"And the beat goes on........."
Welcome to another HESSENIUS GROUP
John Arroyo - Los Angeles Arts Commission
Rebecca Borden - Americans for the Arts
The topic: GENERATIONAL SUCCESSION
Download the INVOLVING YOUTH IN THE ARTS Report: http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/PerformingArts/Publications/YouthReport.htm
The principal barriers identified in the survey done for the Involving Youth in the Arts Report (i.e., - there is neither enough staff time to oversee, nor funds to support, specific programs designed to recruit the involvement of more young people -- whether as volunteers, interns, future staff, board members, as advocates, financial supporters or new audience members) have resulted in relegating the addressing of the generational succession issues in our sector as a back burner, not a high priority issue.
In the Report we tried to recommend specific actions that arts organizations could implement without great time or expense [i.e.: (1) put the topic on a board meeting agenda to at least discuss; (2) add somebody under the age of 30 (better yet under 25) to your board in the next six months; (3) figure out how to communicate more frequently and effectively with the next generation.]
What else can the sector do as a whole, and individual organizations do by themselves, to successively reach out to the younger cohort?? And what will be the big picture in this area (in your opinion) in the next two years??
I initially began my comments by typing "as a member of the "younger" generation...", but then I stopped. I had to ask myself - is that true? In whose eyes am I "younger?" Initially I also thought of trying to divide my comments into two veins - younger audiences and younger staffing issues. But they can't be viewed separately. They should be viewed together. So the following thoughts apply to both younger audiences and younger management.
I think it's vital that, over the next two years, arts organizations focus on identification - who is the "younger" generation you are going after - and are you even relevant to them? Have you looked closely at what you do - and have you determined if you can tap into the hopes and dreams of a younger generation? And which younger generation? 18-24? 30-40? And then the biggest question of all - do you want to?
I ask that last question because if you take a close look at the organizational structures of most arts organizations - they are heavily staffed by people who are skilled and equipped to manage an older generation - donors, subscribers, etc. There are lots of people working on taking care of these heavily invested folks, and that's as it should be. But then you throw in the younger people: the ones who can't give thousands of dollars (but could give 50, and be a volunteer, and get their friends to sell tickets), and you have to ask; are we staffed to take care of these people? I would argue, in most cases, not yet.
So coming back to the recommendations made in the report, I think they are a terrific start - especially for organizations that have paid no attention to this issue. But the biggest thing I see missing in all of this is a strong mandate to strategically target a younger crowd. Is going after a younger generation a strategic CULTURAL priority of your organization? If it's not, I think it might be worth acknowledging this, and then deciding if it's worth it to change. Because we only have so many resources. What we shouldn't do is just add a couple of young folks to the board or the staff, and then expect them to lead the charge. How awful would it be to put a young person on a board, and then not listen to them? That's a sure road to burnout and disillusionment. If your organization has a culture committed to younger generations, then all of the wonderful ideas surfaced in the report - the mentoring, the professional development, the balance of life/work, the working with new technologies - those will come to the surface as necessary and vital tools.
The Youth in the Arts Report come at a very good time. As the pressure to remain solvent increases as contributed income from corporations and foundations decreases, finding ways to refresh the leadership is very important. I believe this is necessary at the staff, board and patron level. I have always been a fan of internships and believe we can have a huge impact on the direction a young person pursues by providing challenging and meaningful leadership opportunities early... during the first few years of college for example. Youth philanthropy, whether as an intern at "grandma's foundation' or with a local community foundation is a great place to begin engaging young people in their local nonprofit community.
My recommendation would be for arts organizations to move beyond placing young arts professionals into what I call a "generational silo." The recommendation Barry made of adding a young person to the board is a great example of the right way to involve young people and to provide them with the opportunity to serve as leaders for an organization. While I can understand the reasoning and benefit behind offering programs or initiatives that are for certain specific age groups, I find that these items can serve to further the "us" versus "them" mentality. If we truly seek to develop a functional cycle of generational succession in arts organizations, programs aimed at specific ages may backfire by creating age-based cohort groups that are not open to, say, those who may be of an even younger generation. As a young arts professional who is engaged in the field of emerging arts leaders, I take it as a personal mission that, when I am retiring, the field isn't facing this same issue. Programs are being developed right now to address issues related to my generation's entrance and growth in the arts field. If these do not continue to regenerate, then, when the Gen-X'ers are retiring, we'll be in the same boat as we are now! I personally strive to remain open with those who are younger than me and do not presume that they have limited capacity with regard to high level work or leadership. Recently, I have begun to have more interactions with people who are categorized as "Generation Y." I constantly check myself so that I am not making assumptions about who they are or how they operate.
The most affordable thing we can ALL do right now is to take a hard look at our preconceived notions of people in younger generations and create environments where they feel respected. Subsequently, we as a field need to listen to and genuinely value their voices and perspectives. Younger people have a lot of great insight into how the arts can advance and connect with new audiences. Let's think about putting aside the little voices inside of ourselves that say "we know better because we have more experience," and truly be open to new and innovative ways of approaching our work.
In an under-capitalized industry it is easy to make excuses. But if an issue becomes a real imperative, then it moves to a front burner. I believe that taking on this charge is a question of will. I waded into this issue in 2006 attempting to address two pressing issues (after talking about it for a year): the next generation of leadership and the absence of diverse and demographically representational advocacy campaigns.
I looked to students. College students are a fertile feeding ground for our industry. They have passion, commitment, and a can do attitude without being jaded by experience. We need to find ways to get them engaged. To make a long story short, I developed a partnership with the arts administration program at Teachers College, Columbia University and the Harlem Arts Alliance. We put together a credit bearing advocacy training course for graduate students, placing them in the Harlem community interviewing politicians, artists, arts organizations, meeting with community boards, reporting out to the Harlem community, and ultimately participating in Arts day in Albany. As a result, we had an advocacy day in Albany that was truly diverse (for the first time) and filled with students. Incidentally, I have a couple of students from the group who volunteered to help strengthen our 08 campaign.
Because of this experience, I am going to start a Young Professionals Council, initially comprised of a group of these Columbia student which of course we will grow. We are likely to put one of these students on the board, or at least use the Council as a pipeline. Hopefully, this Council will take on advocacy as their project, probably a pretty good bet because the passion and experience is already there. And not incidentally, we have already put several young professionals (30-34 yr olds) on our board and let me tell you the dynamic has changed! And a great change it is, more exciting, edgier and invigorating.
Perhaps it is a question of faith or a conviction that you can make something happen on the cheap. It worked. And one step is quickly leading to the next. It was not hard to figure out where to go next once we started down that road.
The topic of generational succession is one that continues to inform the role of funders, nonprofit arts organizations, and local arts agencies working to sustain and encourage the leadership capacity of our arts ecology.
In order to recruit board members under the age of 25 or 30, I feel it would be helpful to have a central directory of leadership and board training programs specific to a certain area or region (local, state national). In Los Angeles, one such program is the Riordan Volunteer Leadership Development Program (RVLDP). Individuals interested in serving on a board apply to the program and if accepted, take a series of seminars, meet board members at local nonprofits, and eventually serve on the boards of organizations that meet their interests. The RVLDP trains a new group of board members twice a year, many of which serve at local arts organizations, and provides a dependable strategy and tool for recruiting new board members (especially those under 25 or 30).
Another recommendation would be to work with the public policy, public administration, or business schools at local universities. Many students currently studying the field may welcome this proactive opportunity to put implement their skills and knowledge in the topics of ethics, fiscal issues, marketing, or law.
For funders specifically, I would suggest inviting more individuals from this next generation category to participate as grant panelists. I myself have served on several and I have found it a wonderful opportunity to evaluate organizations from a different perspective, learn about the key factors that lead to successful grants, and network.
On the other hand, fundraising expectations or annual contributions may be a challenge or deterrent for the target demographic. Combining the rising cost of living (without a commensurate salary), I feel many would be hard pressed to contribute even the most minimum of fundraising responsibilities ($1,000 - $5,000). My recommendation is for organizations to revise their Bylaws to allot any annual contribution responsibilities to be optional for anyone 30 or under.
OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS
In the interest of paying off debt, starting families, buying property, or having competitive retirement plan options (any at all for some!), I do think that current arts administrators may be enticed to leave the nonprofit sector for the private sector or independent consulting during the next few years. The ongoing discussion of nonprofits to move away from their initial grassroots structure and into an adapted business model is interesting. Should the majority of organizations be pressed to follow suit, what incentives would a person have to work at nonprofit (working off a business model) over a traditional corporation? Something to think about.
Since 1999, Americans for the Arts has been actively involved in developing the next generation of arts leaders and is currently working on multiple fronts to cultivate opportunities for emerging professionals to see themselves as essential participants of the "arts workforce" people who work in and for the arts. More can be done to help young people see that careers in the arts are possible and that the arts, like the environment, are a lifestyle choice for them.
What Americans for the Arts is doing:
The Emerging Leader Network http://www.artsusa.org/services/emerging_leaders/default.asp is a prominent program of Americans for the Arts. This initiative is designed to engage young professionals by giving them a national forum to share their perspectives, success and challenges. The convention, website, listserv and peer-elected Emerging Leader Council are the communication vehicles that keep this network connected across the country. Locally, emerging leaders are encouraged to develop local networks that can tap into the national dialogue through creative conversations. Last year, there were 56 creative conversations in 26 states and PR many local networks now hold creative conversations year-round and they have become akin to a community's town hall meeting on art (click here to view a teaser trailer from 4Culture in Seattle WA). Based upon our track record with the Emerging Leader Network, the American Association of Museum has asked me to help mentor them as they start to get an Emerging Museum Professional forum off the ground.
In March 2007, Arts Advocacy Day drew over 100 students (grad and undergrad) to advocacy workshops and Capitol Hill meetings. Arts administration faculty increasingly see this event as a valuable educational and professional opportunity for their students. Many campuses sent teams of students to DC to learn the skills of arts advocacy; some, like Drexel University, even held their own student art auctions to raise funds to come to this national event. Several campus chapters of Student Advocates for the Arts continue to have high participation rates at Arts Advocacy Day. At night, the Emerging Leader Reception at Arts Advocacy Day attracted 75 young professionals to come and listen to inspiring remarks by an emerging lawmaker, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT, aged 33).
Americans for the Arts practices what it preaches with its own Career Development Program http://www.artsusa.org/about_us/internships.asp that includes 3 semesters of 10-week Intern Program, a Summer Scholars Program, and a Career Fellows Program. The program offers undergrad and graduate students real world work opportunities as well as an insider's view of how a national arts organization works to advance the field. Americans for the Arts is currently redesigning its JobBank to make career and internship opportunities all around the country more accessible to job seekers.
What Americans for the Arts has learned:
Americans for the Arts remains committed to playing a leadership role in priming the leadership pipeline. This work is too central to the entire field to be taken for granted and the interest is more than there. About one-fifth of our membership base is made up people who are interested in emerging leader issues. There are over 400 members of the Emerging Leader listserv and the new Student listserv has about 250 members. Nearly 1000 people have registered for the Risk & Reward Annual Convention and 91 of them are self defined as emerging leaders so 10% of convention participants will be under 35 or have less than 5-years professional experience. One of the sessions in the Leadership Track, Technology Adoption in the Arts is a presentation by arts administration students at Carnegie Mellon University.
Americans for the Arts believes that intergenerational diversity is paramount to maintain in all its programs, operations and functions. In October 2006, the Board of Directors approved a Diversity Statement http://www.artsusa.org/about_us/diversity_statement.asp that includes age as one of its criteria. Members of the Board of Directors also include three emerging leaders, all under 35, one coming from the Emerging Leader Council. American for the Arts affirms its commitment to intergenerational diversity by showcasing an emerging lawmaker at the Arts Advocacy Day reception, honoring the recipient of the Young Artist Award at the National Arts Awards, cultivating Young Benefactor Network and working through the Arts & Business Council's Creativity Connection program to partner with the Young Entrepreneurs' Organization and the Young Presidents' Organization.
At Americans for the Arts we feel we are starting to see increased awareness in these initiatives. We no longer have to explain what an "emerging leader" is the way we had to several years ago. People get it and people get that this work is about and that it will always be a dimension of the conversation that all of us are having around how best to develop the next generation of arts leaders and participants.
Let me focus on two issues - one raised by Judy and one by John. First, as we noted in the Report, environmental organizations such as the Rainforest Action Network have very successfully recruited and managed a large bloc of young people to act as their grassroots advocates. In the arts we continue to place emphasis on our advocacy efforts in an attempt to try to win back - or protect - public funding and support for the field. Why have we not done more to create an army of young supporters, boosters, advocates, defenders to help us in these efforts? Aren't we missing a tremendous opportunity to tap into the idealism, passion, energy and ideas of a whole bloc of people? Why?
Second, what can we do regarding compensation to the people we recruit for our staffs? We aren't competitive with the private sector or even some other nonprofit sectors, and, not only does this hamper our recruitment efforts, it has already resulted in numerous mid-career leaders leaving our field just at the time we need them to begin to transition into vacated leadership positions, and, as John notes, we are likely to lose too many of the next generation even earlier in their careers. What can we offer to offset what we cannot offer? When will we address the pay issue and do something to more competitively compensate ourselves? Or is that simply never going to happen?
As a field, I believe we are chronically undercapitilized. If the vision of an organization is not acheivable and sustainable with the human and financial resources available, perhaps we need to ask the question..."are there too many arts organizations?"...gasp!. Difficult to talk about but given the explosion in the number of arts organizations over the past twenty years it may be a question worth asking.
To follow up on Nancy's comment, I believe that in the coming years we'll probably start to see the "founder-driven" arts organizations fade away as the founders retire. And maybe that's not such a bad thing. More and more younger people are beginning to found their own organizations based on different models, and I doubt that the field can withstand (at least in a healthy way) an influx of new organizations along side the existing ones.
John posed a very interesting question in his post: "Should the majority of organizations be pressed to (adapt a business model, rather than the more grassroots model), what incentives would a person have to work at nonprofit (working off a business model) over a traditional corporation?
I think I hear a bit of fear in this question - the fear that if we get too "corporate" we will lose our creativity and freedom. This is the age-old question - and it requires us to train our leaders to navigate these tricky waters.
But imagine getting to do what you love - and getting paid for it! That's the incentive, and it's huge. What would happen if the passion and creativity among young/emerging arts leaders were unleashed, if they had healthy and happy lives outside of work, if they truly could enjoy making a career in this field? I think the results would be remarkable.
Not all organizations can function in this way. In some cases, it's simply not possible, and the grassroots model is necessary. But there are a lot of organizations out there that are limping along, burning out staff and community supporters, and Nancy's point is very well taken. It all comes down to choices - if a new generation of arts leaders is demanding better pay and work/life balance, the field will need to deliver these things, or suffer the crisis of transitional leadership everyone is worried about.
To Barry's question about why we don't pursue a younger generation of arts advocates - I think we do, when we fight for arts education and arts participation for our youth. What we haven't figured out is how to translate that into advocacy. I notice it in my work - we work very hard to reach kids, and our traditional subscribers and ticket buyers, but we leave out the older teens and the 20 somethings, just when they are primed for a cause. It would be really exciting to have a national program of some kind that helps individual organizations form "young advocates" groups. If there already is one - my apologies - and I'd love to hear about it.
I think Nancy is right - there are too many arts organizations. Her observation is a little like pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes on, because for some time, it's been heresy to suggest that anything other than unbridled growth in our sector has been anything but positive. The fact is neither the funding streams available to us, nor the marketplace itself can support that growth and we are all paying a price for such expansion. We would do better to figure out ways to cooperate and consolidate, and we first need to shed ourselves of the notion that such talk is anti-creativity and counter to artistic expression.
I agree with Shannon that founder driven arts organizations (particularly those whose artistic vision is that of the founder) are likely to fall by the wayside as those founders retire from the field. And I think that new organizations - started by younger creative people - based on newer models - will be exciting to see. Who knows where that development will lead us.
I've never been a subscriber to the notion that the arts must avoid the danger of becoming too corporate for fear that they will drive away creative types and inhibit artistic expression. I think savvy business practice can be wed to open, creative expression, so I'm not too afraid that we run the risk of turning off the very people we seek to recruit. I think there are a lot of artistic, creative people who are also smart, business savvy, and likely to be successful entrepreneurs. I think it's kind of insulting to suggest that people who are creative and artistic are all lousy at business and have zero interest in it.
I also think there is nothing wrong with paying our people good wages. I think arts administration, if it is ever to be a viable career path, and compete equally for the best and the brightest, must offer pay packages that are market competitive. I think we have to start to understand and appreciate that we, like all business enterprises (and that's what we are), are talent driven. The people who run our organizations are our talent pool. If we want that pool to be first rate, we need to pay those people decent wages. And that likely means we need to re-evaluate our budget process and our spending priorities. For too long, we have emphasized our "programs" as our number one priority. We may have to re-examine that thinking and allocate a little more of our budgets to talent and a little less to the programs. That won't be easy - we will have to overcome the culture that says people who work in nonprofits shouldn't be paid much - they should do it for the love of the goal. Nonsense.
And while we are potentially recruiting young people as we fight to put the arts back into the schools K-12, we aren't recruiting, training, organizing and mentoring those and college kids to be our active grassroots advocates - not like the environmental movement is doing. And we should do that within the next two years -- locally, regionally, state by state, and nationally.
One area that could help extrapolate the work from this report is a greater appreciation for the ways that young people vary across contexts and settings. For instance, it is important to consider the real age difference between an 18 year old and a 30 year old. To a young adult, that span represents nearly _one-third_ of their total lifespan. More importantly, the challenges a person 18 or 20 faces are fundamentally different from those that a 24-26 year old faces, and yet they are still only a few years apart; but they are not the same. That's my point. As a former high school teacher and college professor and now as coordinator of the Emerging Leader Network, I know these distinctions really well.
One of the trends I see consistently with young people is a deep and passionate interest in finding meaning and direction in their lives. They, like all of us, are looking for grounding. I like to refer as many people as I can to Patricia Hersch's (1999) "A Tribe Apart" because it illustrates how disconnected teens are these days and how much they want to be seen and noticed and taken seriously. I find it ironic that we live in an era of such abundance, with such a high quality of life, and yet people feel they have "so little". Why? Esterbrook (2004) investigates this dilemma in "The Progress Paradox" and he concludes that we have too many choices. I would argue the arts are the best remedy to cure both disconnectedness and meaninglessness. If we can be better at communicating to young people how the arts endow a sense of community, a sense of agency, a sense of wonder, a sense of relevancy, we will be imprinting young people not only with the life skills to thrive but the intrapersonal skills necessary to make sense of their career journey along the way.
I believe that one of reasons why environmental organizations have been more successful in attracting new generations is because they have so much current (and unfortunately dismal) research about our declining environmental health to mobilize masses. These days when you open the newspaper or digest information from the media, you'd be hard pressed to not see or hear the words global warming, environment, green or sustainable. Its something that affects everyone, regardless of any factor. This has been on my mind and upon discussing it with non-arts patrons or administrators, the majority feel that when you break it down, if we don't work to protect our environment and have clean air to breathe, will it matter if we have arts experiences or cultural institutions? What can be done to elevate the critical benefits and importance of the arts?
Given the lack of funding and support for arts organizations (when compared to other sectors), our field also has very alarming statistics to report. Perhaps it is the lack of national cultural policy that leads people to believe that mobilizing and advocating for the arts isn't important or critical? As a member of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council, an arts administrator, and arts patron, I know that the arts in America are fortunate to have the advocacy and support from Americans for the Arts, nonetheless local or regional advocacy efforts are equally just as crucial. I believe that introducing our target generation to arts advocacy early in their careers would be a great (and affordable) step in the right direction.
[The following is text adapted from a recent posting I made in response to a similar advocacy and the next generation thread on the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Listserv]:
Here in Los Angeles County we are lucky to have a supportive Board of Supervisors that provide over $530,000 every year undergraduate students residing in and/or attending college within Los Angeles County. The internships are full-time and paid for 10 weeks during the summer. Now in its eight year, we've hosted approximately over 130 interns at 90 different performing arts and literary arts nonprofits, presenting institutions, and municipal art departments every summer!. The program is a joint program with the Getty Foundation's Multicultural Undergraduate Program which also provides a similar number of internships (focusing on the visual arts and exhibitioner spaces). Combined, both programs make up the largest arts internship program in the country! We've seen great success in the program providing a needed next-generation bridge to the field. Not to mention, the learning experience has proven to be invaluable both for the interns and the organizations which host them.
Apart from the actual internship, each student is assigned to smaller groups (made up of 10 -12 interns) and led by a Discussion Leader (artist and/or arts administrator). Discussion Leader's provide an additional layer of mentorship and meet with their interns to discuss different topics and assess career opportunities, including the role of advocacy. With the official launch of LA's new ARTS FOR LA (local arts advocacy group), last year we introduced the topic of advocacy during our Arts Congress event. This year we'll also be hosting the topic, focusing on arts advocacy in arts education.
In the time we've hosted the program, we have had many other municipalities express an interest in the program, but unfortunately we haven't seen the model replicated elsewhere in the country. Over 300 students working in arts administration every summer is definitely a good thing! Many of them have progressed to take on full-time positions at their internship location or at similar arts nonprofits (myself included)!
For more information, please visit:
Thank you to all this week's participants. I hope we can continue this dialogue about how we can meet the challenges of generational succession. There is no more important issue facing us.
Have a great week.
Monday, May 7, 2007
Hello everyone."And the beat goes on...................."
Further consideration of the Generational Succession issues.
Over the past two weeks, Moy Eng and I, together with local arts organizations and sector leaders, convened Open Forums to talk about the findings from the Report from the INVOLVING YOUTH IN THE ARTS project that the Hewlett Foundation commissioned me to undertake, in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose and San Francisco. We had an average of 90 to 100 people in each venue.
Download the Full Report and / or the Executive Summary:
click here: http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/PerformingArts/Publications/YouthReport.htm
We recognize that each community is separate and different; that each has its own set of local circumstances and so we sought to explore what each of these communities might consider as they work on the local level to address the challenges of involving more young people. The Report considered the barriers and opportunities attendant to any effort on the part of arts organizations to compete for young people's involvement - and the discussions at these Forums echoed those findings:
As to what makes it difficult for arts organizations to become involved in the effort, the response was almost universal that it requires staff time to oversee the program and money to make it work that many arts organizations simply do not have. And that comported well with what those organizations that do have programs aimed at involving young people told us, virtually all of which cautioned not to undertake such an effort unless the organization was willing to make a time and money committment. All advised that such a committment was essential to obtaining a good result.
Findings in the Report:
As to advice given by those organizations that had sucessfully made the effort in one the areas we were interested in (governance, as financial supporters, as advocates, as part of our audiences and as new artists), three lessons learned stood out:
1) Young people are looking for some kind of meaningful involvement - even at the most fundamental entry level. They are looking for respect, for some kind of 'authority' and decision making power as part of their involvement (even if low level)and for mentoring so that they might "learn" something from the experience. Thus, they won't easily be fooled by the organization wanting their participation primarily as cheap part time labor to lick envelopes or set up the room for a fund raising dinner. The experience, if it is to be competitive, has to be deeper than that -- at least at its core.
2) They prefer communications mediums with which they are familiar and comfortable; they are less likely to respond to messages sent in forms, and via means, they really use infrequently, if at all.
3) In terms of being audience members, the experience has to be relatively easy to avail themselves of -- and thus tickets have to be affordable (and that doesn't mean the cheap balcony seats that "suck" by anyone's standards); times and places need to consider their schedules and who they are, and the content needs to at least occasionally move towards relevance to their lifetimes (from their point of view).
Now this advice came from organizations who have programs seeking to involve young people. Clearly, more surveying of young people themselves, more data on what they do and don't like, want, need et. al. would be of enormous value to the sector and we recommend such inquiries be a priority of funders, but young people at our Forums confirmed these feelings.
HIGH SCHOOLS vs. COLLEGE CAMPUS OUTREACH:
We seem to have something of an infrastructure based on our outreach programs from our performance based arts groups to high schools, and the foundation that that outreach has helped to create has been expanded in efforts to provide training, tutoring and opportunities to practice and perform (be it music, dance, theater etc.) We have far more limited outreach efforts to college campuses than we do to high schools and we also recommend that organizations begin more college campus ties and bridge building.
LACK of 'MENTORING' and DEEPER LEARNING EXPERIENCES:
What we don't seem to have is any system to truly provide 'mentoring' to young people who might want to become invovled with us -- not on any surface level for volunteers and / or interns, nor really on any deep level either for lower level, entry employees. In each venue, this point was made. There are young people who want to work at arts organizations -- for the experience and to learn, but for whom the opportunities for real mentoring just don't seem to exist. At the Los Angeles Forum, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission's model internship program was lauded, but the lack of any pipeline that would move people from that program to deeper involvement - either on the job or to something like the Arts Administration program at local Claremont College - was decried.
LOW PAY & BURNOUT:
Couple the lack of mentoring / learning opportunities with the common low pay for entry level arts administrators, and the package is not an attractive one to young, potential future arts leaders. While young people want work that will allow them to "make a difference", and money isn't the only criteria - nonetheless people have to live. One audience member in Los Angeles, noted that while she had a master's degree, the pay offered her simply wasn't enough for her to afford even a modest living space in Los Angeles. Overwork, together with underpay, fuels early burnout noted a San Francisco Forum member.
Arts leaders at the Forums told us they were concerned with overwork and burnout as factors that would make it difficult to retain the young people they recruited, that low pay made it more difficult to compete against the private sector, and that not only did they have limited time and resources, but that it was difficult to change the way their organizations looked at young people and the importance of involving them for the future because a 'culture' had been established that did things the same way they had been done for some time, and that changing that 'culture', those long held beliefs and assumptions.
Several young people at the Forums made a point that they didn't appreciate being patronized or talked "down to". Those in their mid twenties or above noted they hardly consider themselves to be "youth" anymore. And one person noted that he was tired of being "outreached to". The point is we need to break down some of the communications barriers and assumptions that keep us from talking at a deeper level. One participant in the San Francisco Forum noted that arts organizations need to consider delegating more authority and decision making to young people and allowing them to do some things "their" way, instead of the "way" things have always been done (at least as an experiment).
Along this same line, there were people at the Forums from differing kinds of arts organization models. Thus for example, in San Jose (we really met at the Hewlett offices in Menlo Park), Elena Serrano from the East Side Arts Alliance (a self-defined 'community' based organization - that happens to have arts as its focus - attended, and brought up the necessity for an institutionalized "regeneration" process as a part of the organizational culture -- something not necessarily considered by the average arts organization, but more common to hybrid groups like East Side Arts Alliance. And regeneration protocols embody the making of space for young people to do things in their own way.
YOUNG PEOPLE AS DONORS:
As previously noted we have absolutely no organized efforts to target young people - either right now or for the longer term future - as financial donors and supporters. When kids have enormous disposable income and impact family spending decision making; when $125 for a pair of jeans or $150 for a pair of tennis shoes or $75 for a concert are not out of the question expenditures - we wonder why arts organizations long ago concluded that young people as we define them (high school, college and post college up to 30 years) simply don't have the financial resources to be donors to our programs and organization, when that simply doesn't appear to be true, and certainly not the assumption of nonprofit organizations in the environmental sector (as but one comparison).
People in San Diego agreed that issues as basic as pricing affected whether or not young people were successfully recruited as audience members. Thus, for example, young people were less likely to purchase season tickets for a given arts discipline / organization's performances. One audience member suggested that what was needed was a "sampler" season ticket that would allow the purchaser to see five or six shows - with decent seats - at five or six different arts organizations across two or three disciplines. Another suggested that offering free performance tickets to volunteers might be a good way to initially involve young people. It isn't that young people are not necessarily interested in Western European classical art forms - it's just that at this point in their lives they aren't necessarily interested in those forms being their exclusive art choices. The arts need to figure out how to offer them a more attractive package to "try" their offerings.
HOW DO YOU KEEP EM' ONCE YOU GET EM'?
At several Forums, people spoke of the problem of 'retention' after 'recruitment'. The nature of technology impacting younger people's lives with a 24/7 bombardment of information, offfers, and "pitches" for one kind of involvement after another - all of which have an intense "immediacy" - makes it difficult for the arts (or anything else) to compete. Along the same lines, the point was made that young people have their own way of doing things just like every generation has had its own way of doing things.
Nor does there appear to be any effort whatsoever to organize young people to be our grassroots advocates, to carry the message of the value of the arts to their parents and communities, to defend us, to act as our boosters. This, despite the fact that there is substantial evidence other sectors - including the environmental sector - have successfully recruited and involved young people in just that role. (I note that no one ever comes to my house in the suburbs on a Sunday morning intent on convincing me that we need to "save the arts" (and we do you know). Young people (not older people) frequently come to my door to ask me to help save the panda, and the ozone and some river; some even come to my door seeking to "save" me as it were - but not the arts.
What we hope is that each community, each organization and the sector as a whole will continue to formulate concrete strategies to quantifiably, measurably involve more young people by 2010. There are three things we are asking each organization to do in the next six months:
First: Make the issue of generational succession and the involvement of young people an Agenda Topic for discussion at your next Board of Directors meeting.
Second: Add someone under the age of 30 to your Board of Directors.
Third: Do something, anything, to start some direct link between your organization and at least one college campus in your area.
There is keen interest in this topic and there is a growing body of other papers, research, studies and articles on the subject. Here are some links you might find both interesting and useful on the subject:
Moy and I want to thank those who accepted the invitation to join in these Forums and to those individuals and organizations kind enough to help us as co-convenors (Victoria Hamilton, Rick Prickett and Alan Zeiter in San Diego; John Arroyo, Tomas Benitez, Leslie Ito, Cora Mirikitani and Claire Peeps in Los Angeles; Bruce Davis in Santa Clara County; Nancy Gonchar and Kary Shulman in San Francisco.)
The June 15th Sacramento Forum is coming. More to follow.
Moy is considering how she and Hewlett might in some way support the idea of brokering mentoring between those established leaders in the arts and those younger people who become involved because they want those learning opportunities and what kinds of future follow up reports and studies might be appropriate to this effort.
Next week the HESSENIUS GROUP will do an online discussion of these issues. If you have any comments, thoughts or ideas on the topic that you want to share, please scroll down and enter as a comment to this blog.
Have a great week.