Survey of Arts Management

Course blog for American University PERF-570, Fall 2014

The Me-me-me-me-me-nnials

I apologize in advance for the Millennial bashing (technically I am one so I feel entitled – typical Millennial…). I read this article on the Chronicle for Higher Education “Thinking ‘Bigger Than Me’ in Liberal Arts” and thought it was so relevant to us as we advance in our careers, begin to craft visitor experiences, create content, manage programming and usher in a new generation of art appreciators.

The author of the article discusses the “me-centric” generation of today that is more concerned about whether the activity they are engaging in can be captured and shared online than the actual experience itself. Sure, this may be an exaggeration but someone once said to me, completely seriously, “If it’s not online, it’s like it didn’t happen.”  The me-centric mindset is compared to “bigger than me” experiences – where the participant is first asked to shift their own subjectivity, encounter problems, come up with ideas and seek a resolution. The author discusses this dichotomy within the classroom setting and gives numerous examples of how teachers attempt to bring students into the “Bigger Than Me” thought process, but I think this is very valuable thinking for an arts manager as well.

I particularly like the closing paragraph:

“Our pedagogical challenge in an era of iCreativity lies somewhere between “me” and “bigger than me” experiences. … We need to inspire students to find their voices and make learning personal, but we must also help them realize that authentic growth comes as much from escaping as from discovering the self.”

It will be interesting to see how the art experience is shaped to fit somewhere in between the “me” and “bigger than me” experience.

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3 comments on “The Me-me-me-me-me-nnials

  1. evanjsanderson
    September 24, 2014

    I love this article! It makes me very much want to experience one of these “BTM” moments in practice – I particularly liked “Jennifer Roberts, an art historian at Harvard University, required her students to sit in front of a painting for three hours at the Museum of Fine Arts.” The weird thing is I would never do something like that normally, but if I were challenged in the classroom to do so? Bring it on. It seems like we might need an excuse to find BTM moments, when “me” moments proliferate.

    It reminds me of something we talk about in the IR class a lot: the differences between low context cultures (i.e. cultures like ours that rely on explicit communication and information, and highly focus on the individual experience of the world) and high context cultures (i.e. many South East Asian cultures, that rely on group dynamics and non verbal cues in communication). Maybe this trend is different in cultures that are oriented differently than ours?

    It also brings to mind this brilliant interview with Louis C.K.: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HbYScltf1c

  2. zeniasimpson
    September 25, 2014

    I love and hate this article at the same time. I feel as though people view millennials as these sick, narcissistic beings with amazing potential to be great, but that will fail nonetheless due their big egos. The truth is, we long for the bigger than me moments. The reason why we post things is because we want other people to agree and join in on our experiences and make it something personal to something more encompassing for all. So many see likes or these things as a popularity contest that’s just there to inflate our already selfish views but I’ve come to notice from deep introspection and observations that its way more than that. We want to feel that we’re not alone. We want to get out of our heads or at least we want to portray a better version of life and have others connect with that too. We all really want connection.

    I feel that the largest issue with liberal education and getting people out of “me” and into these lofty principles is there is no discussion of the larger picture. When have you ever taken a course where the professor came in and asked “What is your dharma?” “How are we all connected to the universal consciousness and what does that mean to you?” “How will you help and how will you serve your fellow man since that’s the only reason you were put on Earth?” and then give you the tools to do all of those things. Never. Art, like Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings that tried to delve into the collective consciousness of all human beings can be a major tool to getting everyone, not just 90’s babies, to think about these broader philosophies of life. Had I not taken a year off to find my dharma and go back to ancient writings and tweet modern day spiritual gurus, I would be lost. I don’t think there’s any way to change how we interact and communicate and view ourselves as a generation on a basis level of having what we want when we want it (and why is that a bad thing again?) but there is a way to elevate everyone on Earth’s perception of self and non-self and that is the only true way.

    But I’m a big component of staring at paintings for uncomfortable amounts of times. Best way to start to ponder these things. My “bigger than me” moment was staring at Salvador Dali’s “The Last Supper” at the Hirshhorn and at my internship at The Phillips Collection, this NeoImpressionist piece by Maximillen Luce in the new exhibit coming soon! (Please come.)

  3. qfloyd
    September 25, 2014

    Something that I’ve noticed is that we often skip about the audience of the generation X’ers. I understand we want to capture and grab the attention of the millennials and helping them achieve that “BTM” theory through arts participation/engagement but what about the generation x’ers? Their ages range from 34 – 54 and there is a huge market there. I’m unsure if they have BTM characteristics but I’m sure its not as bad as the millennials (I am one as well).

    The BTM theory is quite interesting though and I believe that we, as arts managers, should not focus on the BTM theory with just millennials but with all audience generations. Creativity and arts already bring a BTM experience if we just educate our audiences on the history/reasons behind why we do what we do.

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