Recently by Andrew Taylor

Since we're coming on the end of the week, I feel a summary statement is in order. But I haven't a clue what it should be. Much of our conversation seems to have focused on whether language comes before policy, or policy drives language; whether we should be arguing about the words we use, or just diving into specific issues that vex us and work to make them better.

There's clearly work to be done to ensure each citizen's right to find and express their voice, and to discover, experience, and remix the expressions around them. There's also work to be done in repurposing those cultural institutions who care to be repurposed as local and national stewards of such expression -- among other stewards. Whether language comes first or policy does is probably the wrong question. In truth, such things always move together.

My father, who's a physics professor, sent me the following quote when he read what I would be talking about this week. Seems to be a good sentiment to close my last post:

''...we cannot improve the language of any science without at the same time improving the science itself; neither can we, on the other hand, improve a science, without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it.''

A. Lavoisier, Traité Elémentaire de Chimie. William Creech, Edinburgh, 1790. Translated by Robert Kerr as The Elements of Chemistry, reprinted by Dover, 1965

January 29, 2010 1:39 PM | | Comments (0) |
Marian, Adrian, and Alan nudge us toward a more applied conversation about getting something done. Thanks for that. I'm easily distracted by abstract ideas and symbolic wordplay. I'm an academic...abstractions are my Gummi Bears.

I keep scrolling back to Steven Tepper's discussion of reframing, when it's effective, and how it can be made more effective. Particularly, this point:

You can "extend" the frame by connecting it to other frames or other issues where there are natural allies/constituents who might be sympathetic to your frame but currently view the world through a different lens.
Odds are that different partners on the path will have different words that move them. Alan identified some of these with his focus groups. Marian found others with her nieces and nephews. And perhaps our best step is NOT to craft the perfect language, but to use the most resonant and productive language for a specific task. Remember the ''Clean Air Act''? The ''Patriot Act''? Brilliant nuggets of symbolic sleight of hand.

My experience has been that the folks now camped in the ''arts and culture'' frame are among the most difficult to move, and the most reluctant to partner with industries or advocates that live in a different camp.

I continue to like ''expressive life'' as a way to organize my thoughts, and to give me space to use multiple paths to explain my meaning. But perhaps it's a term for inside baseball.
January 27, 2010 6:15 AM | | Comments (0) |
While I'm loving the general discussion of the most useful frame for engaging policy around arts, culture, expression, and the like, perhaps a specific example could focus our next wave.

Monday, the Justice Department approved the merger of Ticketmaster (the world's largest ticketing service) and Live Nation (the world's largest producer, promoter, and host of live concerts). The merger has clear implications for worldwide markets of live performance, for the control of and profit from all activities surrounding those performances, and for how venues, media outlets, artists, presenters, producers, artist representatives, and local communities connect the live arts with audiences.

It's an example of a significant and public shift in the shape of our industry (not just nonprofit arts, but certainly including nonprofit arts) that had little play in the ''arts and culture'' conversation. Bruce Springsteen was against it, but he's not ''arts and culture.'' Consumer groups and independent commercial entertainment providers were concerned, as well, but they're not ''arts and culture'' either.

I'm not sure that ''expressive life'' resolves that problem, or would suddenly make artists and cultural leaders more aware and engaged in public policy decisions that shape their universe. But it underscores to me the inadequacy of ''arts and culture'' as a frame and a filter for public conversation.

UPDATE 1/27/2010: Neill Archer Roan posted some detailed thoughts on the merger issue on his blog. Worth a read if you're not sure how the merger might impact your work.
January 26, 2010 7:00 AM | | Comments (0) |
Since Adrian Ellis is asking, I make a motion that we include the following from his list in the realm of ''expressive life'': Motor-cycle maintenance, chess, frying an egg, recreational sex. No particular reason...I would just like to be in a policy discussion that includes those things alongside symphonic music and quilting bees. Do I have a second?

To be honest, we have neither the process nor the authority to make those decisions. Rather, all the current and potential players in the game and their representatives can choose for themselves whether the larger frame serves their specific purpose. I'm hoping that most of them are having that very discussion right now (or perhaps they're already done).

idoc_excerpt.jpgBack in 2008, Elizabeth Long Lingo and I (and a fabulous research team) actually dabbled in the very question for a Curb Center research initiative at the National Performing Arts Convention in Denver. Since the convention was drawing a national audience of arts professionals, advocates, and supporters from multiple disciplines, our research team wanted to know how they drew the frame around ''performing arts'' (essentially the ''what's in and what's out'' question). Here are the results of that pre-conference survey question for those who care to know (click the link or the image for a full-size view).

I found it interesting that the convention was intended to bring more muscle and motivation to a national conversation about public policy and the performing arts, but that two of the largest national and local purveyors of music (Walmart) and media theater (Blockbuster) didn't make the cut.
January 25, 2010 4:26 PM | | Comments (1) |
I've been an active user of ''expressive life'' since I first heard Bill discuss it years ago. The phrase captured the spirit of the more ecological and systemic approach I had been seeking in my teaching and research. And it offered a bigger frame that included our traditional set of ''arts and culture'' but with elbow room for other forms of artistic expression and experience as well. Its closest contender, ''creative life,'' didn't work for me, as creativity is really only a subset of expressive activity.

But in this week's conversation, I'm less concerned about whether ''expressive life'' is exactly the right phrase for everyone, and more interested in whether it offers a USEFUL frame for the real work of our field. The George Box quote used as the title of this post gets to the heart of that issue: Every model we use to engage the world is incomplete or incorrect in some way -- it has to be. What matters is how well those imperfect models move us forward in the specific task at hand.

For me, at least, ''expressive life'' has become an extraordinarily useful model -- in teaching my MBA students about policy and practice, in discussing issues in the arts with peers, in thinking about the cast of characters that influence how we create, present, connect, discuss, preserve, and support both human heritage and individual voice.

As Marian suggests, the phrase doesn't ''do'' much on its own. But I think it allows us to think about, speak about, and go about our work in more productive and connected ways. And that's a start.
January 25, 2010 12:01 AM | | Comments (1) |


This Conversation Are the terms "Art" and "Culture" tough enough to frame a public policy carve-out for the 21st century? Are the old familiar words, weighted with multiple meanings and unhelpful preconceptions, simply no longer useful in analysis or advocacy? In his book, Arts, Inc., Bill Ivey advances "Expressive Life" as a new, expanded policy arena - a frame sufficiently robust to stand proudly beside "Work Life," "Family Life," "Education," and "The Environment." Is Ivey on the right track, or more

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