My new book, What’s Next? Creativity in the Age of Entertainment, is an exploration of our creative environment today viewed through the lens of my multi-faceted career. I focus on creativity as the background of the arts, innovation and culture, and the inspiration it provides throughout our society. The challenges I’ve observed in our cultural and work environments —confused definitions, the disappearance of arts education and media coverage, misguided and struggling arts organizations, poor education for work and life skills —are all a result of living in the Age of Entertainment.
I am happy to present my blog to you! The site and my first book reflect years of wearing multiple hats as a musician, arts administrator, educator, producer, and cultural entrepreneur. It is my response to my friends, family and colleagues who asked to hear more about my experiences and observations.
Over the course of my career, the arts environment (as well as many other things) have changed dramatically. The cultural scene today, both in the United States and abroad, is very challenging. I plan to explore these shifts in depth and respond to new developments as they happen. My wonderful friends in many countries give me an international perspective through our ongoing discussions about artistic and cultural issues.
Grandma led me to the Press Gate at Tanglewood where her dear friend Louie Esterman held court. Louie stopped us instead of waving us through – “I want you to meet Leonard Bernstein’s children: Jamie, Alex and Nina.” At ten years old, I wasn’t exactly sure who they were, but we nodded to each other. I could tell that Louie thought it was a special encounter.
My mother grew up in Pittsfield, next to Lenox, which is the location of Tanglewood in the beautiful Berkshires in western Massachusetts. As a child, my grandparents Anna and Nathan Bass began taking me to hear concerts at the summer home of the Boston Symphony because of my violin studies. I loved the beautiful environment and enjoyed the music.
As one gathers ideas to begin a new venture, many questions surface. What do you want to do? Is your idea unique? Where is the best location and when should we begin? Who can I ask to help? And, what resources are available?
Ah, “resources.” This often becomes a code word for “where’s the money?” Even if you are beginning with funds out of your own pocket, you need many resources to support your idea. And, I wish to stress, the idea MUST always come first. A quick route to mediocrity is finding money first and then deciding what you can afford. A strong idea will always generate the resources — and many people agree with me. Michael Kaiser, former president of the Kennedy Center, has made this central to his advice to struggling organizations:
In the Los Angeles Times recently, art critic Christopher Knight writes “For art museums, is there a director’s gene? A distinctive bit of DNA material that distinguishes between a successful museum director and a successful curator?”
As someone who developed that director’s gene during side-by-side careers as a founder of a non-profit arts institution, executive director, musician and educator, I am encouraged by the questions posed in this insightful article. MOCA, and many other arts institutions, have histories of revolving leadership doors. Once again at MOCA, we are watching another detrimental exit of their managing director which ultimately erodes public support and trust.
As I return after an extended stay in Vietnam as Artistic Advisor to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, I have decided to embark on a series of blogs that I hope will be of use to the Ensemble and other entrepreneurial artists. Each new organization is unique, reflecting their art and reason for existence. However, starting any new venture requires new skills and advice.
Our best consultant in 35 years remains Trader Joe, Joseph Coulombe, who founded the highly successful Trader Joe Markets. We both live in Pasadena (next to Los Angeles) and have many mutual friends. A few years after founding Southwest Chamber Music with my husband, I invited Joe to our office to offer us advice.