What Does It Mean To Have Influence

I saw an article containing an interview with choreographer Robert Moses that basically opens with Moses saying the conversations occurring regarding equity are addressing the wrong questions.

How to increase equity? “Ask different questions,” is the reply from Moses. Or preferably, don’t ask the same tiresome questions.

“The notion of change is sophomoric,” Moses says. “The idea is to give people honest opportunity to be part of whatever they’re intending to be a part of. The questions get tiresome because they come from the same place. It’s not interesting if it doesn’t have anything to do with what needs to happen.”

Moses poses a question of his own: “Should we have more representation? No, we should have more influence. More actual ability to exercise that influence and power. All those things will be happening for the better of everyone,” he says, heavily emphasizing the “everyone” in his declaration. “It has to be in as many hands as possible… It’s about talk that’s useful. An organization that powers those things is what I care about. The conversations then can take place that move us all. We’re not spinning our wheels and using portions of a cultural experience to affix something to the moment.

I’m not exactly sure I completely understand what he means. Which is good I guess, because if I thought I knew what he meant, I might stop considering the larger implications of the statement.

If influence and power in as many hands as possible isn’t more representation, what is it? It is obvious that representation can be employed superficially, but so too can pursuing talk and conversations that is useful. Often both can feel like progress when they are just the appearance of progress. So isn’t productive work in representation and/or conversation valuable?

The distinguishing element that sticks out to me is the mention of “…using portions of a cultural experience to affix something to the moment.” That seems to reproach focusing on creating standards based on conditions at a specific time versus embracing broader, long term goals. For example, the idea that you are done when the composition of your board reflects the demographics of the community versus the broader goal of seeking to create an environment where power and influence are shared in the broadest terms possible.

Anyone else want to share their thoughts?

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/)

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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