Choose Yourself Over The Long Haul

Seth Godin had posted on the 150th anniversary of Impressionism which is benchmarked from the April 15, 1874 art exhibition organized by a number of artists whose work had been refused by the prestigious Salon de Paris.  The original show by the “Refused,” as Godin terms them, included 31 artists, among them were Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Alfred Sisley, Berthe Morisot and Paul Cézanne.

Godin notes that first exhibition was a failure, not even attracting 1% of the Salon show and garnering largely negative reviews.

One of the most positive things to come from the exhibit was a scathing satirical piece, the one that gave the impressionists their name. The insecure critics came to regret their inability to see what was possible.

And yet, the artists persisted. Year after year, eight times, gaining momentum each time, they returned, working their way from outsiders to become the dominant form of artistic expression of their time.

But most of all, so much easier today than in Paris 150 years ago, these individual painters did two things: They picked themselves and they did it together.

I am amused to learn that the Impressionist name actually came from a satiric piece.

I am not sure the moral of this story is to stick with it and one day you will succeed. There were 31 people who participated in the first event, but most of their names are unknown.

While I agree with Godin that it is important to pick yourself and that it is easier to do today than it was 150 years ago, eight years is an eternity in terms of trend and tastes and people’s expectations of results. Success might be possible sooner, but how many people have the endurance to wait that long to gain recognition.

That said, I still remember seeing Sen. John Fetterman speak at an APAP conference when he was still mayor of Braddock, PA and spoke about an observation Sen. Arlen Spector made about it taking seven years for any sort of policy to garner enough momentum and support to become implemented.

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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