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Entering Cultural Communities

Entering Cultural Communities: Diversity and Change in the Nonprofit Arts

Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Entering Cultural Communities
    Book Description:

    Arts organizations once sought patrons primarily from among the wealthy and well educated, but for many decades now they have revised their goals as they seek to broaden their audiences. Today, museums, orchestras, dance companies, theaters, and community cultural centers try to involve a variety of people in the arts. They strive to attract a more racially and ethnically diverse group of people, those from a broader range of economic backgrounds, new immigrants, families, and youth.The chapters in this book draw on interviews with leaders, staff, volunteers, and audience members from eighty-five nonprofit cultural organizations to explore how they are trying to increase participation and the extent to which they have been successful. The insiders' accounts point to the opportunities and challenges involved in such efforts, from the reinvention of programs and creation of new activities, to the addition of new departments and staff dynamics, to partnerships with new groups. The authors differentiate between "relational" and "transactional" practices, the former term describing efforts to build connections with local communities and the latter describing efforts to create new consumer markets for cultural products. In both cases, arts leaders report that, although positive results are difficult to measure conclusively, long-term efforts bring better outcomes than short-term activities.The organizations discussed include large, medium, and small nonprofits located in urban, suburban, and rural areas-from large institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Walker Art Center, the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, and the San Francisco Symphony to many cultural organizations that are smaller, but often known nationally for their innovative work, such as AS220, The Loft Literary Center, Armory Center for the Arts, Appalshop, and the Western Folklife Center.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4495-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    It takes more than a building, good art, or an interesting program to attract people to the arts. In fact, the adage “if you build it they will come” might make a good storyline for a movie, but it doesn’t describe how people are drawn to participate in the arts. It takes much more than the awesome sight of a majestic building, the titillation of an arts controversy, or the advertising for a blockbuster show for the arts to come alive to a wide variety of people and, in turn, to become part of their daily lives. When it happens,...

  6. 1 Building Arts Participation through Transactions, Relationships, or Both
    (pp. 13-37)

    Arts organizations today find themselves in a dilemma. The artistic mission essentially involves a long-term proposition: that is, to make an important and lasting contribution to the creation and preservation of culture. Yet participation-building strategies until recently have largely been conceived as target-driven, strategic operations—essentially shortterm activities designed to identify and convert new audiences. In theory, arts organizations identify desirable groups to add to or more deeply involve in the work of their organizations, then set a course to reach their goals. But just like sailing a boat into the wind, arts organizations have at times found themselves tacking,...

  7. 2 Changing Culture and Practices Inside Organizations
    (pp. 38-63)

    All organizations that are launching efforts to develop new customer/audience relationships and new levels of participation—whether by deepening the experience of current audiences or by expanding the organization’s reach to newcomers—will face the need to change at least some aspects of the way they operate. At the very least, they will need to reexamine their practices of doing business as usual. Despite organizational differences in artistic genre, size, age, depth of staff, or mission, cultural organizations such as museums, dance companies, theaters, literary arts groups, musical groups, presenters, arts learning centers, and community cultural centers share some common...

  8. 3 Leaders Bridging the Culture Gap
    (pp. 64-90)

    As arts organizations large and small seek to increase the size and diversity of their audiences, they discover not only gaps in their rosters of enlisted supporters but something much more substantial: a culture gap. This is the difference between what the institution has traditionally done to engage audiences and what it needs to do to attract new kinds of participation from its community. Leaders are challenged with identifying ways to bridge this culture gap. Who in fact are these leaders, and what role do they play in the process of building, sustaining, and institutionalizing relationships with underserved communities? In...

  9. 4 Partnering with Purpose
    (pp. 91-113)

    Like most businesses large and small operating in today’s global economy, arts organizations are increasingly seeking to engage in arrangements that include alliances and joint ventures, formal partnerships, and informal collaborations. This chapter focuses specifically on relationship building among organizations—in particular, investigating how organizations share resources or engage the resources of others in efforts to build arts participation. External relationships among organizations provide a range of direct benefits in the process of building participation, including increasing organizational capacity, increasing the credibility and legitimacy of participating organizations, and providing access to skills, technology, space, or other desirable goods. Organizational collaboration...

  10. 5 Building Youth Participation
    (pp. 114-142)

    “It’s modern, unpredictable, fun, eclectic.” If this describes your cultural organization, you may already have a sizable audience of youthful participants. For many, however, attracting teenagers or families with young children or even young adults in their twenties and early thirties presents a daunting challenge. Despite the fact that all adults once passed through these life stages themselves, the pace of social change in the early twenty-first century makes the world of contemporary youth feel like a foreign country.

    We live in an era and a culture in which youth is a potent economic and social force, in terms of...

  11. 6 Diversifying the Arts: Bringing in Race and Ethnic Perspectives
    (pp. 143-170)

    It is not only the young who are the new audience members for the future, but a more racially and ethnically diverse range of adults who have not been significantly visible in the audiences for mainstream arts. For most of U.S. history, the “fine arts” have been dominated by European artistic traditions and cultural values and consumed by a culturally specific audience that was predominantly white, Anglo-European, highly educated, and upper- to middle-class in background. Many cultural organizations with this audience profile have understood themselves as representing “Culture,” rather than “a culture.” The awareness that there are other traditions, values,...

  12. 7 High-Tech Transactions and Cyber-Communities
    (pp. 171-193)

    Many nonprofit arts organizations have entered the information age by doing what they do best: experimenting. However, they may not anticipate that their efforts to use new technology as tools to build participation have the potential to lead them either into a technological black hole that requires ever greater input of resources and expertise or into new, higher-quality program delivery and expanded opportunities for participation building. When talking about technology and art, the focus of conversation often moves to the most recent buzz—in 2006, it was podcasting, a topic we discuss in this chapter. We also take a broader...

  13. 8 Creative Reinvention: From “One Book” to “Animals on Parade,” How Good Ideas Spread Like Wildfire
    (pp. 194-220)

    New efforts to build relationships among organizations have led to the creation of an organizational context that encourages program sharing and reinvention. Reinvention is a programming concept that seeks to stimulate exponential expansion of participation outside of a single organizational boundary through the collective reuse and reframing of programming themes. Program reinvention is distinct from program replication, where a program model is not intended to be changed. Rather, reinvention occurs because of an implicit or explicit invitation for others to take ownership of the idea by reinventing it in forms relevant to their own organization and local audience. As a...

  14. 9 Achieving Success
    (pp. 221-247)

    This book has offered numerous examples of the ways in which arts organizations are building new relationships with communities and with a new base of customers, and in the process adding to the range of support they receive from public agencies, private donors, and various foundations. Unlike the commercial entertainment industry or national markets for the sale and resale of art objects, where profit is the first and most important measure of success, nonprofit arts organizations do not have the luxury of such a straightforward measure of their achievements. Although they also exist within the larger profit-driven economic system, they...

  15. Postscript
    (pp. 248-254)

    Leading nonprofit arts organizations throughout the United States are creatively finding ways to involve a broader range of participants, consumers, and partners from their local communities. These leaders are strategically reaching beyond the traditional audiences of the educated elite—the group that has historically supported the arts through their donations and patronage—to build expanded future support on a wider base. This study has shown how nonprofit cultural organizations interested in expanding or diversifying their rosters of participants have now reached a critical moment in the project of change, with the need to move beyond individual approaches to participation building...

  16. Appendix
    (pp. 255-264)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 265-270)
  18. List of Interviews Cited
    (pp. 271-278)
  19. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 279-280)
  20. Index
    (pp. 281-298)