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...]

Arts Predispositions I: Yeses

Crowd-Cropped

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...]

The P Word

Privilege

Conducting community engagement trainings in St. Louis in December it was impossible to avoid (not that I wanted to) addressing the question of privilege. This is a huge issue in the arts as substantial portions of the population view the arts establishment as the poster child for privilege of wealth, power, and, of course, race. There is a long history of this association. In Building Communities, Not Audiences, I cited the 1849 Astor Place … [Read more...]

Engagement Principles: Current Thoughts

ThinkerWithSunburst

As part of my new work of providing direct support to organizations in efforts to more effectively engage with their communities I've been rethinking, expanding, and refining my thoughts on the most important characteristics and attitudes in doing so. I'm grateful to the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis for the opportunity to dig down into this with their grantees. Here is where I am now. Humility Perhaps the most important requirement for … [Read more...]

Notes from St. Louis

StLouis

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...]

Reflections on a Conference

In November I participated in a conference sponsored jointly by New Mexico MainStreet, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, and New Mexico Arts. It was a multi-disciplinary gathering to cheer my liberal arts soul. It was also–as a result, I believe–one of the most productive conferences I have attended in years. At the close, the principal presenters were asked to summarize their takeaways as a prelude to participant discussion. What … [Read more...]

Three (+) Cultures

GovernorsPalaceNativeCrafts

I recently returned from the Building Creative Communities Conference in Santa Fe, a gathering sponsored by New Mexico MainStreet, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, and New Mexico Arts. It was an extremely useful conference and I will be sharing thoughts about it come the New Year. For now, however, I wanted to mention an insight that came as a result of the pre-conference tourism in which my wife and I indulged. Several places we … [Read more...]

Excellence Is Heterogeneous

ExcellenceSign

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...]