Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

Arts Managers as Civic Leaders

The Arts in a Civic World Upside Down

As civic leaders of society, this article encourages arts managers to ask themselves what they are working towards that transcends their organization and position within it; as well as what will they do about it? Today a far more diverse community of people have the power to gather, distribute, and ultimately express their views on the arts as active civic participants. While arts organizations are mostly concerned with their own surviving and thriving, many organizations are finding themselves inhabiting areas where their placement makes a significant impact to the intercultural relations of such communities. 

A prime case of this is the recent physical displacement of the performing arts organization CounterPulse; an organization striving to shatter audience assumptions of the arts and present socially relevant work to the community it serves in San Francisco. As the organization’s building lease comes to an end this year, they were forced to seek new residence in a city overrun by high profile tech companies. A situational opportunity presented itself to the organization to partner with The Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) and lease to own a building in an evolving part of town, the Tenderloin. With this move, the organization has gained a lot of recognition for entering a low income residential area and professedly contributing to the betterment of the community. While the organization is doing groundbreaking work to bridge intercultural differences and pursue meaningful civic engagement, it stands to inquire if these acts go beyond the practicality of appeasing funding prospects to support its own abiding goals. What are the ways in which arts managers can lead a socially active arts organization that supports more than its own survival in today’s civic world?

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3 comments on “Arts Managers as Civic Leaders

  1. lcrowley2014
    August 28, 2014

    Your question really made me think… because the obvious answer – to me – is location. Locate your organization in a place that would have the biggest impact and benefit the community it serves. But as the article discusses, that’s not always possible, and can always change, like with CounterPulse being pushed out. The same is true for numerous art gems here in DC. So my additional ideas include a strong online resources forum in addition to or in place of a physical presence. And, if you’re an organization that does have prime real estate, to open your doors to community events other than your own whenever possible, to become an asset to the neighborhood beyond your own resources.

  2. awellfare89
    August 29, 2014

    I really enjoyed this article. Arts organizations must be in tune with the needs of their communities. I like the mindset of having power “with” rather than “over.” I do believe, however, that there is nothing wrong with an arts organization dictating what they deem as worthy art in which they present. They author sees this as organizations staying within their ivory towers but I believe it can be presented in such a way as to appeal to its surrounding community.

  3. emkais
    September 1, 2014

    I think this article addresses such an important issue. I think decreasing the gap between funders and community members is essential to success and the ability of an organization to do well by doing good—which, in my opinion, is the best way to do it.

    Your example of Counter Pulse moving to a transitional neighborhood in San Francisco reminded me of the 2010 Creative Placemaking Whitepaper I read over the summer. The potential power creativity, community, and location can wield is interesting. Here is a link to the paper: http://arts.gov/sites/default/files/CreativePlacemaking-Paper.pdf

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