Dark Future?

TunnelOpening

In a recent post, Elizabeth Merritt, the founder of the American Association of Museum's Center for the Future of Museums, gave a good synopsis of impending threats to nonprofit status that the arts may well be facing in the near (or immediate) future. (Dark Futures: Nonprofit Fragmentation) The essence of the argument is that in a time of budgetary despair for government, there is great pressure to examine the legitimacy of the tax benefits … [Read more...]

Painful Insight

This is a post I did not want to write, about a thought I *really* do not want to have. I love Shakespeare. After a rocky beginning with what to me was then an incomprehensible text (Julius Caesar) in tenth grade English, my life was changed by performing in Macbeth my senior year. Yes, a high school production of "the Scottish play." Our drama instructor was a "sin boldly" kind of guy. I doubled as Banquo and the Doctor and got into stage … [Read more...]

Core Business

AppleCore

I continue to be thinking about basic issues for arts institutions. Here are some thoughts about core business. There is a story–that I have always assumed to be apocryphal–of the dance company manager, newly hired in November, who observed that his troupe sold thousands of ticket and made tens of thousands of dollars with their production of The Nutcracker. His conclusion was that his audience loved lavish ballets by Tchaikovsky. The next … [Read more...]

Enrich @#!*$@

EnrichNo

Rant du jour: the word "enrich" in mission statements. Yes, it is important to enrich people's lives–make them more enjoyable, more fulfilling, more meaningful. However, so often when the word is used in mission or vision statements, that's the only reference to interacting with the public. It is, of course, better than focusing on the art to the exclusion of the community, but stopping at "enrich" sells the arts short. If the arts are only … [Read more...]

Inside/Outside

MondaviWinery

This is yet another example of how it's nearly impossible for me to get away from things that tie in to the content of this blog. In September, during my trip to California to work with James Irvine Foundation grantees, I took some time to "play" in Napa Valley. One stop was at the Robert Mondavi Winery. We took an official tour led by one of Mondavi's wine chemists. This was a man whose passion and life work is great wine. He knows his stuff and … [Read more...]

Discovering Humility

BuriedTreasure

Expertise and passion are essential for the creation and presentation of art. At the same time, expertise and passion can be roadblocks to reaching communities. They separate us from those without them and make communicating difficult. It is a challenge for the passionate expert to understand those who do not share his or her knowledge and point of view, and it requires almost superhuman effort for the expert not to be seen as condescending. … [Read more...]

The Pursuit of Excellence

In Excellence-To What End? I made the case that serving people–all of them, from artists to "the great unwashed"–was the purpose of seeking excellence. In the months since that post, I've reflected more on this issue, one that is central to our field and of vital importance to all of us in it, myself included. It is of such weight that many of our organizational mission statements include it as a central "reason for being." I still would like us … [Read more...]

Curators of the Cultural Commons

Commons

I had promised myself (and I'm sure some of you had hoped) that I was finished for a while with posts about mission in the arts. However, I'm working on a book about the "how's" of engagement (that's the first time I've acknowledged that here, I believe). Consideration of fundamental mission is critical to effective engagement and in the thinking I stumbled on a concept that may be of value. In a post from a year ago (What Is the Arts … [Read more...]

Trading in the Studebaker

Studebaker-Cropped

Frequent readers of this blog know that I am in the midst of a series of posts dealing with core mission in the arts. (The Buggy Whip Lesson: Recognizing a Mission Crisis, The Metamission of Arts Institutions, The Old Ball Game, Examining the Mission Model) I've discussed many aspects of the need for arts organizations to re-imagine their role in the world. This one does so as well, with an eye on how changing times can make a venerable "mission … [Read more...]

Examining the “Mission Model”

MissionMotel

Over the past five to ten years, much discussion has taken place about the need for revised business models for the arts industry. On the expense side this comes from recognition of the labor cost challenges faced by the performing arts and the capital cost struggles of edifice-centered organizations (museums and, again, some performing arts institutions). On the revenue side it comes from shifting trends in philanthropy and public policy and … [Read more...]