Enrich @#!*$@


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...]


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 . . . .


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


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


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


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


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...]



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...]

Matter by Mattering


In Communities Take Care of Things I raised the issue of mattering. It is our marginalization from the broad public that is a principal hindrance to sustainability. If we matter to our communities, we will be supported by them in all ways that are important, including financially. How do we reach this nirvana-like state of support? (Or more realistically, how do we simply get on the community's radar screen in a positive way?) Communities must … [Read more...]