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...]

Making Meaningful Connections

Helicon-IrvineConnectionsReport

The Helicon Collaborative and the Irvine Foundation have partnered on a "hit it out of the park" report addressing substantive engagement. Making Meaningful Connections presents research into the most effective practices in efforts to engage with diverse communities. (I felt this way before I saw that Building Communities, Not Audiences was listed in the bibliography.) In the introduction they make the case that engaging with new communities is … [Read more...]

Civil Rights Museum

CivilRightsMuseumImages

After attending the Americans for the Arts Convention in Nashville last month my wife and I went on to Memphis to explore another city that we had not visited. As part of that trip we went to the National Civil Rights Museum. (On a personal note, I had not registered the museum's subtitle "At the Lorraine Motel" so when I arrived I had the breath knocked out of me seeing "the balcony.") Coming so soon after the conference session I discussed in … [Read more...]

The Self-Centered Pursuit of Diversity

Nashville

In my last post I reflected on the 2014 Americans for the Arts Conference in Nashville. I concluded by mentioning an important session on diversity and promised a follow-up. There is much discussion (lip service and otherwise) of and occasional work toward diversity and inclusion in the arts industry. One difficulty is that much of the support infrastructure in the arts is connected via metaphorical superglue to the white monied establishment. … [Read more...]