Becoming One Of The Unseen Creative Artists

Yesterday we had David Grindle, Executive Director of USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) , speak at my theater about “The Unseen Arts Economy.”

If you aren’t familiar with it, USITT was founded “to promote dialogue, research, and learning among practitioners of theatre design and technology.”  They basically are plugged into knowing what technology the smallest theaters and bars through to Disney, Cirque d’ Soelil and movie productions are using.  USITT is also invested in promoting safety and training in all the crafts and technologies practiced and utilized in these places.

If you weren’t previously aware of USITT, then Grindle’s talk was for you. While I thought it would have a slightly different focus, Grindle did a really good job of talking discussing all the unseen labor and laborers that contribute to events and productions.  I have seen other people talk about all the opportunities for non-performing artists that exist, but never did they make such a compelling case as Grindle. He smoothly wove anecdotes together with “if you are a person who enjoys X, then there are these jobs…” in a manner that made his talk relevant to the listeners and didn’t feel like a recitation.

In his view, it isn’t just the lack of arts in schools that is an issue, it is the disappearance of home ec/family and consumer sciences that is also problematic. He said the lack of people with fundamental skills in sewing and other crafting skills has become cause for concern.

Most of the audience was comprised of college students with perhaps a few high school students thrown in. Initially, when he asked if there were any questions and no one came forward, I was worried that he was talking to people who were primarily interested in performing on stage. But after a few questions, things started opening up. Some people definitely were interested in working behind the scenes when they walked in. There were others for whom Grindle’s talk had revealed some options they hadn’t been aware of.

While I am sure Grindle is a busy person individually, if anyone has an interest in having someone speak on similar topics, I am sure the folks at USITT can point you to some members who can do a credible job of it.

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.


Leave a Comment