You are on page 1of 12

Art Centering:

The Art of Making Art Center(s)

by Cypher: Bernard Hankins and O.G. Rose
Let him who cannot be alone beware of community... Let him who is not in community beware of
being alone... Each by itself has profound perils and pitfalls. One who wants fellowship without
solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without
fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair.

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

The arts are always in trouble. It is their nature to be in trouble.
-Archibald MacLeish

Part 1
Why Arts Centers Fail
Part 2
The Plan and the Players
Part 3
The Environment
Part 4
Points to Consider
Additions and Resources
The Starbucks Test
The Home Test
The Magic Words
Financial and Operational Matters
Resume and More

Broad Plan Overview


Start with one artist.

Invite two to three artists.
Allow the growth of artists to develop organically as they invite their friends.
Insert a person who appreciates the arts and is influential with people.
Allow this person to organically and strategically promote the organization,
creating an audience.
6. Create events that connect the artists and audience, allowing and creating
deeper relationships.
7. Enjoy the flourishing of your creation.

The Players

The Main Artist

The Art Core
The Art Appreciator/Marketer/Mouthpiece
The Art Organization (Artists + Audience)
The Purposes of Each Player

The Main Artist

1. To live in and/or consistently work in the physical location of the arts organization.
2. To be a familiar face to draw in a core group of artists.
3. To create a sense that the organization values creative thinking, excellence of craft,
and a dedication to a rigor of work.
4. To be an overall anchor and inspiration to those that the organization wishes to
The Art Core
1. To serve as the next level of reinforcing-structure, around which the main, larger
network of artists will be built.
2. To act as the initial outstretching arms that will gather the artists who will comprise
the main, larger organization.
3. To create perceived value and credibility to outside artists that the organization is
worth joining.
The Art Organization
1. To be the main attraction, home, and/or community that people show up to
participate in.
2. The piece of the organization that continually expands in size, increases in depth,
and grows into the future.
3. To provide the services, forums, opportunities, etc. artists and non-artists are
seeking, knitting together all people through the arts and life.
The Art Appreciator/Marketer/Mouthpiece
1. To balance the internal energy and external identity of the organization.

2. To attract, invite, and enlighten non-artists about the value of art personally and on
a communal level.
3. To encourage artists to continue creating and to encourage non-artists to
continually support creativity.
4. To be understanding of artists and to help non-artist understand.
5. To catalyze, organize and maintain the overall social-dimension of the organization.
6. To ensure uninterrupted freedom for artists to create by taking on the task of
marketing the artists work and performances (through the internet, print, etc.).
7. To be a family historian responsible for documenting and organizing the family
history of all events, people, and activities.
The Audience
1. To enjoy the artists work.
2. To serve as a container to receive the created work.
3. To be attentive of, respect, and appreciate the created work.
4. To respond to the artists work and engage with it on all levels.
5. To invite others in and influence others to also be inviting.
The Reasons for Each Player
The Main Artist
Serious artists seek like-minded people who they respect and feel inspired by. In the
outside world, the artist is seldom taken seriously and often identified as playing and
wasting time. For this reason and others, serious artists seek refuge where they can
meet other artists who recognize them and their creative drive. They desire to take
others seriously and to be taken seriously they long for mutual respect.
When a serious artist meets another serious artist, he/she will hang around, feeling
accepted and a sense of home. Just as people return home daily because they feel
comfortable, artists will return often to where they feel accepted. Hence, to provide
serious artists who come upon your space with a feeling that will draw them back, you
need a serious artist present: The Main Artist.
The Main Artist should be someone who is highly proficient in craft and a fixed
presence within the organizations physical location. When a serious artist comes into

the building and sees the Main Artist rigorously immersed in his/her creative work,
the person will be drawn in and filled with both inspiration and respect.
The Main Artist must be admired and inspire. Encountering him/her, the seeking
artist will be convinced that the place he/she in is one that houses and supports those
who are committed to serious and inspirational work. Feeling his/her type of workstyle is accepted, the seeking artist will feel comfortable coming back, relaxing, and
setting up shop. The Main Artist is a mirror to seeking artists: the serious, seeking
artist must walk into the place and say I could see myself creating here.
On a purely visual level, the Main Artist creates a familiar face for those entering the
area to connect with instantly. The combination of rigorous work and familiarity
creates a thought in the artists mind that something seems to be happening here
this is a place where I would like to be. The place is alive with a human being who
repeats his/her trip to the place, and if a highly talented individual has chosen to work
here, then it must be a place of worth. The seeking artist thinks: I admire this elite
artist and would like to be like him/her. And if this elite artist is finding worth in
working at this place, then perhaps I should do the same.
The Main Artist is personable when approached but also gives off the strong vibe of
hard at work. To the serious seeking artist, this do not disturb vibe isnt off-putting,
but respected, because he/she understands the importance of personal space, the
need for concentration, and desire to be around the existing work energy of others
without fear of interruption. The personal, familiar face of the Main Artist provides an
attraction that brings the other artists in, while simultaneously pushing them away as a
signal for the tone of the environment. Counter-intuitively, this pushing away
actually draws them in more.
After the Main Artists face has been seen repeatedly enough times on a regular basis,
the familiar becomes familial home. The serious seeking artist then feels
comfortable enough to interrupt the Main Artist and inquire about what he/she is
working on. A conversation is then had where ideas are exchanged and both people
come to know one another a connection is established through the exchange of
ideas. Each desiring to get back to work, neither wants to hold the other up too long,
unless the conversation appears to be going to a place where the generated ideas

could benefit the current work. Serious creativity hence leads gradually to serious
The initial threshold has now been crossed: the seeking artist increasingly desires to
return because a mutual bond has been formed and the probability for inspiration and
a further deepening of ideas has greatly increased. The artist now feels safe that the
choice to work at the space was not a waste of time and is also confident that time
will not be wasted when he/she returns. At the same, the Main Artist secretly desires
that that person will show up and simply work next to him/her or, even more
shocking, actually interrupt him/her to talk.
As the relationship progresses, an unspoken rule is formed where both understand
that what they have as a working place is sacred and should never be compromised.
As a result, the seeking artist will use extreme discretion and only invite similar
minded individuals to the place. Joy naturally overflows from the seeking artist to
want to share the place with others, but his/her personality keeps a natural restraint
on that sharing, limiting its outreach to a select few. Thus, The Art Core is born.
The Art Core
Now that the Main Artist has made an authentic connection with the first other
artist, other artists can now be interwoven into the organization. As the seeking artist
begins to invite others, other artists will be attracted because of trust and inspiration.
If an arts organization itself attempts to recruit artist by direct marketing, the initial
interest may be there, but soon the buzz will wear off. Direct marketing resembles a
business that wants something from the artist the artists wonders in the back of
his/her mind whats the catch?. However, recruitment that is organic and from
known friends is more trustworthy and more likely to build a long lasting connection,
being created out of authenticity.
A friend who invites a friend authentically seeks the happiness and growth of that
friend, not because quotas need to be met. The seeking artist wants the friend to be
there for the friends benefit and the benefit of the artist who receives joy from the
friends presence. Through genuine desire to be present and to see one another is the
best way to build true, long lasting community.

The seeking artist is not motivated by a board to create something specific, but draws
inspiration from his/her natural inclinations. Fueled by intrinsic motivation not the
blueprints of a board or urges of marketers the artists will occupy the space and
organically fill it with what they and seeking artists want to see, forming the attractive
haven the art space longs to provide.
Artists in the Art Core should be invited in a way that allows them to feel connected
to the organization but does not feel like we need you. The later may feel flattering at
first, but artists slowly realize that they feel the obligation to make the organization.
The artists feel a noble duty to help the organization survive because they value the
arts and now are in an actual position to help. Also, artists appreciate the organization
and dont want to see it die. Unfortunately, despite all these well intentions, a
bitterness forms as artists begin to see their dedication to the organization grow at the
expense of their own creative time. Dedication out of guilt will never last as long as
dedication born from love. Soon, the artist will regret joining, and yet will hold on
for fear of letting down the organization that supports the arts, and in their mind,
letting down The Arts all together.
Artists should be invited by friends in way that doesnt suggest that they should start
using the place as a place to work, but rather the wooing process should be organic
and allow others to choose freely.
The first artist to meet the Main Artist should reproduce the dynamic of the Main
Artist by simply showing up and working, all while letting people know where he/she
can be found. As this routine is integrated naturally into this artists life, others will
begin to see it as the norm, never thinking about where they are meeting the seeking
artist. The location will simply begin to be part of the background, fading away as the
backdrop for the relationship. Soon, it will become second nature to meet, eat, and
create at that location. Before they know it, other artists will be showing up as well to
work without thinking about it, and once the name of the location becomes integrated
into their everyday talk, the next artists have become solidified into and forming the
Art Core.
After the Art Core is formed, it will enjoy the intimate sharing of ideas, but will soon
feel a tension in these ideas not progressing beyond their inner circle. Even as their

numbers grow, the artists will eventually grow tired of exchanging ideas only with
themselves. Though they appreciate the support and encouragement of like-minds,
they understand that their ultimate fulfillment and meaning as creators is not reached
until their ideas have spread to the outside world. Ultimately, the Art Core seeks to
speak to like-minded individuals in order to develop ideas that will speak to unlike
minds, or non-artists.
The Art Core understands that just as much as a world without art makes no sense
(like a world without light or beauty), so does an organization where the enlightened
only speak to the enlightened. Realizing that the point of light is to expel darkness,
the Art Core becomes restless with only communicating within itself.
The Art Core understands that it must build upon itself and increase in number and in
kind, but because the Art Core is only gifted in attracting half of the Art organization,
the Art Appreciator must be inserted as liaison.
The Art Appreciator/Marketer/Mouthpiece
The Art Appreciator is a person who has an interest and general appreciation for the
arts, but not necessarily an artist his/her self. If the person is an artist, he/she is most
likely not The Main Artist: he/she is perhaps passionate about making art, but
probably more as a hobby than a way of life (which there is nothing wrong with).
Incredibly important, the Art Appreciator must have a genuine concern for the
intersection of art and culture, all while possessing a natural talent to attract and
influence people who have no desire to participate directly in the arts or think about
their cultural impact.
The strength of the artist is to talk indirectly to audiences through their mediums, but
their weakness is to speak with people directly about what they consider to be
ordinary and mundane. Since those who comprise an audience are normally nonartists, and because artists dont normally do well engaging with people directly
(especially over the non-artistic), a third hybrid person must be in place.
Some people attend events simply for the human interaction and entertainment value,
rather than intellectual or cultural engagement. Since these people come seeking this
relaxed atmosphere, they must be greeted by a person who can provide that

dimension. The most obvious example of this is a host or hostess at an event

someone who introduces artists to audiences and audiences to artists. This person can
navigate between understanding the private nature of artists and the desire of
audience members who come to meet people. After a highly intelligent performance,
the audience may need a break or temporary moment to digest the heavy subject, and
the Appreciator understands and appreciates both natures. The Appreciator is pivotal,
for artists need to be free to focus on what they are to deliver to the audience, but the
audience also needs to be socially engaged.
Additionally, artists dont always possess the skills needed to connect with audiences
in the way audiences prefer and enjoy. The artist is good at disconnecting from
humanity to explore truth and return with his/her findings, and normally direct
conversation can only happen after an indirect performance. The artist will tell an
audience that they need to hear a truth and that it doesnt matter if the truth is hard or
fun, and those seeking to escape the stressful week most likely will not respond to this
invitation warmly.
The Art Appreciator is most likely in tune with artists on a deeper level than most, but
still not as fully as the Main Artist. This person is most likely liked by people (who
make up the audience and beyond), and because of this likeability, people will be
drawn to wherever the person is, and if thats at the art organization, the artists will
have an audience.
Just as the artist has a natural gift to create art, this person has a natural gift to create
people to create connections with people and to bring them together. Just as the
seeking artist feels at home with the Main Artist, the people who come to be
entertained feel at home with the Art Appreciator. As the Main Artist is the anchor
for the intimate few of the Art Core, so the Art Appreciator is the anchor for the
audience type. As the Art Core returns for the reward of the Main Artist, the
audience-type returns for the reward of the Art Appreciator.
Without the Art Appreciator, audience-types may not show up to experience art
because they feel intimidated talking to talented artists. However, they love expressing
their joy of the art with others and the Appreciator. Just as the seeking artist comes to
find a familiar face and a sense of family, so also does the audience-type. The Art

Appreciator understands this and helps create an atmosphere that isnt only artfocused, but also life-focused. This person makes sure to include elements that arent
only artistic, but also simply human coffee, conversation, connection, food, and
general hospitality.
The Art Appreciator makes sure the artist feels accepted and that the non-artist feels
welcome. The Appreciator assures that the audience is respectful and understanding
of the artist and that the artist is respectful and understanding of the audience. The
Appreciator ties the entire Art Center together by incubating the community without
overshadowing the arts, blending them beautifully, like a work of art.
The Art Appreciator is the social, direct mouthpiece for the artist who masters
indirect speaking through performance and presentation. The Appreciator is the host,
marketer, and translator to the non-artist, and the Appreciator knows that an audience
without artists can be bored and meaningless, but also that an artist without an
audience is irrelevant and lacking meaning. The Art Appreciator works to blend the
two together, and in this way, the Appreciator is an artist in his/her own right,
talented in creating a community.
Additionally, the Art Appreciator can be the family historian, responsible for
documenting and organizing the family history of all events, people, and activities.
An Art Center needs a person in charge of media who both informs the outside world
about the organizations existence, while also maintaining a family history that gives
members of the Art Center a sense of history (as expounded on in The Home
Excellent art can have an enormous impact upon its audience, but for art to have that
impact, the artists behind it must have the freedom to fully engage in the process of
creating it. If the artist must both create art and create ways to market it, his/her art
can be diluted: the artist cannot fully engage with the details of deep concepts when
he/she must think about details like fonts on fliers and where to hang up posters.
Saintly, the Appreciator as marketer relieves artists of this burden and gives them full
freedom to create. This ensures that the quality of the art itself and the marketing
material are both kept at a high level. Marketing should be considered its own art, and

appreciated and treated as such with the same diligence of focus. The person making
dinner shouldnt also be responsible for having to set the table and clean up
afterwards. The meal maker who is allowed to concentrate on getting the recipe just
right and experimenting with herbs and spices will produce a much more enjoyable
masterpiece for all.
The Art Organization (Artists + Audience)
The Art Organization is the prize that most arts organizations (and organizations in
general) desire and are attempting to construct, but without the aforementioned roles.
Everyone seeks the mythical idea known as community: a thriving, growing, rich
collection of diverse people ever-flowing with joy, events, and a non-stop deepening
of relationships that defy cultural boundaries. If this Utopia can be achieved, it can
only be done so by connecting all the pieces: The Main Artist to the Art Core to The
Art Appreciator to the Art Organization.
The Main Artist carries the purpose of creating a sense of consistency and stability,
which then overflows into others until the Art Core is formed. Together, these are the
foundation and ongoing stability for everything else. Without an original inspiration,
the organization wouldnt exist to begin with, and without their continued presence
and maintenance, the organization would eventually pull itself apart.
With no purpose from the Main Artist, the Art Core lacks a vision that would attract
them into joining in the first place, or inspiration to carry them and the organization
forward. Without the Art Core, there is no strong base of high quality creative and
credible people by which to attract a much larger network of artists who want to be a
part of something growing. But without The Art Appreciator, there is no one who can
hold together the Art Center and its audience, eventually bringing an end to the whole
The Arts Organization is a combination of artists and non-artists, and it is a
microcosm of life where artists present ideas that non-artists can take home and
apply. In turn, non-artists can return with real life problems and successes that inspire
artists to create new material that will again inspire, starting the cycle again. The truest
community is art creating life and life creating art such as when audiences are healed
by artists and artists are healed by audiences who treat art as useful and vital.

Audiences are healed by thoughtful artists and artists are healed by the very
knowledge that they have been used to heal.
A vital purpose of an Arts Organization is to heal the rejected artists who have no
place to be themselves and perform. By creating the environment where artists can
first be alone to create and then be amongst people to be received and in the
process provide meaning to others this rejection is healed. The artist finds meaning
by giving meaning and being received; the non-artist finds meaning by receiving the
artists meaning.
The audience opens up and simply enjoys the creation, bringing joy to the artist to see
that he/she is enjoyed. By being attentive and listening, the artist feels heard and
acknowledged by the audience, rather than ignored as the artist can often feel in the
world. This will attract back to your art center both the artist and the audience: the
artist for feeling embraced, and the audience in experiencing deep and even healing
Feeling fulfilled, the audience then goes out and naturally recruits others into the
organization, inspired by their overflowing joy, healing, meaning, and the genuine
connection that they have found. As people excited by low gas prices market for the
gas station naturally, so people excited about the arts organization will market for it
without trying or thinking about it. The organization hence grows by natural, human
outreach: the audience brings others along not to build their organization or to fill a
quota, but to share with others what they have found and love.