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...]

Engage Now!

It has been some time since I first hinted that another book was coming out. And I am happy, nay ecstatic, to say, it's here. Engage Now! A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable is now available in paperback. The ebook version will be out very soon. It's wonderful to have this completed. Two years in the making is a pretty long gestation period. Regular readers of Engaging Matters have seen a good deal of it in draft form in this location. I'm … [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...]

The Ethics of Engagement

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a conference presentation at TCG’s (Theatre Communications Group) Audience (R)Evolution Convening addressing the Ethics of Engagement. I was one member of a panel of four including Martha Lavey, Artistic Director, Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Seema Sueko, Associate Artistic Director, Pasadena Playhouse; and Shay Wafer, Executive Director, 651 Arts. Facilitator Michael Rohd, Founding Artistic … [Read more...]

Meeting Half Way

WomanOnBridge

When two parties need to bridge distance between them there is a common phrase we use, "I'll meet you half way." That appeals to our basic sense of fairness. No one should have to do all the giving in developing (or healing) a relationship. When arts organizations are attempting to develop a relationship (engage) with a new community, that same principle should apply, and we often refer to meeting them half way.  But I had a bit of an epiphany … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part II)

ThumbUp

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...]