Rant du jour: the word “enrich” in mission statements.
Yes, it is important to enrich people’s lives–make them more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more meaningful. However, so often when the word is used in mission or vision statements, that’s the only reference to interacting with the public. It is, of course, better than focusing on the art to the exclusion of the community, but stopping at “enrich” sells the arts short.
If the arts are only capable of enriching lives, how do we have a place at the table when the subject is poverty, hunger, crime, unemployment . . . ? You get the idea. Leaders and community members alike can easily think that it’s appropriate to get around to enriching when they’ve got the “big stuff” under control. (Which is never.)
Enrich implies optional. Much has been written of late about moving the arts from being perceived by the public as “nice” (at best) to necessary. If we are serious about seeking more support from the public (both via public policy and private gifts) we must be and be seen as essential–not from our perspective but from theirs.
The word enrich is a roadblock on the path to essential. If we stop at “enrich” in our interactions with the community, we will not go deeper into an option like “improve.”
I am not saying that the sole mission of any arts organization should be to improve lives through the arts. (I’m also not saying none should do so exclusively.) Few arts organizations limit themselves to “enrich” in any of their mission/vision statements. It’s one goal among several. Community improvement (and individual betterment) should be considered as an area of focus in an effort to achieve greater relevance and support.
All of this said, I don’t intend here to be throwing stones at organizations that claim enrichment as a mandate. It’s a fine thing to do. Just don’t stop there. And perhaps embracing enrichment is the first step on a path away from artcentricity toward greater community connection. That’s me seeing the glass half full.