Slover Linett is co-founding a not-for-profit enterprise to conduct exploratory research and foster programmatic innovation in the arts and the public sciences and humanities. The new organization, Culture Kettle, will be an “R&D” center working to broaden our understanding of how people do — and could — engage with cultural content, from symphonies to science exhibits.
The organization will focus on both research and programming and on tightening the connection between them. On the research side, Culture Kettle will attempt to shed new light on a range of fundamental questions facing the arts and culture sectors, particularly concerning audiences and participation. The research studies emerging from Culture Kettle will be independent, with a mandate to create new knowledge and to identify new opportunities, even when these may challenge existing assumptions or models in the field.
On the program development side, Culture Kettle will create, implement, and evaluate experimental programming models, working both within and outside of existing cultural organizations.
Both the research and innovation activities will be pursued in collaboration with leading practitioners, scholars, researchers, institutions, and funders. Culture Kettle will forge close relationships with a series of “Innovators in Residence,” who will work with the organization in a particular area of the cultural sector in two-to-three year appointments. (The first Innovator in Residence will be announced later this Fall.)
Linett and Joynes are delighted that the organization is now coming to life after a two-year gestation. “This is an exciting time to be thinking about the connection between exploratory research and on-the-ground innovation,” says Linett. “The arts and museums have been trying lots of new approaches in the last few years, but the society around us is changing even faster. We’re hoping to add to the sector’s capacity to envision new possibilities based on good research, and then bring some of those possibilities to life in a series of experiments.”
Joynes notes that, for all the talk of change, most research studies still proceed from a set of familiar assumptions, and most cultural institutions face internal barriers to experimentation. “As a sector, we have an opportunity — or more accurately, an urgent responsibility — to imagine new ways of thinking and working. Culture Kettle is an attempt to give museums and arts institutions a place to take risks both conceptually and in practice, and to do so in a concerted, collaborative way.”
Culture Kettle embodies innovation in its organizational structure: it is an L3C, one of the new business models that have recently arisen as alternatives to the 501(c)(3) nonprofit. An L3C, or low-profit limited liability company, is a hybrid of nonprofit and for-profit characteristics designed for social entrepreneurs with mission-oriented rather than profit-oriented goals. An L3C can receive grants, like a nonprofit, but it can also receive program related investments, or PRIs, from foundations or other civically-minded supporters.
Several exploratory research projects are already in the planning stages at Culture Kettle, including a study of the multiple audiences of campus-based art museums, co-led by museum consultant Tom Shapiro of Cultural Strategy Partners and based at the University of Chicago Cultural Policy Center; a collaboration with composer and classical music innovator Greg Sandow on alternative concert formats for young audiences; and a multi-disciplinary study of how awe and wonder function in “peak experiences” of nature and art, in association with anthropologist Michael Di Giovine and environmental studies scholar Adrian Ivakhiv.
For more information, or to suggest avenues of exploration or collaboration, please email Peter Linett. We can also put you on the list to be notified when the Culture Kettle website launches later this year.