Friday, June 26, 2009

Arts Advocacy Breakfast

I'm going to keep this breif, because I'm starting to lose my temper a little bit, and i've got a tour to book.

Went to the breakfast in the park that Johnathan West organized. There's going to be another one of these in two weeks, and i intend to go to that one too.

From my experience studying and participating in political action, i offer the following reccomendations.

There is one thing that will make this work: combined forces.

Here's how to combine forces successfully:

1. Connect with the remnants of past efforts.
2. Balance the present individual acute problem with broader future efforts.
3. devise two transparent processes one to develop actionable responses to acute problems and one to develop and strengthen a proactive long term presense.
4. hold frequent real life meetings that produce results.

More details on these things.

1. It was very good to see people from MARN and Arts Inc there. This kind of action is cyclical, if you're not building on the efforts of previous advocates, then you're spinning your wheels and going nowhere. MARN seems like it used to do more agressive advocacy (brenner) and now it's more network focused. This is a good thing, cuz MARN's failures in advocacy probably came from too limited a network. This is an opportunity to bring performing artists into MARN, and use the resources they've already built to pursue advocacy.

2. Skylight cannot hyjack the proceedings. Before the next meeting the aggreived members of Skylight ought to develop and two things to present the larger group: first, a consise report on exactly what happened and why. Second, an action plan, what they'd like the broader community to do to support them. It is then essential that Skylight people participate in, make room for and listen to other greivances as well. I'm only using Skylight as an example here because it is the current acute problem, not because i think musical theatre actors are self-dramatizing divas with short attention spans.

3. the first process has to start with what i just described above. The group needs to establish a lean, effective standard proceedure for raising issues, and recommending action. We can't spend the whole meeting time brainstorming ideas, the ideas should be prepared ahead of time and presented. To some degree, the right process was already happening today, but if we have twice or three times as big a group in two weeks, it's gotta happen more to make things effective.

The second process also already started today, some very goal oriented stuff was discussed, both short term and long term goals. Paula mentioned building enough clout to get a seat at the table for artists when the big fancy people are meeting behind their closed doors, she also mentioned influencing elections. These are good ideas. Prioritize them and develop them into either actions (volunteering for arts friendly politicians) or demands ("Hey GMC! if you want any of these 4000 artists to help realize your fancy-pants creative development plan, you've gotta save a seat for us at your meetings from now on, and you've gotta let us elect the person who sits in that seat").

4. If something like these reccomendations are followed, and actions are employed, this group can get results. If the procedures and discussions are made public, then this will grow.

These are my reccomendations, as a scholar of political activism, not my personal feelings (i'm not really a fan of political activism). My personal feelings are: let the 38 people who don't know each other on the board of the skylight pay half attention while eric dillner burns the company down, and then sing and dance in the ashes. Form new companies, use new models, skip that 501c3 bullshit. But, my personal feelings aren't very useful to people who wanna do showtunes, so in the meantime, i'll help you guys do your best to empower artists within the old models.

I am more excited about this than any of the other milwaukee artist community stuff that's been going on. This art advocacy is different than the coalition's, the CA's or the GMC's. This is transparent, personal and grassroots. When Johnathan says "arts advocacy" he seems to mean something more like "artist advocacy". This distinction is important, "arts advocacy" tends to be much more careful, shallow and empty, advocating the arts as an idea, which can perversely undermine art by empowering arts administrators who have no respect for artists. Creative coalition stuff strikes me as a bunch of meetings where people decide who should talk about making plans on how to create the outline of a map for doing things in a way that makes sure they'll not fail, cuz that might make the GMC look bad. Johnathan's is grassroots, transparent, unafraid of getting dirty, and puts the artists first.

1 comment:

Valorie Schleicher said...

I was there this morning as a Visual Artist supporting Art in my community. I do consider myself an Arts Advocate, but not the kind you describe above, (CA GMC) but rather a true Advocate for Artists & Art in the community.

A plan starts with voices our voices.

I believe that the one strength we all have in supporting our Passions is to support each other. I heard that this morning. To build a stronger community of Artists that is heard as "One Voice" we need to stand up and be counted, together all Art lovers and Artists in all mediums.

I agree that some Art Advocate groups seem to advocate for themselves, it's about "My Group" "My Organization", and (they) don't need/want the Artists opinions or give them a seat at our table. However, some use the Artists' for their own gain whether it be for profit or non-profit. We have a lot of those groups but few that truly Respect the "Artist" the Art Lover and their passion for Art.

(Below insert your art profession for "you" and my art profession for "me" or art lover for either)

I know that we can come together as one voice, in support of and for each other, and when you can't be your own voice I can be there to be your voice and when I can't, you will be there for me. Isn’t that what life is all about learning how to choose and choosing how to learn. I choose to support my passion of Art and its Artists working in all mediums! I look forward to standing with all of you to create a stronger voice.

I will be there in two weeks, thanks for the public post which is how I found all of you and I look forward to a stronger Art Community. Sitting down now, but see you soon.
Valorie Schleicher
Artist & Arts Advocate