Tag Archives: vanity

Artists vs. Craftspeople – Nonprofit Arts Organizations Require the Former to Act as the Latter

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Artists produce work from their creative souls, nurtured by a series of cultural, environmental, and psychological motivations.  They create “a hat,” as Stephen Sondheim once wrote, “where there never was a hat.”  Talented artists create from their current state of mind, without boundary.

Craftspeople produce work to fill a need.  They possess a series of cultural, environmental, and psychological motivations which channel into art that produces a desired impact.  Craftspeople create hats because they’re the best answer to a question.

All craftspeople are artists at their core.  Many artists have no capacity to become craftspeople.

Nonprofit arts organizations require craftspeople.  If the organization is more important than any artist, and the mission is more important than the organization, then employees on the organizational chart need to be, by definition, craftspeople divining an impact, not artists divining inspiration.

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

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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.

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?

Talk to Me Like I’m 10: a Lesson in Long-Term Planning for Artistic Directors and Board Chairs

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Does long-term planning cause a rift between your artistic director and those other people?

Does it cause discord between your board chair and those other people?

Seen all the time among arts charities:  carefully (and successfully) executed annual development plans reduced to rubble after the board institutes a high-priced capital campaign.  The capital campaign sucks up all in its path, causing 5 years of stakeholder repair.  Indispensable Chair happy.  Staff leaves.

Artistic directors substituting their taste for vision and their personal and professional relationships for core values.  Idiosyncrasy obviates mission.  Indispensable AD happy.  Board leaves.

Both cases: company imperiled, stakeholders leaving.

Time to create an action plan, written at a 5th grade level.  Make it about impact rather than income.  Test the theory that your arts nonprofit is indispensable.  Make sure that your most important stakeholders don’t leave.

Nonprofit Arts Board Members, Executive Directors, and Staffs: Has Your Board Been Assimilated? Have You?

BORG-CUBE

Board membership for a nonprofit arts organization is a privilege. It requires commitment of time and money.  It requires the urge to change things for the better.

It’s not for self-aggrandizement.  It is not about being thanked endlessly.  It’s not about banquets, galas, and being fed.

It’s a job.

Group thinking can be inspirational, but “groupthink” can poison your organization’s health.  When your board only votes unanimously, for example, or the newly-approved mission is just reverse-engineered to current activities and reduced to pabulum, you may no longer have a board.  You may instead have a Borg.

Borg members wait for orders.  They don’t debate.  Resistance is futile.

The Borg is powerful.  Borg Presidents lead by autocracy.  Borg Queens (often founders) drive staff away by insisting the organization’s activities revolve around them. Borg Drones atrophy.

Board or Borg?

Artists and Non-Offensiveness: The Tyranny of Over-Sensitivity, Feelings, and Participation Trophies

safespaces

There’s a troubling trend.  There’s an absurd unwillingness to offend that seems pervasive among arts creators.

Not that creators are creating “Pleasant Art,” per se.  Writers and artists are creating lots of work that is designed to make audiences uncomfortable.  Which is good.  The work may be about single issues and not terribly complex, but it’s good.

However, there are too many artists raised in atmospheres where everyone wins, even when they lose.  In the name of inclusion and self-esteem, they live in a world where, like toddlers, “feeling bad” is simply unacceptable.

They believe they’re special.

To these artists:

  1. You are not special.
  2. You do not deserve success.
  3. Sometimes you lose.

It’s what you do with that information that defines you.

If you believe that nobody should ever have hurt feelings, you’re not doing your job.

Quantifiable Outcomes and Social Impact Applies to All Nonprofits – Including Arts Organizations

if-quantifiable-outcomes-arent-important-then-i-can-fire-my-whole-development-team-and-just-do-what-i-want-yay-me-7dc56

Oh, I can hear it now.

“See?” they’ll say.  “People don’t care about outcomes when they make donations.  The Washington Post said so.  Ergo: we don’t need outcomes.”

To come to that conclusion is just whistling past the graveyard.

Remember these hard facts:

  • The arts are not mentioned in section 501 (c) (3) of the US tax code (you know…the law). The arts fall under “charitable organizations,” which require a measure of public good.
  • Using the arts as a cover for an individual’s vanity vision is fine, as long as it’s a commercial venture. Once you pull the taxpaying public into it, ethics demand an outcome.
  • The arts can be transformative, both on a commercial and nonprofit level. What differentiates the nonprofit is that a measurement of positive change of the human condition is necessary to rationalize funding.
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