The Gift of The Skylight
By Christine Harris - Posted on 25 June 2009
I love how social media combined with amazing passion can spark a conversation that has meaning well beyond the borders of the issue that started the flame! It has been both inspirational and sad to read all of the Twitter, Facebook, press, and other communication around the recent Skylight situation. Inspirational because a community dialogue about the health and wellbeing of our future as an arts and culture sector is welcome at any time. Sad because so much blame, hurt, and deep concern for the health of a beloved organization has been going around and around and around.
I agree with Jonathan West's comments about examining the role of community leadership when 'one of us' hits a rough patch. Do we comment; support; ignore; ridicule; criticize? Do we turn inward or do we turn outward? None of us on the outside (and many on the inside) do not know the facts and issues facing an organization's leadership. Those that have a vested fiduciary and policy oversight interest - board members and donors - should be expressing their thoughts directly to the organization and assisting in whatever manner possible in making sure that their organization is serving its stakeholders and the general public well. And then, setting the stage for appropriate stewardship going forward. Many of these comments do not need to be, nor should they be, public. The policy and fiscal oversight of any non-profit rests fully with its Board of Directors - period. And, it lives with the consequences of any of its actions.
That said, these days our personal and organization lives are increasingly public and available for scruitny. Frankly, we shoulnd't bemoan this situation because we collectively have created what we now have. And, the world is only going to move faster in this direction so we had better be prepared for the ride. This transparency can be very healthy if we learn and improve or it can be destructive if we complain and blame. The Skylight's gift to our sector in all of this is the opportunity to self-examine how each of us is handling our stewardship; how genuinely open and communicative we are; how well we are serving our stakeholders; how trustworthy we are to our public. This is the bigger picture dialogue that is worth having now.
The Alliance did privately communicate very early on to the Skylight what it thought was a helpful observation. Whether or not it was meaningful to them was their decision. I say this because there may have been many other such private communications from within and without and they have made their own choices accordingly - and rightly so. And clearly the public media communication has been very available to them.
Now that they have gone public with their process - see Tom Strini's recent blog and story on Sunday - good stewardship would argue for their letting us know what they are going to be doing to ensure that the Skylight remains a beloved, well-respected and supported large performing arts institution. Clearly, a lot of people care deeply and what a true treasure that is. There's an old saying - something like; it's not that you fell down or made a mistake but it's how you get up that tells you the character of a person. The same is true for nonprofit organizations.