Sunday, April 29, 2012

A Little Humor to Start Your Week

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

Ok get ready to groan and moan.  Puns - I know I know.  I'm just trying to brighten up your Monday with a little humor..............You have to smile at one or two of them.

  • When chemists die, they barium.
  • Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
  • A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is now a seasoned veteran.
  • I know a guy who's addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.
  • How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
  • I stayed up all night to see where the sun went. Then it dawned on me.
  • This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian club, but I'd never met herbivore.
  • I'm reading a book about anti-gravity. I can't put it down.
  • I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a play on words.
  • They told me I had type A blood, but it was a Type- O.
  • A dyslexic man walks into a bra.
  • PMS jokes aren't funny, period.
  • Why were the Indians here first? They had reservations.
  • Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope there's no pop quiz.
  • Energizer bunny was arrested. Charged with battery.
  • I didn't like my beard at first. Then it grew on me.
  • How do you make holy water? Boil the hell out of it!
  • Did you hear about the cross eyed teacher who lost her job because she couldn't control her pupils?
  • When you get a bladder infection, urine trouble.
  • What does a clock do when it's hungry? It goes back four seconds.
  • I wondered why the baseball was getting bigger. Then it hit me!
  • Broken pencils are pointless.
  • I tried to catch some fog. I mist.
  • What do you call a dinosaur with a extensive vocabulary? A thesaurus.
  • England has no kidney bank, but it does have a Liverpool.
  • I used to be a banker, but then I lost interest.
  • I dropped out of communism class because of lousy Marx.
  • All the toilets in New York's police stations have been stolen. Police have nothing to go on.
  • I got a job at a bakery because I kneaded dough.
  • Haunted French pancakes give me the crepes.
  • Velcro - what a rip off!
  • Cartoonist found dead in home. Details are sketchy.
  • Venison for dinner? Oh deer!
  • Earthquake in Washington obviously government's fault.
  • I used to think I was indecisive, but now I'm not so sure.
  • Be kind to your dentist. He has fillings, too.
Here are my five favorite jokes from the internet in the past year:
  1. I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather.. Not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.
  2. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
  3. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.
  4. Why does someone believe you when you say there are four billion stars, but check when you say the paint is wet?
  5. And this mother in law joke:  A patient says, "Doctor, last night I made a Freudian slip. I was having dinner with my mother-in-law and wanted to say: 'Could you please pass the butter?' But instead I said: 'You silly cow, you have completely ruined my life."  Ok, Ok, I know.  But it is kind of funny.
And if you missed Jimmy Kimmel at last night's White House Press Correspondent's dinner, here are a couple of his one liners:
  • "If you told me when I was a kid I would be standing on a dais with President Barack Obama, I would have said, 'The president's name is Barack Obama?'"
  • "They say diplomacy is a matter of carrot and sticks, and since Michelle Obama got to the White House — so is dinner."
  • To Obama: "I know you won't be able to laugh at my jokes about the Secret Service. Please cover your ears, if that's physically possible."

Got this photo in the email.  Supposedly a sign in an Atlanta WalMart.  Not true according to Snopes.  Actually a finalist in some design / humor contest.  But don't you just wish you could point to it when some moron unloads a full cart in front of you -- and the checker says nothing.  My own experience is that this would actually be of  value to about 10% of the population.  Or maybe not as they would probably be confused by that third hand...........If they want to count to fifteen they usually have to take off one shoe and sock first.

Have a good week. Smile and laugh if you get the chance.

And Don't Quit.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Interview with APAP's Mario Garcia Durham

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

Mario Garcia Durham Interview:
Bio:  In October 2011, Mario Garcia Durham became the fifth executive director of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters since its founding in 1957.  A graduate of the University of Houston, Mario comes to APAP from the National Endowment for the Arts where he was Director of Artist Communities & Presenting. At the NEA, Durham was involved in creating programs such as An Evening of Poetry hosted by the President and Mrs. Obama, and was the initiator of Live from Your Neighborhood, a groundbreaking study of the impact of outdoor arts festivals in the U.S. 
After holding numerous management positions and serving as assistant artistic director at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the 1990s, he founded Yerba Buena Arts & Events in 2000, the producing organization of the annual Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. The outdoor event offers more than 100 free performances by the San Francisco Opera, the San Francisco Ballet and more for an audience of 100,000 attendees. Durham has previously served on the APAP Board of Directors and on the Executive Committee. 
Durham’s large Mexican American family in South Texas has roots in the historic King Ranch, and his great grandfather was a legendary Texas Ranger. 


Barry:  You've been in your post as head of APAP now for about six months. What have you learned?
Mario:  I am on a very exciting learning curve. I’m learning about the importance of attracting new members and keeping veteran members, assessing the true value of membership, understanding the details of the APAP|NYC EXPO Hall, the intricacies of hotel contracts and much, much more.

Barry:  What are the three or four biggest issues facing the presenting community?
  •  Supporting leadership development for the next generation of arts leaders; 
  •  Addressing the coming “gray wave” of retiring baby boomers; 
  • Assuring performing arts centers are relevant, important and vital to communities;
  •  Highlighting successful audience engagement approaches;
  • Diversity, diversity, diversity. 

Barry:  What encourages you about the field, and what worries you about its future?
Mario:  I am encouraged by the brilliant and talented generations of young artists and arts administrators. What worries me is the peril faced by individuals and organizations reluctant or resistant to adapt as the presenting landscape changes.

Barry:  What are the most pressing needs for presenting community administrators and leaders in terms of professional development, and how is APAP working to address those needs?  What help do you need to better address the professional development needs of your field?  Specifically what are the particular needs of the emerging leaders sub-sector of the presenting field?
Mario:  We are deeply concerned about professional development. The number of arts administration programs at colleges is a great foundation, but they can’t teach you the creativity, compassion and decisiveness of on-the-ground professional activity and experience. APAP offers a professional development track each year at APAP|NYC, we provide mentoring to our college-age volunteers at the conference, we are developing a new series of webinars, we profile outstanding professionals in Inside Arts magazine, we train emerging leaders with our Emerging Leadership Institute, and generate fresh ideas among mid-career leaders with the Leadership Development Institute. Our hope is to contribute to an environment in which strong missions, true visions and best practices are a part of every arts organization.

Barry:  What is the current status of the major issues facing presenters in terms of international artists performing in America - including visa issues and what needs to be done to make that an easier process for both artists and presenters? And on the flip side of that issue, what are the major barriers to American artists performing abroad and how are we doing in supporting those efforts?
Mario:  Two things here: The difficulty of procuring visas for international artists, and the state of the economy vis-à-vis arts funding in Europe. We support artists and presenters with our own government affairs work – writing letters on behalf of artists. The impact of post 9-11 security realities continues to be a major factor in our work. This is in spite of the fact many recognize cultural exchanges – such as the ones that are supported by the APAP Cultural Exchange Fund but also many that take place at grassroots and even large PAC levels – are the way we come to understand other peoples, their practices and cultures. APAP will continue to work on these issues in partnership with other national organizations to prove the value of the arts and of these exchanges.

Barry:  What are the critical problems the presenting field faces in terms of dwindling arts journalism media coverage and how might we improve our position?
Mario:  This is a real conundrum. Of course, we are delighted with the opening up of the protected arts journalism domain – with citizen bloggers and reporters. But nothing can replace the critical thought and extensive experience of our best arts journalists. Their numbers have lessened by about half nationally – and that’s bad for the arts. A proactive approach to this – and some performing arts centers have adopted this model – is to find a place for the critic’s voice either as someone who writes for a blog or creates a space for critical thought within the center’s own halls. It’s a tricky balance – because a journalist’s independence is always sacred. And yet we have to change with technology and with the crisis of the media industry. Both fields – arts and media – share an important experience: We both know what it’s like to be pushed out. So we adapt. I applaud journalists and arts centers developing a new model to keep these important voices at the fore.

Barry:  What are APAP's short and long term advocacy strategies and priorities, and what are the major obstacles to success?  How is the cooperative effort of APAP with Dance/USA, Opera America and the Theatre Communications Group working and do you envision any new kinds of advocacy training or other initiatives?
Mario:  We believe very strongly in the strength of combined voices. We are committed to working with the Performing Arts Alliance, Americans for the Arts, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies and other arts and service organizations. As to the training of our members in advocacy, we see this as very important. We feel it’s important that organizations and artists are vigilant in maintaining a voice in their local and national communities. We will keep this issue at the forefront and assist our members in the most effective methods of advocating for support of the arts.

Barry:  What aspects of audience development research needs improvement, and what current studies do you think will have substantial impact in the future?  What is your take on the spate of "engagement" studies now dominating the audience development dialogue?
Mario:  We know we have often fallen short in making sure that many in our audiences are as engaged with the performing arts as they are in other areas of their lives, such as religion, sports or hobbies. The focus on it right now is, I believe, a direct result of a longing to get closer to the artistic experience. So when Diane Paulus, who was a speaker at APAP|NYC 2012 (which not coincidentally was devoted to audience engagement), produced SLEEP NO MORE as part of American Repertory Theater’s season, she invited audience members to “curate” their own theatrical experience walking through a installation theater “stage.” The theater outsold every other show in its history. Audience members saw the show 5-8-10 times because they relished standing next to actors playing Macbeth or walking on the set for a Hitchcock film – all while theater was going on around them. Audiences are hungry for this type of contact, for a sense of belonging in theaters and concert halls rather than being alienated by red carpets and tuxedos. So for the future, those studies that look at the behavior of audiences in the moment of artistic experience will be the ones that make an impact on how we present, how we welcome and nurture audiences, and how we adapt to a world in which the audience member is co-author of the artistic experience.

Barry:  How do you see presenting and tourism linked for the future?  How might APAP further bridge the two industries?
Mario:  They are linked now! When you arrive at the airport in Boise, Idaho, one of the first things you see is a welcome banner from the Trey McIntyre Project. We also know that the arts are selling points for many cities. If you’re applying for a job as a professor or as doctor in Bangor, Maine, you might be taken during your interview to a show at the Collins Center for the Performing Arts or to Penobscot Theatre Company. That’s not tourism but it has the same root as tourism, which is economic impact. Same for the American Folk Festival in Bangor – it’s about performing arts, but it also draws massive numbers of tourists. None of this happens if presenters and other civic leaders aren’t thinking broadly about the excellence of the arts and the role they play not only in community life, but also in the economy and in conjunction with daily life.

Thanks Mario.

Have a great week.
Don't Quit.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Rethinking the Creativity Argument

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

Embracing the Creativity Concept:
It's been a decade or more since our sector embarked on a sea change in our attempt to better position the arts in the public discourse by embracing the wider concept of "creativity".  The tipping point was probably Richard Florida's publication of the The Rise of the Creative Class.  We rushed to embrace the idea that creativity was the new currency of an information world - an asset that was, and would continue to be, critically essential to growing economies in an increasingly competitive marketplace, and that the arts were at the core of creativity.  We did this I think in part because we saw it as a way to expand the appreciation for the value of the arts.  Creativity lent itself to an umbrella concept that we saw as inclusive of more than just the "arts" (at least as the "arts" are perceived) and we saw that as a way to more easily and more convincingly make the case that the arts had value to a civic society.  It was really the first open door for us in some time, and we 'ran' through it.

I was an early big fan of that approach.  I saw it as a way to appeal to businesses, the media and decision makers and a mechanism to boost the data of numbers in support of our value.  And I believe that it worked well for us.  We created new data that showed that an arts centric creativity concept was far larger and a greater dynamic than just the fine arts, and that framing the arts as part of a creative paradigm was more compelling in terms of the numbers - jobs, income generated, economic impact and so on.  Those numbers got the attention of government, businesses and the media - at least to a greater degree than our previous attempts focusing exclusively on the arts.

Over the past decade, as the creative matrix has dominated the center stage, certain difficulties with the approach have arisen.  While the creativity class argument caught the attention of the business community - we quickly recognized problems.  The business community was on a similar track over the past decade - but rather than formatting the discussion around 'creativity', they focused on a concept more easily meaningful to them -- the concept of innovation.  While we have had some success in getting them to appreciate that creativity is intricately tied to, and a part of, innovation, and while they now talk about creativity, they still don't fully embrace the two as the same concept.  Moreover, we have had very little success in convincing them of the role the arts play in fostering and nurturing creativity - at least to the extent creativity is the same thing as innovation.  The reason is apparent: It is hard to quantify creativity in any 'results' sense, let alone figure out how to effectively and consistently manage such an amorphous and elusive idea (and of course to us, the arts are what they are precisely because the creative process itself cannot be so quantified and objectified.  We see that as a value, they see that as a problem - or at least a challenge).  Then too the whole idea of creativity (or even innovation) as a new currency is difficult for the older cohort of senior management to grasp.

Government decision makers more easily appreciated that creativity and a class of workers and businesses clustered around such a concept could be significantly important in both an economic and social sense, but because - as a class - the creative workforce was largely unorganized and in no way could be counted on to act as any 'bloc', it was, and remains, difficult for politicians to see how to translate value of the creative class, and its value to society, into some kind of political currency that is workable to them.

The media initially latched on to the whole notion of a creative class, but not, I think, nearly to the extent we had hoped.  Yes, there are clearly more and more articles, books, surveys and the like that try to understand and explain 'creativity'- indeed there seems a spate of new such explorations and analyses weekly, but not nearly as much linkage of creativity to the arts as we need.  In part the media failure to fully appreciate the role of the arts in and on both the process of, and the impact on, creativity is because today the media prefers sound bites and spin to in-depth analysis and any exploration of subtle nuances.  And while the concept is appealing, it lacks the cachet of glamour and glitter, and that is anathema to the media.

So while the bigger tent provided by our embracing creativity has opened doors to us, given us additional ways to make the case for our value, and arguably even expanded the audience for our arguments, it hasn't yet anyway turned out to be the magic bullet that is our savior.

At what cost?
What bothers me is not that our embracing of the creativity concept has had problems, nor that it hasn't born all the fruits we might have hoped for - but rather that I have this nagging fear that it may not turn out to be in our best interests to have so subsumed the arts under the creativity banner.  Creativity is about process - art is the result.  In embracing the concept that the important thing is the process, I am concerned we may be marginalizing the end result - the art that comes out of the process.  By championing creativity as - if not universally within each of us as innate capacity, then something that can be both embraced and learned - I wonder if we are lessening the value of art as one of humanity's unique gifts - that which sets us apart - that which exemplifies our finest instincts.  Everyone can write, but that doesn't make everyone a great 'writer';  everyone can create, but that doesn't make everyone an 'artist'.  Mind you, I am not touting the intrinsic value of the arts argument here.  In making our case to various groups and to the wider public, I believe we need lots of arrows in our quiver - and the creative sector and 'creativity' umbrella has served us well in many regards.  But as a strategy, after a decade, it now seems to me that it is fair to question whether or not we ought to re-think, at least in part, our fully embracing creativity as a mantra over art.

I'm not questioning that the expanded creativity banner has been helpful in changing the perception that the field is much wider, deeper and broader than merely the fine arts, nor that such an expansion hasn't been beneficial - particularly in making the economic benefit argument. Nor do I mean to discount the value of the creativity framework in moving towards greater access to the arts, developing a wider audience for our stories, and even in addressing the social equity issues - though both access and equity in the creativity sphere is not the same thing as access and equity in and to the arts.  I fear that while a host of activities from design to architecture, animation to fashion, graphics to even gaming can all legitimately be framed within an arts ecosystem, creativity as the framework for that ecosystem may somehow detract from what art and artistic creation is really all about.   I'm just worried that we are losing something in moving from the arts to creativity as a jumping off place.  I am worried that we subsume the arts when we embrace creativity as that jumping off point.  And that such sublimation may not be in our ultimate long range best interest.  I fear the arts are getting lost in the vast cavern that is creativity.  I fear that as the cachet and novelty in talking about creativity wears off, the arts will be even further isolated and distant from the center point at which we want them.   I worry that creativity may be the flavor of the month (decade) and that it may not have the 'legs' the arts as a concept has.

I wonder if - despite all the positive outcomes that our moving from being the 'arts' to being the 'creative' sector has brought, we may have blurred the lines too much and lost an exalted platform from which to operate. I wonder if creativity is an even more difficult argument in the long run, than the arts are.  I wonder if we are in danger of forsaking one of our greatest assets - the perception of art as 'special' and distinct and exalted - an enterprise with a legacy more fully developed in the public consciousness - for the less defined, less meaningful creativity hodgepodge.  I wonder if everyone is creative, then what distinguishes the artist.  I'm not suggesting we abandon embracing the wider idea of creativity (of which the arts are at the core) nor am I suggesting it was a mistake in the first place.  It has probably been more of a net gain than loss - so far, but the jury is still out.   I wonder if we shouldn't move to reclaim ourselves as the arts before it is too late. I don't want the 'arts' banner to disappear under the 'creativity' banner - and I see signs that is what is happening.  I suppose this is heresy in some quarters.  But I wonder.

Have a great week.
Don't Quit.

Monday, April 9, 2012

2012 National Arts Index

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

This from Randy Cohen at Americans for the Arts re: the 2012 National Arts Index:

"5 Key Findings From the National Arts Index
1.       The arts industries continue to follow the nation’s business cycle:   The arts are an economic force of 113,000 nonprofit arts organizations and nearly 800,000 more arts businesses, 2.2 million artists in the workforce, plus $150 billion in consumer spending. The Index is strong when Consumer Confidence and GDP growth are strong.  Figure A shows growth during the middle part of the past decade and in the late 1990s when the economy was growing, both followed by a decline of the Index during the two most recent economic downturns, and a leveling off in parallel with recent and current signs of economic strength.

2.       Significant growth in the number of nonprofit arts organizations:  The number of nonprofit arts organizations continued to grow, reaching 113,000 in 2010.  In the past decade, the number of nonprofit arts organizations grew 49 percent (76,000 to 113,000), a greater rate than all nonprofit organizations, which grew 32 percent (1.2 million to 1.6 million). Or to look at it another way, between 2003 and 2010, a new nonprofit arts organization was created every three hours in the U.S.

3.       Arts nonprofits show improvement, but continue to be challenged financially:  The percentage of nonprofit arts organizations with an operating deficit (requiring them to amass debt or dip into cash reserves) declined for the first time since 2007.  In 2010, 43 percent of nonprofit arts organizations had an operating deficit, down after steady increases during the Great Recession—36 percent in 2007, 41 percent in 2008, and 45 percent in 2009. While a troubling finding, this is about the same share as nonprofits in other areas besides the arts.  Larger-budget organizations were more likely to run a deficit; there was no predictable pattern based on specific arts discipline.

4.       America’s arts industries have a growing international audience:  U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) increased from $56 to $64 billion between 2009 and 2010, up 12 percent.  With U.S. imports at just $23 billion, the arts achieved a $41 billion trade surplus in 2010.

5.       Arts organizations foster creativity and entrepreneurship through new work:  Arts organizations are homes to new ideas and innovative leaders.  One measure of the Index is the number of premiere performances and films.  Between 2005 and 2010, there was a 14 percent increase in the number of new opera, theater, film, and symphony works—audiences were treated to an impressive 1,025 premieres in 2010 alone.

Trends in Audience Engagement:
How the public participates in and consumes the arts is ever-expanding.  Tens of millions of people attend concerts, plays, operas, and museum exhibitions every year—and those that go usually attend more than once (dubbed the “cultural omnivore”).  The data underscore the observations of many that consumers are seeking a more personal engagement in their arts experiences, embracing the delivery of arts and music through technology, and seeking more diverse cultural experiences.  Thus, the public is not walking away from the arts, but they are walking away from some traditional models of delivery.

  • Arts attendance begins to rebound: In 2010, 32 percent of the adult population attended a performing arts event (up from 28 percent in 2009); 13 percent visited an art museum (up slightly from 12 percent).  These are the first increases since 2003. 
  • Consumer arts spending steady at $150 billion:   Since 2002, consumer spending on the arts, a discretionary expenditure, has remained in the $150 billion range (e.g., admissions, musical instruments).  Because the amount of consumer spending increases over time, however, the arts’ share has slipped from 1.88 percent in 2002 to 1.45 percent in 2010.  Inevitably, as people lost jobs and had their housing threatened, their expenditures on arts and culture went down, too.  As economic revitalization builds consumer buying power in coming years, the arts are poised to compete better
  • Americans seek personal engagement in their arts participation:  Personal arts creation and arts volunteerism remains strong, though responsive to the economy.  The percentage of Americans who personally participated in an artistic activity—making art, playing music—has remained steady in the 19 percent range over the past decade.  However, annual increases are noted in the pre-recession years, followed by annual decreases during the recession.  Following steady growth during the recession years, volunteerism at arts organizations declined slightly in 2010. 
  • Technology is having dramatic effects, which is both encouraging and concerning. Since 2003, nearly half of the nation’s CD and record stores have disappeared.  Online downloads of music singles, however, have grown 7-fold to more than one billion units annually. In 2009, digital formats comprised a record 41 percent of total music sales in the United States, up from 34 percent in 2008, and 25 percent in 2007.  Savvy nonprofit arts organizations are using technology to broaden their audience base and enrich the audience experience. For example, the Metropolitan Opera simulcasts its operas to 1,600 theaters in 54 countries—a program that sold 3 million tickets in 2011. Following one of its best years on record in 2009, motion picture attendance dropped off in 2010 with continued small but steady growth in the number of movie screens.
  • The rapid increase in number of culturally and ethnically diverse arts organizations: While growth in the numbers of these organizations kept pace in 2010 , this was the only year since we began measuring in 2003 that they did not grow at a markedly faster rate than all nonprofit arts organizations.
  • College-bound seniors taking more arts and music:  Despite the evidence of decreases in K-12 arts education, the percentage of college-bound seniors with four years of arts or music grew over the past decade—from 15 percent to 20 percent of all SAT test takers—a confounding finding to researchers given the evidence of K-12 decreases in arts education overall, and suggesting to researchers a significant educational equity gap.  The College Board also reports that students with four years of arts or music average about 100 points better on the verbal and math portions of the SAT. 
  • More college arts degrees conferred annually:  The number of college arts degrees has risen steadily from 75,000 to 129,000 over the past dozen years.  Reasons for this include an increase in design degrees and more double-majors, such as science and music.  This is promising news for business leaders looking for an educated and creative workforce.

Continuing Trends:

  • U.S. cultural destinations help grow the U.S. economy by attracting foreign visitor spending.  Effectively, cultural tourism by foreign visitors is another form of export by domestic arts and culture industries.  Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including art gallery and museum visits on their trip has grown annually since 2003 (17 to 24 percent), while the share attending concerts, plays, and musicals increased five of the past seven years (13 to 17 percent since 2003). 
  •  Arts and culture is losing its market share of philanthropy to other charitable areas, such as human services and health.  It is noteworthy that this decline began well before the current economic downturn.  The share of all philanthropy going to the arts has dropped from 4.9 percent to 4.5 percent over the past decade.  If the arts sector merely maintained its 4.9 percent share from 2001, it would have received $14.3 billion in contributions in 2010, instead of $13.3 billion—a $1 billion difference.
  •  Arts employment remained strong:  A variety of labor market indicators show relatively steady levels of employment, especially when compared to labor market difficulties facing all sectors of the economy.  
  1. There was a 15 percent increase in the number of working artists from 1996 to 2010 (1.9 to 2.2 million). Artists remained a steady 1.5 percent of the total civilian workforce. 
  2. The self-employed “artist-entrepreneur”—active as poet, painter, musician, dancer, actor, and in many other artistic disciplines—is alive and well, with total numbers growing eight of the past nine years (from 509,000 in 2000 to 688,000 in 2009). 
  3.  Songwriter/composer royalties grew from 2003 to 2009, from $1.27 billion to $1.66 billion, a 30-percent increase over a six-year span, even after adjusting for inflation.
  4. Government arts funding is mixed.  Federal funding to the National Endowment for the Arts increased to $167.5 million in funding in 2010, which was just a portion of the $1.9 billion in total federal arts spending.  As a share of the federal domestic discretionary budget, however, total arts funding dropped from 0.42 percent to 0.30 percent, between 2002 and 2010.  Many arts programs are also immersed in the budgets of other federal agencies such as GSA, Transportation, and Defense (which boasts vigorous music programs throughout the armed services), but are not included in these totals.  In contrast to the federal government, aggregate state and local arts funding both had decreases in 2010.

While bruised and a little battered by the Great Recession, the arts turned a corner in 2010 and are poised to see increases in 2011 and beyond.  The Index highlights the changing nature of how audiences are engaging with (and spending money on) the arts and the resulting imbalance between supply and demand.  There are both demand-side and supply-side solutions to be considered: how do we create more “want” for the arts by the American public using new technologies, alternative venues, and capitalize on the public’s growing interest in personal arts experiences?  And on the supply side, with large numbers of nonprofit arts organizations running deficits, should more be considering alternative business models beyond prevailing 501(c)(3) nonprofit, such as arts and business incubators, shared services and spaces, nonprofit/for-profit hybrids, more support for unincorporated entities, and better use of existing venues?  What other funding models for a new competitive world can help funders evolve their role in advancing the arts—even providing funding to help organizations close when it’s time (“die with dignity), or require validation by audiences?  Arts organizations have much in common—even those in different arts disciplines or whether they are for-profit and nonprofit.  It is important to see how they can exploit their shared circumstances in the form of collaborations, especially those that build demand.  There also may be social equity issues related to arts education that need to be addressed in further conversation—who is being left out?  

Randy tells me he now has significant data for every county in the country, and that much of the data digs deeper than previously (he intends to begin to roll out some of that data soon and over time).  This promises to be a potential treasure trove to explore a whole range of issues that we haven't previously been able to touch on.  For example, he has the data that can identify the funding (presumably from both public and private sources) within a given county that goes to the larger cultural institutions v. the smaller ones, the eurocentric ones v. the multicultural ones.  As Randy suggests, this kind of data and analysis that explains it ought to be invaluable in consideration of "balancing support for the majors along with creating an environment for the new and emerging...all that against a backdrop of flat or declining contributed support."  I hope to have that very discussion on this blog in the near future.

For more information go here:

Have a great week.
Don't Quit.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Ten Tips to Help You Succeed on Kickstarter

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

Kickstarter is enormously appealing if you want to raise money for a single project and do it relatively quickly.  Yet, just having a good idea and / or a worthy cause isn't necessarily enough to succeed.  Like any appeal for funding, you can increase your odds of success by listening to the sound advice of those who have successfully used the platform.

This article (by Rusel DeMaria) originally appeared on here.  I am including it as it appeared because I think it is succinct, to the point, on point and very, very good advice to those in our sector - not only in trying to raise money via Kickstarter or similar online funding platform, but for any attempt to raise money via any method, targeting any niche.

("Rusel DeMaria is the author of more than 60 books, and currently runs the High Score 3 Kickstarterproject. Follow him on Twitter @DeMaria.
Double Fine, the game developer, raised $3.3 million for its adventure game, Double Fine Adventures. InXile, a game development company, made $500,000 in 17 hours for its role-playing game, Wasteland 2. Both did it on Kickstarter, the world's largest funding platform for creative projects.)

Naturally, it would be easy to think of Kickstarter as a virtual Gold Rush. That would be a mistake.
Kickstarter has its challenges. Even as a successful participant, I've hit some bumps along the way. The lessons I've learned from this experience are worth observing. If you're looking to get funded on Kickstarter, here are ten tips to help you succeed:

1. Do Your Research
Not every project will work on Kickstarter, and even fewer will create a feeding frenzy. So do your research. Observe, for example, what has worked and what hasn't for other project creators. To find successful examples, look at sections of the site such as “Staff Picks” or “Popular.” To find projects that have not hit their goals, look at some of those under “Ending Soon.” Obviously, projects succeed and fail for different reasons, but researching examples of each will help you get a feel for what to do and what to avoid.
2. Define Your Goal
Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and how much money you need to do that. Remember, if you don’t meet your goal, you get nothing. Better to ask a reasonable amount and then work hard to exceed that goal. Double Fine initially asked for $400,000, but blew that out of the water. If possible, have at least a group of friends who will support you with pledges from the get-go. That will help you build momentum. And remember, you cannot change the amount after you launch.
Also, think about how long your project should run. Kickstarter recommends a maximum of 30 days, but some people have succeeded with longer cycles. Consider your audience and how long it will take to get the word out when making this decision. As with the funding amount, you can’t change your project length once it's set.
3. Consider Your Rewards and Costs
You’ll quickly learn that people want something in exchange for their pledges. Create rewards, gifts to backers based on the amount they pledge, starting at low values, like $5. That way you can reward even small-time backers. Double Fine is a good example of a project that created great rewards tailored to their audience. Their lowest reward was a digital copy of the game for $15. The highest was a private party with the developers for $10,000.
Another critical factor to consider when creating rewards are related costs. For example, if you're going to send your backers something by mail, calculate the postage and packaging you’ll need. Don’t get blindsided and discover that your costs will cancel out a part of your funding.

Barry's note:  The more I study fundraising, the more I am convinced that at its core people who give you money expect something in return.  It very well might be that some give for the sheer joy and satisfaction that they derive from being donors, but my experience and gut tell me that most people want something more tangible to go along with that "good feeling".  For some recognition is critical,  for others some sense of belonging to a community;  some want to see some tangible result of their donation - they want their largess to have an impact; some want some special attention or recognition; some may actually want something tangible and maybe a tee shirt is enough, maybe a private lunch, maybe a plaque on a wall - but almost all of them want something in return.  
If you look at the most successful Kickstarter projects (at least in terms of total money raised) - they have been game entrepreneurs, and the donors want the first edition of the game.  Very specific, very tangible.  

4. Prepare Your Pitch
How you introduce your project can make a huge difference. On your project page you’ll describe your project, goals, and rewards. Be specific and include engaging images of your work. Kickstarter recommends that you also create a video. Make it fun, natural, and compelling by including key elements like people talking about how great or important the project is. Remember, your pitch should pump people up about your project and show both your enthusiasm and your ability to follow through.
5. Market the Hell Out of It
Once you’ve pulled the trigger and published your project, it’s time to promote via social media,friends, family, even strangers. Any updates you post will automatically be sent to your current backers, but urge them to re-post and re-tweet. If you can find a way to make your work newsworthy, pitch popular websites and newspapers.
6. Keep It Alive
Your initial marketing may bring you some early success, but you need to keep feeding the fire. Find ways to update the project. Add new and fun rewards as you go. Keep people informed about your progress, and definitely share any good news or milestones like “We’re halfway there!”
7. Listen to Your Backers
Many of your backers will offer advice. Listen. Some of them have backed many projects and know what works. Others just have an opinion, and even if you don’t agree, consider how many other people -- potential investors -- may think the same way.
8. Be Patient
There will be times when pledges seem to flow in steadily, and times when it seems that nobody cares. When this happens, you'll need to stay positive and re-engage those who got you this far. Start by letting your biggest supporters know it’s time to step up and spread the word. If they’ve backed the project, then they also want it to succeed.
9. Be Flexible and Creative
Be prepared to do things you never anticipated doing. You hadn’t considered a special T-shirt as a reward? Maybe you should. A supporter offers to create limited-edition rewards to help your project? Why not? Bottom line: Be open and flexible.
10. Have Fun
This is going to be a crazy ride so enjoy it. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed...."

Good advice I think.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit.