This Just In: A New (and Unedited) Review for “SCENE CHANGE”

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

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 501(C)(3): “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.


(Note: no new article today because you’re probably out of town, but pick up a copy today by clicking on the image above.)

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