Monthly Archives: January 2012

Lead or Follow?

Join me for an ArtsJournal online discussion:

LEAD OR FOLLOW: Increasingly, audiences have more visibility for their opinions about the culture they consume. Cultural institutions know more and more about their audiences and their wants. Some suggest this new transparency argues for a different relationship between artists and audience. So the question: In this age of self-expression and information overload, do our artists and arts organizations need to lead more or learn to follow their communities more?  Twitter hashtag is #leadorfollow.

In my initial post, I argue to follow, at least for now:

Institutions can learn by following…and following they must, for now

By following, I mean observing.

Institutions are not static. In fact, the best of them are living, breathing places from which there is a great deal of interactivity. Key to assessing one’s impact is to understand the nature of this interactivity at every level. By keen observation, one only begins the process of trying to suss out the importance and meaning of art and culture today. Unfortunately, many leaders operating in today’s cultural sector lack this ability.

To learn more, go to ArtsJournal and join in the discussion!

by MiJin Hong, Director of Academic Affairs and Program Development, GLI

Reflections from China

Forbidden City  ©

Forbidden City ©

Just back from two weeks in China where MiJin and I were guests of the State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH).  The campaign to open hundreds of new museums has already begun.  The cultural sector has received significant government attention and investment.  Leaders point out that there is one museum for nearly every 450,000 persons in China (source China National Bureau of Statistics and Hunan Provincial Museum) while the ratio in the U.S. is more like one for every 17,642 persons (source: U.S. Census and AAM)—an important difference for a nation deeply proud of its cultural heritage and ambitious for recognition.  The government is pleased with its economic progress but concerned about materialism and corruption, seeing new value in museums’ communicating China’s spiritual and ethical traditions. There are a few private museums and almost all cultural organizations are supported and governed by the Ministry.  The Chinese are frank about their museums’ shortcomings and determined to improve them.

The scale and pace of development is breathtaking.  Beijing is a forest of Swedish cranes.  The GDP growth in the 90’s averaged 12% and a “slow-down” to 9% is still the envy of the U.S. and Europe. Having succeeded in manufacturing, the Chinese are determined to increase and diversify their service sector, and have found many unobtrusive ways for customers to evaluate the quality of services on offer. There is compulsory retirement for men at age 60, for women in civil service it is 55 and for those in state-run enterprises it is 50.  Developing health care for all and something like the U.S. Social Security system are important national agenda items.

There were many light moments. The English translation of “Do Not Disturb” in one hotel was “Leave Me Alone!”  MiJin and I were warmly welcomed everywhere, especially during our visits to 15 different museums and historic sites.  Conversations were honest and realistic.  I hope it is the first of many exchanges between SACH and GLI.

By Phil Nowlen, Executive Director, GLI