An Idea Eight Years In The Making (And Hopefully Not Nine)

Thursday is the 8th anniversary of this blog. I made my first post on February 23, 2004. I wouldn’t normally call attention to an oddly numbered anniversary (though 8 is considered auspicious in China), however an idea I mentioned in my second post may come to fruition. Actually, the bulk of the idea was expressed in a letter to Artful Manager Andrew Taylor which ended up printed on the Artsjournal site.

In that letter I suggested that arts organizations emulate the overtly proselytizing comic book Chick Tracts. While I am generally offended by the tracts, I appreciate their use of illustrations to catch interest and their portability which lend themselves to easy distribution by handing them off to friends or leaving them in public places. I had suggested using the same format, albeit with a less heavy handed approach, to distribute information about the arts.

That idea has been percolating in my mind as I waited for the opportunity to put it into action. That opportunity seems to have presented itself.

If you recall on Monday I mentioned how I haven taken advantage of the enthusiasm my assistant theatre managers have brought to the job to implement some of my ideas. Well this is one of them.

The current assistant theatre manager had an idea to assemble a Student Media Art Collective (SMAC – her idea) to help us promote the performances at the theatre. Our intention is to have discussions about promotion, techniques and art in general. In time we hope to bring in some guest speakers to talk to the group about various topics. I have pretty much left it up to her to organize and run. I just approve the purchase of pizza, distribution of comp tickets and show up at the meetings.

I have to say, I have been pretty impressed with the way she has run it. Even though we want these people’s help promoting the theatre, she hasn’t really mentioned that at all. What she has basically done is created a place for people to meet, eat pizza and talk about their ideas. Today she had us drawing things on file cards and post-it notes.

We have only had two meetings. Between the first one two weeks ago and the one we had today, two of the people have already started collaborating on a project together. They aren’t ready to talk about it yet. From what I have glimpsed of the proposal the one guy wrote, it seems to be some sort of fictional speculation about the origins of chess as a game.

I like the energy that is developing so far. We have provided a forum for these students who are predominantly visual artists that hasn’t been available before. I think it has been good that we have let the participants talk about their ideas rather than pressing our agenda. It has helped people feel comfortable and share their goals with the group.

I had discussed my idea to emulate the Chick Tracts with the assistant theatre manager about a week ago and while I wanted to mention today, I decided to follow her lead in regard to whether we asked them to do something for the theatre. Near the end of the meeting, she invited me to share the basic concept with the group and a number of them really liked it. During the mingling at the end of the meeting, a few approached me with the ideas they had. I was surprised that many of them were interested in producing a hard copy format rather than a digital manifestation as I had suggested. Apparently having something physical to hold is valued a bit more than I had guessed.

I will follow up by sending out some links to some websites that might provide as basis of inspiration for my Arts Tracts. Then I will step back and see what happens in the next two weeks before we meet again. Hopefully something will have been produced by this time next year.

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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