Bimodal Engagement

When I first became sensitized to the need for change within the arts community to a greater focus on community engagement (now over twenty years ago), I sometimes felt like a voice in the wilderness. (I know I wasn't alone, but some of us who felt that way were not connecting with like-minded peers. This may simply have been a pre-Internet issue.) Today, as I have observed in recent posts, engagement has become a buzz word in the industry. I … [Read more...]

Identity as Marketing


Marketing has been on my mind a lot lately, notably in my last post, Systemic Marketing. Several comments on that post expressed surprise (and, frankly, disbelief) that anyone in the arts community could (or ever did) think negative thoughts about marketing. Once upon a time there were some who did not want to identify marketing as a needed element of our  work (or wished it could be avoided); now the field has grown up. Marketing is (and is seen … [Read more...]

Mainstreaming Engagement


In a (very) recent post (Shut Up and Listen) I alluded to the article that Sandra Bernhard has written about Houston Grand Opera's HGOco for Building Communities Not Audiences. I also promised (some might say threatened) to follow up on it. One of my very real concerns about the current burgeoning (and gratifying) acceptance of community engagement in the arts community is that it is somehow understood either as an organizational add-on or simply … [Read more...]

Winds of Change: Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

I am sorely tempted to simply post the link to Art Works' blog post about Omaha's Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts–Artists-in-Community at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts–and call it a day. I'm tempted, but in spite of what some of you might wish, I won't succumb. The Bemis Center is clearly an arts-centered entity. Its mission is: The spirit and programs of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts are based on the conviction that … [Read more...]

Winds of Change: Houston Grand Opera

In the minds of the general public, opera is often seen as the most distant and elitist of the arts. (Opera lovers, don't pile on. I'm simply articulating what is a fairly common "on the street" perception.) That is why examples of deep community engagement coming from the opera world are so compelling and so important for the entire arts industry. Houston Grand Opera, founded in 1955, has made a strong commitment to engagement. The company's … [Read more...]

Winds of Change: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is taking community engagement seriously and to an extremely individual level. The Center's YBCA: YOU program provides one-on-one introductions to YBCA and contemporary art. (Once again, and clearly not for the last time, I am indebted to Nina Simon's Museum 2.0 for highlighting an important aspect of community engagement. Guest blogger, Laurel Butler, Education and Engagement Specialist at YBCA, wrote the post … [Read more...]

CAT Institute

Last year I had the good fortune to attend a conference, At the Crossroads, hosted the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. There I met or got re-acquainted with a number of people active in the community arts movement. I also had the opportunity to get some first-hand insight into a unique program, RAC's Community Arts Training Institute. CAT, begun in 1997, provides participants intensive training over five long weekends in how to connect the … [Read more...]

Winds of Change-2

Some rights reserved by m.prinke Bit by bit, engagement–as a real commitment rather than lip service or a funding ploy–appears to be entering the mainstream of the arts establishment. I have been waiting for years to see this kind of awakening begin. In an earlier post I mentioned how many good articles about engagement there were in the latest issue of Symphony from the League of American Orchestras. [Symphony Magazine-Summer 2011] I love … [Read more...]

Winds of Change


Some rights reserved by m.prinke In my last post, "Click," I wrote about awakening to a disconnect between arts organizations and their communities. There has been little in the arts infrastructure that has encouraged commitment or relationships that went beyond the bounds of the arts establishment. And yet boundary-busting has been the norm in the community arts movement–a grassroots movement focused on community betterment largely unheralded … [Read more...]