This is an amazing address about the current state of the performing arts (particularly theater). Diane Ragsdale is Associate Program Officer at The Mellon Foundation and my new idol. There’s too much in here to unpack in this blog post, but some highlights:
* In her article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy,”Let’s Put the Word ‘Nonprofit’ Out of Business”Claire Gaudiani has proposed that we replace the word “nonprofit” with “social profit.” I like this idea because it encourages us to remember that we are nonprofits because we exist to create value for society, rather than profits for shareholders. It reminds us that, we exist within a social and cultural context-and if that context changes, then we must change.
* What about patron as critic? If the consumer has achieved taste-making status artryay, then why not
elevate seasoned patrons to the role of reviewers and encourage them to write formal reviews, posted
as blogs on your Web sites? I was the managing director of On the Boards in Seattle prior to coming
to the Foundation. The artistic director, Lane Czaplinski, and I (with the help of Doug Mclennan of
ArtsJoumal.com) started apatron review blog in late 2003. It’s been incredibly successful. We
found that patron reviews not only give your organization critical information about what patrons are
thinking, but help patrons build community, and improve their capacities to process, discuss and
understand what they have experienced-in other words, develop cultural literacy. A blog
welcomes and promotes alternate viewpoints from those espoused by the local art critic and people
may trust your patron reviews more than they trust the local critic, anyway.
* Whether you’re trying to reach younger or more diverse audiences, like Center Stage, you need to do
it consistently and authentically and you may need to be prepared to lose some current patrons in
order to gain new ones.
There’s tons and tons more. You must read this.