“The arts are the best common denominator for doing good in the world.” –Dame Julie Andrews
I used to think of integrity as one of those vague, unattainable concepts. As in, integrity is something you should have. Or be in. Integrity was a weird, intangible word denoting a place that no human could ever truly occupy. Stuffy, intractable people would purse their lips and say things like, “My goodness, that is a matter of integrity. Isn’t it?” when presented with matters of fairness, truthfulness, or honesty.
Fast forward through many years of sitting on a variety of grant review panels, reading through hundreds of proposals and applications from arts and cultural organizations. It quickly became obvious to me which ones were, shall we say, embellished. Some were outright fabrications, a tiny minority contained flagrant lies. And many were honest, forthright, and refreshing. With those fantastical proposals, my inner, pursed-lip person said, “My goodness. This is a matter of integrity. Isn’t it?”
I understood that those applicants were trying to set themselves apart, make their organizations stand out from the intense competition. Applying for funding in the arts is not for the faint of heart. It can be very time consuming and intimidating. Often, there is no payoff. But spinning a grant proposal? It’s a symptom of something amiss in the organization.
My current orientation comes from co-founding, running, and ultimately losing my own arts organization. I learned that authenticity, transparency, and yes, integrity is the only way to go. Of course, no one is perfect. And I don’t claim to have all the answers, or be in integrity at all times. One of my mentors, Dr. Kathlyn Hendricks, likes to use the analogy of an airplane autopilot, which spends something like 90% of its time making small corrections as the plane veers off course and then back on, over and over throughout the journey. It’s become an important metaphor for me, and for the organizations I work with. We’re in the process of developing that internal mechanism – individually and organizationally – that keeps us as close as possible to the course. It’s all about the journey.
This blog is about flying right. Addressing, up front, organizational issues that can impede a mission, or an artistic product. Developing the chops an arts organization needs to flourish. I subscribe to the idea that authenticity, transparency, open communication, honesty, and integrity are essential to amazing creativity and thriving arts organizations. I invite you to join the discussion, and appreciate you stopping by!