Today is the final installment in this series of posts relating to positive organizational change in arts and cultural organizations. This all began with a simple question “Do you believe in your organization’s artistic work?” In my experience, I find that after my clients have done an in-depth analysis of their organization, they often realize that it is not their organization’s artistic work which they don’t believe in— they don’t believe in the way it’s done. In most cases, the mission of an arts organization is honorable. If you are like me, you are working in the performing arts with a sense of duty to the arts. Whether you are a performer, administrator, scholar, or student—you work in an arts organization because you can identify with the mission itself. What you might have discovered is that the mission of your organization might be blocked or obstructed by things in the organization. If you have done an complete analysis like I suggested, you will have strong ideas about what must change in order to cut down the red-tape that holds up the artistic work in an organization.
At the beginning of this journey, I asked you how you felt because I wanted you to know. I wanted you to identify that you did in fact have a desire to see things done differently and that you were ready to go against the status quo in order to get back to the true mission and artistic work of your organization. In this last installment, I’m going to give you permission to lead a revolution in the performing arts. Here’s how you are going to do it.
1. “Don’t Make the weather then cry that it’s raining.”
It’s an old Southern expression, but it holds true for performing arts organization who need and want to facilitate change. You have the power to change your circumstances. You must be the one who leads by example. You don’t have to be normal; you don’t have to be what is expected. You can be so much more than that! Abandon all the rules you impose on yourself. If you are the lowliest of interns, don’t feel bad about pitching a great idea to someone in the organization who has the power to make it happen. If your organization’s administration has typically been divided from the artists and performers, creating a divisive atmosphere; don’t wait for the Executive Director to change his/her stance on interactions with the artists. You go to rehearsals, you be friendly to the artists. You don’t need permission to do the right thing by another person. So often, it is the smallest of changes in the right direction that can re-route an entire river.
2. Be vocal.
If you are not vocal about your beliefs, your feelings, and your intuition, then you do both an injustice to yourself and to performing arts world. As long as you stay positive, you must always voice your opinion. Do your research and always be able to support your ideas. It shouldn’t be too hard, you’ve been asking WHY? to everything all along. If you are an Executive Director, then be vocal about positive change. Don’t waste a single opportunity to reinforce the organization’s mission with every patron, constituent and employee you meet. If you are a staff member, use every interaction you have with other employees to create a positive work atmosphere. Be positive with others, and lead by example. You don’t need written permission from the Board of Governors to plant new ideas, or change office culture by your example.
Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you—not just for reading this blog, but also for the willingness to be the change in the arts world. It takes courage and innovation. It takes research and knowledge. But I promise you, that feeling of apathy you had when I first asked you if you believed in your organization’s artistic work, if you are the change you wish to see then you’ll never have to feel that apathy ever again.