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

FunButton

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

ThumbUp

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...]

Deconstructing a Revelation

LightBulb

In my last post (Eureka), I shared an insight about the nature of not-for-profit arts organizations that was valuable to me. However, I have discovered that in my enthusiasm for the insight, I gave articulation of it short shrift. My friend and fellow blogger Diane Ragsdale, for whom I have the utmost respect, took that post to task for what she interpreted it to mean. If I had meant what she thought I meant, I would have done the same. One … [Read more...]

Eureka

LightBulb

In perusing videos from the ArtPlace Grantee Summit on Creative Placemaking, I saw Lyz Crane's intro to a session on "In(tention)s + Out(come)s of Placemaking." (Disclosure: Lyz is a friend and occasional co-conspirator on things "engagementy.") I have long opined about the disconnect between the not-for-profit arts establishment and the rest of the 501(c)(3) world. All of a sudden I put together some things I've been saying (separately) but had … [Read more...]

The Relevance Test

WillWorkForRelevance

I am currently working on "how to" processes for a book about establishing community engagement as a core function in arts organizations. Certainly, one of the first and most important steps is developing a cadre of engagement advocates. The arguments for engagement are many. However, I'm starting to believe that  the best place to begin may be with what I'm calling "the relevance test." Here is how I'm articulating it right now: The following … [Read more...]

And

Ampersand

Last fall, Francesca McKenzie of ArtsFwd posted about a pair of improvisational comedy schools/clubs (The New Movement) in Austin, TX and New Orleans: "Yes, and." Ms. McKenzie begins with an acknowledgment of a fundamental truth about the competition faced by the arts today: In order to sustain meaningful audience engagement, many arts organizations aim to market themselves as uniquely different, providing a service or experience that movies, … [Read more...]

UX Design

DosMacLogin

I recently learned a new concept: User Experience Design. (Thanks Devon Smith and Barry Hessenius–Barry's Blog Interview with Devon Smith.) Once again I find that a product development/management concept from the information technology world resonates with community engagement work. (I mentioned the idea of "community manager" in How to Engage.) The essence of UX Design is fairly self-explanatory. How can the experience of the end user of the … [Read more...]