The Accidental Advocate

As is clear from prior posts, I’ve been thinking about artists and arts administrators lately. Largely, I’ve been thinking about this through the lens of arts advocacy. Additionally, I’ve been thinking about it from the business perspective… i.e. artist as entrepreneur. Not to over-emphasize un-necessarily, but there really is a difference between the successful professional artist and the successful professional arts administrator. We need each other like my cat needs food, – constantly, and with a passion, – but we aren’t the same. The distinction really only becomes clear contrasting the needs of the dedicated arts administrator, with the needs of the artist/arts administrator (entrepreneurial artist.)

The job of arts administrators – for which they get paid – is to support the work of artists. Because the non-profit world is very competitive, successful arts administrators do everything possible to fund art making. Doing so is their job, even if they don’t work in development. Arts administrators, being professionals who make their living supporting art, are necessarily concerned with preserving what exists.

The job of being an artist is necessarily entrepreneurial. Part of the role of being an artist is to be an arts administrator. Our work has to be funded or we can’t be artists. Our work has to be promoted, or we can’t be artists. Our projects have to be organized or we can’t be artists. Still, the exigencies of arts administration and the exigencies of being an artist are distinct.

Arts advocacy is a meeting-ground for the interests of artists and arts administrators, but the interests are not identical. One might imagine that the voices of artists would be primary in arts advocacy. In reality, the voices of arts administrators are equally important. Without the vision and commitment of arts administrators, the arts profession would collapse. Artists and arts administrators need to work together with policy-makers to ensure the viability of the arts profession as a whole. All arts professionals have interests in arts advocacy.

Back to today’s to-do list.