Behave like an Artist, not like a Business
We have a moment right now in which we can remake our organizations into arts organizations that navigate the business world rather than organizations that are “in the art business.” All of the suggestions that follow emanate from the idea that the creative process followed by artists is the appropriate “management tool” for arts organizations. From planning to implementation to evaluation we need to let go of the rigid businesslike approach that so many of us have adopted (strategic planning, systems of efficiency, linear thinking, quantitative evaluation) in favor of creativity, experimentation, flexible organizational structures and systems that respond more easily and more quickly to a changing environment, intuitive thinking and qualitative evaluation. Todd Brown, Artistic Director of the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco explicitly claims his work as a presenter as his artistic practice. Once we do that, decision making processes become clearer, we stay true to our core intent as an organization and, I think for most of us, we enjoy the work more.
All around us now we see the devastating effects of “behaving like a business” – the passionate devotion to “creating shareholder value” has caused the near collapse of our economy and similar devastation even within the arts sector. Why would we follow this model? Artists see the big picture, think holistically, create, innovate, and provide joy – our version of shareholder value – to the community within an ethical and humanistic context. Our arts organizations must do the same.
No matter how counter-intuitive it may seem, now is the time to innovate. Adopt a paradigm of “try- fail/succeed-move on.” Question all of the basic assumptions about how we do our work and ask “why?” making sure the answer leads directly to an engaged experience by an audience with art. How difficult is it to try a new idea within your organization? Can you remove barriers to experimentation and innovation in order to stimulate creative thinking? Reassess structures that support siloed thinking in favor of a more web based approach within your organization with lateral communication the rule, not the exception.” —
- Kenneth J. Foster: Thriving in an Uncertain World: Arts Presenting Change and the New Realities
Commissioned by the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) with support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation for presentation at the APAP annual conference in January 2010