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My Two Years with Americans for the Arts

Rich Mintz

I’m in San Diego this week for the Americans for the Arts Convention, which kicked off at noon today with a welcome by president Bob Lynch and a keynote address by California social-activist legend Bobby Shriver.

This is my fourth Americans for the Arts event in two years. Heading for my first (the 2009 National Arts Marketing Project conference in Providence), I was afraid I’d feel out of place. If you know me, you know I’m not exactly shy, but I’ve always been a little scared of arts people. They tend to be so sure of themselves, and bubbling over with ideas, and I’m just, you know, a businessman—on the creative end of the spectrum for a businessman, to be sure, but nevertheless…But I had no reason to worry.

One thing about arts people is that they love talking about ideas. And the ideas that might help them get more people to experience and enjoy art, or advocate for arts funding and education, or donate to support the arts in their own communities—well, those are the ideas they love talking about most of all. And it just so happens that those are the kinds of ideas we at Blue State Digital trade in, so everything worked out fine. 

Another thing about arts people is that they remember you. Whether artist or arts administrator or community arts activist, they are fundamentally social people. They can’t help it. Every person they meet is a potential artsgoer or arts donor or arts voter or arts enjoyer, and they are passionate about the arts, and so they take every relationship seriously.

Plus, if they’re artists, they want you to LOVE THEIR ART and they will probably keep trying to get you to love it until you do. I still think of myself as on the fringe of the arts community, not in the center of it. But this community is delighted to embrace anyone who takes the arts seriously, and I certainly do, so I suppose I qualify. And as a result, each Americans for the Arts event I attend is more like a reunion with old friends.

And a third thing about arts people is—well, Lord have mercy, can they party!  The opening reception at last year’s Convention in Baltimore was mindblowing—good-natured and fun, food and drink, singers with a bang-up band, a dress-up table (there is a photo of me wearing a Maryland crab hat now floating around the Internet that dates from that party), and uncommonly social. No wallflowers in that kind of environment.

Plus, hello! Last year’s party was held IN A MUSEUM, and we’re not talking your grandmother’s museum, either—we’re talking the American Visionary Art Museum in Federal Hill, which, if you don’t know it—well, just click the link. If your most entertaining old uncle (the one with the old locomotive in his garage) got together with the landscape designer who laid out your garden, and your mom’s hairdresser, and a six-year-old girl, and you gave them a million dollars and said “Make a museum,” they couldn’t come up with a more interesting one than this. The only thing it doesn’t have is unicorns, and if they see this blog post they’ll probably have some in there by tomorrow. Highly recommended, that museum. Highly recommended for all ages. (Oh, and you should see the gift shop…).

Tonight’s opening reception is at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego–a different kind of museum, but then again San Diego is a different kind of place. From the leaked details I’m privy to, tonight’s party promises to be just as much fun. Oops, look at the time–it’s almost time to wash my face, straighten my tie, slick back my hair, and catch the trolley.  See you at the party!

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