Sunday, May 8, 2011

Arizona Town Hall Wrap Up / Final Recommendations

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

Arizona Town Hall Wrap Up

The final report has been sent to the participants, and so I can now post a final wrap up.

Below are the final recommendations of the Town Hall on Arts and Culture. I have regrouped these priority action steps into broad categories in the hope that in doing so it may be easier for the reader to see all of the actions suggested and begin to determine what it will take to move them all forward. My own take is that the first step would logically be a convening / Summit meeting of the entire sector in Arizona to review the report and to arrive at a plan / strategy for the implementation of each recommendation, including:

1. Who (individual or organization) will be responsible for overseeing implementation of a given action.

2. What is the plan / strategy for such implementation.

3. What is the timeline for implementation.

4. What is the budget and where will the revenue come from.

There are two ways to organize such an effort: Either hold one big meeting (probably in Phoenix), or augment that meeting in Phoenix by holding subsequent smaller gatherings in four or five places around the state (so as to insure as wide an attendance and participation as possible and to account for those who may not, for reasons of time or finances, be able to attend such a Summit).  Widespread buy-in will be crucial.   Such an effort will, of course, take time to plan and organize, and require people to do that work. Time is likely of the essence.

Click here for a link to the full final Town Hall report. (Note:  The Town Hall organization will hold a series of gatherings around the state in October to disseminate the report as widely as possible.)

While there are certainly demanding challenges facing the arts and culture sector in Arizona, the quality of its leadership – and their commitment and sense of the reality of their situation, coupled with their experience and high skills level, and most of all, their willingness to consider bold new approaches in response to their situation – give them, I think, a real opportunity to change their fortunes. As I said before, this is clearly a lot of work and will take time, energy, resources and cooperation and collaboration.

Arizona Town Hall Final Priority Recommendations (broad subject areas indicated in parentheses and *indicates immediate or near term priorities)


Convenings:
  • A summit of the arts and cultural communities should be convened for the purpose of forming an overarching policy alliance.* (First step?)
  • Convene a broad-sector coalition to develop a statewide quality of life ballot initiative to provide a dedicated funding source for arts and culture that cannot be diverted or reduced through legislative action.* (Government Action)
  • Convene a consortium of the arts and cultural stakeholder communities to form an overarching collaboration alliance for purposes of statewide data policy, support, development and awareness. The state’s primary arts-supporting foundations are a logical choice to facilitate this summit.* (Data)
  • The arts and culture community should utilize their existing statewide arts and cultural advocacy groups such as Arizona Citizens in Action for the Arts to organize a political action committee which will receive contributions and make expenditures for the purpose of influencing elections at all levels and advancing the statewide arts and culture agenda.* (Advocacy – likely requires a convening)
  • Identify and engage new and emerging leaders in arts and culture. (Big Tent - likely requires a convening)

All of the following actions require some sort of plan / strategy to implement:

Government (and Advocacy) actions called for:
  • Restore appropriations and arts endowment to the Arizona Commission on the Arts and expand the role of the Commission to include cultural organization with additional appropriations.* (Government Action - Funding)
  • We must identify, support and elect political leaders and candidates who will champion the cause of the arts and culture, from the legislature to the city councils to the school boards.* (Advocacy)
  • The arts and culture community should utilize their existing statewide arts and cultural advocacy groups such as Arizona Citizens in Action for the Arts to organize a political action committee which will receive contributions and make expenditures for the purpose of influencing elections at all levels and advancing the statewide arts and culture agenda. (Advocacy) 
  • Arts and culture organizations and their allies should bolster existing lobbying efforts.  (Advocacy)
  • Arts and cultural organizations should work with regional planning organizations and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns to develop model ordinances and policy that support the arts. (Partnerships)
  • Require public art as an element of government buildings and infrastructure. Local governments should enact land use codes that provide incentives for developments that include public art. (Government Action).
  • The Arizona Commerce Authority must dedicate a seat for arts and culture. Urge statewide advocacy groups to establish a legislative priority to secure this seat by amending the existing statute. (Government Action)
  • Individuals and arts and culture organizations should immediately implement a variety of grassroots efforts, including networking, enlisting the support of others, contacting public officials, attending Arizona Town Hall outreach sessions and advocating for implementation of this report. (Partnerships)
  • Arts and cultural organizations should work with regional planning organizations and the League of Arizona Cities and Towns to develop model ordinances and policy that support the arts. (Partnerships – Government Action)
  • We need to ensure that Arizona’s arts and culture are represented in any celebration of the Arizona Centennial. (Government Action)

Arts Education actions called for:
  • All schools must adhere to the existing state standards and policies that apply to arts curriculum. The Superintendent of Public Instruction must enforce this provision. To accomplish this goal we must advocate that local school officials place arts specialists in all schools and provide adequate funding to meet the standards.* (Government Action)
  • Arts and culture organizations should work with education stakeholders to advocate for a statewide mandate for the recurring collection of arts education data from schools, using the model and best practices evident in the 2008/2009 voluntary arts education census. (Education)
  • Arts and culture organizations should work with education stakeholders to advocate for a statewide mandate for the recurring collection of arts education data from schools, using the model and best practices evident in the 2008/2009 voluntary arts education census.* (Data)
  • Parents must be involved in their children’s art education so that they become engaged and invested in that education. Arts and cultural organizations should reach out to parents and encourage them to be involved in their children’s arts education, taking an active role in assuring the enforcement of state standards and policies being implemented.* (Big Tent)
  • •Expand S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math)  to S.T.E.A.M. by adding arts into the core educational curriculum.

Arts and Business actions called for:
  • The Arizona Commerce Authority must dedicate a seat for arts and culture. Urge statewide advocacy groups to establish a legislative priority to secure this seat by amending the existing statute.* (Government Action)
  • The Arizona tourism industry and arts and cultural organizations should increase their partnerships and collaborations to raise the profile of Arizona’s arts and culture sectors when marketing Arizona as a visitor destination. (Partnerships)
  • Arts and culture organizations need to have a seat at the table with local chambers of commerce, business organizations and economic development organizations to build vitality and long-term relationships. (Partnerships)

Research / Data Collection actions called for:
  • Arts organizations should sign up for and participate in the Cultural Data Project and the Arizona Community Database.*
  • Arts and culture organizations should work with education stakeholders to advocate for a statewide mandate for the recurring collection of arts education data from schools, using the model and best practices evident in the 2008/2009 voluntary arts education census. (Arts education)
  • Authorize and fund a study defining and measuring the total Arizona arts and culture economy, expanding to include traditional nonprofits, education K-G (kindergarten through graduate), and art and design-based business enterprises.* (Business)
  • Convene a consortium of the arts and cultural stakeholder communities to form an overarching collaboration alliance for purposes of statewide data policy, support, development and awareness. The state’s primary arts-supporting foundations are a logical choice to facilitate this summit.

Collaboration actions called for:
  • Arts and cultural organizations and artists should collaborate and partner with other public groups such as hospitals, educational institutions, tourism boards, and religious and civic groups in order to expand the resource pie.
  • Arts and cultural organizations should continue to collaborate and partner among themselves to share resources, such as marketing and audience development efforts.
  • Collaborate with education, health and human services, and other groups threatened by cuts to enact true fiscal reform (including closure of tax loopholes) to ensure fair, adequate, and sustainable revenues to support all our state’s needs including arts and culture.
  • In order to provide more public and private support, grow philanthropy to support Arizona arts and culture. (Funding)

Expansion of the "big tent" actions called for:
  • There should be increased statewide campaigns to raise awareness for the value of arts and culture and increased participation. These campaigns should be executed with sufficient resources to maximize their effectiveness and should be led by a marketing alliance of arts and culture groups. As participation precedes support, we must start now.* (Public Awareness)
  • Identify and encourage diversity in arts and cultural organizations.* (Multicultural)
  • Full and part-time residents need to become members of arts and cultural organizations and commissions, and actively support them, financially, by volunteering their time, and by attending their functions and events. (Public Awareness)
  • Identify and engage new and emerging leaders in arts and culture. (Emerging Leaders)
  • Create models to reach young and modest givers who may become long-term sources of sustainable financing for arts and culture. (Philanthropy)

Communication actions called for:
  • There should be increased statewide campaigns to raise awareness for the value of arts and culture and increased participation. These campaigns should be executed with sufficient resources to maximize their effectiveness and should be led by a marketing alliance of arts and culture groups. As participation precedes support, we must start now.* (Awareness)
  • Identify and utilize online interactive resources that would allow the various groups to share valuable information about resources and opportunities for alliances.* (Sector awareness)
  • Arts and culture organizations will have a more impactful voice when their value message is unified and substantiated by reliable research.* (Public Awareness)

Some brief thoughts from some of the participants (paraphrasing their remarks, not directly quoting):

Steve Farley (State Representative, Arizona State Legislature, District 28)
Steve suggested that the continuing legislative redistricting process, while still likely to end up somewhat skewed towards conservative safe districts, may result in 10 to 12 of the 30 state districts becoming more competitive - and that there will likely be an opportunity to make moves to support candidates favoring the arts that might result in a changed legislative composition.  That could be very significant he notes.

He also told me that he thought the current legislature has been so aggressive in attacking virtually every interest group in the state, that there is now a backlash and that all of those groups may now be galvanizing in opposition to those attacks.

In response to my questions about what he thought the arts and culture sector needed to do to improve its situation, he offered that we needed to stop talking and start acting. He recommended developing more political power by forming a political action committee and getting involved in the election of candidates for office that would be arts supportive – including organizing all the arts boards and even running candidates for office from the arts sector. He counseled that we needed to get out of our individual silos, put aside past differences and let go of whatever keeps us from unified collaborative efforts so the opposition cannot continue to divide and conquer the arts community.

He further thought that because of more competitive races for the legislature, that the sector should focus on the 2012 election. There is a one cent sales tax earmarked for education that apparently expires in 2013, and he thought that a wide coalition of interests might succeed in extension of that tax – divided among a host of interests including education and the arts. He suggested that such a one cent tax yields approximately $900 million in revenue.

Rusty Foley (Executive Director, Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts)
Rusty said that the states arts advocacy organization has about 81 of the state’s 600 arts organizations as members and that some four to five thousand individuals on the mailing list have been responsive to requests to communicate with elected officials.

She suggested that a continuing challenge is that the Arizona arts community still doesn’t think of themselves as ‘political’, and that low voter turnout harms the sector’s efforts with the public.

But she thought the Town Hall may help to jumpstart new efforts to organize the field and was optimistic that a wider coalition of culture groups might now be developed – and that a legislative arts caucus might be a future possibility. She reminded me of the Rahm Emanuel remark that we should “never waste a crisis”.

She also shared that she thought one of the biggest challenges facing the sector was to develop more intersections with the business community, but also thought that community might finally be moving towards more involvement and activity.

Finally, she told me she thought arts organizations in Arizona may not be as aggressive as those in other states in applying for NEA grants and that is a missed opportunity.

Jim Ballinger (Director, Phoenix Arts Museum and Board member of the National Council on the Arts – the NEA oversight body)
Jim told me he thought getting the arts sector treated equally with other sectors remains an uphill battle, and that one of the biggest challenges remains making a better case for the argument that the arts generate more than they cost.

He counseled that the sector needs to focus more on explaining the arts economy as a whole (including the pantheon of arts entities from teachers, junior colleges and universities to galleries, the design industry and beyond) - rather than continuing to just make the argument that the nonprofit arts have an economic impact – which to a degree falls on deaf ears.

He agreed with Steve that the arts sector needs to become more politically active in the involvement of electing arts supportive legislators.

  • Finally, here is a link to the Arts Commission’s recently launched public awareness campaign.

Thank you again Arizona for your kind and gracious hospitality and allowing me to blog from this benchmark event. I shall continue to follow your progress to leverage the Town Hall to your advantage, and hope I might be able to help in some ways.  I hope too that other states may borrow from your work as they grapple with ways to leverage their creative assets.

Have a great week.

Don’t Quit!
Barry

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