If I Could Save Time In A Bottle…

…seems to be the theme of an arts manager’s life according to the APAP commissioned Conversations with the Field report I had written on earlier. People are busy trying to achieve so much that they fear they are losing sight of their organizational mission.

According to the report they are desperate for new tools and techniques to help alleviate their burdens.

“…the online information that is posted and distributed doesn’t adequately address the challenges confronted in today’s current business climate.

Therefore, many desire what they perceive to be relevant data, up-to-date news and useful statistics in their inbox. In essence, members are seeking tools that will afford more marketplace leverage and resources that will enhance their capacity to succeed in the earned and contributed income arenas.

However, when asked – in specific terms – what these improved tools and informational tools would look like, respondents were vague and impressionistic. They don’t know exactly what they want, but they believe that what they’re getting is not meeting their needs. This unease and discontent signals how the field feels that it is harder and harder to succeed in mission-delivery.” (pg 14-15)

I won’t even pretend that this blog approaches adequately addressing todays business climate. Sometimes I hardly have enough time in the day to ponder what I am going to write much less do a thorough analysis job. What I really thought was interesting about this section of the report is that people can’t specifically describe what sort of tools and information they want provided to them. They know they need help and the resources they are aware of aren’t providing it. But what form the help should come in, they don’t know.

Note I say “the resources they are aware of.” I suspect part of the problem is that they don’t have the time to review and assess–or even seek out–all the resources that are actually available.

One of the last report findings I cited in my earlier entry was that reviewing and discussing reports, initiatives and literature about the field hasn’t been valued. Now that the demands of ones time are so much greater, there probably isn’t much hope of reversing this trend. (Though the rise of forum discussions and arts management blogs might help.)

I also think that people in the field are vaguely aware of all the cheap technological tools that are appearing like social networking and video sharing sites. They have a sense that these things can be helpful, but they aren’t quite sure how due to lack of time to explore them. They know that chances are, help is out there and within easy grasp. After all, technological improvements are always newer, faster, cheaper and easy to use!

Without a deeper understanding of what each category of advancement is, hearing about all these brand new wonderful things can be overwhelming. I have a feeling that a lot of these arts leaders might be secretly wishing they had the time for someone to come in and explain it all in detail to them outlining how each tool is or is not appropriate for their organization.

It occurred to me that this all describes a segment of the population the arts are trying to reach. Reading and discussing about the arts hasn’t been valued. They hear wonderful things about attending The Lion King, The Drowsy Chaperon, the orchestra, the ballet. Their maturing income and entertainment preferences make them more inclined to attend. But they don’t have the time to acquire the tools to let them master and enjoy the experience. If only someone would explain it!

The answer is the same for both groups. Those with the information have to find a way to deliver the initial enabling tools to those who seek it. Packaging the tools in a way that makes it appear easy and appealing to access them in the first place and then motivate people to continue to acquire additional mastery and knowledge is the real trick.

How much you wanna bet that the correct mode(s) of delivery is similar for both groups and that the medium through which the time strained arts managers receive their answers is the one they will turn around and use as a delivery vehicle for their communities?

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 (artshacker.com) 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. (http://www.creatingconnection.org/about/)

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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