Arts Learning Exchange

A few weeks ago, I went to the first Arts Learning Exchange session sponsored by Arts Midwest. I meant to post on it earlier, but I've been thinking over it and distilling it a lot.

The speech was by the always amazing Ben Cameron, former head of TCG and now with the Doris Duke Foundation. Ben is a force to be reckoned with, and every time I hear him speak I am inspired to action and nearly brought to tears. He is eloquent, well-read, brilliant, and passionate. He is what I aspire to in arts leadership.

Ben began the speech with some really dire news about the future of the arts, complete with scarey statistics about audience erosion, worries about the inherent dis-functionality of the 501c3 model, and declines in giving that herald a true financial crisis that is likely to last for several more years. Even more frightening is the sense of a crisis of urgency and relevance that the arts and culture as a whole currently finds itself in. What values do we offer the community? How do we offer them? How can we better go about changing the world, and how do we ensure that we continue to exist in order to do so?

He then shifted to the challenges and opportunities available to us in a changing, new, socially-networked, media-full, participatory environment? From the value of the internet for co-creation, social engagement, and true connection to the art — to video and other media that is truly riveting (and this comes from me, who really hates watching video on the computer, to the very idea of the inherent discomfort of change and the loss of control we face when dealing with a digital, connected world — it was riveting and involving and validating and challenging and inspiring all at once.

The full text of the speech is here. I hope it inspires you as much as it did me. Now I just have to figure out what to DO about it!


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