Howard Zinn

Some of my favorite advice for living came through Howard Zinn by way of The Impossible Will Take a Little While, a collection of essays about and by people who did not give up even though the deck was stacked against them. To paraphrase the outspoken, truth-wielding Zinn, he says you have to wake up in the morning with hope because if you aren’t hopeful, then there isn’t any. Zinn is pragmatic as well. He advises that if you have friends who are depressed and discouraged, then you just better get some new ones.

In the spirit of Zinn’s advice, It is refreshing to read about something positive in the arts, which is exactly what the blog Creative Destruction did with its coverage of a recent meeting of arts leaders held in Michigan. Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center and the turnaround artist behind Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s resuscitation was the keynote speaker. In spite of the economy and draconian budget cuts for the arts, the meeting attendees seemed upbeat and hopeful.

This is from Creative Destruction’s report:

Kaiser, known for his book, “The Art of the Turnaround”, offered three primary ideas to stave off disaster: Don’t cut funding for the artistic product, don’t cut marketing, and plan really INTERESTING projects which might take several years to accomplish. Donors will support bigger, interesting ideas more than little, boring ones, but big ideas need time to get funding in place and to capture the public imagination. His four-word mantra: great art, well marketed…Have the courage to be creative, daring and interesting because tepid art isn’t worth the price of admission, and in a down market no one will spend money to come to something that isn’t compelling. For all your budget woes, continue to market aggressively and innovatively because potential audiences won’t come if they don’t know about your art and potential donors won’t give if they don’t care about your institution. Even in times like these it’s ok to think big, but give yourself time to succeed.

Advice well suited for organizations as well as individuals.