Next To Pick Up The Reins

Since there is a bit of a cross-readership, many of you may have already seen that Drew McManus announced yesterday that he was going to cease posting regularly on the Adaptistration blog. Drew is one of the few people who has been posting on the topic of arts management longer than I have.  Way back when he reached out to me about moving my blog from the Movable Type platform I was on to the Insidethearts.com site back in the early days of WordPress.

In his post, Drew noted that even after posting for 18 years, potential topics of discussion have not been exhausted.

Having said that, it still feels very odd to reach the realization that it’s time to stop while simultaneously having no shortage of ideas and topics that deserve attention…but it’s also clear that now is the time to let new voices step in and pick up that conversation. The emerging practice of audition fees, virtual audition practices, underpaid/overworked staff, the post-pandemic compensation reports, and so much more are all issues that need the sunlight of public examination in a non-partisan environment.

I will readily admit that the blog format has gradually fallen out of favor. My active readership has gradually decreased over the years. But I am also pretty clear that I am writing as much to help myself work through thoughts about arts policy and practice as informing a readership. Just as many people have a daily discipline of writing in a personal journal, I am mulling things over publicly.

My intent is to continue writing this blog, but as Drew says I equally hope new voices step up and address topics of concern for the arts and culture field.

Whos And Hows Of TikTok For Arts Orgs

By some fortuitous coincidence, I was digging into my news feed backlog and read Seema Rao’s Museum 2.0 post on guidelines for museum Tiktok accounts on the same day Ceci Dadisman put out an appeal to crowdsource a list of good non profit arts organization Tiktok accounts.

Many of Rao’s tips are basic guidelines for all communications employed by non-profits, regardless of medium or platform. They include avoiding insider terminology and only focusing on concepts that appeal to insider interests.

  • Learn their language rather than making them learn ours. My whole challenge is finding analogies between other Tiktok videos and art. If you’re not familiar with Tiktok, you might not know about duets. People reshare other peoples videos with that commentary. I used that popular format but to share ideas about art. Sure, I could have done short traditional videos about artworks. But that is less popular on Tiktok. Why try to get people to my ideas in a way they are less likely to like?

  • Remember people want to learn about art for fun. They are not doing it because it’s good for them. So don’t make it a chore for them. It might be our job, but it’s their time off.

  • Even if people like art, they don’t have much scaffolding. I have a core group of art lovers who know about art. The vast majority of commenters have basic questions or thank me for discussing basic elements. Schools teach less art, and so our visitors have taken less. It makes them no less interested. But it does mean we need to remember that when communicating about art.

  • People don’t care about museums, just the stuff inside them. Museum people, particularly boards, think visitors are excited by museums themselves. Sure, storage, art theft, removing varnish are interesting, but that’s because they look cool. Very few people are jazzed at hearing about the history of your museum.

The one that really caught my eye advised using personal, rather than institutional accounts with the idea that the former was viewed as more credible and personal:

People trust people to tell them about art. While I only recently put my real name, I’ve often had people say they like my approach to talking about art. I’d previously done Tiktoks for a museum account, and I never had as much pick up on videos. I think people want to hear from an authentic human voice rather than a brand.

While all of the accounts on Ceci Dadisman’s list were institutional accounts, the ones that seemed most appealing were those that didn’t seem to be directed by the marketing department. For example, The Royal Opera House and Met Museum pages featured video of artists performing and artworks in a gallery setting.

The Warhol Museum account seems to be entirely curated by their youth creative team and comes at the artist and work from a number of perspectives like how David Bowie and Ozzy Osborne viewed Andy Warhol and the canvas which Warhol had his friends urinate on.

Likewise, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has field researchers talk about collecting ants by sucking them into a tube and the hazards of having them in your mouth if you aren’t careful. (Also, making bad jokes)

And of course, the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis collection lends itself to all sorts of opportunities by itself, but the Tiktok account lets folks know the organization isn’t just for kids.

So check out Seema’s post for more thoughts on how to do Tiktoks well and Ceci’s post to add accounts you know of to a Google doc so others can see what people are doing well.

“We Have A Culture of Paying Artists”

Always happy to draw attention to the good work of arts organizations, I was pleased to get a comment on yesterday’s post about creating contests and engagement events which expect artists to work on spec.

In her comment, Eva Buttacavoli, Executive Director of The Contemporary Dayton in Ohio writes about her organization’s efforts to create the expectation that artists should be paid for their work.

In EVERYTHING we do, we have and will continue to, pay artists for their work. We actually also pay for all RFP finalists’ specs – and, as the city’s art center, we use requests for art (for festivals, lobbies, walls in blighted areas), to teach community leaders (and the folks who ultimately write the checks) that we have a culture of and expectation to pay artists – and we actually will not help promote or support any project that does not. Our artists have learned to champion themselves and their work – and have passed that expectation along to most projects for which they are invited.

She includes a link to a recent effort where artists designs were used on vinyl wraps placed on electric boxes around downtown which seems like a fun idea for other communities to pick up on – https://www.downtowndayton.org/artwraps/

Design Ain’t Free

Last week Hyperallergic ran a piece asking why the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY) with a budget of $1.9 billion was asking artists to submit proposals to decorate their trucks for free.

While the artists will supposedly retain all rights to their work,

…artists will receive no compensation, and that they will grant both DSNY and partner organization the Sanitation Foundation the “royalty-free, non-exclusive right to use and/or reproduce the designs for non-commercial and/or educational purposes.”

Artists will have three, seven hour work days to execute their design on a truck at the end of September.

NYC based artists, who face the city’s high cost of living are concerned about the lack of compensation in return for helping DSNY realize their goals.

A few weeks earlier I saw a similar conversation occur in response to a call by an arts advocacy group for submissions of images to be used in a national ad campaign. The winning designer would be compensated for their work. The issue was that artists were being asked to design for a major project on spec without any compensation.

If a designer is doing a logo for a local company, there is a significant amount of work they invest in research, multiple design iterations, etc,. If they are working on spec, that is a lot of time and energy invested that could be spent on other projects with guaranteed payment. For something that would be used nationally in a promotional/awareness campaign, they would likely invest that multiples more effort into research and design with the goal of making it as perfect as possible.

This is something to keep in mind when running poster contents or similar projects in relation to your arts organization. The goal of raising awareness and engagement with your organization is often a worthy one, but evaluate whether it is being done with full consideration of the time and effort that will be required to complete the task to the apparent standard. It is probably best to consult with someone who does similar work before soliciting submissions because what you imagine is a 20 minute effort may actually require two days at minimum.