my own organization, I appreciate that solving today’s challenges can preclude any capacity to think about tomorrow.
However, here’s my plea: As soon as you get even one moment of pause – one extra breath – one single un-allocated dollar – it is absolutely vital that you invest it forward by connecting yourself and your organization with others in your community.
The long climb back to economic vibrancy – for ourselves, our communities, our sector and our nation – depends upon restoring our own capacity to start asking profound questions – to engage with other people widely – and to be willing to boldly pursue new opportunities as they are revealed.
These days, “startegy” is far more valuable than “strategy”.
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