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...]

Renegotiating the value of a museum

dia levy passes

Over the past couple of weeks quite a few people have weighed in on the Detroit Institute of Art’s successful appeal to three counties in Michigan to pass a “millage” (a property tax) which would provide $23 million per year for the museum (91% of its budget) over ten years, while it raises $400 million for its endowment to replace the tax revenues when they run out. One of the most interesting aspects of this strategy is that the DIA offered free admission to the museum only to people living in the counties that passed the levy (which equates … [Read more...]

Theatre Bay Area’s “Counting New Beans”

counting new beans

Clay Lord and the fine folks at Theatre Bay Area have a new publication out: Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art, which includes interviews with 20 prominent artistic directors and essays by Alan Brown, Rebecca Ratzkin, Arlene Goldbard, Rebecca Novick, and Clayton Lord. It also includes an interview with yours truly. Here's an excerpt from my long and winding conversation with Clay Lord. I've edited together excerpts (elipses mark missing sections) from two different parts of the interview. Clay Lord: You’ve written … [Read more...]

On my Soapbox: Digitization of Live Performance

The Wooster Group

The Wooster GroupClay Lord has written a provocative and rather erudite post, The Work of Presentational Art in the Age of On-Demand Technological Empowerment, in which he cautions that as arts organizations embrace or respond to pressure to record and disseminate their live work that they not lose their identity and the core of what live performance (and theater in particular, perhaps) is all about. Clay mentions my post from last week in which I wrote: "If our goal for the next century is to hold onto our marginalized position and … [Read more...]

Time to start pulling off the duct tape …

duct tape

In his article, Occupy the Arts, a seat at a time, NY Times critic Anthony Tomasini (like others) pounced on recent allegations of ‘elitism’ in the arts (growing out of the Occupy movement), decrying that there are loads of free and affordable arts events and that even those organizations that charge $400 per ticket also have cheap seats (and the experience is just as great from the nosebleeds, thank you very much!). Not only do Tomasini and others seem a tad defensive when they fly their Free Tickets Flag in the face of those seeking to raise … [Read more...]

The times may be a-changin’ but (no surprise) arts philanthropy ain’t


The Philanthropy News Digest recently sent me a bulletin with the headline, “Arts Funding Does Not Reflect Nation's Diversity, Report Finds” which linked me to an AP Newsbreak article with the headline “Report finds arts funding serves wealthy audience, is out of touch with diversity”. My initial thought was, “Seriously? We need a report to tell us this?” The report, Fusing Arts, Culture, and Social Change: High Impact Strategies for Philanthropy, was produced by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and written by Holly … [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...]

No algorithms needed for this show recommender system


I’m back from my honeymoon and a brief hiatus from Jumper. Despite a volatile stock market, downgrading of the US credit rating, questions about the fate of the Euro, and arts budgets hither and yon that are already slashed or soon to be so, the 2011-2012 arts season begins (although sadly with the loss of some very good organizations). I’ll be honest, since moving to the Netherlands I have not seen nearly as much work as I would have liked. This is primarily due to other commitments (family, Dutch lessons, work) and logistics (I have a long … [Read more...]

It may be excellent work … but is it good?

shutterstock_76916140 right wrong

A few years back I heard Howard Gardner speak in a lecture series at MOMA in NYC called The True, the Beautiful and the Good, Reconsiderations in a Postmodern, Digital Era. I attended the lecture on ‘the Good’ in which Gardner described ‘good work’ (in the sense of one’s vocation/job) as work that is excellent, engaging, and ethical (for more on this idea, check out Gardner's Goodwork Toolkit). As soon as I heard the description my mind began working on a question: By-and-large, are nonprofit arts organizations doing ‘good’ (i.e., excellent, … [Read more...]