It is Martin Luther King Jr Day, and for that reason I woke up thinking about a work of art I saw in Austin nearly two years ago, American Dream by Kurt Mueller. Mueller was featured in a show of 20 up-and-comers at the Austin Museum of Art. The marketing materials described his work as follows:
“Imitation insinuating itself into action is the crux of Mueller’s installation ‘American Dream,’ wherein a karaoke setup transforms the experience of singing a favorite song into a restatement of a world-altering speech. As the text of Dr. Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech courses across the monitor much like a pop song, the viewer as performer finds that an everyday voice can be as effective as any other.”
For me, this work was the most memorable in the show. I was visiting Austin with Dan, the exhibition was busy that day but not crowded. I turned a corner and there it was … the karaoke machine! It was placed in the corner so that one had to step behind it, into the corner, and then there you were with your back up against the wall, in front of the microphone, looking out at the room.
The room was empty except for the security guard, a tall black woman in her 40s who was looking directly at me.
And on the karaoke screen, a crowd was cheering and a ball was bouncing and the words are racing across the screen, I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”
And, in that moment, I didn’t feel like the marketing text said I would, like my “everyday voice can be as effective as any other.” I felt self-conscious, afraid to speak the words, even with the bouncing ball. I was reminded of the courage of Martin Luther King Jr, and the importance of lifting up many voices so that the right one, at the right time, may be heard.
The Indianapolis Museum of Art recently posted a couple of articles about transparency, written by Chief Information Officer Rob Stein. Stein defines transparency as “the ongoing discipline of practicing radical authenticity and demonstrating to the public whatever degree of integrity and operational excellence our museum possesses at the time.”
Then he goes on to talk about what shouldn’t be disclosed, and the process–when, how and what to disclose.
It is interesting to look at these articles in the context of leadership transition. New leaders are often scrutinized on a much more macro level than their predecessors, and it can be hard to say no to requests for transparency, particularly when it is something you personally believe in.
Discussion with my “emerging leader” colleagues has revealed that we are not frightened of sharing the gritty details (as Stein puts it), but that often new leaders inherit organizations with infrastructure that was designed for the Age of Altruism and not the Age of Transparency. Becoming more transparent means changing infrastructure, and changes in infrastructure usually bring about demands for transparency.
Emerging leaders, I know you are out there … any thoughts or comments?
Last week I celebrated my one-year anniversary as an Executive Director, which I think earns me the right to reflect and get a little cliche with the wisdom-sharing. Here are some blips and links that are resonating with me right now:
Survival Tips for First-Time Executive Directors
This article was given to me by the consultant who led us through the executive director search. One year later, it is still a useful “reality check” and reminder.
The idea that great leaders act with courage when others don’t. They call out difficult situations, seize opportunities, and make decisions they believe will benefit others, even when those decisions involve personal risk.
Harmony, in practice: neatly summarized by John Abodeely on the Americans for the Arts blog:
“Harmony is paramount. All interactions must end in harmony.”
While I am discovering some of the ups and downs of living in a big, famous city (fantastic art—yay! high rent—booo … cool like-minded folks—yay! all the good library books checked out—booo), one of the things my long-time San Franciscan friends may not appreciate is that no one has ever—or will ever—erect a billboard that says “Come to San Francisco … I Swear, It’s Fun.” As was done in Hartford not so long ago.
I love Hartford. I miss Hartford. Hartford still has a growing economy (!) and is woefully underappreciated. Of course, low expectations are often accompanied by opportunity.
In many ways I am reminded of the diversity, determination, activism and liberal spirit of people I met there on a daily basis as I explore my new city. So I was excited to read this tribute to Mayor Mike, written by Helder Mira, which captures the spirit of both a Hartford progressive and a Hartford legend.
I am back in North Adams with Dan for the holidays. spending quality time and checking out the amazing Sol LeWitt retrospective at Mass MoCA. The combination of downtime, photography and the new year inspired me to upgrade my computer with some new useful tools. Searching them out, installing them and figuring out how they work isn’t all that easy (am I really getting that old?) … but I am hoping that a little internet-style elbow grease will save time down the road. Here’s a shortlist for those of you trying to minimize your computer time in 2009:
WordPress 2.7: Actually, Dan upgraded my blog to the new version. So far, so good. Haven’t had much time to check it out yet, but if installing widgets is easier, I may give it a try and mess up the design (!). WordPress also has an iphone app. Still trying to convince Dan to use his superior talents to design a blog for SOMArts.
RSS Readers: I am surprised that many of my contemporaries and older colleagues still don’t use an rss reader. For me, it saves a lot of time that used to be spent navigating from site to site looking for updates.
I still use Netvibes as a home for all my rss feeds, but am no longer sure this is the best option for me. In Connecticut, I was trying to “keep tabs” on arts activity and friends’ blogs around the state. Now that I am in San Francisco my internet habits involve more “search & explore” activity. I am trying Delicious as a way to categorize things until I figure out what updates and blogs are truly of use.
Plug-ins: When I had an academic discount through Wesleyan, I splurged on the photo editing and organizing software Aperture, then didn’t use it because Green Street had lots of wonderful volunteers who took great photos. Now that I am at SOMArts I am again taking photos, and have discovered a few plug-ins that make the process of uploading and emailing them WAY more efficient.
Plug-ins literally plug in to your existing applications to increase their usefulness and efficiency. The first plug-in I installed referred to a folder in my library that didn’t exist, but I simply created a new folder and it worked fine. Here are a few pics and pans:
-Flickr Uploadr: The first uploader I tried. Uploads large batches of photos to Flickr. Warning to arts organizations—there is a defect in this program which marks the photos as private no matter what public option you try to select. This means people cannot see your photos without logging on to Flickr. Very annoying.
-Aperture2Gmail & FlickrExport. Self-explanatory plug-ins which allow the user to export photos directly from Aperture to flickr and gmail. No doubt similar plug-ins are available for other photo editing programs … but until I had these I had to export my photos to the desktop then email them or upload them, then create all new sets and descriptions. Redundant, not to mention time consuming.
-Since I am not an IT person or particularly tech savvy, I am not sure if the Flickr app for Facebook or Amazon’s Universal Wish List are technically plug-ins. But I am all for uploading SOMArts photos once (to Flickr) and then linking them to the SOMArts Facebook page (rather than uploading photos twice). Also … I can see the Amazon wishlist becoming a helpful budgeting tool, allowing organizations to easily compare and contrast prices from many websites for, say, office equipment, with more info at their fingertips than there would be on a spreadsheet.
Of course, all my saved time will be wasted if I then use it to blog about saving time. It is very hard to get a sense of what is new and what’s already outdated. If you have any suggestions to share, please do.
As I prepare for my cross-country trip (which is now a migration to my new home in San Francisco), I am exploring the connections between my present home in Western Massachusetts and my soon-to-be home. Today I discovered that Williams College theater professor Omar Sangare was awarded “best of the fringe” for his SF performance of True Theater Critic.
Going in the reverse direction, I made one of my favorite literary discoveries in recent memory at City Lights, when I happened to pick up a copy of Magic for Beginners by Northampton writer Kelly Link. You can get a signed copy for only $14 at this website.
Last year, I interviewed some Connecticut authors participating in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), a movement that started in the Bay Area. At press time, it looked like their website was undergoing some maintenance, but I hope to attend some write-ins where it all started!
That is, after 3,000 miles of American landscape. I’m also seeking out good driving music. Any suggestions?
I no longer read all of the NY Times theater reviews, as I did when I worked at The O’Neill, but Tarrell Alvin McCraney studied at the Yale School of Drama (go Connecticut!) and I have been eagerly anticipating his new play, “Wig Out,” for months. I was excited to see Ben Brantley’s rave review this morning, as it almost guarantees this play will catch fire in regional and college productions around the country.
The Vineyard Theatre, where “Wig Out” is taking place, supports artists in many ways, including the Vineyard Community of Artists. Do any of you blog readers have an advisory committee or “community of artists” you draw on for support ideas and programming? I’d be curious to hear about your ideas and experiences.