20th Anniversary Of Butts In The Seats

This past Friday, February 23 marked the 20th anniversary of this blog. While Drew McManus often remembers the anniversary better than I do, I did recall the anniversary was coming up prior to the actual date.

When I first started back in 2004, I used a platform provided by my internet service provider for a total of two entries. It was quickly clear that their set up was not suitable for blogging. I ended up switching to Movable Type which I stayed on for awhile until Drew McManus invited me to join the Inside The Arts platform.  I am glad he did because the technical requirements for maintaining the blog were quickly outstripping my ability and interest.

Happily, Drew was far more skilled in such things. And while his focus on expanding his business to provide websites and ticketing CRM for arts organizations led to the sunsetting his blog, Adaptistration, his company embodies the same approach as his blog–providing useful tools and advice for arts and cultural organizations. At one time you might have read his posts or attended conference sessions on how to effectively use Google Analytics or analyze 990 filings for orchestra compensation. Now he focuses on making it easier for customers to learn about organizations, events, and feel comfortable rather than overwhelmed purchasing tickets.

While I didn’t initially mean to make this post an ad for his company, I have known Drew a long time, and our conversations have informed many of my posts. (He recently commented in a Zoom conference that I was the attendee he had known the longest and met in person the least.)

However, my initial inspiration to start blogging was another Andrew — Andrew Taylor, who writes the Artful Manager blog. I actually wrote to him with a comment on one of his posts shortly before starting my blog and he included my response in a later post. (Mine is the one about Chick tracts) I was so thrilled, I made it the subject of my second blog post.

There have been a lot of people who have influenced my thinking over the years. At the risk of overlooking some important ones, I will cite Carter Gilles and Nina Simon as being among those who have helped to shift my thinking and improve the way I operate professionally. The point being, this blog hasn’t emerged from a vacuum but stands on the shoulders of giants who have come before.

When I look back at some of my earlier posts, I have to cringe at some as I compare where I am now philosophically and professionally. Certainly others have stood the test of time. This blog does reflect much of the general thought about how arts and cultural organizations should operate so it is also a testament to how the general thought has evolved over the last two decades.

My view is that things have been moving in a more constructive direction in terms of being more audience and community-centric. This has manifested in orientations toward welcoming and inclusivity for community members, but also staff and volunteers. There have been increased implementation of policies to create better work environments for employees at all levels, including interns and apprentices.

Yes, there are still a ton of hostile work environments out there. You don’t have to look far or hard to find stories about organizational leaders who seem to be intentionally doing the worst they can to make people miserable. I have written about a lot of them. But you can absolutely see examples of organizations who are breaking away from the long seated mentality of the show must go on even if it destroys you/you have to pay your dues like I did/suffer for your art.

Thanks to all of you who have been reading all the while

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/)

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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