All posts tagged Arts Management

Maker Months: July/August Update

My pregnancy-induced nesting binge has brought home the fact that I have not been much of a “maker” in recent years. Planner, editor and organizer? Yes. It takes a lot of work to run a cultural center, buy a home, and get married and all those things happened in the last two years. But actual, real-world assembly of parts and materials? Not so much.

So, in July and August I took time to re-learn some basic skills. I signed up for a few sewing classes at Workshop SF, checked out some how-to books at the San Francisco Public Library, began collecting online tutorials, ordered a sewing machine, and jumped in. So far, I’ve made three baby bibs and washcloths, a dog coat for Riggins, a baby snuggler, a blanket and some bloomers. I also hemmed our curtains and made some tablecloths for Feast of Words, SOMArts’ literary potluck.

People get crafty for all kinds of reasons and the main provocation in my case is to 1) save money, 2) have nicer things than I could otherwise afford. Not surprisingly, saving money and reaching above one’s financial means are two things I also think about daily in my work at SOMArts. At work, I like to call this “fighting above our weight.” It’s not about cutting back, it’s about doing more: how can we support more artists, reach a bigger audience, give them deeper experiences and make those experiences truly excellent? CONTINUE READING ]

Words With Care: Leadership & Communication Challenges

The other day I was scrolling through Harvard Business Review podcasts when an interview with Muhtar Kent, CEO of Coca-Cola came on. He was talking about doubling the size of his company, but what amazed me was his double-speak: soda became a “full calorie beverage.” The nation’s obesity problem became an opportunity for philanthropists to promote “energy balance.” The content of the interview was normally something I’d skip, but I found myself transfixed by Kent’s style in answering the tough questions he was being asked about water supply, the environment, obesity and his first years as CEO. It reminded me of the story of how Steve Jobs lured John Sculley from Pepsi, saying “Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life or do you want to come with me and change the world?” What can those of us who want to change the world for the better learn from a CEO of Coca-Cola? CONTINUE READING ]

On My Mind: What Press Is Good Press?

My most recent blog posts have been about homebuying and affordability. It’s a topic I find deeply interesting, but it also provides a change of pace from the in-depth—and often intense—conversations about art and activism happening daily over at SOMArts. Writing requires time for reflection, and this fall instead of reflecting on and writing about art I chose to spend my post-work hours running, learning guitar and seeing art in other spaces. No regrets!

This week, however, I am back to writing about art as part of the inaugural Animating Democracy Blog Salon of Americans for the Arts. It’s an impressive cohort and I am learning a lot. A particular favorite is Every Museum Needs A Community Organizer by Damon Rich, an artist who transformed several galleries of the Queens Museum of Art into a place to explore how our society pays for housing, how the system has broken down, and the arguments over fixing it.

Last week I had lunch with a friend who asked me “what type of publicity do you hope for at SOMArts?” CONTINUE READING ]

On Platform Programming And Static Arts Presenting Models

This week I was talking about an upcoming performance collaboration and a board member asked me “are we presenting or producing?” In that moment, I realized that I wasn’t 100% sure how to answer. My notion of producing comes from the world of theater where producers negotiate with the director to choose designers, actors, venue, technicians. That’s fine if you are investing in one or two projects a year. But what if your goal is to produce 10 or 20 or 50 projects, in order to help cultural communities achieve creative and financial success? Would you want to manage every detail, or would you want to empower those artists and producers by providing a platform that would help them succeed?

Platform programming. This framework—a combination of artist honoraria, subsidized rental rates and lots of hands-on technical, production and marketing support —is a highly customizable and scalable model for collaboration that gives communities and artists creative control. CONTINUE READING ]

Dance, Dance, Evolution …

Back in 2006  when I worked at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, the CFA co-commissioned Liz Lerman’s Ferocious Beauty: Genomea work created with, by and for scientists and students of science that was a cross-disciplinary catalyst for discussions about reproductive technologies, women’s health and social justice; stem cell research, religion and politics; genetics and race; and many other topics.

These days it is de riguer for arts organizations to have some sort of  socially relevant talk accompanying a performance or exhibition. Liz Lerman and the CFA take it up a notch (or five) because they are masters at combining multilevel arts participation and community collaboration with economies of scale, the more deeply you look at this partnership, the more there is to see. The premiere of Ferocious Beauty sparked another idea for collaboration, and last week the Wesleyan Hughes Program in Life Sciences and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange launched Science Choreography, an online toolkit for the embodied exploration of science through dance. CONTINUE READING ]

Inspiration vs Imitation: Who’s Your Winklevoss?

“If you had invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook.”

In the movie The Social Network, the character Mark Zuckerberg says this to two competitors who had an idea similar to Facebook—very similar, but not as successful. Zuckerberg comes across as a total jerk. A rich, successful jerk who created something that millions of people participate in. That thousands of businesses cooperate with. That continues to succeed in its mission of “making the world more open and connected,” even as the little people continue to learn the price in terms of real dollars and intellectual property rights.

In the tech industry, money is made by convincing investors to fund micro-variations on a basic premise such as a social network (myspace/ning/facebook) or image sharing (mopho/instagram/mlkshk). Leaders accept that ideas will be co-opted and they address this with elaborate techniques involving unmapped buildings and non-disclosure agreements.

Lately I’ve been wondering how this approach to innovation translates to the arts sector, particularly regarding programming and fundraising. Once upon a time someone (I think it was arts impresario Courtney Fink) decided to have a Monster Drawing Rally and there are now at least four by that exact name around the country. There are at least ten printmaking Monothons. Live, radio and ebay auctions are nothing new.

However, as we look at more recent innovations: mixed-reality events, socially networked programming, crowdsourced fundraising, etc.—imitators are easier to spot. What are the ethics, and where’s the rulebook? Where do we draw the line at adopting a similar infrastructure—is it Geography? Sector? Artistic genre? Demographics served?

Many nonprofit organizations would serve their missions best by imitation rather than innovation—perfecting, NOT re-inventing the wheel. We have a moral responsibility to serve our mission in a thoughtful, focused way. How do arts workers and funders approach this conundrum in a sector that is less secretive but … to put it plainly … hella territorial?