By nature, the arts are a collaboration between the arts organization, the artists, and the audience. An arts organization is the people on its staff—they create or curate the art, live the mission, and understand the audience more than any external party ever could.
The successful arts consultant intrinsically understands the necessity to be a part of this collaboration. A didactic, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to consulting can destroy the organization/artist/audience collaboration without the participants even knowing it. Consultants will miss vital information and, what’s worse, stifle creativity of the staff in regards to how to best position their art to their audience.
The beauty of non-profit arts organizations is not only the product they provide to their community, but the flavor they add to the tapestry of a city, of a state, and of the whole country. Imagine if all arts organizations applied the same approach to how they produce art. Each production would be the same. Each arts organization of one genre would be the same as another. There would be no challenging viewpoints, no ground-breaking interpretations, no spontaneity—and there would be no reason for an audience member to become a loyal patron of any organization, let alone a loyal patron of the arts.
So, if we want to maintain the arts and look out for their health, our companies have to be unique. They have to say something new. They have to push the envelope.
Thus, as consultants, we have to embrace difference. We have to see nuance in the organizations we serve and support different viewpoints. We have to work with staff to understand their point-of-view and their audience, and we have to provide a solution that is bespoke and innovative for each organization.
The art depends on it.