Sometimes The Best Message On Why The Arts Are Important Doesn’t Need Quantification

Even before the pandemic, the orchestra field had its hands full addressing its relevance in contemporary culture. Unfortunately, financial pressures of the pandemic have started to reignite counterproductive guns or butter debates. While that’s nothing more than a logical fallacy trap, we don’t have the luxury of ignoring it.

But instead of getting sucked into the conversation, change the topic.

A good source of inspiration is and article by Arthur C. Brooks in the 1/27/22 edition of The Atlantic where the author does an excellent job at providing talking points about why arts aren’t simply a luxury.

Think of a time when you heard a piece of music and wanted to cry. Or recall the flutter of your heart as you stared at a delicate, uncannily lifelike sculpture. Or maybe your dizziness as you emerged from a narrow side street in an unfamiliar city and found yourself in a beautiful town square…odds are, you didn’t feel as if the object of beauty was a narcotic, deadening you. Instead, it probably precipitated a visceral awakening, much like the shock from a lungful of pure oxygen after breathing smoggy air.

He continues by providing some practical application suggestions.

Start by programming art into your schedule, beginning with 15 minutes before or after lunch if you can. Make a list of music, poetry, literature, and visual art you want to enjoy and learn more about. Day by day, make your way down your list. You will be amazed by how much you can cover in just a short window, and even more amazed at the transformative effect it will have on your appreciation for life, seemingly even in areas unrelated to the arts.

In the end, for anyone who has spent time as an arts advocate, there’s nothing in Brooks’ piece that is earth shattering or new. Having said that, it does a good job at reminding you how to pull yourself out of myopic mindsets that seem to be raining down these days.

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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