For six decades now, nonprofit arts and culture organizations have focused on a corporate ideal. Using the mantras of for-profit America — effectiveness, efficiency, professionalism, best practices, change management, accountability — a generation of arts leaders has struggled to graft business basics onto the world of creative expression.
But what if, all along the way, we fundamentally misunderstood what it meant to be run “like a business”? What if our management metaphors actually contribute to the problems we hope they will solve — separateness, disengagement, inflexibility, inequity, entropy, and stress?
The Artful Manager seeks a new set of metaphors for administrative leaders of arts and culture. There is a need for business thinking, to be sure, with an intensity and deftness we have only begun to understand. But there is also an energy beyond money and markets that the artful manager must channel. What if, in the end, the arts organization is not a problem to be managed, but an instrument to be played?
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