Community Learning

I’m off to Chattanooga, TN today for client work and to take in everything the newly dubbed Gig City has to offer. The trip brought to light an interesting confluence of thoughts from two Inside The Arts authors on the concept of genuinely learning from the community.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-019First up is Joe Patti’s 3/17/2014 post and although we examined the very same article yesterday, I intentionally left out Patti’s segment on community learning so we could visit it today.

Patti talks about some ideas presented by Italian aid worker Ernesto Sirolli during a TED Radio segment where Sirolli defines the value of shutting up, leaving your ideas in neutral, and absorbing the local culture through as many daily points of contact as possible. In turn, Patti connects these ideas with the way arts organizations approach community outreach.

Art organizations can probably take a cue from him about learning about the community by hanging out in cafes and talking to people rather than holding community meetings. Both funders of arts organizations and the arts organizations themselves might find value in simply helping people to connect their passions with the knowledge they need to realize their passion.

Any entity with resources to offer will probably find it difficult to just step back and not try to motivate people or impose their ideas on the people they hope to help. I am sure Sirolli and his people had that problem when they started. It is extremely difficult to surrender your ego and expectations, especially when you are bringing money to the table.

In turn, Patti’s perspective made me think about an ongoing series of articles from another Inside The Arts author, Holly Mulcahy, who is also the recently appointed concertmaster of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera. She takes advantage of a newcomer’s perspective combined with an established blog presence to begin writing about her experiences meeting and interacting with the community.

Concertmaster Connections is a special series of articles published mid month that share some of the places I find interesting while in Chattanooga and how they might relate to the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera and classical music in general; everything from dining, art galleries, the zoo and aquarium to hiking and biking.

And since I’ll be seeing Chattanooga with newcomer’s eyes, this is a perfect opportunity to cross familiar bridges and create new ones.

I’m most grateful to the warm welcome The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera extended and I’m very much looking forward to this new adventure. Stay tuned and happy reading.

It’s always interesting to see ideas from separate culture blog authors intersect like this. I’m also curious to know more about similar efforts elsewhere so if there’s something you know about, take a moment to leave a comment pointing it out and where it connects with these ideas.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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