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)

ThumbUp

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...]

Art and Puppies

Photo by Megan Barnhart

So, I have been looking for an excuse to write something that includes our new puppy. (Meet Nala, born 10/6/2014) Once again, Nina Simon (Museum 2.0, among many other things) has come through for me. In reviewing her presentations I was reminded of a question she sometimes asks: "How can we make our art more like dogs?" Her point is that dogs mediate communication. Dogs provide an opportunity (or excuse) for strangers to connect. They are a … [Read more...]

Connecting with Communities: A Conversation Template

Connecting

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

Crowd-Cropped

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

Crowd-Cropped

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...]