Sunday, July 26, 2015

Open Nominations for this Year's Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential

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

Every year, for the past seven years, I have posted a list of the Top 50 Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts.  This will be the 8th year.

As I note every year: 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.   Those with power and influence, or at least those we perceive to have power and influence, impact decisions across the sector; they set agendas, control funding, help set our priorities and affect our strategies on multiple issues.  For that reason, among others, it is important to know who has that power and influence.  Click here for a more detailed explanation of the process and the rationale behind creating the list.

Over the past seven years, I have assembled a list of over 500 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.  Some names show up every year, but for the most part the list is very different from year to year.  Indeed, in the last two years, nearly half the names on the list were not on the previous year's list.  It is that churn in who we perceive to be powerful and influential that is, i think, a fair indication of the continuing changes in the sector's leadership.

Last year I opened up the process to the field to submit nominations of those who people thought ought to be on this list.  That proved to be valuable in identifying names of people that might not otherwise have been identified, so I am again asking all of you to help me by suggesting names of people you think have substantial power and influence in our field.  

This isn't a beauty or popularity contest.  The criteria is very limited.  It's a list of the people who wield substantial power and influence in our field.  Not necessarily the ones who are doing the greatest work, though arguably they are.  People may have power and influence because of the position they occupy, because of their reputations and renown, because they control budgets and money, because they set agendas, because they are recognized spokespeople, because they are great persuaders, because they are visionaries, because of their experience, because of what they have created, or written.  There are countless reasons people who are powerful and influential in our field are seen as such.  But it is their power and influence that the list attempts to profile - not any other quality, nor based on any other criteria.   And it is a sector wide list, so some people who have power and influence in a given discipline, or  area, or region, may not make the list because the focus of the list is national.

The list intentionally does not include artists; it is limited to the United States; and it is, as are all such lists, arbitrary and subjective.  It is only meant to be a broad stroke snapshot of where power and influence in a small universe might lie.   Every year, I can personally think of a dozen or more people who could easily be on the list (and in my opinion should be on the list), but don't make it.   I do my best to make sure the input and vetting process is as representative of our field as I can make it, but it is not a perfect system.

It also, not surprisingly, favors the people with the public face at an organization, rather than those unsung heroes who work behind the scenes to make things happen.  And, I note there are arts organizations that have a lot of power and influence apart from their leadership, and this list does not necessarily reflect those powerful institutions.

As some names on this list are, like Meryl Streep at Oscar time, a perennial nominee and designee, I have decided to retire some of them on the main body of the list.  Beginning next year I will designate a handful of those who are always on this list as virtual Top 50 Hall of Famers so that the list can continue to recognize them, but also include more of those whose power and influence are trending upward.  Most of them will still exercise considerable power and have major influence - at least as long as they are in their current positions.

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. All suggestions will remain confidential and anonymous.

I need those suggestions no later than August 17th.

Thank you very much.

Don't Quit

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Gig Economy and the Arts

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

A lot of talk lately about the GIG Economy - defined here in this Newsday piece as:

"The rise of the "gig economy" -- the world of part-time, freelance, contingent workers such as Uber car drivers or contract software engineers -- threatens to supplant an earlier model, in which long-term, stable employment with a single company was the norm."
The article goes on:

"Contingent workers" now account for about 40.4 percent of the workforce, up from 30.6 percent in 2006, according to the Government Accountability Office. This trend arguably began sometime in the late 1990s, especially in the so-called New Economy.
It intensified with the last recession. Indeed, the vast majority of new jobs being created are contingent, temporary gigs -- precisely the opposite of what happened in the 1990s.
This new face of labor is anxiety-producing, but there's not much new about it. In fact, the replacement of steady jobs by unpredictable gigs marks a return to what passed for normal for most of U.S. history. The gig economy was the economy."

Indeed, the Gig Economy has been the economic reality of artists forever - artists who go from commission to commission, patron to patron, season to season, festival to festival, play to play, writing assignment to writing assignment and from one entrepreneurial attempt to another.  This is how artists have long attempted to make a living, and it is the economic model for most artists still.  For the rest of society, it is only in the last fifty years that the dominant economic model has included job security as a fundamental core of the mix.

The current iteration of the Gig Economy has risen as companies seek to reduce their costs to maintain competitiveness and to maximize their profits.  And at stake is a hefty 30% or more in cost savings if a company can avoid expenses like medical benefits, payroll taxes, and more by classifying workers not as full time employees, but as independent contractors.  Companies like AirBnB  and Uber are at the forefront of moving from having employees, to having contract workers.

While there are advantages to being a Gig worker (flexible time, independence, better work / life balance et. al), the problem of job security and adequate pay has resulted in serious reservations about, and attacks of all kinds on, the advance (or is it resurrection) of a Gig Economy. And it is those attacks, particularly the legal attacks that go to the heart of defining what constitutes an "employee",  that threaten the growth and long term viability of the economy moving towards job contingency as the dominant new norm.  Some companies have eschewed the Gig Economy approach because they want to (again for competitive reasons) be able to train their workers; they want to be able control more of how a worker does the required work, rather than just with the outcome of that work -- thus being able to insure that the customer experience with their product or service is quality controlled.  Other companies have resisted classifying all but their executive management team as 'employees', and arguably their bottom line shareholder value is at stake in the decision to define their workers as contingent or contract.

It remains whether or not the Gig Economy will be the mainstay in the coming decades.  We don't yet know - though the trend is gaining.

Artists remain pretty firmly entrenched as contract workers - with some of the advantages, but most of the negatives associated with being in the Gig Economy.  There are some areas in which artists have moved to being employees with the attendant benefits, but often little of the real security.  Some dancers for example are now employees during a Company's season, but only for the season (which is often very short) and classified as part time employees at best.  The same may be true for theater actors and workers, and musicians and others in our field.  If some are fortunate to have some of the advantages of being employees, often that designation is, at best, short term and / or  seasonal.

Compounding this whole subject is the technological revolution in robotics, as business and industry move to replace human beings with machines for any growing number of jobs - and thus making the employee / contractor conundrum non existent as machines don't yet have rights.  Not likely to happen in the arts?  Well, that's not entirely clear.  Recently there was news about a robot performing an opera, so the issue of machines replacing artists may not be as fantasy like and far-fetched as we might imagine, and though I think it easy to make a convincing argument that we are a long way from even sophisticated AI machines being able to replicate the 'soul' of human creativity, nonetheless the door is open.

And what about us? What about the arts administrator / manager field.  Are we immune to the Gig Economic pressures of moving from being employees to contract workers?  Will the pressures on our organizations to cut costs, save money and become more efficient so as to remain viable as organizations, make it more  likely that we will move to replace some of our full time "employees" with contract workers?   There have been suggestions in the past that we combine certain back office functions (e.g., accounting, payroll taxes, etc) so as to benefit from economies of scale, and outsource certain of these jobs because we would save money, and the tasks don't necessarily have any direct link with the creativity we espouse and which is central to our missions anyway.  If that makes sense, then why not outsource other of our jobs to contract workers if by doing so we could save money, and arguably get good results?  What about fundraising and development, or marketing for example?  And how long will it really be before machines can do virtually all of the secretarial / go-fer kind of work?

With the coming exodus of baby boomer arts administrators, many with volumes of experience and high levels of expertise - and many of whom either have to, or want to, continue to work in the field in some capacity, will we see an enormous new class of consultants that will fuel the supply of contract workers for the nonprofit arts field.  And with this new pool of readily available seasoned and qualified veterans (at arguably less expenditure than younger full time arts managers), will we move more towards the Gig Economy for arts administration?

While there are strong arguments to have the spontaneity of creative minds working in the same place at the same time to give rise to those 'aha' moments where new ideas are born, technology and global access to instant interface makes virtual same place, same time reality almost as good.  And if the tradeoff is for productivity at less cost - that's going to be a hard argument to overcome.

One might make the case that for us such a move would be immoral in some way.  And at least unfair to those coming up through the ranks.   But even if that were true on a human level, on the organization level would it not be irresponsible to ignore a move that would benefit the organization and thus, in the end, the mission itself?  And might not the savings of moving to a Gig approach, be of enormous value to our organizations - including having the work that needs to be done, done well - at less cost?

What I am suggesting is that as a topic, this one isn't necessarily all black and white and easy to decide - given the imperfect world we find ourselves in, and the daunting challenges we face to survive.  And factoring into the decision are issues as lofty as what is the right thing to do, to the more mundane practical considerations of how do we survive otherwise?

All of this is, of course, an unsettling move in the already disconcerting concentration of wealth from a widespread middle class to the top one percent.  Ultimately what is at stake is the organization of human life into systems that allow for equity and value across the board.  But that's big picture stuff.  For the moment, the Gig Economy presents more real threats, challenges, perhaps opportunities and certainly questions - for artists, for arts administrators, for arts organizations -- for everyone.  For artists, all of this has been part of their existence for some time.  For arts administrators, much of what might come to pass will be new and even unexpected.

We shouldn't ignore this.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Quick Reflections on Current Issues

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

Here are some quick reflections and musings on some of the items in the recent news cycle (stuff I would probably be better off Tweeting about, if I had a Twitter account (which I don't):

1.  Works for Hollywood, Why Not Us? - In case you haven't noticed, this summer is apparently a blockbuster year for Hollywood, with huge box office numbers stemming mostly from sequels and spinoffs to previous Tinsel Town successes.  This is a formula the movie industry loves because it theoretically reduces the risk and appeals to the public's affinity for familiar material.  And they are cashing in on it big time this year.  But the same thing doesn't seem to necessarily work for the arts.  And we have been doing it for a long time.  In Theater we call it revivals, in music and dance, we call it repertoire, in museum exhibits, we call it retrospectives (we seem to like words beginning with the letter "r").  It is essentially a very similar approach to Hollywood, yet without the same result. I wonder why,  or what we might do to make it work?  Or if it is part of a larger problem for us?

2.  Latinos are the majority:  An announcement came this week that Latinos are now the majority population in California.  And if the growth trend continues, the demographic will continue to gain proportional representation in the whole of the country. And this simple fact is the real news about the Latino community this week, Donald Trump's hysterical fear mongering ranting notwithstanding.  While in the short term this milestone might not yet convince all arts organizations to act in awareness of the new reality, it is, IMHO, clearly and unequivocally, a clarion call in the long term for organizations to make changes, and for funders to align their strategies to revised goals.  And preparation for the long term, begins now.  We really must avoid talking this challenge to states of inaction on our part.

3.  Systemic technology meltdown: Last week's computer problems with United Airlines, the Wall Street Journal and the NYSE were coincidentally attributed  to "glitches", which sounds like the medical profession calling chronic and severe gastrointestinal malfunction as Irritable Bowel Syndrome - a condition for which there is no known cause nor cure.  Increased hacking, by individuals and nation states, and inexplicable technical problems that seem immune to preventative measures, would suggest that our computer systems, on which we are now frighteningly dependent for all communications and data storage, are not just vulnerable, but are very likely going to be compromised to varying degrees on an increasingly regular basis. Does your organization have a back up plan as to how it would continue its business and protect its access to important data in the event of a semi prolonged outage during which you couldn't use your computers - for anything?  (And all your information in the cloud and on back up hard drives won't do you any good at all if the bad news scenario messes with the systems you use to access so it won't function.  Something to discuss I think, because it certainly is a possibility that something may happen to compromise use of our computer systems for an extended period of time.  Then what do we do?

4.  Questionable Research:  There is a growing tendency to support research into participation in the arts that expands the perimeters of the level in which Americans participate in arts and culture, and even the very definition of that participation.  These studies are well intended attempts to demonstrate and verify the scope and depth of involvement in the arts and culture by enlarging the aperture of what is included in our understanding of that involvement, and to learn valuable lessons from understanding that expanded participation.  There are two dangers in this trend I think:  1)  By attempting to piggy back the arts on more popular frames of cultural participation (e.g., the film industry / movie watching), we run the risk of trying to justify our value based on someone else's value -- and that may be transparently false.   Clearly there is crossover between the arts that comprise the nonprofit arts sector as we know it, and other sub sectors of a more broadly defined creative cultural sector, including the private entertainment industry.  Defining arts participation as inclusive of the whole is legitimate for some purposes.  But it doesn't really help us directly -- either in making the case for our value (except as part of a much larger whole), or in understanding how we might address some of the challenges we face as a distinct and differentiated part of that whole; and 2) some of this research is moving towards laughable, if not absurdist, conclusions that make us look foolish.  If we get to the point where taking a "selfie" or listening to a song on the car radio counts as participation in arts and culture, then frankly we've succeeded in making a mockery of the whole concept.  We're not quite to that point yet, but we're getting perilously close to exactly that kind of conclusion.  We need to dial back our enthusiasm and be more focused on our approach to how we define things and in expanding our research to be pan inclusive of everything under the sun.

I hope you have a great week.

Don't Quit

Monday, July 6, 2015

Where Will the Displaced Artists, Arts Organizations and Administrators All Go?

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

The issue of artists being priced out of living and working in our cities is not new.

The concentration of wealth in a smaller percentage of the population, steamrolling gentrification, finite urban real estate options in many areas (including in limited premium locations), skyrocketing real estate prices, increased rents, and such things as AirBnB putting pressure on real estate to turn high, quick profits - have together have made it increasingly expensive for artists to live and work in cities across the country.  The problem continues to grow. Those who think there is still a solution might prefer to cast it as a challenge, while those who think the die is cast - at least in some cities - might see it as an unsolvable problem).  However you frame the situation, it continues to be worrisome.

On the role of AirBnB in the process of making it hard for artists to live and work in their cities, the Pacific Standard article made this point:

"In desirable urban space, the company (AirBnB) is helping to breed a gentrified monoculture that threatens the cultural diversity it piggybacks on as long as cities don't take steps to balance its effects."

We have long lamented the negative impact this can have on urban areas as the creative economy finds it difficult to exist, let alone flourish, when artists are economically excluded from a territory.  In my own backyard of the San Francisco Bay Area - long an incubator for ideas and discoveries that have changed the face of the world - from television to the Beatniks; from the Hippies to America's answer to the Beatles launched British Music Invasion; from the Anti-Vietnam War movement to the Silicon Valley computer revolution.  All of those things had their genesis in this area, and it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine that any of them would have come to pass were artists not part of the fabric of the City (and when we say the City here we mean San Francisco, but we also mean the greater Bay Area).  The same is likely true of other cities.

And yet there are few cities making a concerted effort to retain the artists, arts organizations and arts workers so as to protect and expand their creative ecosystems.  The issue is usually framed as a problem for artists - which is assuredly is.  But it's also a problem for arts managers, and for the organizations themselves.

What is to become of these oases of creativity, if the artists won't be a part of life there anymore?  As author Sarah Kendizior noted in an essay entitled "Expensive Cities are Killing Creativity":

"New York, San Francisco….and other cities where the cost of living has skyrocketed - are no longer places where you go to be someone.  They are places you live when you are born having arrived."

 She goes on in an analysis of creativity becoming the handmaiden of the rich:

Creativity - as an expression of originality, experimentation, innovation - is not a viable product. It has been priced out into irrelevance - both by the professionalization of the industries that claim it, and the soaring cost of entry to those professions.
The "creative class" is a frozen archetype - one that does not boost the economy of global cities, as urban studies theorist Richard Florida argues, but is a product of their takeover by elites. The creative class plays by the rules of the rich, because those are the only rules left. Adaptation is a form of survival. But adaptation is a form of abandonment as well."

The incasing difficulty in living and working in some major cities affects not just the artists, but the newer and the smaller and the mid-sized arts organizations housed in these cities.  Increasingly they too are being priced out.  Some of these organizations are finding it difficult to continue to stay in the very cities they might have helped create.  As landlords seek to maximize the return on their properties - aided by demand exceeding supply in many instances - arts organizations are finding they can't afford to stay in their current locations.

There are projects underway to try to address this issue for both artists and the organizations that promote, curate and present art.  Placemaking devotees understand that there is a relationship between the art that "makes" a place more viable, livable, healthy, dynamic and valuable, and the artists and the arts organizations that are the core of that effort.  But can they alone buck the trends of artists and organizations simply not having the resources to live in the cities anymore?

And then there are the arts administrators who work in the organizations and with the artists facing a forced exodus.  They haven't escaped the dilemma either.  But for the senior management at the largest cultural institutions who are competitively compensated, and for the few that are the beneficiaries of rent controlled housing, many middle and entry level arts managers are finding that they simply can't afford the rents or home purchase prices to live in the cities in which they work.  It makes little sense to support the needs of the artists and the organizations that work to support the art created, if we fail to support the managers who make that happen.  Arts administrators' needs for affordable housing have to be central in the mix, but I rarely hear them included.  This is, in my opinion, a serious threat to the development of our future leader class.

In San Francisco or down the Silicon Valley for example, rents have risen so far so fast, that a simple studio apartment can easily cost $1500 to $2000 a month, if you can find one - and not a lavish one at that.  A 2 bedroom house can fetch upwards of four or five thousand dollars.  An entry level administrator, being paid a starting salary of  $40,000 (or a middle level manager making $60,000 a year), very likely have only two choices (assuming s/he is not married to a wealthy partner or the heir to a nice fortune):  1) Share a place with several roommates (not always the most desirable option), or 2) live an hour to three hours commute time from where you work - where housing is still affordable (perhaps even a less attractive alternative).

The problem, of course, is not just affordable housing. The issue is also inadequate compensation to artists and administrators, and inadequate capitalization and budget for space for organizations.  Prices are going up.  Income is not.

Being priced out of the market is not the reality everywhere, but it is the reality in an increasing number of places.  If that trend continues, what will that do to our leadership for the future?  What happens if people in certain areas like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Boston, when faced with having to live far from their jobs, or in unacceptable living arrangements (I mean if your in your 30's do you really want to live with roommates still?), simply opt out for something else, or somewhere else?  Will our talent pool shrink?  And what happens if that trend expands to other cities?

Or will that not be a problem, because the organization itself will be forced to move out of the city it supposedly serves?    Or will that not be a problem either, because the artists that comprise the organization will have moved on to somewhere else themselves?

If the trends continue to turn certain urban areas into the enclaves of the very wealthy - unaffordable for the middle class and for artists, arts organizations and arts administrators, where will they all go? And that doesn't even consider the question of middle class audiences.

And that might just be the crux of it.  Artists aren't going to just disappear, nor will all of them simply stop being artists.  Ditto for organizations and managers.  What is more likely is that they will simply move - to where life is more affordable and more conducive to their lifestyle and to their work.  And in so doing, it may well be that such a move will herald the beginning of a new creative burgeoning in another geographic area - another city, another town, another undeveloped venue.  And if that turns out to be the case, that will be a boon for those newly found meccas. It may also turn out to be disastrous to those cities they were forced out of; cities that over time will become transformed into something entirely different than that which gave them greatness, and which attracted people in the first place.

One hopes that the cities wake up to the challenge (problem?) and can help - with housing subsidies, tax breaks for builder / developers and tax breaks for artists.  And we ought to start thinking about tax breaks for arts administrators at a certain level, as well as for artists.  If we are to support creativity and art making, performing and exhibition as part of a place, then we ought to include support for the whole of the ecosystem, and that includes the managers who will make it all happen.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Art at the Center of History - Symbols and Sounds

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

Friday was an emotional day for America.

First the historical Supreme Court decision legalizing same sex marriage across the land.  And second, President Obama's moving eulogy for Clementa Pinckney and the other eight murdered South Carolinians.

Watching these events unfold, I was struck by the reality that, in both cases, art was at the center.

There are many factors - in the long struggle for marriage equality - that led to a victory this week - dating back, to at least, Stonewall.  On stages and movie and television screens, in song and dance and the written word, Gays were increasingly depicted, over the period, as normal.  Perhaps the single biggest factor in this victory was that the visibility of the struggle gave courage to tens of thousands in the LGBT community - famous and anonymous - to brave the times by increasingly coming out of the closet and declaring pride in who they are.  And as more and more stepped forward, it became more personal to millions of Americans.  It was the coming out that gave a face to a previously invisible populace.  Gays, Lesbians and Transgender people turned out to be brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, neighbors, friends and colleagues - and that recognition made it harder to deny them equal rights and cloak them in the shadows of invisibility.  And it made it easier for blocs of straight people to rally to the equality cause.  Gays turned out to be remarkably like everyone else.  And what they wanted was what everyone else already had.

AIDS played a role in all this too, as an unjust, merciless killer garnered for the Gay community, first contempt, and later not just sympathy, but respect for how the community mobilized and moved to protect and care for its own.  ACT Up taught gays not to be doormats.

And at every juncture was art.  Few memorials have had a more powerful impact than the AIDS Quilt - a work of art that enveloped the community and provided solace and hope in a dark hour.  The Rainbow Flag became the international symbol of the struggle of the community's fight for equality.  It was a rallying point and a banner; it provided shelter and a sense of belonging.  It proclaimed that the sacrifices of those who were, for their whole lives, relegated to the closet, were not in vain; that the time was coming when these people were going to stand up for themselves - and in so doing, like other groups before them, were standing up for the rights of everyone.

On Friday night, that flag - that piece of art - was replicated in a lighted White House exterior in an extraordinary recognition of the power of art as symbol of sanctity and safety.  A performance piece if you will of untold dimension.

The art of sound and music - which always plays a part in movements of humanity towards a better world - was present too, as the crowds on the steps of the Supreme Court spontaneously burst into a singing of the National Anthem.

That same afternoon, President Obama went to South Carolina to deliver a eulogy for South Carolina pastor and Senator, Clementa Pinckney, in an attempt to comfort and console the grieving relatives, the city of Charleston, and the nation.  And in another of Friday's extraordinary moments, the President boldly led the congregation in a chorus of Amazing Grace.  Most of us are far too shy and hesitant to even consider attempting a public solo a cappella rendition of any song.  The President's bold move was rewarded by those in the audience joining him in song; a visual reminder that while it's hard to go it alone, it's not so hard when you aren't alone; that music unites us and transcends our isolation.  Sometimes it just takes a leader to lead.

Not since Bill Clinton played the saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show have I seen a U.S. President engaged in a public display of art.  This was more profound.  I was overjoyed.

The art of the Pride Flag and the singing of a beloved hymn are, of course, while embracing a position,  neutral, in themselves.  As the Pride flag was elevated, the Confederate Battle flag was, last week, denigrated; for what it had become: a symbol of the cruel inhumanity of slavery.  And last week, the horrific death of those in Charleston, demanded that decency prevail and that that symbol be removed.

The point is how powerful art can be - whether used to build bridges or to tear them down.  And powerful, even if most people never think of it that way; never realize it.  And because people often don't recognize the role art plays in both the big and small moments of their lives, we need to remind them.

Absorbing the media coverage of these two events, I was struck by something else, and that was that despite the struggle for marriage equality taking decades to finally succeed, and despite the decades of resistance to recognizing the harm and pain caused by display of the Confederate Battle Flag - these decisive changes happened not so much in dribs and drabs, but all at once.  The overwhelming feeling in the Gay community was like my own:  I never thought I would see the marriage right accorded to Gays in my lifetime. I suspect many Black Americans might have similarly resigned themselves to the presence of the Confederate flag as an omnipresent insult.  But in a moment things had changed. Once the tipping point is upon you, it becomes an unstoppable avalanche.

And that I think is a lesson of hope for us in the arts.  For while it seems that we are forever relegated, like Sisyphus to push the rock that is public value, up that mountain, only to have it roll back down to the bottom - the victory we seek will be built on our relentless and continuing effort, bit by bit.  When it comes, it may surprise us all and come very quickly.   Though we can't see the tipping point, let us hope its close.   One thing I am sure of: art will continue to be near the center of the big moments in the nation's life.

And for that reason,

Don't Quit


Have a great week America.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Off this week

Good morning.
And the best goes on............

I'm taking this week off.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Arts and Aging / Arts and Healing - Final Day

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

Arts and Aging / Arts and Healing - Day  5


In the long run, are efforts in the area of arts and aging / arts and healing best managed by the private sector, by government or by some combination of the two?  How will we best coordinate and manage all of the individual efforts that are likely to mushroom as this area begins to really take off?  Do we need central clearinghouses, or regional coordinating efforts or are we best off with individual projects initiated on a local basis?  Why?  What, if any, kinds of national policies ought we develop to guide the coming efforts?  How do we develop a standard nomenclature that allows us to speak with one voice?

Kyle Carpenter:
Some combination of the two. Each sector can help acknowledge leaders in the field and learn from them, and help fund and promote their work.

Some things that could be set up to create successful management could be:

  • Documentation of best practices;
  • The creation of new certifications and new training to give more meaning and stature to certain roles specific for arts and aging. Perhaps the use of technology/distance learning to develop and certify Teaching Artists;
  • More money reserved through government for organizations that have proved themselves or have quality programs;

There could be an arts programming component introduced into the licensing requirements for care facilities so that it is deemed an important factor in grading the level of quality that a care facility or aging organization offers.

Connie Martinez
Each sector has its role.  Clearly the public sector has public funding and public policy to leverage.  The private sector has money to make in this huge market place and the non-profit sector has programs, expertise and relationships with the artful agers to contribute.

As for top down, bottom up approaches to sparking and driving a movement, you need a combination of both. Information sharing, research, public policy, message platforms, standards, and campaigns are best coordinated at a national level but program implementation should be decentralized.  The easier it is for organizations and people to enter, participate and/or contribute to the movement, the more contributors and content there will be to serve the artful agers.

Tony Noice
I don’t believe in an either-all approach. Our own twenty-year program of research on “healthy aging through arts” has received grant after grant from multiple government, private, local, and in-house sources. In terms of speaking with one voice, I have often suggested that organizations such a NIH provide and send out  “initiatives” that put aside funds to be accessed only by artist-scientist teams who use standard measure such as the NIH Toolbox (free to all on the internet). In this way, a growing body of evidence using the same terminology will appear and soon reach the tipping point to gain wide acceptance.

Teresa Bonner:
We need leadership, support, and coordination at every level.

On the national level, the NEA and NCCA co-sponsored a Summit on Creativity and Aging on May 18, 2015.  The Summit was convened to provide input to the White House Conference on Aging, which informs the federal aging policy agenda every ten years.  Participants reached consensus on specific ideas of what the federal government can do to promote lifelong learning and engagement and the arts:

  • Actively work to eliminate ageism across all federal policies
  • Catalyze increased public and private funding by convening funders and developing innovative funding models for lifelong learning in the arts
  • Collaborate across federal, state and local government to collect data, map the ecosystem of lifelong learning and the arts, and leverage the potential of successful programs
  • Promote, fund, and share equitable, diverse, successful, and replicable programs in lifelong learning in the arts that are of high quality and are grounded in the role of the professional teaching artist
  • Promote and fund cost-effectiveness and outcomes research in lifelong learning programs in the arts
  • Increase funding available to individual older artists and programs that support them 

NCCA serves as the voice of creative aging nationally, and its second annual Leadership Exchange on May 19-20, 2015, brought together leaders from across the country to share ideas, programs, and practices.  Thirty-plus state arts councils are collaborating with the NEA to share learning in the field of creative aging.  These efforts must continue and be much more widely shared.

We need stronger advocacy at both the funding and policy levels.  This is something we can all work on.  Arts advocacy organizations need to include these programs in their platforms.

We also need to recognize that no one organization will coordinate this burgeoning field.  This is a movement that is spawning activities of all kinds and in all kinds of places.  We need strong, committed leadership voices of diverse backgrounds – and we need them now!

Maura O'Malley and Ed Friedman
We need the involvement of both the public and private sector to develop and sustain quality arts and aging programs and services.  Don’t reinvent the wheel, build partnerships and employ existing infrastructure to establish policy, change culture and deliver meaningful programming locally.  Share information and collaborate with people and institutions that value the arts and respect and enjoy people – no matter what age they are.

All organizations should be concerned about aging – K-12 systems, all public agencies, arts and social service agencies.  It is a public good issue – like clean air - everybody has to breathe – and everybody ages.  The quality of the experience is the nut to crack. Aging is not just a hot topic because of baby boomers.  They are not the only ones involved!

What we need is culture change.  Who manages that?  As individuals, communities, organizations – we need to focus on how to improve life for all of us as we age and we need to accept and celebrate the universal, inevitable and positive fact that aging is keeps us alive.

Robert Booker:
This is a challenging question where there are probably many answers that would work just fine. Arts and Aging programs, as well as research and advocacy in support of them, have been going on for quite a while and in a variety of settings under the auspices of the private sector, government, community, individual and corporate efforts. I assume that this multi-prong approach will continue. At this stage, it is important for national policy organizations focused on aging to develop clear statements of support for creative aging programs.  Indeed these same organizations could incorporate this work into their best practices, cultural competence guidelines and resource information.

With the generous support of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Arizona Commission on the Arts will begin a three-year Creative Aging initiative that will train teaching artists to work effectively with older adults, foster use of best practices (including engagement and retention strategies specific to older audiences) in arts organizations that develop creative aging programs , and integrate the arts into established aging and healthcare service organizations and infrastructures.

Gay Hanna
The Longview
Arts, aging, and healing work should become services as usual on the national, state and especially at the local efforts.  Let’s look at the evolution of arts education. K-12, though often first on the chopping block for arts education, is still part of the educational system.  In Engaging Arts, Steven Tepper writes that there is no infrastructure in place yet to support adult participation in the arts.  And that to me is where we are today in terms of developing and coordinating (or dare I say managing) all the individual efforts mushrooming in this area.  High-quality supply is growing to meet demand – but it’s still a long way to go in terms of scalability.  Demand, as mentioned in previous posts, is growing exponentially.  It is a systems challenge.  And to that end, our first stop in this new phase of field development is building a highway system with many entry points and exits in order to guarantee accessibility for our many new partners.

The Role of Government
At NCCA, we consider the National Endowment for the Arts the initiator on the national level of systems’ change and they are working hard to make this jump.  State arts agencies are the main path to the local agencies, and this is where NCCA is investing resources.  Ultimately, governmental resources will rally private sector involvement on a systems level including higher education, foundations, nonprofits and corporations. This initiation process will catalyze the private sector to enter this market place and use the growing infrastructure (or highway) to deliver services to older adult population.  Otherwise, I fear a parallel universe will evolve where arts services develop outside the standards of the quality that our national, state and local arts systems have work so hard to improve and develop.  A quick story: I once visited a high-end retirement community that prided itself on their arts programming.  I asked where they secured their well-paid artists.  The life enrichment director’s answer was that she goes to Wegman’s, the national grocery store chain, on Friday nights to listen to the entertainers then makes her selection.  This director had never heard of an arts council and really did not know where to find artists -- but she did have a budget and recognized the need to provide arts participation.

Role of the National Center for Creative Aging
The National Center for Creative Aging was formed out of a partnership between the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Council on Aging in 2001. It started as a program within Elders Share the Arts, which in turn was founded by Susan Perlstein.  In 2007, Gene Cohen, a founding Director of the Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health brought NCCA to join his Center at George Washington University. Now, NCCA is an independent nonprofit national arts services organization.  A small catalytic organization dedicated to providing support to leaders – services providers across the sectors of the arts, aging, health, humanities and social services including education. NCCA gathers information, convenes field leaders, leverages partnerships and produces tools to help grow this burgeoning field.  Our vision is that everyone should be able to flourish through creative expression across their lifespan.  Throughout this blogathon response, I have identified our most recent work in co-presenting the White House Conference on Aging Summit on Creativity and Aging with the NEA; producing a congressional briefing and Leadership Exchange; developing tools for artist training and a caregiving resources guide; our deep tissue work with state arts agencies in developing communities of practice; and our template for healing arts through contracts with the Veterans Administration.

Our position is that of a collaborator.  The best commendation that we could have is that NCCA is a good and solid partner helping move the field of the arts, aging and healing forward.  We want to help make your work easier, better, and of the highest possible quality.

Thank you  for participating in this blogathon.  Great gratitude to Barry and the Aroha Philanthropies for providing this platform for this important conversation.

The intersections between the arts and creative aging and healing, healthcare, and medicine portends to grow dramatically in the next decade, and has the potential to attract significant funding from a variety of sources (government, philanthropic and corporate).  If, as we anticipate, the link between the arts and aging proves to be invaluable to the health and well being of senior citizens (and the coming wave of boomer retirement), this area can benefit the arts in multitudes of ways, including public support and funding.

What's next?  Where do we need to focus our energies?  The Three 'R's':

  • Research.  We need to collaborate with government, academia and the private sector to engage in rigorous research that seeks to understand and explain the role of the arts in improving the aging process for everyone, and how the arts might help in both healing and promoting health care.  We need reliable data on the impact of the arts on measurable outcomes.
  • Recruitment.  We need to ramp up our efforts to get other interest areas, sectors and leaders to work with us in our efforts to promote the intersection of the arts and aging / healing.  We need to take a pro-active approach to being included at the tables where decisions are, and will be, made about aging.
  • Resources.  We need to make resources about what is, and can be done, to launch and sustain efforts to include the arts in the discussions and efforts to improve aging and health, as widely available to our organizations as we can.  From the NEA to the national service provider organizations, to the State and City Arts Agencies, we need every one of them to provide resources to their members and constituents about what is going on in the area, and how to become part of what is going on.  We need links to studies, tool kits and "how-to" programs, and what is and isn't being tried and working across the country.  We need some kind of central, online clearinghouse for these efforts so everyone in the field can go to one place and access virtually everything that is being done is this area - and someone should fund such an effort now.
We also need to begin to make moves into the following areas:
  • Training.  We need programs that prepare for the integration of the field's teaching artists and the fields concerned with aging.  Teaching artists will likely be one of our first lines of involvement in programs across the country, and to the extent we can have some common approaches, (and standards) we will, I think benefit.
  • Policy.  We need to develop a consensus national policy for the involvement, intersections and role of the arts in aging.  And we will benefit from having that policy subscribed to and endorsed by those with whom we seek to collaborate - including government and the private sector.  We ought to lead that effort and not leave it to others.  This is the first step in unified advocacy efforts.  
  • Funding.  We need to organize the funding for our efforts over the next five year period so that we can approach the effort holistically.  Such organization will help to net us more partners and more funding sources.  Funders need to work in collaboration with each other to have a comprehensive approach.  
  • Testimony.  We need to tout the successes of the link between the arts and creative aging and healing / healthcare as widely as we can, including a program to involve the media so that we can solidify public support.

Thank you to all the Forum participants for sharing their knowledge and experience.

Have a great weekend.

Don't Quit