“Of” the Community

Carolina Blues Festival 2015

In May I had occasion to attend two music festivals of very different kinds. One was a country music event titled HoustonFest held in Galax, VA. The other was Greensboro, NC's 29th Annual Carolina Blues Festival. I went to the former largely for family reasons. The blues festival was one I've been wanting to take in for a long time. The back-to-back juxtaposition of two such focused celebrations inevitably led to a number of comparisons and an … [Read more...]

They Just Don’t Wanna?

SpoonOutOfPlace

Createquity's May 6 post Why Don't They Come? was a thoroughly researched piece on barriers to arts participation. It addressed the question of why: People with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) participate at lower rates [than others] in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less “elitist” forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting … [Read more...]

“Community”

BirdsInCommunity

In April, Nina Simon furthered the conversation about the nature of community and the means of engagement. Her posts, How Do You Define "Community"? and Building Community: Who/How/Why? were invaluable additions to the field. As is often the case, I could be perfectly happy with providing those links and ending this post. However, I don't want to feel like a total slacker, so let me add a word or two regardless of whether or not there is a need … [Read more...]

Window Dressing?

WindowDisplay

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about how arts organizations can develop relationships with new communities. I went in to my pitch for first identifying potential "ambassadors" and then establishing advisory groups to carry some or, ideally, the bulk of the load. His response made my head spin. His initial comments, especially to the advisory board concept, were extremely negative. When I pressed him about that it became apparent … [Read more...]

Speak, Be Heard, Have Impact

I know I’ve already posted a couple of times on TCG’s Arts (R)Evolution Convening, but I’ve got to circle back and mention one more takeaway for me from the event. The speaker at the closing plenary was Ethan Zuckerman, author of the book Rewired and an expert in all things technological (at least from my perspective), particularly as they relate to the basics of citizen participation in a democracy. He provided a fascinating analysis of how … [Read more...]

Parsing “Engage”

EngagementRing

The local arts agency in a small U.S. city is sponsoring a program to encourage community members to learn about and then volunteer to work with area arts organizations. An early public program functioned a bit like a speed dating mixer. It's an interesting idea and is valuable for those who would like to be more involved with the arts but don't know much about the various organizations or about the volunteer opportunities available. For … [Read more...]

Can’t Buy Me Love

The_Beatles_(with_Jimmy_Nicol)_1964_001

In my last post I ended part-way through a rant about the widely perceived incompatibility of a "fundraising board" with true commitment to community engagement or, more broadly, diversity in general. Without repeating that post, the principal concern was the assumption that money was the only or by far the most important resource that board members can bring to an organization. If that is the conscious or even unconscious view of the board, … [Read more...]

Give or Get

Money

I was recently asked, yet again, how an organization can reconcile a fundraising board with the need for greater community representation. Rather than immediately entering "rant mode," I thought about it for a couple of days and realized that there was much more to rant about than I have acknowledged in the past. While this is not a question exclusive to the practice of community engagement, because nearly all arts organizations need to do major … [Read more...]

Overserved

Banquet Proper

Language is a fascinating thing. I just discussed the power of the phrase "historically white theatre." At nearly the same time I heard that phrase I read Barry Hessenius' blog post: Programs for the Underserved; Programs for the Overserved. In  it, he said the following: If we recognize that there are Youth At Risk, Underserved Communities, Disadvantaged Populations, and Marginalized Groups, that is a tacit admission that our main program … [Read more...]

Historically White Theatre

GreekTheater-Kourion

At the closing session of TCG's Audience (R)Evolution convening in Kansas City last month, Rebecca Novick of California Shakespeare Theater made a comment in which she referred to her company (and many of the others represented in the room) as "historically white theatres." Rebecca's phrase (but see note below) nailed a powerful concept and provided a teachable moment for everyone for whom that approach to thinking about the topic of diversity … [Read more...]