This is what I hope Santa Claus brings for Christmas this Saturday:
1. Board members of arts organization who remember their missions. While most arts organizations have missions that relate to bringing arts and arts education to their communities, many board members really believe that the missions of their organizations are to break even. They believe that cutting budgets and doing less is satisfactory as long as the budget is balanced. We need to remember that doing less and doing less important work does not achieve the mission. And, in fact, it works against the possibility of achieving a balanced budget.
2. Arts leaders who focus on training the next generation of arts leaders. We are nearing a dangerous point when an entire generation of arts leaders will retire. This is a very difficult time for the arts because of a challenging economy, an increasing number of electronic substitutes putting pressure on our prices, and a generation of young people with no arts background. We need trained, sophisticated arts managers to see the arts world through the next 20 years. The only people who can provide this training are those in the current generation of arts leaders but we have been so busy running our organizations that we have ignored the needs of our field.
3. Political leaders to remember that almost 6 million Americans are employed in the arts, that we are a main motivator of tourism and that we generate billions of dollars of economic activity. We are not just an effete interest group serving the elite. We are a potent sector of the economy in virtually every community, providing service to all Americans. Arts organizations can help build greater appreciation for our field by doing a better job of institutional marketing. If the work we did in our communities was more visible, it would be harder for political leaders to dismiss it.
4. Superintendants of schools, school board members and principals who remember that we live in an economy far different from the one when they were in school. The majority of economic activity is no longer tied to manufacturing. We need our children to be creative problem solvers if they are to be successful and if our nation is to thrive. The arts are a great and inexpensive way to help children exercise their creative muscles. We in the arts need to collaborate with the leaders of our school systems so a meaningful arts education program can be available for every student.
5. Arts organizations that are willing to work together on projects of great impact that surprise and enchant our communities. We are far too competitive with each other. Yet in many communities, we have failed to create broad visibility for our collective work. This hampers our fundraising and ticket selling activities. We will only thrive if we create work that exceeds the capabilities of any one of our organizations. And then we have a far better chance of achieving our missions.
I know I am being greedy asking for so much.
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