Recently, I purchased a global positioning system unit.
My GPS unfailingly provides me with the most sensible course of direction toward my intended destination. If I don't comply, it tells me to turn around or it course-corrects to point me in the next best direction. Along the way, bells ring when I pass important sites and a cuckoo clock lets me know about possible opportunities for food. It even has a button that says: "Where am I?" If I push it, it tells me.
There are moments in my professional life when I think about how glorious it would be to possess a GPS unit for management decisions and strategic planning. Imagine pushing a button that says, "Now, what?"
Artistic endeavors are born of creative thinking and experimentation. Pilot programs tend to be a norm and the Arts Council launches new events regularly.
So many ideas and opportunities flow through the front door, delivered by people enthusiastic to launch their vision for a community event, exhibition or performance.
The abundance of creative energy is contagious.
However, the detailed work that supports the success of a program can be daunting and needs to be thoughtfully considered. After years of executing community-based initiatives, I have learned that doing too much leads to little effect and lots of stress. If a project is going to be sustained over the long-term, it needs a solid foundation built from the considered approach of different perspectives.
A good business plan doesn't hurt, either.
As with most arts organizations, the Arts Council has finite resources and staff, and many existing commitments. I find myself at odds with my natural inclination to want to be involved, scoop up all the fledgling opportunities and say, "Yes, yes, yes!" I have an obligation to the staff and the organization to pace the momentum.
The Arts Council has worked, at times, at a breakneck pace.
We have launched numerous projects, developed tremendous collaborations, reviewed and funded hundreds of cultural programs and mentored start-up organizations and emerging artists.
There is no busy season for us and no downtime. Our constituency and our responsibilities to them continue throughout the year.
At a strategic planning retreat, our board of directors was asked to describe what the Arts Council does. One board member described us this way: "We are a great, big, churning machine! We are constantly churning and churning and churning out art everywhere as we go."
I became exhausted just listening to the description.
Artists have shown me that the best creative outcomes are achieved through smart editing. We have to know when we're done. We have to admit it when something doesn't belong. We have to be honest about what is not working.
A couple of years ago, my daughter and I took a jewelry-making class at the Arts Council's School for the Arts.
We were so excited to learn the mysteries of creating beautiful new earrings from antique and handcrafted beads.
When we arrived, the instructor had set up a beautiful table-wide display of sparkling vintage beads and baubles that we were welcome to use in our own designs. After instructing the students on the basics she said, "Choose your palette and create what you want."
I was blinded by the glitter and distracted by all the beautiful options.
I combed through box after box of pearls, glass and ceramic beads in every color. Brass thingamabobs, silver whatchamacalitz and little crystal doodads!
Before long I had accumulated a pile of beautiful gems and created many half-started projects.
Meanwhile, my daughter had completed a lovely pair of dangly earrings and another student had finished at least three pairs of retail-worthy earrings and was now designing a matching necklace.
It was almost the end of class and I had nothing but a handful of sparkle and loads of great ideas.
The instructor, who knows me well, chuckled. "That is why you like to have everything so organized," she said. "You get too excited about all the choices and then you get overwhelmed."
I went to art school to make earrings, and came away with a revelation.
Kathleen Frascatore is executive director of the Upper Catskill Community Council of the Arts.