Here's the real irony of the times we are living in now.
An increasing number of for profit corporations are embracing the foundations of "art", i.e. beauty, design, risk, collaboration and respect for their fellow workers.
At the same time, an alarming number of arts organization seem to be embracing the most negative aspects of a "corporation", i.e risk aversion, treating people like commodities, etc.
We talk so much about threats to the noncommerical arts sector. We talk about the greying of audiences, the lack of diversity and high ticket prices. All those are legit issues.
But I think we should consider an even larger issue that could be more harmful to the industry in the long term.
Imagine a college graduate. She's 22. She has developed a wide variety of skills. One of those is writing, particularly playwrighting. Another is computer programming.
She's at a crossroads and she's trying to decide her path.
She's considers a career in the theatre. But when she looks down that roads she sees so many places that seem determined to stifle her artistry. Down that road she imagines a land where she told what to write, what audiences will accept and a scarcity of actual productions.
Then she looks down the other road. She starts finding organizations (not all, but some) that will allow her to use computer programming as an expression of the artist within.
Sure, this woman wants to make money but she also wants to have a real impact on the real world.
The scary part is that she may decide that she has a better chance of impacting the world by fighting for a job at a place like 37 Signals then she ever will with a career in the professional arts.
The even scarier part is that she may be right.
What happens when a place that designs furniture is considered more artistic than a theatre?
What happens when a computer programmer is considered more of an artist than a filmmaker?
This is our real threat. We keep building and running organizations that may say ART on the outside, but inside run more like a factory.
At the same time a guy who sells shoes on the freakin' internet talks about changing the world through superior customer service.
This is our real challenge . . . to build organizations that are exciting and innovative enough to attract people with so many other options. Our job now is to learn from anybody, arts organizations or otherwise, that is leaping over the hurdles that cause so many to stumble.
One day, I'm pretty sure I'm going to have the privilege of building an arts organization from the ground up. There's a lot about that journey that scares the hell out of me, but there a few things I am sure of.
One of those things is that changing the world is the only point of being in this business. If you're not trying to build and run an arts organization that is trying to hammer a dent into the universe . . . then why are you even around?
If you're not dreaming big and seeing art as a medium to make the world a better, more lively, more interesting place, than what's the f*ckin' point? If you're not trying to be a leader and standard bearer in your artistic genre, why even roll out of bed?
Please don't settle for building a factory that churns our art, distributes a few paychecks and then tries to survive to the next day.
There has to be a better way. If a guy selling shoes can change the world then so can I.
So can you.
Seek your path.
Anything less is a waste of time.
No post on Friday. See you guys on Monday.