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January 3, 2006

Rebelling against the bait and switch

Public radio listeners in Detroit have become openly cranky about one station's decisions to radically rethink its daytime format. WDET-FM switched from a mix of local programming and music to more nationally syndicated talk programs in December. But a few who gave money during the prior pledge drive consider this change a bait and switch. Says this article:

The seven plaintiffs, who donated money to the public station in the fall, say management decided more than two months before the October pledge drive to get rid of daytime music programming, yet tricked listeners during that fund-raising campaign into thinking their beloved shows would continue.

''The station solicited these donations knowing full well they intended to cancel the programming,'' said Kevin Ernst, an attorney who filed the lawsuit Monday.

The Chicago Tribune covered the story last week.

According to the group's web site, the suit isn't just about the perceived bait and switch during the fund drive, but also about the public's role in determining the programming of publicly supported instutitions:

We should have a say in what is aired on WDET, OUR public radio station in Detroit. We have supported, promoted, and cultivated WDET for 35 years. Music is art, and it is also an integral part of Detroit’s history. Therefore, it should remain a large part of WDET, OUR public radio station. WDET is a part of the fabric of this city, and was the last station format truly acting in the best interest of the public at large.

They've proposed holding a special, emergency fundraiser, to give the old format one last chance.

It's a fascinating exploration of publicly supported cultural enterprise, and the bundle of trust and expectation generated by donor support. Should your donors have a say in what you program, produce, and present? Can cultural organizations change their strategy and content to become more sustainable, or to alter their creative focus? And if they do so, what obligation do they hold for those that have already contributed?

The total amount of the lawsuit isn't likely to cause much concern ($850, the total amount contributed by the combined plaintiffs). But the question is a juicy one that's worth following.

Posted by ataylor at 8:47 AM | Comments (1)

January 4, 2006

Can the same person sit in the same concert hall twice?

New York Times critic Anne Midgette muses on the idea that nobody hears the same performance in a concert hall (registration required), even if they are there on the same night. Says she:

We think of concerts as fixed entities. In our age of mechanical reproduction, live performance has become -- like a book, a movie, a painting -- an object that can be recorded, examined and stamped with approval (or disapproval). So we tend to think that everyone who attends the same performance is hearing the same thing.

But that's not true, and not only because of vagaries of taste or hearing. It makes a big difference where you sit.

Her primary focus is the variable acoustics and sight lines of different seats in the house. But she touches on a matter of even greater importance -- that even if everyone was in the same seat, they would still hear a different performance:

The point is not really that this is a problem requiring a solution. The point is to acknowledge and take responsibility for the role you play in what you hear: to think of the factors influencing your perception, whether it's where you sit or where you studied, and question how those factors affect what you hear. Seating location merely represents the kinds of limits on individual perception that are also honed by background, taste, prejudice, enthusiasm.

What you experience is a function of who you are, what you've experienced up to that moment, who you came with, your momentary state of mind, and whatever emotional or intellectual baggage you bring with you. So, while we can share an experience by being with each other, we are never sharing the same experience.

An old philosophical conundrum suggests that the same man [or woman] cannot step in the same river twice (thanks Heraclitus), since both the person and the river are constantly changing. It's a valuable thing to recall and respect whenever you produce, present, promote, or critique cultural experiences.

Posted by ataylor at 8:48 AM | Comments (0)

January 5, 2006

The potential of sense-making research

When you think you're forging a new path through old ideas, it's both annoying and exciting to find a whole bunch of people ahead of you. It's annoying because it means your path wasn't new at all (paths rarely are). It's exciting because it means you can learn from smarter people, rather than hacking through the issues all by yourself.

Those conflicting feelings hit me when I first read John Dewey's 1930s treatise, Art as Experience, a book that was and is a thousand steps ahead of my current understanding of what art is and what art is not. Those same feelings are hitting me again as I dig into ''Sense-Making'' theory from the sociology world.

Sense-Making as a discipline (advanced by Brenda Dervin at Ohio State, among others, and summarized here) focuses primarily on public communication campaigns (efforts to engage the public in health and safety issues, civic agendas, or community and cultural activities) and the flawed assumptions that tend to drive those campaigns. It may not seem, at first, relevant to cultural management and marketing, but stick with's extraordinarily relevant.

The sense-making approach counters the common understanding of public communication as the ''delivery of truth'' -- a one-way effort to inform, educate, and entice into action an uninformed public (wear your seatbelt, cast your vote, volunteer, give blood, support your local symphony, practice safe sex, keep the arts in schools, and so on). Instead of communication as something delivered and received, sense-making suggests that communication is always a co-construction of sender and receiver, that it's in the process of engaging and contextualizing received information that meaning and action are formed.

One harmful byproduct of the pervasive ''communication as transmission'' model is that it sets up a disconnect between the sender and the audience. Says Brenda Dervin in a chapter on the subject (from Public Communication Campaigns, Second Edition, Sage Publications, 1989):

The most obvious impact of these models is casting the audience as "bad guys" who are hard to reach, obstinate, and recalcitrant. Audience members get most of their information from friends and neighbors even though expert advice is available. They like entertainment more than information. They watch too much television. Some subsegments of the population are simply unreachable. These conceptions about audiences are pervasive in society. The context of communication campaigns merely crystallizes the use of these conceptions as explanation for the failure of messages to reach targeted audiences. Yet, the application of the alternative information-as-construction and communication-as-dialogue models directs us to ask if it is our systems and messages that are inaccessible and irrelevant.

Sound familiar?

Following the sense-making approach to connecting our arts organizations to our audiences (current and potential) would suggest that we can't just figure out the best ways to get our message into their heads. Instead, we need to explore how our audience makes meaning in their world, how they connect what we do with their daily lives (or how they don't), and how we might use this knowledge to help meet each other half way. This kind of audience research in the arts is only just beginning, with the wonderful Values Study from 2004 (available for download here), and similar projects now underway.

I'm also just beginning my journey into the sense-making methodology and how we might apply it to arts marketing, management, and what we now call ''advocacy,'' but it's already been a fascinating trip. I'll keep you posted.

Posted by ataylor at 9:00 AM | Comments (4)

January 6, 2006

Why you should continue to date me

As an antidote to my other posts this week, which have been a bit abstract and philosophical, I offer this little oasis of web-based whimsy:

Joel A. Friesen
Why you should continue to date me:
a series of charts and graphs

The author was attempting to convey a compelling case to a possible future ex-girlfriend (unfortunately, as it turns out, he did not succeed). This web site will likely pop into my head the next time someone is presenting a boring and dry PowerPoint presentation, for which I am grateful in advance.

My personal favorites are the ''number of puppies I have kicked'' graph, and the Venn diagram of desired attributes.

Posted by ataylor at 12:15 AM

January 9, 2006

How to post resources to the web

There are three things sure to annoy a blogger or other information junkie: one is to know a resource exists (a report, a study, an event, a conference) but to be unable to find it posted anywhere on the web; another is to discover a valuable resource that has been sitting on-line for a long while, but that had been trapped in some backwater eddy where nobody could find it; and a third is to find a resource you want to share with a friend or with the world, only to be thwarted in that sharing by the way the resource was posted.

Nowadays, when I face any of the above, I often bug the information source with my ''four simple rules for posting important things on-line.'' If you violate any of these rules when you publish your event schedule, your research reports, your whitepapers, or your other text materials on-line, you run the risk of annoying the people who are most eager and able to spread the word about your work...that is, if they ever find you.

Andrew's Four Simple Rules for Posting Important Things On-Line 

  1. Every individual resource deserves its own web page
    Whether it's an upcoming performing event, exhibit description, conference, research report, or PDF document, every individual resource should have a web page of its own. If it's available only as part of a long list of other resources, it's extraordinarily difficult to link to and reference, and search engines are less likely to pay it much attention.
  2. Every individual resource deserves its own abstract
    Internet search engines and other resource discovery software rely on specific and descriptive text to connect searchers with relevant content. Don't just provide a title and a link, give some context around whatever it is you're posting. If you're posting a document in PDF format that has an abstract or short description within it, it's worth repeating that text on the web page.
  3. Every individual resource deserves thoughtful metatags
    Metatags are keywords and content labels that generally aren't visible to the visitor, but are essential to the search software that crawls the web. They lay hidden from sight at the top of every well-designed web page, and behind the scenes of any well-published electronic document. If every page of your web site doesn't have both general and specific metatag data within its code, you are going to lose the search engine game, and lose potential visitors (for details on web-page metatags, visit this resource). If you're posting Adobe Acrobat (aka, PDF) files, be sure to read the manual about how to add and edit metatags within Acrobat.
  4. Every resource should be as "transparent" as possible
    This rule is probably relevant only to power users and power posters, but I continue to be annoyed by those that violate it. When you post a PDF file to the web, you can choose how "transparent" the content of that document is to visitors, and to search engines -- that is, whether individuals or search engines can scan and grab the text contained within the document. Those that restrict text scanning and grabbing are probably concerned about people copying and pasting their text for other purposes -- in which case, they shouldn't be posting it to the web anyway. But if I can't see "inside" the document before I open it (or if I can't ''copy and paste'' to quote the document in my weblog after I open it), I'm less likely to pass it along to the world.
Sorry if this seems off topic, but in a massively cluttered information space, it's essential to share your work in a way that makes it easy to find, easy to share, and easy to use. Please, oh please, follow the rules. And let me know if others among you have additional rules of your own.

Posted by ataylor at 8:53 AM | Comments (3)

January 10, 2006

Heritage vs. the marketplace (the marketplace wins)

NPR had a thoughtful overview last night on the challenge of hearing or distributing even fairly recent American recorded music. According to a study by the Library of Congress discussed in the story, "over 70 percent of American music recorded before 1965 is not legally available in the United States." Through issues of copyright clearance and lack of a commercial market, these recorded works are unlikely to enter the commercial market again, and unable to enter a noncommercial market either.

Half of the challenge is fairly obvious, and common to the nonprofit world, as well: there's a ton of content, and only a narrow pipe to shove it through. Because recordings take time, energy, and money to re-release, companies are picky about what they spend their time on. The same could be said of other audio heritage distribution channels like symphonies, chamber groups, jazz ensembles, or rock bands. There are only so many groups, who perform only so many times each year. Simple math will show why the bulk of composed works will never be heard again.

The other half of the challenge is copyright...the fact that a recorded work contains a bundle of owners that have a say and an interest in whether or not a recording is reproduced. Someone owns the music, someone owns the performance that was recorded, someone owns the master recording. For works recorded before 1972, that bundle of rights can be an endless maze with no way through (if you're particularly interested in navigating that maze, see the Library of Congress report from last month).

Arts organizations are often in the business of stewarding and making accessible great creative works of recent and distant history. It's sad to think that such a vast collection of our country's cultural past may be forever out of our reach.

Posted by ataylor at 8:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

Instead of asking for money, let's just make our own

A fascinating initiative out of Denmark is working to forge a new international currency out of art (not a metaphorical currency, but an actual tradable commodity). Art Money can be used to buy goods and services (admittedly, not in very many places), and each unit of the money has a defined cash value. According to the web site:

Art money is an original art object measuring 12x18 cm, issued by an artist registered in BIAM [the Bank of International Art Money], showing serial number, year of production, artist name and original signature. Each bill represents a purchasing power equal to 20 Euro, increasing in value to 50 Euro over seven years.

The project is a more ambitious and structured version of something many artists have done in the past -- like J.S.G. Boggs, who got into some trouble with the U.S. Mint for his creations, or Alec Thibodeau's Noney which intentionally has a face value of zero, since the actual value is negotiated at the point of sale. It's a wonderful reminder that currency is among our most persistent and invisible cultural objects -- valuable only because both sides in a transaction believe it to be.

If nonprofit arts organizations embraced this idea, perhaps someday banks and affluent individuals would be coming to us for cash.

Posted by ataylor at 8:49 AM | Comments (2)

January 12, 2006

First cocooning, then hiving, and now 'insperiences'

The folks at see a lifestyle trend coming around again this year, which they're calling insperiences. As opposed to 'experiences,' this trend has consumers bringing more and more high-end leisure and entertainment inside their homes. Says they:

''In a consumer society dominated by experiences in the (semi) public domain -- often branded, designed, themed and curated to the nines -- INSPERIENCES represent consumers' desire to bring top-level experiences into their domestic domain.''

The lure of home entertainment, home exercise, home spa equipment, and other amenities has long been a point of panic for arts organizations that require a crowd. Back in the '90s, we called it cocooning (as described by trendspotter Faith Popcorn). Over the past decades it's been labeled a number of different ways -- from hiving, to nesting, to retreat.

Fortunately, Trendwatching doesn't see the emerging trend as an alternative to experiencing the world with other people, but an extension of it:

Mind you, INSPERIENCES will be as much about extending these experiences as flat out replacing them: consumers will still choose to visit a 'real' Crunch gym on the weekend, they will still hang out in bars with friends, they will still stay in hotels, and they will still come to the office for meetings and human contact.

Still, the renewed dominance of this trend (confirmed by Faith Popcorn herself as making a comeback in 2006) suggests that arts leaders will need to work even harder to differentiate the live, social experience of arts and culture from whatever might be available at home.

Posted by ataylor at 9:20 AM | Comments (3)

January 13, 2006

If you build it...well, you know

A few folks in Elgin, Illinois, have been mulling over a new concert hall or performing arts center off and on for a long while now. This Wednesday, the city thought enough of the idea to throw $100,000 at a feasibility study on the subject. The study is intended to explore the readiness of the community for building and supporting such a facility, and the true cost of bricks, mortar, and operations. A key request to the analysis team is that they tell it straight:

The crucial instruction to consultants is that they provide an honest assessment of the need and financial impact, said City Manager Femi Folarin.

"What it boils down to is this: What does a concert hall really mean to the city and at what cost, and can the money be raised?" Folarin said.

Cultural facility feasibility studies are complicated creatures, jam-packed with political and community intrigue. Often, they are commissioned by the passionate people who initiated the project (looking for confirmation rather than cold water). And often, the consultants doing the assessment are the very ones who will be involved in its eventual design and construction (and the cash that flows therefrom).

As a result, feasibility studies can often become confirmation and strategy studies that skip over the question of whether something should be built, at all. I've heard of several communities that burn through consultants until they get the 'yes' they were looking for.

Here's hoping Elgin buys true clarity, balance, and dispassionate assessment with their $100K. Otherwise, decades of more expensive surprises may await them.

Posted by ataylor at 8:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2006

Traveling to NYC

I'm traveling to Manhattan this week for the Music & Media Forum and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters national conference. If you're there, as well, come by and say 'hello.' At Arts Presenters I'm moderating a session by four of my MBA students in Arts Administration, on the topic of "How We Make Meaning," on Sunday, 3:00 - 5:00 pm, in the New York Hilton in Midtown. More on that topic later.

I'll still be blogging this week, but wanted to get the word out, in case some readers were heading the same direction.  

Posted by ataylor at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

January 17, 2006

Finding new ways to find things

There's a wonderful but still experimental image search engine called retrievr (read about it here, try it here) worth some attention. The search engine allows visitors to draw a rudimentary sketch, and to quickly find images from the flickr photo sharing web site that match. It's not an exact science, which is what makes it so fascinating. Draw a blob of blue in the upper corner, and a slab of red underneath, and you get a wealth of images with similar coloring and composition...a few more similar than others.

Of course, you can't use the system to find specific images based on their subject matter (as you can on Google's text-based image search), but that's not the point. The point is that retrievr stretches our conception of what it means to look for something.

Consider how your audiences search the world for cultural experiences. How many are searching based on the specific text of the event (composer, repertory, production, director, author), and how many have only a hazy sketch in their head of an interest or need to be fulfilled? How do we help prospective patrons find us if they don't know specifically what they're looking for?

I have no idea how or if this search technology has any relevance to real-world cultural marketing or communication -- it probably doesn't have any. But I like the way it stretches the conversation. 

Posted by ataylor at 9:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2006

500 Posts

Today appears to be my 500th post to The Artful Manager, which is a bit of a shock. I hope a reasonable percentage of those 500 have been useful and engaging. And I hope there are many more to come. As a group celebration of the milestone, let's all browse the archives!

Posted by ataylor at 6:36 AM | Comments (4)

January 19, 2006

Face-time in NYC

Posts were a bit thin this week as I traveled to Manhattan (where I am right now) to engage the arts world in real time (or to put in some "face time," as the corporate world might say). Many really cool discussions going on here, on music and media, and on the challenges and opportunities of the lively arts. Sure to be some fodder for future posts. But for now, I'm heading back into the fray.

Posted by ataylor at 10:24 PM | Comments (1)

January 24, 2006

Critical uncertainties

I'm finally back from a week in New York, attending more conferences, meetings, and receptions than I would care to count. Lots to spin out and explore in the coming blogs about all I discovered and discussed along the way.

A large bulk of my visit (two full days) was spent at the Music & Media Forum sponsored primarily by public radio organizations. The event was a focused scenario exercise intended to gather "charter sponsors and key stakeholders of public media organizations, musicians, educators, artist managers, label representatives and music industry service organizations" to explore together the "possible futures for music and media in order to build and broaden audiences for the musical arts in America."

A tiny task, as you can imagine.

There's much to come from the meeting, which should make its way to the initiative's web site. But I was particularly intrigued by the process we used to work together. Building on scenario planning methods (perfected by the good folks at Global Business Network, and detailed in this publication), a group of about 60 participants spent the bulk of our mental energy not on projecting what we believe we know, but exploring what we're sure we don't know.

Scenarios -- or possible visions of the future -- are built from ''critical uncertainties,'' or those dynamics in the environment that are particularly unknowable, but central and essential to the future of the topic at hand. As an example, in the future world of digital distribution of music, the state of copyright and content ownership agreements is both central and uncertain. Rights to use and distribute existing audio content (by musicians, composers, arts organizations, record labels, and others) could either be generally resolved in the coming decade, or increasingly contentious. In a scenario exercise, the groups envision both possible futures, and how they might react to them.

For our scenario group, a critical uncertainty was how ''free and equitable'' the technology of digital receivers would become. Since an essential element of public media's mission is easy and ready access to arts and information, it would be important to know whether emerging digital distribution systems (satellite radio, podcasts, and such) would eventually be available to everyone, or only those who could pay for the receiver or the media stream (or both). A mission-driven institution would need radically different responses to their work depending on how this uncertainty evolved.

In the end, scenario planning is not about predicting the future more accurately. Rather, it forces groups of people to explore multiple possible futures -- none of which will actually come to pass, but all of which might play a part.

It was clear that this was an essential moment for terrestrial (ie, broadcast) public media and place-based cultural organizations to explore their common future.

Posted by ataylor at 8:46 AM | Comments (3)

January 25, 2006

Ecological mission vs. insular alliance

There's a common theme that pops up in almost every conversation I have with funders, practitioners, and academics about the future of cultural enterprise. Here's the motif: our mission statements and aspirations are ecological in scope, but our alliances and energies are locked to the particular channel we've chosen to serve.

For example, a symphony's leadership may claim they want to ''engage a wide and public audience in the transformative experience of classical music,'' but their behavior often suggests the hidden caveat ''with us as the primary channel.'' Or, a public broadcasting organization may claim their goal is to ''provide free and public access to great works of musical art,'' but pushes for the preservation of their current business model and broadcast structure to make it so.

It's as if we silently add the phrase ''through my organization'' to the end of every mission statement.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for self preservation. It is a large part of any cultural manager's job to look out for the health and connection of their specific organization, and the sustainability of their business model. But I'm beginning to see the radical disconnect between what we claim to be about, and what actions we take under that claim.

If a symphony was really about connecting a public to classical music, it would recognize that it's not the only organization that does that, and perhaps admit that other organizations achieve elements of that goal more effectively. If public radio was really about free and equitable access to great works of musical arts, it would strive to make space for a full range of organizations in its community to support that cause.

As resources constrain and communities refocus, the disconnect between what goals we work for and who pays our salary will likely become increasingly difficult to resolve. If we're primarily about preserving our particular organization, let's say so out loud. If we have a broader vision for a more vibrant culture, we'll all need to give up a bit of our turf.

Posted by ataylor at 8:46 AM | Comments (5)

January 26, 2006

Curating your own life soundtrack

Jeffrey Zaslow has a cute piece in the Wall Street Journal about creating a more intentional soundtrack to his daily activities through his iPod. Like a good journalist, he asks some experts on the subject of soundtracks for advice and insight -- a film director, a television series creator, a major studio executive.

The process struck me as a fascinating public conversation for any local music-based organization -- symphony, presenter, radio station, whatever -- with their communities. How would your artistic director curate the music of his/her life -- getting the kids on the school bus, driving to work, sitting in a meeting, eating a sandwich, etc? And how would members of your audience score the same activities?

At the core of the question is how people weave music into their daily lives, or how they might if they added some intention to the process. Along the way, you'd be exploring music as identity, music as emotional support, music as escape, music as connected to the world, and the creative challenge of curating expressive works.

Not a bad conversation to have.

Posted by ataylor at 9:12 AM | Comments (2)

Interview for Artsline

Q&A: An interview with Andrew Taylor
published in Artsline, the newsletter of the graduate Arts Administration program at Drexel University, Fall 2005. Reprinted with permission.

According to a blog or web log is defined as a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and web links. People maintained blogs long before the term was coined, but the trend gained momentum with the introduction of automated publishing systems, most notably Blogger at Thousands of people use services such as Blogger to simplify and accelerate the publishing process.

ArtsJournal is a weekday digest of some of the best arts and cultural journalism in the English-speaking world. Each day ArtsJournal combs through more than 200 English-language newspapers, magazines and publications featuring writing about arts and culture.

Andrew Taylor is the manager of the Artful Manager on, a blog that focuses on the business of arts and culture.

What urged you to begin the Artful Manager?

I'm a bit of a techno-dweeb, so I was fascinated by the blog phenomenon from when it started (not so long ago). It seemed to be an intriguing alternative to other forms of publishing -- newsletters, journals, magazines, etc. -- that resolved some of the issues I disliked about those media. I could write what I want, when I wanted to. I could focus on short little bits of thoughts rather than 2000 words or more. And I could publish instantly. Most other text media had way too many editors and gatekeepers, and took way too long to get ideas into the world (trade magazines can take a month or two from writing to publication, academic journals can take years).

About the same time, I began corresponding with Doug McLennan of, who was also thinking of launching a blog section on his wonderful web site. We began corresponding. And through that collaboration, I was among the first batch of bloggers to join the fray on

What was your goal? What did you hope to accomplish with the blog?

Honestly, my only goal was to take the blog medium out for a spin. I learn best by doing. I like to write (in short bursts, mind you, not in long, scholarly prose). And I needed a place to store my random thoughts and connections about the business of arts and culture. The fact that people started reading the thing was a happy accident. The real goal would have been fulfilled if nobody ever came and nobody ever cared: it was a form of public journal for me to store my thoughts, and clarify what I thought I knew.

Do you think this blog is the best technique to reach your goal?

Sure. There's nothing to match it in all my past publishing experience. I used to be a journalist and magazine editor. I've written for academic journals. So I'm familiar with most approaches. I suppose I could keep a personal diary, instead. But there's little deadline pressure on a diary nobody will see, and no public scrutiny to make you be sure you've thought something through. Plus, the costs are minimal (i.e., zero), and it's thinking I'm doing anyway as director of my MBA degree program.

How is the blog funded?

I'm paid nothing, and I pay nothing. Doug at ArtsJournal graciously provides me the web space and blog system to maintain and update my entries. I give him what he wants around -- personal perspective and context for his readers.

How many hits do you get per day? How many people actually comment?

It's radically variable. I get about 500 ''page views'' a day (a much more effective measure than ''hits,'' which tends to be an inflated view of things), or 15,000 a month. On some days, I get over 1,000 visitors. As with all media, active comments are much, much lower...a few publicly posted comments a week, and a handful of e-mails directly to me.

What is it about this blog that makes it attractive to visitors?

Beats me. The wonderful thing about the cost structure and lack of gatekeepers is that I don't have to care. I just write what I want to write, and people come or they don't. There are no advertisers to please, as in magazines. There are no major foundations or funders to tip-toe around. There's no academic editorial board to consider.

That said, I've been wonderfully surprised at the positive response. Perhaps there aren't a whole lot of options in the world for this kind of public discussion of the business of art.

Is this your first experience with blogging? If not, where have you blogged before?

There really is no ''before'' in the blog world. The term was coined in 1997, a few blogs launched in 1998, and about 23 of them existed in 1999. Today, Technorati, a blog search engine, tracks 20 million of them.

You are 1 of 14 ArtsJournal bloggers...what does that mean? Is it just about your affiliation to ArtsJournal or do you communicate amongst yourselves?

It means nothing more than editor Doug McLennan thought we all had something interesting to say. It's his party, and he invited us. He's a smart guy, with a massive network of contacts in the field. It's an honor to be among ''the chosen.'' At the same time, there are hundreds of wonderful blogs hosted elsewhere, or launched by their authors. is just one little dinghy in the ocean. But it's a fun and fascinating group in the dinghy.

The group of us communicate to varying degrees. I happen to be in more frequent contact with Drew McManus and Greg Sandow, just because we tend to hover around the same issues, and have different opinions and perspectives on things.

Do you have any on-going relationships with commenters from your blog?

I'm hoping you mean professional relationships, comment. Seriously, I've met dozens of interesting people through my blog. And many among the readership have invited me into their conversations at conferences and roundtables and think-tanks. A wonderful aspect of the web is its ability to form and connect communities in tiny little niches. Arts administration, despite our collective hubris about the field, is a niche.

How do you think your blog has affected non-profit arts and cultural organizations today? In what way?

I honestly have no idea. I've heard from readers that a post or a link has led them to think differently about what they do, or discover a resource they didn't know about, or share a thought with their boards or peers by forwarding it along. If that's true, I'm flattered and astounded. I doubt I'm changing the world. But I'm changing some minds and connecting some dots that might not have been connected before. That's pretty cool.

You direct an arts management program. Has your blog impacted your program in any way (increased enrollment, more discussion about cultural topics with students and faculty, etc.)?

I think my daily deadline to write something, to make a connection, to comment on an article or arts issue, has had a profound impact on me as a teacher, as a program director, and as a member of the professional arts and culture world. It's led me to explore ideas I hadn't clearly stated before. It's caused me to question to the core what I think I know. It has put me in a conversation with a larger world than I had ever expected.

I'm guessing my students and my program benefit from that perspective. And I don't think it hurts our national reach among those who are interested in that particular conversation.

But as I said at the beginning, all of that is gravy. The true purpose for me is entirely intrinsic. It's my daily journal. It's my morning mental calisthenics. If people read it and connect with a thought or two...bonus.

What do you think is the next step with the Artful Manager? And where do you see the blogging phenomenon going in the future?

The next step for my blog is more like 500 more baby steps. I've written just over 450 entries now, and every weekday morning I expect that the issues and ideas will have dried up. Thankfully, the interesting connections, articles, ideas, and individuals keep presenting themselves. I heard somewhere that a great chef isn't judged by the first few meals he or she prepares, but by the quality of his or her 10,000th meal. If I can get to 1,000 entries and still feel engaged, and still see evidence that I'm engaging someone, I'll be pleased and proud.

As for the blogging phenomenon, I only have wild guesses: I imagine there will continue to be a boom in the number and diversity of blogs, followed by an explosion in filtering and search systems (like Google Blogsearch or Technorati) to help us all wade through them, along with a commercialization of the blog space (corporate advertising and ''branding'' blogs). Once the blogsphere becomes corporate and boring, some group of brainy people will evolve the technology into something equally infectious and surprising.

The arts industry has volumes to learn from the emergence of these communications and social systems. I'm having a blast just throwing myself at the opportunities to see what sticks.

Interview by Melissa Valvik

Andrew Taylor is the Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. He is also the founder and president of Arts/Axis Consulting, serves on the board of the Association of Art Administration Educators, and is a consulting editor for The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society.

Posted by ataylor at 3:25 PM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2006

Behind the scenes

I just posted a reprint (with permission, of course) of a Q & A on my weblog work written by a current student at the Drexel University arts administration program. I figured some would be interested in the 'behind the scenes' view of how this weblog started and why I do it. If you're not interested, no big whoop.

Posted by ataylor at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2006

Mergers and inquisitions

There were some rich and juicy comments to my post of last week on ''Ecological mission vs. insular alliance.'' Thanks to all who contributed (and can still contribute) to the conversation.

From the comments, and from other e-mail I received, it seemed that many interpreted my suggestion for ''softer boundaries'' between arts organizations within a community as a call for outright mergers. That's certainly a radical softening of organizational boundaries -- to the point that they vanish altogether -- but it's not exactly what I had in mind. There's a world of nuance and possibility between completely separate and self-preserving organizations and a monolitic merger into ''culture R us.'' I'm more interested in that middle earth than in either extreme.

It just strikes me as odd that so many cultural nonprofits in a community have remarkably identical elements in their mission statements, and yet never speak to each other. Even if they have different missions, their individual success is a product of the ecology, not of some separate and insular activity.

As proof of that point, just recall any powerful, personal moment you've had in an arts experience -- where you lost sense of yourself, of your place, of time even, because the moment was so engrossing. Much of that meaning flowed from the moment you were in, to be sure. But it came to you only because of a full range of previous experiences and life events -- school music lessons, perhaps, or family celebrations surrounding the arts; a personal struggle or victory that was somehow captured and reflected back to you in the performance; a bundle of random emotions and recollections that suddenly came into focus. As John Dewey put it so beautfully back in the 1930s:

When a flash of lightening illumines a dark landscape, there is a momentary recognition of objects. But the recognition is not itself a mere point in time. It is the focal culmination of long, slow processes of maturation. It is the manifestation of the continuity of an ordered temporary experience in a sudden discrete instant of climax. It is as meaningless in isolation as would be the drama of Hamlet were it confined to a single line or word with no context. -- John Dewey, Art as Experience, pp. 23-24.

Arts organizations are nothing without context, and that context includes the work of the organizations and individuals around us. Knowing this, we need not be as drastic as merging and consolidating (although, in some cases, perhaps we should). But we need to strive to be ever more connected and responsive to any ally we discover. Turf battles are contrary to that universe, as is insular thinking.

Posted by ataylor at 8:50 AM | Comments (7)

January 31, 2006

Is an audience a crowd of individuals, or a gathering of groups?

A great piece by Malcolm Gladwell on the astoundingly successful Saddleback Church suggests that connection and commitment are not products of individual affiliation to a large organization, but of interaction with a small group. Says Gladwell:

Membership in a small group is a better predictor of whether people volunteer or give money than how often they attend church, whether they pray, whether they've had a deep religious experience, or whether they were raised in a Christian home. Social action is not a consequence of belief, in other words. I don't give because I believe in religious charity. I give because I belong to a social structure that enforces an ethic of giving.

Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren has harnessed the collective power of small, intimate groups to build a faithful congregation of tens of thousands. And their connection is expressed not just in attendance and volunteering, but in money. In one Sunday, for example, the congregation gave seven million dollars in cash and fifty-three million dollars in commitments...not because of a targeted and tested case statement and campaign strategy, but because Warren asked them to give. It's an essential lesson for any faith-based organization (like arts organizations, where our faith is in human creative expression).

Recent studies in the arts, like the Wallace Foundation's study of audience motivations to attend, have reinforced the driving power of social groups in both choosing to attend arts events and evaluating the quality of experience they provide. But Gladwell's article suggests that the small, social group is more than just a tactic to sell tickets, it's a path to encouraging lasting and meaningful connections through the arts.

It raises some questions: Why do we talk so much about ''single-ticket sales'' when our tickets are rarely sold one by one? And why are ''group sales'' focused exclusively on large numbers (20 or more), a number too big for the most powerful group connections? There would seem to be a world of promise in connecting with our audiences not one at a time, or 20 at a time, but in groups of three to eight.

Thanks, Diane, for the link!

Posted by ataylor at 8:51 AM | Comments (4)

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