The Master’s Voice

Though I have a couple research papers I can discuss, I hate to have this blog get bogged down with me summarizing stats and figures. While it can certainly can provide interesting information and allow arts folks to make a decision about whether they want to read the original document, it can get boring.

That being said, I did spend yesterday trying to find out if anyone has done research on university-arts organization relationships like those I discussed yesterday to see how each fared in promoting their individual agendas and preserving their identities. If anyone knows of any, please let me know.

In an attempt to provide some interesting material, I found an interview with Douglas McLennan, the gentleman who writes/edits He has been writing Artsjournal since 1999 and discusses some of the trends he sees in arts worldwide.

Among the trends he has seen have been: concern about arts funding and the digital age blurring the lines of who owns what and what constitutes ownership. He also notes that since Sept. 11, people have become much more conservative in their artistic tastes. There isn’t as much an interest for in your face art. Rather people are looking for offerings that make them feel comfortable or lift them up.

When asked why he started, he mentioned that as a writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer he came across some articles on the web that were very interesting and he wondered why he had never heard about these stories in the months since they came out. He decided to create a website that collected a broad range of arts stories in one place so people could quickly get a sense of what was happening internationally in the arts.

His decision to add bloggers to his website came out of a recognition that arts coverage was declining in the newspapers and journals across the country. He wanted to provide a place where intelligent discourse on arts topics could be presented without the concern for space and time that other media face. He also feels that the presence of conflicting views allows the web to present a product of higher quality than a newspaper.

A newspaper arts writer may feel compelled to be nice because they are the only voice about the arts in town. When there are many voices expressing their views on the same work, it allows the individual more freedom to present their true views because responsibility for a show’s success or failure doesn’t rest solely on their shoulders. They are important opinion leaders, but not the only opinion leader. The competition pressures the writer to keep his/her skills sharp and to consider a wide range of perspectives.

Give it a listen if only to hear the voice behind the website.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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