Friday, March 14, 2014

The Administrator is an Artist

I know a lot of people who want to be Artists. Who want to write the songs that are on the radio, or the next great American novel. I guess I'm one of those people. In the last couple of years, I've thought a lot about art, about how it happens, what it really is and who the people are that create it. I've worked with a lot of different types of Artists in all my many jobs in the past, and also with the countless people administrating the art, the people preparing the rooms and making the calls, organizing the performance and then making sure it's all put together in the right order. I've come to realize that my skills fall in the later category. I'm an organizer, a planner, a maker of lists and ideas, but not necessarily what I previously believed to be an Artist. I always thought I was the least creative person in my friend group; I couldn't draw or paint or read music, even when I tried. Then I discovered writing and though YES, at last! I can be an Artist too! And yes, I am doing that now: I love writing and will never stop, but deep down in my soul, I know this is not where my strengths truly lie. I'm an Administrator. I like making things, but mostly, I like making things happen.

But, I think I've finally realized something very important. One of the women I admire most once told me that she got into office management because she was never actually all that talented at anything, but she was really organized. This, I think, is crazy. Because organization IS an art. The ability to see the connections in things, to take apart an event or a project, see all it's sides and all the things that need to be done and the order they need to be done in, and then put it all back together again and actually make it happen: that is truly beautiful. The Administrator of any given project, organization or establishment is an Artist, because without that person, without those talented people, nothing would ever happen, no matter how good the idea is or how mind blowing the physical art might be. If the Artist themselves cannot do the admin, and no one can do it for them, then nothing will actually happen.

Think of an orchestra. A sea of musicians, all playing their small parts, creating one wondrous sound; but this could never happen without the conductor. Does anyone ever doubt the artistic ability of the conductor of an orchestra? Never in a million years. The conductor has to know everything, has to know everyone's part and how it all fits together. It's exactly the same with an Administrator.

Now, don't think for one moment that I'm saying that all Artists are disorganized, useless people incapable of doing all this list making and facilitating themselves. This is obviously not the case. Many of the greatest Artists out there are self made, and most Artists have to do all their own marketing and PR and administration. Artists, usually, can't afford assistants. Art is not a high paying profession, for anyone associated with it in any way. Most Artists, I've been told on good authority, spend 80% of their time on the admin side of their projects, not on the creative side at all. But Artists are already Artists, that's not what this blog is about. I'm talking to those of you who don't think you are an Artist, but can manage 20+ people to plan, design and build a college campus with your eyes closed. I have news for you, person: you are an Artist too. To me, anyway.

This being said, everything is art. Just like I've said before, that everything is stories, everything is also art. In my little Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of Art is 'the creation of something beautiful and expressive.' There you have it. Science is art, math (even if I hate it) is art, physics is art. Circuits are art, engineering is art, teaching is an art, everything under the sun is art. Even if you can't paint, but you can frame and hang a painting, you are still making art happen. You are making art.

Administration is what I've always done in the past, and what I plan to continue to do. Sure, I'll keep writing the next great American novel on the side, and taking silly photos of pipe cleaner princesses, but in the grand scheme of things, I'm a Producer.



TLS237 said...

Interesting blog posting. A quick search of Google books finds this passage:

"QUESTION How do you select people for administrative positions at Arena Stage?

MRS. FICHANDLER - Well it's very funny, because every good arts administrator is an artist. Scratch the skin of any good arts administrator and there's an artist."

From: Producers on producing, By Stephen Langley, Drama Specialist, 1976, pg 97.

Kerry said...

Well said, Maria!

Tanner said...

It is also a talent which I do not at all posess.

Julia said...

Maria, this is really interesting. I'm not creative in the painting and drawing sense, and my needlework skills haven't evolved further than gluing up hemlines. However, I write. That is my creative outlet; and now, thanks to you, I can count my control-freakery as an artistic talent, too.