In her Jumper blog, Diane Ragsdale delivers a stirring message for the dawn of the Trump Presidential era that deserves to be shared and contemplated with the staff, management and Board of every arts & cultural organization:
“…those working in nonprofit professional cultural organizations across the US—we in the so-called Creative Class—are, without a doubt, among those who did not understand our country, its culture, or its values. If we are shocked and outraged by the election results this only seems to prove the point … Looking at the programming on our stages it seems that many of us have existed inside a bubble, utterly out of touch with the Trump-supporting working poor in America, among many others.”
Is that true? Are WE (that is, our organizations) actually shocked and outraged? Look beyond the reactions of the individuals who work, volunteer, govern and manage your organization. What is the sense – and resolve – of your organization itself?
Here’s how to tell:
On January 20, 2017, Donald Trump will be inaugurated as President of the United States.
How your organization uses the 75 days between election day and the presidential inauguration (noting that 2 have already expired) says EVERYTHING anybody needs to know about the soul of your organization.
- Some organizations will hunker down. They will busy themselves with confirming funding commitments, eliminating budgetary risk and otherwise retreating into the supposed safety of a purely self-protective position.
- Some organizations will bloviate. Their leaders will employ all the important words – diversity, inclusivity, outreach, equity and such. But talk is not nearly enough. This is a moment for mindful reflection and purposeful decision-making.
- Some organizations will despair. How many year-end fundraising letters are being quickly re-written to position arts organizations as too fragile to withstand this political and economic earthquake? Really, are you going to play the victim card again?
- Some organizations will lead. Listening. Reflection. Consensus Building. Decision Making. Partnering. Commitments to Action. That’s the necessary and appropriate response to shock and outrage. Right now, that’s the imperative of arts & cultural organizations of every size, genre and location.
Arts & cultural organizations must no longer operate from a premise that their function is to merely “attract” audiences to their productions, performances and exhibits. Going forward, arts & cultural organizations must take the initiative to “assert” their mission throughout the communities they serve – and throughout our great (but imperfect) nation.
Lead, follow or get out of the way. How you use the next 73 days says everything about your organization that matters.
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