Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Kansas Arts Commission Is Eliminated – and the blame begins with us.

Good morning.

“And the beat goes on……………………………”

A Bit of a RANT on the elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission:
Note: I tried to ignore this most glaring example yet of the chickens coming home to roost as it were, but just can’t.  Here's the short version for most of you who will not take the time to read this:  Kansas lost its state arts funding agency.  They won't be the last.  It is ALL our faults for refusing to act politically and get invovled in politics.  No whining about it.  We could have done something that might have led to a different outcome - we didn't. It may well get a whole lot worse.  A few encouraging signs that some people now get it -- but only a few.

The Long Version:
From Jonathan Katz at NASAA comes news that Governor Sam Brownbach in Kansas has vetoed arts funding for the Kansas Arts Commission – making it the first state arts agency to be eliminated due to zero state funding:

“A $689,000 appropriation to the Kansas Arts Commission would have comprised 0.005% of the total state budget, one half of 1/100 of one percent. Governor Brownback's veto won't make even a modest dent in the state's budget gap. It will, however, diminish the state's ability to leverage public and private investment, compete in the creative sector, improve education, and make Kansas a more rewarding place to live, work, visit and raise a family.
The Kansas Arts Commission:
• fostered an arts and cultural sector supporting more than 4,000 jobs and generating more than $15 million annually in state and local government revenues;
• brought home $5.9 million in federal dollars to support arts activities for all Kansans over the past 10 years;
• engaged 300,000 students in arts education programs in and out of school last year;
• provided important social and creative outlets for seniors, persons with disabilities, children and underserved populations.

Rather than achieving any savings, this veto creates a net loss. Without the Kansas Arts Commission, the state's eligibility to secure its designated share of National Endowment for the Arts funds is in jeopardy. Those dollars can be allocated elsewhere, leaving Kansas taxpayers to pay for the arts in other states. Also lost through this veto is the state's power to leverage private and public investment. Last year the Kansas Arts Commission awarded $1.4 million in grants, which was matched by $60.7 million in local and private dollars.

The citizens of Kansas deserve better.”

Jonathan is right, of course. This is a short-sighted decision, based more likely on the expediency of political rhetoric than any actual well thought out strategy to deal with bad economic times. But given the economic slide of the past three years and the history of failed advocacy by the arts sector and its’ inability to develop real political clout that might have better protected our interests, this isn’t surprising. And now the precedent is established. Will there be a domino effect?

I don’t know. And neither do you.

I don’t want to say this was inevitable, but it was certainly a distinct realistic possibility – in Kansas as well as any number of other places across the country. And you can say that going back several years. This didn’t just fall on us out of the blue. It isn’t my purpose to cast blame on anyone specifically, or those in any single place (and nothing herein is meant to single out in any negative way the Kansas effort to save their state agency), for my point is that the whole sector must shoulder some responsibility for this outcome. This isn't because those in the advocacy trenches didn't work hard enough.  The fault lies with all of us on the sidelines.  It is ALL of us who have failed to heed the advice to play the political game as the rules are constituted, to launch political action committees and raise the requisite funds to engage in both meaningful lobbying and access building, AND to support arts friendly candidates in their bids for election or re-election.

And this last plank is the Holy Grail in the arts sector’s refusal to act politically. We tell ourselves that we cannot, should not, must not, will not get involved in supporting candidates (with money) that would support us - despite widespread expert consensus that the essence of political power and the development of meaningful political capital lies precisely in supporting candidates. We have all kinds of reasons why this is our attitude -- mostly all either weak or wrong. We have told this to ourselves for so long, that we believe it as gospel. It is our crutch and blanket. We are actually smug in our refusal to give up so comfortable an addiction – no matter that it is killing us.  In its stead, we pontificate and try to rationalize and make logical arguments, ignoring the obvious reality that politics is often anti-rational and illogical and, well, political.

It is you and I, as individuals, who did not make those $20 checks out to local advocacy organizations. Oh we meant to didn’t we? But we didn’t do it. It is those performance and exhibition based arts organizations who didn’t join those same advocacy groups and who didn’t (and won’t) hold benefit performances or exhibitions for that effort.  It is those larger cultural organizations who see too little in it for themselves and for whom the whole of the sector simply isn't a big enough priority.  It is all those foundations that have refused to fund advocacy efforts – even as benign as modest efforts to train our core in how to advocate – pretending, ever so conveniently, that they were legally prohibited from engaging in anything that smacked of politics (an absolute falsehood and simply not fact), and their timidity is partly to blame -- much as we are for clinging to the lie that we cannot lobby, and cannot support candidates with money (we can legally do both if we just set up the right structure and follow the simple rules).  Let me just shout that again out loud in the winsome hope that it will finally get through - because some of you just refuse to accept the law - WE CAN LEGALLY LOBBY and SUPPORT CANIDATES WITH MONEY.  YES we can - [not as 501 (c) (3)s, but as 501 (c) (4)s and PACs!] Of course you have to be careful and judicious how you exploit this kind of power on your behalf - but how you use power is a different question than amassing it to begin with. 

It is our collective failure to make the time to reach out to form the kinds of stakeholder bonds and partnerships that might have helped us to rally support – to join the local Chambers of Commerce and become active in their governance hierarchies, to insinuate ourselves into local PTAs, to carve out the time and money to make public policy and political involvement the priority it ought to have been. It is we who have let our Board members off the hook time and time again and failed to leverage their political connections or insist they shoulder the responsibility to raise funds for the efforts. God forbid we should sully our clean little hands in anything so unseemly as defending ourselves against ridiculous, spurious, ad hominem political attacks. God forbid we should actually demonstrate any courage or leadership.

Bless all of those in our ranks who daily take on the onerous tasks of trying to rally the troops to advocate and lobby on our behalf. And I salute those in Kansas who fought so hard and gallantly in defense of their agency.  But I am sick of all the urgent requests to stand and fight and contact my legislator blah blah blah. Oh I do it, every time - and perhaps there is value to it. But why didn’t we all respond years ago and build the kind of infrastructure and machinery that would have made these constant last minutes pleas less necessary. Where were we when those same people who are now forced to remind us of the “urgency” of their entreaties, meekly suggested we prepare for the future by building some strength before the situation was so desperate? Where were our pro-active efforts that might have mitigated the need to always be re-active? Where were those foundations and funders and patrons and all of us regular folk, when we had the time and even wherewithal to build for the down times that have now befallen us.

Where? Like the little piggies who built their (advocacy) houses out of straw and sticks, we danced the night away on other pursuits. Shame on us. Now we pay the piper. The big bad wolf has blown down the Kansas house. That’s how it works. And so all of our lofty mission statements are compromised. And my guess is this IS the tip of the iceberg. And where will we all be in the face of what now confronts us – a year down the line? The big bad wolf is on the prowl. Alas, most of us live in paper houses.

Yes, of course, some will argue that we didn’t have the time or luxury to engage in such questionable action, being far too busy just trying to survive. Others will remind us that the conservative nature of Boards obviate against this kind of citizen political participation. Some will note that political clout is meaningless in these dire times. And still others will argue that we did in fact make the case for our value -- strenuously, vociferously, with conviction and even bulwarked by data and studies. But those arguments are a cop-out and beg the question. They ignore the hard cold reality, that government funding, while only a percentage of our overall revenue model, and even irrelevant to many, is nonetheless an absolutely crucial part of the whole nonprofit arts financial ecosystem and that should it disappear, so will that ecosystem as we know it. They ignore the responsibility for us to educate our Boards and remind them of their mission statements. And I would argue that those with political clout are suffering less in the current crisis than those without. They also ignore the reality that politics is about more than making the case. Everybody can make the case for their value. It isn’t enough and never was. Sounded real nice, but it was a trap. And it is our job – yours and mine, to make sure the arts not only survive but thrive. That is our real collective mission. That is what we owe to ourselves, and to generations to come. And like every other interest group, we must make the time to garner power and pay for it ourselves.  We do not.

Perhaps, even if Kansas had begun three or four years ago to change the political landscape and had succeeded in the daunting task of raising money to fund professional lobbying at a high level, started a PAC and had a operational 527 organization (e.g., MoveOn.org type) -- had systematically and strategically cultivated meaningful relationships with elected officials all across the state, formed active partnerships with business and other potential stakeholders – and galvanized an army of volunteers that they still would have met this fate. I personally believe otherwise – that such an effort would have gotten a different result.

I don’t know for sure, and neither do you.

I know this: if someone keeps punching you, over and over again – at some point it makes sense to defend yourself and punch back. Politics is a contact sport and it does not embrace the Gandhian approach of passivity. Not, in my opinion, in our situation anyway. Yet we have for years now claimed victory via our passivity merely because they haven’t yet killed us. Well, maybe the Kansas Arts Commission will rise up again someday (and that ought to be a priority for all of us), but right now we have a dead body on our hands. Not a wounded comrade, but a dead one. (And look around, we've had a lot of dead organizations litter the sidelines as government funding has been decimated).  Another victory for sitting on our hands? I don’t think so. Wake up people. It’s long past the time to get serious.

And the thing that riles me is that we are not, contrary to what many have clung to as institutional belief – some 98 pound weakling. We are one big elephant – and if we would just flex our muscle and do a tiny bit of training – and, most importantly, get our mind in synch with our body - we could successfully defend ourselves against all odds. Yet we remain Oliver Twist -- without his courage.

I read an article recently that suggested that the 9+% unemployment level is a new reality. That it isn’t likely to ever again return to below 5% in this country. Yet, that is precisely what America expects and is waiting for. Rather than see reality scenarios for what they are – we prefer to embrace fantasy. That scares me for the country’s future because it may well mean we waste the most precious commodity left to us – time -- before we embark on measures to truly address the challenges facing our country. I fear the same is true for the arts sector – and we can’t afford anymore to wait to act. Henry Kissinger noted in a brief interview in Time Magazine this week (in observing the difference between Americans and the Chinese) that Americans believe that problems are solvable, while the Chinese believe that problems come in layers, and that you just have to deal with each layer as it comes. To which one might note that you can’t very well begin to solve a problem (or just deal with it layer at a time) if you can’t correctly identify it. That’s America’s current state, and I fear also that of our little sector. Our problem is easy to identify: it is our failure to act.

Is Kansas the tip of the iceberg? Will it be looked to, to justify similar eliminations in other states, or even cities? Is this just the beginning of a downward spiral that will eventually make government support of arts and culture basically a thing of the past?

I don’t know, and neither do you.

Shall we just wait it out and see? From the Endowment to the smallest municipal agency – I would keep my resume current and my contacts active were I you. Your gig may not be there for the long term. And any and every organization that depends in any way on government support for any position or any program – I would think of some alternatives were I you – for down the line (and maybe not that far down the line.)  And ditto for all you consultants out there who survive on government contracts for your services.  An alarmist position? Talk to Kansas.

I suspect, and certainly hope, that we do still have time to leverage our enormous numbers and our potential to raise huge amounts of money, and play the political game the way it is played across the board to defend ourselves and protect what we offer to America. Tick, tock. I hope we will finally move towards taking our future into our own hands and stop standing by idly like deer caught in the headlights while government gets out of support for the arts. Because I am just not sure how we functionally survive that eventuality – at least at this point in time. Will we wake up in time? If what is going on in Arizona is any indication, then I am optimistic. The leadership in that state now fully realizes that power based political defense must be one of the arrows in its quiver.  I see other people coming to the same conclusion.  Will others follow?

What will happen in Washington, and Texas and South Carolina in the near term, I don’t know. And neither do you.

We must now – collectively - face the Herculean challenge of resurrecting the Kansas Arts Commission – and that ought to be everybody in the whole sector’s job and priority. It might take a couple of years to accomplish, it might never happen – but we all should shoulder the work to make sure it does come back. We’re either all in this together or we’re not. And if we’re not – then we ought to say that out loud for everyone to understand.

In the coming days there will be a long series of condemnations of Governor Brownbach's action - all pointing out the cost to Kansas in such an ill-conceived move.  I join with and echo those sentiments.  But if that is all we do then we deserve whatever comes next for us.  If this isn't a wake up call to action, to anger, to activism -- then I suppose there isn't ever going to be one. 

If even half of all of the people involved in arts organizations in this country would donate $20 a year for the next five years to a state arts advocacy organization (and that organization would send 20% of that money to Federal efforts, and 30% of that money to local city efforts) we could raise in the aggregate some $25 million a year (minimally) to defend ourselves politically. That’s a lot of power ladies and gentlemen. And that doesn’t even count how much money could be raised by arts organizations doing a benefit performance every two years for the effort. Or what we might raise from artists, supporters and elsewhere. Rocket science? No. Legwork? Yes. If you need an example, Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Fund stands clearly right smack in front of you. Been there for several years now, yet states and cities won’t follow the example. Why? Why in hell will the arts not at least pick up a sword to defend itself?

I don’t know. I just don’t. Maybe you do.

I have been saying this for so long I think I am turning purple.

I can only echo Jonathan’s conclusion:

The citizens of Kansas (and America) deserve better – from you and me and all of us.

Have a good week.

Don’t Quit. (Just don’t !)
Barry

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Random Links

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

Random Links - some fun, some serious:

1. Ten Things Your Co-Workers Won't Tell You

2. Millennials and technology devices.   Everybody's got a cell phone, and lots of Americans have other devices - but the Millennials have more laptops than home computers and more of almost all the other devices too. 

3. Form and Function.  I'm not sure what this is, but I love the site design and if you click on any of the boxes it takes you to a story. 

4.  The Economist Magazine 2012 Conference on Innovation.  The arts ought to be at conferences like this one.  In fact we ought to be at this one.

5.  Census results.  No surprise here - Hispanics surpass African Americans in most urban metro areas. Implications for us?

6.  Ten signs it's time to quit your job.  Time to move on? 

7.  A new online magazine on Cultural Policy.  Free download. 

8.  And another one here:  International Journal of Cultural Policy.

9.  And here's a compendium on European Cultural Policy Trends.

10.  And speaking of cultural policy - here's some links to U.S. University Cultural Policy programs.  We need to establish more direct links between academia and arts administrators.  Why aren't more of these people at our conferences?  Why isn't there a conference of all the cultural policy center wonks?
Have a great week.

Don't Quit.
Barry

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Interview with Kristen Madsen

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

Interview with Kristen Madsen - Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY and MusiCares Foundations.

Bio: Kristen Madsen is currently the Senior Vice President of the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares Foundation, two charitable foundations established by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (the GRAMMY Awards). In that position she has overseen an expansion of revenues and distribution of programs and services nationwide, including the launch of a televised fundraising concert which garnered two EMMY Nominations in 2007. She also oversaw MusiCares being awarded a 4-Star rating by the charity watchdog organization Charity Navigator.
Before transitioning to head up the Academy’s Foundations, Madsen served as Vice President of Member Services for the Recording Academy for 8 years. Prior to joining the Academy, she was President of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, a trade association for the 300 arts councils in California. Previously, she directed the Performing Arts Touring and Presenting Program and Community Arts Development Program for the Utah Arts Council, was a booking manager for the Repertory Dance Theatre, and served a fellowship at the National Endowment for the Arts.
Madsen is a board member of Grantmakers in the Arts, The Actors Fund and the Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, and the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board.  She has a B.S. in political science and completed course work for a Masters of Arts Administration.

Barry: For the benefit of my readers who may not be familiar with the Grammy Foundation, can you please give them a thumbnail outline of the chief philosophy behind what the foundation is trying to accomplish and the principal programs it supports and operates?

Kristen: Just over 20 years ago, the Recording Academy, best known for producing the GRAMMY Awards, created two non-profit organizations to more broadly serve the music community – the GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares.

The GRAMMY Foundation has two primary areas of focus: developing the next generation of music makers and preserving our musical heritage. Key programs include grants for archiving and preservation projects as well as research; GRAMMY Camp for high school music students, and GRAMMY Signature Schools for high school music programs.

MusiCares is a human services foundation that provides assistance for music people themselves in crisis. In essence we provide “operating” funds to individuals with careers in music. Key programs include financial assistance for emergencies including medical, personal and professional crises; addiction recovery assistance because we believe that addiction is an occupational hazard of the music industry; and proactive clinics, dental and medical screenings, and workshops.


Barry: Your outreach in terms of collaboration and partnerships lies principally within the private sector (as opposed to the nonprofit sector) -- what lessons have you learned from those relationships and experiences that you think might have value to the nonprofit arts sector?

Kristen: The For-Profit sector spends money in places that matter to the institution’s success besides product development and distribution. We don’t do that so much. Partly we don’t because we think we can’t afford it – and when funders won’t cover it, they unintentionally reinforce that position. What we call “audience development” the rest of the world recognizes as marketing and it is a chronically under-developed area with a really high potential upside to our operations.


Barry: Along the same lines, what do you think the nonprofit arts sector can do to expand its relationships with companies and organizations that are in the private sector? How might we initiate intersections that would be mutually attractive to the two sectors?

Kristen: Find a value exchange that makes sense. I know that sounds flippant or na├»ve. But come on. Isn’t that how every successful partnership comes together? Otherwise, you are talking about corporate philanthropy. Do you have an audience, an expertise, a cache, or a cause that plugs a hole for corporate partner? You might have to help shine a spotlight on the hole, in order to show your value first.


Barry: Technology has dramatically changed the way art is created, packaged, distributed funded and even accessed by the public. The new ways a younger generation is making and distributing art has led to a “disconnect” between that cohort and the nonprofit arts sector – with many younger people feeling the nonprofit arts are irrelevant. What do you think can be done to build new bridges to that audience and establish new intersections with them?

Kristen: I was with you right up until “has led to a ‘disconnect’ between that cohort and the nonprofit arts sector.” In a world that offers access to everything, anywhere, all the time, distinctions and categories blur or go away altogether. So, it’s not about our sector. It’s about what we are doing. Does it resonate? Are we providing a clear and easy pathway to find us? And is there a role for a new audience to participate that is a good fit? This is with a generation for whom a participatory voice is a major factor in who gets their attention and dollars.


Barry: While your foundation, along with scores of other foundations, and literally hundreds of arts organizations, corporations and individuals have dedicated themselves and heavily invested time, energy and money to try to expand music education to include more K-12 students throughout the country, unfortunately we are still a long, long way from the goal. In part that is because arts education as a whole continues to be marginalized and thought of as a frill or luxury; in part it is because of the current economic downturn and the enormous expense of even providing one music teacher in each school – even part time; and in part because the priorities remain with math, science and other subjects. What do you think is our best collective approach to making bigger advances – faster?

Kristen: How about demonstrating that the arts provide an essential element in creating graduates who can compete in a knowledge economy? We have to draw a direct line between what is learned through the arts and capacity for innovation. The message that a successful education can no longer be defined by good test scores in math and reading is finding a new foothold. And the characteristics most uniformly touted as critical to America’s future success is our ability to compete through innovation in the global marketplace. So now is the perfect to time to make the case that the arts are essential.


Barry: Easy to say, hard to do. Do you have any suggestions how that direct line between what is learned through the arts and capacity for innovation might be drawn?

Kristen: I also think that the arts should explore the possibility of working with the science education community on this issue. The parallels in our two fields are extraordinary: we both foster problem solving and creative thinking skills; we both require intense focus and concentration for long periods of time; we both find breakthroughs when groups work together on a single project; and more. Is this a partnership where we each have something of value and can make better progress together?


Barry:  Neil (Portnow) – President of the Academy - has been a tireless champion of the importance of the arts and creativity to America. Do you think it practical – or even possible – to enlist the aid of the Academy’s high profile celebrity membership in a national campaign to include high profile celebrities from other fields (film, television, sports, business, politics, science, academia) that would promote the value of arts to creativity and arts education in general? How might we begin to interest people in launching such a campaign?

Kristen: It depends on if you can articulate what the goal is – what would you want to achieve in a high profile campaign? If it’s measurable and meaningful to all the desired players then yes, maybe this would be “practical -- or even possible”.


Barry: Before you began working at the Academy, you held the post (before me) as the President of the California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies. I know it’s been awhile since you were on the front lines of the nonprofit arts field, but you remain very active in Grantmakers for the Arts – what do you think are the top major issues facing arts organizations in 2011, and what ideas do you have for addressing some of those issues?

Kristen: Here are three:
  • Competition. To some of my earlier points, spending resources – financial or human – on getting our own messages out to the audiences we crave – is really critical. The good news is that making yourself heard electronically is as much about creativity as it is about money.
  • Changing expectations of donors. I agree with recent studies showing that new funders want a different level of participation in the organizations they fund. I’m a big fan of focus groups to bring new ideas into the organization and get out of our own heads. One of the hardest but most important lessons I’m learning is that letting go doesn’t have to be the same as losing control. And the payoff in new energy, new ideas and new ownership are totally worth it.
  • Crowd-sourcing philanthropy. This is on the list mainly because I have no idea where it’s headed. But it’s definitely a change that is going to impact the way all of give and get funds. So it’s definitely one to watch.

Barry: In terms of the promotion of creativity across generations, across borders, across income levels, across political beliefs, what is the best idea you’ve heard in the past two years?

Kristen: I’ve got two. One comes from the music industry. Jill Sobule is an independent artist who had five albums under her belt but no label deal for a sixth. So she created a vehicle where her fans could become financial sponsors of the new album to raise what she needed to produce it. She developed a tiered strategy that allowed sponsors different levels of actual participation in the process and successfully came up with the $75,000 she needed. Sobule got not only got the resources she needed to release the album, and additional creative voices in her process, but built a much deeper relationship with her fans that will benefit her well into the future. See more at: http.

The second idea was really more an experience. Last year I was in Fort Collins, Colorado during the annual Tour de Fat bike ride. Produced by the New Belgium brewery, makers of Fat Tire Beer, the ride is a community bike parade that encourages all riders to be as creative as they like with their bikes, their costumes and their teams. They participate in a morning-long ride that ends up in a park for an afternoon of music stages, food and beverages. This is not inherently a new concept, but what I witnessed from the sidelines was a remarkable demonstration of the democratization of creativity – people who would never consider themselves artists had created amazing and clever expressions of themselves, and were parading it for the community to see. And it turns out that the parade I saw was only a tiny fraction of the New Belgium does in a really interesting new model of corporate citizenship – everything from providing grants to nonprofits in the area to “Car-for-Bike” trade ins to promote a greener environment. You can find more at


Barry: One of the more popular offerings directed at working artists by those nonprofits that are trying to provide services to that constituency has been The Business of Music seminars and workshops. I have always thought that another offering that would be enormously attractive to those interested in recorded music would be a seminar or workshop by one or more professional Producers. A sort of Boot Camp Basic Record Production 101 Course. Is that something you think the Producer’s wing of the Grammy’s is doing or might be interested in?

Kristen: Yes, and they already are. They sponsor or host dozens of workshops each year on various elements of music production and engineering. There are also many other institutions that regularly host these types of workshops, and some terrific online resources that are available for this kind of instruction. Artistshousemusic.org, with initial funding from the Herb Alpert Foundation, is a really great resource, with video lectures from some of the best in the business.

Thank you Kristen.

Watch this speech Kristen did earlier this year on Hip Hop and the power of vocabulary:






Have a good week.

Don’t Quit!
Barry

Friday, May 13, 2011

Bonus from the Town Hall

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

One of the Arizona Town Hall participants, architect Jeremy Jones, forwards these outstanding drawings he made at various panel discussions during last week's Town Hall.  I can testify to the uncanny accuracy of his renderings of the people who attended.  I thought you might like to take a look.






Thanks Jeremy.

Have a nice weekend.

Don't Quit!
Barry

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arizona Town Hall - Final Day

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

Arizona Town Hall - Day 3:
This is the day it all came together.  The draft of the final Town Hall report was available to the delegates at 5:00 am.  All five panels convened to review the draft and suggest their edits, changes and editions at 6:45 am.  At 12:30 pm the entire Town Hall met in plenary session to consider each of the changes proposed by the participants in each of the five panels - section by section, one by one.  If there wasn't apparent consensus to any given proposed change, a small group of people favoring and / or opposing the proposed change caucused together and came up with compromise language and re-submitted it to the whole group, and it was then accepted or rejected.

I went from panel to panel meeting before the plenary session and there was considerable discussion about what people wanted to change, delete or add.  It went relatively quickly.  Surprisingly, the plenary session flowed well and most of the proposed changes were easily accepted, including those compromises reached by the differing factions.  Several were rejected.  The final document reflects an extraordinary amount of time and work over three long and grueling days, and is a quite remarkable document delineating the status of arts and culture in Arizona, what the challenges and opportunities are, and sets forth a series of very specific action steps - some immediate, some longer term - that the sector will need to undertake to move it forward to a healthier and more sustainable future. 

I congratulate every one who participated (as well as the organizers and Town Hall Board members, staff, and recorders) for some very clear thinking, for their willingness to engage in real collaboration, and for producing a blueprint that, if they can now do the hard part - the follow up and implementation - can be leveraged to galvanize the field in Arizona as perhaps never before, and allow them to build a foundation and apparatus that can put them in a much better position over the next eighteen months and then beyond to the 2014 election cycle. 

Much of what they accomplished goes far beyond addressing the challenges of the current Arizona legislative debacle of gutting public funding.  The document they produced deals with everything from gaining political clout and specific ways the sector can work on the local and state level beyond direct government funding to garner more public and private support, to data collection, to business alliances and partnerships, to arts education, to establishing collaborative efforts within the field.  As are all of the Town Hall Reports this too is a clarion call for the state - for government at all levels, the private business community, and individual citizens to make the investment of time, money, resources, and involvement in arts, culture and the humanities that will allow Arizona to move from back in the pack to a national leadership position as a leader in leveraging creativity for the benefit of the whole state and all its interests.

Clearly, it will not be easy.  It will take a lot of work, commitment, dedication and sacrifice.  It will take - perhaps more than anything else - a great deal of trust by all the leaders in Arizona in each other.  It will also take a change in past cultures of what can and cannot be done, and how things ought to be done.  It will take true out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness to try new bold new avenues to make it a reality.  But over just three days, some very good people made a real beginning.  If they can share the workload, remain focused, build new bridges and repair old ones, they have a real chance to not only move the sector in Arizona where they want it to be, where it ought to go, but they have a chance to build a model for other states to replicate.

I should have a copy of the final document within a few days and will post at least the salient highlights, if not the entire final Town Hall Report.  I will also add the remarks of some brief talks I had with several people who participated in the Town Hall, offer some of my own insights as an outsider, and provide some links that may be useful.

I don't want to list all of the specific action steps the final report adopted here now, because I don't want to use the draft language or try to paraphrase the final version on my own.  I think that would be a disservice to all of these people who worked so diligently to get the wording right.  Besides, I don't know about the rest of the participants, but I am pooped.

Again, it was a real pleasure to report from this Town Hall and to participate in a unique process with some very smart and very likable people who - like all of you out there - care so very much about arts and culture and who know what value it brings to our communities - large and small across America.  I am grateful to Bob Booker and the Arizona Commission on the Arts and to Westaf for enabling me to attend the event and to blog on it here. 

Please either subscribe to the blog by entering your email on the right hand side - scroll down - or check back next week for the Final Report summary and - I hope - full document link.

Thank you Arizona.  I salute you. 

Don't Quit!
Barry

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

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

Arizona Town Hall - Day 2:

Day II gets to the meat of the matter with the morning session dealing with funding, and the afternoon session centering on action steps.

Session III:
Q: This session is broken down into four parts: the role of market forces and the private enterprise in funding A/C; the role of private philanthropy (foundations and individual donors) in funding; the role of government; and finally how can funding be better utilized.

Discussion Part I:
I am going to list the suggestions of the panel I sat in on without an attempt to organize the thinking into separate silos.
1. In-Kind donations are easier to get than cash.
2. Naming rights may be possible for major facilities.
3. Corporate funding from their marketing budgets demand some kind of quid pro quo in advancing their branding / marketing goals.
4. A/C must answer business' question of "What's in it for me?"
5. Business wants a certain degree of certainty in return for its "investment" - something quantifiable - e.g. 'X' number of print ad viewers etc.
6. Corporate funding is down in Phoenix somewhere in the neighborhood of 50% from three years ago,
7. Some corporate decisions re: funding are made at the home office, with little leeway to local or branch offices. Often times local office decisions are at the whim of the senior leadership without guidelines.
8. Younger executives may not yet be all that interested in dedicating their time and energy and money to nonprofit causes - at least not the arts.
9. One hotel in Milwaukee has engaged a local artist-in-residence. In exchange for room and board, the artist works in the lobby to the delight of hotel guests.
10. The A/C sector lacks the marketing budget to advance its brand..
11. Arizona is not a corporate HQ hub, but rather at the end of one of the spokes. Not that many potential major corporate funders.
12. Tax credits are a source of potential funding - particularly in buildings and capital improvements.

PartII: - Philanthropy
1. There is a lack of the culture of giving in Arizona that exists in other states. Fewer foundations.
2. The A/C sector lacks the personnel and skill sets to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. They need training and professional development to hone their skills.
3. Foundations often provide programming support but not operational support to run those programs.
4. Online sites like Donorfeed.org or Kickstarter.org can help raise funds for specific projects.
5. The newly retired are a potential group for the A/C sector to target for funds.
6. Volunteers can make up for budget shortfalls in the personnel area.
7. Individuals are the principal source of philanthropic funding for A/C in Arizona.
8. A percentage of wealthy people recently relocated to Arizona continue to donate funds to organizations in their former homes instead of Arizona.
9. It is increasingly difficult to justify funding to A/C in competition with what is perceived as more pressing social needs (e.g., the homeless).
10. Volunteers become donors.

Part III: Government
1. Develop relationships with elected official's staffs. They run the show.
2. Pursue legislation that encourage private philanthropy including tax incentives.
3. Call for the restoration of the cuts to the Arts Commission and previous voter approved funding.
4. The state seems to put all its effort into attracting business and none into growing what is here.
5. There exists hidden government support that A/C should acknowledge - including University programs to train artists and arts administrators, publicly owned facilities, etc.
6. There is a current debate in Washington at the Federal level to change the rules of donor giving and the tax deduction allowed. One plan is a tier system whereby donations to certain organizations will qualify for a full deduction (at one's tax bracket level), with a second tier that allows for a half deduction, and a third tier (supposedly the arts level) that would only allow a one-third deduction. Congress is also looking at the basic 501 (c) (3) earned income with an eye to perhaps declaring it taxable in certain circumstances. These changes could dramatically (and negatively) impact all nonprofit organizations including the arts.
7. Even at the local government level, the new reality is that cuts are going to impact the most basic of services.
8. Arizona's prior campaign to achieve a voter approved dedicated revenue stream via ballot initiative was postponed because of late negative polling indicating the timing wasn't right. But that effort had broad based voter approval, and should be resurrected perhaps for the 2013 /14 period.
9. The arts should become more politially active - including efforts to elect new office holders who are arts supportive.
10. This Town Hall document should be basically a Lobbying tool.
11. The arts should start and fund their own Political Action Committee (PAC).
12. It will be easier for A/C in Arizona to mount a successful dedicated revenue stream campaign if it frames the issue with some kind of "big carrot" and includes a wider array of beneficiaries in the mix (open space, parks, libraries etc.).
13. The A/C sector needs to run its own people for public office and provide those candidates with resource support as new candidates.

Part IV - Maximizing the use of funds:
1. Build more networks within the arts and between the arts and other sectors.
2. Sell the idea within the arts that "all boats will rise with the high tide:.
3. The A/C sector should attend future Town Halls to insure its interests are represented at the table.
4. Though historically territorial, the arts in Arizona are sharing proprietary lists in efforts to benefit the whole sector.
5. Sharing expertise, forming new partnerships and consolidating - where possible - back office functions can help make the available resources go farther.

Session IV
Q: What are the action steps needed, how should they be prioritized, how should they be funded and what is the role and responsibility of individuals and entities - public and private - nonprofit included (in and outside the sector):

Ah, the devil is in the details.

1. There should be an A/C / Humanities Summit meeting.
2. The A/C sector must work to elect supportive candidates.
3. The arts must be recognized as a core academic subject in all respects.
4. The sector must work more closely with the Tourism industry as a partner in its programs and campaigns.
5. The arts should employ candidate forums and submit questions as to their positions on A/C / Humanities issues and widely publicize the responses.
6. The basic STEM education priority - Science Technology English and Math - should be changed to STEAM - inserting the ARTS into the mix.
7. Arts education offerings need to be academically rigorous and taught by qualified teachers in order to attract student interest.
8. The sector should insist on adherence to existing standards in place.
9. Attention should be paid to the vocabulary being used to expand a too narrow perception of the meaning of 'art'.
10. A greater empahsis should be on educating the public as to the health benefits of the arts.
11. Arts / Humanities organizations should join their local chambers of commerce.

Those were the take-aways from the two sessions I attended yesterday. Here is the first draft of the combined panel report findings, and once again i am very grateful to the Town Hall recorders and staff for sharing with me their preliminary draft of the first of yesterday's sessions:

1. "As government and philanthropic support has eroded, A/C organizations have had to become increasingly self-sufficient. They must now bolster their sustainability" by actively taking calculated risks in program offering and pursuing collaborative partnerships with the private sector - bearing in mind such collaborations must be win-win for all the players -- from development of special arts districts, to sharing of facilities and even consolidation of back office functions where practical.
2. The A/C will have to aggressively pursue small individual donors to take up the slack of less government and major philanthropic support, as well as expand volunterism.
3. Government support is essential, and the sector must convince voters to 'challenge the notion that there is no funding available." It should fight to re-instate recent cuts to the Arizona Commission on the Arts, proactively identify and support candidates for elected office who will champion arts and culture and work to secure additional support.
4. A ballot initiative to establish a stable and designated funding source for the entire A/C / Humanities sector should be again on the agenda for the 2013/14 target date, and these sectors must figure out how to unite for the mutual gain of everyone. (I would recommend consideration of a wider coalition of parks, open space advocates, libraries, and others so that such an initiative has the broadest possible range and depth of potential support).
5. Elected officials and the private sector should be lobbied to help create public / private collaborations to support A/C / Humanities funding - including incentives for the private sector.
6. All of this will require expanded and sophisticated networks working in concert.

While I admire and respect those who participated in this quite extraordinary process, there were some unrealistic ideas about how to proceed. It will be interesting to see how the final report and recommendations turns out, because while all of the proffered ideas were good ideas, do-able ideas, somebody - some human being - has to make them happen, has to accept responsibility for seeing them to conclusion. Some of these ideas will take a lot of time and money to fully realize. Who will do it? Where will the money come from? Those questions remain unanswered, and the problem is that virtually everyone already has a full time job and no time to take on more. Moreover, the recent draconian cuts have necessitated staffing cutbacks at the Arts Commission as well as other organizations. That is a problem,

This Town Hall was about what can be done for The Arts and Culture (including the Humanities) in Arizona. Not what can be done for any segment of that broad spectrum. The Arts Commission and the Arizona Citizens for the Arts are the statewide organizations that have the charge of the whole state perspective. They must be supported by the whole community and work together.

I have met some very talented, smart people here in the few days. Passionate, dedicated and experienced people. If the A/C sector here can put aside past differences and rally together, there is tremendous opportunity to leverage this Town Hall effort and build a solid foundation to make some significant moves in preparation for the 2012 and the 2014 election cycle to press their demands. They will need to marshall their unified strength, and figure out how to co-opt the public as well as a score of potential collaborators and stakeholders to take up their cause. Judging by what I have seen and the side conversations I have had, it seems clear to me this can be done. It is a matter of will.

I would like to thank everyone involved in this effort for allowing me the honor of observing their deliberations, inserting my own opinions and commenting on their efforts.

Tomorrow I shall report on the Town Hall's Final Recommendations, and next week offer some personal thoughts that I hope might be useful to the Arts and Culture field in Arizona, and some observations on this process that might be beneficial to those in other states experiencing similar challenges.

Don't Quit!
Barry

Monday, May 2, 2011

Good Morning
"And the beat goes on.........................................."

Arizona Town Hall - Day 1:

Note about the process: Two considerations to bear in mind about the Town Hall: First, the goal is to arrive at consensus. Not an easy task in any situation, the arts included, Second, the captivating part of the process is that as each panel considers each of the questions during two and a half to three and half hour sessions is that the recorder continually reads back what has been said by the participants in a summary and the panel then has the opportunity to correct, edit, and add to what has been said up to that point. The team of recorders then synthesizes the five panels discussions and prepares a draft summary. That process is repeated the second day. And then on Wednesday morning the whole Town Hall meets to do final revisions. The other thing about the process is that it is an arduous undertaking to consider all the complex issues raised by the questions and give those issues a fair hearing in a very limited period of time,

Note about this blog: First, as an observer I am not a participant, and thus not a contributor to the discussions. Not the easiest position for someone as opinionated as I am, The blog then is not meant to capture everything everyone said - exactly as they said it, but rather to provide a sense of the discussions and some impressions and opinions on what I heard, Not meant to be a criticism, but a commentary. I am a reporter here and bring my own prejudices, viewpoints and limited perspective, I am also somewhat the interloper as I am not from Arizona and thus do not have the insight or background many of the participants enjoy, Also, I can't be in two places at once, so I am moving from panel to panel to try to get a better sense of the whole of the Town Hall as it unfolds. Finally, neither the names nor titles of the participants are important in the process and so I will not be attributing anyone's remarks or thoughts to any specific person.

While the full Town Hall is top heavy with people from the Arts and Culture sector, the majority of them have their own perspectives and experiences of their own organizations, Few have the charge of a full state wide perspective, though they know something of the issues. I was privy to, and had the benefit of the first draft of the summary of the first day's two sessions, but there is still a huge amount of material to wade through. Though not my long suit, I shall try to be brief while still giving some sense of the conversations that went on.


Opening remarks:
Points were made as to the importance of arts and culture (and we are using that phrase in the widest sense to include fine arts, popular arts, heritage, parks, libraries, the humanities and everything else that might fit the category - including:
1. Arts and Culture (hereinafter AC) relate directly to the sustainability of livable communities.
2. An informed citizenry is essential for a healthy democracy and AC plays a critical role in arriving at that place,
3. The arts have a role to play in the physical health of Arizona citizens.
4. AC plays a direct role in fostering tolerance.
5. Funding sources for AC must be a priority and the message is that money put into AC will be paid back many times over.
6. It is essential to define AC broadly to create a Big Tent.
7. Undercapitalization remains a major problem for arts organizations of all sizes and disciplines
8. People participate in AC in more ways today than in the past.
9. New access to the arts requires new connections,
10. Rural communities deserve great art every bit as much as urban areas.
11. Small towns can often move new ideas forward faster - they have great volunteers and are often better connected to each other,
12. The Arizona arts have lost $20 million in available funds in the last few years, The current budget provides zero state support for AC and Arizona now ranks 50th of 50 states in per capita support.
13. Beyond public funding, corporate, foundation and earned income are all down double digits. Municipal agencies have had cuts to their support nearing 70%, and individual philanthropic support is down all across the U.S.
12. Yet Arizona has (according to Americans for the Arts studies) 11,600 arts businesses, employing 46000 people, with a $500 million economic impact.


Session I: Refer to the materials on the Town Hall site via the link provided in the last blog for the exact wording of the questions for each session.

Q: This session dealt essentially with how A/C in Arizona impact the state and its citizens; the differing perspectives Arizona's diverse communities and populations bring to bear on A/C; and the role of the various stakeholder communities play in working together.

Discussion:
The principal thought centered on Arizona's diversity - from its Mexican American and Spanish heritage to its Native Americans and cowboy heritage, from its historical modern America Route 66 to the natural wonder of its landscape and geography. The contemporary art scene continues to be shaped by the tension between the modern urban sensibility and the history of the state's opens space mentality. While the arts provide a kind of "social" center for communities, the sprawl of space unlike the city centers of many other states make that centering problematic in some cases, and so for arts to act as community "hubs" issues of convenience are a consideration. And the state's diversity including age, gender, geography, occupation, education, heritage, multicultural ethnicity, requires a new model for all those groups that don't follow traditional trajectories of participation. Moreover, the arts include a broader range of creativity than ever - from high tech to culinary arts. Rural communities emphasize grassroots values and collaboration, while urban areas of differing neighborhoods may have their own issues of pocket isolation,

It was thought that the A/C sector needs to do more to promote its cultural and artistic diversity, now more than ever due to an unsupportive legislature, and that includes greater engagement of policy makers. It was suggested that organizational boards of directors need to better reflect that diversity. (Author's aside: while all the participants in this Town Hall were dedicated, passionate, intelligent and experienced professionals, the composition was light on people of color, and more than one noted that underserved ethnic communities are often left out at the decision making tables even within the sector). It was also noted that it will be essential, in the future, to focus more on the inclusion of youth in the A/C mix - which challenge will necessitate better appreciation and application of technology.

The most troubling discussion to me was on stakeholder. There was a consensus that everyone was a stakeholder, and that is, of course, true - but in the usual context of this topic - stakeholders are defined - correctly I think - as those constituencies that have a stake in our success. Thus parents, the PTA, teachers, and others in the education pantheon as well as those in the tourism industry - hotels, restaurants etc. as an example benefit from out success and make the best areas for us to target to try to co-opt to our cause.

Another area designated as in need of greater effort was that of collaboration and cooperation. It was noted that the A/C organizations can be territorial and turf wars are not uncommon. If we can't unite to work together, the resulting vivisectionist field will end up crippling our efforts.

Session II:
Q: The second session dealt with the intersections between A/C and the economy; education; health, well being and the general quality of life; and how well Arizonans understand the impact of A/C on these areas of life in the state.

Discussion:
There was general consensus that the arts provide jobs, generate substantial economic activity, generate far more tax revenues than the amount of government money invested in them, as well as complement the objectives of business by attracting talent, and are integral to the tourism industry. A/C also play an increasingly recognized role in health care and the film industry. Unfortunately, when the economy goes south, so too do government support dollars.

To combat that reality, it was suggested the A/C sector need to better integrate itself as a voice in the decision making apparatuses of other sectors; that it must do more to gain the support of the public by expanding its awareness of the value of A/C; and that it must become more politically savvy and involve itself in the election of candidates supportive of its goals and needs. It was thought that part of the challenge is to convince the business community to help lobby for greater arts education. Every arts supporter needs to ratchet up the discussion of the role of A/C in policy decisions, The A/C field needs a louder, more forceful unified voice, infiltrate the Chamber of Commerce (and might I suggest if every arts organization in Arizona would join and become active in their local Chamber, they could virtually take over the organization).

As to arts education, the A/C sector needs to drive home the lesson that arts education helps students perform at a higher level in math, reading and other subjects seen as more essential to prepare students to be competitive in the new global marketplace. Attention needs to be paid to the inequity of offerings in rural settings.

The role of A/C on the attraction to talent for business was noted, as was the correlation between early arts education and academic success. Unfortunately, the A/C sector has work to do in building more bridges to the business community, and the funding for the arts In Arizona's schools remains inadequate.

Also noted was the role of A/C in community building and in serving as a social hub connecting disparate parts of the state's diverse populations as well as the development of a sense of place.

It was thought much work is needed to more effectively market the assets the state's diversity afford to both residents and visitors alike.

There is growing evidence - though much more research is needed - that suggests that the arts can play a critical role in healthcare, particularly for children and seniors, and that A/C can have a demonstrable impact on clinical outcomes. Arts advocates should consider alliances with the health care industry.

Finally, while some Arizonans understand the impact of A/C on their lives, many more are completely unaware of the value we offer. Still, the general public seems to "get it" more than the legislature - which continues to perceive the arts as a luxury, a frill and a non-essential - and therein lies the major challenge for the sector. There is no knight in shining armor riding in to rescue A/C in Arizona. The sector itself must mount a comprehensive, sustained, targeted and well financed campaign to win widespread public support and become more political to get elected officials to support the needs of the field.

I will post another blog on tomorrow's sessions, then post the Town Halls's final recommendations on Thursday. On Friday I will post some comments on the addresses in Plenary Sessions by NEA Chair Rocco Landesman, and Senior Cultural Initiatives Officer at the Pew Charitable Trust - Marion Godfrey, along with a couple of brief Q & A sessions with some of the attendees and links to various resource sites.

Don't Quit!
Barry






I welcome comments during the process and hope people not only in Arizona but across the country will take note of what is going on in Tucson this week. You can leave a comment by scrolling to the end of this or subsequent blogs and click on the ‘Comment’ line at the end.

The Arizona Town Hall blog series is brought to you by the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Western States Arts Federation.