Watch: A Better Way to Describe the Value of the Arts

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Do you know how your work has really affected your audiences' lives?

What is the purpose of the arts? And what do they really contribute to society? It’s a classic question, and one that the arts world, and other public intellectuals from Bill Nye to Neil deGrasse Tyson, regularly weigh in on. But despite all this attention the question gets, the most common answers I hear tend to be overly vague, abstract or underinformed, without a clear sense how artists actually impact the lives of those who consume their work. We know our work matters, yet clearly we still struggle to explain why that actually is.

So in this video, I’m going to explore whiteboard-style how we might instead look to a new answer, beyond the old clichés–and how we can use audiences’ real experiences to better reflect the deeper influence of our work. If you like this video, I hope you’ll consider sharing it with your arts communities and start making a concerted effort of your own to learn your audiences’ stories. I’m sure our patrons will have plenty to say, if we only take the time to ask.

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Sean Douglass

Sean Douglass is the Managing Editor of The Clyde Fitch Report, as well as an author, playwright and dramaturg. He is the Company Dramaturg for Something Marvelous, Chicago’s annual magical realism festival, and has previously worked at Northlight Theatre and Chicago Dramatists. His plays have been produced or developed at UW-Madison, The Vermont College of Fine Arts, The Chicago Fringe Festival, Luminous Theatre of Milwaukee, Something Marvelous, Chicago Dramatists and Stagecloud. He hosts the CFR’s podcast The Scene and is also an arts writer for the digital news publication Rantt.