Tuesday, April 24, 2007

April 24, 2007


Hi everybody.

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

TOPIC: GENERATIONAL SUCCESSION: Involving Youth in Nonprofit Arts Organizations

There is a growing concern that the arts sector is courting disaster by failing to make generational succession issues a higher priority. The concern isn't so much where the future artists will come from -- we see them everywhere, and as a field we are doing a pretty good job its seems in making connections to them, providing them with support and opportunities to perform and exhibit.

The concern is that all the other sectors of society - nonprofits and "for profits" - seem to already be aggressively courting the previously limited, and now shrinking pool of new talent (from which our next generation leaders and board members, not to mention, our future grassroots advocates, our financial supporters and our audiences must ALL come) - and we aren't. We're already arguably at a competitive disadvantage because this just isn't yet one of our major priorities. We can't offer the compensation packages corporations can, and we aren't yet marketing the benefits that involvement in the arts offer nearly as successfully as other sectors are making involvement in their causes appealing and attractive to young people.

As our baby boomer leadership retires, as mid-career arts administrators are increasingly leaving our field, for financial and other reasons, and as there will be more jobs to fill than young people to fill them over the next decade, we are nearing the proverbial rock and a hard place. If we are going to have any chance to compete for the participation of the next generation, we need to begin a national dialogue immediately about how we can address this issue. I found scores of leaders across the country share my concern. The clock is ticking......

It is in this context that the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation commissioned me to undertake a study on generational succession issues in California. The project included a study of existing efforts in the arts sector in California, a comparison and contrasting of what organizations in the environmental movement were doing to attract, recruit and retain the involvement of young people (with an eye towards what we might learn from their experience), a look at some of the variables that are involved in creating programs that seek to involve young people in five areas:

1. Governance - as future staff and board members
2. As financial supporters and members of our organizations
3. As grassroots advocates and boosters
4. As future audiences
5. As artists

and identification of some of the barriers and opportunities in any effort to increase the particiaption of young people. Finally, we sought to make some simple and basic recommendations as to what the sector, individual arts organizations, and those involved in funding the arts might do in the near term so that we might achieve some quantifiable, measurable progress by 2010.

The report involved a surveying and mapping of efforts in a cross section of the arts field in California  which because of its geographical, discipline based, budget sized and diversity breadth and depth provided a picture we believe is fairly representative of the national picture.


Basically the report found and confirmed what one might expect -- the arts are doing a good job of reaching out to young artists - providing them with training, mentoring and other kinds of support, as well offering them opportunities to perform and exhibit their works. But in virtually every other area, we are not making as much progress. Far too few arts organizations have even one young person on their board of directors (and we defined - for purposes of this study - young people as in three categories - high school, college and post college up to age 30). By and large arts organizations are doing nothing at all to recruit and deploy young people as grassroots advocates, nor to solicit them to contribute as financial donors. And little is done to separate out, study, and track young people as part of our audiences. In terms of some sort of systemic approach to the involvement of young people, we are not doing much of anything. Yes, many arts organizations have very good programs that are designed to (and successful in their attempt to) attract young people (as board members, as interns, as audience members etc.) - and we highlight some examples of what can be done easily and without great expense - but the effort is piecemeal - not systemic or across the board. This observation isn't meant to diminish the efforts of those who are pioneering work in this area, but as a whole, the field has not yet embraced this issue -- certainly not when compared with, say, the environmental movement. There are a few shining stars on the national, regional and local levels -- programs that seek to nourish and support our emerging leaders and at least expose some young people to who we are and what we do. On the plus side, we have long standing ties and contacts with high schools across the country. We need to begin to have the same outreach efforts to colleges as well, and to better exploit the relaionships we do have to recruit new leaders and supporters -- to move beyond exposing them to our performances and get them involved in our organizations.

One of the most salient statistics that hit us was the prediction by the Employment Policy Foundation (EPF)that between 2003 and 2013 over 30 million jobs (in all sectors) would be created for candidates with two years or more of a college education, and yet there would only be 23 million such graduates available to fill those jobs. That's a projected 7 million shortfall - and that is before 2013 - now only six years away. It will only get worse. How many of thoses 7 million unfilled jobs will be ours. Where then will the best and the brightest young arts leaders, supporters, patrons, defenders come from? How we will get at least our share of the market? What can the field do as a whole for the smaller arts organizations that are not situated and positioned as well for this competition as some of our larger institutions? How do we deal with declining budgets, lack of time and other obstacles to even thinking about this problem? These aren't academic questions any more.

Download the Full Report and / or the Executive Summary: click here: http://www.hewlett.org/Programs/PerformingArts/Publications/YouthReport.htm

So, to jumpstart the dialogue, Moy Eng and I -- working with local hosts in five cities - San Diego, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco and Sacramento - are holding open Forums to present the findings and recommedations of the study, and to faciliate brainstorming sessions in each venue to see if local arts leadership can begin to develop strategies to work together to address the challenges of attracting young people to our field - in their areas (because each territory will likely be dealing with differing circumstances). We invite you to attend one of these forums if your schedule permits (some of the venue locations are limited as to how many people they can accomodate so you must RSVP to those venues as indicated below.) I'm sorry not to give you more notice, but you know how that goes sometimes --- 'The best laid plans of mice and men..........."


WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25th 1:00 to 3:00 pm SAN DIEGO
click here for info / RSVP http://www.evite.com/app/publicUrl/rrprickett@yahoo.com/youthinthearts

THURSDAY, APRIL 26th 10:00 am to Noon LOS ANGELES
click here for info / RSVP http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.asp?u=871943594507

WEDNESDAY, MAY 2nd 9:30 to 11:30 am - SAN JOSE (Menlo Park) NOTE: to be held at the Hewlett Foundation. Space is severely limited. You must reserve your place by RSVPing to David Keppel for reservation: dkoppel@artscouncil.org

THURSDAY, MAY 3rd 10:00 am to Noon - SAN FRANCISCO. NOTE: Space is severely limited. You must reserve your place by RSVPing to Sharon Page Ritchie at the SF Arts Commission Sharon.Page_Ritchie@sfgov.org

FRIDAY, JUNE 15th - SACRAMENTO - time and specific info to follow
In a couple of weeks, after we complile the feedback and ideas from these Forums I will devote another blog and convene a HESSENIUS GROUP to discuss the Report, the Forum ideas, and the issues so that we can dig deeper into what response the field can have to the challenges we face. I am particularly interested in your thoughts and ideas and I hope you will share them with me so I might share them with the full subscriber list. I hope this might be a topic of discussion on the agenda of every arts organization's next board of directors meeting and a session at all of the arts service group national conventions over the course of the next year or two.

In the next blog I will also include some links to some other studies on the same subject. If you know of others, I would appreciate your letting me know.

We have to do something about this soon or we are going to come up with the short end of the stick.

We ALL have to do something.

Thank you for your consideration.

Reminder: The National Association of Arts Organizations (NAAO) meets in Los Angeles beginning Friday, April 27th - click here for more information: www.naao.net

And Americans for the Arts is meeting in LAS VEGAS at the fabulous Flamingo Hotel June 1-3 Click here for info: www.americansforthearts.org/events/2007/convention/default.asp

Have a great week.

Remember: Don't Quit!