THE BLOG

What I Want for Christmas

Like everyone else, I have a list of things I want for Christmas. Here is mine:

1. All arts organizations to recommit to their missions: Virtually every arts organization has a mission and I dare say that a majority of board and staff at most arts organizations could not tell you what that mission is. A mission is crucial: it should direct all of our efforts and tells us how we measure success. If a majority of stakeholders cannot recite the mission, the organization is likely to be drifting. I want arts organizations everywhere to rethink their missions and to recommit to them as well. When everyone in the organization is moving in the same direction, there will be a far greater level of achievement and far less waste. And we in the arts, of course, are not in a position to waste anything.

2. A serious discussion on arts education: There are many, many people around the nation who are thinking about and working on ways to bring arts back into our public schools. I know that my staff and I are working diligently on this effort. We need a serious discussion at the federal level about ways to bring arts back into the schools. We need to engage the best thinkers on this subject as well as the government leaders responsible for education. There is a good deal of money already being spent on arts education; but arts education efforts are uncoordinated and unfocused. I believe that if we can come up with a better scheme, we can provide far better education for our children.

3. Arts funders to support arts management training: Those who have heard me speak know that I am a fierce advocate for arts management education. What is the use of spending billions on training professional musicians, and actors and dancers if we do not have the people who are prepared to employ them? We are in a danger zone in the arts because so much in our environment is changing: the way people get information, the way people access entertainment, the ability of our audiences to pay for tickets, the amount of coverage by media for serious art, etc. We need smart sophisticated managers who know how to deal with these changes.

4. Government leaders to expend some political capital on the arts: It is disheartening to me every time I hear a politician laud the importance of the arts. This might seem absurd but all I hear when a politician supports the arts is lip service. When are we going to get a group of political leaders to actually expend some political capital to make sense of government spending on the arts? There are nine federal agencies who fund the arts and they never sit in a room together to develop funding policy. This cannot be optimal. We need our federal arts money to be spent wisely.

5. A concerted campaign to promote the value of the arts in our society: The arts need a marketing effort. Individual arts organizations can help by doing a better job of creating institutional awareness and excitement. But the entire field needs a marketing campaign as well. We provide so much to our society but we have not convinced enough people that this is true. If we had, many of my other Christmas wishes would already have obtained.

I am not naive. I am willing to wait for many Christmases to pass before all of these gifts are received.

But this is a season of miracles.