Monday, August 29, 2005

August 29. 2005 Update #11

Hessenius Group on the ARTS launch set for September 13th

Table of Contents:
I. HESSENIUS Group launch - more info
II. ARTS DAY - 2005
III. Public as "Shareholders" in Nonprofit Corporations
IV. Bits & Pieces - couple of cool website links 

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"And the beat goes on......................."

I. HESSENIUS Group Launch Tuesday, September 13th 9:00 am Pacific Time.
"And we were all gathered in one place............"

I have had incredible feedback on the idea of a McLaughlin Group for the Arts, and I want to thank everyone for their support and for the ideas for topics. I hope everyone will go online to this site on Tuesday, September 13th and participate in this first group. Please pass the word to your consituents and everyone involved in your organization (you can download a link to the site, a brief flyer explaining the concept and how it works, and a thumbnail description of this blog - any or all of which you can post on your website or send to your listserv (and I would be very grateful if you would). Click here:

The first group participants are:
Moy Eng, Jonathan Katz, Diane Matarazza, Anthony Radich, Sam Miller, Gary Steuer, (Ben Cameron - possible). Other Hessenius Group members may decide to chime in with thoughts and opinions, and everyone can enter a comment by going to the site. I hope all of you will view the dialogue (add the site to your FAVORITES list to make it easy for you to check in each day that week), and that many people will decide to participate by sharing their thoughts and reactions. There are many topics / issues that we might consider for the first Group, and I am still open to, and would appreciate, your suggestions.

"It's a celebration....................."

ARTS DAY (celebrated in California on the first Friday in October) is fast approaching. I know other states and cities celebrate an Arts Day, and, of course, October is National Arts & Humanities Month. I created California's Arts DAY while at the CAC because I shared the belief that a "month" celebration was too long for the media to really get a good handle on; a single day being much better for the purpose of garnerning media / press attention. I hope as many arts organizations, artists and arts supporters will do something, anything, to call attention to Arts Day. The best (most attractive to the media) way to celebrate the day is with some sort of an "event" to which as many people come as is possible. Events such as rallies are ideal - a little food, some entertainment, speakers.......... and boom, the media will be there if invited. Even better, some kind of mild protest against arts de-funding or whatever issue may loom locally, because the media and press love "protests". A few signs and speakers is all it takes. The earliest Earth Days were part protest, part celebration. And now Earth Day is rapidly approaching being co-opted and may soon be a Hallmark Greeting Card day. Fine with me. We want people to celebrate, understand, and appreciate the arts and their importance; we want the recognition of the Arts institutionalized. So please - do something, and call the press and tell them about it - to mark Arts Day 2005. And I hope someday those in the right places will designate one day as National Arts Day.

"And in the end................."

If you ask people what the main goal or purpose of a private sector coproation is, they will tell you it's "to make a profit". That's not quite accurate. The main objective of a corporation is to "enhance shareholder value", which, more often than not, is the same thing as making a profit, but not always. Sometimes, shareholder value is increased by investing in infrastructure, taking a write-off, acquiring assets, building inventory, expanding marketing etc. - all of which may negatively impact short term profit, but potentially increase long term worth of the company's stock.

Nonprofits are "public benefit corporations" - they are accorded special tax status because they benefit the public in some way. How then is shareholder (public) value enhanced in nonprofits? Is it by increasing capacity, building infrastructure, developing audiences so that the organization is financially strong and will have longevity? Or is it just the opposite - taking risks, pushing the envelope, championing the creative process irrespective of market demand, audience size, donor support etc.? Is public value in nonprofit arts organizations enhanced by pursuring the chief objective of increasing "access" to the arts that exist, or in the facilitation of creating "new" art? Does the nonprofit arts organization owe its loyalty and efforts to the "public" or to "art" and "artists"? Are these 'core' questions, or merely relative to the nature and size of the organization (i.e., if a large museum is funded 80% by donors, are those "donors" the practical de facto public for that particular institution? To what extent do arts organizations in general regard the "general public" as its shareholders, to whom it ought to direct its efforts to enhance its value? Or are the audiences, donors, foundations and direct client bases really the shareholders, as perceived by the organization? And finally, does any of this have anything to do with how the "general public" perceives us? Values us? Relates to us?

We spend a lot of time talking about "making the case" to our funders and public officials; about our "value" to the public, to society - economically, educationally, civically - but do we, in reality, spend most of our actions tailoring our value to a much smaller circle than that "public"?

Arguably, private corporations enhancing their shareholder value has little to do with what may or may not be good for the wider society and public - contrary to the antiquated notion that "what is good for General Motors, is good for the country". But, corporations are, in law anyway, citizens, and where is the loyalty and obligation to act as responsible citizens? And isn't the lack of that precept somehow at the heart of the problem with business and industry in a pluralistic, democratic structure? And are nonprofits any different? We want the public to value the arts. Don't we also need them to value "nonpofits"?

These are just random thoughts that I think, somehow, impact our success (or failure, depending on how you look at it) to truly engage the public in our support.


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Have a great week.

Don't Quit