Commentary: "We cannot be encumbered by structures of institutional thinking"
From Brian Hinrich's interview with John Michael Schert, executive director and principal dancer of the Trey McIntyre Project on ArtsFwd.org, 4/25/12:
Have you read Ken Foster's manifesto he wrote a couple of years ago? Ken Foster is the head of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Ken said...in arts organizations, the administrative side has to act like artists and the artistic side has to act like administrators. And that was a huge component of how we built Trey McIntyre Project. Each one of our dancers also has an administrative duty outside of their dancing that is their job. Everyone is playing a role. One thing that Ken really put out there that I very much agree with is that, we cannot be encumbered by the structures of our institutional thinking. And there's such a difference in sustainability and institutional survival. We become very entrenched in, "Well, we have to do this because of this, we have to grow this way because of this, we have to keep doing this because we sell season passes which makes it possible to have that income." So, with a lot of those things we end up being in a position where you're getting further and further from the art and the art making. You get further and further away from why you exist. Why are you creating art? Why does it matter to you? Why does it matter to your community? As artistic organizations, we are, or should be, the most creative people on the face of the planet. So why can we not create our own paradigms? Why should we not be creating our own business models? If concepts like creative placemaking are really going to take root, it can't just be the organizations like us that are defining it. If it is going to really happen, established organizations have to change, and changing is incredibly difficult. In order for change to happen, people have to have loss. And, most people are very resistant to loss, because it hurts, and it's sad, and it's hard to explain. But...sometimes you have to put fire to the woods to promote healthy future growth. That has to happen in the arts. And that's anathema to how many organizations function because they're so used to grabbing every opportunity and every penny they can, they can't imagine burning down what they spent decades establishing.
Commentary: How a company describes itself can encourage institutional thinking
Charles Beckett of Arts Council England on his blog "How To Think About The Future", 9/13/11
Everywhere I go these days I notice more and more how corporations use language to describe themselves, and there's a very specific vocabulary they all employ. It has a kind of deadening effect, because it just sounds like dull blather. It is as if they are deliberately trying to limit the scope of language, to rein it in, so that their spokespeople and employees can only use certain words and phrases and styles. So that they can only parrot the 'values' and idealised self-image of the company in words that have no weight and no connection to the world. And of course that is exactly what they are doing, and this is a well-developed phenomenon. The truly worrying thing is that unless you are on your guard against it all the time, unless you fight it and care passionately enough about preserving your own, unrestrained language it can even make its way into your personal life, and from there into your thoughts. Before long, the language in which the corporation enfolds itself replaces, supplants the language you would naturally use to describe your experience of that company or your feelings about it. Forcing your employees to use a house style or branding guidelines is already an attempt to control their thoughts, a horrible and insidious effort to restrict their creative use of language which ought to be made illegal. But the further encouragement of a culture in which everybody talks the same way and thinks the same way is not just damaging to individuals, it is dangerous because it encourages institutional thinking, destroys innovation and traps people in a straitened world of unimaginative repetition. Isn't the very idea of a corporate 'culture' oxymoronic, if not thoroughly tasteless?
Commentary: Impact of institutional thinking on current generation of theater artists
Director Dominic D'Andrea of the One-Minute Play Festival interviewed by playwright Micheline Auger on her blog "Theater Speak", 10/3/11:
This generation [of artists] has been subjected to so much institutional programming and so much institutional thinking. I think if you look at the generations before us, not everybody has had an MFA or undergraduate program, not every theater had a structure that allows or accommodates emerging artists for better or for worse in a very specific way, not every theater had a playwriting program, or a blind-submission process, or a reading series, or some kind of school or class opportunity. I mean, back in the day, I think people who wanted to work in theaters did the assistant thing and then sort of came up through the ranks, and I think now, our generation is so subjected to, 'Oh if you want to work for that theater, you have to apply to the thing.' We're always applying to things, so in response to that, people are getting away from that system and going back to the theater that people want to make, perhaps. I'm assuming. I mean, I notice that it's true for me and some of the people that I work with. And there's always a balance between your institutional involvement and the stuff you want to do outside of that realm. And it's a healthy balance. I think it's good to be part of institutions, and it's also good to have opportunities to explore your own voice on your terms.
Commentary: In the music industry, using creativity to upend institutional thinking
CE Gordon, The Art of Sound blog, 3/14/12
The purse strings are being pulled tighter. The knee-jerk reaction is to hunker down and strategize more effective ways to separate the consumer from its cash, but here's the rub; institutional thinking isn't primed for innovative and independent thought. It's conditioned for textbook solutions to textbook problems. It's not rocket science to understand when budgets shrink, delivery on value is imperative. How are we able to deliver short of burnout when our faculties rely on obedience and dependency? Creative solutions, it's a necessity. (Folks have been harping on about it and waiting for something to happen for a while now). Who's going to do the doing? Most of us have little use for creative solutions. There's too much of a DIY ring to it and we're not getting paid to think. Then also, being creative precedes doing, and most of us prefer being in boxes. How are we then to think outside of it? What inspires me about the music industry is every year the creative innovation is right there in front of your eyes and ears. Its energy is always threatening to scorch your senses. When I started writing The Art of Sound, the doomsday prophets were shouting from the rooftops proclaiming the industry dead, my entire perception of the music I was making and where I was headed turned upside down. I'm from the school of Hip Hop where making something out of nothing is a commandment and it infiltrates every creative decision made. If you haven't put your own marketing strategy together and hit the streets with it, conceptualized and/or physically contributed to the art (resources) in your campaigns, or placed your ass on the line for a creative vision, then how do you propose to engage your client in the 21st century?