Friday, April 2, 2010

"Surviving the Culture Change" : Is anyone paying attention to the boiled frog?

Diane Ragsdale has been giving a talk for two years now on what is happening to live audiences and arts organizations. If my reading of the dates attached to the top ten references on her talk  "Surviving the Culture Change" is correct, her work is well received and her insights are in demand. Here is an interesting quote that made me think of our storytelling community in New England.

“It's been interesting to see how arts organizations have responded to the economic crisis-everyone seems clear: Measures must be taken! We need to keep expenses under control and work hard to keep and cultivate our loyal patrons "in these times." But what about the past 30 years? It doesn't seem as though many of us were having night sweats as the audiences gradually turned grayer, and more conservative, and eventually dropped off.  Why not? Perhaps because it took 30 years to reach the abyss rather than 30 days?
If you know the story of the boiling frog then you may be familiar with the idea of 'creeping normalcy." Creeping normalcy refers to the way a major change can be accepted as normality if it happens slowly, in unnoticed increments, when it would be regarded as objectionable if it took place in a single step or short period.Some couples wake up years after being madly in love to find that the intimacy that was created in the early days has faded slowly and silently because they stopped noticing and nurturing each other.
Relationships require attention to be sustained. Perhaps, like the couple that wakes up one day to realize "We don't know each other anymore; we have nothing in common," we failed to see that our communities were changing, and that art and artists were changing, and that we, as institutions that exist to broker a relationship between the two were not changing in response. We failed to see the culture change. We lost the plot." Surviving the Culture Change
Dunno about my comrade artistes but I have been worrying about the plight of arts "organs" and been trying to study up on the situation of working artists and sustainable practice for nonprofits for the last 7 years. Attached below is a small but thought provoking collection of the studies I have read  ( read? well, skimmed more honestly ) They give us lots to work with as we consider how to live as artists in the 21st century. Google any of the titles and you will find a pdf on line. Or simply go to where the pdfs are uploaded.

“Arts for All: Connecting to New Audiences” Wallace Foundation (August 2008) How can arts organizations use marketing, research and new technologies to expand their audiences?
Cultivating Demand for the Arts Arts Learning, Arts Engagement, and State Arts Policy
This is the third in a series of documents describing a multiyear study of the changing roles and missions of state arts agencies (SAAs) by the Rand Corporation 
State Arts Policy Trends and Future Prospects  Another RAND publication 2008 Projects what the future likely holds for state arts agencies and for state arts policy if current trends and current strategies prevail. (pdf attached below )

Quoted above Diane Ragsdale's talk Surviving the Culture Change is widely published. This is a link . US arts philanthropy expert and Carnegie Mellon scholar, Diane Ragsdale has given this keynote address all over the world. Just google the title and download a copy for yourself.