Andrew Taylor (aka The Artful Manager) has long been for me a source of fascinating (and/or insightful) ideas. I have learned, on occasions too numerous to mention, that when he tells me to read something (book, article, paper, cereal box . . . .) I should do it. His recent post, Participatory practice in the arts, highlights a study by the James Irvine Foundation, Getting In On the Act: How Arts Groups are Creating Opportunities for Active Participation. Andrew pointed me there, I’m going to read it. (Someday.)
What I’ve discovered so far is profoundly helpful to one category of engagement principles, the participant model. The study identifies a continuum of involvement with the arts from receptive to participatory. The stages on the continuum range are:
- Enhanced Engagement
- Crowd Sourcing (selection of or contribution to an end product)
- Co-Creation (contribution supervised by “professional artist”), and
- Audience as Artists (creation)
Not all engagement is rooted in participation. Simple relationship building out of which programming decisions (based on an understanding of the community) come can yield engaged spectating. But participation is a powerful means of nurturing or fostering engagement. Having a theoretical framework through which the possibilities can be analyzed is extremely helpful. I’ll need to incorporate this into my work in preparing arts organizations for engagement. Thanks Andrew for adding to my To Read pile. [I should point out that Arlene Goldbard has written a valuable critique of the Irvine report that should be read alongside it.]
I am a sucker for music, dance, . . . whatever . . . flash mob videos. You know, the Hallelujah Chorus at Macy’s in Philadelphia last year, the Sound of Music in Antwerp, even the T-Mobile commercial. I think about the engagement potential of these kinds of events on at least two levels. First there’s the mob. In order to be well done, there is a considerable amount of rehearsal and logistical preparation required. “Bonding” opportunities abound. Then there are the innocent bystanders. For them there is the potential for unexpected pleasure on the individual level and for interaction (albeit brief) with strangers on the inter-personal level. This just has a high “cool” factor for me.
I know there are some organized approaches to flash mob creation (although that almost sounds like a contradiction in terms) out there. But are there groups organizing things like this coming out of the arts community? I’m curious. Let me know and I’ll pass things along. The potential for community engagement seems very high.