As I teach my arts administration course this fall at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, you’ll be able to follow the journey along with my students right here on the Tuxedo Revolt Blog. Prior to each class, I hope to write a post that will give insight and depth to the issues we are going to cover. However, before we begin this sojourn of understanding what makes a successful arts organization in the 21st Century, I wanted to first explore the changes that must happen within ourselves before we can begin to change the world around us.
Change begins in you.
That’s the first major realization that is necessary for you to find success in any entrepreneurial venture. It doesn’t matter if you want to start a new chamber ensemble, re-envision an existing orchestra, start a rock band, or even a non-music business– your project will reflect your personal views, both conscious and subconscious. You must truly believe in the change you are willing to implement.
Let’s be honest, it is much, much easier to comply with the status quo than to lead change. It takes far less energy, less critical thinking and less time. But I believe when one identifies both a need for improvement AND a solid plan that would help that improvement’s realization, then we are obligated to bring the issue to the surface and argue for the change. In so many ways, this notion of identifying issues, planning out how to fix them, and taking responsibility for their realization is at the heart of what we call progress.
You have to believe that your plan to bring about change will work. Right now, many artists, musicians, and teachers see “music or arts entrepreneurship” as a buzz word. They often think that if they can find a use for this buzz word then they’ve done their due diligence– one more box can be checked off of the resume or todo list. This isn’t what entrepreneurship is about. The drive to break to go out on a limb, to differ from mainstream opinion, to prove something for yourself has to come from within you. No amount of in-class strategizing or note taking can replace that.
Entrepreneurship is about taking charge of your life, your art, or your organization and going it alone because you know deep down that you can do it better. It’s a deep kind of knowing oneself, knowing that you are capable of making your mark. Like in music performance, it’s very similar to the kind of craftsmanship that goes into crafting a beautiful solo, it becomes distinctly your own creation. Your voice shines through.
As we explore what it takes to create new kinds of programs, organizations, and experiences– we will take some time to get to know ourselves as well. What do you value? What problems have you identified in the arts for which you now have ideas how to fix them? From what kind of artistic work do you derive the greatest satisfaction? How far are you willing to go to see your idea all the way from a fleeting thought in your mind to real people, taking action in real time, doing real work, in the real world.
To see an entrepreneurial project all the way through is a long process. There are very few shortcuts, and I promise that I’ll share with you the ones that I know. But as I write this post, I doubt that the challenge is too much for you. You would never have become a performing artist, or ever worked in the performing arts industry if you didn’t already understand that in our area of expertise, adversity is to be expected.
I’ll also wager that because you’ve made it this far, to my blog, that your are already toying about with the idea of going solo and breaking off from the herd to do things your way. While I’ve previously mentioned that the work involved in entrepreneurship is nothing to take lightly, I am also obligated to say that the freedom to do what you want is incomparable to anything else. For me, that’s where my true creativity lives.
I’ve found that the brightest creative impulses I’ve have had coincide with my personal freedom and my disregard for the confines of the establishment. Over the next few months we will explore how our beliefs manifest themselves in our personal and artistic missions, in the effectiveness of our organization and in our ability to make a positive impact– and you’ll have the freedom to do it your way.
So let’s begin. Listen to yourself. Listen to the silent alarms that go off around you, the ones you sense and feel. Believe, even for an instant, that nothing is set in stone, that the world is play-dough you could mold with your bare hands— for indeed, it can be. Let that thought wash over you for just a moment. Make no mistake. You can change the world with your vision, your art, and yes, even with your bare hands.
I’m going to ask you a question. I want you to pay attention to your very first, immediate, gut reaction and emotion to the question. Listen to your thoughts very carefully and identify the first to come into your mind as an answer to the following: “Do you believe in your organization’s artistic work?” What was your initial reaction to the question? If you said YES! immediately, then congratulations. Your organization is most likely doing in good shape. But if you questioned, doubted, or outright said NO, then I hope that this series of posts can help you restore confidence in your organization.
The first step you must take is fully embracing the fact that you don’t have the faith or belief in the success of your organization that your should. Be honest with yourself. After I asked you the question, and you had a negative response, you probably immediately also felt some sense of reasoning, self-assuring that no, your organization was on the right track. It’s likely that you also had some feelings of guilt regarding your response. When I ask my clients the same question about the organization they are running, or about their personal careers, I often here justification responses like “I feel bad for saying that, I work there!” or “I shouldn’t say that, everyone is trying their best.” Or my favorite, “I may not believe in our effectiveness now, but it’s getting better!” When I dig a little bit deeper, I ask clients to support their justification statement s with facts or proof. How is it getting better? Do you like working there and why? Tell me how everyone is trying their best? Nine times out of ten, I’m answered with a long thoughtful pause.
So, enough is enough. In this series of blog posts, we are going to discuss how our dissatisfaction can motivate us to become arts leaders. We are going to turn up our noses at many long-standing traditions that occur in organizations—but we are going to do it in the best interest of those our arts organization serves. Right from the beginning I want you to do two things with me.
1. I want you to accept the fact that this process is not about you, your boss, your staff. It is about those you serve. It is about those who experience the artistic work of your organization. It could be your audience in the concert hall; it could be public school children who are taught by your teaching artists. This process is about doing what is best for them and no one else.
2. You must take all your doubt, apprehensions, and negative feeling you have about your organization’s environment and bring them together. When you feel them together, then you’ll realize that it’s not just negative thoughts anymore, but a strong sense of intuition. Throughout this process, we are going to learn how to focus our intuitive feelings like a laser beam. Then we are going to turn that laser beam onto our organizational challenges. Intuition will guide the process of improvement and adaptation.
Are you with me? Do you want to play an active role in leading your organization toward authentic success? Do you want to cut through the “clutter” that clouds your organization’s mission? But most importantly, do you want to bring better services to your constituency? Your audience? Your tribe? If you do, then stick with me through the next several posts. I’ll help you learn how to do all of those things, and to lead innovation in the arts world.
- Am I Doing what I Really, Really, Want to Do? (psychologymatters.asia)
- Int-U-ition (thecocoshowblog.wordpress.com)