Five pieces of advice for new ASC president Robert Bush

From Marc Gustafson, ex officio member of the Board of Directors of the Arts & Science Council and Executive Director of Charlotte Viewpoint:

An open letter to the new ASC president, Robert Bush:

For months, the ASC has been in search of a new president. On March 17, it selected you as its new leader. Congratulations!

As you know, at the same time the search for you was going on, the Cultural Life Task Force (CLTF) has been searching for answers to questions that seem to plague not only the ASC, but more broadly arts and culture and perhaps even more broadly nonprofits at large. Their recommendations are due to be made public this spring and will certainly provide some suggestions for you.

You will be undoubtedly faced with significant challenges in your new role. For the first time likely since its inception, the purpose and the need for the ASC has been publicly brought into question. Corporate leaders have been replaced or been relocated and with them the support for workplace giving that fueled both the ASC and the United Way.

So here are my words of advice to the newly crowned head of the ASC.

1. Go your own way. Too often things in Charlotte are done a certain way because they have always been done that way. We vote for people, live in neighborhoods, go to schools and attend churches that others like us vote for, live in, go to or attend for seemingly no other reason than the people we know vote for those same people and live in and go to those same places. Don’t be afraid to choose your own path, you might just be surprised how many people will follow you.

2. If they do it better somewhere else, don’t be afraid to tell us. It used to be that if you told Charlotteans how they do it up north that we would gladly tell you US Airways was ready to take you back there whenever you were ready to go. We certainly didn’t invent the bank, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not a town of very qualified bankers, and there’s no reason to re-invent a cultural model if there’s a great example that we can borrow from elsewhere.

3. Be truly inspired by youth. We’re quick to point out future leaders in this town, but we’ve yet to turn the reins over to any of these folks. Mark Zuckerberg, Sean Parker, Jack Dorsey and Sergey Brin are all in their 30s or early 40s and all seem to have kept Facebook, Twitter and Google out of the ditch. And you don’t have to look past Packard Place (just a block away from the ASC offices) to see that the future is bright, and not just from the glow of an iPhone.

4. Expect more from us. Dispense with the niceties. Demand that people step up and lead and if they’re not going to, tell them to get out of the way so that others can. And don’t be afraid to point it out when someone lets you down. They just might surprise you.

5. On your first day as president, give a similar speech to the one Rick Pitino gave to Boston Celtics fans (paraphrasing) – Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. What we are is young, exciting, hard-working, and we're going to improve. People don't realize that, and as soon as they realize Larry Bird is not coming through that door, the better this town will be for all of us because there are young guys in that (locker) room playing their behinds off.

For all of the amazing things he and others have done for this city, Hugh McColl cannot save us this time. But there are plenty of us who are willing to work our behinds off for you.