Let’s Get Small

I’ve been thinking about this a lot and thinking about the ideas I laid out in some of my previous essays here. After going to the ERPA presentations and also reflecting on my work with various innovation projects I am inspired to reiterate what seems to be at the very heart of the matter – let’s get small.

There are SO MANY things that are wrong with the Arts in America it is hard to know where to begin. But one of the major issues is a lack of connection, immediacy and relevancy between the art, artmakers and the audience. We need to close this gap, restore permeability, restore access and restore relevancy. What this means is creating newer, smaller, more innovative and nimble organizations and also changing the funding models.

I’ll be honest, I think there should be more P.S.122/Kitchen/HERE mid-size hybrid arts spaces in every major metropolitan area and even non-metropolitan areas. And I think that a consortium of funders should look at providing exponentially more funding to these institutions so that they can spend less resources on infrastructure and fundraising and more on developing and presenting work. This could even be a networked, regional model with each space serving as a node but using centrally developed marketing and fundraising resources, almost like a franchise. And these spaces, as I’ve said before, should function as cultural innovation labs with enhanced permeability between audience and public.

One thing is sure: that growth as defined by bigger buildings, bigger budgets, bigger staffs and more more more – is not always good. I’m reminded of a probably apocryphal story that a professor wants recounted in class. A tribal society was given a television and after the initial fascination wore off, they stopped watching it.  Someone asked why they would turn it off when it knows so many stories and they replied, “Yes, but my storyteller knows me.”

There’s something really important about genuine community engagement and it seems like part of the funding answer – and the relevancy answer – goes back to figuring out how to situate the arts in the center of community.

More to come…

One Response to “Let’s Get Small”
  1. Carrieahern says:

    Thank you for all your thoughtful posts on this topic. I agree with you about getting small, but think even smaller. Until the foundations give more to individual artists as opposed to any institution (no matter how small) , enabling artists to work in spaces and communities appropriate to their vision, I don’t think the landscape will change. Then those mid size institutions can be leaner because they are not paying the rent and the utilities and also determining and paying artist fees (which are rarely large enough to cover costs of a production.) This also makes it easier to think outside the traditional venues if you want to engage a specific public/community. I think the point you made earlier in a post about advocacy on a local level would make sense here.

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