Sunday, December 21, 2008

December 21, 2008


Hello everyone.

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


It's that time of year, and once again I have asked arts leaders from around the country to share with me their predictions for what challenges our field will face in the coming year. I want to welcome to this year's crop of contibutors a couple of younger arts administrators (Hanul Bahm and Ebony McKinney)that I met as part of the Focus Group study done as Phase II of the Youth Involvement in the Arts Initiative of the William & Flora Hewlett Fouondation - to be published in January 2009)I want to thank all of those who took time from their hectic year end schedules to share their thoughts and ideas with us.

First let me share with you my take on the coming year and what ideas, trends, external factors and new realities will mean to the arts sector:

THE ECONOMY I agree with many of the guest prognosticators - tough economic times are ahead for arts organizations of all sizes across the country. We've already had several venerable cultural organizations (large and small)close their doors, a number of other name institutions are in trouble here in California and across the country, and smaller, multicultural organizations may face increasing financial challenges. State deficits, reduced philanthropy, foundations hard hit by stock portfolio declines, and even consumer ticket buyer hesitation are all combining to make it difficult for arts organizations to get through next year. It's very likely we will see scores of arts organizations that will fail, and many, many more will have to cut budgets, reduce programming and lay off staffs. This will not likely be a good year financially for the whole sector.

As Nancy Glaze notes, the credit crisis will make it axiomatically more difficult for nonprofit arts organizations to borrow money short or long term to help shore up their declining income. As Anthony Radich points out several state arts agencies are likely to have to fight just to stay in existence. Perhaps a dozen or more moderately good sized local arts agencies (city & county) won't survive. And Bob Booker accurately, I think, points out that audiences may pull back from coming to performances as discretionary income shrinks. Bob also asks an interesting question in his query of what will younger people do in this crisis (as this is the first time many of them will have faced this kind of steep recession.

If there is any good news on the financial front, the NEA budget is likely to, at worst, stay where it is, and there might even be a small increase possible. This is good for smaller states heavily dependent on their share of NEA revenue. But it remains to be seen where the NEA grant making priorities will be in the new Obama Administration.

And the impact of the sour economy? How will we cope? The guest commentators suggest that:

1)We will see more mergers and consolidations than we have ever seen before; and are likely to entertain very different, creative and even radical new suggestions as to how arts provision in America ought to be structured in the future.

2) We will need to use technology to attract audiences and supporters to an extent, and in ways, we have yet to explore (and in many places, for the first time, real progress and change will actually occur in improving our sophistication in understanding and using technology to increase dissemination and access to the arts).

3) Content may move more towards satisfying popular demands so as to be more marketable, yet this impulse may be met by a counter movement by artists (particularly younger artists who may lead a rebellion against the status quo of arts provision within our sector and as a result of their dropping out of our ranks to go it a different way)to change our perspectives and priorities as we further question what we fund, how we fund it, and the very models and structures of our organizations.

4) There will be an increase in savvy target markeing expertise, and "marketing" will be the dominant skill set we focus on in our professional development efforts and our conferences.

5) We may see the arts turn increasingly towards a more local "community" approach - smaller shows and exhibits, more niche markets, more personalized funding pleas.

6. We will likely be more dependent than ever on volunteerism to fill the gap in our needs.

Of course, none of us have a reliable crystal ball and as a number of people who I invited to send me their thoughts declined because they honestly felt that they just didn't have any real idea what was going to happen in 2009, there are more questions for us than answers.

1. How bad will the economic forces actually hurt us? Will there be hundreds of closures or just scores? Will philanthropic, corporate and government funding be down for several years or will it be a shorter term phenomenon? Will some geographic areas be harder hit than others? Will some disciplines fare better than others? Will we see a real, fundamental, systemic change in how we organize ourselves or will we more likely see temporary changes, cosmetic moves?

2. How will the different generations in our workforce be affected by what is coming? Will aging Baby Boomers still keep retiring from our workforce or will they now stay? Will we successfully recruit and retain Millennials? How will the different generations support us - financially? as advocates?

3. Will we finally realize the need for real political clout on the local level and organize to get it? Will that effort be in time?

4. What will happen to arts education as state and local budgets are slashed? Will we still suffer the public perception that arts education is a "frill'?

5. Will we be too busy trying to survive to seize what may now be a golden opportunity to finally advance arts & culture policy to a new level, or will this instead be the opportunity and stimulus to do exactly that?

6. There will likely be an increased international effort to develop global arts & cultural policy and to institute more cross border exchanges and intersection.

I could go on - there are so many questions for us to address. I personally believe our sector is going to experience profound, fundamental changes never before seen by us. While these changes are likely going to be very painful, I think there is an opportunity here for us to move boldly into the future and accomplish some changes in our way of thinking and how we structure our organizations.


So what do we do?

I echo many of the contributors to this blog who urge us to create some sort of national committee to:
1) Advise the Obama administration (and indirectly state and local governments)on the role of arts & culture in America. Now is the time to mount a unified, massive effort to advance cultural policy on both the academic and practical levels. We need foundations and local government funders, arts leaders across the nation, to meet in some kind of emergency session to hammer out a well crafted policy statement that urges President Obama to include the arts & culture sector in any attempt to shore up the nation's infrastructure. We MUST immediately make the argument that the arts must be included in his infrastructure plans - both physical projects and job creation - and we need at least $100 million of this bailout money to go to the cultural infrastructure of this country. We need to present Obama with a detailed MARSHALL PLAN to save (and nourish) the arts as critical to this country's future.

I strongly second Wayne Lawson's suggestion to Bill Ivey to waste no time in gathering a national cabinet of arts leaders to develop this plan. I urge Bob Lynch, Jonathan Katz, Sam Miller, Wayne Lawson, Andrew Taylor and other national leaders to join with foundation leaders like Moy Eng, Ben Cameron, Marian Godfrey, John McGuirk, Olive Mosher, Claire Peeps and the whole GIA community, as well as others to get invovled in convening this kind of national panel to write such a Marshall Plan, and to do it right away - the clock is ticking. We finally have an opportunity to be proactive instead of reactive. Please don't let that door close.

2. We MUST finally figure out how to use technology to our advantage to expand access to art.

3. We MUST demand and insist that arts education be fully funded - to the same extent anyway as math & science. No more backseat.

4. We MUST become more fiscally prudent and responsible - and that includes Boards of Directors of our arts organizations finally understanding and accepting that their primary function and purpose is to protect the financial health of those organizations - to raise money, and not to micromanage programs and second guess staffs. And if they don't appreciate this is their purpose, they should resign or be thrown off those Boards. For far, far too long, Board members have thought their job was some kind of trophy appointment. Enough already.

Here are the observations of my guest commentators.

Clearly 2009, and probably at least 2010, will bring a level of pain and retrenchment in the cultural sector probably not seen in any of our lives. The deteriorating economic situation will result in reduced contributed revenues - and probably earned income as well - for virtually all arts organizations in America. Particularly fragile and undercapitalized organizations are unlikely to survive. In this context, here are a few thoughts for the new administration and whomever takes on the role of NEA

* Promote arts and culture as a critical component of the fabric of our society in a way that ensures cultural investment is not viewed as a "frill" or expendable, but as an essential element in our effort to get through these challenging times - this is the "bully pulpit" part of the job. More important now than ever.

* Ensure that any economic stimulus package, including both infrastructure investment and any large-scale employment program, includes investment in our cultural sector. This is about immediate economic stimulus - There are hundreds of major cultural capital projects around the country ready to roll instantly if funds were available. Lets take advantage of that! In addition, explore how the performing arts and commissioning of art can be incorporated into the plan a-la the WPA era. Why not special free public performances in parks, children's arts programs that would reduce truancy and violence - even touring Shakespeare, to steal a play from Gioia's playbook? What about murals and great works of public art (we have Mural Arts Program right here in Philadelphia - what about aggressively taking this program national)? What about bringing back a CETA-like program to help employ young people in the arts?

* Bite the bullet and transform the NEA Chair into a cabinet-level position. Mayor Michael Nutter has done it at the local level in Philadelphia. Let's finally join the ranks of most of the nations of the world that have a cultural minister or equivalent position. I can speak from experience and say it makes a huge difference in how the arts function within government and in the community if they are seen as meriting a cabinet level "place at the table."

* Related to the above, dramatically enhance investment in cultural diplomacy. Increase the resources available at each embassy for cultural advancement that helps other nations understand the diversity of our country better, and also invest more in large-scale cultural exchange - helping our greatest (not necessarily largest or best funded) organizations to tour internationally, and helping to bring artists of other cultures here to tour the US.

* Explore how the NEA can deal with a broader definition of the arts to encompass not just nonprofit arts organizations but arts happening in the for profit or unincorporated realm. this is a huge and growing area of the arts. By focussing only on supporting nonprofit arts organizations the NEA is missing a large swath of the arts sector, especially art forms and artists embraced by a younger generation.

That should keep our new NEA chair busy for a while!

I’m just back from a marketing conference which began a mere 5 days after President-Elect Obama’s campaign made history. I’m not sure if everyone on this blog shares my feelings, but I still feel the energy and excitement of the campaign now, as organizations mull over Obama’s arts policy and marvel at the genius of his grassroots, social network based campaign. I thought the sense of possibility and change would fade once the election was over. I am so glad it hasn’t, and I can’t wait to get more involved.

In the next year, the arts field needs to quickly and with decisiveness do two things:

1. Determine how we can advance President-Elect Obama’s arts agenda (available for download at

2. Steal as much as we can from the marketing brilliance of his campaign to help our own efforts. Smart corporations and organizations all over the world are going to try to copy what Obama’s team did. But it will only work if their cause is relevant and inspiring. The future of the arts feels pretty relevant and inspiring to me.

This will be so much more interesting than worrying about the economy, don’t you think?

We will see a downturn in contributed income, most notably from major donors who rely on stock. Cash flow in all arts organizations will be stressed and lines of credit as a tool for managing cash flow will be very limited. Organizations will be wise to focus more intently on serving their constiuents with activities that engage them in meaningful ways. Exepct donations to be more modest with even less funding from the corporate sector. It is possible that public funding will increase under the new administration but not right away. The young people who have so recently shown interest in politics will demand programming that speaks to their concerns and time of life. A renewed focus on volunteerim in the arts sector may be a factor given the recent volunteer activity by Millenial Generation (18-29). This may also be a time when some venerable institutions disappear. Those that have not kept up with the rapid changes of the past 7 years or so may find themselves out luck as the stress of financial contraints catches up with them. On a hopeful note, I expect many artists to flourish as folks look for diversion and meaning during this chaotic time.

I spent several days doing legal work for the Obama campaign in Ohio and had a chance to reflect on your questions. A couple of thoughts:

1. I believe an important 2009 arts trend is to acknowledge and support arts activity that takes place outside nonprofit arts organizations. The arts interests of the American people are overwhelmingly populist: amateur, non-institutional and culturally-based. Even younger artists with professional aims are increasingly working outside of the nonprofit arena. Especially for the NEA, it seems essential to lead on this, and not focus only on grant support for nonprofits. This may well be an important strategy for the long-term sustainability of arts organizations.

2. And, need I even mention it, in an Obama era arts education is a clear priority. The arts education field is poised, more than ever, to reintroduce and strengthen K-12 arts education in the schools. There are substantial new resources of people, information, alliances, and understanding. 2009 is the year major progress can be made.

Oh the times, they are a changin’….

My predictions for the coming year are:

1) Between five and seven state arts agencies will be threatened with closure, however, all of them will survive--though with financial haircuts.

2) Many arts-based Obama supporters will be disappointed by his actions in the arts. How can't they be? Their expectations have been high and not rooted in his track record in the area of culture.

3) The leaders of two major national-level arts service association will be pried out the door. These difficult-to-remove types will no longer be able to serve up the same old bromides for their suffering constituencies and remain as credible service organization leaders.

4) The promotional financial falsehoods regarding the economic value of supporting film production in the states will be unmasked. This will leave many arts advocates to run for cover on this issue.

5) The good side of the recession will be the closure of nonprofit arts organizations that have run out of audience and purpose. The field will lose many excellent efforts, but it will lose even more entities that should have died some time ago.

As some one who woke up one morning surprised to find that Jessie Ventura as my new Governor, I am not the best at making predictions. But, here goes...I think that due to the economy we are going to see a number of things occur in the Nonprofit arts industry.

1. Donors are going to pull back due to a combination of their investments paying poorly and simply the jitters about the economy. . This pull back may take the form of smaller gifts, delayed payments, split payments, and simply limiting the number of organizations they support in a season. However, while we may see some limited giving, meaning giving to specific causes or organizations, that could benefit some groups if they can make the case to be that "special" cause.

2. Audiences are going to pull back a bit. Think about the nesting activities we have seen in the past. Already we are seeing benefit attendance down in both the social service and arts arenas in Arizona. Attendance at these fundraising events are on average down by 1/3 in the Phoenix area alone.

3. The attendance pattern and giving pattern of young people will be of particular interest. Many of these younger workers have not actually experienced a downturn in the economy like this in the past and they may have a tendency to react more strongly to the recession. I know some of my team are particularly worried about employment, the future, and their resources.

4. Cash flow issues of nonprofit organizations will continue to be a major issue in their budgeting and this alone may cause the closure of some groups.

5. Funders, especially public funders who base their resources on a combination of investments and appropriations will have some problems making their commitments to their grantees. With mid cycle reductions to state arts agencies, we are already seeing this occur across the country.

6. A positive in these times will certainly be a growth of nontraditional arts industry models, a blending of nonprofit and for-profit initiatives, and the growth of do-it-yourself arts facilities and product. These initiatives and actions,will be led and facilitated by younger artists, young staff members, and individuals that look at arts participation based in breaking down barriers and enhansed personal participation.

Some arts and cultural groups will go out of business but the art will not die and artist will survive.
We will finally get around to seriously looking at the flaws of the 501(c)(3) structure, laws governing endowments (i.e. I have $30 million in endowment corpus but no earnings to spend) and the under capitalization of the sector

Look out for the new, innovative and very creative...this is our time to shine.


I consider myself a cynical optimist. As such, I have some hope for the next year, even in our very difficult economic times. I think that hard times force us to prioritize and use our talents and money as effectively as possible. So, in the next year I think we'll see the arts field looking for ways to innovate and reach out to new partners and communities. The incoming Obama administration gives me even more hope, as he seems to fundamentally "get" that the arts and our creative communities can be partners in improving our country.

WESTAF recently convened a symposium on State Economic Development and the Creative Economy. I was delighted by the optimistic (without the cynical) nature of the discussion--rather than focusing solely on the current economic condition, the participants discussed radically new ways to transform the arts field and our institutions into a vital economic force in state government. This kind of thinking--when translated into action--will help our arts field continue its evolution into the 21st century.

think the arts sector is facing and will continue to face the effects of the recession. Count the number of state governments facing huge deficits. Check the number and amounts of arts donations from all the various sectors who usually give. What are they going to do? Both the non-profit arts world and the public agencies that fund them are going to have to re-think how they are doing business. Where have we heard that before? Change is here---so strongly evidenced by the election of Barack Obama. And change is expected by those who voted for him---and I would gather that most of us in the arts world did. He cannot do it alone. Now----how do we effect that change in light of this recession. Business cannot be done in the same way. I would suggest that a variety of private foundations and other funders bring together folks from the arts world to have some serious discussions about this change. We are all in it together and it has only just begun. Perhaps a think tank here and there might help. I don't believe anyone can do it alone. In five years----it is going to be a very different and perhaps difficult place to do arts business. We better be part of the solution and not the problem.

I would suggest to Mr. Ivey--transition team for the NEA AND NEH--to do what the President-Elect is doing--gather around himself a variety of folks in the field from the past, the present and those he thinks will be thought provokers of the future and get as much feedback and insight that he can. Then get that position paper together and get it on the President's desk. There are so many issues which need to be discussed before new leadership is put into place: the creative economy, globalization, the role of the individual artists, funding for our arts institutions across the country---the list goes on. But start now. Don't wait. Involve as many insightful and thoughtful thinkers as you can. Change is here. Take Advantage of it.

There will be more of an emphasis on individual giving, as well as creative funding ideas rooted in entrepreneurship and social venture philanthropy.

Arts orgs. will more closely cultivate their constituencies through technology and more targeted communication and audiences/donors/patrons will make very earnest and long lasting decisions about their priorities, values, energy and money.

Arts orgs. will become more savvy about capacity building and infrastructure development as they look at ways to pool resources and instate a living wage for workers.

There will be a greater demand for peer-based learning opportunities, and arts administration-type classes (finance, strategic planning, program design, communication strategies, ect.), minus the university, plus the most contemporary thinking. Learning cohorts are in. The next generation will organize themselves and more cohesively express themselves. They will also work on advancing new frameworks and building strong networks locally, regionally, nationally and possibly globally.

We want to think in new ways.

Funders will form strategic partnerships and pool resources to build new capacity building initiatives that address these needs.

Fiscal sponsorship will increasingly allow artists, art workers and small arts orgs/initiatives to be more organized and impactful (and agile). Artists, collectives and art houses will continue to innovative in communities, creating high quality art work while working with non-artists and the non-arts sector. Demand will increase for community-based arts opportunities like the Creative Work Fund and SFAC's Arts & Communities.

A new openness, pride and curiosity will feed arts workers desire to work abroad as part of arts exchange programs and diplomacy initiatives. The most adventurous may even forgo the program and head off independently.

Going to colleges and universities abroad is also more attractive.

The art sector will emphasize self-help, collaboration, investment, knowledge and community building to not only address the present economic crisis, but the arts sustainability in the long term.

The next NEA chair should:
1. Encourage modern and expanded opportunities for professional development,capacity building and peer learning.

2. Give serious counsel to the best ways to enrich and deploy both next generation arts and culture workers and soon-to-be retiring(?) baby boomers committed to sustaining arts.

3. Seek opportunities for collaboration with non-arts.

4. Can the Arts Corp work with the Green Corp? What is the role
of art in the massive infrastructure development that is going to take place?

5. Be dynamic, analytical and engaging.

6. Communicate strategically, up and down, partly by harnessing technology.

7. Have a depth and diversity of relevant experience (working alongside artists, educators and cultural leaders and advocates).

8. Possess a well-rounded perspective on the future role of arts.
advocate of value building, knowledge building and sustained learning.

I want an innovator in the vein of Cheryl Dorsey, president of Echoing Green, and Paul Schmitz, president of Public Allies, who were both just appointed to an Obama administration team charged with developing an "innovation agenda"
for the country.

I think with the gorgeous outcome of this election, you're gonna see a lot more initiative and momentum from people who aren't usually organized or formally represented, especially emerging, self-taught, and urban artists---artists whose practice exists largely outside of the "c.v." system. In short, lots of people from the low-end. We just got a giant green light to own the sense of personal empowerment we've harbored all along, but that's been gradually beaten out of us over the years. So, you're gonna see more mobilization and stepping up from ranks that are usually under the radar of most arts administrators. And they will bring a very different ethos with them.

Overall, artists will now feel that they can beat the machine, whatever that may be. :) Artist and arts administrator both are keenly sensitive and affected by the political climes of their nation. We will feel a little more comfortable in our skins and in speaking out, addressing long-festering problems and coming up with directive, useful solutions.

Artists will also ask for more accountability and reciprocity from arts administrators. In the arts world, the "machine" is the curator / gallery / media / funder system, and the game of getting "known," "critically approved," "networked," and therefore, fundable. By this statement, I don't mean to pass any judgment on artists who've toiled for years, matured their expressive capacities, and finally got recognized for their creativity and hard work, nor on the incredibly resilient, dedicated arts administrators who bust their tail to serve artists and the public. Rather, it is about the institutionalization of the arts, and how gatekeepers relate to artists. There will be more insistence from the artists for more investment into their creative process and less emphasis on the comodification or output-driven production of their art. Many funded and sponsored artists tailor their creative output based on the tastes and needs of institutions or orgs who have been good to them, but it sometimes stymies their creative evolution. There will be more insistence for funding and technical support in all phases of the arts process, production, and post-production.

It's already happening, but you will see more and more artists working in decentralized networks, creating alliances with like-minded practitioners over the globe, to pursue their projects. And their funding, distribution, and networking models will be vastly different from what we've known. They will create their own means, seemingly overnight, borrowing from entrepreneurial models. Of course, nothing was overnight, and there will have been untold hours of labor on the front and back end.

On the flip side, you will see more artists applying through formal arts opportunities whose content and substance is less conceptual or "design-y." Their gestalt will lean more toward on the complex poetics and of culture and story-specific, especially in regards to marginalized folks. You will see great breadth, force of expression, sensibilities, and experimentation in their ranks. Their work will feel more personal and experiential. I promise you, this work will be good, just like works that come out of censorship or post-censorship nations are good. They just lived through decades of pressurizing a coal mine inside. Now, they are going to mine their diamonds.

You will see an awesome amalgamation of more veteran artists and arts administrators, using their clout, brilliance, and hard-earned wisdom to invest in new directions and ways of doing things. They will revive the revolutionary, grassroots ethos that got them into arts in the first place, and channel it into initiatives they've been wanting to unleash all along. They will take pause from the typically dizzying cycles of production and deadlines that normal envelope them, look at the elevation they've scaled, and make room to invest in a few, signature initiatives dear to their hearts.

You will see more artists stepping up in the ranks of formal and informal leadership, within organizations and communities. There will be more insistence on creative problem-solving, collaboration, teamwork, and a functional, sustainable model of doing things. No one will believe we have to continue enduring "politics as usual." And good news! There is consensus and great dialogues to be held across generational divide, between those who have clout and those who do not. And it is those without the clout who will initiate these talks. They will insist that systems benefit and serve everyone's well being. You will see leaders who are 16 and leaders who are 91. And no one will be demeaned or resented for their age. Their value will be weighed by the strength and creativity of their contributions, and how well it serves the collective good. It will not be less based on tribal identification, similarity of upbringing, pedigree, or demographics. Also, there will be an insistence for mechanisms of accountability and checks and balances within arts organizations. Well, maybe the last statement is more of a hope than a prediction...we'll see!

You will see an insistence from artists and arts organizations, with and without their 501c3, to provide seed money: larger quantities of small and mid-size grants. Not just for arts education funding, but a myriad of things, including arts creation and development; cross-city residencies; professional development; capital expenses; especially refurbishing run-down spaces, and programs where artists can serve the workforce, as consultants or contractors, as well as communities. We will be wise to explore new models of paying and commissioning artists to pursue their art. I trust that someday soon, a brilliant group of people will adapt Kiva's model of microfinance and apply it to artist projects.

Nickels and dimes. You will see more artists and arts orgs asking their communities to save their nickels and dimes for art. I'm hedging my bets toward a trend that will see arts orgs catering more to their audiences than to grant funders' requests of them. Arts organizations will need to think beyond scensters and loyal patrons and think of developing new audiences. They will need to be imaginative and expansive in how their articulate their mission and broach audience engagement. They will need to make a case for relevancy and resonance to demographics and income earners beyond the usual faces in their crowds. In economically tough times, arts organizations cannot be about the personal taste of the program folks. It will have to make a case for personal relevance and value for their audiences.

There will be more push toward sustained dialogue and engagement with audiences. And they will be happy to spend on the arts. Maybe they won't write a check if they're solicited for a donation, but they will still show up in droves to programs, performances, screenings, and openings.

Along these lines, you will see arts administrators asking for lots of professional development. Literacy in collaboration, project management, grassroots marketing, web 2.0, plus the basic triumverate---budgeting, fundraising, and grant writing---will be insisted upon. My hope is that we'll develop strategic partnerships with other arts and professional development orgs, as well as the creative private sector, to enable and fund some of these demands. There are already peer learning groups forming, including the recently established Bay Area Emerging Arts Administrator Network, that are addressing these needs. I am hopeful that there can be more dialogues, just among arts orgs, to identify and address collective challenges, identifying best practices, and sharing their resources. There is a ton of group genius in the art sector to be mined. So you will also see arts administrators asking for and creating such opportunities, wanting to know what folks in Minneapolis or Seattle are doing, wanting to meet one another, whether in a cafe or on Skype.

If I could tell the new NEA chair four things, it would be to:

1) Think of all the assets, skills, and literacies an artist brings to her communities and economies. Create a giant list. Think of businesses and organizations that can benefit from out-of-the-box, creative problem-solving. Enable programs that employ artists in these capacities, or lets them initiate projects along these lines. Find ways to keep them employed, but not over-employed, so they have time to devote to their art.

2) Invest in the professional capacities and well-being of your artists and arts administrators. This includes livable wages and pro-rated health care for people who may not work full-time or be covered by an employer.

3) Devise a way to support the whole ecology of arts in any given town. Or better yet, asks towns to identify what localized solutions they can think of to sustain optimal arts activity. Not just for the ballet, operas, symphonies, and award-winning career artists, but really, a whole new generation of practitioners---whether you're into their work or not. Seed the ground. Trust the ground. There are new paradigms, messages, and mediums of arts coming, already here, in fact. Invest in them.

4) Look outside the known, the tried and true practices of the arts field. Look at what NSF does. They fund a whole ton of R & D and have massive levels and tiers of funding they offer. Few people doubt that science and technology drive a huge economic and intellectual engine. Industries, the medical world, and the whole of developing and prospering nations all require and need scientific advancement. Science almost appears recession-proof. How can we make the same case for arts and prove its viability? What can we learn from the entertainment industry, which also seems to prosper in economic downturns? How do other countries empower and employ their artists? What best practices can we glean?


1) Many arts organization mergers and consolidations, fewer arts organization closures than might be expected.
2) Universal cutbacks in operations and staffing expense.
3)Drop off in high end arts product sales in commercial arts markets.
4) Arts audiences turn to more local and intimate arts offerings as cultural tourism slows.
5)Continued challenges and slippage in corporate and foundation arts support.
6) Confusion/lack of understanding about the value of the arts in the private philanthropic leadership (CEOs/Boards) in America
7) Private individual arts donor funding fatigue but holding somewhat steady.
8) State government arts funding severely challenged and taking some hits.
9) Local government arts funding severly challenged but holding steady.
10) federal arts funding modest increase.
11) Earned arts income modest increases for arts orgs with marketing creativity and savvy.
12) Enrollment in College level arts program will increase (go figure).

More non-profit cultural organizations will be challenged to find ways to collaborate, combine services or go out of business.

Audiences will recognize the value of having robust cultural organizations in their neighborhoods – for economic development, vitality, a sense of place and belonging. Perhaps more people will welcome the opportunity to get to know their community cultural assets and become more engaged in the arts through participation, attendance, volunteerism or contributions.

Cultural organizations must embrace the research on changing demographics and artistic directors and marketing directors must work together to market the arts.

The NEA chair will need to be a leader who focuses on cultural policy at the highest level. We must retain our image around the world and we have the assets (artists, etc) who can promote the US as a society that embraces arts and culture as a basic right. He/she must support creation and innovation and find a way to incorporate creativity into broader policy issues.

Just my quick thoughts

The non-profit arts will be in difficult straits in terms of attracting private sector donations. Governments are cutting back arts and human service programs, more competition for foundation funds as a result. These are dangerous times for the arts. I have always believed the arts community enjoyed very broad but very shallow public support. During times of austerity any program that is seen as unessential is in danger of extinction. There is of course some hope in having Obama as President just because I think he does get it. I look forward to him choosing a leader of stature at the NEA, which is not a comment on Dana Gioia who I think performed admirably but new blood with a new vision will be invigorating.

Here in California we are aggressively pursuing the digital arts as The California Digital Arts Studio Partnership Program is being embraced by Governor Schwarzenegger as a legacy program, which eventually will return dividends in the form of new resources for arts in schools and our community. I don't believe that the arts community has enthusiastically embraced all the facets of electronic marketing available to them. We have to "break into" the digital community, either by marketing the arts through digital means or through digital arts products. Serious efforts on holographic productions for example need to be undertaken in my view. My sense is our message is being drown out by all the commercial noise associated with the Internet and wireless communication.

I am hoping for the best and want to wish everyone in the arts community a big season's greeting and in the words of one Barry Hessenius "Don't Quit!"


Given the big shake-up in the Federal government, and the likely shake- down in state and local (budget deficits abound), there's a real opportunity not just for the National Endowment for the Arts, but for the collective cultural agencies of the Federal government to become more thoughtful, more intentional, and more policy focused under the Obama presidency. The National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, could grow beyond granting and discipline-specific agencies into more engaged and responsive policy actors in the sea changes to come.

While we like to moan about the minimal funding afforded these agencies, the larger fact is that the arts are EVERYWHERE in our Federal government -- in education, sciences, library services, commerce, even the military (one of the largest funders of the performing arts, once you account for military bands). Yet there's been limited attempts to align all of these various cultural, heritage, and arts efforts toward a larger public purpose. There are already efforts underway to rethink this strategy (thanks to Bill Ivey, who's on Obama's transition team). And a renewing faith and hope for collective action may make such efforts more fruitful in the coming four years.

The other big news for the arts in 2009 will clearly be the economy, and the credit and consumer crashes still to come. Disposable income and philanthropic wealth will draw more competition for a smaller supply. And many arts organizations carrying legacy strategies and business models will struggle, limp along, or fall away. The temptation will be to move toward popular content. The salvation will be in another direction: bringing true clarity of purpose and focus of intent to each organization's work. With resources evaporating, resourcefulness may emerge, and (dare we say it) innovation in the ways we organize, foster, produce, promote, deliver, and steward exceptional acts of human expression.

These will be arduous times, and awful for many creative and intelligent people in the field. But there's opportunity in this stark landscape, as well.

I can't speak for the others but who would want or dare to make a prediction at this moment in time? That things will get better? Well, perhaps in a few discreet areas - support for projects drenched in job creation might stand a chance, opportunities and policies in the realm of cultural exchange and diplomacy are likely to improve by the end of 2009 - both are a possibility. That things are likely to get worse and stay that way for a prolonged period, not a risky prediction but where is the pleasure in making such a statement - that arts organizations already struggling with limited resources will now be forced to make reductions in programs and staff beyond true viability, that closures and cancellations will migrate through the field indifferent to the size, discipline, quality, and historic resilence of its victims - who wants to be that messenger? And who wants to say that after these negative waters recede that left standing might be a smaller more determined group of artists and arts organizations, fire-hardened, lightly touched by survivor's guilt, bouyed by the support they received from their community throughout the down cycle - who wants to be that pale version of Cassandra?

So sorry not to be more forthcoming but, poised between hope and despair, who really wants to be even modestly Delphic?

Big trends:

Demographic shifts – 60 plus and youth demos increasing. Baby boomers aging and reaching retirement age. US Census forecasts an increasingly racial/ethnically diverse population and by 2040, Caucasians will become a minority. That has transpired in California in 2000.

Technology – driving changes in everyday life, unimaginable 20-30 years ago, enabling people to be connected 24/7, if you have a money to purchase the hardware and “pay rent” to be connected whether its cable, itunes, mobile device, satellite radio, and living increasingly for younger people in virtual time/settings than geophysical world.

Urbanization with fast growing mega-cities such as Mexico City, Shanghai, other cities in China.

How to most effectively address global warming and its effects from melting ice caps, thinning ozone layer.

Persistent and growing gap between the haves and have nots – the effects of the economic inequities (lack of or no access to education, inequitable trade and aid policies which negatively suppress or undermine the economic opportunity in developing countries).

Current economic crisis unfolding in the US which is undermining confidence in the financial system, reeking havoc on people’s job opportunities, retirement funds, mortgages and ability to obtain credit/loans for major life milestones: new business, business expansion, college, home purchase and improvement.

What the Obama Administration might consider in the area of arts and culture?

They are the first presidential administration I can remember with a well articulated and comprehensive platform in arts and culture. I’m particularly encouraged and excited by their interest in arts education and media policy.

A few brief suggestions:

It is time to bring together the policy/regulatory strands that affects arts, culture and entertainment under one individual or supra-agency: US Culture Minister or Senior Advisor to President on Culture.

This individual and/or agency, similar to Homeland Security, but much more positively focused on the promotion of cultural literacy and promotion and support of US culture.

I would envision an exploration and development of a new policy/regulatory and funding framework that would encompass support for individual participation in arts and culture, to make it part of everyone’s life – enhancing the quality of one’s life, improving civic engagement (see the Chorus America studies, and supporting cultural literacy. This could mean supporting programs which encompass the creation of investment forums by people like you and me to commission a new work to offering a subsidy allowance for a family to purchase one artwork of meaning to providing every child a musical instrument of his/her choice with a “how to” DVD/CD/web-based curriculum. Undergirding this framework is the belief that every individual is creative and accesses that creativity in many different ways. That cultural literacy and creativity are developed and fired by a variety of ways including arts education as part of a child’s preK-18 education.

Secondly, the impact of technology and media in our lives is profound. Access to abundant media experiences is 24/7 whether on the web or on our mobile device as is our ability to share those cultural experiences whether music, film or media is so easy. Large corporations (such as Warner Bros, EMI, Clear Channel) and transnationals increasingly control what we see/hear. Content has grown increasingly homogenized via television and music recording companies more risk adverse (less likely to bankroll new, risky, innovative) projects. As Bill Ivey writes poignantly in his most recent book, arts inc., music as cultural assets of a country are not fully understood and valuated in the way that they should be. And, how shall we rewrite (or rather refine) the rules to financially reward the creative ideas/products (e.g., song) in the face of sharing music for free? Or recognize the nuanced differences between artistic influences in a work versus plagarism?

Thirdly, a huge challenge will be to get our “arms” around the definition of arts, of culture, of diversity and what they mean in a country that grows increasingly diverse demographically, linguistically and culturally. For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area, more than 120 languages are spoken here. That simple factoid hints at the large question for any agency which fosters and support arts/culture and participation in arts and culture. Given the inevitable financial limitations, what art, what cultures gets to count? What is supported and why? How best to support in a full, thoughtful and effective way?

Challenges/opportunities for the next chair of the NEA:

-see that artists and arts organizations fully participate in the policy priorities of the Obama administration; these include universal health insurance and several public service corps.

-see to the implementation of the priorities identified by the Obama campaign’s arts policy committee; these include cultural diplomacy and a comprehensive approach to arts education.

-advance nation-wide understanding of the arts as a multi-sector industry that contributes to employment, a healthy economy, and a creative, competitive work force. 

-maintain a leadership role in support of the not-for-profit arts community and establish appropriate governmental leadership roles on behalf of all participation in the arts, including the for-profit and amateur dimensions; this involves engaging other federal agencies and Congressional committees.

-balance the not-for-profit arts community’s need for capacity-building policies and grant programs with the NEA’s need to communicate its value as an agency to its authorizers and the public.

-employ a strategic planning process to develop national goals related to broadening, deepening and diversifying participation in the arts; identify a locus to receive continual input related to participation in the arts from outside the agency.

-use the leadership functions of the NEA – including convening, research, and partnership building – to implement goals.

Wishing you all the happiest of holidays.

Don't Quit. Whatever you do, Don't Quit!