In this space we will review of arts and cultural programming in the metropolitan Washington DC area — what the hipsters (i.e. other knotmove.com columnists) call the “DMV.”
While a review of arts programs, this column will present a different kind of review and asks some very specific questions. Rather than examining and critiquing the aesthetic of the experience, we will delve into the pedagogical. It is time to get a picture of the arts and cultural enterprise as an educational resource to the community. The residents of the Washington DC region have a rich cultural and arts life at their doorstep, but should we just accept what these organizations choose to do or not to do? There is much more to learn and understand, and perhaps much more that audiences can expect.
We will examine the overall experience of the programming: what happens when and where, and perhaps even who is there. Beyond reviewing the experience of the educational programming, there are a series of questions that will be asked:
- What is being taught and how?
- How well is it being taught, and how do they know?
- What makes them so sure that what they are teaching is so valuable in the first place?
The basis for such a review of arts and culture here or anywhere else is simple. These organizations are more than likely recognized as nonprofit and therefore exempt from taxes, and individuals are able to take a deduction from their taxes for money contributed to them, under section 501(c)(3) of the United States Tax Code.
While section 501(c) recognizes scores of categories of nonprofit organizations, part three specifically recognizes charitable and educational organizations. That is it. So, since there is not a single arts or cultural organization could make a coherent argument that they are a “charity,” it means that they are all recognized as “educational” by the Internal Revenue Service. It is high time to see how this recognition plays out in the reality of programming.
Reviews will concentrate n the educational programming of organizations, covering in, out, or after school programming for young and old alike. Of particular interest will be examining the ever-growing practice of “audience development” work in the field to explore breadth and depth of these experiences, the principles and philosophies that ground them, and do the actually develop and audience (or just make the cash register ring).
Please return often and join in the dialogue. There is much to learn and share.