Communion, Captivation and Flow – With a Little Rapture Thrown In For Spice

Prarie Dog Rapture

Last fall, I was walking with a friend on the expansive brilliantly white patio outside the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.  It was a hot day, and when my friend needed to take a call, I snuck out of the sun to stand under the large flat roof of the building in the shade, next to the cool marble walls.  The building is huge, a true monolith, and as I was looking up at the architecture, one of the many quotes they have engraved on the Kennedy Center’s walls caught my eye: “This country … [Read more...]

Sydni and the Green Feather

Photo: "The Green Feather" by Sheree Zielke from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

This past Saturday, I took a drive through a ferocious, and unseasonably late, rainstorm to the house of an eleven-year-old theatregoer named Sydni.  I was interviewing Sydni and her mother, Sarah, as part of the research into the intrinsic impact of art that we are conducting/commissioning at Theatre Bay Area, in this case video interviews with a small group of everyday theatre patrons to understand why they go to theatre, why they value it, and what it means to them.  We were videotaping … [Read more...]

Co-Opting Public Value

A billboard for Mozilla, currently up in San Francisco.

San Francisco is big on non-profit alternatives. I know this because we’ve done some asking around (and looking at other research) as we attempt a brand realignment on our TIX Bay Area discounted ticketing service. It turns out that, all other things being equal (a big caveat), a good percentage of Bay Area consumers will opt for a socially-helpful version of a service over a straight-up corporate one. As such, we will be touting the fact that we’re the only non-profit ticketing vendor in the … [Read more...]

The Value of Arts is Not Going to Be Found in Economics


This post originally appeared on the National Endowment for the Arts' Facebook page. The true value of art cannot be measured in economics alone. If that were the case, we’d be in trouble. It’s impressive that, per the new NEA research note Time and Money, the cultural industries contribute $70.9 billion to the U.S. annual GDP—but the total U.S. annual GDP is $14 trillion, which basically means the entire cultural sector contributes .51% of the entire GDP in any given year. On any given day, … [Read more...]

We Are The Memory Pushers

JourneyEndCurtainCall_photo by Paul Kolnick

What we traffic in is memories.  Theatre, particularly, but all the arts, are representations of abstracted or concrete parts of this world, pushed out from artists to audience with the goal of sticking in the head.  We are memory makers, and it's important that we try not to forget that when we're building out experience packages and talking about the value we have to audiences in our materials.  Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel laureate and founder of behavioral economics, has spoken eloquently about … [Read more...]

Reading the Clouds


These past few weeks three things happened that got me thinking about the linguistic disconnects between us as artsmakers, those who advocate for us, and those who are supposed to be listening to that message. A crazy dance occurred in Washington around the budget and the possible defunding of the NEA (result: a haircut and the threat of a guillotine next fall).  Artists and adminstrators from across the country marched on Washington for Arts Advocacy Day.  And I frantically worked to build out … [Read more...]

How Do We Make People Care (Again)?

untitled ppl in line

In March, arts advocate Arlene Goldbard spoke at the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations conference in Austin. Goldbard believes we need to start using a more empowered (and less-numbers-based) vocabulary for arguing for the value of the arts. At one point she noted: “The best argument for arts education is that children today practice endlessly interacting with machines, developing a certain type of cognitive facility. But without the opportunity that arts education affords to … [Read more...]

We Need New Beans to Count


As an industry, the arts suffers from a value problem. This was thrown into sharp relief for me in an interview I had with an artistic leader from rural Wisconsin, who pointed out, “We’re all bean counters because the people we deal with, what they count is beans.” In almost everything we do to advocate for the arts, we place financial worth front and center, and in so doing we allow, even encourage, the people we’re trying to convince of art’s value to forget that that value is much more than … [Read more...]