AftA Thoughts 2015: Bait and Switch

CarrotOnString

As I said in my last post, in June I attended Americans for the Arts convention in Chicago. As part of my annual reflections on that experience, I wanted to comment on something that's been on my mind for years. In plenary sessions videos and performers were featured that demonstrated the power of the arts to transform lives and make communities better places to live. Stories like those are what originally brought me to this work and continue to … [Read more...]

“Of” the Community

Carolina Blues Festival 2015

In May I had occasion to attend two music festivals of very different kinds. One was a country music event titled HoustonFest held in Galax, VA. The other was Greensboro, NC's 29th Annual Carolina Blues Festival. I went to the former largely for family reasons. The blues festival was one I've been wanting to take in for a long time. The back-to-back juxtaposition of two such focused celebrations inevitably led to a number of comparisons and an … [Read more...]

They Just Don’t Wanna?

SpoonOutOfPlace

Createquity's May 6 post Why Don't They Come? was a thoroughly researched piece on barriers to arts participation. It addressed the question of why: People with lower incomes and less education (low-SES) participate at lower rates [than others] in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less “elitist” forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting … [Read more...]

Window Dressing?

WindowDisplay

I recently had a conversation with a colleague about how arts organizations can develop relationships with new communities. I went in to my pitch for first identifying potential "ambassadors" and then establishing advisory groups to carry some or, ideally, the bulk of the load. His response made my head spin. His initial comments, especially to the advisory board concept, were extremely negative. When I pressed him about that it became apparent … [Read more...]

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”

EngagementRing

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

WomanOnBridge

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...]