Engage Now! A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable


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For some, the arts as indispensable is a preposterous idea, yet nearly every stakeholder in the industry believes the arts’ value to be unquestionable. That gap accounts for most of the challenges arts organizations face. As long as the arts are seen as an amenity (at best), they will struggle in a world that only has time for that which is necessary. “Mere” relevance will not suffice. To compete in the marketplace of public value the required standard is indispensability.

Engage Now! is a “how to” manual for the arts organization seeking to become invaluable. It

  • Presents basic principles and practices of effective community engagement,
  • Provides guidance for achieving systemic focus on engagement, and
  • Outlines a process for becoming a universally recognized community asset.

This book is intended for anyone with a vested interest in the arts. Since the arts are essential for healthy individuals and healthy communities, it is for everyone. However, far too few people are aware of their “vested interest.” That makes Engage Now! important for us all.

Arts organizations cannot long survive
without earning impassioned support from the communities they serve.

 Communities cannot reach their full potential
without the benefits the arts can provide.

See also: Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the United States

Part I: The Mission of Arts Organizations
Chapter One: Systemic Challenges and Internal Issues
Chapter Two: What Is the Arts Business?
Chapter Three: The Way Forward: New Understanding of Mission
Part II: A Community Engagement Primer
Chapter Four: Engagement Essentials
The Practice of Engagement
Chapter Five: The Engagement Process: Principles and Practice
Chapter Six: Engaged Arts: Organizations
Chapter Seven: Engaged Arts: Artists (Entrepreneurship
Chapter Eight: The Engagement Process: An Operational Blueprint
A Benediction: It’s Not Easy

Online Excerpts

What they’re saying:

A playbook for arts organizations to become as indispensable as the corner store
Jamie Bennett, Executive Director, ArtPlace America

An eloquent and persuasive voice in a global conversation
about the power of the arts to transform our society
Simon Brault, author, No Culture, No Future
Director and CEO, Canada Council for the Arts

Great advice about engaging more of the population, growing your organization and
increasing opportunity for successful operations and artistic expression
Janet Brown, President & CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts

Inspiring advice about how the arts sector can play a more powerful role in the public life of our communities
Ra Joy, Executive Director, Arts Alliance Illinois

A distinctively valuable guide for how to integrate
arts management and community development
Jonathan Katz, former CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies

Borwick probes arts organizations to evaluate their relationship with their community and provides action steps to building a stronger, more sustainable connection with the people [we] serve
Robert Lynch, President & CEO, Americans for the Arts

A guiding light for nonprofit arts organizations seeking to be relevant, responsive, and
indispensable to the communities we exist to benefit
Josephine Ramirez, Arts Program Director, James Irvine Foundation

Borwick leaves no question unasked, proving why he is the authority on community engagement work
Alan Salzenstein, President, Association of Arts Administration Educators and
Professor of Performing Arts Management/Arts Leadership, DePaul University

A clear guide to taking on the necessary efforts to broaden our missions,
serve our communities and increase the impact of the arts
Marc A. Scorca, President & CEO, OPERA America

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