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...]

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...]

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...]

Irrigate

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...]

Not “Or”, “And”, but . . . .

NotOrAndBut

A recent Op-Ed piece by Peter Singer in the New York Times, “Good Charity, Bad Charity”, has been the subject of considerable discussion in the arts world. Singer's premise is that a way to make choices in charitable giving is to evaluate social return on investment. He specifically compares "health and safety" giving to "arts, culture and heritage" contributions and comes to the conclusion that the former yields greater benefits for society. … [Read more...]

Listening to Serve

In AftA Thoughts (2013): II, I suggested a question that can aid the transition to a community-oriented approach to the work of the arts: "How can we help?" In the aftermath of the June's Americans for the Arts conference in Pittsburgh and the One State Together conference in Moline, another "way of thinking" phrase that has potential for guiding us toward greater relevance has been crystallizing in my mind. In my Mainstreaming Engagement … [Read more...]

The Locus of Value

Gold

It's an amazing thing to be the parent of an adult child, read something they have written, and say, "Wow! That's brilliant." My son, John Borwick, is an IT consultant for the higher ed world. He is also a blogger who recently wrote about MOOC's, Massive Online Open Courses. The whole thing is a fascinating consideration of the good and the bad of the concept. I'll say a bit more about that later, but the thing that convinced me to include a … [Read more...]

I Blame Beethoven

Beethoven

I spend a lot of time talking about the disconnect that has developed between the arts and the general public. If you consider that the arts began as an expression of community around the campfire, the fact that arts organizations now need to identify ways to connect more deeply with their communities is truly astonishing. [CAVEATS: 1. I don't really "blame" Beethoven. That's just a semi-cute, attention-grabbing, hyperbolic title. See below.  … [Read more...]

The Engagement Quiz

FinalExam

I am in the midst of a series of workshops and speaking engagements, centered around the theme of Mainstreaming Engagement. One early sponsor, Anne Katz of Arts Wisconsin, asked me to come up with questions for workshop participants to consider ahead of time, and I realized that a set of them I had put together earlier had rolled off my radar screen. Since I think they are fairly helpful additions to the workshop, I thought it would be good to … [Read more...]

From Here to There

YouAreHere

Last month I promised (some might say threatened) to begin a series on the potential for mainstreaming community engagement. That is, understanding that we don't have resources to do more than we are already doing, how might we reorient the things we already do in ways that serve engagement? But before I begin, it would be incredibly myopic not to acknowledge that there is much relevant discussion going on about transformation in the field. … [Read more...]