Lessons from a Grocery Chain

BrownsSuperStore

It's amazing where one can find inspiration. In May NPR did a feature on a Southwest Philadelphia grocery store that I immediately tweeted. Then as I read it in more detail I discovered I simply had to write about it. The story concerns opening a grocery store in what was considered to be a "food desert"–an urban area that ostensibly will not support a traditional grocery store with fresh produce and associated "middle class" staples. When Jeff … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Staff Diversity

DiverseStaff

This is the fourth in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. Diversity and equity were large themes that I’ve addressed twice already. Last time (Self-Perpetuating Boards) I commented on issues of governance. This time, staff diversity is the topic. A highlight of the convention for me was Tom Finkelpearl’s (Commissioner of NYC's Department of Cultural Affairs) comment that despite low salaries … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Self-Perpetuating Boards

DWEM_Board

This is the third in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. In the context of serious discussions of equity and diversity, it was inevitable that my thoughts would turn to boards of directors and trustees. I’ve written several times recently about the conundrum that “fundraising boards” represent in the nonprofit arts world. (Give or Get, Can’t Buy Me Love) Specifically in discussions of … [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...]

Creative

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I recently returned from participating in a Colorado Creative Industries gathering in Ft. Collins. There were three separate events presented (a fact which dawned on me only shortly before I got on the plane to attend)–a Change Leaders Conference, a Colorado Creative Districts convening, and CCI’s annual Summit–and I was part of all three. A significant insight for me was the use of the word “creative” in much of the work in Colorado. CCI is one … [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...]