A member of a current cohort of our Community Engagement Training is a professional musician who is passionate about connecting with communities and has been so for years. Even before running across my books she was intuitively aware of the need for deeper relationships between musicians and people outside the artiverse. She has been an eager and very perceptive participant in the training.
All of that is why it was so revealing when she confessed shock at an insight that is part of the program. I assign some short readings (among others, thank you Trevor O’Donnell for this post) that highlight how self-focused and self-aggrandizing much arts marketing is and contrast that with virtually all other marketing, marketing that is about the consumer enjoying or benefitting from what is being promoted. The Austin Symphony brochure in question is one in which there are very few pictures of musicians or conductors. Almost all of the photos are of happy people attending the concert.
This bright, passionate, insightful musician was shocked. I mean really shocked that she had never noticed that the arts marketing materials she was used to were so . . . artcentric.
But to be honest, we shouldn’t be surprised that musicians (and most artists) are not aware of this feature of our world. The old adage that fish don’t notice water applies. We are so steeped in the awards/accolades/inside baseball approach to arts marketing that we take it for granted. That is, we are until someone points it out to us.
The first step toward effective community engagement is changing habits of mind on the part of those inside “the system.” Here’s a good place to start.