As we navigate the current COVID recovery period, the future of the arts in our community and across the globe is being shaped by two dynamic drivers: 1) dramatic shifts in habit and engagement around arts consumption and 2) the latent potential for young people today to integrate the arts into their thinking and learning to ensure a vibrant future for the arts in decades to come. The first requires creativity and agility from art-makers to ensure that new, relevant channels can continue to make art accessible and to attract art-goers to traditional channels of consumption. The second requires a commitment to invest in young people with a level of grace and respect for their collective intelligence and emotional wisdom. Combined, our communities’ success in addressing these two pressing needs will determine much of our future – not just our future in the arts, but also a future for the many gifts the arts empower: empathy, critical thinking, understanding difference, and cultivating creativity and hope.
Joe Gfaller is the Managing Director at St. Louis’s Metro Theater Company – the region’s third-oldest professional theater and the only professional theater in the region exclusively devoted to producing for youth and families. Across his career, he has held roles at the Tony Award winning Alliance Theater and American Repertory Theater, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, and 7 Stages. He has worked a consultant across a range of disciplines, including work with the documentary “Flint: The Poisoning of an American City,” the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the Utah Symphony, and the National Blues Museum. He has directed two dozen professional stage productions, including regional premieres by Caryl Churchill, Christopher Durang, David Mamet, Addae Moon, and Michael Frayn. He is adjunct faculty in the Arts Management and Leadership program at Webster University and has previously taught at Clark Atlanta University and Berry College. He is a graduate Leadership St. Louis, LEAD Atlanta, and Harvard University.