Last weekend, I had the opportunity to attend Dallas Children’s Theater’s “Teen Scene” Festival and witnessed a kind of work that underscores the very clear and direct relevance theatre can have in the lives of young people. The plays dealt with some tough topics particularly affecting the lives of adolescents. It was moving to witness the engagement of DCT’s multigenerational audience–most notably in post show conversations, which were lead by experts on concerns such as teen dating violence. Congratulations to artistic director Robyn Flatt and her team for a successful convening that assembled both local and national guests. The weekend also included panels and symposia from the Baker Ideas Institute in areas such as, how storytelling and theatre techniques can radically improve learning in school settings. The Institute was named after Paul Baker, the visionary theatre artist and educator who was the founder of Dallas Theater Center (and father of Robyn).
Last week, I made available to you my letter to NEA Chair Rocco Landesman, requesting a meeting to talk about the complexity of the supply/demand conversation that his recent comments sparked in the blogosphere, as well as how we communicate the enormous positive impact of the arts in our society. On Tuesday, Rocco invited me–along with a small group of theatre/arts association leaders–to discuss these issues. The meeting was productive and I want to express my thanks to Rocco for spending time with us to probe more deeply into some of the dynamics at play for performing arts organizations–including the need to dive further into some of the research and to focus attention on the “demand”/participation side of the issue. The NEA has a strong research department, and some of their “research notes” examine in more detail key findings from their studies on participation. For instance, I love this piece, which shows the strong correlation between participation in performing arts events and other forms of civic engagement, such as volunteering and voting. Today, the NEA released three new arts participation reports that are summarized here–dealing with arts education, age and how arts participation goes beyond simply attending a show.
I urge you to take time to communicate with your elected officials about the work of your organization. For the results of last week’s deliberations in the House of Representatives, visit the home page of the Performing Arts Alliance. Remember that the next federal advocacy focus is on the U.S. Senate. Also, I encourage everyone to communicate with your local elected representatives about the ways in which your work creates value in the community.
We received a very healthy response to our request for National Conference breakout proposals. If you missed submitting your ideas, you may want to consider submitting a “Whatifesto” proposal. Whatifestos are brief manifestos, designed to reflect on our Conference question “What if…?” – imagine the future of our field and/or specific models within it.