Arts in the Church in the Future…part 2

by vernsanders on May 7, 2010

As I wrote in part 1 of this series,  I enjoy reading the blog of Chandler Branch, the Executive Director of Soli Deo Gloria. Chandler is a thoughtful, and generally thought-provoking writer, generally about issues germain to non-profit arts organizations, and SDG specifically.

In a recent blog entitled Arts and the Future, Chandler made some important observations:

The cultural real estate the arts will claim in the future is difficult to surmise. Among a myriad of variables in play [are] the economic instability, social diversity and media saturation [which] make it nearly impossible to know how art will thrive…Despite the complexity of these issues, the qualities that propel the most successful cultural institutions today, and likely will in the future, remain in clear focus. [You can read a more extended excerpt by going here]

Change the word “art” to “arts in the church” and read that paragraph again.

Branch says that one critical attribute to ensure not just the survival but the prospering of arts organizations is  Adaptation and Innovation:

Companies find it difficult to justify investment in the arts when their own survival meanwhile necessitates payroll freezes and job cuts. Individual donors are likewise stilted in their ability to give while their investment portfolios are tanking. In this environment especially, the ability to adapt is critical. The force of evolution in the arts today is toward new, sustainable business models, and the most forward-thinking organizations are those embracing new ways to achieve them.

In Detroit, where the recession set back…auto manufacturers who were once robust patrons of culture, arts organizations are coping with dire circumstances. In their struggle to stay solvent, some are finding new ways to attract audiences and generate revenue. The Michigan Opera Theatre posts rehearsal videos on YouTube and runs event promotions on Facebook and Twitter—specifically aimed at students and young professionals—that have attracted hundreds of first-time ticket buyers. The Detroit Institute of Arts invites Friday night museum attendees to enjoy free live music, art-making workshops, drawing in the galleries and guided tours. The Detroit Symphony Orchestra has increased its free concert offerings and begun broadcasting performances to a nearby hospital by closed circuit TV.

I think the takeaway from those paragraphs is that artists, and the arts, whether in the community or the church, need to be creative in more than the creative process. If our increasingly media-saturated world has taught us anything, it is that the only way to stand out amongst all the background noise is to be creative. Too often the creators of art have the attitude that it is beneath them to let the world know about what they have created. Yet in the next breath, the artist complains that nobody cares about the work that was just created.

Patronage is not dead, but the modern model clearly shows that creativity, when applied to the publicity, dissemination, and/or delivery aspects of the art in question, can make a huge impact on the impact of the art.

Let’s get specific, using a youth choir as an example:

Old School: graded choir programs

New School: youth choir bus trips

Now: flash mobs, like this one

Easter Video

I want to be clear. Being old school is not a bad thing. In fact, I would make the argument that, to be really good at it, you need the old school in order to be able to do the now thing. The question in my mind is not what to not do artistically, but rather how to present your artistic best efforts it in a way that cuts through the background noise of modern society. I would guess that one of the things on your list might be a good video crew.

What do you think? I’d like to hear what you are doing to “cut through the noise.” Please leave a comment.

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