Art and Community – KMFA 89.5

3/29/2010 Monday 9:32 pm

I spent 2 hours live on the radio today, with radio host Dianne Donovan, pitching for the spring fund drive for Austin’s classical music radio station KMFA 89.5.  It was a total blast!  For the last few years I’ve come on the radio during fund drive time, often my role has been to represent the Austin Classical Guitar Society, and to stay on the air for a “break” or two (a “break” is the time when people are talking – between pieces of music), so that I can encourage people to give while presiding over some kind of ticket donation (so that folks at a certain level of donation can be eligible to get the tickets).  This has always been something I’ve enjoyed.  In fact, when the station was being managed by Jack Allen (he was great, but since his departure, his fabulous replacement, Joan Kobayashi has taken over), he approached me after I did my stint and actually asked if I would consider doing some “swing announcing” for KMFA.  I told I’d be delighted – the idea was that I might fill in from time to time when the regular announcers were sick or taking a vacation.  I did a number of sessions and actually had a lot of fun (when else do I get to sit and do nothing but listen to great music for four hours?) but ultimately finding 4-hour blocks of time became so difficult that we stopped trying!

The point is, I really enjoy being on the air.  So it was with great enthusiasm that I accepted the invitation from Joan, last week, to come on the air today not for two breaks but, instead, for two hours, to help with the fund drive!  And this brings me to the point of today’s post: Art and Community.

I suppose there’s no coincidence that this post title is also the title of my new book manuscript on nonprof management!  “Art and Community” is what its all about.  On the air today we talked about connections.  We talked about middle school and high school education programs in the arts and we got calls from parents, we got calls from people in surrounding areas, and the more we got them, the more we talked about surrounding areas – and the more calls came in.  I challenged friends of mine, folks interested in classical guitar, folks interested in dance, in our new performing arts center, in small arts organizations in general, etc.  KMFA is the radio station at the center of so much of this arts activity, and our job was to stay on the air making connections with peoples’ interests be they personal, artistic or geographic!

I think many “responsible adults” have difficulty understanding the role of the arts in our communities.  I think this is one of the chief reasons why folks tend to believe that the arts are a relatively unstable professional course to take.  Its not like police officers, or firemen, or architects, or teachers, or doctors, where we can easily quantify their societal contribution and imagine why people will pay for it.  The arts are ephemeral, and they enhance our spirit, or soul, or mood, or just give us something to apply ourselves to, or give us something to express ourselves with, or give us a way to connect with others, or give us a way to understand other cultures, or give us a window and connection to history… Wait a minute – that’s starting to sound like a lot of stuff!

The truth is that there are vast, vast applications for arts in our communities.  There are many ways to connect people of all ages with art in meaningful ways.  If its classes for seniors, classes for kids, lessons, performances, guest artists, exhibits, amateur performance and rehearsal opportunities, you name it!

So our task on the radio today was to make explicit the importance of the arts to the folks listening, and therefore the importance of the radio station at the center of the arts scene here in Austin.  And this brings me to my conclusion:

In my experience, it appears to be arts organizations (not artists, teachers, universities or anything else) that are the key ingredient in connecting communities with art.  The organizations are the ones dreaming up the visions for community engagement and raising the money to support it.  We have no shortage of artists, and we have no shortage of places in our communities in need of art, what we need are more, or better, arts organizations, to make the connections, and keep our communities recognizing the value of the arts, paying for them, and thereby supporting the artists.

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