Mea Culpa

I do a lot of talking about what arts organizations should do and what policies they should adopt. People probably correctly assume the truth of the matter but I want to make it clear that if you were to walk into my theatre after reading my entries, you won’t see half of what I suggest being implemented.

Some of my ideas aren’t appropriate in this situation and others we lack the resources to effect. A few are gradually being developed. This year I managed to grow the volunteer corps large enough that I didn’t have to worry if enough would show up for the performances. Our first volunteer thank you event is this weekend. Next year I start my plan to arm them with info about the performances and instill the confidence to employ the material to answer patron questions.

I am not trying to fool myself or anyone else that I am completely walking the walk that I talk. I was clearly reminded of that this past Friday. As I noted earlier, the weekend before last essentially ended the presenting phase of our season. We spent last week changing the website and box office voicemail to reflect our current state. In the process, I had forgotten to mention the student production in the lab theatre on the ticket line voicemail.

A gentleman called my office to complain that if we had performances in the lab, we should have information about it and not have a message saying the season is over. While I know better, there was something about his tone that put me on the defensive and before I knew it, I was saying “But that show isn’t part of the season.”

While this is technically true, I obviously should have listed the performance and would have had I remembered to. The guy on the other end gave a grunt and was silent. I thought he hung up and as I started to hang up myself, I said damn if he isn’t right and I am a stubborn idiot.

Fortunately this was an inner dialogue because I suddenly heard a voice from the receiver. I raised it to my ear and beg his pardon and the gentleman says he will see us the next night and then actually does hang up.

I know it sounds like a 12 step program to say it is okay to make mistakes and try to do better one day at time, but you know it is true. Better to recognize it, develop a thicker skin and give the right answer the next time.

To give credit where credit is due, I thought that the inspiration for this mea culpa entry came from within as I drove home Friday night. I believe, rather, that it was planted subconsciously in my mind. As I made my daily visit to read The Artful Manager, I noticed last week’s entry on The Power of Flaws staring right at me. I didn’t remember reading it, but apparently something sunk in.

I guess I try to do a little practicing of some of the smart thing other people preach, too.

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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