Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Charting a New Course – Ideas from the Arts Sector

My find this week was the transcript from a presentation in New York City last fall that challenged arts organizations to look at their work and their audiences in new ways. I am not often one to read a 13 page article but it kept me engaged and got me thinking. I also saw many ideas and principles that would apply beyond the arts world. My thanks to Heather Hallenberg of the Fine Arts Fund in Cincinnati for sharing it with me. The Fine Arts Fund raises $12 million a year from a workplace giving campaign and provides capacity building for local arts organizations. They are preparing to kick off their 2009 campaign (see the video).

Excerpt from “Surviving the Culture Change” – Diane E. Ragsdale

“Last summer, on the recommendation of Ruby Lerner at Creative Capital, I read the book Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. Gonzales spent years trying to understand why some people survive harrowing circumstances-like an avalanche-and others do not.

I was particularly interested in a chapter in which he examines how people get lost. Gonzales explains that the way we navigate in life is by forming and following mental maps: literally pictures in our minds of particular areas or routes. Gonzales says you get lost when you "fail to update your mental map and then persist in following it even when the landscape," (the real world), "tries to tell you it's wrong."' Edward Cornell, one of the scientists Gonzales showcases in the book, gives an example of this. He says, "Whenever you start looking at your map and saying something like, 'Well, that lake could have dried up,' or 'That boulder could have moved,' a red light should go off. You're trying to make reality conform to your expectations rather than seeing what's there. In the sport of orienteering, they call this 'bending the map.’

Gonzales describes five stages that a person goes through when lost, which correlate with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Gonzales says that the final stage-acceptance-is the one that separates those that survive from those that don't. Here's how he describes it, "... as you run out of options and energy, you must become resigned to your plight. Like it or not, you must make a new mental map of where you are." Not where you wish you were.”

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