Monday, October 2, 2006

October 02, 2006

Barry's Blog - October 3, 2006

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

Hi everybody.

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

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

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

Cultural Policy
Arts Education
The Nonprofit Business Model
Generational leadership succession

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

The Irvine Report states:

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

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

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

The report goes on to note:

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

So what to do??

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just a thought.

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

Don't Quit.