A colleague recently shared that when they advocate for community engagement in their organization they get pushback about “mission creep.” Mission creep??!! If connecting the arts with communities is not an arts organization’s mission, what is it?!
I know, I know. There is an assumption (conscious or otherwise) on some people’s part that arts organizations owe their allegiance to the art they present. I will spare long-time readers (and myself) a revisit to my “Arts for Arts Sake” rants. (For any newbies with the stomach for it, here’s one entry: Art for Art’s Sake Revisited.) And, certainly, the mission creep argument is an old one with which I am well familiar.
But really, how many of us would be in this business if we did not believe that the arts are valuable not just to us but to many/most/all people? And if we believe that, should it not be one of our primary callings to connect as many as possible with the art we know to be valuable? Community engagement (or if you bristle at that term, simply think “connecting people with the arts”) is the means to that end.
And on a practical level, of course, the long-term viability of arts organizations demands significantly increasing our reach, the percentage of people who value and take advantage of what we offer.
If connecting people with the arts represents “mission creep” for your organization, your organization needs to seriously re-examine it’s mission.