Thursday, April 26, 2012

What’s The Expiration Date On That Arts Organization?

Butts In The Seats, the musings about practical solutions for arts management by Joe Patti , had an interesting post yesterday about building a theatre or an arts organization with an pre-determined life span.

What’s The Expiration Date On That Arts Organization?

A couple weeks ago Grant Makers in the Arts posted a piece by Rebecca Novick, Please Don’t Start A Theater Company. I had been thinking about the article for some time now when I saw a similar piece by David J. McGraw, The Epoch Model: An Arts Organization with an Expiration Date. Epoch Model… was published back in 2010 in 20UNDER40: Re-inventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century.

What McGraw suggests in Epoch Model.. is that arts organizations should form for a seven year life span and goes on to make some interesting arguments about the benefits of doing so.

Both Novick and McGraw provide examples of groups that realized their usefulness was over and willingly dissolved and suggest that people looking to form new arts organization integrate an expiration date or expiration conditions into the very formation of the organization.

McGraw suggests the following benefit to this approach:
•A single founding vision can guide the organization from start to predetermined finish.
•Productions, exhibitions, and initiatives can be selected to follow an artistic arc rather than merely filling generic programming slots year after year.
•The company can plan its organizational growth and contraction with an eye towards its end.
•Its membership can challenge itself to fulfill its mission with greater urgency, knowing that this collaboration is a fleeting opportunity with a defined commitment from each member.
•Audiences will know that they cannot take the organization for granted and that the organization represents a specific period of time, or epoch, of the artistic life of the community.
He also notes that an arts organization dissolving in their relative prime will actually contribute more to the community than an organization which has had to close because they were no longer financially viable. The former has a fair bit of property to pass on to various community entities, the property of the latter is generally liquidated for the sake of creditors.

There a few forces working against this sort of approach and they all involve money. As both authors note, the ever renewing arts organization idea is great when you are 20something, but once you want to settle down and get some stability, you aren’t going to want your arts organization to go gentle into the good night. Or you are going to start seeking work at conventional arts organizations. This might actually be a good thing. The infusion of people who have experimented with versatile approaches may keep the conventional organizations vital.

Follow the link HERE or at the top to read more.


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