Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part II)

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Last time I mentioned that on several occasions recently I have been confronted by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. In that post I gave my yes/no, multiple choice questions for assessing community engagement readiness. This time I'm sharing the essay questions. (You can take the professor out of the classroom, but . . . … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part I)

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I have recently had several occasions to be confronted, once again, by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. When community engagement is viewed as a good thing, there is a powerful incentive to believe that the things being done are community engagement. (My "glass half full" lies in the first part of that sentence. Some people … [Read more...]

Connecting with Communities: A Conversation Template

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The root of effective community engagement is a sincere desire, steeped in humility, to be of value. All of the “how’s” proceed from there. The humility required does not stem from any question about the value of art or of the work that an organization presents. Rather, the humility rests in awareness of how much is unknown about the needs and interests of a community with which little or no relationship exists. The process of community … [Read more...]

Arts Predispositions III: Noes

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In my last two posts, Arts Predispositions I: Yeses; Arts Predispositions II: Maybes, I introduced the notion of categories in the universe of those who do not take advantage of the arts we present. This thinking is based on work of Bradley Morrison and Julie Dalgleish in the early 1990’s presented in Waiting in the Wings. A central feature of that book was an understanding of the population as a whole being divided into Yeses, Maybes, and Noes … [Read more...]

Arts Predispositions II: Maybes

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In my last post, Arts Predispositions I: Yeses, I introduced the notion of categories in the universe of those who do not take advantage of the arts we present. This thinking is based on work of Bradley Morrison and Julie Dalgleish in the early 1990’s presented in Waiting in the Wings. A central feature of that book was an understanding of the population as a whole being divided into Yeses, Maybes, and Noes with respect to arts participation. … [Read more...]

Arts Predispositions I: Yeses

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In nearing the final stages of my “how to” book on community engagement, a project about which I have hinted a couple of times here, I have been playing with a new concept that may be helpful in plans to reach those who are not currently involved with the arts. This post and my next two will lay out the basic ideas. There is a tendency to look at the universe of non-participants in the arts as an undifferentiated whole except for economic class … [Read more...]

Notes from St. Louis

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In early December the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis brought me in to support its work in community engagement. Several elements were new. One was a discussion of misconceptions about the nature of community engagement. The other was specific one-on-one work with arts organizations in engagement planning. Here is the gist of the first part: The Myths Community engagement is A Fad It’s true that there is an over-focus and, more … [Read more...]

Excellence Is Heterogeneous

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In completing my assignment for Barry's Blog (brief observations on "what I have learned") I included "Excellence is heterogeneous." (See Lessons.) My explanatory note said, "Technique is important in the arts. So are relevance, inclusiveness, and impact–to name only a few additional criteria. Excellence is best sought in everything that matters but can seldom be achieved in all categories in equal measure." I've been down this road before and … [Read more...]

Engagement Research: Talk to Them

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This is the third in a series of posts dealing with the ways we in the arts unconsciously distance ourselves from the public. This time I want to expand a bit on the potential of market research to separate us from communities as well as its significant potential for supporting engagement. To that  end, let me being with a story I've used several times in my speaking engagements: Twenty years ago, my sister-in-law was the harried mother of two … [Read more...]

Let (Make) the Artists Do It (?)

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There is an unfortunate tendency in discussions of community engagement for an organization’s first response to be that all (or most) of the work should be in the hands of its artists. I hear this presented as an assumption at many conferences, especially discipline-specific ones. This can stymie engagement efforts for two significant reasons. First, to be credible, engagement must reflect the will of the organization and be visible in all its … [Read more...]