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...]

Meeting Half Way

WomanOnBridge

When two parties need to bridge distance between them there is a common phrase we use, "I'll meet you half way." That appeals to our basic sense of fairness. No one should have to do all the giving in developing (or healing) a relationship. When arts organizations are attempting to develop a relationship (engage) with a new community, that same principle should apply, and we often refer to meeting them half way.  But I had a bit of an epiphany … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part II)

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Last time I mentioned that on several occasions recently I have been confronted by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. In that post I gave my yes/no, multiple choice questions for assessing community engagement readiness. This time I'm sharing the essay questions. (You can take the professor out of the classroom, but . . . … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part I)

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I have recently had several occasions to be confronted, once again, by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. When community engagement is viewed as a good thing, there is a powerful incentive to believe that the things being done are community engagement. (My "glass half full" lies in the first part of that sentence. Some people … [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...]

Will and Way

WhereTheresA_Will

"Where there's a will, there's a way." Often, when discussing the possibility of expanding an arts organization's commitment to community engagement the first reaction I hear is the difficulties anticipated in doing so–scarce funds, too little time, alienating current stakeholders, abandoning "excellence" (I have to work hard to avoid jumping down the throat of the person that presents that one!), etc. There are at least some issues to address … [Read more...]

Make Room for Fun

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Recently I heard a contemporary blues singer (Lightnin' Charlie) interviewed about his life and work. In the course of the interviewed he said, "My business is to create fun. If people who come to hear me don't have fun, I've not done my job." I'm not going where some of you might think. I don't believe that it is the sole or perhaps even a primary function of Art to create fun for people. But here is a thought to consider in the privacy of your … [Read more...]

Improving Lives “vs.” Arts Mission ??!!

Seattle

As part of last June's conference of the League of American Orchestras in Seattle, I got to sit in on a pre-conference session of League members' Education and Community Engagement staff. It was great to be around a group dedicated to the work I believe is so important to the future of the arts. While there was much of value for me in that session, one participant question has haunted me for the weeks since. In a Q & A period, one woman asked … [Read more...]

First, Believe

Halo-Reflection

There is one, and only one, first principle in effective engagement with communities. That is believing engagement is a good thing–for the organization, for the community, and for art. Pragmatic rationales (e.g., "The funder made me do it." or "We need to sell more tickets.") are not unimportant, but in the end they do not move the mission focus of the organization away from internally focused artcentricity. Effective engagement demands that … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That

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In But . . . How? I mentioned that I often am confronted with two vastly different "realities" with respect to arts organizations' commitment to community engagement. High ranking officials will say that commitments to community are deep and wide while others (often education staff) describe their organization's work as arts business as usual–focused almost exclusively on the art. Actually, on more than one occasion I've been faced with tears … [Read more...]