Happy New Year, everyone!
One of my goals in starting C&A was to facilitate sharing information. We don’t all have the same interests, education, and experiences, and can’t become experts on everything. But we can learn a great deal from each other – even if only to find out what we need to learn, and to have access to a real, live person who can answer questions or guide further research. Throughout my career, our “tribe” has been the most important place to which I’ve gone for advice and information. I hope you will also come to feel, through our network, that what you need is just an email or phone call (or two) away.
So, I’ll start. My main area of interest is arts administration and policy. These may sound like two different things, but they’re not really. I’m a big believer in going to the sources of words to understand them better, so let’s look to the etymology of “administration” and “policy.” “Administer” comes from Latin, ad- (to) + ministrere (serve – same root word as “minister”) and “policy” goes through several iterations back to the original Greek root word polis (city, state).
I really like the “servant” nuance in the administrator’s role, and it helps keep me grounded (and enthusiastic) when it feels like I’m crunching numbers and going to meetings while others make something beautiful happen in the rehearsal hall or art studio. And although the common use of the term “policy” does relate mostly to governmental actions and lawmaking, every polis (whether city, state, church, school, whatever) makes and implements policies. So, I like to think that “doing” arts administration and policy means serving our community (however it’s defined) through the arts.
This may sound like a bit of a stretch, but it’s more in line with how the term “arts policy” is being used in the world today than simply describing the creation of laws relating to the arts. Arts policy discussions now include arts in education, arts-related research, community and economic development through the arts, and more.*
And, in my studies and observation of arts policy, I see a lot of issues being raised that we also deal with in the church but maybe don’t realize are broader issues. How do we talk about the intangible aspects of what we do with those who want to see facts and figures? How do we rationalize spending money and energy on the arts when other needs can seem more urgent and important (and where do we find that money and energy)? How can we be true to our creative calling, and the “truth” we feel led to tell, yet still honor differing values among those whom we serve?
In future blogs, I’ll be talking more about these types of questions, how they’re being addressed within the “secular” arts policy world today, and how they might impact us within the church. I’ll review a book I’m reading, The Social Impact of the Arts, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting in paperback for almost two years, and I’ll also summarize a report, “The Arts Ripple Effect,” from ArtsWave of Cincinnati. Formerly called Fine Arts Fund, ArtsWave took the big step of changing its whole mission from simply financially supporting individual arts organizations to taking on a larger role as a catalyst for building community through the arts, which has some definite resonances for our work.
I found out about the ArtsWave report at Fractured Atlas’ blog post, “The Top 10 Arts Policy Stories of 2010.” Fractured Atlas is an arts support organization that offers many valuable services, including a series of (free) online professional development courses for artists. The blog would also give you a good overview of the types of issues the arts policy world is considering, including the more politically-oriented ones if that’s your particular interest.
Blessings on your work,
*Americans often prefer the term “arts policy” over the term “cultural policy,” which is more widely used internationally. Americans tend to recoil at the historical use of culture-as-propaganda in some regimes – which is one reason why Americans also can be particularly suspicious of the underlying political/social motives of a work of art, an artist, or the arts in general. I may address this another time, but it is important to state here that C&A does not engage in political advocacy or activism. We represent wide-ranging political views and are only, as a network, interested in serving our churches, schools, communities, and one another in whatever ways God leads us. Apolitical “advocacy” in general is one of C&A’s goals, as we promote the value of the arts and how they reflect and affect God’s kingdom, but how individual network members choose to proceed is strictly personal.