Change in the arts sector. Can we speed it up or must we wait it out?


  Devon Smith has written a smart, provocative post on a debate she engaged in at the recent Americans for the Arts Conference in Nashville. It’s called We Should Allow Failing Arts Organizations to Die and it has lit up the arts blogosphere, Twitter, and Facebook the past few days. So much so that she has added a second post responding to the internet comments. This topic is close to my heart. In 2009 I was on a panel at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference alled Graceful Exits,What Can Funders Do When It's Time to Pull the Plug. In … [Read more...]

Are we a sector defined by our permanently failing organizations?

zombies are people too

A few weeks back I wrote a post responding to a session at the Theatre Communications Group conference in which an esteemed leader of a resident theater (Michael Maso) called “bullshit” on some criticisms being lobbed at large theater institutions. I am incredibly grateful to all who took the time to read or respond to the post. The comments, including a link to Mr. Maso’s response, are well worth reading if you have not done so. I want to pick up on some of the ideas raised by Maso and others in a future post, but today I want to draw … [Read more...]

On artists making a living and artistic directors that could make a difference but don’t

Ethan Lipton

Saturday night I went to Joe’s Pub to see playwright-lounge lizard Ethan Lipton & His Orchestra perform  his new work, No Place To Go, about a playwright-lounge lizard that must decide whether to relocate or stay in the ‘the city’ when the company that has provided him with a steady ‘day-job’ (part-time no-benefits employment) for a decade decides to relocate to Mars.  It’s funny, satirical, and poignant. As you might have inferred, the piece is inspired by events in Lipton’s life. Some of my friends who are actors, playwrights, … [Read more...]

What are we incubating and to what end?

starry night egg

A couple weeks back Thomas Cott published an issue of “You’ve Cott Mail” centered loosely on the theme of innovation and business incubators in the arts world, in which he linked to a post by one of my favorite bloggers/researchers/thinkers, Devon Smith. Devon contrasted the concept of ‘incubator’ in the tech world and the arts world. After reading her post I was curious to read up on technology and business incubators and ask myself what, exactly, arts incubators are incubating and to what end? Devon makes the point that in the tech world … [Read more...]

Works-in-process in an everyone-is-a-critic-now world.


If inviting general audiences into the artistic process now means potentially inviting them to share their feedback with the world does this change how we think about presenting works-in-development for public audiences? Perhaps I have a skewed perception, but it strikes me that over the past couple decades (at least in the US) arts organizations have increasingly presented half- or nearly-baked works to the public and (in many cases) charged them money for the privilege of seeing this work. For a variety of reasons, we have invited patrons … [Read more...]

The lesson in my new tree for arts policy makers


About my tree: Last month my husband and I hired a small family-owned landscaping business to help us renovate the small gardens in the front and back of our house. They planted three new trees, two of which are young (thin) but already quite tall. They planted the trees with support poles on either side to ensure they grow straight (see pic). As I have never had a garden I asked how many weeks the poles would need to stay. The answer: three years. About the production houses in the Netherlands: For years the Netherlands has had a … [Read more...]

How to avoid a strip-mall future for the arts sector: Lessons from the boutique label, Pi

shutterstock_53960845 strip mall

This past week I came across a New York Times article featured on ArtsJournal examining the remarkable success of the indie Jazz label, Pi. The article demonstrates that Pi is bucking trends in the music industry. It is managing to not just keep its head above water at a time when many music labels are struggling, but it is having tremendous impact despite being a relatively small Jazz label focused on the leading edge of its artform. Here are a few keys to Pi’s success (which I gleaned from the article): (1)   Unlike many labels … [Read more...]

The crucial gap once filled by Florida Stage

shutterstock_66641074 gold cube

Last week, it was announced in the Miami Herald that Florida Stage would be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection and closing its doors for good. I am haunted by the thought that the American Theater has just lost an organization without fully grasping the critical role that it played. It appears that the move to a new space was a key factor in financial troubles that eventually left the company with a $1.5 million debt (significant for a theater of its size). This closing has left me feeling sad and disappointed in the trajectory of the … [Read more...]

Who has access to ‘culture’? Who gets to define it?

culture and class

Last week, I wrote a response to a blog by Judith Dobrzynski in which she asked, “Are we, as a country, defining the arts down?”  I essentially challenged her question. Responses to my blog varied, with one person calling my views ‘nonsense’. A few days ago, I happened to read a provocative new pamphlet by Counterpoint, the British Council’s think tank, called “Culture and Class,” which goes straight to the crux of last week’s conversation. Author John Holden describes a culture war being waged on two fronts:  the first concerns who has access … [Read more...]

Somebody better call the art police.

Oh no - small squared2

AJ Blogger Judith Dobrzynski recently asked, “Are we, as a country, defining the arts down?” She questioned the quality of small-town festivals, the inclusion of “gastronomic arts” in arts education, and the merits of an exhibit at the Albright-Knox Gallery featuring photographs and videos of the local hockey team, the Sabres. I would respond to her question by first asking, Is it fair to categorically (and sight unseen) cite these activities as evidence of the lowering of artistic standards? Just as you can find bad art in Manhattan, you … [Read more...]