To share or not to share: On nonprofits and the disclosure of information to the public


A couple weeks back the Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an article by Rebecca Koenig with the headline: Some Nonprofits Misuse Contracts to Hide Activities, Experts Say. The experts cited in the article include the president of CharityWatch (which provides information about the financial efficiency, accountability, governance, and fundraising of nonprofits), Senator Charles Grassley (who has long sought greater regulation and oversight of the nonprofit sector) and the president of Guidestar (which primarily collects and makes available for … [Read more...]

In defense of the quieting of the audience (and so-called passive participation)

students in front of ChanShatz work at MMoCA

A couple weeks back I wrote a post about the latest research report from the Irvine Foundation, in response to which several people posted smart comments. My post dealt to a large extent with Irvine's general recommendation to arts nonprofits to respond to audience demand for more active participation. Around the same time my post was published, the performing arts world (the theater world, in particular) was buzzing a bit about two audience member cell phone infractions that made the news. First, at the July 2nd performance of Hand to God in … [Read more...]

Valuable data, questionable field recommendations. (A response to Irvine’s latest report on arts participation.)

risk question mark

A few years ago I had a meeting with a PhD advisor in the US to talk through the proposed chapter breakdown for my dissertation. When discussing the key components of my final chapter I conveyed that it would include a major section covering policy implications and recommendations for arts organizations, artists, and funders. My advisor smiled a bit and said, “Well, let’s see if you earn that section, first.” It was a good lesson. Whenever I come across a passage in a research study that begins, “The evidence suggests that arts organizations … [Read more...]

It’s creative; but is it beautiful? (My talk at the Pave Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts)


In May, I gave a talk at the Pave Biennial Symposium on Arts & Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University. The theme of this year's conference was Creativity and New Venture Creation. The videos from the conference should be posted here by early July at the latest (please check back if you are interested to see the proceedings). In the meantime, you may read a transcript of my talk (with selected slides helpfully embedded). The talk begins with a preamble on creativity and the reasons for my resistance to using that particular word in … [Read more...]

The last beauty class post

Photo Credit: Alex André for the University of Wisconsin

Well, 12 posts later, we’ve come to the last post in the series covering my course in aesthetics and business (aka/ approaching beauty) offered at UW-Madison, for undergraduate business majors.  This post basically walks through the last two classes in which the students took stock, reflected on their journeys, and thought about where they go from here. (The photo (left) is from an article that ran in a UW-Madison magazine. Unlike my Jumper posts, it's a quick read.) As the course has come to an end, several people have asked me "What's … [Read more...]

Highlights from the beauty class visiting artists (post 2 of 2)

Polly Carl

In my last post and this one I am sharing highlights from presentations by the several artists who joined us in the second half of the course and key ideas that resonated most for the students.  The last two sessions, discussed in this post, focused primarily on the notions of taste and craft. April 14 – On tastes, on obssessions, on beauty in unusual places (Fred Stonehouse & Polly Carl) In the first half of this class we enjoyed a great lecture by the artist Fred Stonehouse, who is on faculty at UW-Madison. Fred was laid … [Read more...]

Highlights from the beauty class visiting artists (post 1of 2)

Brian Thue

Apologies for the radio silence. The beauty course marched on but I failed to get anything written on Jumper the past few weeks as I was finishing up the term and writing talks for two symposia (a symposium on Beauty and Business that I helped put together at UW-Madison and then the fourth biennial Pave Symposium on Arts Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University). I’ll post transcripts from both conferences in conjunction with the videos from each being posted by the conference organizations (UW-Madison & ASU, … [Read more...]

Approaching Justice & Democracy (in Beauty Class)


In last week's post I wrote about a lecture by Polly Carl on the first half of Elaine Scarry's monograph on beauty, which focuses on the relationship between beauty and truth. This week’s post takes as a starting point Polly’s lecture on the second half of Scarry’s book, which focuses on the relationship between beauty and justice. From there, it explores the importance of beauty in a democratic society. How beauty presses us toward justice Polly began her lecture by explaining that there are two enduring criticisms of beauty that Scarry … [Read more...]

What beauty does. (Taking stock in WK6 of the class.)


  Approaching Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just: Elaine Scarry is a major contributor to the discussion on beauty. In the sixth week, the always brilliant Polly Carl gave a lecture on Scarry’s monograph (based on a series of lectures), “On Beauty and Being Just." Scarry is a professor of aesthetics and literature and her book is an attempt to rescue beauty from its banished state in the humanities (by which Scarry means the conversation about beauty, not beautiful objects themselves). It’s difficult to summarize Elaine … [Read more...]

“Disbanding our armies” (in Beauty Class)

bian thue

Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go. Three years ago I was giving a workshop in the Rockies. A student came in bearing a quote from what she said was the pre-Socratic philosopher Meno. It read, “How will you go about finding that thing the nature of which is totally unknown to you?” I copied it down, and it has stayed with me since. ... The question she carried struck me as the basic tactical question in life. The … [Read more...]

Awakening to truths about ourselves and the world (in the Beauty Class)

Intervention Wall Street, Laura Anderson Barbata, Photo by Frank Veronsky

This is the sixth post in a series of posts focused on the course on beauty that I am coordinating/teaching for business students at UW-Madison. In the fourth week of the Beauty Class I wanted to explore the notion, articulated by Jeanette Winterson, that “art can waken us to truths about ourselves and the world.” The class examined works by two artists: monologist/raconteur Mike Daisey, whose piece The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs was aimed at getting people to think about about the injurious labor conditions by which their beautiful Apple … [Read more...]

Approaching Beauty in Art (Beauty Class Continues)

Orchidaceae #4

This post discusses how the business students prepared for a visit to the contemporary art museum; their three-hour visit to the museum and the exercises they completed there; and the portfolio assignments created by students both leading up to the museum experience, and in response to it. Before the Museum In anticipation of a visit to the museum I assigned a few videos for the students to watch. The first was Michael Kimmelman on Art Parts 1 & 2 (two brief segments excerpted from the documentary My Kid Could Paint … [Read more...]

On Selfies vs. Self-Portraits and Universal Beauty vs. What I Find Beautiful (Beauty Class Portfolio Assignments)

Diane's tree

  For those following the Beauty Class, this post is about the first two portfolio assignments. One of the primary methods of learning in this course is the creation of portfolios in which students are asked to catalogue their experiences of beauty in art, nature, work, and everyday life. The weekly assignments allow me to trace student progress over the course of the term and are intended to provoke and inspire thinking about beauty. My assignments are a subset of the larger portfolios the students have been asked to … [Read more...]

A Different Orientation (Beauty Class Wk 1)


Art is a different value system. Like God, it fails us continually. Like God we have legitimate doubts about its existence but, like God, art leaves us with footprints of beauty. We sense there is more to life than the material world can provide, and art is a clue, an intimation, at its best, a transformation. We don’t need to believe in it, but we can experience it. The experience suggests that the monolith of corporate culture is only a partial reality. This is important information, and art provides it. - Jeanette Winterson, The Secret Life … [Read more...]

Why Beauty in a Business School?


  A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about the course in beauty that I am teaching this term at UW-Madison, under the auspices of the Business School and the Bolz Center for Arts Administration. In that post I promised to provide an essay in which I address the literature that has, thus far, informed my thinking. That essay (published as a separate PDF) is called Why Beauty in a Business School? and it is an attempt to provide some justification for offering a course in beauty at a business school. It is not lost on me that there … [Read more...]