Happy Birthday, Johnny Appleseed

“Jonathan Chapman (September 26, 1774 – March 18, 1845), also known as Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. He became an American legend while still alive, largely because of his kind and generous ways, his great leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Appleseed

Those of us who work on the “audience development” side of the arts & cultural sector would do well to note this date on our calendars.

The story of Johnny Appleseed is a reminder that many of the objectives we seek will not – indeed CAN NOT – be realized until somewhere in the distant future.  In all candor, we may, ourselves, not be around long enough to see those results – but that doesn’t diminish the significance of our efforts today – nor should it depress our enthusiasm for the mission we pursue.

On this date, the leaders of arts & cultural organizations would be wise to invest some quality time asking the question:  What investments shall we make now that will pay dividends for audience participation far into the future?

What seeds will you plant today?

# # #


Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. says

    This makes me laugh Matt. If you haven’t , read Botany of Desire by Michael Polan. Johnny A. WAS important but it was more about liquor than leadership. Regardless, your reasons for celebration are still valid.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right, Margot! Again, Wikipedia says, “The popular image is of Johnny Appleseed spreading apple seeds randomly, everywhere he went. In fact, he planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. Although apples grown from seed are rarely sweet or tasty, apple orchards with sour apples were popular among the settlers because apples were mainly used for producing hard cider and apple jack…”

      I still like the Johnny Appleseed story. WHATEVER was his (or our) reason, arts & cultural organizations would learn well to plant seeds today that that will grow into audiences in the future.

  2. says

    I know I’m late to the party but discovering your writing Matt I’m inspired to reply that I consider the work I do now, having resigned as a musician of a major orchestra, as planting seeds. I perform my transcriptions of symphonic music and my own compositions in bars, clubs, restaurants as well as churches and schools, to plant seeds that it’s OK to enjoy classical music. Here’s what to listen for, here is the game, here’s the pulse and here’s the payoff. It’s all the more powerful simply because I’m an African-American convincing anyone who’ll listen that art music is a powerful, accessible and living form of self-expression. I’m breaking down the walls of stereotypes and stigma. Positive word of mouth is what we need. And the more young adults I can be in front of with it, the more seeds like take root… esp. when they start having kids.
    There is a lot we CAN’T do. But when we look at what we CAN do, it turns out to be ENOUGH!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>