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Participants at the 2016 Arts Impact Ohio Conference engage in a breakout session activity

140 Characters or A One Act Play

In today’s fast paced news cycles, with innumerable news sources, we are required to be practical advocates when communicating. We know through our work in the arts sector that we are surrounded by opportunities that inspire, educate, and unite us around common interests. These same issues have the potential to challenge assumptions and provoke civil discourse.


In a recent document prepared by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies – Communicating About Arts Controversies – the national organization shared six principles the arts can learn from other sectors. These principals are useful for arts leaders:

Be first. The first source of communication often becomes the source against which all others are measured.

Be right. Accuracy is critical to credibility.

Be credible. Honesty is fundamental to maintaining trust.

Express empathy. Emotion cannot be countered with facts. People must first know that their leaders care.

Promote action. Giving people something specific to do channels energy and restores a sense of control.

Show respect. Lack of respect for a community affected by a crisis undermines trust.[1]

A healthy democracy can and should debate the meanings of arts and the role culture plays in our lives. Civil discourse honors multiple viewpoints, debates issues on their substantive merits, and moves beyond sound bites.[2]

We use communication tools today in ways never even dreamed of a decade ago. From 140 character tweets, to long-form blog posts, to live media sources via television, radio, cable, internet and everything in between, we have many options, and lots of favorites, from which we produce (and receive) information. Here at the Ohio Arts Council we use:

Facebook: ohioartscouncil or

Instagram: @OhioArtsCouncil or

Twitter: @OhioArtsCouncil or

OAC Blog:

Media Releases:


No matter the communication style you prefer, no matter the opinions or bully pulpits we have in our personal and professional lives, I believe our role is to participate in civil discourse honoring a myriad of viewpoints. This will ensure there is a time and place for meaningful dialogues that consider all sides and make room for meaningful engagement where innovation and leadership are front and center in arts and culture.

In thinking of the list of principles listed in this article, I hope we all always start with “be credible” and end with “show respect.”

Until next time,

Donna Collins' signature

Donna S. Collins
Executive Director

[1] Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication a manual that combines crisis communication techniques and risk mitigation advice.

[2] Not Here, Not Now, Not That! Protests over Art and Culture in America, Steven J. Tepper, p. 276

Image credit: Participants at the 2016 Arts Impact Ohio Conference engage in a breakout session activity, Photo by Terry Gilliam

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