Yesterday, sitting outside the Walker, I had a passionate conversation with one of my colleagues about partnerships. I heard him loud and clear when he said, “I don’t want any more partners…I wish we were more interior and I could just get my programs done.” I understood where the emotion was coming from… We’ve, all of us at large arts institutions and small, suffered through the nightmare partnership and vowed (like addicts) never to do that again. And then we do. What’s the deal?
Well, we just can’t get it all done on our own… That’s the deal. We need each other’s organizational strengths, resources, and competencies to fulfill our lofty missions…and, of course, to accomplish something worthwhile and lasting. It’s that bit about sustaining/sustainability of our programs and partnerships that is one of the most important issues for me right now.
I think it’s really important now for all of us working in the arts to think long and hard (and with an open heart) about what we want to accomplish and can contribute through our partnerships. Is it enough anymore for large arts organizations to graze liberally in their communities for the partner du jour and then bolt when that New York or London-based artist flies home–never to be heard from again? Is it enough for community-based organizations to show up at the beginning of each fiscal year with hand out and expect the vault to the endowment to be thrown open? Or, are we to link and sustain connections (as we attempt to do in person-to-person partnerships) where values and mission overlap; where complimentary and extending capacities can be matched; where long and abiding results can be created; where we can do no harm–either to community-based partners or to initiatives and programs already in place.
And given that all this has been rattling around in my brain…I found it synchronistic that CAN Network (Yodaspeak insert: “Always on time…those dudes are.”) has just posted an update on their site–an essay excerpted from “Exploring Partership Development & Evaluation: Inside Three Arts Organizations,” by Takiyah Nur Amin. I’ve also included a couple of links below for some other resources and texts. We need each other as organizations, people and communities… None of us are solo climbers and we can’t make it to the Promised Land without the safety and support of the whole caravan.
Spitz, Jennifer Amdur and Margaret Thom, editors
Arts and Non-Arts Partnerships by Chris Walker/Wallace Foundation
Wilder Collaboration Factors Inventory – An online tool that helps assess partnerships and collaborations