New York City Skyline

Know What You Do Well: Believe, Nurture, Trust And Share

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I recently finished Just Kids, a sensitive, personal and loving retelling by author, poet and musician Patti Smith of her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Beautifully written, this is an homage to a friendship of remarkable depth and affinity.

It was only by chance the two meet: the poet and artist, and the jeweller and installation maker, each penniless and near homeless. The connection was instant, enduring for a lifetime and beyond.

If we did not know the trajectory of their lives, we could easily have said they had a profound innocence and naiveté, adrift and directionless in their youth. Read More


So, A Gorilla Walks Into A Room

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Do you think you would notice if a gorilla walked by?

In a well-known experiment, test subjects were asked to watch a video and count the actions of a group of people dressed in white, while ignoring the actions of those dressed in black. Without warning, someone wearing a gorilla suit walks through the scene.

Did everyone see the gorilla? Read More

light waves

Wean Yourself and Create A Masterpiece

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This past week I participated in a two-day workshop, led by Jeff de Cagna, that focussed on business models and value-based memberships for associations (yes, it was heady stuff). One of the participants happened to mention ‘Orbiting the Giant Hairball’ by Gordon MacKenzie. Jeff gave the short book an enthusiastic endorsement, saying he has handed out a hundred copies.

Sounded good to me, and so I traipsed around downtown Toronto looking for the book so I could read it on the plan trip home. Read More

Prison gates

Prison Walls Of Experience

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“All of us are prisoners, to one degree or another, of our experience.”

And it is the prison walls of experience that obscure potential, possibilities, change and seeing the future.

Not too long ago, I met with someone “to imagine the future, not relive the past”. The intention was not to divorce the conversation from the past, but to avoid the fixation on past grievances, perceived wrong doings, and missing opportunities – the iron bars of so many conversations.

The meeting was really an interview where my questions focused first on the current condition and later moved to inquiries about an ideal future. Read More

Theatre curtain

Play The Role

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Roleplaying is something I do not especially like. It has always made me feel uneasy and, when I was much younger, the flight response could be quite compelling.

Roleplaying was far from my mind when I enrolled for UBC’s Cultural Planning course. After all, it was entirely online and the subject is somewhat dry and straightforward (although by no means easy).

As it turned out, there was a fair bit of the make-believe. Some of the assignments were didactic in nature, but many others were not. Read More

Sky through architecture

Practice Listening to Develop Others

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This week I follow-up Mentoring the Mentor with a guest post from my colleague Margo Gram.

I was recently invited to participate in CAPACOA’s mentorship program, The Succession Plan (TSP). Over the course of a weekend conference, my mentee and I met several times and had lots to talk about.

I was pleased to be asked to be a mentor – flattered that colleagues would think I had something to offer. That aside, I was also pleased because I have gained so much valuable experience from mentors throughout my life and now it is time to give back. Read More

Circle of People

Mentoring The Mentor

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I have been thinking about mentorship a lot lately. A friend and colleague recently asked me to be a part of her mentorship team and, this past weekend, I hosted CAPACOA’s mentorship program, The Succession Plan (TSP), at Pacific Contact.

Participating in TSP in three previous installments and working with five participants, I have learned that mentorship is something I enjoy immensely. It is uniquely invigorating to share your experiences and to exchange your ideas with someone who really wants to listen and learn.

Like a piano teacher working with even the best student, you hope you can impart some information that will help someone advance along the path of being the very best they can be. Read More

His Master's Voice

Shut Up And Listen!

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Okay, I will admit that’s crude. But it was a blunt reminder to myself as I embarked on a new project a couple of weeks ago.

For a new assignment, I had been asked to devise and lead a process that would bring together a number of arts leaders for a brief visioning exercise.

It happens I had met all of the individuals involved in this project through a past job, which meant I was familiar with the situation. After reflecting for several days, I decided the best approach would be to develop two series of questions – one set to be answered during one-on-one interviews, and the other during a meeting of the group. Read More

Excellence Road Sign

The Aspiration Of Excellence

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I recently heard Toronto-based contemporary dancer, choreographer, writer, director, arts advocate, and consultant Shannon Litzenberger speak at a conference of artists and arts administrators. She was there to discuss her research and ideas found in Choreographing the Future, Strategies for supporting next generation arts practice.

As the first-ever Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow, Shannon was “given [the] time to consider the relationship between arts funding and arts practice in Canada and ask critical questions about public investment. Questions such as: What kinds of working models best facilitate the creation, production, and distribution of art? Where can partnerships be leveraged to better resource the sector? How can artists and arts organizations better engage with, and create value for, the communities and audiences they serve?”

Related to the latter question, Shannon wondered aloud if we should not fixate solely on artistic excellence, but also consider, for example, excellence of community. Read More