Tuesday, January 2, 2018

New Year's Resolutions for the Arts Sector

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on..................."

I suppose there was actually a time when people seriously resolved to make things happen, and used the New Year as a genesis point.  Now the ubiquitous most popular resolutions of losing weight, exercising more, and eating healthy are more often than not breached within days of making the commitment.  In a sense, that pattern has become the paradigm for action on most fronts that seek to address some long standing negative - be it personal or public.  We resolve to make it happen, knowing full well we will not see it through.

So, I am under no illusions that any suggestions of New Year's Resolutions that the arts, as a sector, ought to make will yield any result other than a yawn at best, and scorn at worst - but I'll make a couple anyway:

I.  RESOLVED, the Arts will finally do what is necessary to build real political power - and that includes effective advocacy / lobbying organizations with paid staff at the Congressional, State, City and County levels - supported by the entire field across disciplines and special interests.

Doable?  Yes, IF the field has the "will power" and can somehow get beyond the notion that exercising political power is a bad thing.  To pay for it, we would have to dig into our own pockets, get artists and creative people to do benefits, and finally convince funders to pour money into the arena.  And we haven't yet done any of the three.  But we could.......

Odds it will happen?  Given our history of willingness to be political animals, the odds are about zero the field will see its own self interest as a legitimate cause.

II.  RESOLVED, the arts will deal with the equity in funding issue, by spreading the wealth.  We're not talking about taking away all the funding from where it presently goes.  We're just talking about equity - meaning spreading the money around more fairly, for there is no equality if some get it all, and the rest get nothing.

Doable?  Absolutely, if the powers that be simply decide to change the allocation formulas.  Will they?  Not without substantial pressure put on them -- but the field, as a whole, has the ability and the wherewithal to apply that pressure to both public and private funders if they would act in concert and make their wishes known.  Are we capable of seeing the greater good and our long term best interests?  Yes, we're capable, but will we?...............

Odds it will happen?  Given years of lame excuses, and little to no action, despite seemingly committing to change, the odds here are, in the short run anyway, near zero too.  We will continue to talk a good game, with the reality something very different.

III. RESOLVED, the current arts leadership will work to more fully integrate and involve the future generational leadership in the decision making processes and the full active life of each of our organizations.  That means more delegation of authority.  It means more focus on the full range of our managers' needs as both employees and stakeholders.  It means a rearrangement of how we structure our businesses and our commitments to personnel; it means people become the primary focus.

Doable?  Certainly, if we get to the point where we understand that all the people that work in the arts constitute our biggest asset and move policy in support of that understanding.  It will take some sacrifice and some real leadership, but this one is actually the easiest of all these resolutions.  In a real family, sacrifices are made for the next generations.  Are we a real family?  We could be.............

Odds it will happen?  Not favorable, because power is relinquished very begrudgingly, if al all.  And even the best of us, don't necessarily remember how it was way back when we were the neophytes and the newbies.   But were such a titanic shift to be made, it would change everything in a positive way.  IMHO.

Ok, I could go on, but no sense making us feel bad in the aftermath of our likely failure to see our resolutions through to reality.  And without personal responsibility, we can easily blame the other guy for that failure.

But that said, I think we are better than that.  These three resolutions are long, long overdue.  And each one can become reality if we simply decide to make it so.  We can make them a reality just as sure as we can lose five pounds if we really, truly want to.  


Maybe we might at least resolve to try.  

Welcome to 2018.  It's going to be a year not unlike the one just past.  There are those for whom last year was a good year, and those for whom it was horrible.  The chaos, confusion, rancor, and bitter fighting is likely to continue within and without, here at home and across the globe.  But there are also sure to be surprises.  We can hope those surprises are good ones.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit