News and Updates
Questions Considered - When To Plan
Tuesday, July 28, 2015 12:00 AM



ARTS Action Research


When is the best time to undertake a strategic planning process and who should be involved?


“As I ate the oysters . . . and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.”

      Earnest Hemingway—A Moveable Feast

There has never been a more enticing description of oysters; nor a more subtle but apt description of a renewed will to live. Hemingway knew well that deeply, depressed or disengaged individuals don’t plan. That’s because planning is not only an acknowledgement that there is a future, but also that it is possible to envision and influence that future in a positive way.  Not that anyone expects plans to work out exactly as articulated – but they often come close. More than that, they sometimes provide a path towards something better than the outcomes originally envisioned.  What we know for sure is that planning is the only way to accomplish either future.

Stepping from the romantic to the practical, planning is about the dynamic relationship between time and space in our lives, which is change. Change is an ongoing, unrelenting, fact of life. But it’s also a sign of life, especially when we acknowledge and work with it. So, When is the best time to undertake a planning process? It’s when you feel the need to shape, guide and have some control over how your theatre and work is going to change and grow in the future. There’s no season and no particular point in an entity’s lifecycle that is predestined for such an impulse. For different leaders and different organizations it comes at different moments.  That said, there is never a best time, an ideal time, or a time that won’t interfere with or distract from the other activities of your organization. In other words, there won’t be a moment when you can simply shut everything else out and plan.  But, that could be said of any project of any kind that your theatre wants to undertake.

A more appropriate way of thinking about ‘a best time for planning’ is when professional leadership makes the time and commits to a process. Part of this process is abandoning the notion that planning is something extra that needs to get done and understanding that effective planning is a way of propelling ongoing work and getting things done. The simple fact is that arts professionals plan all the time, otherwise no show would be mounted, no marketing undertaken, and no grants written. Planning is ongoing and integrated into what we do. However, much of it is reactive rather than proactive, situational rather than systemic, and short term if not in real time – ultimately not very satisfying and definitely not a positive way to think and plan for the future. To accomplish effective, proactive, systemic and long term planning, a theatre’s leadership must commit to making it an essential and consistent component of the ongoing operation and management of the organization’s activities.

Assuming planning must be an integrated and ongoing component of the work of theatre organizations, who should be involved in the planning process?  If the process is going to be meaningfully connected to the mission and vision of the organization and informed by the realities it faces, the person or people who have the most acute understanding and experience of these things must lead the process: the professional leadership.  A planning process might be facilitated by an outside consultant, but ultimately the organization’s leadership must do the work and shape the outcomes for it to be a truly meaningful process.

Further, these professional leaders must take responsibility for bringing together a core planning group to support process.  Just as Artistic Directors cast certain artists in certain roles because they are skilled, talented or experienced, likewise, the core planning group must be identified by professional leadership and cast very carefully.  The casting process is predicated not only on matching talent and experience but also on understanding the intangibles of values and behaviors that fit within the culture we’ve defined.  Taking the time to get the right team in place is essential for creating a rich and effective planning process.

Do you have questions in your organization or work that you would like to work with ARTS Action Research to explore and understand?  AAR Associates are available to A.R.T./New York members throughout the year, conducting Nancy Quinn Program workshops and providing one on one consulting support through the Theatre Leadership Program. For more information about these programs, contact Ann Marie Lonsdale at A.R.T./New York.

How can the A.R.T./New York Theatres meet your needs?
Wednesday, July 01, 2015 12:00 AM
Construction is under way, and we're on track to bring you two state-of-the art performance spaces on the west side of Manhattan.

As part of our planning process, the A.R.T./New York staff wants to collect up-to-date information about how you are working now, in 2015, and what you need to provide the best possible experience to the artists and audiences you serve. To that end, we have created a survey so that you can provide us with vital information about your needs and how you interact with performance spaces.

The information you provide will help us plan and design rental packages that are responsive to your needs as producers of New York's finest nonprofit theatre.

Please, take 15 minutes or so to fill out the survey before August 1st. Please, send only one response from each company.

3 More Years of Creative Space
Wednesday, May 13, 2015 12:00 AM

 Creative Space Grant recipient Ma-Yi Theatre Company's production of Vampire Cowboys' The Inexplicable Redemption of Agent G // Photo by Peter James Zielinski

A.R.T./New York is happy to announce that with renewed support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, it will continue to award Creative Space grants for the next three years. Thanks to previous support from The Mellon Foundation, A.R.T./New York has provided 27,500 free Creative Space hours to its members since 2011. These grants have supported 140 unique companies, representing thousands of artists from all five boroughs.

When the program was inaugurated in 2011, A.R.T./New York had identified the cost of rehearsal space as a source of financial strain shared among all the companies it represents, making the Creative Space Grant a resource for all member organizations. “NAATCO was about to cut its programming for the first time because of the continuing effects of the economic crash,” wrote Mia Katigbak, Artistic Producing Director of NAATCO. “Thanks to the Space Grant, we were able to go ahead with our second production of the season.”

The Creative Space Program provides A.R.T./New York members with free rehearsal space hours at its shared office and rehearsal facilities, Spaces @ 520 in Manhattan and the LuEsther T. Mertz South Oxford Space in Brooklyn. These in-kind space grants can be used to support a wide variety of creative activity, including rehearsals, auditions, developmental processes, meetings, invited readings, and workshops that further the artistic endeavors of A.R.T./New York members.

The program will continue to be open to all A.R.T./New York members in good standing, providing between 25-75 free hours per cycle to awarded applicants. Details about the program and the application can be found here. The application process for FY16 Cycle 1 (July-December) will be open through May 22, 2015 and Cycle 2 (January-June 2016) will open in October 2015. 


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