Thursday, July 5, 2007

July 05, 2007

Hello everybody.

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

I. Launch of new blog at Center for Cultural Innovation (CCI)
II. Nancy Glaze Exit Interview
III. Advocacy follow up

"Now I shout it from the highest hills................"

Several months ago, Cora Mirikitani (Executive Director of CCI) invited me to consider launching a new version of my blog, this one aimed not at arts administrators, but at artists - focusing on issues that were relevant and important to working artists - everything from health care and health insurance coverage issues, to low cost affordable artist living space; from where to get advice and technical assistance on legal issues (contracts and such) to expanded opportunities to perform and exhibit artistic works.

I see this as a chance to build some sense of community among the artists who live in California (as a start). There are an estimated 350,000 to 500,000 working artists living in this state - and many people feel that estimate is conservative and includes only those artists who list "artist" as the source of their income for IRS purposes, and that the number may be closer to one million. Clearly, this is a major community and while the members of this sector are doubtless as different as they might be, reflecting the total diversity of Caliornia itself, nonetheless it IS a real community in the sense that there are shared issues, problems, barriers, solutions et. al that impact (in varying degrees) everyone in the community.

The exciting part of this for me, is the prospect of being able to begin to organize that community (if even only to a limited extent), and the potential to be able to tap into the collective political power and clout that community might have. Not only because of their sheer numbers, but also because it is a highly intelligent, highly creative community familiar with thinking outside the proverbial box, experienced in team problem solving, and able, should it so desire, to create art, perform and otherwise raise substantial amounts of money that might finance whatever (political) efforts they might some day opt to initiate.

I have always thought that two of the missing links of the nonprofit arts sector's attempt to become politically effective and competitive in trying to influence government decision making that impacts the sector have been:

1) A failure to integrate the artists in the nonprofit arts community with the arts administrators and the arts organization infrastructures (supporters, boards, patrons, volunteers etc.) into a single, organized, supportive collective; and

2) A failue to break down the artifical barriers between so called artists in the nonprofit sector' with those in the "for profit" arena. Artists are artists, and we continue in too many ways to segregate them.

If we could somehow finally bring artists (artists under any definition) into the same 'army' as arts administrators; if we could -for the first time - include the whole of the artist community under a common banner, I think our chances of successful advocacy and lobbying efforts would dramatically increase (including our ability to create Political Action Committees and other mechanisms that would allow us to be active political players (thus increasing our chances of getting what we want and need from government - whether more money or health insurance coverage).

To do this, I think it is absolutely essential to address the needs of individual artists. It is folly to expect to galvanize artists to act politically (taking time from their lives and schedules) unless there is direct, immediate benefit to them. That benefit must be more present day "real" than speculative and future tense.

In any event, BARRY'S BLOG AT CCI launched this week.

I hope you will help me and CCI to publicize this new tool directed at working artists by spreading the word and the link to artists associated with your organization or community. The first issue the new blog addresses is one that resonates with artists and arts administrators alike - the health care / health insurance issue and specifically the new legislation being proposed in California to provide some kind of basic universal health care / insurance to the residents of this state (not disimiliar to what is being proposed now in several states). Many people believe some kind of bill will pass this year - the issue is whether or not the provisions of that bill will address the issues particular to the needs of working artists.

Here is the link to the new artist focused Barry's Blog at CCI
Please check it out and pass it on.

"Talk to me.............................."

After a 23 year career in the nonprofit arts sector, including head of the Packard Foundation Arts Program from its early inception, Nancy Glaze retired last month. Nancy has "been there, done that" for virtually every experience in the arts field. I asked her to share some thoughts with the readers.

Here is that interview:

BARRY: What are the two most critical issues facing the arts right now?

NANCY: One immediate issue is a generational change where a group of people, the boomers, are leaving or preparing to leave their work. This provides an excellent opportunity for us to look at what has evolved during the tenure of the boomers and what opportunities there are for change. Directly related to this generational change in leadership is how art will be produced and distributed in the future. We often assume that nonprofits are the best way to work, but we really don't know. We have a short window to explore the implications of these issues. How we approach these changes could have an enormous impact on the field.

BARRY: We've been focusing on the generational succession issues here in this blog of late. Expand a little on the issues attendant with a change in how art is produced and distributed.

NANCY: Arts organizations operate in a very competitive marketplace and many are having trouble sustaining their current level of operating. To remain viable, organizations must adjust to a changing environment. While this may sound obvious, it is my experience that few organizations face this fact head-on. An organization's vision must be achievable and sustainable as well as appropriate to the community. Changes in demographics, taste, and the delivery of product further complicate this task. Clearly, technology and, specifically, the internet are one of the biggest variables.

BARRY: Ok what did you mean by changes in the delivery of the product further complicate this task?

NANCY: Arts organizations are in the entertainment business and we need to understand the marketplace in order to keep up with the changing habits and needs of our audiences. Much of our work will continue in places that are familiar - symphony halls, art museums, and 500-seat theaters. But there are other places and other ways we experience the arts. Ideally, it will be the art-makers who stimulate these changes. When we encounter powerful art - whatever the medium - we need to create a way to experience it. I believe that is the basic contract between those who create and those who present art.

BARRY: Just three years ago, the Packard Foundation Arts Program̢۪s grant budget was in the neighborhood of $15 million per year. Now it̢۪s below $3 million. What happened and why was it cut back so severely? Now that you are retired, do you think Packard will stay in the arts funding arena, or close down that program?

NANCY: The first grant awarded by the Packard Foundation in 1964 was to the San Francisco Symphony for $250. Since then, the Foundation has supported the arts to some degree. At the height of the "boom" the Foundation's assets were in the $16 billion-range which provided for a significant amount funding across a broad array of programs, including the arts. Particularly for those of us living in Silicon Valley, the "bust" was quite a blow. With a severe drop in assets, programs at the Foundation were trimmed and focused. Three existing program areas were identified as central to the Foundation's work - Conservation, Population, and Children, Families and Communities. Other activities were carried on but on a much smaller scale. While some support for the arts may continue, I do not expect that the arts will advance as one of the primary areas of focus for the Foundation.

BARRY: If you factor in the loss of state funding to the arts ($31 million when I was at the CAC 3+ years ago. Now >$2 million, and California ranks dead last of the 50 states at less than three cents per capita) plus the cutbacks of some foundation support and there has been $100 million less that has gone to the arts in just the last three years. What can we do?

NANCY: I am very encouraged about current efforts to use research and information about the field to stimulate and elevate the discussion about the role of the arts in a healthy society. Americans for the Arts has made major advances in this area with Randy Cohen's fine work. To re-gain public and private support, we must tell our stories in ways that resonate with folks and we must do this at all levels - local, regional and national.

BARRY: You've dealt with hundreds of leaders in our field over the past two decades, who impressed you most and why?

NANCY: As a field we tend to have a very short memory. This is particularly true of our field's development. Why it is the way it is today is important if we are to understand the pressures we face as we move forward. If I were to nominate one person to teach us about our collective history, it would be John Kreidler. John was most recently the executive director of Cultural Initiatives/Silicon Valley - an organization that was in the business to develop and implement visionary initiatives in the arts and culture in and around San Jose, California. Recently retired, John is a wonderful storyteller and brilliant thinker about our past and our future. He should not be allowed to slip from the field without giving us the benefit of his knowledge and perspective.

As an artist, I believe Liz Lehrman is remarkable. A dancer and choreographer, Liz created a company - the Liz Lehrman Dance Exchange - that has taken the role of dance in communities to an entirely new level. How the arts respond to changes in demographics, technology, environmental concern, etc. is a topic of much discussion in our field. I would argue that Liz has, in many ways, paved the way for us. Like John, Liz is another leader whose wisdom and perspective should be captured for the benefit of the entire field.

BARRY: With your retirement, John's retirement, and literally a score of other people recently or soon to retire, I think the field should do something to protect and pass on the collective knowledge senior leadership has. We are in danger of losing some of our institutional memory if we can't figure out a way to tap into the experience and knowledge of those who have spent one, two even three decades in the field. It makes no sense to deny future leaders the benefit of what the current generation has come to understand. If that experience is lost, we waste precious future time re-inventing the wheel. Do you have any thoughts as to how we might protect that vast reservoir of experience so that those that follow can tap into it over time?

NANCY: I think it is terrific what you have done with Barry's Blog on a number of topics, particularly the issue of generational change. Encouraging our colleagues to tell their stories is important, whether through a blog, book, or other form (any one want to write a play?). The work you have done to encourage the arts sector to recognize the importance of getting young adults involved is also very important and I think we do need to get creative about how we bring these two groups together. While much of this conversation could be national, these dialogues should also happen at a local level. Our national conferences might provide a good place to begin.

BARRY: Any regrets during the time you've been involved in the arts?

NANCY: I began my career in arts education as executive director of the Community School of Music and Arts in the late 1970's. California had passed Proposition 13 which reduced property tax revenue to such an extent that the public schools were forced to eliminate many programs including arts education. At the time, many of us were confident that these programs in music, visual art, and dance would be restored through the combined efforts of the arts community, funders, and public schools. While there has been progress over the past 30 years and many model programs exist, including many funded by the Packard Foundation, it is a frustration to me both personally and professionally that we have not made better progress.

BARRY: Why haven't we made better progress?

NANCY: A survey conducted by AMS Planning and Research as part of a cultural plan for Silicon Valley found that 95% of respondents believed that more arts education should be offered in schools. Similar results were found in other communities. Clearly, people believe the arts are important for kids. What we lack is a sustained commitment to building an arts education infrastructure that is can be maintained in the long term. While we have pockets of success such as the Creative Education Program created by Cultural Initiatives/Silicon Valley that is now part of the Santa Clara County Office of Education- many more such efforts fizzled for lack of sustained attention. If we are to create an infrastructure for arts education, we must build authentic partnerships between schools and the arts community. There is no quick fix.

BARRY: Education is (has become) to a large extent, a political issue, with the teacher's union one of the dominant special interest lobbying groups in many states across the country. Are we looking at arts education as a political issue? Should we be? Are we focusing too much energy in this area in telling our story and trying to work within the education arena? Is equality between the arts and other education subject area interests one of the criteria in an authentic partnership? How do we build authentic partnerships if we are not likely perceived on an equal footing with other sectors of the wider education community? We have been designated a core subject for some time now, but we aren't treated like other core subjects by anyone. What do we do about that?

NANCY: While at the Community School of Music and Arts, we started a program called "Arts in Action". We believed the program to be a fix, hopefully a temporary one, for the cuts in arts programs in the schools following Proposition 13. This and other programs started by community arts organizations still exist some 30 years later. While some public school systems have been successfully in creating arts programming that is an integral part of the school curriculum and culture, my experience is that those with the best success rate are grounded in both the community and the school. That way, no one gets off the hook. Both must do their share of the work be it curriculum development, fund raising, advocacy, etc. I have always thought that we have ignored the power of this type of joint effort and that we have kept the schools and the arts community apart in cases when we should have been pulling them together. While not immune to the politics of school funding and subject area priorities, these community / school programs do create a solid framework and reasonably secure mechanism for delivering arts education to young people.

BARRY: What is the biggest misconception about foundation funding?

NANCY: Foundations vary widely in their field of interests and how they conduct their business, so any generalization is tricky. I think I can safely argue that most people believe that foundations, taken as a whole, represent a much larger slice of the philanthropic pie than they actually do. Further, many foundations rarely fund outside of their areas of interest but many potential applicants are convinced that they can change a foundation's mind about its priorities by the power of "the perfect proposal". While some of the blame may lay with foundations that are wishy-washy about guidelines or fund seemingly 'random" activities - most foundations are quite clear about their processes and areas of focus.

BARRY: If you had ten million dollars and had to spend it all in one place in the next month on funding arts programs, what would you do with it to have the biggest impact?

NANCY: I would create an arts advocacy engine for California. It would be built on research--an economic impact study in every county as well as our largest cities. Some of the money would be used to strengthen the local arts agencies and get them schooled in grassroots mobilization. I would build on the Americans for the Arts "Art. Ask for More" PSA campaign as well as paid ad space and Op-Eds in local newspapers. I would focus on both arts education and the economic impact of the arts. I believe an investment in local advocacy will have statewide ramifications and return that $10 million outlay many times over.

BARRY: But if you want to create a real world arts advocacy engine, shouldn't some of the investment be made in setting up the machinery for real world lobbying. I agree with you wholeheartedly that an investment in local advocacy would return many times the initial investment, but would an increased effort to effectively make the case as opposed to creating an effective real-world lobbying capacity be the right approach?

NANCY: I agree that creating sufficient lobbying capacity should be a part of the arts advocacy engine and I believe working through existing infrastructure is a good way to begin. As we know, there is no quick fix or silver bullet. It will require bi-partisan cooperation among multiple constituents. We must have bullet-proof arguments and solid information in order to make our case.

BARRY: Do you think foundations over-favor funding for big, traditional cultural organizations (at the expense of the smaller, multicultural organizations?) and is that a good, bad or neutral phenomenon?

NANCY: My observation is that the funders, both private and public, are becoming more comfortable funding smaller, less "traditional" organizations. When I entered the field, most foundations required that applicants have a minimum of three years of financials, a paid staff - both artistic and administrative - and a long list of individual donors before they would be considered for funding. As a result, many grantees looked alike - similar size, board composition, staff size, etc. As the sector grew and the composition of our communities changed, a varied group of organizations emerged.

Fortunately, many funders recognized that supporting a range of organizations was beneficial to the entire sector and began to loosen up the guidelines to accommodate the differences in operating styles. While we have a long way to go before I would say that the funding portfolios are balanced, I think we have turned the corner in this regard.

BARRY: Who in our field has got it right and what out there impresses you program wise?

NANCY: One effort that I think is particularly promising is Silicon Valley's 1 ACT. Although Silicon Valley is the home to unprecedented technological innovation and is chock full of creative individuals, support for the arts is not strong enough to support existing organizations let alone foster new activity. Formed by a group of local arts and community leaders its goal is to position San Jose as a creative urban center and to stimulate a climate of increased funding and community participation in the arts. What impresses me about the effort is the willingness of community leadership to view the arts community within the broader Silicon Valley culture by tapping into the creative energy already abundant in the area. The effort reinforces the idea that the vibrancy and "identity" of a local arts community is directly correlated to the characteristics of the region in which it operates.

BARRY: What trends do you predict for foundation funding for the arts in the next three to five years?

NANCY: I believe we will see a decline in the percentage of foundation funding dedicated to the arts. Further, I predict that funding for general operating support, particularly for established organizations, will also decline. Programs and projects with specific outcomes that can be evaluated are the most popular among funders, particularly when a direct correlation between a specific grant and a measurable outcome can be shown. If the arts are to be competitive with other fields such as the environment and health, we need to do a much smarter job communicating the essential role the arts play in our economic and social well-being. To assume that the arts sector is immune to shifts in funding priorities - that others will "pick up the tab" is naive. The nonprofit arts infrastructure that has evolved over the past forty years will continue to do so only with visionary leadership at all levels, including foundations.

BARRY: If we move from the past decades favorite objectives -- "capacity building" and "sustainability" -- to "evaluation" and "quantifiable measurement", won't that likely put the already hard hit mid-sized arts organizations ($500,000 to $3 million budgets) in a further bind? Will linkage between specific operational objectives (e.g., audience development that puts more young people in seats) qualify do you think as a fundable goal as long as there is measurement of the outcome??

NANCY: When there are shifts in funding priorities, many organizations try to conform to new guidelines. They will turn themselves inside out - promising results on projects they often have no business doing in the first place. If these activities are not central to the organization's work they may drift so far off course that they put the future of the organization in jeopardy. This is particularly dangerous for small and mid-sized organizations although I think it is also a problem for larger groups. I do not believe that the shift from a focus on sustainability and capacity building to a results-oriented strategy is necessarily a bad thing, but I think funders need to recognize that organizations are hugely under-capitalized and funding for core operations is very hard to come by. Both need to be honest about the capacity of the organization to carry out what it promises to accomplish - whether it is introducing young people to the theater or proving that arts education helps kids with math. This will become even more important as funding for general operations decreases and groups work even harder to retain what funding they have.

BARRY: The prediction that foundation funding for general operating support will decline is a provocative observation. If you're right, what happens to the literally hundreds of such organizations across the country who are heavily dependent (some would argue too dependent) on foundation support for at least part of their operations? Do you see it as a phase out, or do you think it will happen precipitously? Will there be any warning? What will happen to those organizations that lost operational support money from their state or local arts councils over the past few years? If their foundation support disappears, how will some of the more dependent ones keep their doors open? And if the phase out happens gradually, how do you think arts organizations will replace the operational funds? From what source will operations funding then come individual donations? Earned income? From what?

NANCY: Although foundation funding rarely accounts for a large percentage of an organization's budget, it is an important part of any organizations overall development strategy. Just having a foundation listed as a donor can be worth more than the amount of a grant - the "Good Housekeeping Stamp of Approval" effect -so, it can be a double-whammy to lose foundation support. I don't think there is a simple answer to this. The relationship between the funder and the organization will change - probably for the better in some cases. There is the possibility of more risk-taking on the part of both that, in the long term, might be beneficial for the entire sector. To manage the short-term and prepare for the long-term, I would encourage organizations to spend their limited time and financial resources on connecting with their community, nurturing individual donors, and forming alliances with other nonprofits.

BARRY: What are your plans?

NANCY: I have enjoyed working on this blog and look forward to more opportunities to bring up important issues facing the arts sector. I am on the board of Americans for the Arts and have joined the board of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art - both important organizations that I am honored to be associated with. These commitments plus a long list of hobbies including music, golf and sailing - as well as hanging out with family and friends - keeps me quite busy and happy.

BARRY: Thank you very much Nancy.
I hope that you somehow remain involved for some time to come. We need to figure out how we can transition the best of our senior leadership into retirement, but still have access to the treasure trove of their knowledge and experience. We will need and benefit from some kind of ongoing access to the Nancy Glazes and John Kreidlers, as the boomer generation turns over the reins to the next generation in the next decade.

Next interview in July - with Harvey Seifter, Director of the Arts & Business Council's Creativity Connection Program who shares his perspective in a candid discussion of how the arts and corporate America can (and have already begun to) effectively partner for mutual benefit and gain.

"I want to thank you, thank you, for letting me be myself.........."

I would like to thank the many people who sent me kind notes in support of my recently published book: Hardball Lobbying for Nonprofits (Macmillan & Co. New York, 2007) Click here to go to

Finally, after nearly three years, the nonprofit arts community in California seems to again be moving towards action to address the state cuts in funding that continue to relegate the state to last place in per capita support. I believe that if the current efforts in Los Angeles, San Francisco and statewide can, in the next two years, grow and thrive and become a rock solid foundation for advocacy in the state, and if we can then complement those efforts by launching similar efforts in other parts of the state - particularly in rural and Republican strongholds including the Central Valley, the Inland Empire and in suburban areas that are currently not organized, that in the third year of a master plan / strategy we will be able to successfully move to establish funding for the arts at not One Dollar per Capita, but at TWO DOLLARS PER CAPITA. As someone with some experience in the past efforts in California and elsewhere, I am almost certain this can be done.

Think what $75 million in annual state support could do for the arts here. Think what we might faciliate. We could re-establish and grow the Artist Presenting and Touring Program - cut three years ago and make some difference in providing new and expanded opportunities for artists to tour and perform live. We could support the infrastructure groups I created at the CAC (the various discipline and diversity based representative groups throughout California)so that everyone again had a seat at the table and could voice the positions and concerns of their constituents. We could again nurture and support multicultural arts in our state and celebrate the extraordinary asset that cultural diversity is - instead of continuing to let it die on the vine as it were. We could re-establish the State Local Partnership Program (once one of the nation's model programs - now decimated through no fault of its own) and make sure every single one of the state's 58 counties had a local arts agency that could act as a hub in each country for arts support. We could provide operational support to hundreds and hundreds of small and mid-sized arts organizations around the state that continue to struggle to survive- allowing them to spend less time fundraising and more time on their programs. We could systemically address marketing of the arts. We could increase access to the arts for the public dramatically. We could coordinate new efforts to re-establish curriculum based, sequential, arts education with standards and assessments in K-12 in our schools. We could allow the big major cultural institutions to again provide certain community and education services many have had to curtail without that extra income. We could, in a score of different ways, again address the needs of individual artists. In short, we could begin to again integrate arts & culture into the very fabric of civic life in our state and become a model for the nation.

I know many people will say this is just 'pie in the sky talk'. But that's what those people told me at the beginning of this century, and back then many of us refused to listen, and we organized an effort that succeeded in bringing state funding up to near one dollar per capita. Our failure was to act to protect gains won, for in politics, especially where funds are concerned, you must have the machinery ready and in-place so that you can always defend what you have won.

There is NO question we can do it again, and this time move to Two dollars per capita (more in line with New York and some of the other leading states). We need to be organized across the state and we need to become more political - but that is not only do-able, the only reason we can't do it would be because we won't. We need to be methodical - build the foundation we need around the state in a step-by-step process - involve artists and arts administrators along with supporters, stakeholders, patrons, volunteers, and the public. But if we start this summer we can be where we need to be in just two + years.

Just think of how $75 million (which, BTW, is a drop in the bucket in a $125 billion a year budget) could help support what the foundations are helping to keep alive (in some cases just barely, even though their money pool is actually increasing)? $75 million a year. It's out there. We can get it.

As Nancy said in the interview above, what kind of result might we achieve if we could invest $10 million in creating real advocacy for the arts in California. That, of course, is my fantasy dream and always has been. We don't have $10 million to invest, but that's ok, we can manage with far less. But we do need to put some money into the effort and we need to accept that at some point we need to raise this money ourselves. And we need to build the machinery. We can do this. Other sectors - with far fewer assets than we have - do it. This is basically the mantra in my book. And, if you might be interested in purchasing a copy or the Companion Workbook (165 pages of guidelines, forms, samples, checklists etc.), OR find out more about the workshops I plan to offer later this year and next on advocacy and on creating a Political Action Committee and other machinery to allow your advocacy / lobbying effort to be competitive with the private sector and for you to see dramatic results - please just email me (at and I will send you discount flyers on the book and workbook and information about the workshops.

Have a great week. Check out and subscribe to the artists version of Barry's Blog at CCI

Don't Quit!