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Resource Published: 01 Aug 2018

Civic Practice Worksheet: Questions to Ask Your Company

1. On Defining Your Civic Practice

  • What do you want to learn from your communities in the next three years?
  • What and who are you responsible for beyond the quality of your product, those you pay and those who pay you?
  • What do you stand for beyond excellent artistic practice?

2. On Creating Belonging

  • How can opera companies make people feel that they belong in a country and in a city?
  • How do we make sure newcomers feel they belong in our opera houses and in our row of seats?
  • What practices should we discontinue because they contribute to “dis-belonging”?

3. On Leading with Your Assets

  • How will you deploy the organizational and artistic assets of your opera company to change an inequitable system
  • How can opera companies foster artist-led, rather than general director/producer-led, civic practice?

4. On Understanding Your Context

  • What core competencies and resources are distinctive to your organization in your community?
  • Whose land are you on?
  • Which long-ago and recent events still shape how your community groups gather and interact?
  • In five years, what will be the racial/ethnic makeup of the entering class of kindergartners?
  • Where do people go on Sunday mornings?
  • What is the history of each neighborhood? How are those memories celebrated/honored, or are they forgotten?
  • How is music already a part of our community’s everyday life?

5. On Knowing When You Are the Guest

  • Although our tendency is to be a host, what are the occasions where we should start by being a good guest?
  • When beginning a new relationship with a community, what does it mean for an opera company to be a good guest?

6. On Building Cultural Competence

  • How can opera companies be more culturally sensitive and trustworthy?
  • What does it take for others to feel comfortable and empowered to approach your company?

7. On Facilitating Process, Not Products

  • How can companies become more accustomed to giving up control and ownership?
  • What skills do opera leaders need to become better leaders in facilitating process, rather than authoring plans for set programming?
  • How can opera leaders allow the time needed for civic practice?

8. On Focusing on the Beneficiary

  • Who is the beneficiary? What is it they need most? What organizations are already knowledgeable on this issue or effective in addressing it?
  • What can opera’s inherent assets or our company’s core capacities contribute?
  • How are we addressing a need in a sustained way over time?

This worksheet is part of the report, An Introduction to Civic Practice, published by OPERA America. The report was derived from the meetings of the Civic Action Group, a peer-learning cohort of company representatives working to explore how opera can increase its capacity to address civic priorities, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.