Thursday, January 30, 2014

"to fail and fail big" In Action: APAP failure: a crisis of courage

by Jennifer Wright Cook

On Sunday, January 19th The Field was privileged to curate (oh yes we did!) a session at APAP on failure, success and privilege with 10 stellar artists and presenters/producers.

I had many aha moments but the one that is still sticking with me came from the unbelievably smart Kristy Edmunds of UCLA.

There’s a crisis of courage.

It takes deep courage to make art.  It takes crazy courage to put it up publicly and risk critique, opprobrium, humiliation, disdain and even boredom.  It takes courage to ask friends, family and strangers for money to support your art.

It takes courage to present artists too.  It takes courage to say to your Board, your boss, your audience “Yes, this work is important to see.  It’s not easy, it’s intense, it’s smart, it’s odd, it’s provocative – and yes, we will present it.”

It even takes courage to run an arts service organization like The Field.   Every choice we make is based either in courage or in fear.  And every choice, one way or another is a moral choice.  Meaning, for instance, I put a line item in our 2014 budget for health insurance for our staff (and me!).   Our current health insurance is mediocre at best.  And it’s going up 20% from $567 to $682 a month per staff member.  We can’t afford this.  We just can’t.  After all, our funding hasn’t gone up 20%.  Nor have our fees.  So in order to afford this increase, we would need to cut other expenses (like rent? like our audit? Nope.  They don’t budge down either).

So I get afraid.  As a leader.  How can we do this?  Do we choose (again) mediocre health insurance for our staff (and myself!) or do I ask staff (and myself) to pay a higher percentage of it (currently staff pay 10%)?

These are moral decisions.

A budget is a moral stance.

A presenter’s season is a moral offering.

A funder’s grant is a moral relationship.

When we say yes to one thing, we say no to another.  And this says something about us and our values.

I have crises of courage on a daily basis.   But I try hard to push myself, and The Field, toward courage, toward abundance, toward transparency.

My question to you dear reader: what’s your crisis of courage?  Tell us on Facebook.

P.S.  There has been a huge conversation online that brings up questions of courage in the arts.  I am not commenting yet  but if you haven’t read it, you should, with a glass of whiskey perhaps.

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