The Arts Org and The Pro-Am Can Be Friends

Arts Orange County Executive Director, Richard Stein, recently linked to a study his organization commissioned about how art organizations were acknowledging the rise of Professional-Amateurs (Pro-Ams). The study, Professional-Amateur Engagement: A Balancing Act in Arts Organizations, studies the literature and practices addressing people’s desire to become more involved with the arts, but not necessarily as a career path.

If you aren’t really familiar with Pro-Am concept, this is a good place to get up to speed on the topic. Especially the prickly topic of how to define “amateurs” without marginalizing or offending someone. The paper also provides some case studies of organizations who have created programs to involve their community.

Pacific Symphony placed 20 pianos around town and organized a number of on and off-line activities surrounding them. They also had a program called ““OC Can You Play With Us” which partnered community musicians with symphony musicians to rehearse and perform a concert performance with the Pacific Symphony. What I liked about this program was that Pacific Symphony used it to also call attention to the existence of other community orchestras as resources rather than keeping all the attention on their own organization.

The paper also mentions the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and STREB, both of which offer workshops and classes to help people hone the skills and knowledge for their own activities, be it a performance company or their own personal practice. RSC has also opened up their stage to 10 amateur regional companies to mount their own productions on the RSC stage.

The one program that really tickled me was Armand Hammer Museum of Art‘s Visitors Dream-In.

“the Hammer invited “dreamers” to make a $25 campsite reservation to “camp out in the Hammer courtyard and collect any dreams that occur during their stay.”67 The campers were treated to experimental dreaming workshops, bedtime stories and a morning waking concert; on the next day dreams were reenacted by Gawdafful Theater.”

I just thought this sounded like a cool idea and according to their blog, they had about 170 register to participate.

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. (

I am currently the 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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