Sunday, August 24, 2014

Announcing the Dinner Vention 2 Discussion Topic

Good morning
“And the beat goes on......................

There is no shortage of BIG issues facing the nonprofit arts field.
  • From the issue of equity (particularly in funding allocation), to finding an income model that will sustain our organizations; 
  • From meeting the ongoing challenge of audience decline, to managing our attempts at generational succession and leadership preparation; 
  • From figuring out how we can effectively make our case to decision makers, stakeholders, the media and the public, to grappling with our research agenda and model; 
  • From applying placemaking so as to make it effective, to exploring community engagement as a way to address a myriad of challenges; 
  • From information overload, to questioning our communication strategies and even assumptions; 
  • From moving forward to offer arts education to all the nation's students, to moving forward in the intersections of art and health care, art and science and art and corporate America.
  • From finally developing real working partnerships with our stakeholders, to uniting the various factions in our universe.

And, of course, that's just a partial list.

Behind all these challenges lies the issue of how we can be adaptive, flexible, innovative and creative in addressing these challenges and how we can be competitive in the marketplace.

In terms of selecting a single dinner topic, we wanted:
1) a topic that has widespread relevance to the entire arts field;
2) a topic under which might fit consideration of several of the above challenges (and / or others);
3) a topic that has the potential for a frank and robust exchange of ideas and positions from the dinner guest’s varied perspectives; and
4) a topic that may provide a platform for new ideas in how to meet some of our challenges.

We want to be mindful of the guest’s work and experiences so the topic will allow each to bring to the discussion ideas they have doubtless spent time refining and thinking about.  We aren't afraid of controversy or of upsetting the status quo.  We trust all the guests have strong feelings about some of these issues and how we might - as a field - go about addressing the challenges we all face.

What we do NOT want is a rehash of what everyone in the field already knows.  We don't want to cover ground previously covered umpteen times.  We don't want to repeat the obvious.  And we don't want a safe or timid discussion that goes nowhere.  We want a divergence of ideas and positions, and we hope for some strong feelings and positions from our guests.  We want a frank discussion that may question basic assumptions, delve into areas some may think are better left without discussion, and a strong dose of "real world" reality.  We want the discussion to get down to the heart of whatever issues arise at the dinner, and which readers, viewers and the field think breaks some new ground and moves us from being stuck in the same place.  We want to dig deeper than the surface platitudes often quoted when we discuss the big issues we all face.  This dinner is a platform to reach (if not the whole field), than perhaps a wider audience than the guests may have heretofore reached, so they might share their thinking about how to move forward.

In arriving at the topic, we advised the guests as follows:

We asked the guests to chose from the below lists with their top choices.

We also asked them for any suggestions for a different broad topic that would allow for an engaging discussion of, and be relevant to, the challenges the field faces, or an idea to re-word any of the suggested topics.

Possible Broad Dinner Topics (we asked the guests to indicate their top two preferences):

1.  PLANNING:  For several decades now, arts organizations have engaged in "strategic planning" as a way to approach the challenges they face.  In a world that is constantly and dramatically changing at an ever accelerated place, it has become axiomatically problematic, and at the least, increasingly difficult, to engage in realistic long term strategic planning.  Indeed the very assumptions of those plans have increasingly proven to be obsolete as our plans are being drafted.  The economic collapse of 2008 wasn't foreseen by the arts any more than by the financial field, and we missed the trend of declining audiences as the new reality.  In response to this challenge, there now seems increasing consensus that arts organizations need to be flexible, nimble, adaptive and innovative in their approaches to the problems they face.    While there are numerous examples of what is working, there is no "one size fits all" cookie cutter solution for widely different sets of circumstances, so how to we proceed in planning?  How can we incorporate the growing mass of information (including research and data) in intelligently and effectively planning for our future?  How can we incorporate flexibility and innovation in addressing the challenges of equity in support of all arts organizations?  How can we plan for a changing income revenue model that we haven't even yet successfully developed?  How does community engagement and placemaking impact our planning for the future?  How do we plan to move arts education, collaboration and public support for our value given the realities of each over which we have no control?  Are our funder's expectations and priorities a help or barrier in our planning efforts?

2.  BROKEN MODELS:  The nonprofit arts have relied on a number of models that have arguably now failed (or are failing) - including the income / revenue model, the advocacy model, the funding allocation model, the audience development (marketing) model, the arts organization governance model, the professional development for leadership model, and the business partnership model among others.  How do we come up with the ways and means to either fix what is broken in these models or to develop entirely new models that a majority of the field will embrace to allow us to make some progress in all the challenges we face,  and what might those new models look like?  How would those new models incorporate consensus policies on equity, succession, research, engagement, placemaking and leadership?  How do we move beyond the talking stage in model reformation?

3.  RELATIONSHIP BUILDING:  Success in a number of our endeavors - including building collaborations and forming partnerships, advocacy, career trajectory management and advancement, pushing forward with arts education efforts, securing funding and more - increasingly depends on developing meaningful ongoing relationships with people outside our sphere.  What impact do these various relationships have on our future success in meeting all the challenges we face, and  how do we find the time to make those relationships work?

4.  THE SILO-IZATION OF THE FIELD:  The arts field is arguably not a very unified or cohesive universe, but rather an aggregate of highly independent sub-sectors each of which has its own set of priorities, agendas, needs and aspirations - not all of which mesh well with those of other sub-sectors.  There are fundamental disagreements and sometimes antithetical positions on important issues from equity in funding to support for arts education held within both our larger sector and the sub-sectors that make up our universe.  The challenge of organizational territoriality (and its impact on collaboration) - arguably around for decades - has perhaps never been addressed.  How important in meeting (what seem on the surface at least to be common challenges and problems) is the ability of the nonprofit arts field to act in concert with all segments cooperating and collaborating to a far greater extent than is the current reality?  What is the impact on our ability to address the challenges we face of the SILO-ization of the arts, and how do we address this challenge?  How do we enhance our sense of 'community', and make the concept of a "big tent" a reality in the nonprofit arts?

5.  POLICY FORMULATION:  Policies are arguably useful in governing both approaches to action and action itself in any given field.  Where are the consensus, guiding policies in the arts for equity in funding allocation, arts education strategies, research, communications, audience development, community engagement, placemaking, advocacy, case making, leadership development, and, of course, revenue generation?    How can we establish unified national policies in these and other areas? Should we?  Why or why not? Why haven't we?

Focused Dinner Topics (we asked the guests to indicate their top top four preferences):

1.  Equity - Racism

When and how do we stop attempting to convert people to the traditional western European art forms and redirect the funds subsidizing those art forms to the classical and contemporary art forms of peoples from other parts of the world?

2.  Engagement - community, generational, other?

Is the current theory of community engagement as essential to the future of the nonprofit arts on the money or ill-conceived.  How are both ‘community’ and ‘engagement’ to be defined so as to attain consensus agreement, and does the approach really address the issues of audience development, public and private support and equity in funding allocation?

3.  Causes of the shrinking audiences; solutions.

What are the real causes of our shrinking audiences and is there anything we can do to stem the tide?”  What are the roles of: engagement, placemaking, marketing, programming, funding / resources and leadership in coming up with solutions?  What is the solution?

4.  The broken funding model; solutions.

Is the current arts organization funding model (public / private support combined with earned income) broken, can it be fixed, and what do we have to do to have a funding model that works for us?  What will that model look like?  How do government agencies (local, state and federal), foundations, corporations, patrons and donors fit into that new model?

5.  Making the case for the Arts.

Selling the value of the arts - to decision makers, the public, stakeholders, the media and constituents. What are we doing wrong, what are we doing right and what must we do to change the process and our progress?

6.  Innovation.

We spend a lot of time and energy considering, devising programs for, and promoting the importance and value of innovation.  But how innovative are we really, and what needs to be done to get the field to embrace innovative change, and then to make it happen? In what areas is innovation desperately needed and why?

7.  Placemaking; Cultural Districts.

Is the theory of Placemaking a valid approach to integrating the arts into communities nation wide?  Is Placemaking being confused with the creation of cultural districts and is that really a misguided attempt to engage in a form of artificial nation building and doomed to failure?

8.  Leadership; professional development; succession.

What are the challenges facing the field in generational succession (and what are the consequences and implications of this wholesale shift) and are we really effectively and efficiently preparing leaders to cope with the challenges facing arts administrators today (and tomorrow)?

9.  Information overload.

Have we reached a level of  information overload, wherein we simply have too much to consider for most of it to be useful in our jobs? What impact is this having?  How do we address the challenge?

10.  Collaboration models for the future

What needs to be done to identify, develop and manage truly effective collaborations that will specifically address the big challenges we face?  What partnerships are really working, and which ones are mere lip service to the idea of partnering?

11.  Research and Data

What is the role of research and data, metrics and measurements in the discharge of the mission of arts organizations?  How do we accurately assess impact? How do we get a handle on the growing body of research and make it useful to the rank and file in the arts field in all of the challenges facing us?

12.  Communication

How do we communicate in the arts - within our organizations and field, and with those outside our field (including stakeholders, the government, and the public)?  Are the tools we are using to communicate effective and efficient, and to the degree they are not, why not?  How do we (as arts administrators) get most of our information in today’s world? (through word of mouth, via the internet, from bloggers, the printed word, reports and studies, at conferences or otherwise?)  Are those means efficient?  What needs to be done to improve both our capacity to communicate and the reality of our communications?

The guests indicated their preferences and here is the reworded topic for the Dinner-vention 2 discussion:


BROKEN MODELS - PICKING UP THE PIECES AND MOVING FORWARD:  The nonprofit arts have long relied on a number of models that have arguably now failed (or are failing - if not across the board, then for large portions of our universe) - including the income / revenue model, the advocacy model, the equity in funding allocation model, the audience development (marketing) model, the arts organization governance model, the professional development for leadership model, the "making the case" model, and the business partnership model among others.  Some of these models are clearly not working, others marginally so.  Other models may be working well (e.g. Placemaking, Innovation exploration).  Which models are broken and why, and how do we come up with the ways and means to either fix what is broken in the dysfunctional models or to develop entirely new models that a majority of the field will embrace to allow us to make some progress in all the challenges we face, and what might those new models look like?  Consider:  How would those new models incorporate consensus policies on equity in funding allocation, leadership succession and development, research, engagement strategies, placemaking efforts, collaboration, moving arts education K-12 forward and others?  Without working consensus models in many areas, how do we engage in meaningful and effective planning?  How do we gain consensus for new or reinvented models given the silo-ization of our field in many areas?  What is the role of effective relationship building in developing models that work and serve us well, and how do we go about that?   And finally, how do we move beyond the talking stage in model reformation, and how do we do so in an innovative way?

Caveat:  We note, of course, that none of the models used by the nonprofit arts are universal.  Some models which are arguably broken for large segments of our sector, continue to work just fine for some organizations.  Many of the models that are widely in play, are customized and unique in their application to individual organizations and differing sets of circumstances, and we don't mean to imply that talking about models - functional or not - addresses every situation or every challenge -- nor that every strategy to deal with moving forward will work for everyone.  

AND JUST TO CLARIFY:  The chosen topic is only a means to begin the dinner discussion.  It is not meant to be exclusionary, but rather meant to be a starting off point for a wide discussion.  As far as we are concerned NOTHING is off the table, and each of the guests are encouraged to raise the points they think are important in the areas that we suggested might be focused topics, or even beyond that.  We don't want to narrow the discussion in any way.  And we want the guests to make the points they believe are important to make.  Some of them will zero in on one aspect of the topic, others may focus on another area.  Having a topic at all is simply a way to give some framework to that discussion - as a help to both the guests in organizing their thinking, and for those who will follow the dinner discussion via the live feed or thereafter.  Hopefully this topic will allow us to both go wide and deep in our discussion, but still have it tied together with an underlying, unifying theme.

Of course, a two hour discussion is hardly enough time to make every point or to solve the problems of the world, but we are excited that the discussion will provide a lot of food for thought for the field, and hopefully generate some different perspectives and new thinking.  And we hope there will continue to be conversations about all these issues across our field, and that in some small way, this event will contribute to that ongoing discussion.

We're asking the dinner guests to prepare one page briefing papers that sets forth some of their thinking on the topic and the issues that they think need to be part of the dinner discussion, and we will publish those papers on this blog within the next month.

We think we have a solid topic, and some very astute and smart guests.  We are looking forward to a lively and insightful discussion.  We hope you will join either the live stream on October 9th or tune in after the event as we post the proceedings.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Jumping to Conclusions about How Well You Know Millennials

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………….."

Millennials.  Everybody wants them, wants to know what they think, what they want, what they respond to and how to reach them.

The interest has been growing for nearly as long as the generation has come of age.  As a generation, they are bigger in numbers than the vaulted Baby Boomers, with potentially even more buying power and influence.  As they are the future, it's no wonder everyone is obsessed with them.

Back in 2007 / 2009, I authored a study for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation (entitled Youth in the Arts - but which should probably have been entitled The Millennial Generation in the Field of Arts Administration).  It was one of the first attempts in our field to delve into the needs, thoughts, aspirations and thinking of the Millennial generation of Arts Administrators.  It was the genesis of joint efforts by Hewlett, Irvine, Haas and other foundations to support Emerging Leaders (a moniker I disliked back then, and continue to dislike) Groups in California, and that effort sparked other efforts across the country.  We in the arts are as keen on trying to understand the Millennials (and thus the future) within our own sphere (as staff employees) as we are in understanding Millennials as our audiences, patrons, supporters and volunteers - now and to come.

Article after article has characterized and classified this generation in an attempt to define them.  We (and the "we" here is probably mostly boomers, but some Gen Y people and perhaps even the Millennials themselves) have surveyed, studied, analyzed and dissected this generation and come to some hard conclusions about who they are, what they want and how they behave. Doubtless there is truth in some of our conclusions, as we have relied at least in part on what this cohort has to say about themselves.  Other sectors have similarly spent time and resources to paint as accurate a picture of Millennials as they can in the race to know how best to market to them (and there is clearly much at stake).  We have come to certain conclusions in trying to understand this generation. They are less interested in things and more interested in experiences, they want authenticity and transparency.  They deplore "spin doctors" and value honestly. They are generally more liberal than previous generations, particularly on social issues. They are high tech savvy and reliant. They communicate in different ways than other generations and are both comfortable and uncomfortable in different ways than those that came before them.  They are concerned about the environment, social justice, and are ok with gay marriage.  As a Boomer in Berkeley in the late 60's, so were we.

Millennials spend more of their money on electronics, clothes, concerts, and dining out because they don't yet have families, mortgages, layers of insurance or even necessarily drive cars.  But for how long will their budgets allocate their more limited income to those areas?  When inevitable shifts come, what will they mean?  There are often more questions in studying a cohort than answers.  And that is a problem in planning.

Yes, we have begun to understand Millennials.  And we are now investing time and energy in the development and deployment of strategies to reach and recruit them - as co-workers, allies, audiences, patrons, supporters and champions -- based in large part on our (theoretical) understanding of them.

But are we rushing to judgment and perhaps jumping to conclusions and making risky assumptions about them?

I am a Boomer.  An early Boomer.  When I was at Berkeley in the 60's, as a generation we shared many commonalities with today's Millennials, at least to the extent that we too were thought to be the future, we too were vaulted as being different from those who came before us, and we too were classified, categorized and lumped together as a homogenous cohort.  Assumptions were made about us, by both the outside world and by those of us in the generation ourselves.  One of the biggest mistakes those of us at Berkeley and in similar places around the country made back then was in assuming that everyone in our generation thought as we did.  We listened to the same music, donned the same uniforms. adopted the same lexicon and obviously all thought the same.

Wrong.  As it turned out we were not all on the same page, we did not all have the same beliefs or experiences, nor did we share all the same basic values and positions.  Our tastes and preferences across a broad swatch of things was anything but a consensus.  It turned out the media's attempt to pigeonhole us as all of the same mind from the same mold, was way off the mark. Today, my generation is remarkably conservative on any number of issues - not the firebrands we were (or thought we were) back then.

The fact is that no generation is really that homogenous.  Rather we reflect all the differences, vagaries, outlooks and attitudes that differentiate the country.  While, as a generation growing up at the same time, we shared a lot of things, we never shared everything. We were as different as our numbers.  So too, I suspect, are the Millennials.  Not all Millennials are tech savvy, not all Millennials eschew materialism in favor of authentic experiences, not all Millennials are liberal on social issues.  Not all Millennials think alike, process information the same, have the same aspirations or values.

And more importantly, like the Boomers and every other generation, the Millennials are very likely -- over time -- to change who they are, what they think and value and how they behave. Millennials are likely to grow more conservative, likely to alter their world view, change their attitudes, tastes, values and wants as they adapt to life in their 30's and 40's and beyond.  It happens with every generation. And those changes may come faster and run deeper as "change" itself is changing.

And so we ought to ask ourselves how reliable any portrait of them, at any point in time, really is.  To what extent can we really base long term strategies and approaches to making them part of our world  on who they are today - or who we think they are today. Like many other aspects of life in the modern world, we need to be adaptive and innovative in how we approach Millennials at any given moment in time, and we have to consider the risk in devising and implementing strategies aimed at them that are rigid and inflexible.

While we want hard answers and reliable facts on which we can base our actions, that may simply no longer be possible.  The only lesson that might be clear is that we need to treat all cohorts with which we interact and with whose members we want different kinds of relationships with respect.  Millennials like all generations are offended by patronization, and perhaps nothing is more patronizing than the assumption you've got someone figured out when that person very well may not yet have figured themselves out.

Prudence dictates that what we know of Millennials based on our experience with those from that generation who have joined our ranks, may not be a reasoned approach, for it very well may be that the cohort of Millennials that are now within our ranks is hardly representative of the whole of their generation.  Then too we really need to examine our own perspective and pre-determined prejudices about the Millennial generation.

A case in point.  We have been extorted to master social media marketing (particularly Facebook),and put (if not all, than many) of our 'eggs' in that basket.  But there is already evidence that: 1) Younger Millennials are leaving Facebook as older people flock to it; and 2) email - dutifully pronounced all but dead as anathema to Millennials, seems to have far more lifeblood than previously thought.   On the other hand, Facebook is hardly seriously on the decline, and email may yet become a relic.  It's hard to trust trends, or even to verify their existence.  And that makes drawing conclusions a difficult business.

Moreover, considering the Millennial generation as first and foremost defined by being part of that generation, cavalierly discounts the role that ethnicity, education, socioeconomic status, geographic residency, political affiliation, parental influence and a host of other factors plays in their decision making about all the things we in the arts field are interested in.

The point is:  Everything is in constant flux and change, including how to characterize, define and understand any given cohort of people, and history shows us that change continues throughout the life of a generation; cohorts rarely remain static.  The temptation is great to rush to judgment as we desperately seek answers and conclusions on which we can act.  Remember, virtually all of the technology that now defines us - smart phones and tablets and notebooks -- and all the applications, social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapshot, Pinterest etc.), and the rest -- are basically less than a decade old, and in the wake of their introduction everything has changed.  What are the odds your Millennial strategies will be outdated in 18, 24 or 30 months?  I think it a reasonable question.

There is obviously nothing wrong with trying to understand our future markets.  In fact, we are obligated to do so with as much sophistication as we can manage.  We need to know as much as we can about all the generations of society.  But we ought to be cautious in jumping to conclusions about how to proceed with strategies and approaches to tapping into any given market.   Even if we do, in fact, have a fairly accurate picture of the Millennial generation today, the assumption that that understanding will be accurate tomorrow is risky at best.  It may be wiser to consider that the assumptions on which we base our decisions will change (perhaps even dramatically so) over even the short run.  It may be a mistake to jump to the conclusion that we have figured the puzzle out and that we can move forward secure in either the accuracy or longevity of our judgments.  The best advice may be to act on what you know (or think you know), but be prepared to quickly alter your actions as things (and your understanding) change - because change they will.  The new reality may just be that the shelf life of any strategy addressing any challenge may be measured in months, not years.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Open Nominations for the Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential Arts Leaders

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………….."

Every year, for the past six years, I have posted a list of the Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts.

This is a list of those with power and influence in our field.  It is NOT necessarily a list of the smartest or brightest people, nor a list of those who have the best vision of the future, nor even those who have had the greatest impact on our field - though the names on each year's list have had significant impact and that is (often, but not always) precisely why they have power and influence.    Click here for last year's blog for a more detailed rundown of the listing.

Over the past six years, I have assembled a list of over 450 names from my group of anonymous nominators.  Some people on the list one year, because of retirement, sabbatical or inactivity, fall off the list the next year.  Some of those return in subsequent years.  Over the past six years, the list has seen an  annual increase in newer people making it on - as their influence and impact have increased and with that renown so has their power.

As I pretty much know who the usual suggested names will be, this year I have asked a smaller group of nominators to send me their suggestions for inclusion on the list to augment the 450 names on the master list.  And always on the lookout for possible candidates for the list, I've added another 25 names for consideration that have come to my attention over the past year.  But I want to make sure that I am not overlooking the rise in the field of people who might well be included on the list, but are under (at least my) radar, and so this year I am opening up the nominating process to the field, and invite you to suggest the names of people you think have the requisite power and influence in our field to justify their inclusion on the list.

I am particularly looking for people who may not be quite so widely known, but who have major influence and power in our universe.  All suggestions will remain confidential and anonymous.

So, please send me the name or names of those you think have real power and influence.  I need their names, organizational affiliation, and, if you have time, any other information that would help me realize a better and deeper picture of why that person is powerful and influential so I might vet those suggestions.

I need those suggestions no later than August 18th.

Thank you very much.

Don't Quit

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Dinner-Vention 2 Guest List

Good morning.
And the beat goes on....................

The Dinner-Vention 2 Guest List:

I am pleased to present the 2014 guest list for Dinner-vention 2, to be held October 9th in Denver, Colorado.

As was the case last year, we received hundreds of nominations for inclusion on this year’s guest list.  With only eight spots, the process of settling on the eight names was an extremely hard decision.  Clearly, there were enough qualified and stellar people to fill several guest lists.  Again this year, we wanted a diverse, representative group who have already achieved a level of success and renown, but who have not yet reached the zenith in their career trajectories -- people who would make for a lively discussion on a topic (tbd).  We think we have an excellent list of guests.

The next step will be to determine the topic for the discussion.  We have a dozen or so ideas, but if you have a great idea for a dinner topic that would be of major interest to the entire arts field, please send it to me asap.  We plan to send the list of possible topics to the dinner guests in about a week, and ask them to indicate their preference.  The final topic will be a consensus choice of the guests themselves.

As was the case last year, we will ask each dinner guest to prepare a one page briefing paper that outlines their initial thinking on the chosen topic, including the paramount issues they think ought to be part of the dinner discussion.  I will post those briefing papers on this blog site.

More on the live streaming of the dinner conversation as we lock down the logistics of that process.

Thank you all again for your taking the time to suggest names to us for the guest list.  I am deeply appreciative of your time and interest.  And thanks again to Anthony Radich, Shannon Daut, Laurel Sherman, Bryce Miller and Leah Horn for their ongoing support in making Dinner-Vention 2 a reality.

Here is the 2014 Dinner-Vention 2 Guest List:

John Arroyo:  John Arroyo is interested in the sociocultural and physical dimensions of migration and urban design policy, and how those dimensions influence the built environment in transnational Mexican communities—on both sides of the border. A native Angeleno (East LA), he has over a decade of programmatic, publication, and research-related experience working for various arts, community development, and design-oriented nonprofits, foundations, and government agencies across the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. They include The Getty Foundation, L.A. Conservancy, L.A. Department of Cultural Affairs, L.A. County Arts Commission, Americans for the Arts, The California Endowment, National Trust for Historic Preservation, International Laboratory on Cultural Landscapes, Institute for Creative Sustainability, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Most recently, he has served as a creative placemaking and urban design consultant for ArtPlace America, The Kresge Foundation, The Surdna Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, USC Annenberg School of Communication, the Government of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and the Bahamas National Trust. In 2012 he co-founded Project 51, a UCLA-sponsored public humanities project about the L.A. River supported by ArtPlace America and the University of California Humanities Research Institute. Arroyo received his Master’s in City Planning and a Certificate in Urban Design from MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP); a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Minor in Planning and Development from USC as a USC Board of Trustees Renaissance Scholar; and was an Executive Fellow at the Coro Foundation’s Southern California Center for Civic Leadership. He is currently a Ford Foundation Predoctoral Diversity Fellow and PhD student at MIT DUSP.

Laura Bond:  Laura Bond serves as the Director of Community and Media Relations for the Colorado Symphony, the largest full-time professional orchestra in the Rocky Mountain West. In addition to creating and managing communications and public relations, Laura leads a number of educational and community engagement initiatives that support the evolution of a modern symphonic orchestra. As a member of an interdisciplinary leadership team, Laura is actively engaged with strategically addressing the challenges that face all major performing arts institutions in the United States, including audience and resource development. Prior to joining the Colorado Symphony, Laura served as the Executive Director of (now Youth on Record), a non-profit organization that empowers under-served youth through spoken word, hip-hop, music production and collaborative arts. Laura is the former Director of North American Operations for Ethiopia Reads, an international NGO that builds libraries for children in Ethiopia, and served as a Staff Writer/Music Editor for Westword, Denver's alternative newsweekly. She is the recipient of the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism from the Annie E. Casey Foundation for Children and Families as well as numerous state and national awards. Laura currently serves on the Western States Arts Federation's Denver Music Task Force, which produces the annual Denver Music Summit.

Rachel Grossman:  Rachel Grossman is an artist and engagement strategist focused on the triangulation between art, artist, and audience. She is a co-founder of and Ring Leader for the devised theatre ensemble dog & pony dc, with whom she has collaboratively created six original works that integrate the audience into the live performance, directed three, and appeared in five. Rachel launched Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's "connectivity" initiative and served as the first connectivity director, transforming the way the company considers the relationship between its work, audience, and community. Prior to that she was the director of education & outreach at Round House Theatre, and managed education and community programming at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, and CENTERSTAGE. Rachel was honored to be featured in TCG's 50th Anniversary I AM THEATRE campaign. She has presented at TCG, NAMP, NET, ATHE, and AATE, and is a member of HowlRound’s National Advisory Committee. She’s a fan of beets, brussel sprouts, action films, and well facilitated discussions.  Rachel tweets about the world from @rgindc.

Karina Mangu-Ward:  Karina Mangu-Ward is the Director of Activating Innovation at EmcArts, where her work fosters a field-wide movement around the importance of innovation and adaptive change in the arts.

Fascinated by the possibilities of using media as a tool for field-wide learning, Karina came to EmcArts in 2011 to create the interactive online platform ArtsFwd.  Her current role, however, is much broader. Overseeing the Activating Innovation department — which acts as an entrepreneurial house within EmcArts - Karina and her team spread stories of innovation and foster a dialogue among arts leaders about what it takes to stay adaptive in the face of increasingly complex challenges.

Since joining EmcArts, Karina has led a series of experimental initiatives to celebrate and advance innovation in the field including: an Innovation  Story Contest, the Business Unusual National Challenge, and a popular series of livestreamed talks at the National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture.  In addition to these special projects, she also maintains an active blog on ArtsFwd and is a process facilitator in EmcArts' local and national programs.

Prior to joining EmcArts, Karina served as the Associate Producer at HERE, where she managed cutting edge multi-disciplinary projects and produced the documentary series MADE HERE. While Karina enjoyed working in an arts organization, she increasingly wanted a more bird’s-eye view of the entire arts system. EmcArts gives her that opportunity.

Karina has an MFA in Theater Management and Producing from Columbia University and an AB from Harvard University.

Ebony McKinney:  Ebony McKinney has a diverse range of experience in non-profit, philanthropic and government organizations. McKinney served as the founding director of Emerging Arts Professionals/SFBA, a network focused on empowerment, leadership, and growth of next generation arts and culture workers in the San Francisco Bay Area and was instrumental n helping to establish the statewide California NextGen Arts Leadership Initiative funded by The James Irvine Foundation and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. She has held positions with Intersection for the Arts, the San Francisco Arts Commission and the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She has also sat on the Emerging Leader Council of Americans for the Arts. McKinney has participated in grant review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Oakland Cultural Affairs Commission and currently serves on the on the Citizen's Advisory Committee of Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund. Ebony holds a BA in Communications from Chatham College and MA’s in both Cultural Entrepreneurship and Visual Anthropology from Goldsmiths, University of London. McKinney also attended the International Summer School in Cultural Economics in Amsterdam (NL).

Ron Ragin:  Ron Ragin is a performing artist and philanthropy professional living and working in New York City. Currently, he is the program officer at the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, where he manages a multi-sector portfolio of nonprofit grantees working at the intersections of art and issues such as climate change and education. Previously, he had a six-year tenure at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as a program officer in the Performing Arts Program and worked as a senior research analyst at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. Ron is a Steering Committee Member of the Art x Culture x Social Justice Network. Artistically, his work is rooted in African-American performance traditions and integrates sound, text, and movement.

Sanjit Sethi:   Born in Rochester, New York, Sanjit Sethi received a BFA in 1994 from the New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, an MFA in 1998 from the University of Georgia, and an MS in advanced visual studies in 2002 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sethi has been an artist in residence at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada; a visiting assistant professor at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana; lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and visiting faculty at the Srishti School of Art Design and Technology.

After completing a Fulbright fellowship in Bangalore, India, working on the Building Nomads project, he continued his strong focus on interdisciplinary collaboration as director of the MFA program at the Memphis College of Art.  His work deals with issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, and memory.  In 2009 Sethi completed the KuniWada Bakery Remembrance, an olfactory-based memorial in Memphis Tennessee. From 2008 to 2013 Sanjit was the Director of the Center for Art and Public Life and Barclay Simpson Professor and Chair of Community Arts at the California College of the Arts.

Currently Sethi is the Director of the Santa Fe Art Institute where he is focused on how creative cultural organizations can be drivers of social change.

Sixto Wagan is the inaugural director for the Center for Arts Leadership at the University of Houston.  Prior to this role, he led DiverseWorks Artspace as Artistic Director, Co-Executive Director and Performing Arts Curator during his tenure. He is known for collaborating with performers whose works tackle prescient cultural, social, and political issues.  He currently serves as a Hub Site for the National Dance Project and the Center for Houston's Future Policy Committee. He previously served on the boards of the National Performance Network, The MacDowell Colony and QFest: the Houston LGBT International Film Festival.  Mr. Wagan has been part of the Performing Arts Japan Advisory Committee, FUSED (French – US Exchange for Dance), and the Performing Americas Project; and has previously served as Dance Down Under Ambassador for the Australian Arts Council and as a primary consultant to Creative Capital.  Wagan has been recognized with two awards in Houston for Dance Presenting.

We're looking forward to a robust dinner topic discussion.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Report on the AFTA Research Meeting

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on…………………"

Below is a report from David Pankratz on the Arts Research meeting at the AFTA conference last month.

                           An Encore at AFTA in Music City!:
                 Arts Research--Fueling Policy & Advocacy II 
By David B. Pankratz
Research and Policy Director
Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council

Some arts researchers genuinely think that research should be made accessible to scholars, decision makers, and practitioners alike.  Others appear to believe in keeping research reports dense and heavy to prevent improper usage by advocates seeking to make points while compromising the integrity of the research.

Where does the truth lie? Americans for the Arts (AFTA) has devised a unique forum for wrestling with these sorts of research-related questions.

Back in the ‘Burgh  At its 2013 annual convention, Americans for the Arts, along with the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, convened nearly 40 arts researchers to explore how research fuels arts policy and advocacy (or not).  Using a musical chairs/speed dating/crowd sourcing format, the session was loud, fun, and produced animated debates on hot-button issues.  (Here's a recap).

On to Music City!  AFTA’s Randy Cohen declared at the time we should keep the debates going next year, since such in-person gatherings just don’t come along very often.  Well, that’s exactly what happened on June 13, 2014 during the 2014 AFTA convention in Nashville.

Randy, Clay Lord, Steven Tepper, and I sought out topic suggestions.  We then whittled the many we got down to four:
  • Infrastructure for Arts Research 
  • Creativity" in Research, Policy & Advocacy 
  • Research and Lay Audiences 
  • Influencing Decision-Makers through Research & Evaluation    
Reprising the musical chairs/speed dating/crowd sourcing format, the 30+ attendees engaged in one-on-one and small group discussions on these four topics.

Participating were folks from AFTA, the National Center for Arts Research at SMU, the Cultural Data Project, TRG Arts, Topos Partnership, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project, and ArtsEngaged, as well as representatives from arts service organizations, LAAs, and arts administration education programs.        

Here’s a summary.
Arts research infrastructure (or “how well-built are we?”)   A lot goes into producing research:
multiple sources of primary & secondary data, plus data aggregators  academia-based scholars, research consultants and entrepreneurs brokers and disseminators of research sponsors of research (foundations and public cultural agencies) service and professional organizations, university programs that prepare researchers and research managers, and a shared research agenda.

Quite a list. So, how strong is the arts research infrastructure?

One attendee focused on what could have been, waxing nostalgic about the 1990s when major funders tried to build a robust arts research infrastructure. It was to mimic the mature systems in education, transportation, health, the environment, and other sectors, replete with multiple university-based programs filled with arts research experts and longitudinal data sets. But that vision came to pass only in part, at best, because of limited funds and few jobs. These days, quipped another, most of us are either research entrepreneurs or, ouch, “accidental researchers.”  

In contrast, we heard a forward-looking, constructive suggestion: “Maybe building our infrastructure means that we go out to other research fields and recruit researchers to dig into our data and issues.”  There are precedents for this kind of collaboration, and the NEA actively promotes it.

But others in the room offered a note of caution, saying we in the arts for too long have allowed methodologies from other fields--ranging from economic impact to community indicators--to guide our approaches to research too much.  Instead, they argued, arts researchers need to be led by core questions which we as a field agree to and can unify around.  On that point, all agreed.  

Sounds good.  But what would those core questions look like?  Candidates ranged from “Why isn’t there enough money for the arts?” to “Why is it so difficult for people to sustain a career in the arts?”  Others focused on broader, cross-cutting questions, which, some said, could induce collaboration with non-arts researchers. For example, “What are the effects of creative expression on human life?” and “What do communities lose when they lack a high level of cultural vibrancy?”

Fuzzy creativity and other terms   Any large-scale research enterprise requires agreed-upon definitions of terms, an area on which several June 13th participants said our field falls short.  One such term is “creativity.”  Some use of “creativity,” we heard, is fuzzy. Other usage assumes that creativity is the province only of the arts, and usage varies considerably by context--educational, business, and artistic contexts, to name a few.  Needless to say, researchers must define all key terms carefully.

Infrastructure, revisited   We were reminded that the arts field is a relative newcomer to big data collection and analysis.  Yes, the arts & culture field is rich in available data sources.  Some attendees even claimed there are more data at our disposal than we are able to use.  And, yes, the capacity for aggregating data sets is increasing markedly.

But for many arts researchers, the quality, comprehensiveness, compatibility, representativeness, and utility of available data remains a challenge.  We heard how data are gathered for different purposes and use diverse definitions. Plus, the goal of comprehensive data collection remains elusive because of time and cost constraints, though some initiatives report success at the local level.

In tracing the roots of data-related challenges, one culprit came to the fore, namely, how de-centralized the primary providers and aggregators of arts data and resources in the U.S. are--AFTA, CDP, the NEA, NASAA, NCAR, TRG, and Sustain Arts.  They were described as being in a “pre-coalition” stage of dialogue, though most agreed these entities are becoming more aligned and inter-connected.  Still others said that for arts data production and analysis to flourish more as an integrated system, we need a fresh infusion of funding.  It’s not clear where that would come from.

But maybe we should give ourselves a break. One attendee posed the question of whether other research sectors are all that well-aligned and inter-connected.  OK, sure, we can chide ourselves, but how bad should we feel?  After all, every research community has huge disagreements on how best to tackle the big questions. And how well are their data sets linked and centralized? For another participant, the idea of everyone falling in line and working within a single organized research infrastructure all sounded a bit authoritarian.

Also discussed was the considerable skepticism about the value of data collection and analysis that many hear from arts & culture leaders.  What are the will, capacity, and interest of arts & culture organizations to treat data and its analysis as a decision-making tool rather than merely a matter of obligation?  Emerging resources like CDP 2.0 and TRG Arts’ Data Center, as well as new forms of training from both upper and middle-level staff that emphasize the outcomes and utility of strategic use of data, are expected to reduce skepticism and increase the strategic usage of data.

Amidst all its talk of data, the group got philosophical as well.  We heard that data does not tell us what to do or what our vision should be, but it can help reduce uncertainty around decisions about how best to achieve our visions.  Also, data do not speak for themselves, we were reminded.  They need to be framed by narratives that either illustrate the impacts of the arts & culture or define needs which the development of new policies and programs might address.

Audiences for research--Who are they?  Do they care?   The topic of curating research for lay audiences, while on the agenda, was troublesome for the group.  It was easy to say who “lay audiences” are not--researchers or data-driven- decision makers.  Lay audiences, we decided, can be arts professionals, funders, board members, and community members.  It was said we need avenues or channels to get the right research to the right people in the right format.  One example--research on capitalization in arts & culture organizations by the Nonprofit Finance Fund is being distributed through nonprofit board training programs that directly reach board members.

One person made the point that funders can be very important as channels for the distribution of research.  They offer an inducement for stakeholders to read and engage with a research report.  Another inducement to engagement cited was to work with lay audiences to provide input into the design of research, including questions to investigate, as well as how best to interpret and translate research results.  Some saw this as a corrective to the tendency for funders of research to exert too much control.

No surprise here--all agreed that researchers need to do an ever more effective job of combining quantitative and qualitative data to create narratives that resonate with lay audiences.  Effective narratives demonstrate the public impacts of all forms of artistic activity, impacts that are inclusive of but extend well beyond economic effects.  The “Arts Ripple” research remains a model of using research to create a framework that articulates the public value of the arts.  Qualitative research that captures the specifics of impacts in the lives of a broad range of citizens can be an important part of narrative-building.      

Policy-makers like stories too   Finally, creating narratives are key to the goal of influencing policy-makers through research.  Such research can serve two purposes.  One is to measure the impacts of policies and whether they are achieving their intended objectives or not, a relatively rare occurrence in the arts policy world.  The other is to identify policy windows by assessing strengths and challenges in arts contexts, which policy-makers, through narratives integrated into advocacy strategies, can be persuaded to address.

Coda  Maybe we can pick up this thread again, among others, at a second encore during AFTA next year in Chicago.  Randy and I hope so.

On the other hand, why not do this kind of thing at other arts conferences that attract researchers? All you really need is a space, a list of research types to invite, publicity via list servs and other methods, and ways to organize and document discussions.  Of course, researchers are a hungry lot, so be sure to have coffee and plenty of snacks.

Thank you David.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Brief Report on the Second International Teaching Artist Conference

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on………………"

The Second International Teaching Artist Conference

Organized by Eric Booth, the Second International Teaching Artist Conference sought to gather teaching artists from around the world for a three day meet (held July 1-3, 2014) in Australia to share thinking and discuss issues central to arts education and the role of teaching artists.  From the conference website:

"ITAC2 sets out to identify the productive conditions that give rise to the diverse ecologies of Teaching Artistry in various parts of the world. ITAC2 will advance the global movement by developing new flows of information and knowledge exchange about these productive conditions to advance Teaching Artistry internationally—designed to grow long beyond our time in Australia."
I think teaching artists are likely a key critical element in succeeding in our goal to promote arts education K-12 as a universal offering, and it is an area I hope to explore in greater depth on this blog in the future.    While I would have loved to have accepted Eric's invitation to attend this conference, that was not possible, so I asked Eric if he would connect me to someone who might file a report on this blog about the conference, and he put me in touch with Daniel Kelin, who graciously offered to post a report.  Here is that posting:

Conference Reporter:  Daniel A. Kelin, II

Daniel A. Kelin, II is an ardent and outspoken teaching artist. He is the long-serving Honolulu Theatre for Youth Director of Drama Education and has been a director, teaching artist and consultant with organizations in American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, Japan, India and the Federated States of Micronesia. He is on the teaching artist roster of the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, has served as President of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education and was a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar in South India. His newest book, The Reflexive Teaching Artist, will be published by Intellect in 2014.

"Welcome. Intention? Translate. Disrupt!

An aboriginal dance group rhythmically stepped toward the large gathering of teaching artists, arms outstretched in welcome.  With a carved stick and coconut husk, they kindled a fire that ignited both applause and a sense of purpose in the gathered group as the conference began.  Several welcomes by the conveners followed, which quickly became a kind of running joke.  In truth, however, reiterated vocabulary played a fundamental role in the conference as the conveners posed: What defines this teaching artist field and how do we collectively move it forward locally and globally? Right off, the phrase ‘Art Disrupts’ entered the conversation, a call to consider possibilities beyond comfortable patterns.

Oddly, then, our journey commenced with brief conference-style introductions to our own work.  However, it offered a grounding.  Who’s in the room? What’s labeled teaching artistry around the globe? What are the intentions and purposes of teaching artists in various settings? As I talked with folks, lots of questions about the terms teaching artist and artistry arose to an almost surprising degree. It became clear that many still struggled with fully embracing the term, whereas others fiercely dedicate themselves to advancing the field.  That mixed dynamic, I believe, contributed to keeping our conference conversation probing and introspective.

Keynotes followed, embodying the conference questions. Jun-Seok Roh of the Korea Arts and Culture Education Service outlined the Korean government’s impressive dedication to art and teaching artists. More than 4700 teaching artists trained and employed there to help bring happiness and harmony to society.  Russell Granet of Lincoln Center Education introduced the ‘Artist as Translator,’ noting that teaching artists open deeper understanding of art to the greater community. Scott Rankin of BighArt challenged us to remember that when you know someone’s story you don’t do them harm. And Amandina Lihamba of the University of Dar es Salaam succinctly demonstrated how theatre can rouse a challenged people to action.  Jade Lillie’s formal response that followed might have encapsulated best the conference saying we should ask, ‘Where are we failing?’

Here the work began.  The conveners laid out six topics identified by teaching artists in the first international gathering—Teaching Artist Training; Networks and Partnerships; Research and Advocacy; Support Structures; The Business of Teaching Artistry; Defining the Field; and, a seventh added during this conference, The Professional Needs of the Teaching Artist.  They engaged us in troubling out related questions and concerns to help better define the teaching artist field.  Those expanded topics then became gathering places for us to develop real life projects intended to define and advance the field. The stakes were high. The projects would be pitched at conference and voted on in order to rally support around a select number that would ideally bear fruit post-conference.  Convener Eric Booth pleaded, ‘Commit to the potential projects!’ He noted how the fire often fizzles after a conference. How could we avoid such a failing?

Out of the chaos of negotiated ideas rose seventeen projects that centered on two essential ideas: training/certification of teaching artists and modes to connect teaching artists on a global scale. Clickers in hand, the group identified five that, in the last moments of the conference, pulled together large groups of participants dedicated to keeping up the momentum.  The five included: 1) the TAG Exchange, a month-long global exchange program between organizations and institutions for teaching artists, 2) The Practice Lab, a site where teaching artists can profile projects, 3) Developing Your Teaching Artist Career:  An International Postgraduate Certificate in Global Practice, 4) the Teaching Artist Platform, a Facebook center for links to personal and organizational websites, and 5) Coming up for AIR, and Australian based endeavor to increase the presence of teaching artists in school settings.

Some participants disrupted the proceedings by sticking to their low vote projects.  And some on-the-spot private funding gave veracity to yet others.

Titled an ‘unconference’ from the first welcome, the experience launched into high gear from the start which, honestly, disrupted the expectations of not a few of the attendees. But the momentum swept the crowd to a sense of ownership over possibilities for the future of the field.  Which, it seems, was the intention."

Kudos to Eric for organizing this effort, and thanks to Daniel for sharing some of his impressions.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Friday, July 18, 2014

Blog Forum on the Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA - Day #6

Good morning
"And the beat goes on…………………"

Note:  For bios on the Forum participants, please see last week's blog post (or, if you are on the blog site, scroll down).

Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA - Day #6

What is the ideal relationship for NASAA and its logical clients, stakeholders, potential partners and collaborators  - including state and local arts advocate groups, local city and county agencies, the Regional Arts Organizations, arts educator and arts education groups, private sector groups, the philanthropic community and various arts discipline service providers and the NEA - and how far is that ideal from the reality?  What needs to be done to make all of those relationships (and potential relationships with asymmetrical organizational partners) work for NASAA and each of those communities? 

Ra Joy:
There’s an elephant in the room when it comes to reimagining the future of NASAA. For me, that elephant is NASAA’s relationship with Americans for the Arts.

When I started at Arts Alliance Illinois in 2007, there were whispers at the time that AFTA would absorb NASAA soon after the retirement of Jonathan Katz. You could chalk those rumors up to gossip-mongers and conspiracy theorists that had nothing better to do with their time. Or, you could look at the 2005 merger of operations between AFTA and the Arts & Business Council and say to yourself – “why not NASAA?”

The arts sector is incredibly fortunate to have two very powerful, well established national organizations that occupy a similar space. NASAA is the membership organization that unites, represents and serves America’s state arts agencies. They focus on advocacy, research and building community among SAA staff and council members. AFTA is the nation's leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America. They focus on advocacy, research, professional development and network building.

Luckily, AFTA and NASAA have established a strong partnership and work arm-in-arm to advance the presence and importance of the arts in America. NASAA is a healthy association and a trusted champion and advocate for SAAs. It has a top-notch staff team, a strong governance structure; and its members are innovative, nimble and strategic leaders.

But in this era of limited resources and constant change, there remains a steady drumbeat to eliminate duplication of services and embrace innovation. Regardless of whether there was ever any truth to those rumors or not, NASAA should strive to create brand distinction and drive brand loyalty.

I think developing a new, unique, and compelling value proposition for NASAA is an important step to becoming a more powerful organization in the future. In doing so, NASAA will help the broader arts community better understand and appreciate the essential role it plays for state arts agencies and the communities and citizens they serve.

Scott Provancher:
Several years ago I was working on a major fundraising campaign for the Arts in Charlotte.  The campaign had reached a point where the campaign leadership had run out of ideas on how to close a $20 million gap.

While having dinner with Hugh McColl, former CEO of Bank of America and significant Arts supporter, he was recounting the key to his success in building a sleepy little bank in North Carolina into one of world’s largest and most profitable banks.  Mr. McColl said that the key to his success was that he focused almost all of this time on understanding what motivates people, which often times is our heart, not our minds.

To make his point, he told me stories about the process of acquiring or merging banks and how most of his competitors focused on the numbers (hiring thousands of consultants to crunch the numbers to justify the purchase price).  His competitors would often be shocked and confounded to learn that Mr. McColl had closed the deal before they even realized he was bidding on it.

Mr. McColl said while his competitors were focusing on the numbers, he was focusing on what were the leaders of the bank’s desires, fears and expectations.  For some people it was all about their family’s name remaining the on the Bank after the merger, or that they got to sit on the Board of the new Bank, or that they wanted their employees to be protected from layoffs.  Having that knowledge gave him the required insight to make the deal happen before his completion could even pose counter offers.

The light bulb went off for me.  I left that meeting and began to immediately focus on the relationships that would make the final $20 million ‘deal’ happen for the Arts campaign.  Focusing on the desires and needs of the key players allowed us to secure several gifts that ultimately closed the gap—all of which came from a understanding the key donor’s desires.

So what does this story have to do with the role of NASSA in the greater landscape of the arts sector?

It’s all about the need for our industry to have more “deal-makers” that can put together unique partnerships and launch new ideas that can transform our industry.  NASSA needs to be one of these deal-makers—finding the right partners (private sector, government, SAAs, LAA, etc…), understanding the shared goals and values of the partners, and “closing the deal” for our sector.

That deal may be a new advocacy partnership that links all of the major arts service organizations under one banner, a $1 billion national campaign for Arts education in America, or launching a new SAA model that tests ideas in States where the old model is not producing the desired outcomes.   Whatever the new partnerships or ideas are, I am convinced that we need to spend more time pursuing collaboration that will transform our industry.

Maybe one of us will be having dinner with a young arts leader 10 years from now and will recount the story of a sleepy little movement call the “Arts” and how it rose to be one of the most powerful forces in making America a global innovator—NASSA should be one of the key deal-makers that makes it happen.

Arni Fishbaugh:
In an ideal world
The ideal relationships with all of the above-mentioned parties are those that address NASAA’s mission to “strengthen state arts agencies.”  Much good work is going on within NASAA toward this end with all groups, and there are other cases where further relationship building is ongoing.   

One of the most significant partnerships blog readers may not be aware of is the Cultural Advocacy Group, which is the group of lobbyists in Washington D.C. from all the national arts service organizations, such as NASAA, AFTA, TCG, AOL, Chorus America and Dance USA, etc.  They work to go forth to Congress in a united voice on arts issues important to us all and have done incredibly valuable work.

The most important relationship?  NASAA’s members and the NEA.

Because NASAA is member-driven, our first priority is the need of our members.  The next most important relationship, in my view, is with the National Endowment for the Arts.  Some readers of this blog may not be aware that 40% of the NEA’s program funding is allocated to state arts agencies and the regionals.  This is why it is so crucial that a true partnership relationship exist between the state arts agencies and the Endowment.

I know I speak for everyone around the country when I say that we are looking forward to the new vision and leadership that Dr. Jane Chu will bring to the Endowment as its chairman.  NASAA will be working diligently to foster a mutually beneficial partnership relationship with new Chair.  

Mark Huffland:
What is the ideal relationship between a state arts agency and its principal stakeholders and logical potential partners and collaborators - including state arts advocacy organizations, local city and county arts agencies,  state arts education organizations, discipline based service provider organizations, other state agencies, private sector interests and the philanthropic community, and where does that ideal differ from the current reality?  Needs more teamwork by, participation with, and service to these others.

What needs to be done to move the reality closer to the ideal?  Wisdom, passion, organization and activism.

Kris Tucker:
Kudos to NASAA for its work in recent years to convene a better coalition for national level advocacy, and for nurturing a good relationship with the NEA, especially the state/regional partnership office.  Over the years, NASAA has also navigated strong partnerships with State School Chiefs and the NGA, among others.

I hope the new NASAA leader will be broadly visible and proactive as she/he gets acquainted with the field, the job, the context – and develops relationships and connections. Then I hope a compelling new vision and approach are developed with some fairly immediate opportunities and longer term options. The Board and membership must be fully engaged – but must be open to uncertainty, and should expect our assumptions to be challenged. The decade ahead will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. 

Let’s hope State Arts Agencies have the courage, creativity, enthusiasm and intelligence that the arts deserve.  

Laura Zucker:
So now it’s my turn to pose some questions:

Beyond its members, NASAA’s most important relationship is with the NEA, as 40% of the NEA’s budget is distributed directly to the SAAs, and I understand that the relationship hasn’t been as collaborative as it could be. Can NASAA really “get” the chair of the NEA’s priorities and figure out how the state’s NEA allocations can support the broader agenda (there’s that fealty concept again)? 

Just as the NEA made a concerted effort under Rocco Landesman’s leadership to partner with other federal agencies, is there room for NASAA to explore this arena to enable its SAAs to benefit from new federal partnerships?

As the NEA rolls out new strategies around systemic change in arts education nationally, what role could NASAA play in helping statewide initiatives take root?

The NEA has also demonstrated through spearheading the creation of ArtPlace the caroling power that’s possible to bring a federal agency and private funders into alignment around a common approach to a funding priority, whatever it might be. Is that something NASAA could model for SAAs?

In other words, If NASAA decides it’s going to take on issues of field wide importance, the sky’s the limit on the partnerships it can form.

Randy Rosenbaum:
Several years ago I attended a NASAA conference in Chicago.  The "culture wars" were underway, and at this conference NASAA had assembled representatives from all of the arts service organizations.  Everyone was seated as one very long table on a ballroom stage, so literally two dozen or more organizations, representing thousands of artists and artsorganizations, were present, all with a single purpose: to put there name to a document that unified everyone in support of public funding for the arts.  I knew this meeting was happening "in the moment", and it didn't really represent a unified approach to anything at all.  But it really sparked my excitement and imagination.  That, to me, is the ideal relationship, taken from the moment and put into practice.  NASAA should be one of many in that relationship, and the contribution of state arts agencies should make sense within a unified approach to advancing the arts community.  I'm convinced we can, collectively, get behind a few basic issues and work them out collectively.  And if NASAA could contribute to that, just as it contributed to the development of the Cultural Arts Group (CAG - a collection of advocates from the major arts service organizations), well that would be a wonderful thing.

Anthony Radich:
NASAA’s efforts to prepare for the post Baby Boomer world of culture should be no different than those of all cultural entities.  The first step in such preparation is an assessment of what the role of the arts are in contemporary life and what state arts agencies and NASAA can do to enrich and extend that role.  Probably, both the mix of arts desired by the public and the role the arts play in life today are quite different than they were in the 1970s arguably the heyday for state arts agencies.  The agencies and NASAA need to be open to these changes and look forward not back.  The other key thing is to bring new and diverse young people into positions of responsibility and leadership.  Because the Baby Boomers have been around so long, they have hindered the upward mobility of may in the field.  Now that they are departing, now is the time to reach out and include these younger people.  Finally, the new people brought into the work of state arts agencies would, I hope b e unlike many of those who have served the field well over the years.  Let’s honor all of those people but recognize that different times require different skills and that young people who act and think like some of the fields most successful Baby Boomers, are likely to failures in the world we are evolving into.   

Thank you to all the participants.

Don't Quit