Breaking the Code

summit2On June 25, 2009, AHF joined several other organizations in the second-annual Cultural Leadership Summit. This one took place at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University, and it featured Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary as the keynote speaker, as well as a panel discussion of several cultural leaders from across Alabama.

McCrary repeatedly referred to cultural organizations’ need to “break the code” of business and government leaders. By this he meant we must articulate the value of our missions and organizations in ways that these leaders understand, embrace and ultimately support with their money and votes. Breaking this “code” might be accomplished by:

  • Demonstrating, through economic impact studies, the importance of museums, theaters, symphonies and other arts institutions to economic development.
  • Using testimonials from teachers, students and education officials to stress the personal and social value of humanities education–as found both in the classroom and in “informal education.”
  • Exposing a business person or elected official directly to an artistic or intellectual experience. Such an experience might forever ingrain the arts or humanities into his or her personal vision and values.

Of course, having Charles McCrary in attendance at the summit–and having him verbalize his own appreciation and support of the arts and humanities–was more valuable than our delivering to him a white paper study or catchy sound bite.

We must articulate the value of our missions and organizations in ways that these leaders understand, embrace and ultimately support with their money and votes.

Each fall AHF also tries to include business leaders and government officials, alongside scholars, writers, teachers and other humanities folks, at AHF’s annual awards luncheon (scheduled this year for September 14). By both recognizing them at and encouraging their active participation in this event, we have presented our own “cultural summit” for some 20 years now! (Persistence and perseverance also play crucial roles in “breaking the code.”)

Perhaps we have started a similar tradition with the Cultural Leadership Summit. Over time, such events may make the arts and humanities as much a part of the state’s “code” as math, science, industrial recruitment, religion, politics, football…

Written by: Bob S.