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...]

Engagement Principles: Current Thoughts


As part of my new work of providing direct support to organizations in efforts to more effectively engage with their communities I've been rethinking, expanding, and refining my thoughts on the most important characteristics and attitudes in doing so. I'm grateful to the Regional Arts Commission in St. Louis for the opportunity to dig down into this with their grantees. Here is where I am now. Humility Perhaps the most important requirement for … [Read more...]

Reflections on a Conference

In November I participated in a conference sponsored jointly by New Mexico MainStreet, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, and New Mexico Arts. It was a multi-disciplinary gathering to cheer my liberal arts soul. It was also–as a result, I believe–one of the most productive conferences I have attended in years. At the close, the principal presenters were asked to summarize their takeaways as a prelude to participant discussion. What … [Read more...]

Want-Need: “Them”?


Two of my favorite bloggers, Nina Simon and Diane Ragsdale, have recently weighed in on the want vs. need argument. Since this is a topic I have addressed a couple of times before, I wanted to expand upon the discussion a bit from my perspective. It is reasonable to assume we know some things the general public does not about how the arts can address their needs. For instance, if there is a need to address issues surrounding race relations, … [Read more...]


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oePXcW6axk Springboard for the Arts has been developing buzz in the creative placemaking world of late. I've heard presentations about their work at several conferences this year. At the Americans for the Arts conference in Pittsburgh in June I got to meet Laura Zabel, Springboard's extremely energetic ED. Springboard began life as a resource center for individual artists. It has expanded its work to find … [Read more...]



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...]

Well Rounded Organizations


A recent NY Times Sunday Magazine featured an article about child prodigies, musical and otherwise. In it there was a discussion of well-roundedness (or the lack thereof) of extremely gifted young people. The author, Andrew Solomon, says in the article, "Musicians often talked to me about whether you achieve brilliance on the violin by practicing for hours every day or by reading Shakespeare, learning physics, and falling in love. 'Maturity in … [Read more...]

When You Care Enough to Argue


Several months ago at a conference (I honestly cannot remember which one) I overheard a disagreement about the best approach for an arts organization to take in engaging with their community. Was it better to begin with the things that the arts organization does well or with the things that the community most needs done? Despite my guilt at being an eavesdropper, I was nearly overwhelmed by the conversation. First, there were two people who … [Read more...]