AftA Thoughts 2015: Self-Perpetuating Boards

DWEM_Board

This is the third in a series of posts reflecting on last June's Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. In the context of serious discussions of equity and diversity, it was inevitable that my thoughts would turn to boards of directors and trustees. I’ve written several times recently about the conundrum that “fundraising boards” represent in the nonprofit arts world. (Give or Get, Can’t Buy Me Love) Specifically in discussions of … [Read more...]

AftA Thoughts 2015: Equity Watershed?

Equity

Last month I attended Americans for the Arts' convention in Chicago. It was a great event in a great city. As usual, it sparked a number of thoughts about the present and future of the arts and, as has become my habit, I intend to reflect on the experience in a series of posts here. This post considers the conference's remarkable focus on diversity and equity. The number of sessions and the amount of conversation addressing these issues appeared … [Read more...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]

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...]