"And the beat goes on……………."
Today marks the 10th Anniversary of Barry's Blog as distributed by WESTAF.
I've actually been blogging longer than ten years, as I started writing a weekly online (distributed via email) newsletter when I was Director of the California Arts Council in 2002. Back then, it wasn't called a blog, but, in essence that's what it was. I started this blog back in 2005 as a monthly+ effort, then went to weekly+ in 2009.
Not counting the earlier CAC endeavor, this iteration of the blog has posted nearly 450 blogs (somewhere over 300,000 words probably) that have landed, in the aggregate, in nearly four and a half million mailboxes over the decade. Of course, that doesn't mean four and a half million people have read them, as I am fully aware that many people (myself included) don't read everything that arrives in their mailboxes. But I'm also blown away that literally hundreds of thousands of people have read some of these posts that may have interested them on some level.
The world has changed dramatically in the past decade. Ten years ago there was no iPhone, no Facebook, no Linkdin, or Twitter, or Snapchat, or Buzzfeed, or You Tube, or Instagram or any of the scores of other social media platforms. The world was crazy already, but perhaps not as crazy as it has become. In the nonprofit arts, we weren't yet involved with Placemaking, or Engagement. Social justice and equity issues weren't yet at the forefront. We hadn't yet faced the global recession that changed (probably forever) the funding dynamics for our organizations. And there weren't all that many nonprofit arts bloggers ten years ago. Everything changes, and I've been one of many in a position to try to chronicle some of that change. What a great gig.
Far and away the most widely read individual of my posts have been the annual Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential People in the American Nonprofit Arts. But there have been any number of other posts that have garnered a wide readership as well - including many of the (45 or so) interviews I have been fortunate enough to do with key leaders in our field; the "What I Have Learned" posts with extraordinary advice from those who have been in the trenches for awhile; the two Dinner-Vention projects; and the Blogathon Forums zeroing in on specific topics. Of those blogathons, the six week forum on Arts Education (done as a joint effort with Julie Fry of the Hewlett Foundation - and it wouldn't have come to fruition without her help, guidance and expertise) has attracted close to 100,000 individual page hits from people in addition to those on the email subscriber list.
I have, over the decade, tried to provide a variety of posts that are true to the masthead - "News, Advice, and Opinion for the Arts Administrator (probably a little too heavy on the opinion part from time to time, but that's a perk of having your name on the title). I've tried to balance the posts with serious, critical policy issues, and the more mundane daily challenges facing us all as practitioners in the field. I've tried to bring some humor to the blog and to make it interesting to you the readers by coming up with different features. Sometimes I've succeeded. Obviously, sometimes (many times?) I have not. I have appreciated your patience in waiting for the better material.
I've enormously enjoyed the process of writing this blog; I'm grateful for the doors it has opened for me; thankful for the countless people I have had the pleasure to meet; and indebted by the incredible support I have gotten from across the whole spectrum of our field. I am humbled by that support, and deeply appreciative.
There are too many people to thank for that support over the years: To the many of you who have been kind enough to send me a note when you think I made a good point and have offered me your encouragement and, more importantly, your insights. It is your insights that have changed my perspective over time, and on many occasions forced me to seriously reconsider stances and positions I have taken. Even more importantly to me, this blog has allowed me the great and wondrous gift of learning about what meaningful and impactful things are going on in our field. It's given me the chance to weigh in, to think aloud (not always the best approach), and to formulate ideas and take positions that everyone may not endorse. I have tried to write posts that in some way might be helpful to you - inform you, challenge your thinking, or entertain you. I have taken the luxury of being able to write this blog as serious business, and tried to offer reasoned and reasonable thoughts and insights of my own. I have written with a deep and abiding respect for you, and while it may be a conceit to think so, I hope that I have, from time to time, been part of the movement to greater dialogue on all those issues and challenges that we face.
I am proud and honored to be among such intelligent, passionate, caring and dedicated people as populate the nonprofit arts field - and though that may sound trite - it has been one of the big take aways for me over the past decade.
I would be remiss if I didn't single out Anthony Radich at WESTAF for his giving me a platform (via WESTAF's distribution of the blog) that has allowed me to comment, analyze, pontificate, and opine on anything that I wanted to; for supporting me and all the ideas I brought to him; for his unwavering belief that via this blog I had something to contribute; and for being a mentor, a teacher, and a very good friend. I am living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks (simple ones anyway). I hope to continue posting for at least a couple of years [and I've still got ideas about new projects that I hope (when launched) will be thought interesting, and even worthy and of some value]. I'm still having fun.
I am also indebted to the WESTAF staff who have been part of this effort in support over the years - Laurel Sherman, Shannon Daut, Bryce Merrill, Seyon Lucero, Leah Horn and many others.
I'm also indebted to the many of my fellow bloggers (Thomas Cott, Ian David Moss, Doug McLennan, Doug Borwick, Arlene Goldbard, Andrew Taylor, Diane Ragsdale, AFTA and many others), who, from time to time, will pass on a link to one of my posts - and every time they do so, there is a spike in page hits. Thank you all.
Finally, I am indebted most of all to each of you for being loyal readers and subscribers. Now if each one of you could just send me twenty dollars -- no, no just kidding.
If I have one lament, looking back over this decade, it is the feeling that sometimes blogging has become too much like broadcast journalism -- it has become the almost exclusive recitation of the litany of all the challenges we face, the problems and everything that threatens us, with too little mention and inclusion of what is going right, of all the positive contributions of the field, of all the progress, and all the end results of which we can, as a field, be proud. I think, in the blogosphere, it's often times easy to get caught up in covering what is going wrong, when sometimes we need to hear about what is going right.
So to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary, I offer you three stories about projects by people in our field that I came across this week (and this is, I think, a typical week) that are each absolutely wonderful, and bespeak an energy that is undeniably exactly what the world needs more of -- proof that as a field the arts contribute mightily to the betterment of our world and are acting responsibly and wisely to thrive in a difficult environment.
- First, an experiment in genuine out-of-the-box thinking by the San Francisco Symphony to attract new audiences in new ways. "As part of a growing national movement to revitalize the symphony experience for patrons, the San Francisco Symphony recently launched SoundBox, a show series meant to create new musical experiences and entice new audiences." This is an absolutely brilliant approach that changes dynamically how symphony music can be presented and accessed - exciting, energetic, engaging and completely different from the old model. I love this. Go to the site and watch the video to understand what a breakthrough this is.
- Second, this story from Fractured Atlas about a 2015 Arts Entrepreneurship Awards honoree: The Laundromat Project, connecting communities to their creative potential, working in community spaces such as laundromats, libraries, parks, and the like. Read the brief interview with Executive Director Kemi Ilesanmi by Jason Tseng to get a sense of what is being accomplished by this wonderful ten year old organization.
- And finally, an extraordinary video documentary, entitled Spiral Bound (click on the link, go to the site and watch the trailer), "on the role of arts in learning and specifically how the loss of arts in the schools is a social equity issue." by the Arts and Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina. A bold effort by one of the best local arts agencies in America.
The reality is that there are thousands of projects all across the country that are making communities and lives better, and are helping our organizations to thrive.
Thank you all again for your kind support over the past decade. If you've found anything of interest or value in the blog over the years, I would appreciate it if you would tell one other person and suggest they subscribe. There are tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of nonprofit arts people that I would love to have as subscribers to the blog. Before I'm done I'd like to get up to at least 25,000. I hope you might help me by mentioning the blog to your constituents.
And thank you for being part of the glorious and grand attempt to exhalt the arts as one of humanity's best instincts by working in this field.
Have a great week.