‘Building communities, not audiences’

Culture Works presents Doug Borwick at Loft Theatre

By Kate E Lore
Photo: Culture Works brings Doug Borwick to lecture on his new book “Building Communities, Not Audiences” at the Loft Theatre on Thursday, March 28  

The arts of Dayton demand your attention. Plays, performances, music and galleries, all these things are standing up demanding, “Look over here!” Art has been always strong force in Dayton, but for years now it’s gone underappreciated. Don’t worry, Doug Borwick and others like him are working to turn this around. Borwick is the published author of “Building Communities, Not Audiences: The Future of the Arts in the U.S.” Thanks to Culture Works, he will be in Dayton on Thursday, March 28 to give a talk about community engagement for the arts.

Doug Borwick holds a doctorate in music composition. He served as an arts administrator and producer working with the Arts and Cultural Council for Greater Rochester (N.Y.), as well as founding and leading the North Carolina Composers Alliance. Borwick is also an educator, having served for nearly 30 years as director of the arts management and not-for-profit management programs at Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Borwick is an advocate of community engagement in the arts. He is author of Engaging Matters, a blog for ArtsJournal. In addition, he is CEO of ArtsEngaged, offering training and consultation services to artists and arts organizations as well as CEO of Outfitters4 Inc., providing management services for nonprofit organizations.

“My work is addressing the arts in community engagement, connecting the arts establishment more directly to the community,” Borwick said. “I am trained as a composer. I spent a number of years producing and that got me into arts management that got me teaching arts management so I spent about 30 years in academia. During the course of that, I observed there was no public policy for politicians in supporting the arts. That caused me to examine the disconnect between the arts community and the broad community, the person on the street and that really was the genesis for this work.”

In his book, Borwick addresses this disconnection, as well as how and why it started. In the book, he states:

“The economic, social and political environments out of which the infrastructure for Western ‘high arts’ grew have changed. Today’s major arts institutions, products of that legacy, no longer benefit from relatively inexpensive labor, a nominally homogeneous culture or a polity openly managed by an elite class. Expenses are rising precipitously and competition for major donors is increasing; as a result, the survival of established arts organizations hinges on their ability to engage effectively with a far broader segment of the population than has been true to date.”

Borwick regularly travels across the country and is involved with many organizations. He said he has seen some really good things happening with places like Valley Memphis and the Queens Museum of Art in New York, both of which are discussed in his book. Having been all around the country, there are some major differences he has seen between various locations.

“One thing that I have observed going around the country is that small communities really get this because they don’t have much choice,” Borwick said. “If you work in the arts in a town of about 3,000 you really have to be serious about the entire population being your target audience in ways that up to this point hasn’t been as true in larger cities.”

In a city with a struggling economy on top of the struggling arts, it’s hard to know where to start.

“The most important conversion needs to be in conversations within the arts community. The second is the business and community leaders becoming more aware of the power of the arts making positive contributions within communities,” Borwick said.

Having spent most of his life deeply involved with the arts, it is clear that this work is important to Borwick. He knows what Dayton needs to do in order for our arts to grow and he’s ready to help. His ultimate goal is simple: “I want to see the general populace sort of clamoring for this type of work,” he said.

According to Borwick, the Dayton community must step up in order for our arts to flourish. “It is from community that the arts developed and it is in serving communities that the arts will thrive … Communities do not exist to serve the arts; the arts exist to serve communities,” he says in the book.

Borwick’s mission is to help communities and their arts to unite and grow stronger together. “The arts have incredible but underutilized power for making better communities and ultimately what I am hoping to do is help the community to tap into that and help the arts to be ready to respond.”

If you have any involvement or interest in the arts, now is the time to go out and support it. This lecture will offer some great insight and ideas, but ultimately it is up to the people of Dayton to make the change.

Culture Works presents Doug Borwick, Thursday, March 28, 2013 at 8 a.m. at the Loft Theatre, 126 N. Main Street.  Everyone is welcome. Admission is free, but space is limited.

Reach DCP freelance writer Kate E Lore at KateLore@daytoncitypaper.com

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