Monday, December 11, 2006

December 11, 2006

Hessenius Group - Year End Wrap Up

Hi Everybody.

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

As a year end wrap up, I asked the members of the Hessenius Group this:

What is the one issue you think the arts should pay more attention to next year?


Here are their responses:

Jerry Yoshitomi: 

Easing demand for arts participation experiences
Increasing opportunities for people to express their own creativity through arts participation
Developing synergistic ties with both the informal, unincorporated arts sector, as well as small commercial (e.g. music, book and art supply stores)
Listening to the next generation of arts leaders and give them encouragement and support to implement ideas (some of which my generation might be uncomfortable)
Benefit from the increased participation, income and new ideas from above to take the time to relax and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Jodi Beznoska:
I hope we focus on customer- and technology-driven programming, marketing and operations. How can we use the way people actually communicate and make decisions to make them choose us for their inspiration and entertainment?

My brain is spinning with the implications of what I've taken to calling the I-Pod Syndrome, and this is where I believe we need to focus our energies. Because, for all of the new gadgets and frantic new ways consumers have to construct their own virtual life, there is still a need and desire to connect with people. In fact, I would argue that the need is greater than ever, because there's only so much "virtual living" we can do. One only has to look at the sports world to know that the appeal of live events is huge. But with sports, the live event is only part of it. It's the rest of it, the pre and post game analysis, the online and water-cooler discussions, etc, that get people excited. It is the ownership of the experience that hooks them - what's stopping the arts from generating the same excitement? That's the question I hope we consider in the future.

Sam Miller:
In the world of YouTube and open source social and cultural networking how are the artists going to be paid in the future?

Andrew Taylor:
Several indicators and bubbling conversations seem to suggest that 2007 will focus more attention on the amateur arts...the non-professional enthusiasts and creative individuals who are finding a greater voice on-line, and seeking a more hands-on involvement in creative experience. This renewed focus (which isn't new at all, but ebbs and flows) will lead many professional organizations to rethink their interaction with nonprofessionals (tighter connections between professional symphonies and community symphonies, for example). And those who don't reconsider these connections will find the amateur artists convening without them.

Cultural planning and cooperation that incorporates the full range of creative activity -- informal, community, and professional -- may make some traditional professional nonprofits cranky at their shuffled place in the food chain. But a more balanced and inclusive ecology may make every player more strong.

Bob Booker:
With all the focus on developing new audiences, increasing participation, and growing donors and patrons, we continue as a field to pay no attention to the marketing and promotional images we use. Take a look at most any arts program from an arts event and look at the images included? Are there a variety of people with different faces and backgrounds shown? How many piano's with a dozen roses and our "best wishes" from a law office are there? By the way, do you see images of anyone under 45 among the pages other than charming well dressed children with hands folded? Not to mention that gray haired conductor in tails with his baton in the air?

Truly all of the work we have done as a national arts community can be lost if we do not take a hard look at the collatorial materials we and our designers create. As a group of people that pride themselves on their visual abilities, we are lost in a sea of outdated images and trite clip art.

It seems simple, but take a minute and look for yourself. If you took these programs to your grocery store and said...Hey is there a place for you here? I wonder what folks would say. Even the latest commercial for a national dog show has expanded its images of dogs to include show dogs, street dogs, barnyard dogs, and pampered pooches. Maybe we in the arts community should invite all the dogs to our events too.

Randy Rosenbaum:
We need to ensure that our elected officials view the arts and culture as an essential societal need, one worthy of investment (certainly) but also as a "full partner" at the table of public discourse. We've been invited to that table, from time to time, but I can't help feeling like we're expected to sit at the "kid's table". The "grown-ups" are at the table with health and human services, economic development and education, transportation and housing. We get to sit at that table, on occasion, but we are just a visitor. Let's improve that situation, and a lot more can happen as a result

Betty Plumb:
Although it seems like an overly-discussed and well-exhausted subject, a challenge I continue to hear from many local arts administrators is how to increase participation in the arts. Even when arts organizations are able to have sufficient funding for their programming, it's their constant challenge to get people in the seats of their performances, in the streets for their downtown festivals, in the exhibition halls of their galleries, or in their facilities for programming.

With so many distractions and demands on people's time, they are always looking for "what works". What arts experiences appeal to the general public and how can you most effectively market to a diverse audience?

Knowing a community and how to communicate with them can be is key. Arts organizations will have to place a higher priority on marketing and research, including resources and staff time. Finding solutions that address building participation in the arts continues to be a costly and critical issue.

Shannon Daut:
In the next year, I believe arts organizations should explore potential partners that exist across the non-profit/for-profit creative divide. By doing this, I believe we can strengthen and energize the field, expand our audiences to younger demographics and create a new group of arts advocates. I'm not advocating for a turn to a more commercial or entertainment-driven arts field, but with the incredible shift of how individuals access cultural experiences, I think the time is ripe to explore new ways of partnering with organizations or businesses that are outside of the groups that we traditionally seek out. If people aren't in your audience, how might we develop ways to provide artistic experiences in an unusual setting? Over the next year, what is one thing that your organization can do that is different and unexpected?

Bob Lynch:
In the midst of creative industies data, the expanded breadth and capacity of the commercial arts, the quality of electronic delivery systems, and the massive growth of unincorporated arts activity (choral arts, folks arts being just two examples), I think that the key issue that the 'arts' need to pay attention to is one of identity. What do we mean when we say the 'arts', the whole gamut? When we look at particiation in the 'arts' do we look at the almost 100% participation in the full spectrum or the latest % in the NEA study of nonprofit arts participation. And at the core what is it that we are actually for accomplishing as an industry or a set of concerned citizens who love the arts. Do we want to fight for more money for more non profit arts activity. Do we want to fight for more support for quality for art whether non profit or for profit. Do we want something else entirely.

Judy Weiner:
I believe a key issue for 2007 is Advocacy. Specifically, we need to focus on developing new resources for the arts industry in collaboration with elected officials. This could include the following:

Legislation to stimulate new revenue

Incentives for private investment

Entrepreneurial ventures

In addition, we need to focus on building the capacity and the infrastructure of local (statewide) advocacy organizations that have the (potential) capacity to reach and mobilize huge numbers of people at the grass roots level. Statewide and national advocacy efforts can only be as effective as the infrastructure upon which they are built.

Rick Hernandez:
I think there are two very important questions actually. The first is the changing nature of financial resources for the arts. As a funder I am concerned that the dollars that come to us continually have more strings attached, forcing our constituents to change themselves in order to chase the dollars. This is happening at all levels, federal initiatives, return on investment requirements for hotel/occupancy (tourism) dollars, the wishes of private sector donors, etc.

The second is succession planning.

Diane Mataraza:
My mantra remains increasing general public awareness, relevance and access to what the arts have to offer.

Anthony Radich:
This is the year for arts administrators engaged in work across the field to cease being in denial about their need to take a leadership role in the advancement of arts education. Whether arts education will occur in the schools in the future or not, we must take the steps necessary to ensure all young people, K-12, have access to a quality, sequential arts education. The young people of today need access to aesthetic tools and also to know the language of the arts in order to create tomorrow√Ę€™s art.

Paul Minicucci:
The use of technology has really democratized the arts in that more people have more access to more art than ever before. However, with that access comes issues of content, standards, complexity and depth. On the one hand there seems to be a willingness on the part of audiences to dabble in installation art, digital art, film and video. Often the new forms of art are flashy and visually stunning. The average person is more willing to allow cutting edge art into their life. "The arts" however seem not to take the digital means or modes seriously with respect to funding, policy development, marketing etc. often relegating them to "entertainment media." So at the same time more people spend more time on-line and using the new transmission devices of the future, I-Pods, mobile devices of all sorts, the arts infrastructure seems not to be incorporating these forms into their offerings.

I noted that the new general manager of the Met, Peter Gelb has challenged his audience to support eight new operatic works annually instead of four and to become active in accessing information and music on-line as well as doing more web-casting and broadcasting. The Met broadcast the opening of Madame Butterfly in September to Times Square, a move than did not sit well with many supporters.

So the issue is: Are we missing a huge opportunity here? Is digital transmission the mode of the future or do we expect to re-capture the attention of audiences back to more traditional forms of art? Is it okay that much of the art making and patronage will occur in the commercial venues of on-line transmission? Maybe it is. Maybe the new access is through a personal choice made in the privacy of one's study or sitting at a coffee house. If the arts want to embrace digital transmission ought we start taking steps to do more broadcasting, web-casts, satellite radio or pod-casting? Shouldn't we get more involved in debates on what is (are) the new esthetic(s)?

Jonathan Katz:
Well, that depends where you are in "the arts." If you are an artist or arts organization, I'd recommend paying attention to how the experience you offer connects with, complements and competes with all the other alternative ways people could spend their time--especially how your experience connects meaningfully with what people consider the most important ways they spend their time. If you are a participant or advocate, I'd recommend paying attention to how you can share the arts experience you value with at least one person, hopefully two or three, who can do something to sustain or increase the resources available to the arts. Sharing the experience with a valued companion and an understanding of what your role in making it available should be is more powerful than a stack of arguments, however well phrased and documented.

Moy Eng:
How do artists make their living now? What are the areas of enormous opportunity and what are the greatest challenges? (To identify ways in which philanthropy can be more helpful and strategic)

Gary Steuer:
The biggest issue I see for 2007 in the arts is the growing focus on the role of the arts in workforce readiness, and worker attraction and retention. This knits together arts education with arts and business with lifelong learning into one seamless cradle-to-grave value proposition for the arts that directly links the arts to global competitiveness and the 21st century workforce.

For me, the issue is how to involve more young people in the arts -- beyond the generational succession issue, (really across the broad spectrum of governance - i.e., more young people on our boards, on our staffs, as volunteers, and as advocates and boosters on our behalf, as financial supporters and contributors, and finally as members of our audiences. How do we attract and retain the involvement of more young people now(and how will we fare in that effort over the next decade as the pool of young people to recruit from gets smaller and the demand for those people grows and becomes much more competitive?)

If YOU have a thought on what issue the arts should be focusing on next year, please enter it as a comment below and I will integrate your thoughts onto the main blog page each day.

Thank you to all the members of the HESSENIUS Group, for their participation this past year, and to all of you for following along and for what you all do every day to keep the arts alive and well in America.

Have a great week,

Don't Quit.



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

November 21, 2006

Barry's Blog - November 21, 2006

Table of Contents:
I. Give the Gift of Art!?
II. Policy - Who cares huh?

Hello Everybody. Gobble, Gobble!

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

I. The GIFT of Art?

"Have yourself a Merry little Christmas..............."

As the Christmas shopping season opens, I am again struck by the fact that there are so few publicized opportunities for gift-givers to give Art instead of the usual commercial products being pushed. I love Open Studios - and most of those programs not only bring people into contact with artists, but result in huge sales of actual artwork. Museum gift shops, on average, do very well and contribute to the bottom line. Art isn't going to effectively compete with the newest Playstation or ipod - I know that, but that's not the goal. But why we don't collaboratively rent empty storefronts for the month of

December and push our own products via our own marketing channels is beyond me.
We are committed to providing opportunities for performance artists to perform, to earn a living thereby; indeed, we fund countless performance organizations that do exactly that. But for visual artists, artists that create tangible physical artwork, we invest little funding and effort to significantly increase the places they can show their work, and more importantly sell their work so as to make a living. Museums help train artists and provide them with other services, but very few artists are provided access to exhibition via museums. What then do we do to help artists earn a living through their art? Besides open studios? Wouldn't some kind of collaborative Christmas campaign help to address this unmet need?

Boomers have money and have gotten to the point where a piece of original art costing several hundred dollars is certainly within their budgets and the range of money they intend to spend on certain gifts and would have far more of an impact on the person's life to whom the gift is intended than almost anything else; would likely be a gift far more appreciated and remembered than any other gift -- so why don't more people give artwork as presents at Christmas. And I do not believe you can't pick out artwork for someone you know that they will appreciate. I think you have a better chance of picking out artwork that they will like than you do to pick out a sweater they will like.

And wasn't Christmas originally about hand made gifts? Wasn't Santa Claus an original craftsman artist - or were those the elves? I just think the market is ready to respond to a campaign to sell artwork as Christmas gift ideas - and that, who knows, we might even get someone like our old friend American Express to partner with us next year in a campaign to have a one month art store in every city and a campaign to give art for Christmas!

Or not as you may prefer. Just another thought.

II. Policy?
"I'm late, I'm late, no time, no time, I'm late, I'm late, I'm late......."

In October Bob Lynch President and CEO of Americans for the Arts and Robert Redford, Chairman Sundance Preserve, co convened the First meeting of the National Arts Policy Roundtable of Americans for the Arts, at Sundance. The National Arts Policy Roundtable was conceived as a national convening of top level decision makers from the public and private sectors such as elected officials Corporate and Foundation CEOs and board members and individual philanthropists to discuss cultural policy issues and help forge cultural policy positions and eventually public and private cultural policy itself. The Policy Roundtable is chaired by Marian Godfrey of the Pew Charitable Trust. This first Roundtable convening looked at the slippage over the last decade in the percentage of private sector giving going to the arts and discussed policy change at the Corporate, Foundation, and Individual Philanthropic levels as well as public sector polices that affect the private sector such as tax laws. A complete report is expected after the first of the year.

I look forward to that report, and hope that it stimulates more discussion of how we are going to formulate policy for the arts in the future -- not just what the policy might be, but how we will go about determining what it might be. I fear that we will, in large part, leave formation to others; that we won't have the time, energy, resources or inclination to discuss, debate and determine what our policies might be and so we will allow whatever policy might exist to be determined largely by default - by our failure to act.

I'm not criticizing here. I understand. I've been there, done that. There is no time to consider such lofty considerations; we have no tools or resources to encouage formation of policy; and only a few people have the luxury to even think about it. Where is its practical application? How does it specifically impact - anything? or anybody?

Alright Barry, if you want to help those people in the trenches - then figure out a way that you can raise more money, increase the funding pool somehow, that will pay for their operations. Not their programs - but their operations. Staff salaries and salary increases. Staff expansion - adding new people to do the work that so desperately needs to be done, but for which there is no time for ME or anyone on my staff currently to do. Cut back the paperwork and all the hoops I have to jump through to get even a teeny, tiny little grant. Expand the grants programs so that all of us way back in the pack here - those of us who are NOT the big cultural institutions - can get our hands on some amount of money that will actually mean we can move forward a little instead of just running in place and getting tired. Get me some board members who will go out and raise some money and stop wanting to plan my programs for me. That's what I need, ok - and what has "policy" formation to do with any of that? (And just a minute, ok, please note that those of us out here who are defined as the "big" cultural institutions - are pretty much in the same boat everyone else is, and all we're talking about is size and scale, and the fact is that we carry our weight and give back far more than we take, and all the talk about all the money going to us isn't doing anybody any good and besides, it isn't true, and it's getting old already, ok?)

So what does policy have to do with all of that? Good question. It's like asking what does a U.S. foreign policy that states that America has the right to pre-emptively invade any nation that we believe may be a threat to our security, irrespective of tangible acts indicative of such threat, have to do with getting mired down in Iraq in the middle of what has become a civil war?

The answer is that you need to have some guiding principles that will allow you to travel a path that avoids as many pitfalls as possible and maximizes the opporunties so that you can move towards your mission. Lots of room to disagree about what that might be, and that is why the more it is discussed the better the final result.

We should protect all of the arts organizations in the sector so that we can develop as a supportive community? Or not? What's the policy? What are the implications? We should or should not be active lobbyists and get involved in candidates campaigns, in the quest for more government money? Which one? What's the policy? What are the consequences either way? Foundations will support organizational operations AND programs, or only programs and not operations? What's the policy? What's the result?

Complex stuff. But whether we consciously tackle the problem of policy formation or not, we will end up with policies in place - by default or by common action -- like it or not, and policies do affect action.

Anyway, I hope Bob Lynch's Roundtable helps. At least it's some movement, something positive. I hope that somehow policy formation filters down to the lowest levels, because sound policy has widespread ownership.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

Remember, Don't Quit!


Monday, November 6, 2006

November 7, 2006



 Hi everybody.

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

VOTE! Please take the time and VOTE today, and urge all your friends, family and neighbors to vote too. Whichever side you are on - this is a critically important election.

And let's all pray there are no irregularities or alleged fraud, or any kind of disaster with the voting machines that would call any election into question, nor any stories about dirty tricks by either side. Democracy can't afford to go through those scenarios.

Predicting what will happen is a risky enterprise. People don't tell pollsters the truth about how they will vote, or even if they will vote. If you pick wrong, then you've have no credibility (at least until the next election, because people have very short memories). If you're right, then you probably just got lucky (and those short memories will mean no one remembers that you were right anyway).

That said, I've been following this really closely. Here's what I think will happen:

The new Congress will be:

House of Representatives:
Democrats: 231
Republicans: 204

Democrats: 49
Republicans 51

(this could flip flop the other way)

Finally, let's hope after tomorrow, whoever wins - there is some movement towards acting like we're all in this thing together; that we are, after all, people that care about the country.

Vote and Don't Quit!


Thursday, October 26, 2006

October 26, 2006

Barry's Blog - October 31, 2006

1. Americans for the Arts Congressional Report Card
2. Economic Impact Studies - Why they're only HALF the battle
3. Musings on the Future
4. BITS & PIECES: Political Junkie site; new blog for symphonies; great travel planning site

Hello everyone. It's now dark at 5:30 pm. I hate when Daylight Savings Time ends. At least next year it begins mid March and ends early November - giving us almost one month more of daylight.

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

I. AFTA Congressional Report Card
"I'd like to help you son, but you're too young to vote......"

Americans for the Arts has published its latest Congressional Report Card. Every county and state ought to publish their own Report Card for county elected officials (Boards of Suprvisors / City Councils) and for State Legislators, and then widely publicize the existence of the Report Card (via news releases, email, etc. etc.) so that the media and legislators and other elected officials become aware that the arts are watching their votes. Doing that city by city and state by state will help to begin building the arts sector as having some political clout.

Similarly, every city and state should by the 2008 election develop candidate questionaires and distribute them to ALL candidates for elected office - from US Senators down to those running for school board.

These two simple and very do-able objectives should be a priority of every state arts advocacy arm. Please, let's not let another election come and go without having the arts at least positioning itself as a political player.

To view the AFTA Congressional Report Card for your state Click here:

II. The Impact of Economic Impact Studies
"I said over, and over, and over again.............."

I am one of those who believe that economic impact studies showing the value of the arts and culture sector to local, state and the national economy - in terms of jobs, tax generation and general economic activity - are one of the best tools the arts sector has used in the on-going effort to make the case for our value. The problem is that once a given study is complete and we make a little hoopla on its release, we aren't following up enough.

I think getting the public, the media and specific elected officials to understand both the general and specific contributions of the arts to the economy is like selling detergent or some other product -- the secret is repetitive advertising. We need to bring economic impact study results to the attention of the public, over and over and over again. Strategies to capture interest in such studies, should be long term and include multiple attempts to release and call attention to the data. Each such study should be continuously touted again and again until a new study is done the replaces the old one. Thus stratgies for hyping economic impact reports should include efforts over a multi year period. We must spend as much time, energy, money and other resources on the disemination of the data as we do on gathering it. There is no reason to gather it unless we can get it out there where it will do us some good. Hollywood studios spend as much money advertising a film as they do making it - and the same logic needs to apply to more of what we do.

Here's a link to a new kind of arts economic study. Done in Orange County, CA. it analyzes the cultural assets of Orange County on a per capita basis and then compares the overall figures to neighboring counties. I like this kind of study because it appeals to people's sense of pride and natural competitive spirit, and a I think that is an effective strategy. People respond almost viscerally when they are compared unfavorably with their neighbors. Here's the link to the LA Times article,0,4121031.story?coll=cl-calendar

III. Musings on the Future
"In the year 2525........................."

It's getting relatively easy to imagine that television in 20 years, let alone 50 years, will probably look little like it does today. Broadcasting has seen its audience and share shrink due to cable for over a decade and increasingly it borrows what it can from cable to try to compete. Plasma tvs, Tivo, You Tube and podcasts may now further change what we watch (or what is offered to us) and how we watch. The music business is similarly changing as technology and the internet makes it easier to both make and distribute music.,1,4215312.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews

I ponder again how two decades will change the arts - say theater and dance, and performances and audiences, or painting and museum exhibitions. I still think we should be continuously talking about how the arts will morph and how that morphing should affect and impact policy and its formation. Maybe this is one topic those people Americans for the Arts will gather at Sundance for a Policy Roundtable might consider. Hopefully, that discussion will cover a broad range of topics and issues that will serve to spur widespread discussion of policy.

IV. Bits & Pieces:
The Election is now ONE WEEK Away. For the political junkies like me out there, here's a good site to see how the contest(s) in your state are going, including the latest polls on who is ahead.

Here's a new arts blog those of you in the music sector of our field might want to take a look at -- its authored by Henry Fogel - President of the American Symphony Orchestra League.
Click here:

itasoftware (created by scientists at MIT) is the best site when you want to know which airline carrier offers the best combination of low fare and convenient routing. Unlike commercial sites like expedia and travelocity etc. it doesn't favor certain airlines. You can't book a flight on it, but you can find out which carrier best suits your need and then go to that airline's website and book your flights. It also gives you warnings about long layovers or limited time between one flight and another. Bookmark it:

Have a great week. Happy Halloween.

Don't Quit!


Sunday, October 8, 2006

October 08, 2006

Hessenius Group on Policy Formulation

Hello everyone.

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

This month's discussion is on "policy"-. We bandy about terms like "policy" and "policy formulation" - but what do we mean by those terms, how does it relate to what we do, and why is it important?

Participating this month are group members:
Moy Eng
Rick Hernandez
Bob Lynch
Cora Mirikitani
Anthony Radich, and
Andrew Taylor

Webster's Dictionary defines policy as:
a) a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions;
b) a high-level overall plan embracing the general goals and acceptable procedures.


I ask the group to consider these preliminary questions as we get into our discussion of specific policy questions:

1. What is "policy" in the context of nonprofit arts and culture organizations?
2. How do we distinguish between broad based 'cultural' policy and specific 'organizational' policy (e.g., K-12 sequential, curriculum based arts education for every child as example of the former, and diverse board of director composition - the latter)? If we use definition "(a)" above do we equate "strategic planning" as synonymous with policy formulation? Is it the same?
3. How specific an area should be governed by "policy" (if policy involves definite action(s) that guide decision making?
4. How do we formulate policy in our sector? Is the process open to all? Is it often done by default? Is there a process or protocol we go through to get universal buy in?
5. How do we distinguish between "policy" that amounts to not much more than a suggested 'guideline' vs. policy that ought to carry the weight of a mandate? How could we possibly enforce policy mandates?
6. What's right or wrong with how we go about formulating it? How should it work?
7. What do we stand to lose if we don't get better at policy formulation? What might we realistically gain if we do get better at it?
8. What areas in our sector desperately need (or at least would enormously benefit from) the formulation of policy to set "a definite course or method of action selected from among alternatives and in light of given conditions to guide and determine present and future decisions"?
9. Have we created 'policy' without even knowing it, and has that helped or hurt us and in what ways? Has our policy formulation been consistent?

Cora Mirikitani:
You've started us on a discussion about cultural policy by posing a crucial question: What exactly is it, and how is it formed? In the nonprofit arts, unlike other sectors, a lot of what we consider to be "policy" is actually borne out of field practice rather than field planning or accumulated knowledge or a sense of common destination. I'm not being critical of this pattern, mind you, just observing it. What's bad about making policy this way is obvious: it tends to be ad hoc, short term, driven by special interests (good and bad), and is rarely benchmarked or evaluated. So there's always some degree of frustration in any conversation when the "P" word comes up. But there is some good news, too. Three things in particular strike me as plusses in the current scenario:

1) Leadership can pay big dividends. We have seen many examples of individual foundations, civic leaders, arts institutions, artists, and other catalysts who have taken a lead role in defining a specific community problem and innovating solutions that can benefit the broader arts community at large. The recent Irvine Scoping Study on the arts in California is a good example of this, I think. We need to identify and track individual leadership efforts more consistently, and on a fieldwide basis, so that there is maximum opportunity to engage in dialogue and learning about what's working, and what isn't, in our field.

2) Technology and use of the internet makes it possible for cultural policy to be more democratic. This is huge, of course. As recently as six or seven years ago it would have been hard to think of a MySpace or having the capacity to organize millions of individual participants into communities of interest. Imagine what kind of impact this could have on development of arts advocacy and cultural policy. And finally,

3) A next generation of artists and arts leaders will soon be in charge. Like it or not, within the next ten- to fifteen years most of the current senior leadership in the arts field will have been replaced by younger leaders. This will create the opportunity for new practices (and policies) to emerge, using more advanced technologies, and more widespread participation. So ironically, not having a very well established system of policy development or gatekeeping leaves the door wide open for a whole new wave of outside voices and innovative practitioners to step in.

Andrew Taylor:
The more I learn and teach about cultural management, the more I'm struck by the strange and dysfunctional disconnect between the advancement of the arts and the discussion of ''policy.'' In almost any conversation where the word comes up -- at conferences, in board rooms, in communities, among arts leaders -- ''policy'' is perceived as something OTHER PEOPLE do. We know there are policy makers. We know there are policy analysts. And we're quite confident that we are neither. In that assumption, we are tragically wrong.

Part of the problem is that we never get past the definition of what ''policy'' means. Websters isn't much help, as its definition reinforces what so many believe to be true -- policy is dry and dull and primarily about control. The creative spirit abhors such things.

But in my own work in arts and culture, I have slowly come to realize that policy is at the center of everything. Policy is NOT solely the determined action of elected officials and the cryptic prose of research wonks. It is the collective choice of a thousand different players in a thousand different games. For arts managers, policy is the net result of our decisions about audience engagement, ticket pricing, organizational structure, business planning, financial management, marketing strategy, human resource development, fundraising priorities, and community outreach. Policy is the architecture that defines and confines what we can do.

In short, I've come to frame the issue this way:

Policy is constraint on behavior.

Constraint is the essence of art.

We all construct policy all the time -- whether we know it or not.

And we are all influenced by it -- whether we recognize it or not. We can either embrace those truths with curiosity, focus, and intent. Or we can be continual victims of the prevailing tide.

What is the "cultural policy" for the arts? What do we need - one over-arching policy that guides our actions or a patchwork quilt of mini- policies on varying issues? If the former, how do we insure widespread participation in its formation? If the latter, how do we synthesize multiple mini policies into something whole around which we can all coalesce? How should it work?

Rick Hernandez:
Ideally, were we really a cohesive field, we would begin with a broad national cultural policy that speaks to a strong set of cultural values....quality, inclusiveness, organizations and the individual artist or cultural practitioner. The policy would be the center piece that state and communities would use to formulate locally based policies, They wouldn'g just be about money, but a broad range of cultural issues that encompass the variety of unique needs of this vast "field."

Anthony Radich:
I would hope we could talk about a cluster of cultural policies√Ę€”multi-polar policies--rather than a single overarching cultural policy--or even a highly coordinated cultural policy. What policy multi-polarity does is increase access. What I mean by this is that, when constructing cultural policy, we need to ensure that individuals and organizations are not locked out of acting because an overly tight policy construction does not allow for a diversity of approaches to a set of issues. I believe that what private foundation funders want and should do about the current situation in the arts may--and perhaps should--be quite different than what the public sector funders in California elect to do. A multi-polar policy strategy can still be linked in places; however, I would argue against an effort that seeks too strong an alignment of public and private sector cultural policy actions.

Any consideration of the development and/or rebuilding of more robust public-sector policymaking structures must more effectively consider the context in which to develop such structures. Currently, at the state level in the West, there exists a strong consensus that government should be small and provide only essential services. In this context, the vision of the state functioning as an ATM for the arts is not viable. Another current construct of state government that is an increasing challenge for arts entities embedded in them, is their lack of nimbleness due to excessive accountability requirements and antiquated personnel practices. Increasingly, public sector entities that elect to be nimble seek ways to meld into public-private entities and thus greatly increase their capacity to design and implement creative responses to field needs in a timely manner. Just how cultural policy can be most effectively organized in state government, or by a body that remains strongly related to state government, needs to be informed by an effective understanding of the state government environment and its implications for the entities that must operate within it.

For a very long time now, our conservative and policy-tepid field has not been very active in the area of imagining alternative organizational and policy scenarios for the arts. Ten years into a conversation about fundamental change in the field, we should be discussing a wide range of alternative policy scenarios. Also, at this point, we should, be reviewing the outcomes of pilot projects and experiments spun out of a variety of scenarios. To date, underinvestment in the development of policy options for culture has resulted in the nonprofit arts field standing at the edge of a cliff and not having a clue as to what to do next. No single answer will do but a more concerted effort to support research that arrays the potential policy options would be most helpful.

Without a doubt, the nonprofit arts are currently facing immense challenges. More work in the area of cultural policy can only help. I believe that the investigation of new ways to make the public sector aspect of cultural policymaking more robust is a very important element in addressing the overall policy challenge. I also believe that the generation of an array of policy options should be multi-polar; and that the public sector arts actors need to collaborate, but not conflate their policymaking with private sector foundations and other interests. An open system of cultural policy development will provide the most robust array of policy options and we need those options sooner rather than later.

Is it time for a wholesale re-inventing of policy in the arts? And if it is, how then should we proceed? If we need to involve more sectors of the field in its formation, and make our diversity an advantage and an asset - who or what has been controlling it so far? And how do we formulate a concise, workable policy that embodies the essence of all the agendas out there? Is that possible? Where do we start?

Moy Eng:
Cultural policy has been the de facto domain of public and private sector arts funders. The primary reason for this is that funders have had the luxury and the reality of grantmaking budgets and stature to enable them to do so. Mirroring the decentralized nonprofit arts sector field, arts and culture policy has been decentralized, place-based, and pragmatic in approach, typically responding to the perceived critical needs in the field, as opposed to an articulated comprehensive policy accompanied by a sharp analysis and clear blueprint for action. It is only in recent years that there appears to be an increased interest and discussion among funders and thought leaders in the arts about cultural policy as indicated by The Pew Charitable Trusts and Wallace Foundation supporting policy research and advocacy related initiatives and the establishment of arts policy centers such as the Vanderbilt University's Curb Center. Perhaps most importantly, this growing interest in cultural policy development is an extremely positive development in a maturing and rapidly morphing nonprofit arts sector. Looking ahead, I would like to ask the wisdom of those who have worked on the national policy front such as Bob Lynch (who I know is participating in this conversation) about their opinions about the pros and cons regarding the formation of a comprehensive national cultural policy and how optimally we should go about constructing such a policy.

I think in this day and age being engaged in a conversation about policy formation that just speaks to the "arts" and our traditional support structures is out of date and Cora spoke to the notion of technology, and Andrew spoke to policy formation not being the exclusive realm of "elected officials and the cryptic prose of research wonks," the implications of popular culture on the masses and how the non-profit arts function in that realm have to be part of the converesation.

OK - let me ask you all this: Whether by design or happenstance, whether orchestrated by a few leaders in key positions, or the result of untold numbers of people acting independently - Do we have any generally accepted cultural / arts policies as of this moment in time.

And if, for example, the consensus in the arts sector is that we are all striving for K-12, sequential, curriculum based arts education in every school in the country - is that lofty goal, by itself - a "policy"? Every country in the world ostensibly wants world peace - but is that a policy? I mean, if a funder said: "we don't fund any organization unless they have an educational outreach program to local schools in their area" -- that would be a policy, wouldn't it?

Jerry Yoshitomi:
As I read this, I'm reminded of a comment made at the recent meeting -the arts are like a multi-national corporation with 4000 branch offices, but no headquarters. I'm wondering if the policies we're talking about might be both policies that we'd recommend to our external environment - authorizers as well as policies and priorities that we might develop for ourselves.

For example, we might think about egalitarian and equity based policies and protocols that would demonstrate to the world that we are not elitist. If those were developed (think about the Kyoto protocols), who might sign them and who wouldn't?

Sure we all have policies that drive our decision making, goal setting, etc. etc, but seldom do they extend beyond ourselves....often mirror what our colleagues have done but probably change in character as a function of implementation. My sense of the deeper discussion is that we are all starving to some degree for a kind of understanding that serves to answer questions of our sheer existence, our patrimony, our reason for being vested in the preservation of culture.

Do we have any generally accepted cultural / arts policies as of this moment in time? Of course we do. But they're almost all implicit, and many of them are counterproductive to a vibrant cultural ecology. Here are a few implicit ''policies'' have consistent and nationwide traction, but are likely doing as much damage as good:

1) Only incorporated nonprofit organizations are worthy of focused philanthropy, and of these, professional entities are more worthy than avocational. This is a general policy of most foundations and government arts agencies, which has led us to have more 501c3 nonprofit organizations than we might need, and fewer informal, individual, and temporary organizations to ensure rich and diverse expressive opportunities for everyone.

2) Buildings are more worthy than programs, and programs are best covered only at their incremental cost (that is, without overhead). This implicit policy has led to overextended cultural organizations, and an industry-level inability to understand true operating costs.

3) Commercial entertainment companies should not be subject to cultural analysis or governmental policy. This policy has led to foreign ownership of some of the United States' most profound contributions to world culture (archives and copyrights to seminal bluegrass, folk, jazz, classical, and other recorded music; important American films). Former NEA chair Bill Ivey has become champion of this cause, and it's a big one.

4) Copyright is a matter of commerce, not culture. This policy has constrained creative artists from exploring and reconceiving a whole spectrum of expressive works...from Barbie dolls to corporate logos to popular culture to works that should now be in the public domain.
I could go on, but I won't. These just strike me as a few examples of how the most influential elements of ''cultural policy'' are lost in a narrow definition of the term.

I'm just trying to move the discussion along so that everybody is talking about the same thing as it were. So how do we go about identifying which policies may be counter productive - causing more harm than good, and policies which would be valuable and thus are ones we should try to formulate? How do you open the process and balance all the competing voices to achieve a balanced policy that has consensus support, or as Anthony suggested should we focus on mini policies that allow for some decentralization?

Bob Lynch:
The word policy is used in many different ways in our sector and in general. My comments here deal primarily with cultural policy rather than organizational policy. Organizational policy for me is the set of methods, actions, procedures (the words used in the Webster definition) that each organization comes up with to govern how it will run itself in all areas whether program, staff, board, audience, or written policy documents like the organizational plan, the bylaws, the articles of incorporation etc. Policy exists whether you do it consciously and formally or whether it is simply de facto because that is how it always has been done. Informal or historic organizational procedures have the weight of policy because they guide and determine present and future decisions.

My own theory about the creation of policy is that policy is created on an ongoing basis as part of a cycle that starts with an idea followed by research that leads to a position. This position then needs to given visibility, and advocated to whomever the appropriate decision maker might be. But policy does not exist until a decision has been made or a de facto decision is in place. This cycle is repeated on an ongoing basis as policies are tweaked or changed or renewed. I think that many people erroneously call ideas, research, positions, and the advocacy process policy. But without a decision there is no rule to guide and therefore there is no policy.

Cultural Policy is a term that is used differently by almost every sector that uses it, the academic world, the public policy world, the arts world. It is as confusing as the word culture itself. Culture embraces the arts but a whole lot more. Even the subset of cultural policy which we could call arts policy would need to be about the gamut of arts activities from non profit, to for profit to unincorporated along with policy as it relates to artists and to art education in my opinion. So I will limit my thoughts here to an even smaller subset, that of non profit arts policy. Non profit arts policy is similar to organizational policy because it exists as a set of guidelines and boundaries. However the rules pertain to a broader set of organizations and stakeholders and the control is not in any one organization's hands. Non profit arts policy for me is the sets of methods, actions, and procedures made by decision makers at the national, state, and local levels both public and private, that affect any and all arts organizations in their budgets, their content, their hiring practices, their 501c3 status, their governance structure etc.

Many people say we do not have a national arts policy in America. I feel differently. I believe that minimally we have a national non profit arts policy of individual institutional self determination. Why? Because American non profit arts organizations unlike those in many other countries worldwide do not and cannot depend on any one resource area for primary support. On average American arts organizations get half their money from earned income, over one third from the individual donor, less than ten percent from foundations and corporations, and less than ten percent from government at all three levels. Because of this no outside financial policy set by a government agency or a private funding source can determine the fate of a single arts organization. It is a fragile eco system of support as I have said many times but allows a great deal of freedom of choice for a single arts organization while at the same time providing no guarantees for survival for any arts organization. However there exist multiple policy decisions for every part of the ecosystem that collectively make up the environment in which these single organizations thrive or falter.

So while a single organization creates its own destiny it does so within a support ecosystem that is bounded by rules and constraints, policy positions such as requirements of 501c3 status, eligibility by size of organization, type of art, makeup of leadership etc. And of course the amount of resources allocated by the decision makers to the arts both public and private is perhaps the largest policy boundary.

In order to have an arts policy at any level there needs to be a decision by a decision maker. I see policy as the actual decision which becomes a rule or guide made by the federal government, state governments, local governments, as well as single or collective corporations, foundations, and individuals. That set of decisions of course is just about the money. But these decision maker entities have an influence on much more such as content constraints or freedoms, zoning laws, workplace giving and volunteerism policies at corporations just to name a few.

In the non profit sector we have always valued independence because of the overall national policy of institutional self determination. That makes the task of pulling together sector wide policy efforts historically difficult. However it has indeed happened many times from the creation of the national endowment for the arts in 1965, to the sector wide united efforts in the mid nineties to save federal arts funding from extinction, to the current national efforts of the Cultural Advocacy group, a quiet coalition of one hundred national arts service organizations which meets regularly and annually results in a dozen federal policy planks which are advocated by a united front, some with success and others still waiting for success. This same pattern is repeated in many states through state arts advocacy groups some with more success than others and all undercapitalized.

Here are some thoughts about how I think my own organization has tried to affect national non profit arts policy. For more than 45 years, Americans for the Arts has worked to increase private and public sector arts support, and advance policies that create a climate in which the arts can thrive. Our Research & Information Department publishes annual reports about local arts service and funding organizations and partners with scholarly institutions to study funding trends and investigate how the arts address social, educational, and economic development issues. Our Arts Policy Information Center provides the timely and trusted information needed by arts and community leaders to inform decision-making about the arts. An online database offers 8,700 abstracts of arts policy and research studies dating back to 1960, program profiles, online publications, and samples of enacted policies and legislation. In an effort to broaden domestic connection to policy ideas we elected to fund and continue the free distribution of the Cultural Policy Listserv created by the now defunct Center for Arts and Culture and that listserv reaches 6000 policy interested readers weekly. In an effort to broaden the exchange of international arts policy information, we sponsor the free U.S. distribution of IFACCA's Arts & Culture Online Readers News Service (ACORNS). Every year we sponsor more than 100 convenings as part of our National Arts Policy Network conferences that enable government and business leaders, scholars, arts agency directors, and others to network and share their knowledge. The pinnacle of these meetings is our National Arts Policy Roundtable, a forum of 50 distinguished national leaders who will meet annually (beginning in fall 2006 in collaboration with Sundance) to recommend public and private sector policies and initiatives critical to the advancement of American culture. By combining this work with our visibility and legislative strategies, we endeavor to turn these positions into arts-friendly policies: government laws, funding and operational guidelines, and private sector practices.

I think that we have a sector wide need to invest more time and resources in each of the steps of the policy production cycle I began with above. Not much specific support is targeted to these areas these days and so the work in this area is often done with whatever extra energy already tired arts administrators and volunteer leaders can muster. And yet the creation of policy decisions is the long term solution to advancing the arts in America. Once a policy is put in place like the creation of a city percent for art program or a designated revenue policy such as a sales tax or bed tax for the arts, the mechanism automatically keeps contributing to the arts until the policy is removed. The opposite is also true. If a policy is put in place like the restriction on the direct funding of artists through the NEA that restriction stays until another group of decision makers makes a new and different decision. The actual policy decision is in the hands of these public and private decision makers but the power is actually in the hands of the arts leaders and citizens who when focused and mobilized have proven to be very effective.

Whew! That's a lot to digest Bob. Andrew and Anthony have a point in dicussing policies (conscious or defacto) that have done more harm than good (add to those that Andrew lists: an unspoken policy of reluctance on the part of major cultural institutions to spend their political capital on anything that doesn't directly benefit them short term (irrespective of its potential benefit to a wider purpose); and the policy that insures that rural state agencies are essentially tied to the apron strings of the NEA because they are one of the exceptions to the rule Bob cites where income is fairly split between earned, donors and corporate / foundation / government (many small state agencies get the bulk of their budgets from the NEA per the state distribution.)

Most of you seem to be on the same page in acknowledging that policy is, for the most part, not consciously created, but rather the result of more informal action (or inaction). Should policy formulation be much more of a conscious effort - whether an overarching cultural policy for the nation, or indiviudal orgnization's policies on a variety of subjects? And to the extent the field does create (or attempts to create) policy consciously, what about who is forming that policy -- how can the process of who is included be democratized and made more egalitarian? Or is that a good idea?

I believe there should be a conscious effort to create a "cultural policy for the nation," Barry. For the reasons I stated yesterday.

It is the fragile eco system that Bob referred to that should be of primary concern to us. So the question for me is how do we create the critical mass to effect the establishment of a policy or set of policies that ensure a sustainable future for that eco system and all its individual parts; how do we ensure that it transcends political whim, economic instability, or dogmatic assault?

In the last analysis, I guess I agree with Rick that we ought to try to formulate a national arts & culture policy that would guide decision making within the nonprofit arts sector. And I think we ought to do that consciously and purposefully rather than allow it to develop ad hoc and by doing nothing at all. Such a national policy would have to be comprehensive - in that it would need to address all of the primary areas in which the sector is engaged -- from arts education to generational successsion and the involvement of the next generation of artists; from maximizing community access to the arts to celebrating and integrating the full range of diversity within each community; from fostering a field that elevates coalition building over indiviudal organizational territoriality to realistically understanding marketplace dynamics; from lobbying and political paticipation to funding and revenue stream protection - and as much more as we could address that lies in between all of these issues.

Secondly, the formulation of this policy would have to tap into all segments of the arts sector - consensus would need to be achieved by having input into the formulation of policy by any and everyone who wanted their input to be heard. The best and brightest of our thinkers could be invaluable in framing the issues and suggesting what the policy might look like and how we might achieve it, but there would have to be some way for more voices than just our best and brightest national leadership voice. A true meaningful national arts and culture policy will need to come from the bottom up, not the top down.

Third, as Anthony argued, we would need stakeholder and outside our sector 'voices' - including elected leaders, including businesses (particularly the ones operating on the edges of our own efforts - e.g., hollywood et. al), including foundation leaders - so that the final policy would have some real chance of being implemented across the board. If all we do is come up with some policy that works for us, we will be doing nothing more than continuing to beg the question.

I think what Bob and Americans for the Arts is doing gives hope to what might be accomplished, but those same efforts, approaches and strategies will have to filter much further down from the national effort to the local scene if we want to really have any impact in this critical enterprise. We should capitalize on the advantages Cora cites, and be aware of both the extant realities noted by Anthony, and the changes that are coming, whether we like them or not, as Cora advises.

Fourth, any attempt at inventing or re-inventing a set of national arts and cultural policies will have to identify those policies that we have allowed to exist that are really the agendas of limited segments of our own extended "family" - policies that harm the whole of us so that we can negate them. It won't be easy to craft policies to which all can, or will, subscribe, but the process of trying to achieve the result might teach us about ourselves - our strengths and weaknesses as a "field" - and there are lessons about ourselves we need to learn if we are going to be one of the successful nonprofit sectors in this century.

Finally, we need to consider who and what we are as a "sector" - within that wider nonprofit universe. If we are, as Jerry says, thousands of branch offices without a headquarters, how does that hurt us, how does it help us, and what can we do about it anyway -- if anything? We need to formulate overarching policies within the framework of exactly who and what we are beyond our being individual organizations. Do we have enough in common, do we share enough aspirations, to work as a "field", or is all of that talk of cooperation and mutual interest just so much smoke and mirrors.

Because so many of us work in situations where there simply isn't the luxury of time and resources to devote to all those intricate and complex questions involved in the specifics of looking at our collective self, let alone the likely time consuming, difficult task at constructing policies to which we can all willingly subscribe, the funders in the field, foundations and government need to help provide - at the very least - the basic tools necessary as the pre-condition for taking up the task in the first place -- more research and data, convenings and facilitated gatherings at the bottom, not just the top levels of where we work, and outreach to stakeholders and those whose involvement we will need for policies to have any "teeth" to them. As Moy noted there may be a window of opportunity right now to make stides heretofore not possible. But experience teaches us that windows of opportunity don't stay open very long.

What would be catatrosphic and tragic for us, would be if we do nothing at all, except to dust off the topic every so often, trot it our for another discussion, and periodically get all excited anew, only to put it back on the shelf again. Both the nonprofit universe (and our little part therein) and the wider universe are changing. We absolutely must maximize our chances of both surviving and thriving as those changes happen around us.

That's just my take on it; what I think. But what I think really doesn't matter much -- what matters is what everyone out there thinks, but that won't matter much either, unless people speak up, get involved and find ways to be heard.

Thank you group members for your thoughts and ideas.

Have a good week everyone,

and Don't Quit!


Monday, October 2, 2006

October 02, 2006

Barry's Blog - October 3, 2006

Table of Contents:
I. Irvine Foundation Working Paper
II. Arts & Humanities Month / Arts Day

Hi everybody.

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

I. Irvine Foundation Working Paper on the Critical Issues facing the Arts in California
"Something's happening here, what it is ain't exactly clear........."

The James Irvine Foundation issued a working paper last month focusing on the critical issues facing the arts in California. Those issues included:

Cultural Policy
Arts Education
The Nonprofit Business Model
Generational leadership succession

Those issues doubtless apply to every state in the country.
Cultural Policy is a term frequently bandied about within the nonprofit arts sector, but it remains difficult to get a handle on what cultural policy is really about. It is, for the mostpart, too lofty a concept for the rank and file of arts & culture leadership to devote much time to.

The Irvine Report states:

"The state of California, like most states in the U.S., lacks a coherent cultural policy to guide the strategic development of the field and maximize public and private investments at both state and local levels. Cultural policy encompasses the tools and strategies that guide government actions taken on behalf of the general public. This includes direct appropriation of resources, as well as legislation, regulation, tax incentives and other mechanisms.

...For the most part these policies inter-relate only coincidentally, and public agencies rarely collaborate in a strategic way. In certain realms, such as intellectual property, the lack of a focused and strategic voice for the public interest means that commercial interests tend to win any debate."

"Since the 1960s, the conversation about cultural policy has been dominated by nonprofit institutions, which have been the major beneficiaries of public support.27 Because of the dominance of this one segment of the sector, cultural policy has been focused primarily on increasing financial appropriations to nonprofit cultural organizations, rather than on the broad array of institutional and non-institutional supports needed to provide wider access and build universal recognition of the value of the arts and culture among diverse publics. This type of policy can only be developed by people with a broad mandate to serve the public interest and equipped with specific policy skills. It cannot be achieved piecemeal by the efforts of certain interest groups and in response to appropriation crises."

The report goes on to note:

"Unlike their public policy work in other sectors such as the environment, health, education and social services, private funders in California have invested relatively little in policy work in arts and culture. This has seriously hampered the sectors ability to generate a rationale for public support that is compelling to legislators and the general public. As one funder said, "The philanthropic community has failed to provide leadership on cultural policy and it is impossible for the arts organizations to do it by themselves. This is the central issue for the cultural sector, from which all other issues fall." Currently, the nonprofit arts lack the essential policy arguments available to many other sectors, including a broad-based consensus about its public value, acceptance of the legitimacy of public support due to market failures in making it broadly and equitably available, a solid causal model of the effects of investment, and standardized evaluative measures for success."

So what to do??

The Report continues:
"The first step toward developing a coherent cultural policy is to determine what the public values about arts and culture sufficiently to warrant public appropriation, and through what mechanisms those public goods are best provided. One challenge in doing this is the major shift in the rationale used to justify public support of the arts (and other social goods and services traditionally provided by the nonprofit sector) that has occurred in the past fifteen to twenty years." The "justification for public support of the arts has shifted from intrinsic to instrumental art for art's sake to art for utilitarian purposes.

The arts sector has taken a pragmatic approach to explaining its instrumental contributions to social and economic goals, but the rhetoric is often not backed by evidence. As the market is increasingly used as the arbiter of value, the nonprofit arts are finding it increasingly difficult to prove themselves in these terms. As one person we interviewed put it, "People in California appreciate the benefits of the arts, but they no longer believe (if they ever did) that the arts are a public responsibility."

How then do we go about developing a comprehensive cultural policy that addresses these and other issues, and that enjoys support from all divisions within the arts sector? How do we go about policy formulation that can guide our collective actions towards an agreed upon set of desirable outcomes? Do we do that on the local, regional or national level(s) or on all three simultaneously?
If development of a comprehensive, near universally accepted cultural policy is key to progress in every other area, as the Irvine Working Paper suggested, what do we do next?

Next week's HESSENIUS GROUP discussion will focus on the issue of policy formulation.

To download the full Irvine Foundation Working paper as a pdf file, click here:

PERSONAL NOTE: Congratulations to John McGuirk, recently appointed by the Irvine Foundation to head its arts funding program.

II. Arts & Humanities Month / Arts DAY
"It's a celebration........................."

October is Arts & Humanities Month, and the First Friday in October is Arts Day in California. What if 1000 people in each state sent an email this Friday to the biggest newspaper in their city and asked them to "cover" the arts during the month of October? We need to make Arts Month or Arts Day more like Earth Day.

Just a thought.

Have a good week, and check in on the discussion starting next Tuesday on policy formulation.

Don't Quit.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

September 12, 2006

Hessenius Group on the November Election

Hi everybody.

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

I am very pleased to welcome the following new members to the Hessenius Group project. This brings the total group to 25 and gives us even wider representation of the various constituencies within the arts sector.

Harriet Sanford - Ex. Director of the National Education Foundation
Rick Hernandez - Ex. Director of the Texas Commission on the Arts
Abel Lopez - Associate Producing Director - GALA Hispanic Theater
Randy Rosenbaum - Ex. Dir. Rhode Island Arts Commission
Harvey Seifter - Ex. Dir. Business & the Arts Councils Creativity Connection
Judy Weiner - Ex. Dir. Alliance of New York State Arts Organizations.
Bob Booker - Ex. Dir. Arizona Commission on the Arts

NEW PROTOCOL: So as to make the discussion move quicker and to make it easier for you to follow along, the Hessenius Group discussions will continue to start on the 2nd Tuesday of each month (excluding January, June, July and August) but will now run for two days (not four), ending on Wednesday. In addition to the new members announced above, we will be inviting more "guest expert" participants from various sectors and disciplines of the arts field to join specific topic discussions.

This week the group discusses the November election and what implications it might have for our field - on the national, state and local levels.

Participants include:

Shelley Cohn
Paul Minicucci
Randy Rosenbaum
Shannon Daut
Judy Weiner

Joining these regular group members as "guest experts" this month will be:

Nina Ozlu - Chief Counsel, Government & Public Affairs - Americans for the Arts
Thomas Birch - Legislative Counsel - National Association of State Arts Agencies


The upcoming November election promises a sea change in the fortunes of the two parties that may result in a fundamental shift in power - at the national and state levels.

What are the implications for the arts field?

Does this election represent an opportunity or challenge for the arts?

Are the arts capable and prepared to play any role in these elections that might improve its position in terms of influencing the decision making process, budgetary and otherwise?

What should the arts being doing in the next 60 days? What are doing, if anything?

Have we done enough to put the issue of the value of arts & culture in front of candidates across the country?

Have we done enough to demand candidates take a stand on funding for the arts?


Shannon what is going on in Colorado?

Shannon Daut:
In Colorado, we have an upcoming gubernatorial race. This is particularly important because our current governor has slashed state arts funding and we hope to have new leadership that will value the contributions that the arts make in our state. The opportunity arose to work with a campaign field worker that was working with the Democratic candidate and was focused on Young Democrats.

Through this alliance, several arts administrators were able to work with the campaign to put together an event for the candidate to speak and rally support for his campaign. This event took place at a first Friday arts walk, and was widely attended. Due to our involvement in this event, we were asked by the campaigns policy team to submit an arts policy paper. While the policy recommendations may not become a part of the official policy of the campaign, we have successfully put the arts on the radar for the (potential) governor, and have given him another avenue in which to argue for various policy points with regard to economic development in the state. Not to mention that at the event he spoke glowingly of the impact of the arts, both intrinsically and instrumentally.

I think this approach is one that warrants further consideration many politicians are looking to attract the youth vote while, increasingly, the arts become an entre to do so. After our successful event we will make a concerted get-out-the-vote effort in order to ensure that the arts are considered a valuable voting bloc in our state. While our experience in Colorado is somewhat rare, I believe that working with campaigns in the early stages--and in a way that fulfills their needs--can be an effective strategy to create an atmosphere where the arts, and its community, is valued and accepted as part of a healthy policy.

Judy, what about New York?

Judy Weiner:
I believe every election represents new opportunities. Of course, each new opportunity brings its own challenges. Some of the challenges are internal to our own advocacy organizing process: breaking down demographic barriers; limited resources of the advocates themselves; and transmission of unified messages. Some challenges are external: the initiation of new legislation and inter-agency partnerships; and making friends and influencing people.

For some of these challenges, the months leading up to the elections are certainly a time to get out in front of the curve. But facing a sea of candidates requires significant time and energy from advocates with limited resources. That time may be better spent when we are past the zealous frenzy that precedes an election.

That said, in NYC it made sense to begin that relationship building early in the game when the outcomes are clearly anticipated. We will have the first new Governor in 12 years; a Harlem Senator is expected to be Lt Governor; there will be a shift to democratic control at the top; all 211 legislators are running; and control in the two Houses may change. Now this is a sea change.

Although we began with staffers and campaign people some time back, not all the action is at the top of tickets, or even with the elected officials. We need to drill down into communities to expand access to a much more diverse advocacy pool, to recognize the impact of shifting demographic power bases, and to be certain our agenda resonates with diverse communities. More than six months ago the Alliance initiated a new project in Harlem in collaboration with Columbia University and the Harlem Arts Alliance to cultivate and train student advocates as the next generation of arts leaders. Hopefully, we are in sync the changing political landscape.

So to circle back to your questions Barry. Are we capable? Yes. Are we prepared to play in the game? Yes and no. Yes at the federal level, where Americans for the Arts has a very effective well managed infrastructure in place to accomplish its mission and tasks. And not at the local level, where with few exceptions, most states lack a similar depth and infrastructure. Advocacy is a dramatically undercapitalized venture at the local level. As a result, we tend to be reactive rather than proactive.

The paucity of resources in the trenches results in a perpetual catch-up game. Real support from the private sector for local advocacy and public policy work would make a significant difference. After all, it is at the grass roots level that there is incredible potential and power to initiate change and increase resources.

Initiating change also requires thinking outside the box. Budget increases bring more cash to the table. Imaginative and creative approaches to legislation can produce a plethora of resources. Two years ago we initiated a pending bill, the Cultural Development Areas Bill, to stimulate private investment in the arts with tax credits and incentives. We need to put our heads together and brain storm and since we are such a brilliant bunch, we certainly will come up with creative new ideas.

There are other issues that inhibit our success and access at the local level. The arts community is not lazer-like or unified in its approach to the political process and that is reflected in the mixed outcomes at all levels. It is sometimes difficult to get everyone on the same page. Nothing kills a position faster at any level of government than mixed messages. Sometimes it is difficult to compromise even for the greater good. In the end, no one wins.

The "arts community" at the advocacy level tends to be white and middle class. We need a broad spectrum of advocates that reflects our population at all levels: federal, state and local. We need to have an agenda that resonates across the board. We should be looking at the powerful online communities that represent diverse populations. American for the Arts took a groundbreaking position with their online advocacy center. And they shared the wealth, bringing states onboard. I would suggest that is only the tip of the iceberg.

You asked if it were too late. I do not believe it is ever too late. There are always friends to be made and people to be influenced.

And in Rhode Island Randy?

Randy Rosenbaum:
I live in a fairly unique political environment. Rhode Island is as "intimate" -- politically as well as geographically -- as you can get. In spite of our insidious conservative talk-radio programs (aren't they everywhere?), most Rhode Islanders are on the liberal end of the political spectum. Even our Republican Governor and one U.S. Senator act more like Democrats than their national counterparts. So, at the state level, any "fundamental shift in power" would be minimal. At the federal level? Who knows? Even with a (welcome) change in the political make-up of Congress, we're still entangled in "foreign adventures", we've built up a staggering deficit, and we've stripped the government of the funds it needs to do the things that "we, the people" expect of it.

Changing this equation will take time, leadership and bipartisan cooperation. Are we likely to see much of that in the short term, no matter who wins? I think not.

It is, in fact, the financial "train-wreck" ahead that scares me most of all. We have the good will and support of our legislative leaders, but as the bills start to come due it will be harder to maintain that political good will. Our friends believe that the arts are good for our state's economy, but we still lose the battle when we're pitted against sick children and homeless people. In moderately challenging times we've managed to say, convincingly, that we should be able to do both. In really bad times (and there ARE really bad times ahead in Rhode Island) even the most supportive among our friends in the General Assembly start to waver.

So, what do we do? I believe every election is an opportunity to renew relationships with incumbents and educate challengers. We're encouraging our arts advocates to talk to our state and federal candidates and asking our arts organizations to invite the candidates to events and to speak to their board. We're providing them with the raw information, and encouraging them to tell their own story as well. Over the next 60 days (following our state primary on Sept. 12), we're promoting discussion about the arts with the candidates, so the arts don't become the non-issue they usually are once the election is over in November.

Is this enough? It's never enough. Too many candidates ignore the invitations or side-step the questions. But if the right people issue the invitations and ask the questions, statements will be made. And if those statements are made based on information provided to candidates by arts advocates, and politicians believe that the arts are an economic stimulus and NOT an expense, then perhaps we can grow support for the arts during the most difficult of times.

Hope. That's the Rhode Island state motto, AND the theme that runs through every advocacy campaign.

Shelley, you've were politically active in Arizona while at the state agency, now that you're semi-retired are you still involved, and how are the arts faring today?

Shelley Cohn:
In my new life, I have the freedom and ability to be open and direct in my political activism. To that end I have been working on several campaigns; several for the state legislature, our Governor and two congressional seats. I don't believe that we can ever individually do enough and collectively the arts field still seems reticent about being politically involved. From the constituent point of view, there are many who don't yet realize that elections are coming. They do not understand the value of voting in the primaries, which in Arizona state legislative races, is where the decisions are made. From the candidates point of view, they are beginning to see that the arts community has fundraising potential. Arts fundraisers have been very successful and lucrative. The challenge is that the arts are still not a top of mind issue; candidates may speak when asked specifically, but the arts are not something that is one of their top issues. And unfortunately, they might also feel that a positive stance on the arts is a liability.

Tom, we seem to have solidified congressional support in the last few years. But every federal election has members of the House vying for the Senate and retiring office holders in both chambers. What's the picture at the federal level in this election?

Tom Birch:
This year's election, as with any election, offers the opportunity for arts advocates to stand up and make the arts a visible issue in races across the country. That means volunteering to work on political campaigns and letting candidates know about the importance of public arts funding. It means going to town meetings and candidates' forums and asking questions about arts education and public arts spending, along with the scores of others being asked about schools, highways, health care, and immigrations, so that candidates understand that the arts are part of the political agenda of importance to the voters. Between now and election day, candidates will be even more visible and offer even more opportunities for arts advocates to present the message.

The need to engage candidates should apply to candidates at all levels -- U.S. Congress and state legislatures, city and county councils, governors, mayors and school boards. The arts enjoy bipartisan support around the country and in Congress. There are Republicans in Congress who can be as supportive of the arts as many Democrats, and there are Democrats who can be just as problematic as some Republicans. If the majority power changes in the U.S. House of Representatives, as many pundits predict, and less possibly in the Senate, the significant differences will be in the leadership positions on the appropriations, budget, tax-writing and authorizing committees in the House and Senate. In some cases, the current Republican chair could be preferable to the Democrat who might be presumed to take over. In other cases, there may be a significant win for the arts in the change of chairmanships from Republicans to Democrats. What counts is the attitude, understanding, and interest these senior legislators have taken on arts issues during their years in Congress leading up to the assumption of new positions of power. If the House (or the Senate) changes parties, arts advocates will find some strong advocates in committee positions where more support was needed in the past, and advocates will find some tough assignments convincing some of those who might take over.

Of the two Republicans and four Democrats from the House running for the U.S. Senate, most have records of consistent support on arts issues, which one hopes they will carry with them should they win seats in the upper body. Of the thirty or so members of the House and Senate leaving to retire or run for other office (such as governor in their home states), some of the strongest opponents of federal arts spending will be gone from Capitol Hill, and some of the arts community's stalwart supporters will not be returning either.

Nina you run the Americans for the Arts created PAC and have for a long time been at the center of the fight for congressional support for the arts. What are you guys doing for this election?

Nina Ozlu:
One of the best times to influence policymakers is BEFORE they become policymakers, while they are candidates on the campaign trail. And, when the stakes are so high as they are now with voters in the mood for a party control change - leaving incumbents most at risk - candidates are particularly attentive to (re)consider their positions on many policy issues, including the arts and arts education.

On this front, Americans for the Arts Action Fund and its Political Action Committee are embarking on several political programs to help advance the arts at the federal level. At the end of this month, we will be releasing our 2006 Congressional Arts Report Card, grading every Member's arts voting record on issues ranging from funding for the NEA, arts education, and Corporation for Public Broadcasting to tax laws providing equal treatment to artists and composers. This report card will serve as voting guide to concerned citizens.

We are also simultaneously conducting Candidate Arts Surveys to all federal candidates, with a particular emphasis on the many open seats this year. This will provide voters with critical information about how candidates with no prior voting record intend to govern once elected. This information will be released in mid-October.

Additionally, the Arts Action Fund PAC has and continues to be making strategic contributions to federal candidates with an A+ voting record, in key leadership positions, and with a particular focus on open seat races.

Several of you make the point that the arts remain "off the radar screen of politicans" - particularly during the election cycles. Why is that? I ask you Paul Minicucci.

Paul Minicucci:
The issues surrounding the politicization of arts and culture among arts supporters is always problematic. I sense a kind of malaise around politics in general which is vastly amplified with regard to the arts. In California there is a kind of acceptance that the best you can hope for is the status quo and if that is not robust so be it. I have had occasion to recently lobby for the passage of a bill related to digital arts and while our arguments for its passage have been self-consciously more in the workforce development arena, many of our allies, mostly Democrats have said "that's good because trying to make an argument for more art these days just won't work." That notion is ironic in that Governor Schwarzenegger this year engineered a large ($105 million) increase in baseline funding for K-12 arts education and there is a new energy around that issue within the County Superintendents Association.

The truth is that arts education in 2006 as an issue, has more credibility than the arts in general, partly because politicians have recognized that the arts do bring balance to our schools and many have worried that they went too far in the No Child Left Behind implementation that resulted in wringing the curriculum dry of the arts. But having said that, when the time came for the Governors people to build his re-election rhetoric, his size-able accomplishment in the arts was nowhere to be found, while smaller investments in other parts of government were being trumpeted. We are not on the map. The unasked questions are: aren't we more comfortable with the low profile? Truth be told, does any legislator want to be closely associated with the arts these days? And isn't that the way we like it? We seem to believe that as long as the funding keeps coming we don't need visibility.

Have we done enough to put the arts before the candidates? I think the answer is a resounding "no." I would venture to say that the politics of the arts today in many states revolves solely around how much funding should we get rather than debating essential public policies. This vehicle, the Hessenius Group is one of the few places I have seen be dedicated to arts policy rather than budget or practice. The experiments of the 80s and 90s to bring legislative committees in statehouses have largely waned. I have also postulated that these committees were crucial to the success of the arts during the 90s because it is around policy issues that the legislators take possession of an issue. And that's the rub it seems to me.

Unlike many other fields, the arts advocacy community has shunned the ongoing development of a legislative agenda and has chosen to spend all of their time either defending the arts from cutbacks or expressive restraints or lobbying for more money. I have not seen legislative development in building arts programs. Often arts people screw up their faces in disgust when I broach the issue. "Why would you want those people (legislators) involved in setting arts policy?" the arts advocates argue, "They are part of the problem. They are the barbarians at the gates." It is true that legislators often rise to the occasion to prove their point. I would argue the other side of the point. You cannot build a sustained legislative effort if all you do is ask for more money, especially when you add the proviso: and don't tell us how to spend the money.

So, unlike education or healthcare policy where there is an ongoing conversation between legislators and policy leaders in the field about what is good education or health care and what can or should the government do to promote it, that same discourse is absent around arts issues. To put it bluntly, we have helped create an environment where there is no stake in supporting arts policies. There is no political value in supporting or attacking the arts for that matter. Contrary to other public policy areas most of our programs are run exclusively by arts agencies with little or no guidance from legislative mandate and for the most part these programs continue to be grant programs. And while it may be nice for a legislator to appear handing out a mock check to a grantee, there isn't that much to be lost by not doing so, and no one ever got un-elected for voted against the arts.

For whatever reasons the arts advocacy effort only mobilizes itself when the arts are directly threatened. That is testimony to the reticence arts supporters have in mixing it up in politics. We play pretty good defense but our offense is not effective. Why is that? If we can come to grips with that reality then we can take the next steps. So sad to say, I do not think the elections will affect the arts one way or the other. I do not see positive campaigns in any election around an arts issue. It could be I am out of touch, but I don't sense the arts as being a "required subject" for politicians anywhere. Even out friends stand quietly by.

OK - arts advocacy remains "reactive" when it should be more "proactive". Several people also emphasized that effective advocacy is about building relationships. Paul, you are suggesting that one approach to both of those situations is to engage elected officials in the policy debate as to the role of the arts in our society. As you note, many in the arts field might call that heresy. If this election isn't likely to change how the arts are regarded and treated, that seems to me to be testament that we should have begun building these relationships years ago. So what can we do now. What will it take to at least get the arts constituencies across the county to make just a little noise in the next sixty days, and then build on that effort for 2008?

How do we get younger people involved as Shannon suggests?

How do we diversify our advocacy base as Judy advises?

What can we do to move the arts from being the "non-issue" Randy and Shelley note?

How do we effecively "engage" the candidates as Tom recommends?

And how do we create, fund and manage an effort in every state that echoes what the Arts Action Fund is doing at the national level - particularly getting involved in candidate campaigns, by identifying and rewarding supportive candidates?

I have read the thoughtful ideas here. Maybe I can recap some of them with a couple of recommendations.

1. First, effective advocacy has to be proactive-we have not been at the state level.

2. The Americans for the Arts Fund is exactly the right idea. To do that at the state level is critical.

3. To raise serious money for campaigns at the state level we must:
  • get buy-in from all arts players, young and old, traditional and cutting edge.
  • we must have an agreed upon set of principles. I have used the idea of the arts compact in the   past to some good effect.
  • we must risk putting our ideas out in the legislative policy arena and work hard to convince  legislators that they can use the arts as leadership issues for their constituents.
  • we must raise money for bipartisan races.
  • we have to systematically reward those who take up our issues and punish those than oppose us- no matter who they are or what party they belong to.
  • we have to build a policy infrastrcuture in each state which should inlcude a center for policy and analysis, a coordinated effort to have entertainers do fund-raisers for us, and a clear and concise agenda that moves ideas forward not just funds.

Frankly, this idea needs a lot more development. I wish some "angel" will come forward who is visionary enough to see that you have to spend money on this infrastructure and not just give to companies and arts orgs.

I am much more optimistic tonight than when I wrote muy original comments. It is so unusual to be on the winning side of elections.

Two state senate campaigns with arts advocate candidates were elected in the primaries tonight. That is truly significant; they both had very challenging campaigns from challengers who think the government should not spend any money and extreme social views.

And three of our congressional races are also looking promising.

Although difficult and challenging, arts advocates did come forward to vote and financially support candidates.

Our next big hurdle will be the governor's race. We are fortunate to have a very smart, engaged Governor who can speak about the arts without a script. But her challenger will find every way to discredit her.

Well, I don't think the arts are going to be a major platform for any state/national candidates anytime soon. Where I think arts advocacy can be most effective is in illuminating how the arts can positively affect their policy priorities--crime rates go down as a result of a community arts center; hospitals' effectiveness rates go up as a result of arts therapy; cultural tourism increases due to a plethora of arts opportunities. These arguments are not new, of course, but I think they would be most effective for candidates and/or legislators if the points are couched within their overall policy initiatives. Arts for arts sake is great, and something in which we all believe, but we need to articulate this outside of our own priorities and inside of their policy priorities. The arts have been used as such a wedge issue in past elections, I can understand why policians may be hesitant to highlight the arts as a major platform. Rather than expending our energy to try and erase the controversies of the past from our collective consciousness (let's let the NEA do that, right?), we can better use our resources to highlight the reasons why the arts can accentuate and play a vital role in their priorities.

Since I posted my original comments we've had a meeting of the 20 largest arts organizations in our state (one of our regular gatherings), and I sat in on a meeting of the board of Rhode Island Citizens for the Arts, our statewide arts advocacy organization.

Advocacy and engagement in the political process were the "topics d'jour" of each meeting.

There is a great deal of interest on the part of arts organizations to "get involved", but a great deal of timidity as well. Our purpose is to assure the arts organizations that it is their inalienable right (at least for now) to talk to candidates for public office and learn their positions on issues that matter to them. We came away from our meeting with a framework for action that involves all the stuff that Tom Birch teaches us: invite politicians to performances, ask them to speak to their boards, press them for their position on public support of the arts and arts education, and maintain the relationship. We feel good about our plans for the next 60 days.

RI Citizens for the Arts is working with the local League of Women Voters and the local PBS TV station on a public, televised debate between the Gubernatorial candidates on the arts, culture and humanities. Things, so far, look good on this.

Since there are obviously no surprises in yesterday's primary in NYS, I would like to circle back to Paul's comments about developing a legislative agenda at the state level. That is an imperative for arts advocates if we really want to see significant resources on the table.

Advocating for the state arts council budget increases takes massive effort and input and often results in relatively insignificant dollars....if we are lucky. In NYS, where we saw the first state arts council increase in 6 years (a $5.1 million increase spread across 19 million people), the result was a 3-5% increase in operating funds for organizations. Not a huge deal.

Would there not be a better return on our time and resources if we work to set new legislative and policy agendas in concert with our legislators? When we developed a bill (working with our legislative sponsors) to incentivize private investment in the arts, it became a public platform for the sponsors. It gave them visiblity and face time statewide. It did the same for the arts. If we develop a win-win for both sides, then it works.

Which, of course goes back to the proactive vs. reactive issues on the local level.

I think Paul and Judy are on the right track - we have got to somehow engage legislators in figuring out ways the arts can be supported so that arts & culture might continue to contribute to civic life. Some states might still need to focus on state funding (e.g., California so as to return the baseline to something meaningful), but we have to do something different, because what we have been doing may have done as much as it is going to. Without raw political clout, which we do not yet have, we aren't going to get legislator support for what we want. We need new approaches (while we continue to beat the drums for creating arts Political Action Committees (PACs)in every state, and growing the Arts
Action Fund so as to amass some power someday.

Every local community should at least draft up a short list of questions to submit to candidates running for various offices (federal, state or city / county) in the local district. Questions as to whether or not the candidate supports funding for the arts, supports arts education, is aware of the importance of the arts & culture sector to the tourism industry, as an economic engine, believes the creative sector is essential to the health and growth of the local area. All candidates should get sent this short list of questions and the answers should be as widely disseminated as possible (even if one or more candidates don't respond - circulate that bit of information to the media etc. too. And all candidates for whatever office in the November election should be invited to as many arts events as possible between now and election day, and a simple email petition should be sent to each candidate urging them to support arts & culture in the district. Those three things can all be done easily at the local level. And all arts supporters should be encouraged to email, write, or call the candidates and tell them how important the arts are locally.

Finally, everybody who supports the arts should join the Arts Action Fund at the $20 level - today.
We have time left to do those things. We should. If we don't, we're once again missing another opportunity to begin to build political power - power we desperately need, and don't have.

Thank you to the participants. I hope you all have a very good week.

Don't Quit!