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Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Arts manager as evangelist

A few readers took issue (in consent and dissent) with my recent discussion of evangelism on the world wide web. I was suggesting that engaging a broad public in traditional forms of cultural expression (theater, symphony, visual arts, opera, etc.) had many similarities to engaging that same public in religious exploration. Both are a 'hard sell' in that they provide abstract and philosophical benefits that aren't always immediately recognized. Both also carry a stigma that lead many in the public to disengage before the message is even complete (those not inclined to visit a religious web site would quickly click past it if they recognized it as such).

I often have this struggle with the graduate business degree I direct in Wisconsin: should the training of arts administrators look more like an MBA or a Master of Divinity? The only answer I come up with is: 'yes'. Our industry is conflicted by its very nature: half earned, half contributed. The training and practice of managers need to live on both sides of that fence.

One note from friend and weblog reader Mark Nerenhausen brings it all home:

Arts administrators can't seem to decide if we want love or money. Do we want people to love the arts or do we want bodies in the seats? While these may be related issues, they are two very different problems. Further compounding the issue is the fact that arts administrators treat the performance as the only tool to solve both problems. In fact, putting money in the till may be a problem that is solved in a very different manner than getting people to love the arts.

What do you all think? Let me know.

posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 | permalink