Readers may be familiar with the name Barry Hessenius from his annual list of the top leaders in the nonprofit arts sector. A former director of the California Arts Council and an elder in the field, Barry has long taken an interest in developing and nurturing the involvement of the  next generation of leaders, and authored a report for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation a few years back that helped lead to an increased investment in emerging leader networks by Hewlett and another California foundation, Irvine.

Barry’s always cooking up new ideas, and his latest creation has quite a kick. “The Arts Dinner-vention Project” starts off with a familiar premise: who would you invite to your dream dinner party to talk about the arts? Barry is encouraging us all to submit our ideas and nominations. A nice, if a bit superficial exercise, right? But here’s the awesome part: he’s actually going to throw the dinner party, and film it for all of us to watch!

Yup, that’s right. You could be a witness to this extravaganza, and if you submit your proposed slate of dinner party invitees to Barry by November 20, you could win a chance to watch it in person, all expenses paid. It’s important to note that Barry’s not interested in having the usual suspects be a part of this event.

We aren’t looking for the people you usually think of as exemplified by the Most Powerful and Influential list.  We want those who are to a large degree still unheralded, but who are highly regarded as the future of the field; people without the same voice as those who have been in the field long enough to develop power and influence, but who have something to say and ought to be heard.

Along with a bunch of brainiacs like Nina Simon, Gary Steuer, and Ron Ragin, I’ll be reviewing the list of suggestions and helping to narrow down the final list. The focus of the conversation will not be on rehashing old problems, but instead on offering new, concrete solutions and ideas for moving the arts forward.

To get your thinking juices going, here’s Barry’s list of “archetypes” one could bring to the party (note that these are just suggestions):

The Connector*  – the person who links us to the world; those with huge networks of contacts and who span different spheres and sectors; the bridge builder with multiple perspectives.
The Maven* – the person who accumulates knowledge; the one who is the information broker and wants to share their new information.  The constant thinker.
The Salesperson* – the charismatic person with powerful negotiation skills who plays the role of the persuader.
*the first three categories are Malcolm Gladwell’s the Tipping Point categories.

Here are some others:
The Provocateur – the person who provokes and pushes towards new solutions and acceptance of upending the status quo.
The Power Broker – the person who can move other people and organizations to act based on knowledge, insider position and the ability to identify and implement what kinds of influence are necessary to effect change.
The Visionary – the one with the long range big picture in mind; the person who sees the future – what it will be and what it might be; a realistic dreamer.
The Organizer / Ring Leader – the person who provides on the ground leadership to get things done. The take charge leader with experience under his / her belt.
The Cynic / Skeptic – the person who plays Devil’s Advocate and asks the hard questions and keeps in check unbridled enthusiasm based more on passion than reality.
The Risk Taker – the person who argues for bold moves and action now.
The Master of Bureaucracy and Detail – the person in the trenches who actually makes things happen; the one who knows how to get things done and wade through all the detail.  The one who works with the Organizer.
The Policy Wonk / Geek – the theoretician; the student and strategist who revels in overarching implications.
The Practitioner / Artist – the centerpiece of why we all do what we do.
The Technology Guru – the tech nerd who understands and revels in all the latest technological advances and who understands their long range implications and how they might be applied to the field.

I’ll look forward to reading your submissions!