Tag Archives: USA

Feedback from You (yes, you): 9 Words That Describe the Nonprofit Arts Issues That Are Placing You at the End of Your Rope

rope

This blog, as most are, is pretty much one-way.  I share experiences, advice, consultation, and observations; you read ’em.  I can discuss 1,000 issues that affect nonprofit arts organizations.

But that’s me.

What keeps you up at night?

What concrete issue (not just “there’s no funding for…”) is fraying your rope?  Or better, what issues are figuratively tying a noose around the end of your rope?

Here’s your assignment.  In 9 words (no more, no less), write that issue and send it to info@137words.com.  That’s it.  Beginning in August, we’ll periodically take each issue and I’ll give my take.  Then we’ll open up the discussion to everyone who reads 137 Words.  Let me know if you’d like your name in or if you’d like to be anonymous.  And if you’d like my help privately, let me know that, too.

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Happy Dependence Day – In the USA, the Arts Reflect Our Need for Each Other

wethepeople

The American Dream is built on dependence (Independence Day and elections notwithstanding).

The USA is Blanche DuBois and the “kindness of strangers.”  We’re Willy Loman.  We’re Fanfare for the Common Man. Revelations. Hamilton. Smoke Signals. Angels in America.  Our successes depend and are dependent on the joy, madness, and desires of others.

The monarchy doesn’t choose our art; we do.

American art depends not on individual brilliance, even though there are brilliant individuals.  Our best art provides impact.

Mavericks provide almost no impact. Collaborations do.

Patrons deign to “provide for.”  Supporters want to “identify with.”

True, there are Americans that call themselves mavericks and patrons.  Some folks prefer their terminology shrouded in cobwebs.

But for the rest of us, we know what we are.  Even better, we know why.  Our best arts nonprofits reflect “We, the People.”

Nonprofit Arts Organizations Without Flexibility Present a Disconnect When It Really Matters

Orlando

On September 12, 2001, we issued an internal memo at our nonprofit arts organization.  We proffered the notion that standing by our programming and “moving forward” was the best way to fight back.

We were wrong.  Putting on blinkers never helps.

On June 12, 2016, after one attack in Orlando and a foiled one in Santa Monica – key nonprofit arts organizations are right now readying memos rationalizing the same advice.

Move forward.  That’ll show ‘em.

At what tipping point do we scrap activities to reflect the damage inflicted on people?  Why must we wait for a year to see the first artistic responses?  Why not now?  Why worry about the production quality of said response?  As nonprofits, when do we sacrifice our comfort zone to provide leadership to our communities for some resolution?

Or should we just move forward?  Yet again?

“See a Need, Fill a Need” (As Long as Your Arts Aren’t the Need)

What’s the biggest societal issue in your personal world?

Americans in April named their list.  What’s yours?

Economy, racial injustice, government dissatisfaction, immigration, terrorism.  Unsolvable as big issues.  Possibly solvable as small ones.

Hunger in your neighborhood?  Support the food bank.  Find ways for it to thrive so that many can survive without resorting to lawlessness.

Specific racial and income injustice in your town?  Support the agencies that convene and expose the problems to the light.  Find ways to gather people together who might never otherwise come together – and de-mythologize the stereotypes of the bad [ethnics – fill in your own blank] or the bad [other ethnics] or the bad [government officials], etc.

And do it using your art as a tool.

How?

You now have step A and step Z.  Just fill in steps B through Y.

Ils pétent plus haut que leur cul. Marketing Intellectual Pursuits to an Anti-Intellectual Public, Right-Cheer In These You-Nited States of Murrica

Shakespeare Marx

In the arts, we want to attract more people. Or do we just want more us?

We’re asked to produce vision, impact, and engagement.  We embrace entertainment, but only if it’s at a 120+ IQ level.  Even abject silliness on stage is only acceptable if it’s “smart.”

Case in point:  the brilliantly entertaining, best-people-in-the-world-to-hang-out-with, fucking funny Reduced Shakespeare Company.

When another company produces an RSC script, they almost apologize in their marketing:

RSC: “it’s not the length of your history that matters – it’s what you’ve done with it!”

Other: “Between the rampant nationalism and the recent election, we think it more vital than ever for us to show we’re capable of laughing at ourselves. It, too, is part of the healing.”

Populism in the arts is an open path to success.  Risk being fucking funny, not drolly meaningful.

Labor Day: “I Hear America Singing,” by Walt Whitman, 1867 (153 words. Yeah, I know.)

“I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,

The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.”

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