Keep Your Arts Sharp and The Arts Will Keep You Sharp

I was reading an article on The Atlantic about why employers often have a hard time finding workers even during periods of high unemployment.

I saw the sentence, “And workers now really need to think of learning as a lifelong task.” My mind made a leap and it occurred to me that might be the message the arts need to ride the coattails of.

People are changing jobs more frequently now, either involuntarily, or as we are told of Gen Y, out of a desire to do something meaningful. I am sure there will be a lot of articles and news stories over the next few years about how people need to be more agile and keep renewing and reviewing their knowledge and skills.

Keeping in line with this sentiment, the arts community could talk about how gaining knowledge, skills, comfort with artistic experiences and pursuits is something that is easily acquired over time. (Instead of a panicked crash course at the concert hall doors.)

Two hurdles that must be overcome are the perception that the arts are an indulgence and that learning is an onerous chore.

This provides an opportunity to advocate for arts education by pointing out that learning in an artistic/creative context provides the sense of fun that makes the experience more enjoyable. And in fact, may assist in keeping them engaged in the process of maintaining their professional/vocational skills.

There is a great proliferation of information sources for self-directed learning about the arts that don’t require one to expose themselves to the elements of the event attendance experience that intimidate- blogs, online videos, websites, classes, lectures, master classes and volunteering. People just need to be made better aware of 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.


Leave a Comment