Rationales

Why?

As I've mentioned before, I'm in the process of developing training options for arts organizations seeking a unified approach to community engagement–systemic, mainstreamed, and involving every facet of the work. Part of that, a relatively simple one to be sure, has been drafting descriptions of it. Several early comments suggested the need for including the rationale for community engagement. A first pass yielded the … [Read more...]

Develop Allies

ClownHuddle

In Engagement Working Group, I discussed an early step in the process of bolstering an organization's commitment to engagement. Once members of this core group–those who already have an understanding of and firm commitment to this work–have discovered each other and begun talking and planning, it is time to expand the base. Developing allies means turning the non-enthusiastic into supporters or at least convincing them not to be … [Read more...]

Engagement Working Group

PenguinConspiracy

This is part of my continuing series on "How" to build a community-focused arts organization. An early step is organizing a group of "believers" who can work to generate enthusiasm and support for a transition. For lack of a better term, I call this an engagement working group. The means by which potential members of such a group “find” each other can be as varied as are organizations. Some individuals probably already are aware of like-minded … [Read more...]

Magnets and Oysters

MagnetOyster-Pearl

One issue that every arts organization seeking to engage with its communities must address is the "where" of arts activity. Our unconscious assumption is that art needs to take place in spaces specially designed for the form in question: concert halls, theaters, museums. But just as people unfamiliar with the work we present are intimidated by it, many are reticent to enter the venues to which we have grown accustomed. Of course there are … [Read more...]

Plan B

PlanB

In the context of posts that write themselves, this one falls in the category of "written (primarily) by someone else." The Guardian (London) published, earlier this year, an opinion piece titled "Public arts funding: towards plan B." (It was written by Three Johns and Shelagh: John Holden, John Kieffer, John Newbigin and Shelagh Wright.) The article is a critique of Arts Council England's arts funding report titled Towards Plan A, a report they … [Read more...]

First, Believe

Halo-Reflection

There is one, and only one, first principle in effective engagement with communities. That is believing engagement is a good thing–for the organization, for the community, and for art. Pragmatic rationales (e.g., "The funder made me do it." or "We need to sell more tickets.") are not unimportant, but in the end they do not move the mission focus of the organization away from internally focused artcentricity. Effective engagement demands that … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That

ThumbUp

In But . . . How? I mentioned that I often am confronted with two vastly different "realities" with respect to arts organizations' commitment to community engagement. High ranking officials will say that commitments to community are deep and wide while others (often education staff) describe their organization's work as arts business as usual–focused almost exclusively on the art. Actually, on more than one occasion I've been faced with tears … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

UX Design

DosMacLogin

I recently learned a new concept: User Experience Design. (Thanks Devon Smith and Barry Hessenius–Barry's Blog Interview with Devon Smith.) Once again I find that a product development/management concept from the information technology world resonates with community engagement work. (I mentioned the idea of "community manager" in How to Engage.) The essence of UX Design is fairly self-explanatory. How can the experience of the end user of the … [Read more...]