One of my favorite words is stewardship.
Broadly defined, a steward is someone who is there to represent a relationship.
So when you are a good steward, that means you have represented something well.
The arts need more good stewards.
All too often when I listen to artists and arts admins talk about their field . . . they make it sound like we have the worst jobs in the world.
We talk about the challenges like we are the only field that has them.
We complain about the lack of funds or audience like we are entitled to both of them.
But how often do we consider that the reason we don't get enough funds, or enough butts in seats is because of US?
I remember a conversation I had with a very, very bright woman who wanted to start an arts organization.
I suggested she consider making her group a nonprofit.
She flatly refused.
I asked why.
She said, "Running a nonprofit is too hard."
I said, "How do you know that?"
She said, "Because that's what everyone says."
Then she spent about 10 minutes telling her horror stories about arts nonprofit. They were all stories she had heard from people in the field.
I asked her if they every had any positive stories to share.
"Sometimes." she said "But mostly they complain."
Let me blunt.
People don't care about our problems.
They don't care about how hard it is to fundraise.
They don't care how challenging our marketing is.
Nor should they.
What people do care about is how relevant our work is to there lives . . . and they care very much how much love, passion, skill and joy we put into what we do.
If 2008 has taught us anything it is that people need an optimistic vision of the future to get behind.
People know about challenges. They know about challenges all too well.
What they want is to feel like there is some hope.
It is the job of good stewards to deliver that optimistic message.
When talking about classical music, Ben Zander said that approaches his work as if everyone loves classical music . . . they just don't know it yet.
That's being a good steward.
The arts need more people like him.