But . . . How?

Questions

Over two and a half years ago, I began this blog as a means of advocacy for community engagement on the part of arts organizations. While that's not been the sole topic of the posts, it has dominated. I am now beginning a new phase of my work (to which I have alluded before) in which I will try to be somewhat more practical–focusing on the process of helping arts organizations transition to a more community-focused way of being. When I do … [Read more...]

Civic Footprint

Footprint

Last week I mentioned that I had participated in the 2014 Canadian Arts Summit in Banff. While there I learned many things about both the arts generally and the arts in Canada specifically. (Our neighbors to the north seem to have things well in hand.) However, one concept in particular leapt out at me. In a session someone mentioned the idea of tracking an organization's "civic footprint." (I think this came from someone in a tabletop … [Read more...]

More? You Want More?!!

OliverTwist-Bumble

There is an iconic scene in the musical Oliver in which the young orphan Oliver Twist approaches Mr. Bumble, the workhouse supervisor, and asks for a second bowl of gruel. Bumble's enraged reaction is "More! You want more?!!" In his mind, the little whippersnapper had unmitigated gall to request seconds. The firsts were more than generous. This, of course, put me in mind of fundraising. (While my mind may not have only one track, the number is … [Read more...]

40 Years Engaged

KronosQuartet

Sunday's New York Times article on the Kronos Quartet reminded me of one early step on the beginning of my pilgrimage as a community engagement advocate. (Kronos Quartet's 40-Year Adventure) Over 35 years ago, I had coffee with David Harrington in a small café across the street from the Eastman Theatre. I was a doctoral student at Eastman and the Quartet was doing a residency at the school. I had been blown away by a concert of theirs (some … [Read more...]

Deconstructing a Revelation

LightBulb

In my last post (Eureka), I shared an insight about the nature of not-for-profit arts organizations that was valuable to me. However, I have discovered that in my enthusiasm for the insight, I gave articulation of it short shrift. My friend and fellow blogger Diane Ragsdale, for whom I have the utmost respect, took that post to task for what she interpreted it to mean. If I had meant what she thought I meant, I would have done the same. One … [Read more...]

Eureka

LightBulb

In perusing videos from the ArtPlace Grantee Summit on Creative Placemaking, I saw Lyz Crane's intro to a session on "In(tention)s + Out(come)s of Placemaking." (Disclosure: Lyz is a friend and occasional co-conspirator on things "engagementy.") I have long opined about the disconnect between the not-for-profit arts establishment and the rest of the 501(c)(3) world. All of a sudden I put together some things I've been saying (separately) but had … [Read more...]

Indispensability

BecomeIndispensable

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I used that phrase, “making the arts indispensable.” While he agreed with my intent, he was concerned that one view of it would be to reinforce a sense of entitlement that some in the industry feel today. “Yes, the arts are special and since they are, we should be supported to continue doing what we are doing.” Clearly that was not my intent so I thought it might be useful to pursue it a little … [Read more...]

The Relevance Test

WillWorkForRelevance

I am currently working on "how to" processes for a book about establishing community engagement as a core function in arts organizations. Certainly, one of the first and most important steps is developing a cadre of engagement advocates. The arguments for engagement are many. However, I'm starting to believe that  the best place to begin may be with what I'm calling "the relevance test." Here is how I'm articulating it right now: The following … [Read more...]

The “Pandering” Straw Man

StrawMan

This post is not part of a series, so it may seem a bit out of context. I've addressed the issues of quality and community on numerous occasions previously. (The Pursuit of Excellence, Quality and Community, Quality and Community-2) However, the issue comes up so often in Q&A sessions, it's probably good to share this as I write it in the context of a larger project. Critics (and uncomfortable observers) of community engagement in the arts … [Read more...]

And

Ampersand

Last fall, Francesca McKenzie of ArtsFwd posted about a pair of improvisational comedy schools/clubs (The New Movement) in Austin, TX and New Orleans: "Yes, and." Ms. McKenzie begins with an acknowledgment of a fundamental truth about the competition faced by the arts today: In order to sustain meaningful audience engagement, many arts organizations aim to market themselves as uniquely different, providing a service or experience that movies, … [Read more...]