I am off at the Arts Midwest conference this week, but as always have prepared some entries to cover my absence.
I thought it would be appropriate to revisit part of a report that was issued after the 2008 National Performing Arts Convention. (I took a more extensive look at the report back in 2009. Some of the discussions are dated with the passage of time.)
The convention was attended by representatives of theatre, dance, choral and instrumental music disciplines, including those respective service organizations. In assessing the opportunities for cross-disciplinary collective action, the report found that differences in language and culture were potential impediments.
Nearly 10 years later, I wonder if people still feel this is the case or have things developed to the point that the different disciplines can join in a more united front.
Were these really significant impediments to action at all and the will is simply lacking?
…our team observed frequent and obvious disconnects between the language and culture of each discipline. The dress and demeanor of the different service organization membership was a continual point of discussion in our evening debriefing sessions, and were often heard used as shorthand by one discipline to describe another (“take time to talk to the suits,” said one theater leader to a TCG convening, when referring to symphony professionals).
Some of the difference was in rites and rituals: from the morning sing-alongs of Chorus America to the jackets and ties of League members, to the frequent and genuine hugs among Dance/USA members, to the casual and collegial atmosphere of TCG sessions.
Other differences, which manifested in more subtle ways, shed light on the deep underlying assumptions and values held by the respective disciplines. The team noticed, for example, that the word “professional” was perceived in a variety of ways in mixed-discipline caucus sessions. For many participants, “professional” staff and leadership was an indicator of high-quality arts organizations, and an obvious goal for any arts institutions. Several members of Chorus America, however, bristled at the presumption that professional staff was a metric of artistic quality, as they held deep pride in their organizations, which were run by volunteers.
Catalysts note the need for basic fluency in the business models and challenges of other disciplines. Says one leader, “Being an executive director is an incredibly lonely job because you’re the only person in your community who has this set of challenges. You build your network. I talk a lot with the heads of other performing arts organizations here [from other disciplines], and it’s all right, but oftentimes when we talk I’m spending the whole time explaining the whole story so they can understand. As opposed to sitting with somebody who’s in a different community, you can start the sentence and oftentimes that person can finish your sentence for you.”
Subscribe via Email
Enter your email address to subscribe to Butts In The Seats and receive notifications of new posts by email.