You should probably read Part 1 first.
So, while the bloggers are re-mapping reality, what are we to do with the brick/flesh/mortar/blood theatres to help shift the paradigm? Let's get back to that manifesto.
To justify artist's professional, parasitic and elite status in society, he must demonstrate artist's indispensability and exclusiveness, he must demonstrate the dependability of audience upon him, he must demonstrate that no one but the artist can do art.Well put, and well re-iterated 40 years later by Ben Cameron, then Executive Director of TCG [The text of the speech I'm about to refer to was emailed to me 6 months or so ago. I don't know where it came from, but I located something like it on the internet here.]
Cameron couches his arguments in an exploration of "value", taken to mean our standards as well as our worth.
Yes, the meaning evanesces and shifts according to context but ultimately each of these value-facets inform one another — and, I think, must inform us in our attempt to raise the profile of arts in America. Let me suggest we approach this through four key questions How do we individually clarify and identify our values? How do we individually convey our values? How do we gather people around our values? And how do we collectively establish our value?
He then launches into a very worthwhile discussion of how individual organizations can clearly define and communicate their values to their customers and how that relates to trendy ideas of branding. All of which is great, but not central to what I'm working at here.
Cameron then asks a really important question, the question, really, that we have to answer clearly before we can do much else about re-defining what theatre in America is and how it can be a significant part of the American project in the 21st century. "Why is doing our work important in the first place?"
... the full folly of our method of defending the NEA was made clear to me in subsequent conversation with Target exeutives. "You just never got it, did you?," they say, "While you want to talk only about quality, the rest of the country has moved on. It's not quality that determines where people spend time, money, and energy; it's value. You can have the best toilet paper in the world on the shelves; if people don't see the value of coming into the store in the first place, they never get to see what you have."Nobody really cares, and why should they? Hell, even most of the artists I know are lax in actually attending arts events. And if no one cares, and they're not coming to the theatre, then how can we convince our local Arts Councils that theatre is worth funding, that it's something the tax-payers want funded? We can't always fall back on the argument that "it's good for them" and the assumption that we (artists and their funding organizations) know what's best for everyone else. I get angry that there's not more public money for the arts in my community and that corporate giving has dropped so dramatically, but I really haven't got a leg to stand on in arguing that it's something the community is missing, have I?
And that's one BIG BIG part of our problem, isn't it? We're spending half our marketing resources just trying to convince people to come into the theatre in the first place. Which is frightenly necessary at the moment, unfortunately. And there are some folks out there somewhere who get pieces of that marketing puzzle right, and bravo to them. And lord knows I'm reading everything Seth Godin has to say because every 12th blog entry has a great lessons for the arts, and maybe if I put it all together I might be able to figure out how to sell my company to wealthy 25-year-olds. (But probably not.) This issue is much, much larger than marketing though. Marketing would be easy, really, if we could solve the larger problem of the public's perception of theatre, and art in general.
Every arts organization must be able to answer three basic questions:Great questions, and a real challenge, I'll bet, for about 80% of the theatre orgaizations I can think of. But Cameron is still focusing primarily on organizational issues and marketing. For a bigger picture, (and answers to some of the more difficult questions) we turn to Gifts of the Muse: Reframing the Debate About the Benefits of the Arts.
1) What is the value of having my organization in my community?
2) Harder: What is the value my group alone offers, or that my group offers better than anyone else? Duplicative or second-rate value will not stand in this economy.
3) Hardest: How will my community be damaged if we close our doors and move away tomorrow?
Much more to come.