Speak, Be Heard, Have Impact

I know I’ve already posted a couple of times on TCG’s Arts (R)Evolution Convening, but I’ve got to circle back and mention one more takeaway for me from the event. The speaker at the closing plenary was Ethan Zuckerman, author of the book Rewired and an expert in all things technological (at least from my perspective), particularly as they relate to the basics of citizen participation in a democracy. He provided a fascinating analysis of how … [Read more...]

Parsing “Engage”


The local arts agency in a small U.S. city is sponsoring a program to encourage community members to learn about and then volunteer to work with area arts organizations. An early public program functioned a bit like a speed dating mixer. It's an interesting idea and is valuable for those who would like to be more involved with the arts but don't know much about the various organizations or about the volunteer opportunities available. For … [Read more...]

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...]

The Ethics of Engagement

Last week I had the privilege of participating in a conference presentation at TCG’s (Theatre Communications Group) Audience (R)Evolution Convening addressing the Ethics of Engagement. I was one member of a panel of four including Martha Lavey, Artistic Director, Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Seema Sueko, Associate Artistic Director, Pasadena Playhouse; and Shay Wafer, Executive Director, 651 Arts. Facilitator Michael Rohd, Founding Artistic … [Read more...]

Meeting Half Way


When two parties need to bridge distance between them there is a common phrase we use, "I'll meet you half way." That appeals to our basic sense of fairness. No one should have to do all the giving in developing (or healing) a relationship. When arts organizations are attempting to develop a relationship (engage) with a new community, that same principle should apply, and we often refer to meeting them half way.  But I had a bit of an epiphany … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part II)


Last time I mentioned that on several occasions recently I have been confronted by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. In that post I gave my yes/no, multiple choice questions for assessing community engagement readiness. This time I'm sharing the essay questions. (You can take the professor out of the classroom, but . . . … [Read more...]

Yep, We Do That-Sequel (Part I)


I have recently had several occasions to be confronted, once again, by the disconnect that exists between arts organizations' self-perceptions with respect to community engagement and the reality of what they are (not) doing. When community engagement is viewed as a good thing, there is a powerful incentive to believe that the things being done are community engagement. (My "glass half full" lies in the first part of that sentence. Some people … [Read more...]

Art and Puppies

Photo by Megan Barnhart

So, I have been looking for an excuse to write something that includes our new puppy. (Meet Nala, born 10/6/2014) Once again, Nina Simon (Museum 2.0, among many other things) has come through for me. In reviewing her presentations I was reminded of a question she sometimes asks: "How can we make our art more like dogs?" Her point is that dogs mediate communication. Dogs provide an opportunity (or excuse) for strangers to connect. They are a … [Read more...]

Connecting with Communities: A Conversation Template


The root of effective community engagement is a sincere desire, steeped in humility, to be of value. All of the “how’s” proceed from there. The humility required does not stem from any question about the value of art or of the work that an organization presents. Rather, the humility rests in awareness of how much is unknown about the needs and interests of a community with which little or no relationship exists. The process of community … [Read more...]

Arts Predispositions III: Noes


In my last two posts, Arts Predispositions I: Yeses; Arts Predispositions II: Maybes, I introduced the notion of categories in the universe of those who do not take advantage of the arts we present. This thinking is based on work of Bradley Morrison and Julie Dalgleish in the early 1990’s presented in Waiting in the Wings. A central feature of that book was an understanding of the population as a whole being divided into Yeses, Maybes, and Noes … [Read more...]