The risk of abysmally counterproductive community engagement

According to WA Showcase Keynote Speaker Doug Borwick abysmally counterproductive community engagement is a frequent risk in performing arts.

The USA Author of Building Audiences, Not Communities will speak at the conference in 2019 about the concept of a metamission of the arts.

Dr Borwick‘s work has raised eyebrows and changed thinking in his home country as he has written extensively on the need for new perspectives in community engagement in performing arts to make it a more essential and ingrained part of a community.

“The biggest challenge may be reconciling deep-seated artcentricity with the need to serve, to further the public good in ways the public sees. Simply “being there” will not be sufficient.

Simply put, it’s not “about” the art; it’s about the arts’ interaction with people and how the arts benefit them. While this may seem a radical break from current habits of thought about art in the industry, it is essential,” Borwick said.

Former President of the Association of Arts Administration Educators, Borwick is one of the U.S.’s leading performing arts keynote speakers and advocates for the arts and community engagement.

According to Executive Director Ryan Taaffe, Borwick will address an issue that it seems almost everyone is struggling with, engaging communities meaningfully and learning to listen better.

“We have been part of the growing group of people from the sector who are of the view community engagement is more than just a workshop – not that a workshop has no value – but sometimes it happens behind a closed door with only those who might look to being on stage themselves.

Community engagement currently risks only engaging those who are performers or those who are potential or future performers, passing by wider audiences in the community who deserve to be engaged but might not want to learn to be artists.

Some CircuitWest members are transforming from being a venue to becoming a community hub and the only way to do this is in a deeper conversation and be better engaged in listening,” Taaffe said.

As Dr Borwick says – “Focus on the works presented rather than the connection between those works and the people who experience them has led to artcentricity. This has diverted attention from the need to make those connections.”

Borwick is very focussed on the need for the arts to have more value and authored the work Engage Now : A Guide to Making the Arts Indispensable.

“Indispensability is not simply a lofty or admirable goal. Pursuing that end through work which bears the community in mind and includes it as partner is both possible and, arguably, essential. The moment at which an arts organization deserves to be considered indispensable is the point at which its future is best assured,” Borwick said.

“We are very excited to have Dr Borwick come to WA Showcase and talk to leaders in performing arts on how we engage communities with performing arts and take further steps towards becoming indispensable, “Taaffe said.

On top of his leadership roles, Borwick holds the Ph.D. in Music Composition and is an award-winning member of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

CircuitWest’s WA Showcase 2019 can be found at

To see Dr Borwick’s Showcase topics click here.


Contact: Sam Lynch – – 0419971713