Get Sticky with Me
This post is part of our Excellence and Equity in Arts for Change blog salon.
“Hello, my name is Brett and I am an Arts Presenter.”
Some days, this is a confession; some days a badge of honor; some days a curse. Most days, though, it motivates we who are presenters to want to make our society better. Every day, it should make us think about how the programs we put on our stages serve as catalysts for social change.
One of the issues arts presenters face when programming for social change is that of follow-up. Often, we bring in an impactful work that delivers a clear and concise message to our audience. But once the performers leave our city, there is no follow-up. The topic of the work is forgotten and we move on to our next presentation.
Given this, I was fascinated to read the 11 qualities in the recently published Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change. Right there … attribute number 11. Something called stickiness.
A couple of the probing questions that follow a description of the attribute are: “Is the creative work part of an overall strategy addressing civic or social change that supports continued engagement on the issue? After the experience, what do people remember about the work?”
My concern in a nutshell! I have been presenting works that touch on important issues without a sustained strategy. As a presenter, I have often been guilty of addressing societal questions prior to a presentation as a way of building an audience for the performances, but rarely would I follow-up with a post-performance strategy. I was not getting sticky!
Several years ago in Chicago, we created the Billy Strayhorn Festival to honor the late jazz musician’s 100th birthday and the contributions of this openly gay African-American man to the American musical canon. As part of the festival, we hosted a series of discussions with scholars, activists, and clergy about the current state of gay, Black America. They were enlightening and inspiring. But once the culminating performance was over, we dropped the subject and did not revisit it again.
How much greater would the impact have been had we adopted the issue for an entire season? Had we used the framework and attributes within Aesthetic Perspectives, we might have realized while planning the festival that the subject would not end after the final performance. We needed to apply the stickiness attribute to our plans.
This framework offers up aesthetic attributes by which we as presenters can evaluate our ideas, improve our programs, and create change in our cities. Stickiness is just one. The other ten are equally compelling.
Which attributes speak to you and your organization? I’d love to hear which you find the most relevant in your presenter efforts to create social change.