Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29. 2005 Update #11

Hessenius Group on the ARTS launch set for September 13th

Table of Contents:
I. HESSENIUS Group launch - more info
II. ARTS DAY - 2005
III. Public as "Shareholders" in Nonprofit Corporations
IV. Bits & Pieces - couple of cool website links 

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"And the beat goes on......................."

I. HESSENIUS Group Launch Tuesday, September 13th 9:00 am Pacific Time.
"And we were all gathered in one place............"

I have had incredible feedback on the idea of a McLaughlin Group for the Arts, and I want to thank everyone for their support and for the ideas for topics. I hope everyone will go online to this site on Tuesday, September 13th and participate in this first group. Please pass the word to your consituents and everyone involved in your organization (you can download a link to the site, a brief flyer explaining the concept and how it works, and a thumbnail description of this blog - any or all of which you can post on your website or send to your listserv (and I would be very grateful if you would). Click here:

The first group participants are:
Moy Eng, Jonathan Katz, Diane Matarazza, Anthony Radich, Sam Miller, Gary Steuer, (Ben Cameron - possible). Other Hessenius Group members may decide to chime in with thoughts and opinions, and everyone can enter a comment by going to the site. I hope all of you will view the dialogue (add the site to your FAVORITES list to make it easy for you to check in each day that week), and that many people will decide to participate by sharing their thoughts and reactions. There are many topics / issues that we might consider for the first Group, and I am still open to, and would appreciate, your suggestions.

"It's a celebration....................."

ARTS DAY (celebrated in California on the first Friday in October) is fast approaching. I know other states and cities celebrate an Arts Day, and, of course, October is National Arts & Humanities Month. I created California's Arts DAY while at the CAC because I shared the belief that a "month" celebration was too long for the media to really get a good handle on; a single day being much better for the purpose of garnerning media / press attention. I hope as many arts organizations, artists and arts supporters will do something, anything, to call attention to Arts Day. The best (most attractive to the media) way to celebrate the day is with some sort of an "event" to which as many people come as is possible. Events such as rallies are ideal - a little food, some entertainment, speakers.......... and boom, the media will be there if invited. Even better, some kind of mild protest against arts de-funding or whatever issue may loom locally, because the media and press love "protests". A few signs and speakers is all it takes. The earliest Earth Days were part protest, part celebration. And now Earth Day is rapidly approaching being co-opted and may soon be a Hallmark Greeting Card day. Fine with me. We want people to celebrate, understand, and appreciate the arts and their importance; we want the recognition of the Arts institutionalized. So please - do something, and call the press and tell them about it - to mark Arts Day 2005. And I hope someday those in the right places will designate one day as National Arts Day.

"And in the end................."

If you ask people what the main goal or purpose of a private sector coproation is, they will tell you it's "to make a profit". That's not quite accurate. The main objective of a corporation is to "enhance shareholder value", which, more often than not, is the same thing as making a profit, but not always. Sometimes, shareholder value is increased by investing in infrastructure, taking a write-off, acquiring assets, building inventory, expanding marketing etc. - all of which may negatively impact short term profit, but potentially increase long term worth of the company's stock.

Nonprofits are "public benefit corporations" - they are accorded special tax status because they benefit the public in some way. How then is shareholder (public) value enhanced in nonprofits? Is it by increasing capacity, building infrastructure, developing audiences so that the organization is financially strong and will have longevity? Or is it just the opposite - taking risks, pushing the envelope, championing the creative process irrespective of market demand, audience size, donor support etc.? Is public value in nonprofit arts organizations enhanced by pursuring the chief objective of increasing "access" to the arts that exist, or in the facilitation of creating "new" art? Does the nonprofit arts organization owe its loyalty and efforts to the "public" or to "art" and "artists"? Are these 'core' questions, or merely relative to the nature and size of the organization (i.e., if a large museum is funded 80% by donors, are those "donors" the practical de facto public for that particular institution? To what extent do arts organizations in general regard the "general public" as its shareholders, to whom it ought to direct its efforts to enhance its value? Or are the audiences, donors, foundations and direct client bases really the shareholders, as perceived by the organization? And finally, does any of this have anything to do with how the "general public" perceives us? Values us? Relates to us?

We spend a lot of time talking about "making the case" to our funders and public officials; about our "value" to the public, to society - economically, educationally, civically - but do we, in reality, spend most of our actions tailoring our value to a much smaller circle than that "public"?

Arguably, private corporations enhancing their shareholder value has little to do with what may or may not be good for the wider society and public - contrary to the antiquated notion that "what is good for General Motors, is good for the country". But, corporations are, in law anyway, citizens, and where is the loyalty and obligation to act as responsible citizens? And isn't the lack of that precept somehow at the heart of the problem with business and industry in a pluralistic, democratic structure? And are nonprofits any different? We want the public to value the arts. Don't we also need them to value "nonpofits"?

These are just random thoughts that I think, somehow, impact our success (or failure, depending on how you look at it) to truly engage the public in our support.


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Have a great week.

Don't Quit

Thursday, August 4, 2005

August 04, 2005 Update #10

Table of Contents:
I. Hessenius Group on the Arts - Coming in September
II. "And the Band Stopped Playing - Rise and Fall of the San Jose Symphony" and the issues raised.

Hello everyone.

"And the beat goes on................"

You can post a comment to this blog by going to the site and clicking on comments. It easy.

"Everybody's talkin' at me......................"

Next month I will launch a new feature on the blog - a once a month, McLaughlin Group (as on PBS television) type roundtable discussion of major issues facing the arts.

The following national arts leaders have accepted my invitation to participate in the group:

Ben Cameron - Executive Director, Theater Communications Group
Moy Eng - Program Director, Performing Arts, William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
Sandra Gibson - President, Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Jonathan Katz - Executive Director, National Association of State Arts Agencies
Wayne Lawson - Executive Director, Ohio Arts Council
Bob Lynch - President, Americans for the Arts
Diane Matarazza - Consultant (former Senior Staff at the National Endowment for the Arts)
Sam Miller - President, LINC (leveraging investments in creativity) (former Executive Director, New England Foundation for the Arts)
Paul Minicucci - Consultant (former Deputy Director, California Arts Council)
Cora Mirikitani - CEO, Center for Cultural Innovation (former Senior Program Officer, James Irvine Foundation, Pew Charitable Trust)
Anthony Radich - Executive Director, WESTAF
Gary Steuer - Executive Director, Arts & Business Council
Andrew Taylor - Director, Bolz Center for Arts Administration, University of Wisconsin School of Business
Jerry Yoshitomi - Consultant (former Executive Director, Japanese American Community Cultural Center, Los Angeles)

Here's how it will work:

The 'Hessenius Group' will convene online once per month, beginning on the second Tuesday of each month at 9:00 am Pacific Time, with the participants' initial responses to my questions on pre-determined key issues posted at that time. Five to six members of the 'Group' will participate in each month's blog. Then, over the next three days, the panelists will respond to follow-up questions and each other's postings. Starting on the Wednesday of each week, the current group's panelists will have the option to invite one other person each to co-blog with them (if they so choose) so as to try to expand the dialogue to include new and diverse voices.

As there are far more gifted leaders that I wanted to invite to be a part of the 'Group' than reflected on the list, I will also, from time to time, invite people to participate in a given month's blog - with an eye towards insuring there is geographic, discipline, multicultural and other balanced representation of our community. Readers of the blog will be able to post their own comments at any time. As the moderator my role will be to keep the flow moving and the dialogue on point.

If this experiment proves successful, we may do it 'live' at various arts conferences.

I hope this generates expanded interest in the issues surrounding the larger policy questions we face in the arts & culture sector.

I welcome suggestions for topics for the Group to consider.

"It's all over now baby blue..........."

A book co-authored by Dr. Thomas Wolf (Wolf, Keans & Company consulting), and Nancy Glaze, Director of Arts for the David & Lucile Packard Foundation) entitled: "And the Band Stopped Playing - The Rise and Fall of the San Jose Symphony." has just been published, and I hope it gets as wide an audience as the recent Rand Report, because it raises equally important, critical issues for the arts community.

A well written, thoroughly researched chonicle of the closure of the symphony orchestra in San Jose, California, the work explores what went wrong and is a casebook study applicable to performing arts organizations across the country. In a balanced and careful analysis, it asks hard questions about a host of issues, including:

1. Overly ambitious strategic visions, and the need for realistic appraisal of market conditions by arts organizations.

2. The responsibilities of boards and staffs to provide real leadership and what their responsibilities are.

3. What consistutes real marketing and fund-raising capacity and the price of the failure to build that capacity.

4. The difficult issue of the need to address audience expectations vs. the maintenance of "purity" of artistic vision.

5. Why venues are so critical to success.

6. The importance of outreach and building partnerships by performing arts organizations.

7. The obligations of funders and supporters NOT to tolerate and ignore managerial inadequacies, and their role and responsibility in arts organization failures.

At its core, this seminal work asks the basic question the arts have studiously avoided, to wit: "Is there a point where it's simply better for a given arts organization to close down?

These (and other issues)are extremely important for a huge sector of our community, and need to be widely debated, discussed and considered, particularly during the current cycle of tight money and across-the-board, declining funding streams. I would hope the authors would be willing to travel and that presentations might be organized to publicly present this work to arts audiences in much the same way our community considered the issues raised by the Rand Report on making the case for the arts.

I urge everyone to download this work (it's free - and it's relative short - less than 100 pages - and so well written that it is a very easy read) from either the Wolf, Keens & Co., or Packard Foundation websites:

Congratulations to Nancy Glaze and Dr. Wolf - this is a major contribution to our field.

Have a great weekend.

Don't Quit.