How Long Before You Can Only Participate If You Bring A Phone?

I was scanning an article on Arts Professional website and might have quickly moved on except the phrase “not for someone like me” caught my eye. That was a phrase that appeared in the last CultureTrack survey as a barrier to participation for people who didn’t normally attend arts events.

In the case of the article on Arts Professional, the author, Katie Moffat, theorizes that lack of digital access might be the reason some people cite “not for me” as a barrier to participation in a program designed to involve people in the creative process.

The Creative People and Places (CPP) programme has the explicit aim of enabling people in areas of low cultural engagement and infrastructure to take the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in art experiences where they live. As such, it offers a new model for the co-creation of a more democratic, locally-determined culture.

Our research has found that digital exclusion is a typical issue in the communities that CPPs work with…One of the largest groups of non-users of the internet is the so-called ‘not for me’ camp . This attitude may be due to people’s fear of using it, or a sense that it is not relevant to their lives. In a recent BBC podcast , Dr Josie Barnard explains: “People often say that getting online is just ‘not for me’, but this may well be an excuse to hide any shame or embarrassment about not being able to use a computer”.

In addition to a lack of comfort or expertise in using technology,  lacking access to computers, broadband and smartphones may contribute to “not for me” sentiment.

For as much as we might underestimate how adroitly older patrons are using technology and the internet, it is also necessary to acknowledge that as promotional efforts shift online-ward toward social media, websites and other technologies, this presents an increasing barrier to entry for a segment of the population without ability and access to online sources.

The Arts Professional article notes that arts and cultural entities are well-positioned provide enjoyable creative experiences leading to increased technical literacy.

However, that doesn’t address the lack of a computer or handheld device, as hard as it may be to believe that anyone lacks a smartphone these days. The head not bowed reverently regarding a phone is the exception.

Discomfort with physical space, perceived dress code, and unfamiliar rules and ritual are often cited as barriers to participation for arts and culture organizations. Do we/will we need to add technology access to that list?

It is easily within the realm of possibility that equipment supporting virtual reality or holographic experience will emerge in the near future. Couple that with the need to subscribe to a variety of service providers (until Disney consolidates all under its gaze) delivered at a certain speed in order to share an experience with other members of your community.

Ack! My Sculpture Is Overdue And I Want To Borrow Some Pottery

Recently saw an article on the BBC website about a gallery in Cambridge, England that has been loaning out art to students for 60 years and has never had a piece damaged or lost.

I have written about this sort of arrangement before. Oberlin College has been doing it since the 1940s and has never had a problem, and they appear to be loaning out pieces with a lot more market value than the gallery in Cambridge.  On the other end of the longevity spectrum, the Akron Art Museum and Akron-Summit County Public Library started teaming up to lend out art works about a year or so ago.

But as I soon discovered, there are quite a number of universities, libraries and visual arts institutions that have been lending out art works for quite some time now. (University of Minnesota as far back as 1934)

Here is a brief list I found in a Hyperallergic post in 2018:

Sure enough, a piece appeared on Hyperallergic about 10 days ago listing or linking to visual art lending programs at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver,  Braddock Carnegie Library,  Minneapolis Art Lending Library , Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Williams College, Kenyon College, University of Minnesota, Harvard, University of Chicago, University of California, Berkley.

I post about this again because even though this is my fourth post on the subject, it wasn’t long before these programs slipped my mind. These all seem like great efforts to get art into the hands and homes of people who might not have opportunity and access and perhaps reduce the perceptual barriers people have about art not being for them.

Next week, my city is participating in its second community wide On The Table discussion and I want to bring these type of programs up as an idea of something that might be done here. If I hadn’t seen the BBC article, I wouldn’t have remembered. I want to reference my previous posts again to remind my readers and hopefully inspire you into action.

Gradually Finding The Leader Within

Long time readers know I am a fan of Peter Drucker’s short piece, Managing Oneself.  It has been awhile since I have sung its praises so it is timely that a TEDx Talk by Lars Sudmann about self-leadership came across my social media feeds recently.

Actually, it was a written summary of the talk on the TED website that initially came to my attention.

One of the first things I appreciated about Sudmann’s talk was that he acknowledged that good leadership is a lot easier in theory than in practice. As a subordinate, we always have ideas running through our heads about how we would do a better job than our bosses if we were in charge. Then when we are actually put in charge, we get bogged down with all the details and demands for our time.

Sudmann talks about walking in to his first staff meeting, resolved to be an inspiring, dynamic and awesome leader only to have the conversation bogged down by a discussion of email signature files.

Where I really agree with Sudmann is his suggestion that self-reflection and introspection is one of the most important traits of a good leader. It isn’t enough to simply make a list of your strengths and weaknesses and acknowledge them, you have to be in the practice of evaluating your daily decisions and activities.

Drucker covers this in his piece too. He urges people to become aware of their strengths and what they need to become better and encourages people to share how they work best with co-workers as a way of enlisting their in providing materials and opportunities in a manner that aids your improvement.

Sudmann cites Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher recognized as one of the better Roman Emperors, who focused much of his time practicing self-leadership versus trying to lead others.

Sudmann suggests that a little self-examination can result in a realization that we share many of the traits we dislike about those we consider bad leaders. You can do the same thing with the traits you admire in others:

Every day, take 5- 10 minutes to think about the challenges you’ve recently handled and the ones you’ll soon face. While Marcus Aurelius was fond of reflecting in the evening, Sudmann likes doing this over morning coffee. Questions to pose include: “How did my leadership go yesterday? How would the leader I’d like to be have faced the challenges I faced? What about my challenges today? What could I do differently?” Write down your thoughts so you can refer back to them and learn from them.

Prioritizing issues is also an important part of leadership. If you hadn’t guessed it already, a discussion about email signatures shouldn’t occupy important staff meetings.

You should engage with 9s and 10s right away, but you’ll find that many things which shatter your calm will be of lesser importance. With anything that’s a 6 or lower, either excuse yourself physically (“I need to take a quick break; be right back”) or figuratively (“Let me take a minute to go over what you’ve said”). Then, give yourself a moment to think: “How would the leader I aspire to be handle this situation?” The answer will come to you.

There are pretty much direct parallels between strategic plans and developing leadership skills. Just as you shouldn’t put a strategic plan on a shelf after investing time in examining the state of your organization and creating a plan to guide the organization into the future, you don’t want to scrutinize your strengths and weaknesses and do nothing to address them until the next crisis or next scheduled board/supervisor evaluation.

I also see parallels between the approach Sudmann  espouses and Arts Midwest’s Creating Connection initiative.  (You knew I was going to tie something back to that sooner or later!)  Just as building public will for arts and culture is a long term plan focused on continuous improvement and consistent messaging, so too is the process of becoming a better leader.

 

Let Me Tell You What You Can Do With That Phone

Hat tip to Howard Sherman for calling attention to a New York Times article about cell phone use at live performances that the paper has set up as an study guide/student discussion resource.

The article opens with a video of Joshua Henry taking a phone from an audience member and tossing it under the seating riser (without missing a note in his song), noting that Henry had already been indicating his disapproval with being recorded for three songs.

It also mentions the recent incident in Cincinnati when violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter stopped in the middle of a Beethoven concerto to call out a woman recording her performance.

The New York Times article poses a number of questions for students to consider and discuss.  While I feel the questions are a little leading toward certain answers, they, or questions like them, could prove useful as a starting point for arts & cultural organizations as part of a conversation with younger audiences (or potential audiences) about their expectations.

I will say, of the student responses made in the article comments section, there were more inclined against the use of phones than I had expected. Many of the commenters were from the same school so perhaps they were generated by like-minded friends.

There is also an opportunity to have those participating in a discussion you host do a little more research on whatever scenario is being discussed.

For example, when I first learned about Annie-Sophie Mutter stopping the performance, my impression was that the person in the audience had only just started recording a short snippet. In later interviews, Mutter said the woman recorded the whole first movement and then pulled out another phone and an external power source and started recording the second movement. This adds a little more context for a discussion.

Making audiences of all ages feel welcome at performances and other cultural events will inevitably require addressing the issue of recording. I suspect that other than luck and perceptive ability, the more constructive policies will result from having conversations with audiences rather than by straight fiat or debating about it in the comments section of websites.

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