Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part III of III)


Big Car in Indianapolis, IN is a former auto service center.

Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country.  You can also read Part I and Part II of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading

Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part II of III)


Grange halls make badass theater spaces.

Dear Reader, About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country.  Check out Part I of this series to learn more about the unique opportunities and challenges of adaptive reuse. Continue reading

Let’s Turn this Old Barn into a Theater! (Part I of III)


Scrappy, but lovable: the irrepressible arts.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago the Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts (NOCD) working group asked your Man About Town to write a nice, juicy case study about what happens when cultural organizations buy non-cultural facilities and fix them up.  This three part series details my findings, although it’s well worth checking out the original report to see case studies from nearly a dozen cultural organizations across the country. Continue reading

The Great Struggle for Cheap Meat


The Great Struggle for Cheap Meat (Downtown Art) – Photo R Gilliam

Just about 110 years ago, the price of kosher meat pretty much doubled overnight.  If you were a Jewish homemaker who had to make every penny count in order to keep your family fed, this wasn’t just an inconvenience:  it was a serious threat to your economic stability.  What’s more, it smacked of racketeering by wholesalers who had a captive market of consumers for kosher foods, and recalled anti-Jewish oppression levied through taxes on Kosher foods in other countries.

Jewish women fought back.  They organized a massive boycott of butchers and meat wholesalers that not only succeeded in bringing the prices back down, but became a seminal act of defiance in community organizing and paved the way for major rent and labor strikes to come (including the 1907 Rent Strike and the Uprising of the 20,000).

We’ve made it into a rock musical.  And it opens tomorrow, so buy your tickets here.    Continue reading

The Snow Queen (Coming Out As An Artist)


Mike Piemaker Guitar.solo

Man About Town Bares All

There’s something I have to tell you, Dear Reader.  I have a secret life.

I’ve known this about myself since I was 14 years old.  I experimented with this part of who I was a lot while I was in college, but eventually I moved on and settled into a more traditional lifestyle and quietly tucked this side of myself away.  I lived like this for years.

But that’s been changing.  It all started shortly after my first marriage ended, when I was looking for something to take me back out into the world.  Suddenly, this other side of me seemed unavoidable – I felt so compelled to show who I really was, to do it again and again.  I worked on Wall Street at the time, and suddenly it seemed people like me were everywhere and I had never noticed before: hanging out in seedy bars with late night open mics, or sneaking out during our lunch breaks to a quick session in a rented room nearby.  We led a second life complete with different friends, different clothes, different mannerisms, but more fully ourselves.

And then I met my current partner, Ryan.  Unlike me, Ryan had never hid behind another identity.  Ryan is proud, fearless, open, visible.  When, during one of our first dates, Ryan suggested we write a musical together, I knew I could no longer hide who I was.

I am, Dear Reader, a musician. Continue reading

The (In)Efficiencies of Scale


When scale goes wrong. Catsonholiday / Instagram

ArtsBlog (the blog of Americans for the Arts) recently hosted a forum called:  “So, Does Size Matter?”  The short answer is hell yes it does, but I disagree with most of the writers about why.  I found the best piece in the series was penned by the whip-smart Ian David Moss (Economies and Diseconomies of Scale in the Arts – Take Two), and it was his post that inspired both me to both write an initial comment, and then to take on the subject more fully below.

You see, Dear Reader, like many of my fellow funders and financiers I’ve often touted the benefits of moving toward greater scale:  improved operational efficiencies, greater programmatic reach, increased access to resources, heavier political punch.  But I’ve also struggled with the oft recognized but seldom addressed reality that scale is not an answer in and of itself, and that sometimes scaled solutions leave even larger problems in their wake.  Thanks to Ian, I think I got the mental kick in the epiphany I needed.

And here’s why I think scale sometimes, well, stinks up the joint.  Continue reading

Report Back: NY Grantmakers in the Arts “Creative Placemaking” Panel


Funders, Speakers and your Man About Town walking to the Queens Museum from the Mets-Willets Point 7 Train – Man About Town / Tumblr

Your Man About Town’s middle name is Moderation, Dear Reader; and although it is a somewhat awkward locution when making a full introduction, it nonetheless conveys the important fact that your Man About Town’s middle name is not Tom, Dick or Harry.  I moderate.  I facilitate.  I have even been known, at times, to adjudicate.

So when the New York Chapter of the Grantmakers in the Arts asked if I wouldn’t mind moderating a panel on creative placemaking at the Queens Museum of Art earlier this month, I could no more deny them than I could my very nature.  Or at least, the very nature of my personal brand. Continue reading