Five Reasons Cultural Organizations Aren’t As Creative As the Work They Present
In the best of all possible worlds, the cultural organization (“Organization”) is a dynamic and genuinely risk-taking, and unwavering, entity that doesn’t bow to passing trends.
In the best of all possible worlds, the practitioner of work (either artist or independent cultural producer, hereafter “Practitioner”) sets his or her own course.
In the best of all possible worlds, both Organization and Practitioner are supported to the extent that they can survive with such ideals intact.
As we find it…
- Fixed job roles and institutional structures can lead to static thinking or reluctance to work across fields, for fear of encroaching on other people’s turfs, or the perceived blunder of not knowing. The Practitioner, however, is often an all-rounder and skilled in do-it-yourself thinking. The Practitioner understands that crossing boundaries and joining territories serves only to make the work stronger. (This is not to suggest that artists are dilettantes but rather, as William Blake has it, they “particularize”—as “to particularize is the alone distinction of merit.” Artists have made it their business to understand histories and theories across a broad range of fields and, in looking across fields, can weave together a whole.)
- Practitioners, by definition, keep abreast of current thinking through self-led and self-evaluated tasks. Organizations are often caught in “the Job.”
- In Organizations there are always people to answer to, from the bottom to the top to the board. Good Practitioners answer to themselves, their needs and intentions. (In Organizations the reverse is often true.)
- Organizations rarely take the personal risks that the Practitioner is required to take.
- Over time, strict rules have developed and are seasonally maintained so that only the Practitioner is allowed creative freedoms.
Five Ways This Could Change
- In order to challenge conventional thinking, creative research should be actively encouraged and a central part of one’s daily routine. (In my humble opinion, if one doesn’t have the time to read—I hear this a lot!—then something’s wrong.)
- The fog of “the Job” should be lifted by assigning tasks that are new to the individual.
- Roles should be exchanged for short periods.
- Travel should be encouraged and supported, in order to avoid the provincial mindset. This is as true for New York City as it is for any city, town, or suburb.
- When artist and musician Malcolm McLaren ran for Lord Mayor of London he advocated for opening bars in public libraries. Many organizations could perhaps benefit from such a suggestion: the riotous coming together of the beer pump and the staff or board meeting could end in revolution!