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Just Keep Showing Up!

Just Keep Showing Up!

This morning I had an engaging conversation with Jarrod Hartzler, executive and artistic director of Tuesday Musical Association in Akron. We discussed at length the importance of presence and how our love of the arts allows us to be present at professional art exhibitions, concerts, and performances, as well as arts events presented by students. All too often, as arts leaders, we can take for granted the importance of being present, immersing ourselves in the moment, and experiencing the arts for ourselves in the same way we encourage others to make the arts a priority. It’s easy to lament about schedules and forget to make time for the pure enjoyment of art when so much of our time — days, nights, and weekends — is filled with other kinds of arts-related activities  — meetings, proposals, policies, planning, phone calls, writing, required social events, and so on.

Just as the universe often does, after talking with Jarrod, the theme of presence materialized again later that day. Ken Emerick, artist programs director here at the Ohio Arts Council, handed me the fall issue of CAN Journal — the Northeast Ohio publication of the Collective Arts Network. He urged me to take a look at William Busta’s article first, saying, “Read it —you will love it, and I bet it will inspire you to write.” How does one turn down that kind of encouragement?

A little after 5 p.m., as the phones stopped ringing and folks wrapped up their business after another great day at the OAC, the CAN Journal fell off my desk to the floor, landing to an open page with a large photo of the William Busta Gallery (the web version has a great photo of Bill!).

In true Bill Busta fashion, his article “Show Up!” had me with the first sentence: “Almost all of the artists that I know who have been successful in our region have been full participants in its art life.”

This attitude — show up, participate, be present — is worth exploring.

Busta went on to say: “Artwork is fertilized and invigorated by the geographic, intellectual, and social context in which it is created. Isolated, there’s the real and debilitating danger of an artist’s work being brilliant from their own perspective, but unintelligible to others.”

He’s right: Our work is informed by myriad ideas — everything matters — from global headlines to the everyday conversations we have around the copier. To me, and arts leaders like Jarrod and Ken, showing up is a way of showing respect to the artists, supporting their creativity through the purchase of admission tickets and works of art. In the process of showing up, we also ensure that we are filled up by the innovative sector we call the arts.

Show Up! That’s our call to action. Imagine if you and I went to one gallery opening a week. (Remember, gallery folks know how to throw a party — you won’t go away hungry or thirsty!) Think about the box office business for Ohio’s theatre and dance companies if we went to a performance once a month or even once every couple of months. Our appreciation for arts experiences that stretch our beliefs and base of knowledge will intensify our curiosity and make us better citizens of the world.

Speaking of citizens, arts advocates showed up throughout 2017 to request support for the arts at the state and federal levels. Policymakers continue to show up and support the arts through strong investments in funding for artists and arts organizations through the Ohio Arts Council. Imagine what might have transpired during our recent, difficult state budget cycle if no one had shown up! I would be remiss if I didn’t once again thank every member of the Ohio Arts Council Board and members of Ohio Citizens for the Arts for showing up and providing many examples about the return on investment of state and federal dollars created by Ohio’s thriving arts sector. Thank you to Governor John R. Kasich and all of our elected officials for showing up to support the arts.

This I know — showing up shifts the paradigm of how we engage and experience the arts. Let’s take Bill Busta’s closing advice: “Show up and be spectacular. Show up and be surly. But do show up!”

Until next time,


Donna S. Collins
Executive Director



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