Avoiding the Great Amputation

More Uncanny Piles of Discarded Prosthetics by Nadya Peek from Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license.

David Brooks, primarily a political columnist and commentator, has written a book attempting to understand some of what makes us function as human beings, and as a collaborative society.  He discussed the book, The Social Animal, in a recent TED Talk of the same name. He says: “For centuries, we have inherited a view of human nature based on the notion that we are divided selves.  Reason is separated from the emotions, and society progresses to the extent that reason can suppress the … [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...]