"And the beat goes on……………"
GIA CONFERENCE - DAY 1
The first day of any of our art conferences seem to always be the longest.
Janet Brown opened the conference with the reminder that the three operating principles of GIA continue to be: Inclusiveness, Collaboration, and Curiosity.
I. Recent GIA Conferences have featured Idea Lab - short Ted like presentations by a trio of different working artists. The first three were all excellent. The one that caught my attention was Yuval Sharon, founder and artistic director of The Industry, an L.A. based experimental opera company that produces performances that can only be categorized as way outside the box.
He touted three:
- A warehouse based production where the audience was invited to walk all around the actual production and view it from anywhere they choose - in front as an audience, backstage, from the wings.
- An production of a full opera at L.A's downtown Union Station - a working railroad station with arrivals and departures and teeming with travelers.
- And most ambitious of all - an opera performed in 24 moving vehicles on L.A.'s freeway system called "Hopscotch". Really, the opera is performed in chapters and people get in these cars / vans for ten minutes at a time. And then can opt for another chapter. Each moving vehicle travels to different parts of the city. Moreover, the "chapters" are live streamed. LA. has long had a car culture, and this project fits perfectly into the identity of the city.
- An 18 month timeline is too short. A three year timeline is suggested as it takes longer to cultivate existing or new donors (who would give to a reserve fund) and to build the culture of capitalization (and fundraising) within the organization.
- There needs to be a consistency of leadership participation by the grantee and the Board president should be involved from the outset.
- Consider the challenges of whole organizational change and be prepared for different outcomes across the spectrum.
- Assure understanding of all roles and responsibilities of the various participating resources and consultants for the benefit of the cohort and the building cash reserves team.
When I asked about the reality that some arts organization's situations might suggest that scarce resources ought to be deployed where they might have a chance of succeeding, there was the suggestion that the value to a community might trump that consideration. In subsequent conversations with other attendees, there seems an equally vocal group that rejects the idea that we can save everyone or that - with finite resources - it is smart to try. I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle - we need to both consider all kinds of criteria in determining where to invest scarce resources while at the same time accept the realities that things can and do go wrong, and that we cannot always control when that happens nor fix it after the fact. Every decision funders make, results in a choice to invest here instead of investing somewhere else. That reality will not change.
The challenges of trying to promote adequate capitalization for arts organizations is daunting and mired with the fact that each organizational situational circumstances are unique, and that each organization's level of financial sophistication varies widely.
IV. The day's last session for me was entitled People of Color and Arts Giving - a 360 Degree View. While "people of color maintain a deep interest in the arts, lead active cultural lives, and want to participate - particularly in art-making and art-learning" there is evidence that they don't yet give in support of arts organizations nearly to the level of their White counterparts.
39% of California's population is Latino/a, but they account for only 6% of arts giving .
The why is varied:
- They do give philanthropically, but to other areas such as churches.
- There are fewer high income members in the cohort.
- The culture of giving to nonprofits is still developing.
- They have other investment priorities.