Join the Conversation: Taking Collective Action


Use the hashtag #ArtsFwd to join David and Virtual Summit participants from around the world for a conversation about this topic on Sunday, October 20 at 6:00pm EST. Learn more and register for the free Virtual Summit here

We’re all in this together.

Theatre, dance, opera, galleries, libraries, bookstores, coffeehouses…I could go on. After all, “art” is all around us — everything we use, everything we see, everything in our modern world was designed. Whether that design is intentionally artistic or utilitarian — or utilitarian-as-artistic — our world is suffused with art. So it strikes me as odd that we keep fences & walls between our disciplines most of the time.

But, as the saying goes, we’re stronger together than apart.

In my own town, when we founded our theatre company — a small company designed to travel, to pay Equity rates, to support working actors & designers in their chosen profession — there was grumbling from some of those involved in the local community theatre group. Bear in mind, this is a small town on the Ohio River — the county’s population is about 24,000 — so there are only two theatre groups in town. But we never saw it as a competition. By cooperating, we’ve boosted awareness of one another’s shows, we’ve helped draw new people into their acting pool, and we’ve gained new audiences for our own work. Now, working together with a local group producing music events, we have a building to fill as often as we can. (If you’re coming through southern Indiana, give me a call.)

It’s why we promote the idea of “Never Be Dark” in the 2amt community. In brief, the idea is bring as many artists and organizations into your buildings as often as possible. The idea is to become a social hub for the arts in your community, whether neighborhood, town or city.

For major theatres, it’s okay to bring in smaller groups and let them play rent-free–you’re supporting the artists in your city, not just the actors you hired at an audition in NYC. Deputize these smaller companies and bring their audiences into your spaces. In turn, let them become your street team in town — make it easier for them to come into your building and let them share your work with others.

Find the artists and performers working in your immediate neighborhood. Bring them together and find out what you can do to work with them. Embrace their audiences, make artist and audience feel welcome in your space. Fill your building with life.

That’s what I think when I think of taking collective action.

Join the conversation!

I’m looking forward to our Twitter chat together during the Taking Collective Action session on Sunday. Here are some of the questions I’m eager to explore with you all:

Before taking collective action, do you know who or what makes up that collective? How aware are you of the other organizations and artists in your community? If your organization’s name is “Arts Organization of City,” are you truly “of” that city or merely “in” it?

What kinds of projects or actions can you take together? What can you support? How do they reflect or amplify your mission? Is your mission too tightly focused to allow such collaborations? How can you get your staff on board?

How do you integrate other organizations, smaller companies, and single artists into the larger whole? Are they simply marketing opportunities or are they ways of supporting the artistic community of your neighborhood/town/city/region?

How can we take collective action on a larger scale? Can we share across cities and regions?

Join David and Virtual Summit participants from around the world during the Taking Collective Action Talk series on Sunday, October 20 at 6:00pm EST. Learn more and register for the free Virtual Summit here

Speakers in the Taking Collective Action Talk Series

J.S. May, Chief Advancement Officer, Portland Art Museum
Museum as Platform

J.S. (John Stuart) May is the Chief Advancement Officer for the Portland Art Museum where he leads the development, membership, marketing and government relations efforts. He is a seasoned fundraising and communications professional and has worked with a wide range of local, regional, national and international nonprofit organizations as both staff and a consultant. He has been with the Museum since May of 2007 and is an avid yogi, cyclist and reader.

Janeen Bryant, Vice President, Education, Levine Museum of the New South

An advocate and catalyst for building community capacity and understanding culture since 2003, Janeen Bryant is the VP of Education at Levine Museum of the New South, where she has been since 2007. A graduate of Davidson College with a B.A. in Anthropology, she recently completed her Master of Science degree in Leadership and Management at Montreat College. Creator of numerous facilitation modules and locally known lecturer, consultant and leader in community mobilization, Ms. Bryant has led youth-centered community-building and advocacy in the Charlotte area through professional development, diversity trainings and panel presentations.

Carlton Turner, Executive Director, Alternate ROOTS
So You Think You Can Dance?

Carlton Turner is the Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, a regional non-profit arts organization based in the south. Carlton has been a member of Alternate ROOTS since 2001, previously serving as Regional Development Director and on the organization’s board as a Regional Representative and officer. Carlton is also co-founder and co-artistic director, along with his brother Maurice Turner, of the group M.U.G.A.B.E.E. (Men Under Guidance Acting Before Early Extinction). M.U.G.A.B.E.E. is a performing arts group that blends jazz, hip-hop, spoken word poetry, and soul music together with non-traditional storytelling.

Caroline Woolard and Jen Abrams, Co-Founders and Co-Directors,
Beyond Scarcity: Abundance for Cultural Production in the Networked Age

Caroline Woolard graduated from the only tuition-free art school in the country (Cooper Union, BFA 2006) with a strong commitment to the solidarity economy movement and conceptual art. In 2009, Woolard cofounded three systems for cultural production: a studio space,, and Trade School. Woolard teaches at The New School, coordinates Trade School, and is currently working on a 60 year project in New York City: a community land trust for a coalition of artists, internet activists, and community organizers.

Jen Abrams is a choreographer and performance-maker with a background in arts administration. Jen works on the public side of OurGoods: building awareness of the site, partnering with other non-profits, being an ambassador for resource-sharing in the creative community, and raising the money. For the last thirteen years, Jen has been part of WOW Cafe Theater, a collectively-run theater space for women and transpeople. Jen is a skilled institutional and individual fundraiser, with a background in strategic planning for and management of small and founder-led non-profits.

Cayenne Harris, Director of Lyric Unlimited, Lyric Opera of Chicago
Unlikely Pairing, Lasting Implications

Cayenne Harris was appointed Director of Lyric Unlimited at Lyric Opera of Chicago in July 2012. As the lead administrator for Lyric’s new community engagement initiative, Harris plays a central role in the creation of Lyric Unlimited – its philosophy, structure, operation and content. She is charged with establishing and fostering partnerships with a wide range of Chicago-area communities and organizations and exploring ways to increase Lyric’s and opera’s relevance and reach. Harris most recently served as Director of New Initiatives at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Institute for Learning, Access, and Training. She holds degrees in music from San Francisco State University and Yale University.

David J. Loehr is the editor & artistic director of 2amt, as well as artist-in-residence & co-founder of the Riverrun Theatre Company in Madison, Ind. His work has been performed at the Çingleton 3 conference, Capital Fringe Festival, Chicago Fringe Festival, Louisville Playwrights Festival, NJ One Minute Play Festival, South Carolina Repertory Company, Glass Mind Theatre and Actors Theatre of Louisville. He is also a marketing consultant and occasional sound designer for multiple theatre companies.