Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Arizona Town Hall - Final Day

Good morning
"And the beat goes on....................................."

Arizona Town Hall - Day 3:
This is the day it all came together.  The draft of the final Town Hall report was available to the delegates at 5:00 am.  All five panels convened to review the draft and suggest their edits, changes and editions at 6:45 am.  At 12:30 pm the entire Town Hall met in plenary session to consider each of the changes proposed by the participants in each of the five panels - section by section, one by one.  If there wasn't apparent consensus to any given proposed change, a small group of people favoring and / or opposing the proposed change caucused together and came up with compromise language and re-submitted it to the whole group, and it was then accepted or rejected.

I went from panel to panel meeting before the plenary session and there was considerable discussion about what people wanted to change, delete or add.  It went relatively quickly.  Surprisingly, the plenary session flowed well and most of the proposed changes were easily accepted, including those compromises reached by the differing factions.  Several were rejected.  The final document reflects an extraordinary amount of time and work over three long and grueling days, and is a quite remarkable document delineating the status of arts and culture in Arizona, what the challenges and opportunities are, and sets forth a series of very specific action steps - some immediate, some longer term - that the sector will need to undertake to move it forward to a healthier and more sustainable future. 

I congratulate every one who participated (as well as the organizers and Town Hall Board members, staff, and recorders) for some very clear thinking, for their willingness to engage in real collaboration, and for producing a blueprint that, if they can now do the hard part - the follow up and implementation - can be leveraged to galvanize the field in Arizona as perhaps never before, and allow them to build a foundation and apparatus that can put them in a much better position over the next eighteen months and then beyond to the 2014 election cycle. 

Much of what they accomplished goes far beyond addressing the challenges of the current Arizona legislative debacle of gutting public funding.  The document they produced deals with everything from gaining political clout and specific ways the sector can work on the local and state level beyond direct government funding to garner more public and private support, to data collection, to business alliances and partnerships, to arts education, to establishing collaborative efforts within the field.  As are all of the Town Hall Reports this too is a clarion call for the state - for government at all levels, the private business community, and individual citizens to make the investment of time, money, resources, and involvement in arts, culture and the humanities that will allow Arizona to move from back in the pack to a national leadership position as a leader in leveraging creativity for the benefit of the whole state and all its interests.

Clearly, it will not be easy.  It will take a lot of work, commitment, dedication and sacrifice.  It will take - perhaps more than anything else - a great deal of trust by all the leaders in Arizona in each other.  It will also take a change in past cultures of what can and cannot be done, and how things ought to be done.  It will take true out-of-the-box thinking and a willingness to try new bold new avenues to make it a reality.  But over just three days, some very good people made a real beginning.  If they can share the workload, remain focused, build new bridges and repair old ones, they have a real chance to not only move the sector in Arizona where they want it to be, where it ought to go, but they have a chance to build a model for other states to replicate.

I should have a copy of the final document within a few days and will post at least the salient highlights, if not the entire final Town Hall Report.  I will also add the remarks of some brief talks I had with several people who participated in the Town Hall, offer some of my own insights as an outsider, and provide some links that may be useful.

I don't want to list all of the specific action steps the final report adopted here now, because I don't want to use the draft language or try to paraphrase the final version on my own.  I think that would be a disservice to all of these people who worked so diligently to get the wording right.  Besides, I don't know about the rest of the participants, but I am pooped.

Again, it was a real pleasure to report from this Town Hall and to participate in a unique process with some very smart and very likable people who - like all of you out there - care so very much about arts and culture and who know what value it brings to our communities - large and small across America.  I am grateful to Bob Booker and the Arizona Commission on the Arts and to Westaf for enabling me to attend the event and to blog on it here. 

Please either subscribe to the blog by entering your email on the right hand side - scroll down - or check back next week for the Final Report summary and - I hope - full document link.

Thank you Arizona.  I salute you. 

Don't Quit!