Reading the just-released 20Under40 anthology edited by Edward Clapp is like a meeting with twenty bright and fearless visionaries offering brave, provocative ideas for the future of the arts. A must for anyone working in the industry, 20Under40: Re-Inventing the Arts and Arts Education for the 21st Century accomplishes its goal of instigating “critical discourse that addresses the impending generational shift in arts leadership by publishing twenty essays about the future of the arts and arts education each written by young and emerging arts professionals under the age of forty.” In addition to the essays in the anthology, each chapter encourages further conversation with a dedicated online forum.
Various sections zoom both in and out to address within the book widespread industry trends and issues, as well as arts education strategies for particular disciplines and age groups. Shannon Preto, artistic director of Dance Theater/Shannon, is one of the contributors based in San Francisco with a deeply thoughtful dance-specific chapter, “Choreographing Embodied Anatomy as a Method for Igniting Kinesthetic Empathy In Dance Audiences.”
Despite the wide range of topics in the anthology about arts practice, administration, and education, all of the essays have in common a close strategy-based examination of the chapter’s topic. Yes to a polyrhythmic approach to working in the arts and celebrating each worker’s diversity of skills (Edward Clapp/Ann Gregg), and yes to “artistic” administration, incorporating artistic strategies of questioning, critical listening, focused vision and intelligent risk-taking in administrative practice (Sue Landis/Jessica Rivkin Larson). Yes to supporting the artist in everyone and encouraging participatory arts experiences and DIY attitudes, and yes to opportunities made available by new media and technology, mentioned by multiple contributors.
“Pursuing excellence through questioning,” one of the suggestions in Landis and Larson’s chapter, is really what the whole anthology is about. In their essay, Janet Eilber shares how she has transferred Martha Graham’s practice of “divine dissatisfaction” from the stage to her current work in arts administration. The shared “ambition to do better and to understand more” is what all of the writers of this powerful book seem to have in mind.