Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Making Them Ours: An Approach to Arts Advocacy

Today I received an email from Richard Simon, artistic director of the Mosaic Theatre, passing on an article about the soon to come drastic budget cuts in Broward County. Richard didn't say anything in his email, just passed on the bad news.

And it is bad news. I'm unsure why the commission is dead-set on not raising taxes, considering all the losses from the cuts so far.

I'm hoping that this bad news will be used as a rallying cry -- similar to how the Miami-Dade Arts Community rallied in support of the arts last year. These calls to action are important and vital to the continued support of the arts everywhere.

But I think that arts advocates need to think more broadly, more deeply. Instead of waiting to show how relevant, how vital we are to the communities we serve when we're in danger of cuts, we need to be doing this all the time.

At the Unitarian Universalist Florida District Assembly, Gini Courter, the Unitarian Universalist Moderator told a story about a congregation who had an influx of GBLT members after supporting GLBT rights at a protest. This congregation rented out their building to another faith community, and someone who was visiting the visiting faith community left homophobic material. This caused a major rift in the congregation -- even though this material was not sanctioned by the congregation, or the visiting faith community. Many people left the congregation -- and as Gini said, they left "because we didn't make them ours." (Her whole presentation is on YouTube. I highly recommend it.) The congregation didn't do enough to fully engage them in what it means to be a part of the congregation and make them feel completely welcome.

And as artists and as arts leaders, we need to think about how do we "make them ours." How do we make sure that we are vital centers of the community? What are we doing to make our communities a better place? How do we enrich the places where we serve? Not only should we find those stories and tell them to our commissioners, but we need to make the commissioners ours. We need to make the communities in which we live ours.

I think the question we need to ask always (and if we have a good answer, shout it to the rooftops) is: "if this theatre were to go away today, how would the community suffer?"

If you have made the community yours, then it would be a great loss. If not, then aren't we just engaging in vanity theatre?


  1. Great piece! We need to remind people that even though we do recieve a lot of support and donations, theaters also spend a lot of money in a lot of places. And we must remember that theatre patrons often make a night of it, going to dinner before the show, and stopping for a drink after.
    Before the Broward Center or the Kravis Center, those neighborhoods were ghettoes. Now they are active social districts. Actors' Playhouse brought about a renaissance on Miracle Mile; it went from a retail district that closed at 5pm to a restaurant and gallery zone that attracts patrons well into the evening; the city of Coral Gables directly benefits from parking spaces that are now full well into the evenings where once the streets were empty after sunset.

  2. Congratulations on starting your own blog, Andie. Look forward to reading more entries.

    Kevin Johnson