Warning: Rant Alert! Adam Huttler of Fractured Atlas fame recently blogged about data mining and preference discovery a la Amazon and Netflix as having important (although as yet unrealized and little examined potential for the arts). [Is House of Cards the Future of Cultural Programming?] This is vitally important territory, but as a self-acknowledged underachiever when it comes to research, I'll let others dig into this vital work. What … [Read more...]

Farewell Rocco


Rocco Landesman's departure from the NEA and Barry Hessenius's interviews of Rocco and his Chief of Staff, Jamie Bennett, provide an occasion to reflect a bit on Mr. Landesman's legacy in federal arts policy and advocacy. (Disclosure: Jamie has been very good to me in providing support, advice, access to NEA staff, a brief "meet and greet" with his boss, and the Foreword that Rocco wrote for my book.) I suspect (hope) that the lasting impact … [Read more...]

Matter by Mattering


In Communities Take Care of Things I raised the issue of mattering. It is our marginalization from the broad public that is a principal hindrance to sustainability. If we matter to our communities, we will be supported by them in all ways that are important, including financially. How do we reach this nirvana-like state of support? (Or more realistically, how do we simply get on the community's radar screen in a positive way?) Communities must … [Read more...]

Mainstreaming on My Mind


My basic beliefs about the arts and community engagement are fairly well-known to anyone who reads this blog or who has read my book. 1) Community engagement is vital to a healthy future for the arts; 2) substantive community engagement is relatively rare in the established arts world; and 3) since there are no extra resources to add "new" stuff to the list of what we do, mainstreaming engagement–making engagement the core perspective in all … [Read more...]

Playin’ in Peoria


In mid-November I had the pleasure of presenting two workshops for Illinois' Local Arts Network, an organization of local arts agencies supported by the Illinois Arts Council and Arts Alliance Illinois. These two gigs, in Oak Park and Peoria, were the shakedown cruise on a new workshop, "Mainstreaming Engagement," designed to provide artists and arts organization a chance to think through how a systemic approach to community engagement would … [Read more...]

Brilliant Advice

I recently returned from the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Charlotte where I led a roundtable on mainstreaming engagement (pursuing all organizational systems from a community engagement perspective) and had a book signing. I had been concerned that I might feel like a fish out of water. (A pre-conference session was entitled "Monetizing Engagement" for heaven's sake!) On the whole I felt it was a worthwhile trip for me and I … [Read more...]

Engaging with Palestrina


So, I was sitting there, behaving (as well as I generally can), when a sentence leapt out of my mouth unbidden. The occasion was a grant review panel, the subject was a chamber choir requesting funds to present a concert of music by Palestrina, and the precipitating topic was a discussion of the group’s response to the question about the public benefit of the activity. As is typical (and totally understandable given the state of the arts industry … [Read more...]

How to Engage

I have been spending time of late trying to figure out the best path to engagement on the part of arts organizations. I am a firm believer that systemic engagement (mainstreamed engagement) is at heart the only way that will bear much fruit. Add-on activities won't get done. Seriously, where are the resources to do more? Or they will be marginalized internally and externally. Internal stakeholders will not see it as important; the community will … [Read more...]

Focus Group or Story Circle

In my last post (Reinventing the Wheel), I talked about Roadside Theater's use of story circles in script development and relationship building. It was presented as one example of how arts organizations that have long focused on grassroots relationships have much to teach the rest of the arts community. In response, Roadside's director, Dudley Cocke, contacted me to amplify my point: Very few people have understood that all of Roadside's work is … [Read more...]

The Farmer and the Cowman


As I grow up (an incredibly slow and painful process, especially at age 60), I find myself, in spite of myself, learning things. One of the most revealing lessons I've more fully grasped in the last year is that arts marketers and community engagement advocates can and should be the best of friends. On first consideration, this is far from obvious. The two have vastly different ultimate goals, vastly divergent frames of reference. Marketers … [Read more...]