Voting, Rights

ballotI rushed home from the airport today knowing that my early ballot would be waiting in my mailbox. Then, I voted with tears in my eyes. The tears were tears of joy, because after participating in eight presidential elections (nine if you count the envelope-stuffing I did as an underage volunteer) I was able to cast my vote for a woman, a woman whom I have supported since the beginning of this cycle and who I sincerely believe will be an outstanding president, who will work across the aisle as she did while a US senator and as she has done in securing the support of Democrats and Republicans alike in this unprecedented election cycle. But I was also crying tears of sadness, sadness that our election process has been turned into a reality TV show, not just by the appalling Republican candidate but by the media he pretends to decry. I was also crying tears of fear, for as I drive home from the airport, I heard news reports of the firebombing of a Republican party office in North Carolina.

Democracy is fragile. It rests, like a house of cards (pun intended) on the trust that the people have in the electoral process. A startling story in the Boston Globe on October 15 described the sentiments – and violent intentions – of several followers of the Republican candidate. The candidate himself is suggesting that if he loses it could only because the election process is somehow “rigged” against him. His ego looms so large that it will not let him believe that he can legitimacy lose, but he can and he will. How will the next president govern if 40% of the electorate doesn’t believe in the legitimacy of the process that elected her? I cried because I fear that for the first time in our history, there will not be a peaceful transfer of power; the NC incident being just a first small warning shot.

What does this have to with the arts? Our democratic system relies on certain unalienable rights, not only those called out in original draft of the Constitution, but those in its First Amendment: freedom of speech; freedom of (and from) religion; freedom of assembly; freedom (and independence) of the press; and freedom to petition the government. These freedoms, taken together, are the most important arts policy of all. But they are under threat by the Republican candidate, his followers, and even the Republican Party itself. The attacks on the media are unprecedented. These attacks range from journalists from certain media outlets being forbidden entrance to events to death threats on the publisher of the Arizona Republic after it endorsed a Democrat for the first time in its history. Freedom of religion is threatened by a candidate who wants to ban Muslims entry and his followers who want to set up surveillance in Muslim neighborhoods. A candidate who threatens retribution in the form of lawsuits and/or imprisonment when people speak out against him will threaten our freedom of speech as president, a freedom foundational to the expression of ideas, both artistic and not. And, I fear for our freedom to assemble when people threaten violent crowd action. In order to prevent violence will peaceful assembly be restricted?

When Hillary Clinton is elected on November 8, I will cry tears of joy. When I awake on November 9, I hope there will be no reason to cry tears of fear.

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I’m presenting a paper next week at the European Network of Cultural Management Conference (ENCATC) entitled “Same or Different? The ‘Cultural Entrepreneurship’ and ‘Arts Entrepreneurship’ Constructs in European and US Higher Education.” Here’s a teaser:


“Arts Entrepreneurship” is beginning to emerge from its infancy as a field of study in US higher education institutions. “Cultural Entrepreneurship,” especially as conceived of in the European context, seems to have matured both earlier and on a somewhat different, but parallel, track. As Kuhlke, Schramme, and Kooyman (2015) note, “In Europe, courses began to emerge in the late 1980s and early 1990s…primarily providing an established business school education with an industry-specific focus on the new and emerging creative economy.” Conversely, the development of “arts entrepreneurship” courses and programs in the US seem to have been driven as much or more from interest within arts disciplines or even from within the career services units of arts conservatories as a means toward supporting artist self-sufficiency and career self-management. This paper looks at the conceptual development of “arts entrepreneurship” in the US as differentiated from “cultural entrepreneurship” in Europe and elsewhere in order to uncover where the two strands of education (and research) are the same and where they are different.

(photo: Antranias, public domain)


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Leadership Axioms from Jim Ed Norman

jim_ed_norman_conductingWhat a treat! Our guest this week in “Leadership in the Creative and Cultural Industries” was Jim Ed Norman: musician, arranger, producer, former president of Warner Records Nashville and, after coming out of retirement three years ago, CEO of Curb Records Group. Jim Ed is quick to point out that his CEO position is Chief Excitement Officer. It was fitting that after the students read a chapter on improvisation in leadership in Denhardt and Denhardt’s The Dance of Leadership, that Jim Ed identified one of the most important creative leadership skills as “be quiet and listen.” Any jazz musician knows that listening is key to improvisation. Listening – especially the kind of empathic listening that is foundational to design thinking – has been a through-line in the course. The key to being effective as a listener is, according to Jim Ed, to understand how to arrange what you’ve heard. Although the in-class conversation was casual and unrehearsed, a few key phrases jumped out that sound, only in retrospect, like leadership axioms. I suggest heeding them:

  • Learn humility
  • Allow people to fail gracefully
  • Retain your inner child
  • It’s fair to be skeptical, but don’t become cynical
  • Get comfortable with being wrong
  • Maintain camaraderie
  • Respond to the world as it really is not the way you want it to be.

(photo by Keith Nealy, public domain)

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The Dark Side of Leadership

I was talking recently about cultural leadership with a colleague, himself a cultural leader of tremendous insight and experience. He noted that people don’t really talk about the emotional challenges one faces as a leader and that few people (and none of the leadership literature) address this. Here are a few thoughts he shared about what he finds challenging:

  • Always trying to run ahead of the pack;
  • Looking in the hat for the next rabbit;
  • Just plain stress and exhaustion;
  • Lately a new increased call for older leaders to leave and make room for a new “visionary/creative” group of younger leaders, when they themselves do not understand the history and pathways to success in the field;
  • Loneliness;
  • The fear that you have lost your mojo, or;
  • …that maybe the hat is empty.


I can attest from my personal leadership experience to these being very real concerns. In order to persevere through these challenges, one needs a strong personal infrastructure, both within and without. I offer a few suggestions for boosting personal infrastructure that would work for me and can maybe work for you:

  • surround yourself with people who love you at home [a challenge when you’re single, but friends count];
  • surround yourself with people who love you at work – not sycophants – but people who love you enough to give you honest and constructive feedback and who continue to love you as you evolve based on that feedback;
  • slow down and take the time needed to asses where you are and where you’re going;
  • get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and don’t drink too much;
  • but drink a lot of water – stay hydrated [seriously, this matters, especially if you live in the desert];
  • create and use a feedback mechanism so you can be like a one-person learning organization;
  • communicate regularly with staff and other stakeholders;
  • give yourself permission to have fun at work;
  • give yourself permission to get annoyed about work, but try not to show it;
  • when you fear the hat is empty, take stock of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come;
  • amaze yourself by being yourself; it’s not magic.

Now, if I could just actualize my own advice…

(Image: Zan Zig performing with rabbit and roses, advertising poster by Strobridge Litho. Co., Cincinnati & New York, 1899. Public domain)



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Uber, Gigs, Artists


One car, three transportation networks. Photo by Colin@TheTruthAbout

I heard a story on NPR this morning about a high school teacher in California who drives for Uber because the cost of living in his community is so high he can’t quite make ends meet on his teacher’s salary. Then I looked at the front page of the NY Times and there’s a story about Uber testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh. The company many had thought of as part of the “sharing economy” is truly, as it has always said, really just a tech company. But what really struck me was the connection between the two stories. As Uber becomes more “efficient,” it will no longer need its independent contract drivers like the teacher. I am well aware that in the long history of industrial organization, as technology has increased efficiency and productivity, the members of the workforce have seen temporary setbacks that lead to long-term improvements for society as a whole. This feels different. My concern is that the teacher featured in the story and his wife, also a teacher, cannot afford to live in the community they serve on the salary the community is paying them. That does not result from technology; that results from skewed priorities.

What does this have to do with the arts? Much has been written recently about the “gig economy” for artists. And, others have written about art and arts work in the “sharing economy.” But what happens when the technologies of sharing cause the gigs themselves to dry up, as self-driving cars most assuredly will? Must our artists all become schoolteachers to supplement their gig-life and build a gig-life to supplement their teaching income — because our communities undervalue both?

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Beauty Helps

My leadership class visited the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art last week and met with its director and chief curator, Sara Cochran. The focus of our discussion was on how leaders employ images and symbols to lead. One of the questions we asked Sara was, “How does the museum, at the organizational level, use symbols and images to affect change in the local community?” She began her response with “Beauty helps.”


Installation of the exhibition Sama Alshaibi: Silsila at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, June 4-September 18, 2016. Photo: Peter Bugg from

When this discussion ensued we were standing in an exhibit by an American Muslim woman artist of Iraqi and Palestinian descent in one of the most homogenous and politically conservative communities in Arizona. Beauty brings people into conversation. It invites people to look at the map of Ibn Batūtah’s journey throughout Asia, the Middle East and North Africa and leads them into a dialogue about exploration, women’s bodies, Muslim identity, borders, and more.


Sara Cochran: “Beauty helps”

With so much ugliness in the world, it seems especially important this year to lead with beauty.

[For more on “beauty” and creative venturing, watch Diane Ragsdale’s talk at the 2015 pave Biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts here.]


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Creative Sector Success is Like an Iceberg

Mari Andrew is a writer and illustrator living in Washington DC who posts a picture a day on Instagram. I’m not a big Instagram user (although I do have an account: @lindainphoenix) so it was via a different social media platform, Twitter, that I came across Andrew’s illustration of creative sector success:


By the time the public sees a successful creative sector professional, there is an iceberg’s worth of success under the water level. That success is built on a foundation of “putting yourself out there” and is buoyed by the resilience that comes from being rejected “1000000” times. I’ve said such before, but Andrew’s illustration brings home the point symbolically. You can follow her on instagram: @bymariandrew.

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