They Just Don’t Wanna?

SpoonOutOfPlace

Createquity's May 6 post Why Don't They Come? was a thoroughly researched piece on barriers to arts participation. It addressed the question of why: People with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) participate at lower rates [than others] in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less “elitist” forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting … [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 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...]

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...]

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...]

The Visible Hand

Hand

Much of my pragmatic (as opposed to moral) argument for deep focus on community engagement is of the “invisible hand” variety. (Thank you Adam Smith.) Economic, cultural, and social forces will inevitably, but without direct action, change the landscape to such an extent that business as usual in the arts will eventually become unsustainable. The area where such pressures move from the invisible/indirect to the visible/direct is in public … [Read more...]