From Mileposts to Through Line

Mileposts are those small signs we see (or, usually, ignore) as we speed along the interstate that indicate how far we’ve travelled. It’s only in the rarest instances that anyone pays them any attention. Some people probably never do.

Arts organizations are event-driven. We maintain in our heads an often unacknowledged chronology of progress from one event to the next. We pay extreme attention to the content and production of each event but this notion of moving from one event to the next is so ingrained as to be almost totally unnoticed.

This means we are inevitably arts-focused; or, to use my made-up word, artcentric. Our most basic understanding of the nature of our business, the way we function, is about the “product.”

But imagine an alternative. Instead of events being the “mile markers,” what if we tracked our progress in relationship building? The events would become the means of serving that end but our focus would be on the relationships.

The original title for this post was going to be “Through Line.” But upon reading about the origins of that concept I realized that a through line in a book or play is developed and carried out very consciously. It is the concept that holds the work together.

Moving from an unconscious focus on the succession of our events to conscious attention to relationship building as our “through line” would take considerable reframing of our mental models. But it would be a huge step forward on the path to relevance and on to indispensability.

Something to consider.



Photo: AttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by Michael Kappel