Finding happiness in this new year is hardly the easiest chore one can take on. In my travels to Washington, DC and New York City over the past week, I have encountered individuals who are frightened, confused, and at a minimum, quite concerned about the current realities facing arts organizations.
Three occurrences are happening at once. The rapid erosion of trust in institutions; a redefinition of the power structures that have been setting the meta agenda; and a rethinking of what is fundamentally important—both to the individual and to community. Taken as a whole, this implies that no enterprise is immune to scrutiny, no matter how venerable, noble, or historically significant…whether they be established museums, theatres, orchestras or the like. As I stated in the New York Times a few days ago, organizations who take this moment seriously will need to move from a place of comfort and complacency to one of relevance and adaptability. Relevance meaning that the priorities of the institution are made with, not for their commmunity, and adaptive in that old ways of getting business done give way to innovation and entrapreneurial thinking about engagement and sustainability—and how the formers actually serves the latter. Thinking creatively must trump merely surviving—and in doing such thinking, three strategies are timely for contemplation: increased impact through consolidation (new alliances and mergers); decreasing the importance of arbitrary barriers in the field (professional/amateur, for profit/non profit) to stimulate fresh possibilities; and new models of leadership (more distributed/less concentrated) as a means of bringing artists and trustees into roles of real organizational responsibility.