an ARTSJOURNAL weblog | ArtsJournal Home | AJ Blog Central

« October 2004 | Main | December 2004 »

November 1, 2004

Telling compelling stories

I was doing a Google search on the elements of compelling storytelling (see the results for yourself), and stumbled on this essay by Bill Johnson on that very subject. Here's a quote of particular import:

A storyteller should to be able to perceive what a story is about at its deepest level, and how to move that to a resolution that offers fulfillment to a story's audience. Understand what about the movement of a story engages the interest, the needs of an audience. Such a writer can better perceive how characters, plot devices and POV work to create a dramatic movement of a story toward its fulfillment. How every element of a story works together in its characters, plot, environment and ideas to make vivid and potent a story's world.

That's why I say that at its heart, a story must have an issue at stake that is of consequence to the story's audience. Something the members of the audience will desire to experience in a state of resolution and fulfillment. Love. Courage. Redemption. Renewal. Some issue that revolves around the aching need of humans to feel they matter, that they have a place in the world.

Why was I doing a Google search on storytelling? Because the current election process keeps reminding me about the need and power of compelling stories in everything we do, and the idea that those stories do not only begin when our curtain goes up and end when it comes down.

Arts organizations and arts managers tell is the core of what they do. They produce, present, and preserve the human narrative as it is unfolding, and as it has unfolded for centuries. And while the story conveyed by what's on stage or in the gallery is the core of that story, it's only a tiny portion of how we connect to our audiences and constituents on a daily basis.

Just consider the many places we could tell compelling stories:

  • Press releases
    Greg Sandow has done some great weblog entries on the lack of good storytelling in artist bios and press releases. So many emphasize the least interesting fact about artists -- what obscure awards they've one, and what parts they've performed.
  • Program notes and exhibit guides
    A corollary of the press release, but now delivered to a captive audience in the hall or gallery. How sad to waste this opportunity on more tedious awards listings and such.
  • Grant requests
    If there is ever a place to tell a compelling story, this is it. Foundations, corporations, and even government grant review panels are looking to spend their money on places with impact. And despite the seeming emphasis on quantitative results, the qualitative elements of your work are what give those statistics meaning.
  • Budgets and financial reports
    Financial reports and plans are just stories written in dollars. They shouldn't be fiction (despite what Enron might tell you), but will always be selective abstractions of reality. What you choose to include, how you choose to bundle it in categories, how you organize it on the page or in the spreadsheet, how you unfurl it for your board or donors or staff, all determine the story you tell about what you do and how you do it.
  • Advocacy
    Cities, states, and nations are bundles of stories -- collective and individual. How does your work fit into the larger stories of the world around you?
  • Personal connections
    Every staff member, board member, or volunteer should also be ready and able to tell the organization's story, and the story of its work. This requires that they have the toolkit to do so.
That's just a few places we can tell stories, but all of them also rely on a rather important fact...we can't tell the whole story ourselves. In a creative experience, the perceiver is just as important as the presenter or performer. Therefore, the story is always partly theirs to tell. When we overtell or oversell, we preempt the joy and power of letting them complete the narrative.

It's a delicate balance, and an exceptional craft, to be sure. But an engaged and engaging arts manager will always spot his or her opportunities to tell a good story, in whatever language (words, dollars, statistics, economics, education) the listener understands.

Posted by ataylor at 9:37 AM

November 2, 2004

Arts partnerships and the public schools

RAND has a new publication on arts partnerships between public schools and community arts organizations (available in an on-line brief and full download in pdf). The report is actually a commissioned evaluation/analysis of Los Angeles' ten-year, multi-million-dollar program in K through 12 arts education, which had a core component 'to build partnerships with community arts organizations to develop and provide programs to enhance the study of the arts.'

The findings and recommendations show lots of good intentions from both the schools and the arts organizations, but also big barriers to effective on-going, curriculum-driven connections, specifically:

Both schools and arts organizations indicated that insufficient funding and limited time for instruction and communication between teachers and organizations hindered even simple partnerships. Both cited challenges reflecting a lack of information and understanding about the othersı organizational needs and limitations.

Lack of focused communications and clear information-sharing often led to arts organization programs that didn't actually meet the needs of the schools in meaningful ways:

Partnerships were usually simple transactions rather than joint ventures. The arts organizations developed programs without input from schools and offered them for a fee or sometimes for free. Schools selected from such programs, often using nothing more than promotional brochures....Neither the arts organizations nor the schools conducted a needs assessment to inform program development, and programs were rarely linked or integrated with school curriculum.

The report's conclusions come off a bit soft and vague (forge better partnerships, focus on teachers, make better choices, duh). But they are interesting in their emphasis on the schools as consumers and arts organizations as service providers...and on the assumption that more information exchange and informed consumer choice can change the system for the better. That might be true, if either side actually had any resources to bring to bear.

Posted by ataylor at 10:54 PM

November 4, 2004

Social Networking Software

Since arts managers are in the business of curated social interaction, it's worth keeping an eye on the cutting edge of such things. One area of the world to watch, specifically, is the wide and wild world of social networking software. This includes any combination of computer software, hardware, and/or personal technology devices (cell phones, PDAs, etc.) specifically designed to enrich and enmesh the social interaction of individuals.

An increasingly popular category within this technology is the friend and network tracking software available through web sites like Friendster (a social network platform intended to build and find social connections, building off your current group of friends and their friends and their friends) or LinkedIn (a similar platform, but designed more specifically for professional networking). There's an overview of both systems, as well as a new one from Google, in this article from informIT.

Around the edges of the obvious stuff, however, is a whole wave of more subtle systems of sharing ideas, information, links, and resources. Among them,, a way to build a shared list of web bookmarks that others can subscribe to, or Kinja, a way to aggregate your favorite weblogs, and share your list with the wider world (here's my Kinja account, if you want to see what I read regularly).

Rather than get lost in the groovy gadgets, however, the bigger take-away is this: consumers are finding more and more ways to share what they know, find people with similar interests, and actively participate in their network of on-line associates. It's an obvious world of rich potential for arts and cultural institutions, who hope to foster such conversations that involve their art and their efforts.

Posted by ataylor at 9:00 AM

November 5, 2004

The changing role of producers

The Guardian has a short and clear piece on the London production of The Producers, and more specifically on the cluster of producers that have brought it to the stage. There are as many as 13 individuals and organizations involved in the investor pool (depending on how you count), quite a few steps from the mythical and historic impresario approach:

Huge producer consortiums are now the norm for modern stage musicals. The single, all-powerful producer exerting full artistic and financial control has become exceptionally rare -- Cameron Mackintosh being the notable exception. But most big shows, particularly those that transfer internationally, are financed and packaged like films.

To balance the risk and the ever-growing cost of mounting a stage musical (now costing over $10 million per production, just to get it going), producer consortiums bring many players to the table, and buffer their creative input through the terms of the partnership:

Clearly, it would be impossible to do the job if all these show-business moguls were to venture an opinion at once. Instead, the structure breaks down into a number of limited partners (investors who have no artistic input but are indemnified against loss) and general partners (the creative brains behind the project who take the lion's share of risk).

For cultural productions with large fixed costs to launch, and huge risk of ever making that money back, these kinds of production consortiums may become more common throughout the industry -- for-profit and nonprofit. There are even several touring museum exhibits that are organized in the same way.

Does the corporate consortium lead to safer and flashier product, over the good old brazen impresario model? Hard to say, but interesting to consider.

Posted by ataylor at 8:30 AM

November 8, 2004

Blogging your brains out

It occurs to me that I keep ranting on about the distributed power of on-line technology, and the need for arts organizations to explore new ways of communicating with their audiences, but I don't provide a whole lot of specifics. So, I thought it would be useful to point you to two of the main weblog hosting services (there are hundreds more, but these are quick, cheap, easy, and fairly powerful alternatives). Caveats follow about how and when to use such technology, but here's where to start if you'd like to start a weblog for you or your organization (or a special project blog, or an issue-focused roundtable blog, or an artist blog for your orchestra, or an education blog for your arts education staff, or...or...or...).

A software system purchased by Google a while back, providing the engine for many of the world's most popular weblogs. It's a quick and easy set-up to get a hosted account (meaning you don't have to do anything on your organization's web site, except perhaps add a link), and you can be blogging in no time.

A personal favorite of mine for the clarity of its interface, and the extra (but useful) bells and whistles they keep adding (like a mobile blog feature that lets you send photos and text directly to your blog from your mobile phone...kinda cool).

All you would do is establish a hosted weblog on one of these providers, then integrate links to that conversation throughout your existing web site. A single link on your home page might be enough, if your web manager is a cranky individual. Better yet would be several links to the conversation, wherever it most suits the web page content. Then, also be sure to mention the weblog in your newsletters, curtain announcements, programs, e-mail updates, and elsewhere, to get the conversation humming. Consider it another performance or exhibit, perhaps, and draft the same kind of marketing/information campaign you might launch for a real-world event.

The trick with any on-line effort, however, is the same trick as managing your arts organization in the real world: focus, clarity, purpose, restraint. It's so easy to get pulled off mission by a method of doing something, and it takes almost Herculean restraint to stay focused on the web. Weblog technology, or any dynamic on-line publishing tool, can be a black hole of attention and energy, if you don't determine (as an organization) how and why (and when) the effort actually supports your most essential work.

So, don't start a broadly focused weblog about your organizational life and how much money you need. But, perhaps, find a fixed-term project (an upcoming commission, or new production, or exhibit, or somesuch), gather two or three exceptionally compelling individuals to talk about it on-line as it struggles to become real, and encourage your audience to lend their voice, as well.

For inspiration, take a look at two organizations I've mentioned before, who are using weblog technology to extend their mission and engage their audience in a new way:

On The Boards
The Seattle-based theater company encourages on-line discussion about their work -- even those that might not like it.

Doug Varone & Dancers
A weblog created by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center to let the artist of a commissioned work talk through the trials and discoveries of his creative process.

Now, go ye forth and blog.

Posted by ataylor at 8:34 AM

November 9, 2004

The stage we can't ignore

If you haven't yet recognized video gaming as one of the core entertainment/cultural platforms of this decade, take notice. A single game that went on sale at midnight last night may well hit $100 million in sales within its first 24 hours on the market. For a little perspective, that's about 25 percent more than the total annual operating budget for Lincoln Center...compressed into a single day.

Halo 2 already had pre-orders of over 1.5 million units, and is likely to smash opening box office receipts of even the biggest films (the current number one at the box office, The Incredibles, racked up a mere $70 million in its entire opening weekend...chump change).

The point here isn't just shock and awe (although there should be plenty of forecaster suggests that worldwide sales of PC game, video game, and portable game hardware and software will reach $31.6 billion in 2009). Rather, I'm wondering out loud about the untapped potential of this media platform as a stage for creative inquiry, experience, and production.

These powerful media machines are sitting in millions of homes. What would it take to commission or produce even just a tiny trickle of non-commercial creative product to fill the void? And what would an exceptional artist do with the medium, if given the tools and the time?

STORY UPDATE (11/11/04): As it turned out, Halo 2 generated sales of about $125 million in its first 24 hours, exceeding initial estimates of $70 - $100 million. That's more than the combined annual budgets of the New York Philharmonic and Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Posted by ataylor at 9:03 AM

November 10, 2004

Okay, pretend we didn't ask

The UK National Lottery just turned 10 this week, and celebrated a history of public gambling that brought £16 billion of construction and contribution to the country's social infrastructure (you can see some of the funded construction projects here).

As part of the celebration, they asked the public to identify the lottery projects that had 'made the biggest overall impact on UK life during the first decade of lottery funding.' The winner was not the Tate Modern, the Great Court of the British Museum, or any other cultural construction. Instead, the biggest overall impact came from a national bicycling network.

Traditional arts projects didn't win the day in other categories either, falling behind the Welsh millennium coastal park in the 'amazing space' category, and the New Bolton Lads and Girls club among projects having impact on children.

It makes perfect sense that the public should select high-volume, socially relevant capital projects as having the most impact on their lives. It's just an indication of why we're often so squeamish about doing balanced and thoughtful research on the economic impact of the arts. When we throw a wide range of options for public spending into the mix, the arts may not come out on top.

Posted by ataylor at 8:27 AM

November 11, 2004

Government and funding and museums...oh my

The International Herald Tribune has a useful overview of the European struggle to sustain their museums, as the traditional model of government patronage continues to fade. It's not really a new story, since privatization of public services of all kinds has been a matter of debate in Europe for more than 20 years. But the article defines the basic dynamics of the issue quite well:

No less than health care and education, culture is seen as a public right that governments have a duty to satisfy. Further, above all to cultural officials raised in a statist tradition, corporate sponsorship of the arts motivated by public relations, not altruism, is viewed as somehow tainted.

This contrasts dramatically with the American approach. In the United States, most museums were born of civil society, they were filled with art bequeathed by philanthropists and they are sustained by private donations. In fact, a common American view is that government meddling, symbolized by a culture ministry, poses a greater threat to cultural freedom than any amount of corporate involvement.

In the end, however, the challenges of corporate and philanthropic support remain the same on both sides of the pond: how do you engage and retain the interest and patronage of those with wealth (coporations, individuals, and even government) without bending your mission to align with theirs? In the United States, we've had a bit more time to get used to the tension in that question (for good or ill). But for all of us, it's worth raising again and again, to be sure we remain thoughtful and responsive to the challenge.

NOTE: For an interesting series of essays on the challenge and history of public funding in the United States, check out Public Money & the Muse.

Posted by ataylor at 8:31 AM

November 15, 2004

Outreach Midori-style

My students and I had the great pleasure of talking with the violinist Midori during her recent visit to the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And it struck me to find a touring performing artist so equally committed and creatively engaged to the work she does on-stage and off.

She was in Madison for one of her extended University Residency Projects, in which she takes any and every opportunity to give master classes, work with student performers, and also talk with anyone else who will listen in class and out -- women's studies, education, literature, psychology, science and technology.

The goals of her University Residency Projects are 'to encourage an active involvement in music for both music and non-music students, and to give a deeper experience of musical collaboration to university-level musicians.' A noble goal in a world where conservatory students aren't being prepared, in many cases, for the professional world they will enter (little outreach education or experience, limited experience engaging a youth audience, and so on).

Midori has a similar reach and goal in her Orchestra Residency Projects, which seek to connect professional orchestras to their youth orchestra neighbors through joint rehearsals, master classes, and events. More information on both projects, and many others, are available on her web site under the 'projects' tab.

The striking thing about her efforts -- and the three other nonprofits she has launched to support them -- is knowing how much she is swimming upstream. As a big-ticket touring performer that can fill houses, most energy in the system (from performing arts centers, host orchestras, and her record company) would prefer she swing into town, do a performance and limited outreach (a talkback or school visit), and fly off to the next town for more of the same. That approach has patched some economic holes in performing arts budgets, but also contributed to the current detachment of the field from its community.

It's great to see someone working so hard toward the true power of performance -- the exceptionally human connection between audience, artist, and art.

Posted by ataylor at 8:40 AM

November 16, 2004

Continuing sagas from Boston

I've noticed some recent activity on some weblog entries I posted a while ago. Both related to Boston's arts market, and both warranted a quick catch-up:

The saga of the Boston Ballet and their production of 'The Nutcracker' continues as they prepare to open this year's effort. As faithful readers might recall, the company was ousted from its traditional home in the Wang Center for the Performing Arts to make way for the Clear Channel production of the 'Radio City Christmas Spectacular.'

Now they have refit their production to work in a smaller venue with fewer seats and a resulting lower revenue potential. Said the ballet's director in a moment of pith:

'Yes, Clara, there is a Nutcracker,' said Valerie Wilder, Boston Ballet's executive director. 'And that statement a year ago probably had some questions around it.'

It will be interesting to see how a venue with half the usual seats (Wang had 3600, this year's space has 1640) will effect the usual cash-cow quality of this production, which also effects the solvency and vitality of the company's other productions throughout the year.

Speaking of seats, I also had a weblog about the boom in theater space in the Boston area back in March. Now, many of those construction/renovations projects are opening their doors or planning to soon. And a bunch of folk are starting to realize the morning-after challenge of that enthusiasm. According to one player in the game:

'I've always felt that the tide rises all boats, and more is better,' says Steven Maler, a founder of Commonwealth Shakespeare Company and vice president of artistic programming of the Wang Center for the Performing Arts. 'I guess I'm starting to revisit my thinking on that.'

It all underscores the value of integrating competitive analysis into project plans and budget projections, and trending the full ecology of leisure/entertainment/culture options as you sketch out the program for a cultural facility of any kind.

Posted by ataylor at 9:51 AM

November 17, 2004

They're busy, but happy about it

A new study from Public Agenda, sponsored by the Wallace Foundation, explores the motivations and realities of after-school programming for kids (there's a news article about it here, and the full report is available here). The study surveyed 609 middle and high-school students and 1,003 parents to discover what they were up to after school, how they chose the options they chose, and why they did anything, at all.

Among the findings:

  • Well over half the students surveyed (57%) say they participate in some kind of out-of-school activity or program every day or almost every day, and another 37% say they do so a couple of days a week. Almost 8 in 10 (79%) say they do things both on school days and on weekends.
  • Sports were the most popular of after-school activities (66%), followed by school clubs or school activities (62%), but lessons in music, dance, and art came out strong as well (52%).
  • The overwhelming majority of students (85%) say kids who participate in organized activities such as a team or a club after school are 'better off' than those who have a lot of time to themselves after school.
  • Minority and low-income households had less access to appropriate activities.
Motivation to participate in after-school activities ranged from nudging to nurturing, according to the report:

  • Approximately 9 in 10 students (89%) agree with the statement, 'Even though I might complain about it, sometimes I need to be pushed by my parents to do things that are good for me' -- with 62% saying they agree strongly.
  • Asked to choose among the following four options, only 15% of parents say the best reason is to improve how well kids do in school; 41% say it's to develop interests and hobbies; 27% to keep kids busy and out of trouble; 16% to have fun.
Arts organizations in many cities are major purveyors of after-school options...from private lessons, to theater classes, to craft and visual art experiences. And it's an area with growth potential, as more and more communities -- and the federal government -- realize the importance of engaging young people toward more positive activities in their free time.

As you frame your programs and promotions, however, remember that parents don't always know what they're talking about. The study also found a few disconnects between what parents believed, and what children actually did:

....most parents say their own kids don't do much hanging out at the mall; yet more than half of kids say they do. And while some parents count on cell phones to know where their kids are, uncomfortably high numbers of youngsters admit they've told their parents they were in one place when they were really in another and that they don't always answer their cell when they know it's their parents calling.

I'm shocked, I tell you. Shocked. Even though this was true long before the cell phone, and in fact I did it myself. Don't tell mom.

Posted by ataylor at 8:46 AM

November 18, 2004

Evidence of insanity

So, here I am, burning up perfectly good brain cells pondering the public value of culture, how audiences attach value to the creative experience, and how arts organizations can make a better connection...and along comes this little tidbit to throw it all akimbo:

A grilled cheese sandwich is now for sale on eBay, with a current bid of $18,000 $16,000 $7500 $15,000 $28,000 (the price took a dip shortly after this post, but then made a healthy recovery later on).

The sandwich, which appears to have an image of the Virgin Mary grilled onto it, was put up for sale last week, then pulled by eBay as a probable hoax, and then reposted when they decided it was a legitimate item for sale by its current owner (who seems to have taken a bite out of it before seeing the divine image).

The sandwich is a cultural artifact, I suppose...either for the image of a toasty face, or for the hype and public attention that now surround it. But how come someone will pay $18,000 $16,000 $7500 $15,000 $28,000 for a grilled cheese sandwich, and others complain about a tiny bump in an arts organization's ticket price?

May the blessed sandwich guide and protect us all.

UPDATE (11/22/04): The eBay auction closed on the sandwich, with a winning bid of $28,000. Someone's going to have a whopper case of buyer's remorse when the UPS package arrives.

Posted by ataylor at 7:49 AM

November 19, 2004

The forest and the trees

Arts consultant Adrian Ellis has a nice piece about the problem of perspective and scale in arts and cultural management. He suggests, as most would agree, that arts managers are often so buried in the detail and daily demands of their work, they lose perspective on the patterns that might actually help them address causes of strife rather than merely effects. He also suggests, as he did during a keynote here in Madison last month, that there is a fundamental imbalance between the demand for cultural activity (at least as provided by the nonprofit model) and the supply.

At the same time, the academics, service organizations, and others who could be offering a wider perspective on the field, seem distracted by 'making a case' for the arts rather than really understanding their function in contemporary society:

Meanwhile, our obsession with side-effects has left the heart of the issue neglected. The heart of the issue is: 'What constitutes a vibrant cultural organization or community and what do we need to do to ensure we have one?' rather than 'Why do we need one?' This means that relatively little attention is being paid to issues affecting the internal dynamics of the sector as opposed to its effects on other sectors.

As candidates for the deeper issues at work, he offers this short list to start the conversation:

  • The impact of low levels of capitalization on organizational effectiveness;
  • The impact of changing funding criteria on the pattern of arts activity;
  • The impact of technology on patterns of cultural consumption and production;
  • The impact of changing demographic on attendance patterns;
  • The impact of changes in school curricula on levels of amateur participation;
  • The circumstances most conducive to artistic innovation, including the management of artistic risk;
  • The impact of the vertical integration of the commercial entertainment industry on non-profit provisionŠ
I'd also add the importance of understanding the role and influence of the nonprofit model, itself, in forming these problems to begin with.

Posted by ataylor at 8:42 AM

November 22, 2004

Thanksgiving break...go eat something

NEWS FLASH: For those tracking the progress of the Virgin Mary grilled cheese sandwich discussed in an earlier post, the auction closed on eBay this evening with a final winning bid of $28,000. For those that came in with lower bids than that, congratulations! For the winner, bummer.

I'm taking this week off from my weblog to regroup, rethink, and redouble my body weight by eating far too much starchy and fatty food. Bless those pilgrims for giving us another excuse for excess! Although, I'm not sure it's exactly what they had in mind.

See you all again on Monday, November 29.

Posted by ataylor at 8:49 AM

November 29, 2004

Problems at the PACs

The news over the holiday break was chock-a-block with tidbits about performing arts centers, especially those in smaller markets. Just as Kansas City was announcing resident companies for a $304-million performing arts center (see architectural renderings here), a PAC in Saratoga Springs, New York, was reeling from a scathing outside assessment of its management practices (I'm sure it didn't help their spirits that the story hit the New York Times, as well).

The Saratoga report flagged the organization for shaky executive compensation, expense reimbursement, poor planning, and inadequate financial controls. Among other problems was a $200,000 low-interest loan to the center's president, the $70,000 salary he gave his wife to be development director, and the no-limit expense account he enjoyed for meals and entertainment.

The newspaper editorial that followed the report's release was quick to support the benefits of a community performing arts center, using much of the same language that probably encouraged the project in Kansas City:

SPAC is one of the jewels of Saratoga Springs and a draw for the entire Capital District. Its existence contributes to the economic well-being of this community, and not only during the warm months when the amphitheater is open. Being the summer home to the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra contributes to Saratoga Springs' year-round appeal as a lively place with a mix of cultural offerings.
Community jewel. Draw for tourism and economic activity. Reinforcing a positive sense of place. The triple-crown of supporting arguments for any town's performing arts center.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Frank Gehry's swooping, shiny Walt Disney Concert Hall is discovering that it has a different type of impact on its immediate community: heat and light:

The brilliant rays blind drivers, pedestrians and nearby residents, and create sauna-like conditions in condominiums and businesses. Temperatures on the sidewalks surrounding the hall have been measured at up to 138 degrees.

Perhaps it goes to show that when you're building a beacon for cultural activity, you should also install a dimmer switch.

Posted by ataylor at 8:44 AM

November 30, 2004

Boxing culture

In this Sunday's New York Times Magazine, architect/space maven David Rockwell had an interesting jab against the mother of all multi-venue performance spaces. As an aside in a quick Q & A about his latest design project -- the reconceived flagship F.A.O. Schwarz store in Manhattan -- he had this to say about Lincoln Center:

''My goal as an architect is to follow my instincts. Limiting yourself to architecture with a capital A can be stifling. You don't want to end up building more Lincoln Centers, a piece of modernism that's not about people but the boxing of culture.''

Rockwell is known for his textural and narrative space designs -- which he's applied to chic restaurants (Nobu, Town, and others), Broadway sets (Hairspray), and performance spaces (the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, environments for Cirque du Soleil). In a profile in Fast Company, he described the narrative and theatrical potential of designed space, and the dangerous lure of iconic design:

''The things that have the most-lasting effect are also the most fleeting.'' So it goes with design, which need not always aspire to the grandiose and the permanent. Like theater itself, design can also be ephemeral and experiential. A restaurant, a hotel lobby -- even a workplace -- can become a stage set that transforms everyday experience, if only for a few moments. That realization set Rockwell free from the dead-end ambition of aiming for architectural posterity. ''If permanence is your goal,'' Rockwell says now, ''it rules out everything that isn't permanent.''

It's an interesting tension to ponder as you wander any of the new cultural facilities opening their doors across the country at the moment, or coming into shape on blueprints. Many of them are built on the Lincoln Center model -- big-box culture with common spaces designed to shock and awe, that make the visitor feel small and transitory, and that make the culture within them seem fixed and immovable.

Who's building new cultural facilities that focus on the human scale, and the experience of perception rather than the demands of production?

Posted by ataylor at 8:46 AM

« October 2004 | Main | December 2004 »