M. Scott Tatum
We’ve come a long way baby…
(Click on the glowing building to see an example of video projection mapping in action.)
The Big 6 Things We’ve Learned
New Art Forms
There are concepts and forms of performing and visual arts emerging that don’t cleanly fall into any genre we have had before. Most of these are the products of different areas beginning to collaborate in ways that are less just supportive of each other (say, the ballet and symphony) and far more aligned with devising pieces (Solo Symphony: A Dance By Peter Bay, for instance). How we discuss them, market them, train future practitioners, critique them, and create them is unclear and will continue to challenge our vocabulary moving forward.
New Physical Spaces
No longer is theatre in an auditorium and music in a concert hall. As we begin to reclaim relics of the industrial revolution, meet huge financial difficulties at the non-profit, governmental, and business level, and as new requirements for our emerging forms of art take shape, we find that we must create spaces that can be virtually blank canvases and technological wonders, grand yet intimate, neighborhood based but world-class, special-event environments that are getting daily use, and still be able to take care of our traditional arts. The balancing act required of these new physical spaces will require a better understanding of how all stakeholders interact with the arts.
New Role of the Arts Organization
Centuries/millennia of being the primary cultural experience have made the visual and performing arts lazy. As different art forms continuously generate themselves, it’s time to take a look at the role of any arts organization in a community. Are we social objects? Meeting places? Democratic institutions? Caretakers of the past? Foreseers of the future? Should we focus on education? Performance? Artists? Learning how any given organization does, and could, fit into a community (local, national, global) requires a strong vision of the purpose of the work being created. And it can not be insular or self-referential. Gone are the days of Ars Gratia Artis…we must have a real role in our society if we expect to survive.
Moore’s Law loosely suggests that the capacity of a computer doubles every 18 months. Extrapolated out, we can see technology evolving at a rapid pace that puts stresses on the arts, and everyone else, to keep up with trends and equipment that can dramatically change the way in which we create, live, and interact with the arts. Conditions are ripe for technology to play a major role in expanding the power and influence of the arts to current and new generations, if we do it right.
New Audience Expectations
If you aren’t following your audience, you aren’t going to have one. As audiences are bombarded with thousands of choices in how to spend their time and money, there is a battle happening in the arts on how to best engage with this new crowd. People, however, mistakenly believe that this has not always been the case and if we just try really hard we can keep things the way they always were. It’s pretty simple, you meet the audience where it is, challenge it to grow, and hope it’ll come along for the ride. If not, change what you’re doing.
New Ways to Connect
Social media has not altered the way we connect to each other, it has facilitated an ease, consistency, and expansion of who we know and how we stay in touch. At the end of the day, all of the things old folks stand on their lawn and wave their fists in the air about (smartphones, the Facebook, Twitter, iPads, etc) are simply tools to do what people really want to do…make serious connections with others and interesting content. We should not mistake their attention to some other thing as a rejection of what we’re doing but rather a challenge to find ways to ramp up our value as social objects.
(Quixotic Fusion at TED, click for video)
…but there is so much farther left to go.
To get us through it all and to move forward, let’s think about the following areas of focus:
We must understand and welcome the fact that the arts in a state of transition. Not only in this moment, but always. As part of the creative legacy of the arts, we must embrace the constant evolution and movement of the arts. Do not be scared of change.
We must examine the types of mindsets that shield us from our forward momentum as artists. We need to re-evaluate collectivist, protectionist, hyper-reactive, blame-seeking behaviors, and their associated products, in order to start with an open mind that is prepared for the future. Do not stop thinking about the new.
We must invest in leaders that are harbingers of change, comfortable in chaos and conflict, masters of editing and collaboration, and visionaries who can recognize the value of all that has come but look for all that is yet to arrive. These leaders need to be excellent communicators, well-rounded academics, creators/artists themselves, and have a natural ability to share their gifts with others. Do not nay-say every fresh idea, fresh face, or fresh place that comes to you.
And we must institutionalize these changes through a training program that emphasizes the real skills of innovation, leadership, collaboration, and visioning. We have to let go of content focused degree programs and instead radically recreate the environment in which young arts leaders, artists, and other stakeholders learn. Do not accept that our current education system will ever create the right kinds of future leaders.