Tuesday, December 18, 2007

December 18, 2007

END OF YEAR WRAP UP BLOG

Hello everybody.

Happy Holidays to you all.

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

YEAR END PREDICTIONS?

For the last two years, I have included as the last blog of the calendar year, a year end wrap-up of predicitions, review and thoughts from members of my little group of arts leaders about where our sector has been in the past year, and where we are headed in the coming year. I have asked my group members if they would share their sense of what we face in the upcoming year, what might be priorities on our agendas, what issues might dominate our thinking and demand our responses, and what we might hope to accomplish.

I again asked my group members (some twenty strong) to particiapate in this exercise. This year I got only eight responses (which I include later in this blog). I must admit that I was both surprised and disappointed, but quickly came to the conclusion that this light response really was an observation in itself - at least pointing up one issue that I personally think will grow in 2008 - and that is the continuing fact that most of those of you actively involved in running organizations in the nonprofit arts & culture sector simply have more to do and less time to do it in than ever before. The economy continues to make it difficult to expand staffing to levels adequate to deal with the increase in all the things we need to do. That fact, of course, echoes what is going on in the private sector --businesses are finding it difficult to expand, and are, rather, contracting, downsizing and having to find ways to become more efficient, remain competitive, and perhaps even increase productivity (certainly there remain pressures on them to increase shareholder value) - all on less, not more money.

THINKING IN TERMS OF 'ORGANIZATIONAL DYNAMICS'
One difference between certain segments of the private sector and the arts universe, is that the private sector seem to have more tools available to them (and perhaps the willingness to spend money and time developing tools)to help them to effectively manage that downsizing, that cutting back, that contraction of their business enterprises. They seem to be further along than we are in terms of figuring out how to accomplish a re-prioritization of their goals, of arriving at ways their leadership and staffs can handle the increased workloads with greater efficiency. They seem to approach the challenge in a much more organized way than we do.

I wonder if there isn't something that can be done to develop tools(perhaps borrow where we can from the private sector - assuming they would share that knowledge with us)that would enhance our capacity to remain equally competitive during the current financial change in the forces that govern our paradign. Are there not lessons we can impart to our organizations about "organizational dynamics" that will help our people deal with the challenges of more to do and less time to do it.

Obviously it is folly to try to put round pegs in square holes. But that's not the challenge. The challenge is how to fill the square holes with the pegs we have and there must be knowledge, tools, strategies, best practices and lessons learned that we can identify, appropriate, or develop that will make the task easier for our people.

I think the issue of time management and the consequences of not prioritizing will be an increasingly important issue for our sector in 2008. And the ability of our field to systemically deal with this kind of a problem, to somehow mimic the private sector in their approach to tackling these kinds of challenges head-on, will likewise be an issue for the future. We are a field, but too often we don't act like an unified field -- we remain a vivisected, isolated, fractionated amalgam of organizations that fail to think systemically and work together. I believe that really hurts us in many ways - some obvious, some hidden. We have to begin to think out-of-the-box as it were in terms of ways we can collaborate and share. I hope the challenge of how we function and operate as a "field" becomes an issue in 2008 that we can begin to try to address.

I usually don't spend much time in these year end blogs with my own thoughts on the future -- primarily because most of the issues I would likely identify, are already explored by the people in my group in their thoughts and ideas, but, for whatever it may be worth, let me share a few thoughts this year, with the hope that as "left field" as they might be, they will stimulate debate and dialgoue -- which continues to be my real puprose in this blog.

First, I think as Americans, we perceive this year as important an election year as we have had in decades. Of course every election cycle begins with candidates saying that this is a crucial and critical time in our history, and I suppose there is truth every time they say it. But after the past eight years, when America has come as close as it ever has in our lifetimes, to beginning to lose its status as a world leader and player, I would argue that there is a palatable sense within the public that there is a lot at stake this time. For many of us, we see that the intangibles that have held us together for so long are beginning to crumble -- that we are in danger of losing whatever it was that bound us together with a common destiny as "Americans" and that if we keep down the road of red states vs. blue states, of true believes and not, of this group and that - we might just lose our identity as a people. Despite what we may do, that may or may not happen anyway - who knows. But it certainly ups the stakes this year. Some are excited by the choices in leadership they have. Partisans are quick to point out their heroes.

All I know is that there is a growing consensus that there is a lot at stake. I believe that feeling will spark a creative boon. By creative boon I mean that at certain times, in certain cycles, there is an upsurge in creativity - in art. I have no idea if artists will be optimistic or pessimistic, enthusiastic and hopeful, or defeated and depressed and - or if - any of that will be manifested in the work. I just think there will be more art created, more interest in it, than has been the norm - beginning in 2008. I don't know what that necessarily means for artists, arts organizations or any of us in the field. It may mean an easier time to raise money, or not; it may mean arts education will finally take hold in the general population as a core value, or it may not; it may mean a rise in the valuation of the artist in society, or not.

ISSUES ON OUR PLATE IN 2008

1. Generational leadership succession;
2. Development (and sharing) of new and effective marketing strategies and audience development approaches and basic assumptions;
3. Governmemnt funding;
4. Arts education as a core priority; and
5. Integration of the artist and the arts administration communities

will all be issues I think we will need to face head on in 2008. Obviously, there will be others.
I will offer one specific prediction: I do think that because this is a landmark election year, and because it's been growing as an issue in our community, 2008 will mark a turning point in the arts sector finally understanding and appreciating that it must, and can successfully, become more politically active and powerful in its own interest and defense and that we will, at least, approach a "tipping-point" on political involvement as part of our daily nonprofit arts lives. I look at the success of Americans for the Arts PAC and the fact that Huckabee and Richardson have both specifically mentioned the arts in debates (unheard of in the last presidential election), and I am encouraged that we've begun to change. It won't all happen at once, but I belive it will happen in a manifest and significant way. I, for one, hope so.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Here are what my group members shared with me:


CORA MIRIKITANI
I hope that we will look back at 2008 as a turning point because:
- A new president is elected who restores our national integrity and global leadership;
- Arts funders find a critical mass, and the will, to finally figure out what to do about the growing number of fragile small and midsized arts organizations;
- Artists in California get their collective voices heard, and state legislation is passed that guarantees quality, affordable health care for them and other self-employed individuals;
- Everyone I know stays healthy, and feels happy and productive in their work, throughout the year


JONATHAN KATZ:
I expect that participation in the arts will grow in the public-benefit sector (which we unfortunately refer to as “non-profit”), grow in the commercial sector, and grow in the unincorporated and amateur sectors. The public benefit arts sector will continue to grow in maturity and political sophistication, increasingly connected through such events as the National Performing Arts Conference and Arts Advocacy Day, such networks as the Cultural Advocacy Group and the Arts Education Partnership, and the themes of “public value” and “creative economy.” I expect, however, that participation in the commercial, unincorporated and amateur sectors will outpace growth in the public benefit sector, and that will make the relationships that both public- and private-sector funders have with their current grantees increasingly a subject of re-evaluation and negotiation. Furthermore, the arts participation habits of young people will become increasingly powerful drivers in the commercial, unincorporated and amateur realms, and the orientation of public benefit groups and their service organizations towards adaptation will tip from observation and research to embrace and investment.


One of the most powerful factors influencing the breadth and quality of participation in the arts, arts education, remains a huge question mark. In the coming year, results of Wallace, Ford and Dana foundation investments will add to the evidence and tactical knowledge available to advocates. But education decision makers—and the public they serve—continue to withdraw resources as evidence of the value of arts learning becomes more and more compelling, and the public school drop-out rate continues at catastrophic levels.

Meanwhile, all groups in the public benefit arts world will jockey for influence in the next federal administration. In the ideal world, a new administration would offer a special opportunity for collaborative orientation, shared analysis of the environment, and development of a national agenda. May we approach a little closer to the ideal world in 2008.

PAUL MINICUCCI:
I do not have much to contribute Barry. I see the arts a little adrift. The arts profile right now politically is pretty slight, which may be a good thing. I think the agenda of the 80s and 90s and into early years of this decade to expand the arts to disinclined or uninclined populations is at a standstill. A lot of artists and organizations I know are concentrating on dealing with changes in their artform and on better customer service and not looking at public policy. On the other hand availability of product is pretty good. I am not sure what it means. I think the public thinks they are engaged in arts every day and do not resonate with clarion calls for increased spending for non-profits. At the same time, I don't see the arts slipping much either. I think the trend of increased interest in visual and media arts and softer interest in traditional forms such as classical music will continue.

I do not see the arts having a strong profile among presidential candidates. Consequently I have a wait and see attitude toward the arts in the next year or so.
 

Have a good holiday.

RANDY ROSENBAUM:
Hey, Barry. Rhode Island is under a foot of snow, and we're handling it really, really well. So, as I look ahead to 2008, my thoughts are that the arts sector should insist on what other sectors take for granted: the ability to be taken seriously as a valued and contributing member of our state's (and country's) business community. No one would think of not inviting the financial services sector "to the table" for discussions of substance. The same should be a given for the arts sector. As long as we are an afterthought or an amenity in the minds of our political and business leaders we are subject to the kinds of reductions and eliminations that other sectors wouldn't tolerate for a minute. The Rhode Island budget is in terrible shape, and I need to make the old arguments all over again.

Boy, I'm in a good mood. Happy holidays to all.


JODI BEZNOSKA:
2008, pragmatically, will be about the election. What will it do to the power of our marketing dollars, to the focus of our customers, to the government support for our efforts? How will the political machine's focus on new media change the way the arts use these fascinating and challenging tools? I don't know, but it's sure going to be interesting to launch a Broadway show on election night.

Stepping back to a less pragmatic view point, Andrew Taylor's Artful Manager blog recently featured an entry on how "local" isn't necessarily local anymore. In this case, it was DJs recording a show on one side of the country and audiences hearing it on the other side, complete with local customization. In Andrew's words: "...when local isn't local anymore, it's worth a moment's pause." It sure is, but I see it as another sign of what could happen in 2008 and beyond.

Everything is about virtual life these days. I-Pod's, Facebook, you name it - we are in control of our virtual life. Consumers are demanding more choice and more information and making decisions based on the opinions of trusted amateurs rather than "experts" or retail managers. It's a whole new world out there, and retailers and businesses of all types are scrambling to keep up.

But it's my strong belief that as this virtual and consumer-driven world evolves, there is a vital and desired place for live performance. After all, the more we exist online, the more we will eventually crave real experiences. As the market is continually flooded with more niche products and customized consumer experiences, we offer the beauty and meaning of coming together in a community. Churches figured this out a long time ago. Now it's our turn.

Thanks, Barry, for the opportunity to participate in this great forum of leaders and thinkers. Happy New Year everyone, and I wish you all a very inspiring and successful 2008!


NANCY GLAZE:
Much of what I believe is important to pay attention to in the coming year is included in the Americans for the Arts Monograph "The Arts in Transition: Preparing for a Sustainable Future" that I co-authored with Bill Moskin. In it, we highlight a number of topics that may dictate the health and nature of the sector in the very near future. One obvious area to pay attention to is the generational shift that is underway as the baby boomers retire. This will bring a variety of challenges as the sensibilities and experience of each generation differ. Another hot topic is the impact of the digital world and its effect how art is produced, delivered and experienced. This and other factors will influence the delivery system for the arts. Those organizations that have developed over the past 30 years should be prepared to adapt to these changes and funders must be quick to recognize innovative organizations and projects if we are to keep pace and keep the arts sector healthy.


SHANNON DAUT:
I am (cautiously) optimistic about 2008--I believe we will see a continuation of the positive shift in our political and cultural landscape. In the past year, arts organizations and artists have embraced new technologies in innovative ways. The coming year will continue this trend, with arts organizations increasing engagement with audiences and constituents through the use of highly interactive technology. Additionally, my hope is that the arts field will begin to explore new avenues for offering audiences participatory experiences on the web. As people's leisure habits shift, the arts must be poised to take the lead in developing creative ways to provide cultural experiences to a community whose inclination to enter the symphony hall or museum may be waning. By using our greatest asset--creativity!--we can take a proactive role in providing the arts to audiences, in new, fun and unique ways.


GARY STEUER:
Here are some thoughts from me on what the arts sector faces in 2008:


1) I think the growing interest in consumption of artistic product by consumers outside of the vehicle of the traditional nonprofit 501c3 organizations will continue to drive a more expansive view of "the field" that includes informal arts, music clubs and concert venues, record labels, craft artists and organizations, faith-based arts, architecture and design, etc. It is still unclear how this will affect existing nonprofit arts organizations, service organizations and funders, most of which do not yet embrace this broader definition.

2) Related to number one, the shift in how many Americans "consume" their arts and culture will continue to have a major impact on certain demographic segments, especially young people and immigrant communities. As some "traditional art" struggles with how to sustain audiences and relevance today, many of these market segments are in fact actively consuming art, just not through the “supply chain” the nonprofit arts industry has developed. This issue will only grow in importance in 2008.

3) Related to both 1 and 2, I am optimistic that, spurred by the Metropolitan Opera and other innovators, arts groups around the country will begin to get much more creative about how they use new technology and creative strategies to better reach new audiences and create a revitalized sense of relevance.

4) After essentially declining for several years up until 2005, and then rebounding a bit in 2006 (the last year for which data is available), I believe corporate support for the arts will continue to rebound – albeit slowly – both in dollars and in market share, as arts organization and advocates make a more powerful case for the relevance of the arts in fostering healthy communities and the personal qualities and behaviors that make better workers and better citizens.

5) I believe the much-touted "crisis" of a growing leadership gap in the nonprofit arts will recede as an issue in 2008, as it becomes clear we have an extraordinary cohort of smart, dedicated young leaders eager to contribute to the field. Demographically, there may be fewer Gen Xers than Boomers and Gen Yers, but the challenge may be solved by more openness on the part of Boards and senior leadership to give leadership opportunities at younger ages, something that has frankly already happened in business where 20-somethings are running multi-billion dollar corporations. It will also be a challenge for the field to adjust to a new generation of leaders who will lead in different ways, and will radically reshape the field and the organizations they are leading.


I would love to know what you think. Please share your thoughts on what issues our sector will face in 2008. What will challenge us? What will impact our decision making and best efforts? What issues ought to top our agendas? What surprises lurk out there that will affect our operations? What should be our priorities?

Please scroll down and enter your comment.

I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season, and that the New Year brings you great 
success, prosperity and satisfaction.

Thank you for all that you do.

Don't Quit!

Barry

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

October 31, 2007

Barry's Blog


Hi everybody.

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

Here's my interview with Andrew Taylor of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration

Andrew Taylor Bio: Andrew Taylor is Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration www.bolzcenter.org - an MBA degree program and research center in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. An author, lecturer, and researcher on a broad range of arts management issues, Andrew has also served as a consultant to arts organizations and cultural initiatives throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the International Society for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theatre, the Center for Arts and Culture, and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and helped develop the budget pro forma and operating plan for the $205-million Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin. Andrew is currently the president of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (www.artsadministration.org), an international association of degree-granting programs in arts and cultural management, research, and policy, and is a consulting editor for The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society. Since July 2003, he has written a popular weblog on the business of arts and culture, The Artful Manager, hosted by ArtsJournal.com (www.artfulmanager.com).

Barry: There are many ways for arts and cultural professionals to learn and advance their craft. Where do degree-granting programs in higher education fit into that spectrum of learning opportunities?

Andrew: Like most other professionals, arts and cultural managers can learn on the job, through professional development at conferences and workshops, through self-study or mentorship, or through a number of other paths and resources. In fact, most responsive leaders in the arts will always be learning through one of these means, as there's always more to learn. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs provide a place and process for uniquely intensive and sequential learning in the full range of skills and insights required of cultural management. For some, a degree program provides a fast-track through what would take decades to learn on the job. For others, these programs offer a space to rethink what they've learned through experience, and to connect it with the theory, critical thinking, and personal/professional networks they need to evolve their work in the arts.

You certainly don't need a business degree to run a business. Nor do you need a communications degree to serve as an effective communications professional. But these structured learning opportunities, along with the rich environments and personal networks they provide, can bring you to a different place in your life and your work than you could discover without them. It's the same with degree programs in arts administration.

Barry: When I was the Director of the California Arts Council, there were degree programs in Arts Administration at U.C.L.A. and Golden Gate University. Those programs no longer exist. Can you give us status report and an assessment of university arts administration program provision in the U.S. today? How many schools offer curriculum in the area? And are we turning out more or fewer graduates from these programs than say four years ago? Where do you see this area going in the next few years? What obstacles will it face?

Andrew: There have been a few graduate and undergraduate degree programs that have closed shop over the years, due to the retirement of their founding directors or changing priorities for their host institutions but others have risen in equal or greater numbers. Over the past four years, I'd estimate that the total number of degree programs in arts and cultural management has grown slightly, with some more significant growth in undergraduate programs.

As for numbers, The Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE), the international collective of degree-granting institutions in arts and cultural management, has 59 full member programs and 37 associate member programs, the large majority of which are based in North America - http://www.artsadministration.org

In the next few years, I'd expect roughly the same slow growth in programs and graduates. As the environment for cultural organizations continues to change rather dramatically, our challenge will be adapting our curriculum and programs in response, to ground our students to know how the world used to work while preparing them for the world to come.

Barry: Follow up Question: Can you give me some examples of how you think curriculum in arts nonprofit programs will likely change in the next couple of years in response to a changing environment in which our arts & culture nonprofits operate? For example, I am a vocal proponent of advancing the sector's advocacy and lobbying skills, and for arts leadership to make advocacy and lobbying a part of the job description of arts organization senior staff and board members yet advocacy and lobbying doesn't seem to yet be a part of most higher arts management programs. Do you think that is an area that will change? Are there others you can point to?

Andrew: The shape and sequence of the coursework will likely remain much the same, as such things move at a glacial pace in higher education. But the content of the required courses is changing all the time. For example, introductory marketing courses used to emphasize fairly basic consumer awareness and decision-making models. Today, a course with the same title will cover much more sophisticated terrain, like customer analysis and segmentation, value-based pricing, and channel strategy.

For me, the constant challenge is to resist the impulse to respond to complex changes by adding more complexity to our curriculum. As we notice more globalization in the arts, shifts in leisure time, challenges to copyright, and the like, the impulse is to tack on more and more readings and topics, rather than rethinking things down to their underlying forms. This is certainly true in connecting students to marketing and development. We used to treat these two income streams as entirely different entities (and many arts organizations are still structured as if they are different endeavors). Yet, really, marketing and development are just different corollaries of the same challenge: matching your organization's strengths with an individual's or organization's needs and values, and encouraging more of them to commit their resources to you. Come to think of it, that describes volunteer staffing and governance, as well.

The growing need for advocacy and lobbying fits this simplicity effort as well. The two primary jobs for governing boards and top leadership are to ensure that their organizations work effectively and productively, and that there are sufficient resources and support to sustain that success over time. Lobbying and advocacy are essential elements of both of these primary tasks.

So, what I hope will evolve in our curricula and our learning strategies is a new simplicity, a growing emphasis on elegance and elemental insight, rather than just teaching more and more stuff. As Leonardo Da Vinci is credited with saying (who knows if he actually did): Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. But it's a bear to get there.

Barry: If the number of graduates from these programs is on the increase, does that mean the number of jobs available for these graduates is similarly increasing? Or to put the question another way, is arts administration more viable as a career path today than it was a few years ago? Are students optimistic that they will find the jobs they are looking for after graduation? And if they are optimistic, is that optimism justified by the reality? As a follow-up question, is recruitment for these programs difficult? Is it easier than it was a few years ago? How do these schools go about recruiting the best and brightest?

Andrew: I can only speak from my own experience and the conversations I have with my colleagues at other programs, but I think that the supply of graduates and the demand for them in the market are well matched. We have great success in placing our graduates in substantial jobs around the country, and I know other programs do, as well. What's more, we know that graduates advance quickly in the ranks, once their organizations experience what they can do.

Of course, the career success of our graduates is a different matter than the viability of cultural management on the grander scale. Most indicators suggest that the dramatic growth in the number and size of arts organizations of the past few decades has hit a plateau. Most of the forces that fueled that growth, massive increases in wealth; availability of workforce to staff, govern, and volunteer; and under-penetrated cultural markets, have leveled or declined.

It's an increasingly challenging time to work in any capacity at a professional nonprofit arts organization. But to the benefit of degree programs and the students within them, those challenges are growing the demand for thoughtful, innovative, and accountable leaders and staff.

Barry: Follow-up question: Do you think the pay level for arts administrators particularly at the levels the graduates from these programs both enter and aspire to will likely increase so as to remain somewhat competitive with other jobs those students might take? Will their holding a degree help to raise the pay structure? And what about the mid-level administrators who are not graduates of programs and don't hold degrees will they benefit from increased pay levels as well? Much of arts & culture funding is program based and even basic operational support often ignores salary needs what are your thoughts on how to advance the profession of arts administration through increased compensation packages to our leadership?

Andrew: First off, conversations about compensation always need to recognize that it's a complex calculus. People have all sorts of reasons for committing their time, talent, and attention to careers in cultural management, or any other career for that matter. Salary is certainly an essential element of those calculations, but only one. Also in the mix are a sense of purpose, productive contribution to an endeavor you value, connections to co-workers and constituents who enrich and challenge you, and a sense of joy and play.

On average, the arts industry will always be resource-poor in capital and operating cash, it will be delivering services at below their true total cost, and it will be striving toward mission statements that are much larger than its capacity to deliver. We'll make up some of the difference in contributed income, volunteer labor, and the fiscal privilege of the nonprofit form. And we'll make up the rest in relatively lower salaries as compared to our commercial peers. There will be outliers in large and iconic cultural organizations, but there's no escaping the math.

Does that mean we can't structure organizations that pay a living wage with benefits that respect the time, talent, and commitment of staff and leadership? No, of course not. It just means we have to be resourceful in our human resource practices, thoughtful in our organizational scope and scale, and competitive in the full definition of compensation.

I've been pleased to see a steady increase in starting salaries for our graduates, and a growing willingness for thoughtful organizations to shape competitive compensation, even when they have to be creative with vacation time, professional development, and other non-monetary benefits. As the labor pool constricts over the coming decade (which demographics say it must), the market will force this kind of resourcefulness for those who want the most qualified and productive leaders.

Barry: What constitutes the core subjects in a balanced arts administration education program today? What areas of arts administration education are we, in your opinion, doing a good job at covering? Which areas are we not doing such a good job?

Andrew: The benefit of having a full complement of independent graduate and undergraduate degree programs around the country is that there is more than one answer to those questions. Some programs emphasize community engagement, some balance toward business, some focus on a specific arts discipline, some are entirely cross-disciplinary. If prospective students take time to understand their choices, they can find the mix, balance, and teaching philosophy that match their own learning interests and career goals.

The Association of Arts Administration Educators (AAAE) website at www.artsadministration.org is a great resource to begin this comparison, and it will soon be getting much better as we launch the association's web redesign in the coming months.

But within that range and variety, there are certainly essential elements of an integrated curriculum in arts and cultural management. AAAE recently developed graduate program curriculum standards to clarify and advance those essential elements among its graduate-level member programs. Those standards recommend both coursework and service learning in the production and distribution of art, financial analysis and budget management, income generation through earned and contributed sources, strategic planning, legal and ethical environments, policy, institutional leadership, and international issues.

Undergraduate programs will have a different mix at a different level of engagement, as they also need to cover the broader goals of undergraduate education.

As for where we're doing a good job in arts administration education and where we aren't, there's no way to provide a general response. All of the degree programs have unique strengths. All of us are also working to continually improve. For me, one of the larger frustrations is the disconnect between academic programs in arts administration and leadership development initiatives outside academia. It seems so obvious that efforts on both sides would benefit from more seamless conversation and collaboration. And yet each side seems to work in isolation from the other.

Barry: Follow-up question: Why is that? What can we do to build intersections between those academic programs and the initiatives outside academia?

Andrew: I'm honestly not sure what created these separate camps, as it makes no sense for either side to disconnect from the knowledge and insight of the other. I hear grumblings from non-academic programs that the academics are detached from real-world challenges. And I hear similar grumblings from the academic world that practitioner-based programs lack reflection and rigor. Both are right and both are wrong. And it's certainly not a challenge unique to arts administration you'll hear similar strains in almost any industry with specialized academic programs.

The only way to build those intersections is to continue to try. The AAAE is working to build more meaningful and productive bridges with national service organizations, and they seem more eager than ever to connect with our programs. If we can gain some little victories and I think we can we can slowly disassemble these flawed perspectives and unproductive barriers we've constructed over the decades.

In the end, the theory/practice argument is silly. You can't take action without a working theory of the challenge in front of you even if that theory is unspoken and unexamined. And you can't advance theory without direct interaction with real people making real choices.

Barry: Generational succession is a hot button topic, and how the arts & culture sector can, and will, attract new blood from the next generation will likely greatly impact the future health of the sector what is the role arts administration education (particularly at the university level) in helping to insure that the sector has a reliable stream of qualified new talent to join its leadership ranks? How has it fared in successfully playing out that role?

Andrew: I'll have to admit that I have a growing frustration with the tone and tenor of our proclaimed leadership crisis as explored at national conferences and among arts leaders. From my vantage point, the arts world is swimming in extraordinary prospective leaders with great ideas, entrepreneurial spirit, killer skills, and passion for the arts. I meet passionate and competent young and mid-career arts professionals everywhere I go. But I also watch them leave the sector because of their own frustration with the work they are allowed to do.

The problem, in my opinion, isn't a lack of prospects entering the pipeline, but rather an extraordinarily leaky pipe. Working in an arts organization should be one of the most powerful mixtures of passion and profession. As other industries strive to meet growing workforce demand for jobs with meaning, personal value, connection, and impact, arts organizations so often seem to squander the riches they hold in these very areas. Through rigid leadership and governance structures, advancing professionalism above passion, growing aversion to risk in programming and in practice, and strangely sterile and joyless work environments, many arts organizations have modeled the corporate ideal of the 1950s just as corporations are rediscovering creative expression. It's an odd irony that we feel we can't compete for tomorrow's knowledge workers, when we can offer so much of what those workers claim they want.

In most of the hand-wringing by established arts leaders about not seeing a next generation to succeed them, I hear a consistent subtext that what they're really not seeing is leaders like them. This next group of arts leaders will work differently, balance their work and life differently, and aggressively work to reshape our current understanding of how arts organizations can and should be run. It doesn't mean that their predecessors did things badly, just that each generation brings its own style and flair to the challenge. And thank goodness for that!

As for the role of higher education programs in this challenge, I'd say we have several. First, our programs need to work continually with practitioners to understand what competencies are needed, and how the environment is changing. If we graduate students that can't excel at the job at hand, we've missed a primary part of our calling. Beyond that, however, academic programs have a unique opportunity to reframe the conversation about arts and cultural leadership. Through research, convenings, service learning, collaborations with national and international service organizations, and conversations with our alumni, arts administration degree programs can help define the job ahead, while also serving the job at hand.

I think we've already seen extraordinary contributions to this conversation from academic programs across the country and around the world. And, to my mind, this is the most productive space for academic programs to explore.

Barry: In the follow-up public forums on the study we did for the Hewlett Foundation Youth Involvement in the Arts (click here to download the full report: http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/PerformingArts/Publications/YouthReport.htmwww.hewlettfoundation.org), a number of young people in several venues decried that the work offered them was pedestrian in nature, made no attempt to utilize their talents and was rigidly authoritarian, not allowing for them any meaningful decision-making authority. Those views echoed conclusions in the report itself by organizations that had successful programs to involve more young people. Given your observations, how would you suggest we begin a sector wide systemic change in our attitudes as to the recruitment and involvement of young people?

Andrew: I sure wish that I knew where the levers were to impact systemic change on this issue. It's a constant frustration to release bright and insightful students back into the workforce only to hear them frustrated and undervalued. I'm not suggesting they should be given the keys to the kingdom, but it's astounding what a little honest and responsive listening can do, as well as a clear sense that their actions and insights are valued.

I suppose the ever-increasing competition for labor will eventually force more thoughtful change. Corporations in other fields are working fast and furiously to rethink their work environments, their recruiting and advancement strategies, and their pipeline of potential leaders. Arts organizations that don't do the same will increasingly fall short of their promise, and eventually fall flat on their faces.

Barry: Arts organizations are really small businesses at their core with all of the positive things small businesses can offer local communities, and all of the problems and challenges every small business faces does the current arts administration education, thinking adequately address the needs of future arts administrators to become smart small business entrepreneurs in an increasingly competitive marketplace?

Andrew: The concept of an arts organization as a small business, resonates deeply with my program, and many programs of my peers. Even at a huge annual operating budget (like $30 million or more), arts organizations are small businesses for a range of reasons. They live on cash and die on cash flow, they excel only when a complex number of constituencies work in alignment, and they are personal endeavors that thrive on relationship and human interaction.

I know that many of my peer programs are working hard to advance this way of thinking, and I also know that a new generation of students is demanding it. I experience that push from my own students, and it drives me to work even harder to change the game. As one example, students are increasingly interested in exploring non-traditional corporate forms for expressive organizations from hybrid for-profit/nonprofit structures to informal, non-corporate organizations, to entirely commercial enterprises that still strive for mission over money.

The traditional, professional, independently operated 501c3 organization is certainly one tool in the toolbox. But a vibrant future cultural ecosystem will demand leaders with a mastery of many tools.

Barry: Many people have suggested that it's time for the old models to die and be replaced by new models that adapt to the changing times. And that may apply to the wider nonprofit universe as a whole. How can we facilitate moving from one paradigm to another and minimize the fear, disruptions, and challenges that come with wholesale change?

Andrew: I actually have this argument with my arts consultant friends quite a bit these days. After working with an endless string of struggling nonprofit arts organizations, all sharing the inevitable challenges of the nonprofit corporate structure, they can't help but wonder if there's a better way waiting in the wings.

I'm not so ready to toss out the nonprofit structure, as it has proven to be powerful in advancing non-market-supported expressive forms. But I am ready to toss out all the myths and common conceptions of what the nonprofit form looks like. On paper, it's really not that complicated, a board of three or more, some basic rules about the distribution of net revenue and the avoidance of personal gain, and some loose but convincing ties to serving the public trust. George Thorn and Nello McDaniel figured this out decades ago, that the large majority of our troubles with nonprofit structure are due to the mythology we invest in it.

But of course, there should be a full range of means to advance the expressive life of our communities and the creative voices of our artists. Tomorrow's arts ecology will need to work harder to match organizational and corporate structure to the specific challenge at hand. The good ol' 501c3 will remain an important part of the solution. At least, so says I.

Barry: Is there any national consensus on policy being developed within the arts administration education community that can serve as a guideline for future decision-making in this area? If not, why not? If there is, how is that policy arrived at?

Andrew: Cultural policy is such a multi-headed monster in the United States, I would doubt that anyone could forge a national consensus. It's a creature of government at every level, federal, state, county, municipal but also of organized philanthropy, individual giving, and corporate support, generally forged as the byproduct of initiatives outside the arts and advanced without much communication between the players.

I think higher education can play a productive role in policy on several levels. Through dispassionate and rigorous research, we can inform and advance a productive conversation based on evidence and reflection. Through cross-sectoral and cross-disciplinary convenings and partnerships, we can provide neutral ground for multiple constituents to learn together. Through curriculum and service learning, we can engage a next generation of leaders in the pitfalls and potential of the policy environment, and give them the tools to join the fray. And through all of this work, we can serve as translators, connectors, provocateurs, and thought-leaders to keep things moving forward.

Are we hitting all of the above on all cylinders? Of course not. But we're working at it. And some of the best policy work I know of is being done or supported by arts administration programs and their faculty in higher education.

Barry: You seem to suggest a greater role for your sector which I think will find a very sympathetic audience in the wider nonprofit arts field. How do you think that expanded role can best be rolled out?

Andrew: I can see a vast number of potential connections, but I can't yet figure the best ways to get there. For example, our degree programs have hundreds of students ready to research important questions in policy and practice and, in fact, many are required to do so as part of their coursework. At the same time, service organizations and policy-makers are swimming in vexing but essential questions with no time or resources to address them. How can we connect the student researchers with the subjects that will really inform our future, while giving them a substantial taste for policy development in the process?

Many arts administration education programs are already doing exceptional work in this regard. Carnegie Mellon's program has constructed a fantastic Arts and Culture Observatory initiative to provide on-going research on the state and shape of their region's arts infrastructure http://aco.artsnet.org/.

Joan Jeffri at Columbia University Teachers College has long been a focused and passionate researcher on artists and arts policy http://www.tc.columbia.edu/faculty/index.htm?facid=jj64.

Margaret Wyszomirski at Ohio State University is an arts policy juggernaut, and connects her students with real-world challenges and the tools to assess them http://arted.osu.edu/personnel/wyszomirski.php

Perhaps we can model these successful efforts and adapt them to work elsewhere.

I'd love to hear the thoughts of your readers and peers as to where and how we can move things forward.

Barry: You're the current President of the Association of Arts Administration Educators. Can you explain what that organization is all about? Is there an annual gathering? Are there ways you guys share information and work together in program development? Do you intersect with each other (or other sectors of the arts & culture universe) in terms of curriculum development or in other ways?

Andrew: Yes, I'm honored to be serving my term as president of the AAAE. It's an international association of arts and cultural management programs in higher education, started about 30 years ago as many of these programs were forming. We have an annual conference (our next is in Madison in April 2008). We connect our members on-line and in person to advance their programs and explore their craft. We engage prospective students in arts and cultural management and help them find a productive fit. We work with national and international service organizations, associations, and related networks. And we provide a forum for advancing the reach and quality of research, teaching, and service in this unique and complex field.

I've already mentioned our association's work in developing graduate program curriculum standards, and the tools surrounding them. Our members can use these standards to evaluate their own programs, and connect with peers who can help them grow and evolve where they identify the need to do so. We also know that the standards have been invaluable to new degree programs as they develop. And we are using them to inform our conversations with practitioners and professional development initiatives outside academia. We have a team of our members now exploring a similar effort for undergraduate programs.

Beyond this important and meaningful work, I'll admit that my favorite aspect of the association is the opportunity to gather with peers. These are brilliant, funny, reflective, insightful individuals. These are old friends and valued colleagues. These are members of an extended family with the common bond of advancing, celebrating, and supporting the expressive life of our planet, and the leaders who make it run.

Barry: You go to a lot of conferences - and participate as a speaker or panelist at a goodly number of them, is there, in your opinion, enough of a focus on issues germane to the provision of arts administration education? If not, where might more groups focus?

Andrew: I do travel the conference circuit a lot, and I'm sad to say that the arts and cultural industry lacks a thoughtful, responsive, and consistent learning infrastructure at almost every level. We're oddly insular in how we gather, and how we structure our learning, by discipline, by job function, by geographic region. And the bulk of our conference learning time is spent on tactics as to how to write a grant, use a blog, manage a mail campaign, rather than on strategy or lateral thinking.

To be fair to the conference conveners, it's a nearly impossible task to build such an infrastructure in such a rapidly evolving industry, especially when so many established arts leaders discount the value of continual learning. But I know that many of the national service organizations are working to turn this around, to rethink how they engage their members and advance a more curious culture among arts professionals, and to rebuild our rather sparse research infrastructure in a way that advances collective understanding and strategy.

We've built so many bunkers over the decades, and searched so desperately for good news about the arts and society to advance our cause, that we've lost much of our ability to question ourselves and each other out loud, to seek the connections among our disciplines, and to explore the integral links we have to other industries, other fields, and to the larger world. These are the fundamental building blocks of significant learning and field transformation in any field, and most definitely in the arts. One positive impact of the dramatic changes now taking place in the arts is the new ascendance of these qualities in our conversations.

Barry: If you had ten million dollars to spend to improve arts administrator education, how would you spend the money?

Andrew: I think we need a significant and sustained investment in fostering greater diversity in our student rosters, as the professional nonprofit arts also need more diversity in their staffs, leadership, and boards. A portion of the $10 million could make a tiny turn in that direction.

I also would segment some resources to encourage, support, and disseminate research on arts and cultural management issues, as we've only begun to scratch the surface of what we need to know to be effective teachers, managers, and leaders. And this doesn't take a bucket of money. For example, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is currently providing small grant incentives to researchers that will dive deeper into a recently developed data set on arts audiences. The grants (of $2000 to $5000 at the most) refocus bright minds on an essential issue in the arts, while generating new insight on existing data.

Finally, I'd fund a series of opportunities to encourage cross-talk and collaborative work between academic programs in arts administration and national service organizations. There's so much potential for mutual learning and growth between these worlds that even a tiny spark could set off a bonfire. If I had change left over from the $10 million after that, I'd probably buy some gum.

Thank you Andrew.


Couple of Announcements:

1. Alonzo King's LINES Ballet celebrates its 25th Anniversary with an extraordinary presentation of two new works at its Fall Season beginning this Friday night at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco. The opening night Gala Party is sold-out, but there still tickets available to the performances during the run.

Click here for more information LINES Ballet www.linesballet.org/ and I hope as many of you as possible get the chance to see one of the world's truly great artists at the peak of his career.

2. The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco (on whose board I sit) has one of the truly great educational programs (in partnership with the S.F. school district) that reaches out to kids who have otherwise given up on school, and connects with them in a practical, hands-on, project-based learning program that lets the kids become part of an architectural / building team in the design of an actual project, click here for info on the foundation: www.afsf.org . The foundation is having an Arts Auction on November 8th from 5:30 to 10:30 pm at the Haworth Design firm in San Francisco at 9 Maritime Plaza (across from Embarcadero Center). This will be a free, fun event and the donated art (so far) is really quite spectacular. Please come out and for a very good cause. And if you are an artist and would consider donating one of your original works to this very good cause, I would be most grateful. Please contact either Claudia Valdivia at Claudia.valdivia@haworth.com (415.981.8795 x 223) or John Giordano at John.giordano@haworth.com (415.981-8795 x238)

Have a good week.
 

Don't Quit!

Barry

Monday, September 3, 2007

September 03, 2007

Hi everybody.

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

THE BOARD OF DIRECTOR RETREAT
"And I can tell by your friendly face, there's a meeting here tonight...."


I have facilitated a score of Board Retreats in the past 18 months. Having been on numerous Boards of Directors, both for profit and nonprofit, as well as the Executive Director / President of several organizations, again both public and private I have some familiarity with how those who wear different hats approach this common tool and depending of which hat you wear, you are likely to approach these gatherings from very different perspectives, sets of expectations, and the way you prefer the agendas to be set. I saw these meetings in much different ways as a Board member than I did as the staff person running the organization.

Like anything else, this seemingly simple and easy device to help organizations set priorities, review programs, develop short and long term strategies and deal with current situations and issues turns out not to be nearly as simple and easy to do well as one might think. As facilitation of Board Retreats is becoming a growing segment of my consulting time, I'd like to share with you some basic lessons I've learned so far.

Why hold the Retreat?
Ideally, I suppose the concept of the Annual Board Retreat would be to review the progress of the organization as measured against its current Strategic Plan and to use the time to make adjustments and accommodations to changing circumstances. The world is not ideal of course, so frequently Retreats become sessions to deal with pressing problems and obstacles (the most pressing usually being financial challenges some catastrophic and critical, some routine and recurring).

Here are some common focuses for Retreats:

1) It is common for Retreat agendas to center on reviewing, analyzing, and tinkering with new or existent programs of the organization. (Sometimes this discussion is framed by the idea that the organization has reached a crossroads and must make a decision as to which way to proceed).

2) The second most common focus seems to be on the organizations finances.

3) Retreats are sometimes used as planning sessions for an upcoming milestone event often fundraising or celebratory (such an a big anniversary year).

4) Retreats sometimes are used as budget planning sessions for the upcoming fiscal year;

5) Sometimes treated as an intervention strategy in a crisis situation be it financial, personnel, philosophic or programmatic. This use is often precipitated by some event or confrontation having occurred and frequently involves a division or rift between factions on the board, or between the Board (or factions thereof) and the key executive staff.

6) Finally, Retreats try to deal (usually unsuccessfully) with all of the above and more.
All of these focuses are legitimate. And the Retreat that is confined to a presentation of status reports and new programs and actions under consideration is also a valid use of the time. In part, the Retreat also offers the opportunity, irrespective of the agenda items, for the Board to interact with each other, forge working bonds, become more involved and familiar with the organization its programs, challenges, successes and gray areas and with the staff, and in the process increase their contributions as board members.

It is advisable for the Board Chair (or Executive Committee) in concert with the Executive Director and Senior Staff to come to a consensus as to what the purpose of any given years Retreat will be.

The biggest mistake made in holding Board Retreats is the mistaken assumption that the time (usually less than a day) is sufficient to deal with all of the issues, problems and decisions to be made.

Here then are some observations:

1. Staging a successful Board Retreat depends on planning, planning and more planning. Far too many organizations, either devote too little time to this part of the exercise, or, worse, they skip the planning part altogether except for creating a bare bones agenda. I have seen numerous organizations put together the retreat agenda in less than five minutes either on the phone or by email. This lack of prior planning and careful consideration of the issues the organization faces, the decisions that need to be made and the various scenarios of the consequences of those decisions virtually guarantees the Retreat will be minimally successful at best.

2. Focus and prioritize. The reason planning is so critical, is the almost universal mistake made by nonprofit organizations in erroneously assuming they will accomplish far more than the time will allow. This is perhaps the most common of all erroneous assumptions on which Board Retreats are based the idea that in a single day, the organization can address, fully vet and discuss, and come to conclusions and solutions to challenges and obstacles it faces. The fact is that a single day Board Retreat is a finite period of time, much more limited than people think, and you absolutely must prioritize your agenda and deal with a manageable number of issues if you want the meeting to be successful. You cannot reasonably expect to effectively deal with a long list of issues and challenges, nor can you adequately address any specific crisis situation in a single day. Don't try.

Limit the issues: Thus it is essential to prioritize to pick and choose among the many issues facing the organization and concentrate on the most important and immediate ones, and to decide, before hand, what decisions the Board will have to make at the Retreat to enable the outcomes that are desired.

3. Don't schedule a long day retreat. Another common error is in scheduling a too long a day for the retreat. You can start early, but you cannot then reasonably expect that any time longer than a normal eight hour day will yield productive results (and 6 hours is more realistic). You cannot help but waste some of your time, - people will get off course, ideas lead to new, unanticipated discussions, there is often no immediate consensus on key issues and it takes more time than you think to set up the discussions and summarize or present facts to assimilate. And then people just get tired. The end of the retreat must produce some kind of resolution to whatever the challenges the issues addressed presented that is the whole purpose of a retreat. If the day is too long, when your Board gets to the point where they need fresh thinking and ideas to come to consensus decision making and specific steps for post retreat action, there will not be the energy left conducive to formulation of an organizational strategy.

Don't forget to take breaks along the way.

4. Prior consideration of the agenda: While many organizations have an annual Board Retreat held roughly the same time each year, other organizations schedule a Board Retreat when they think the time is right. In either case, an Agenda that focuses on the most pressing needs and issues, arrived at by some prior consensus, is necessary if the day will yield results. The more input into the agenda from the participants, the easier the discussions will proceed and the better the chance that the time will be used productively. An Agenda is a guideline not just an outline.

5. Input and more input: A successful Retreat is directly proportionate to the amount of planning you do BEFORE the actual day. As expectations can be widely variant, it is important that everybody starts with the same expectations as to what will be the focus, what the priorities are (and are not), how the day will be structured and what the anticipated outcomes will be at the end. All Board members should have the opportunity to weigh in with their perspective, and those who choose not to, should at least be given the opportunity to review the thoughts and suggestions of those that do. Anonymity can be maintained if that is an issue. Input can easily be obtained via telephone calls, emails and the like.

6. Think Physical: Some consideration should be given to where the Retreat will be held accessibility, parking, comfort, room to work, pleasantness, food, drink etc. The room environment should encourage frank but businesslike discussion; it should be comfortable and pleasant -- you are going to spend a long day there. Such retreats are frequently held at the home of a Board member, and this is acceptable, though I personally prefer a more business setting - board rooms can be ideal.

7. Facilitation: Some thought should be given to what kind of meeting facilitation would work best. Do you want a quiet hand to gently guide the discussion, someone to act essentially as a cheerleader to encourage open dialogue, or do you need a strong take charge presence to insure the meeting flows and isn't dominated by one person or faction? Is the Retreat likely to be friendly or contentious? Are there major personnel, financial, program or other issues to be resolved? Do you want someone known to the organization to help with the facilitation or do you want someone from outside? Some organizations don't bother with a facilitator, but 90% of organizations would be greatly helped were they to secure professional help. But avoid the other mistake - that after you have hired someone to facilitate the retreat that you no longer have to involve yourself in the planning. A good facilitator should insist that you spend time mutually assessing the priorities of the organization, the major issues and challenges it is currently facing, and what outcomes the Board would like to see come out of the retreat - and work together to set the agenda, prepare the Board, and guide the day's discussion. A good facilitator is only as good as the cooperation, input and time and energy the Board and staff are willing to put into the effort. Too many people assume the facilitator will do it all. They can't. They can only facilitate.

8. Prior tutorials: Depending on what the focus is for the Retreat, it is often a good idea to make sure that not only does everyone have all the background materials needed, but that everyone is familiar with how to read and understand those materials. Thus, if the focus of the Retreat is on financial matters, it is important that not only does every board member have the current and recent past financial statements, cash flow, budget (including year to date), assets & expenses balance sheet and other financial reports, but that every board member has been given a review / refresher course on how to read all of those reports and decipher what the accountants who prepared those reports were trying to say. Too often, Boards erroneously assume that every member is familiar and comfortable in reading and understanding all the reports given them. They aren't.

It is also important that you get background materials whether on programs, finances, fundraising, or whatever into people's hands prior to the Retreat. But having said that, it is virtually certain that a only a small percentage of any of the Board members will have time to thoroughly review those materials before the scheduled Retreat. Thus, two strategies may be employed with some success: First, make sure you summarize in as easy to read format as possible the materials you send. Somebody on staff needs to spend the time synthesizing all the volume of written materials into a concise, well presented summary. That's the best way to get more Board members to be familiar with the materials up front. Second, make it easy for them SEND the materials to them in an organized form sufficiently in advance (but not too far in advance) of the retreat. Do not, as I have seen, send them unedited materials via email and ask them to print them out and bring them to the Retreat. They won't. So even if you send the materials to be reviewed, bring enough copies for everyone to the Retreat itself as many people will forget to bring them. Finally, it is highly advisable and very productive, if you can arrange for three or four people mini half hour conference calls with Board members led by the Chair or Executive Director preferably to discuss the materials and answer questions on a scheduled basis a week before the Retreat.

9. Be Realistic: Too often Boards make financial and other projections that are too optimistic, and bear almost no relationship to reality. It is better to be conservative in projecting revenue streams, event and performance attendance, recruitment of volunteers, donation of pro bono goods and services and the results of membership drives and donor solicitations. If - at the retreat - the basic assumptions on which decisions are made for the coming year are unrealistic, then the whole foundation of the planning exercise ends up being built on a house of cards.

10. Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up: One of the single greatest mistakes nonprofit boards seem to make in holding their Retreats, is forgetting the importance of follow-up after the Retreat is over. What was actually decided? Who agreed to do what? On what timetable?

There are, of course, many more layers of strategies and points to discuss and consider in the planning and execution of successful Board Retreats. The fore mentioned points only scratch the surface of the complexities involved. Hopefully, the above thoughts will provoke your organization to spend more time considering what goes into making a really productive and successful Board Retreat. Most nonprofit organizations schedule such retreats, and appreciate their value but I have seen widely different levels of satisfaction with Retreats after the fact. If you're going to use this device and tool, you increase the chances that it will produce the outcomes you want if you spend time in the planning process. I will try to share some further thoughts about how to make your Retreat successful later this fall. I welcome any suggestions you might have based on your experiences.

I'm off to China for an adventure.

Back in October. This fall will feature more in-depth interviews, at least one HESSENIUS Group discussion and the HESSENIUS Group Annual Year End Predictions, plus a special surprise feature.

Please check out my other blog -- BARRY'S BLOG at CCI -- directed at artists hosted by the Center for Cultural Innovation - click here: www.cciarts.org/blog/

California Health Care legislation reform and its impact on artists is the current topic.

Have a great month!

Don't Quit!

Barry

Thursday, August 23, 2007

August 23, 2007

Barry's Blog - August 23, 2007

Hi everybody:

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


TIP: - you can click on the VIEW icon on the Toolbar above, then TEXT SIZE if you want to make the font size bigger.

I've had very good feedback about both of the in-depth interviews on the blog this year - the ones with John Kreidler and Nancy Glaze. As nobody else seems to be doing substantive interviews with leaders in our field online, and as I very much enjoy the exercise, I am going to try to expand this facet of the blog. The whole point is to dig deeper than the typical exchange so as to delve into subjects substantively and really explore the ideas in a subject.

So this entire blog is devoted to what I think is really an outstanding interview - with Harvey Seifter - the head of the Creativity Connection - a program of Americans for the Arts - that is attempting to broker relationships between nonprofit arts organizations and corporations wherein the arts organizations bring their art to the corporate environment, targeting specfic business needs of the companies -- from team problem solving to creative thinking approaches to business problems. It is not a new field, but one that remains highly underdeveloped despite the sector's attempts in this area previously. Creaivity Connection is making notable, and I think significant, headway in this important arena (albeit still somewhat slower than impatient people like myself would prefer).

Harvey has provided real, meaningful leadership in this arena. Founder and director of Creativity Connection, Harvey is widely regarded as one of the world's leading authorities in the field of creativity and arts-based learning for business, and is frequently invited to design learning and leadership development programs for corporations such as AstraZeneca, IBM, Morgan Stanley, and Siemens. His book, LEADERSHIP ENSEMBLE: Lessons in Collaborative Management from the World's Only Conductorless Orchestra has been published in seven languages, and he periodically lectures at leading business schools such as Columbia University (where he was on the senior executive faculty 2002-06), the University of Chicago, Hitotsubashi University, Paris VIII, etc.

Harvey is also a classically trained musician who has enjoyed a 20-year career at the helm of distinguished arts organizations including Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco's Magic Theater, New York's Theater for the New City, and Flushing Council on Culture & the Arts. In addition to his work with Creativity Connection, he currently serves as Principal Artistic Advisor to the National Music Center and Museum, which is affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution and the Library of Congress.

Here then is the interview. If you find it valuable, please pass on the link to your colleagues, staff, board and others who might appreciate the ideas put forth. Hopefully, this interview like others will stimulate expanded discussion of the ideas contained in it. Thanks.

BARRY: You've been as involved as anyone in the arts in trying to make connections and broker mutually beneficial partnerships between artists and arts organizations and corporations through the Creativity Connection. Describe the program, its origins, and the current status of where those efforts are at this point in time?

HARVEY: The mission of Creativity Connection (a program of Americans for the Arts) is to deepen the relationship between corporations and the arts community by introducing arts-based learning as a resource that can help businesses achieve their core objectives of profitability, return on investment and competitive advantage. In the process, we connect the arts in a vital way to the increasingly important civic conversations underway in many communities about the role played by innovation, workforce development and creativity in meeting the challenges of economic growth in the 21st Century. We also develop new sources of revenue for artists and arts organizations directly, through fees paid by corporations for arts-based learning programs; and indirectly, through relationship-building with corporations and their employees.

Over the past decade, my experiences developing and marketing the Orpheus Process as a learning tool for collaborative management and high performance teamwork, and my growing awareness of outstanding work proceeding on parallel tracks in other artistic disciplines, led me to conclude that arts-based learning in business was poised to emerge as a dynamic field of practice. This was the era when John Kao wrote Jamming, Piers Ibbotson launched Directing Creativity at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Todd Siler Metaphoring art-making workshops became a staple at the World Economic Summit at Davos, I wrote Leadership Ensemble and NHK predicted that arts-based learning for business would become one of the Top 10 Transformative Trends of the 21st Century.

At the same time, if you talked about arts-based learning in business to corporate HR directors, or even to a sophisticated audience of organizational development experts and innovation gurus in 2002, the response was typically bewilderment. The whole idea that artists could be sources of practical learning for business people was too counter intuitive; even far-fetched. I came to believe that for the field to thrive, a convener was required, to create a community of interest, infrastructure, and the critical mass needed to establish awareness and credibility in business.

Creativity Connection (originally developed as a national program by the Arts & Business Council, becoming a program of Americans for the Arts with the merger in January, 2005) we out to fulfill this need through publications notably Arts-Based Learning for Business, a 2005 special edition of the Journal of Business Strategy; research; publicity; panel discussions and symposia; strategic alliances with key partners such as the Entrepreneurs Organization and the Product Development Management Association; and demonstrations across the country of arts-based learning for business in action. While huge amounts of work remain to be done, we've made real progress. Here's an informal measure: not long ago, I opened a presentation to 75 senior business leaders by asking how many had ever participated in an arts-based learning program at their company and nearly a quarter of the room raised their hands. A far cry from the blank stares of incomprehension the same question would have evoked just a few years earlier!

Creativity Connection leverages these efforts to help develop the commercial arts-based learning for business market. We partner with some of the leading American artists and arts organizations that offer learning programs to businesses, providing them with sales, product development and marketing services and support. Artistic disciplines used in these programs include classical music, theater, dance, jazz, poetry, visual art and filmmaking. Over the past two years, these artists have taken their work to dozens of corporations including the McGraw-Hill Companies (which has also been Creativity Connection's lead sponsor since the earliest days of the program), IBM, Right Management, AstraZeneca, Bank of America, T-Mobile, General Dynamics, Wachovia, Chevron, Mastercard, PSE&G and many others. For more information about Creativity Connection artists and their programs, please visit www.creativityconnection.org

Creativity Connection also strives to foster the use of arts-based learning in many related contexts -- smaller companies, professional associations, non-profit organizations, educational institutions (especially business schools), public sector workplaces (including the Federal Management Academies) and by helping Todd Siler develop his Think Like a Genius software to create scalable corporate learning tools on the web.

Finally, Creativity Connection also has a consulting practice that custom designs creativity programs for businesses, helps arts organizations enter (or advance within) the field, and helps local arts organizations find ways to build and benefit from arts-based learning markets in their own communities. The range here is fascinating. For example, we have just completed a feasibility study for the United Performing Arts Fund of Milwaukee that identifies strategies to benefit regional arts and business communities through the development of a sustainable arts-based learning in business market; we are in the final phase of helping ready Liz Lerman Dance Exchanges new creativity, teambuilding and communication for business workshops to market; and we are helping an outstanding young theater in San Diego Moolelo Performing Arts Company develop corporate training programs that draw on their unique inquiry-based developmental process as well as on the stickiness of experiential learning for their effectiveness.

BARRY: What are the trends in negotiations between artists and artist organizations and business and industry? Where are things going and what will the future hold for making those relationships work?

HARVEY: There has always been a fundamental asymmetry in the arts/business relationship. Sustainable partnerships add mutual value, but while itรข€™s pretty clear to everyone how business can add value to the arts, identifying (much less quantifying) the value that the arts can bring to business has always been far less obvious. In recent years, the obscurity of the transaction has been growing at an alarming rate. Why?

A generation ago, corporations tended to see their interests as directly linked to the wellbeing of the communities in which they lived and worked, so they often aligned their grant making accordingly. To the extent that corporate leaders recognized (or could be persuaded) that the arts were an important element in the equation, finding ways to convince them to support the arts was a challenging but relatively straightforward process.

Over the past 25 years, workforce and marketplace globalization and a steady trend favoring competition over cooperation have severely eroded the value that corporations place on community engagement in the traditional sense. Today, corporations significantly limit the extent to which they allow these kinds of tangential considerations to govern their priorities. The result has been a sharp decline of traditional corporate philanthropic support for the arts, partially offset by a far more modest growth of marketing-based arts-related corporate sponsorships.

Today's corporations are much more likely to be focused on the handful of big issues that utterly dominate the business landscape: How can my company innovate quickly and creatively enough to stay ahead of the competition, but cost-effectively enough to satisfy relentless demands for short-term ROI? How can my business recruit and retain a workforce with the skills that are critical to successful performance in today's knowledge and change-based innovation economy? How can we reap the benefits of globalization without being overwhelmed by the distractions and disruptions that are a direct consequence of globalization? How do we convince our customers to design our products for us, on our terms? How can we build the relationships and reputation that will allow us to dominate our markets?

In a sense, the sharp focus on these kinds of problems represents a huge opportunity for the arts, these are, after all, problems caused to some extent by failures of the imagination, and our core competencies (creative thinking, ensemble teamwork, effective communication across cultures, etc.) can significantly contribute to the ability of companies to solve them. What an opportunity to matter!

And, there are many examples of artists and arts organizations that have done just that, coming up with successful strategies to leverage their creative capacities to develop effective partnerships with businesses.

But there is also disturbing evidence that as a field, we aren't doing a very effective job of making the case or acting on it. One of the things that was so striking in the 2006 Conference Board Report Are They Ready to Work was the powerful and deeply damaging disconnect it revealed in corporate America's thinking around this topic while more than 80% of senior executives identified the ability to think creatively as a skill critical to success in today's workforce (and even more thought it would be essential in the future), less than 15% thought that artistic experiences add value to an employees skill set!

The practical implications were brought home powerfully by Americans for the Arts 2006 National Arts Policy Roundtable Report, which linked the 65% inflation-adjusted decline in charitable corporate giving to the arts between 2000 and 2005 directly to the growing alignment of corporate support for the arts with key business needs.

The bottom line is that artists and arts organizations hoping to build partnerships with corporations need to demonstrate the ability to add value by helping them meet the business challenges that most concern them. Unless we take active steps to correct the widespread corporate (mis)perception that artists and arts organizations are unable to do so, the arts are likely to become even more marginal to corporations than they are today.

BARRY: Follow up question: What about globally - is the state of affairs in trying to manage relationships between artists and businesses different on the international stage from the domestic marketplace?

HARVEY: Corporations in most countries never really played the kind of key philanthropic role in arts support played by American companies over the past couple of generations. In pre-1989 continental Europe, corporate support for the arts was virtually unknown; I vividly remember the German theater publication that rejected an article about corporate funding by saying was hat gelt mit kunst zu tun? (what does money have to do with art?); and the difficulty I had even explaining the concept to a graduate level arts management seminar I taught in Paris in the early 1990s! Today, though real progress has been made, especially in the realm of sponsorships, corporate support for the arts remains a very underdeveloped sector.

Asia too has only a limited tradition of corporate philanthropic support for the arts. On the other hand Japan, to a lesser extent Korea, and increasingly China have robust highly transactional markets for arts-related sponsorships. While specific partnership prospects wax and wane with shifts in the regional economy (these are all extremely market-driven), corporate arts sponsorship is strongly imbedded in the system; companies see these as contributing positively to their image and reputation.

The use of arts-based learning to in business is not an American phenomenon in any sense. A great deal of the pioneering work was done in the United Kingdom (Arts & Business UK launched its Creative Development initiative back in the late 1990s); lively markets also exist in a number of other countries, notably Australia, Canada, South Africa and, to a lesser degree, Scandinavia.

Overall, artists and arts organizations around the world often find themselves in weak positions in their relationships with businesses, at least compared with their American colleagues so they have nowhere to go but up! They are likely to be helped by the same trends that are hurting American arts organizations,, as American corporations seek to establish local legitimacy and resonance for their increasingly pervasive global footprints by creating new international arts partnerships.
In view of the inherently international nature of art, and the growing dominance of global market forces in business, it seems pretty clear that the most dynamic set of future possibilities to grow the field of arts/business partnerships lies in developing a truly international platform to foster and promote them.

BARRY: What erroneous assumption do the arts continue to make in their attempts to garner business and corporate support? What mistakes are the arts making in their attempts to build meaningful relationships with businesses?

HARVEY: Two stand out:

-- Arts organizations often convince themselves that they understand enough about the objectives and decision-making processes of business to enable them to frame a compelling case for partnership, if only they can find the right way to broadcast their message. Corporate decision-making is far more complex that arts organizations tend to recognize. In my experience, this is almost never true. Arts organizations need to learn to listen very carefully to the market. The broader their understanding of the full range of business objectives in play, the more like they are to garner corporate support.

-- Many arts organizations still relate to corporations from a model of corporate philanthropy and civic engagement that has been in decline for nearly a generation. Others, believing that traditional corporate philanthropy is dead focus all of their attention on trying to secure marketing-driven sponsorships. Both approaches miss the point and the opportunity. Corporate philanthropy is far from dead. It is, however, more strategic than at any time in history individual giving decisions are increasingly made in the context of overall philanthropic goals, which are increasingly driven by the need to align with business objectives and re-enforce corporate strategies. Arts organizations should look to the interplay and synergies between these two areas, rather than viewing them as either/or portals.

BARRY: What is your advice to arts organizations that want to cultivate successful business partnerships?

HARVEY: Though all successful partnerships are built on the mutual expectation of added value, arts organizations often know little about the key issues and concerns that shape the corporations with whom they hope to partner, or guide the decision-making of the executives with whom they hope to negotiate these partnerships. The odds of success increase dramatically when arts organizations come to understand the value proposition from the standpoint of their prospective partners. Of course, exploring vast, complex, unfamiliar and sometimes intimidating corporate worlds requires time and energy, but for arts organizations determined to cultivate successful business partnerships, the initial investment is essential.

It's also important for arts organizations to fully and accurately identify what they do and don't bring to the table. Honest self-assessment is always challenging, but arts organizations are far more likely to succeed in cultivating successful business partnerships when they understand what they have to offer and how they are likely to be perceived by potential business partners.

The relationship between these elements is the centerpiece of an overall strategic approach to the development of arts/business partnerships, which can be pictured as a Venn Diagram, where  represents the value that a particular corporation strives to add through its arts partnerships (whether it knows it or not!), represents the set of specific opportunities that a particular arts organization can bring to its business partnerships, and the intersection represents the value proposition as seen from the business perspective.

The existence of a robust intersection suggests a fruitful basis to pursue the relationship, because the arts organization has the potential to add value to the corporation, from the corporation's perspective. The content of the intersection defines key elements that the arts organization can leverage to make the sale.

It's important for arts organizations to keep in mind that large companies typically pursue multiple agendas, with overlapping centers of power vying for influence and control over internal resources and agendas. The more dimensions of the corporate reality that an arts organization can effectively engage (in other words, the more contained in the intersection), the greater number of internal corporate constituents and power centers will become stakeholders in the development of the relationship. An arts/business partnership may center on marketing and branding opportunities, but if the partnership is structured to also engage product development, innovation, HR, leadership development, social responsibility, etc., it will develop deep roots (and pockets!) within the company.

It's also important for arts organizations to look realistically and self-critically at the Venn Diagram intersections to make sure they really are what they purport to be value propositions from the perspective of business.

Finally, there's the other side of the value proposition what's in it for the arts organization? What are the opportunities beyond the direct financial support that typically drives these partnerships? What about opportunity costs and operational implications? Are there ways to build the relationship out, either internally or externally, to create opportunities for sustainability and growth? These types of concerns are often afterthoughts (if they are thought of at all), but they shouldn't be. Arts organizations that look carefully at their own side of the value proposition are far more likely to create business relationships that serve their long term strategic objectives.

BARRY: Does the business community understand, on the same level the arts understand, the concept of "creativity", and is it still useful to use creativity as a context to frame the discussion between the two communities?

HARVEY: We live in an era when creativity is perhaps the most sought-after attribute of leadership. Corporations all over the world are obsessed with finding ways to unleash the creative potential of their organizations, and influential writers from Tom Friedman to Howard Gardiner celebrate creativity as the one indispensable quality required for our society to progress and flourish in the in the coming decades.

Why wouldn't we want to use creativity as a context to frame our discussions?

As long as the most urgent challenge facing the arts remains finding ways to break out of the narrow silo we find ourselves in (which I believe to be the case), the worldwide focus on creativity is a spectacular opportunity, giving us a powerful new tool to engage the world around us. And though we are obviously not the exclusive repository of creative capital, it doesn't take a great deal of analysis to recognize that artistic enterprises represent highly concentrated sources of creative skills, insights and experiences.

But, some caution applies. While the connection between innovation and creativity is widely understood (Innovation is creativity that ships, as Bill Gates famously put it), the arts have become so thoroughly ghettoized in American life that surveys of business leaders show an almost total disconnect between how they view creativity (central to their concerns) and how they view the arts (largely irrelevant). Leveraging the "creativity case" to help the arts break out of our silos remains something of a chicken-and-egg problem, and we will need to devote a great deal of attention and resources over a period of years, if we hope to significantly improve our position.

And the fact that leading institutions embrace the concept of creativity in the abstract does not necessarily mean that they are ready for the adaptive reality required to fully tap into the creative potential of their workforces. (Needless to say, arts organizations themselves are hardly immune to this tension!).

BARRY: If you had a million dollars to put into one single project that would advance what you have been trying to do, what would that project be?

HARVEY: Research.

The greatest challenge we face is proving that arts-based learning actually provides businesses with the kinds of specific and tangible benefits that justify the cost on an ROI basis. Unfortunately, at present, very little such proof exists.

Of course, we have a lot of evidence and at least some of it is quantitative documenting the effectiveness of strategies that employ the arts in the service of non-artistic learning and behavioral outcomes in K-12 education and to a lesser degree in areas ranging from civic engagement, conflict resolution and international bridge-building to therapeutic interventions in clinical settings.

If you believe (as I do) that arts-based learning in business is best understood as a subset of a much broader field let's call it arts-based learning in life then its not a huge leap to hypothesize a relationship between these kinds of experiences and the outcomes of arts-based learning in business. But like any hypothesis, this one needs testing, and we haven't yet connected the dots convincingly, much less conducted rigorous outcomes-based research. Until we do, data drawn from these realms is unlikely to convince skeptical corporate decision-makers.

We also have some limited qualitative data specific to arts-based learning in business; a few valuable case studies (the best of these is probably the five year assessment of Unilevers Catalyst Program, (Re)Educating for Leadership: How the Arts Can Improve Business by Ted Buswick, Alastair Creamer, and Mary Pinard, published in 2004 by Arts & Business UK); a much larger number of testimonials from corporate leaders; and a great deal of informal information regarding companies that it use arts-based learning on a repeated basis. We need to greatly expand this base of information and opinion by mapping the field, and publishing a series of case studies detailing outcomes and illustrating best practices.

But while studies linking the proven value of arts-based learning in other environments to business, and the development of better qualitative data are both important parts of the research picture, the key to achieving broad corporate acceptance of arts-based learning (and to unlocking corporate budgets) is solid quantitative research, conclusively demonstrating that arts-based learning can help businesses meet their most important organizational training and development objectives something that doesn't currently exist. We need to change that situation.

Of course, there are huge obstacles, ranging from the inherent limitation of quantitative assessments of creativity to the presence of vast numbers of unpredictable external variables that confuse the picture. In fact, many of the key outcomes of arts-based learning may be inherently unquantifiable, or impossibly difficult and expensive to quantify in a business environment. But that doesn't mean that all of them are and we must not let the challenges become an excuse for inaction. We need to carefully analyze the possibilities, pick the targets we believe are most likely to yield productive results, develop our research strategies, and go!

For example, we need proof to back our claim that arts-based learning can help innovation teams create more successful products (which in turn increases corporate return on the development investment). Of course, we have case studies of companies that have used arts-based learning as a tool to achieve that outcome, and testimonials from key executives who see the cause-effect linkage, but that doesn't carry the same weight as hard numbers for corporate decision-makers.

Taking the new product development process as a whole, hard numbers will be very hard to develop. But researching the impact of arts-based learning on the component elements of the NPD process might not be so daunting. Can we prove that arts-based learning teaches corporate innovators key skills that improve their performance (and consequently the companies ROI) by (for example) increasing their capacity to surface new ideas, or strengthening their problem-solving and critical thinking abilities? Can we prove that arts-based learning changes employee behavior in ways that improves team function by fostering productive collaboration or improving intercultural communication? Can we compare the outcomes and ROI of an innovation team that systematically integrates arts-based learning into its culture with those of another such team in the same company that does not?

Finding hard data to answer these questions is where we need to focus our energies, and where I would invest the million dollars. From the perspective of a funder considering the investment, the potential ROI in terms of increased earned revenues for artists and arts organizations, strengthened corporate and employee engagement with the arts (and with specific arts organizations), and enhanced understanding of the value of the arts to society's productive capacity has profoundly important implications for the nonprofit arts sector.


BARRY: Which business leaders and / or companies impress you most and why? Which ones "get" what we're trying to sell?

HARVEY: I admire Harold G. (Terry) McGraw III, the Chairman and CEO of McGraw-Hill Companies, a business leader who understands the value of the arts on a deep level. Under his leadership, McGraw-Hill has made a deep and sustained philanthropic commitment while pioneering the use of arts-based learning for workforce development purposes. Mr. McGraw's explanation is direct and compelling he sees both philanthropic and learning-oriented engagement with the arts as "part of the overall strategy and commitment of the corporation to help surface creativity because the arts provide a wonderful opportunity for the personal and professional growth of our employees (From a 2006 Journal of Business Strategy interview I conducted with Mr. McGraw).

I'm also deeply impressed by AG Lafley, the Chairman and CEO of Procter and Gamble, a leader with a highly original approach to corporate innovation, designed to tap into the creative thinking of a diverse global network of 1.5 million innovators by learning how to collaborate across organizational boundaries, geographic borders and cultural barriers. This strategy has been rewarded by an innovation success rate that's doubled, driving P & G's costs down and its profits up.

But if I had to single out one company that sets the standard for corporate creativity in our time, it would probably be Google, which has found a way to motivate, scale and integrate into a corporate structure the kinds of disruptive thinking, creative problem-solving and high performance teamwork that are characteristic of the world's great artistic ensembles. Google calls innovative thinkers who care equally about doing great work and developing a culture that's great for all our employees its most important resource. From the outside, at least, that appears to be true, which I'm sure has a great deal to do with the company's extraordinary track record.

BARRY: How are you leveraging the successes to facilitate even more access into the business world?

HARVEY: Ted Buswick and I have just been invited to guest edit a second special edition of the Journal of Business Strategy, which will come out in the fall of 2008. The publication will feature case studies detailing successful arts/business partnerships clustered broadly around the role of the arts in fostering corporate innovation, focusing on cutting edge applications of arts-based learning such as helping businesses adapt to the potentially disruptive impact of open source and wiki competitors; close their innovation deficits by fostering the soft skills that are increasingly defined as critical to the success of new product development processes; etc.

This will give us a new and powerful platform from which we can leverage past successes to create future opportunities.

We are also planning linked partnership initiatives with the Conference Board, leading graduate schools of business across the country, the National Science Foundation, the Entrepreneurs Organization, Product Development Management Association, and the Banff Center (among others) to expand our capacity to strengthen and promote the field.

BARRY: As someone who has been involved in the arts long term, wearing many hats over the years, what do you think ought to be the priorities the arts focus on in the next year? Where should we expend the most energy and / or money? And why?

HARVEY:
1. Practical projects that help broaden and deepen our engagement with the private sector, because the private sector provides the vast majority of our funding. We haven't been doing too well there in recent years. The implications of not reversing this trend are dire, and the only way we are likely to reverse it is through connectivity breaking out of the narrow silos we find ourselves in and finding new ways to matter.

2. Finding ways to think and act more globally in our work. Globalization and its consequences represent the central force of our times, but even though the arts are uniquely adapted to crossing barriers, lack of funding for international work, preoccupation with survival/maintenance issues, and (in some cases) an America-centric view of the world, threaten to cost us what should be a natural leadership role in this arena.

BARRY: Give me two predictions as to developments likely to happen in the nonprofit arts sector in the next 5 years that I can take to the bank as it were?

HARVEY: Looming environmental disaster in general, and global warming in particular, are about to force more changes in society, more quickly, and more universally, than technology, globalization, or anything else on the horizon perhaps more than any other force in modern history. That meaningful change isn't already underway is an impressive demonstration of the human capacity to deny unpleasant realities, but events are forcing our hand and the tipping point for our consciousness is likely to come during the next five years (which includes two presidential election cycles).

What will this mean to the nonprofit arts sector? Undoubtedly, more artists will begin to respond through their work to what will clearly emerge as the great issue of our time. From the standpoint of daily operations, arts organizations will come under increasing scrutiny with respect to their own environmental practices, while the growing shift of philanthropic and corporate resources toward environmental causes and issues will pose an additional competitive challenge in the funding arena. On the other hand,, the arts have the capacity to play a uniquely important role in helping our society move beyond denial and toward creative response To the extent this actually happens, the sector will help itself by engaging vast numbers of people and institutions who are presently indifferent to (or unaware of) its existence.

The only other prediction I can make with absolute confidence is that the world powered by speed, complexity, social interconnectivity and by the global marketplace will grow even more radically unpredictable than it already is. We can absolutely count on black swans (Nassim Nicholas Talebs name for massive-impact, highly improbable events that lie far beyond the realm of normal expectations, such as 9/11 and the rise of Google) turning everything upside down during the next five years, in ways that we can't possibly predict today though with 20/20 hindsight these transformations will eventually seem to have been inevitable.

Organizations able to synthesize information across disciplines, focus on what might be knowledge, bring a broad generalist's approach to problem-solving, create fluid skill-based hierarchies, improvise constantly and embrace unexpected discoveries will be well positioned to deal with and benefit from the black swans. Organizations unable to do these things are likely to concentrate on what they already know, causing them to miss opportunities and making them especially vulnerable to disruptive change. All the necessary attributes for dealing superbly with black swans can be found in the processes, skills and experiences of artists. Arts organizations whose internal cultures enable them to take advantage of arts-based learning will benefit greatly.

BARRY: The NEA funding seems (relatively) solid and trending upward. The federal support of the arts is on the right track. The problem in the sector is at the state and local levels - where there is widely disparate support, and where growth is often, at best, holding the line. The arts on this level are about "surviving" rather than "thriving". Do you agree or disagree with those statements? What can be done?

HARVEY: Federal support for the arts is heading in the right direction, it's just that we'd all like to see it get there faster! The sector is very focused on the NEA and, to a lesser extent the Department of Education naturally enough, since these are the primary funding streams. But many of the growth opportunities in federal funding over the next few years will lie elsewhere, in agencies where the arts represent tools able to help achieve government policy or accomplish management objectives. Increased funding for cultural diplomacy through the State Department and the integration of arts-based learning into the Office of Personnel Management's executive development academies are two examples of promising directions, and the leadership that Americans for the Arts is exercising in integrating these kinds of forward-thinking strategies into its overall federal advocacy agenda is an enormously positive and important development.

The picture at the state and local levels is a good deal less encouraging; in many cases, the need for growth is urgent while the sector is forced to concentrate its energies in fighting further cuts. One (though by no means the only) answer is to use the same kinds of fresh strategies and approaches to help lift gridlocked state and local level conversations about the role of the public sector in supporting the arts onto more productive ground. Here too, Americans for the Arts is exercising vital leadership and creating important opportunities for the sector through its partnerships with the National Conference of State Legislatures, National Lieutenant Governors Association, National Association of Counties, US Conference of Mayors and the League of Cities. Since the states are often viewed by Congress as laboratories of democracy, over time, innovative state-level initiatives that use the nonprofit arts sector to accomplish important government objectives may well exercise a ripple effect on the national conversation.

BARRY: Wow - great interview. Thank you Harvey.

BITS & PIECES:
I'm off to China for a month a couple of weeks. Meeting with some arts leaders in Shanghai and Beijing as part of the trip and will hopefully have some observations to report. Will try to post another blog before I leave, because I've been a little lazy this summer and I've built up a lot of content I want to share with you before the end of the year, including a recap of the aftermath of the Youth in the Arts Report and efforts to get arts organizations to move in this area; the Year End HESSENIUS GROUP recap and predictions for next year; some thoughts on Board Retreats, and at least one more interview that I think you will find stimulating and even provocative.

As California now has a budget (finally - and no, no great changes to arts funding), the state legislature can turn some attention to pending reform legislation in the heath care coverage area - which is of keen interest to nonprofits, working artists and all of us really. This month's second Barry's Blog at CCI (Center for Cultural Innovation) that focuses on issues important to artists, deals with this pending legislation. Click here: www.cciarts.org/blog/

Have a great weekend.

Don't Quit!

Barry