The reality is that some people do have more power and influence, or are perceived as such - whether anyone likes it or not. To pretend that any world (ours included) is not stratified, tiered, territorial and subject to politics and disproportionately controlled by an oligarchy at the top is naïve. If as a field, we want to change how we assign power and influence, to whom, when, and why - then that should be pushed via open and transparent dialogue across the sector. I think it of value to know who we think the people with power are. I believe the people who work in our field are passionate and motivated and seek the higher good, but I also recognize that they are human beings, and that our field isn’t some separate and perfect world – and that power and influence are tangible currency – sometimes spent wisely, other times needlessly squandered. And I acknowledge that there are people who honestly think that the people on the list holding power and influence is not necessarily a good thing.
And as the private (foundation) funders continue to try to pick up some of the public funding slack - there has been a rise in their visibility, and in their power and influence. Like everywhere else in society, money talks.
Finally, this year WESTAF and I launched the Arts Dinner-vention project, which will take place at the end of next week. This is an attempt to give a platform and voice to some of those exemplary leaders and thinkers in our field who are not necessarily likely to be on this list -- yet. It is a small attempt to acknowledge the influence of those coming up in the ranks. (And actually some of the dinner guests did make the list this year - indicative of change in the wind.)
Lerner’s influence on grantmaking to artists continues to expand. She’s been around the block enough to fully understand all the issues in trying to help artists not just survive, but actually "thrive" - and the funding community listens attentively to her opinions. One nominator described her simply: "She is a very, very smart lady."
Carol Coletta - former Director, Arts Place. Now Vice-President, Community and National Initiatives, Knight Foundation
Under her direction, Arts Place became the major arm (and funder) of the Creative PlaceMaking movement, and she was the movement's spokesperson, champion and articulate defender. Her direct experience with cities helped form her approach, and helped land her the VP position at Knight - where (while she will be once removed from the arts) she is likely to still have impact and sway on arts funding.