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SCENE CHANGE

WHY TODAY’S NONPROFIT ARTS ORGANIZATIONS HAVE TO STOP PRODUCING ART AND START PRODUCING IMPACT

Many in the nonprofit arts sector will decry this manifesto as heresy, only validating its necessity.

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Harrison presents a radical new vision for nonprofit arts organizations in this nonfiction work.

Drawing on his 30 years of experience in nonprofit theater, the author breaks down, in easy-to-understand language, the United States tax code and the ways in which nonprofit groups misconstrue their responsibilities as a 501I: “The purpose of nonprofit arts organizations is not about… the production of art, but the production of impact using the arts as tools.” Harrison also discusses the toxic influences within these organizations, including the lie of subscription revenue, glory-chasing artistic directors, and overly-pampered big-money donors. The author proposes pragmatic reforms placing focus on better outreach to the neighborhoods these organizations operate in. Better diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) integration both on the boards and staffs, along with transparency regarding both donations and pay, would increase hospitality and impact, per Harrison. He argues that fostering diverse voices would help institutions to better understand the specific issues that require a nonprofit’s help—be that aiding the houseless, combating gun violence, or raising awareness about the opioid crisis—while putting on shows that both engage and matter to the community. The author is aware that his advice will be seen as controversial and pulls no punches as he explains the problems he views as inherent to nonprofit arts organizations. Sarcastic asides are common, and Harrison has seemingly never met an analogy or metaphor that he didn’t love, but he also emphasizes the importance of data and gives specific advice. Some of this work’s progressive ideas, like giving away tickets or divesting from a theater space, could be game-changing, though the text doesn’t offer many real-world examples aside from Minneapolis’ Mixed Blood Theatre, New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre, or the occasional personal anecdote. While forceful, even the harshest commentary is not presented prescriptively, and it clearly comes from a place of love for the subversive and utopian possibilities of the arts.

Many in the nonprofit arts sector will decry this manifesto as heresy, only validating its necessity.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2024

ISBN: 9781803414461

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Changemakers Books

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2024

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A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

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The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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MAGIC WORDS

WHAT TO SAY TO GET YOUR WAY

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Want to get ahead in business? Consult a dictionary.

By Wharton School professor Berger’s account, much of the art of persuasion lies in the art of choosing the right word. Want to jump ahead of others waiting in line to use a photocopy machine, even if they’re grizzled New Yorkers? Throw a because into the equation (“Excuse me, I have five pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I’m in a rush?”), and you’re likely to get your way. Want someone to do your copying for you? Then change your verbs to nouns: not “Can you help me?” but “Can you be a helper?” As Berger notes, there’s a subtle psychological shift at play when a person becomes not a mere instrument in helping but instead acquires an identity as a helper. It’s the little things, one supposes, and the author offers some interesting strategies that eager readers will want to try out. Instead of alienating a listener with the omniscient should, as in “You should do this,” try could instead: “Well, you could…” induces all concerned “to recognize that there might be other possibilities.” Berger’s counsel that one should use abstractions contradicts his admonition to use concrete language, and it doesn’t help matters to say that each is appropriate to a particular situation, while grammarians will wince at his suggestion that a nerve-calming exercise to “try talking to yourself in the third person (‘You can do it!’)” in fact invokes the second person. Still, there are plenty of useful insights, particularly for students of advertising and public speaking. It’s intriguing to note that appeals to God are less effective in securing a loan than a simple affirmative such as “I pay all bills…on time”), and it’s helpful to keep in mind that “the right words used at the right time can have immense power.”

Perhaps not magic but appealing nonetheless.

Pub Date: March 7, 2023

ISBN: 9780063204935

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Harper Business

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2023

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