"And the beat goes on..................."
New Year's Resolutions:
Time once again to trot out the same resolutions we make every year: get to the gym; exercise more, eat healthy; get organized; spend more time doing what we like; be a better person. Lofty and admirable aspirations all. Good luck.
On an ambitious but not unrealistic thread, here are some modest suggestions for New Year's resolutions the arts community as a whole early ought to make - directed principally at the funders and national arts organizations that have the capacity, resources and platforms to actually do something about these issues:
1. Cultural Equity: Address finally the disparity in the allocation of funding that gives short shift to the smaller, newer and multicultural organizations. And with due respect to those of good will that recognize the challenge and want to address it - it really isn't about desired outcomes or long range objectives. Equity is about fairness; it's about equality in application. The simple fact is that the current systemic mechanisms we use to allocate funding simply aren't 'fair.' They favor one class of organizations over all the rest and no amount of rationalization can justify the inherent 'inequity' in the reality. Make it fair.
2. Research: We need a national consensus policy to guide our research efforts into the decade. As good as our research is, and as capable as our researchers are - it is basically piecemeal. We need an over-arching policy as to what we need to know, on what timeline and to what purpose. And we need at least some modicum of cooperation so we can pursue research in some linear pattern. Somebody please convene a national summit to deal with our currently all over the map research efforts. At least create ways researchers (can and will) talk to each other on some regular basis.
3. Political Action Committees: Every state arts advocacy organization should establish a state Political Action Committee this year. This isn't rocket science. It's all perfectly legal and easy to do - including, contrary to the naysayers - raising funds to support the effort (and it takes far, far less to be effective than you think). The net result will be dramatically increased political clout, a much needed sense of empowerment and belief that we can indeed control our own destinies, and a huge push in the momentum towards collaboration. It will also likely to lead to better results for us.
4. Economies of Scale: Again somebody please look at the issue of how we can reduce our operating costs by cooperative ventures from a national perspective. From accounting and payroll services, to marketing, to such mundane things as printing expenses - we are all paying more than we should because we do not leverage our numbers to cut costs and get discounts. It is simply too hard for arts organizations on a local level to put together cooperatives that will accomplish these kinds of savings. There has to be some help from at least the state level, and better on the federal level, that will create the framework so organizations can plug into it and easily enjoy the advantages of large scale buying power. For example: There is no reason the arts sector shouldn't own it's own printing plants - strategically located around the country - that would produce all our stationery, brochures, fundraising flyers, posters, advertisements etc. That would allow all of us access to high quality artwork and finished product at highly competitive prices and on an as good as (and maybe better) delivery schedule. With off the shelf software and internet advances, and drop shipping widely available - there is no reason to continue to pay local high prices for quality printing. We should start our own printing business.
5. Local Arts Agency Funding Diversity: We desperately need to convene our best minds to brainstorm ideas as to how we can diversify the funding streams of local and state arts agencies. A new funding model for government funding is needed very soon if this branch of our funding infrastructure is to survive. I don't know what the answer is, or even if there is one - but let's make it a national priority to find out.
6. Shift in Arts Education Demands: At the risk of offending some of those who have for so long fought the good fight to get curriculum based, sequential arts education - with universal standards and assessment - taught by qualified / certified teachers - for all students K-12 - we need to adjust our thinking to be more realistic. The simple and unalterable fact is that the cost of one visual arts, one music, one dance and one drama teacher in every school is so enormous as to be prohibitively expensive. It just cannot happen across all jurisdictions. Let's resolve to identify smaller, reachable annual objectives that move us along the continuum, even if it's just steps in the right direction.
7. Mentoring: Here's one last resolution that would make an enormous difference, and though it would take a serious time commitment - it is within our power. Each seasoned arts leader who has been in the field for more than ten years - resolve to find someone to mentor who has been in the field less than five years - and at least offer to do it for at least six months. Maybe some national organization or funder would facilitate the creation of a website that would broker those looking for mentors with those willing to volunteer.
So please all you foundation people and you national organization leaders - think about resolving to address one or more of the above issues.
Happy New Year. Let's hope it's a good one, the misinterpreters of the Mayan calendar notwithstanding.