Musta Been Saving It Up

I was looking over some of my old entries and realized I actually never wrote down some good ideas I had connected with my earlier ideas on Drew McManus’ docent program. I have a vague recollection that I was going to mention my ideas in an interview so perhaps that is why I never wrote it here–I didn’t want provide other interviewees with my good ideas. (Hey, given that one place had 300 applicants for the same job, it isn’t outside the realm of possibility someone who read my blog had applied.)

In any case, it is actually a simple extension of my earlier thoughts and philosophies. I think it would be great to train art/drama/music, etc students in a docent program so they learn how to talk about what they do in an manner that doesn’t alienate audience. You don’t want a student standing in your lobby talking to an audience member saying “Well, clearly the dance was inspired by pointillism.” The implication being–if you don’t know what I am talking about, you are an idiot.

Instead, you might want them to say. “Well, the dance was inspired by pointillism. Are you familiar with that term?” And if the person says they aren’t, perhaps the student whips out the Sunday comics and a magnifying glass to show how the print process and the post-impressionism school of painting are similar. Then they point out how the concept was executed in the dance the person just saw or perhaps will see.

The audience sees your venue as a place they can feel comfortable attending and asking questions and your student base learns how to use language that doesn’t require specialized knowledge or make people uncomfortable.

Trying to establish a program like this is going to be one of my long term goals in my current position. It may be difficult because the campus is 100% commuter and clears out about 4-5 hours before performances begin. But there is a strong continuing ed program on the campus too and this type of examination of the arts might hold an appeal for them.

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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