Sunday, August 5, 2012

Shout Outs

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

Congratulations to Bob Lynch on being named one of the Nonprofit Times' Power and Influence Top 50 for 2012 - a list not unlike my own Most Powerful and Influential in the nonprofit arts sector list (the 2012 iteration of which will be posted later this month).  This is a singular honor for Bob, and a long overdue nod to our field as Bob's inclusion marks the list's first person so recognized who works in the nonprofit arts.  It is a heady (and fairly conservative) grouping, including some major foundation presidents and the leaders of dozens of familiar national nonprofit organizations.

Congratulations to Doug Borwick on publication of his book Building Communities, Not Audiences (Arts Engaged, Winston-Salem, 2012)  a bold, unapologetic, argument for moving the arts from its Euro-Centric base and towards more involvement (and relevance) to the changing demographic communities across the country by being more involved into responding to community needs.  Whether or not you agree with Doug's thesis that the only real way to save arts organizations is for them to address community needs as a primary part of their mission, there is a wealth of ideas and information from all those who contributed to this work - and the list is impressive - including Ben Cameron, Russell Willis Taylor, Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Pam Korza and Diane Ragsdale.  James Undercofler contributes a particularly informative brief synopsis of the various models arts organizations do, and might, consider using.  Bill Cleveland (the 'Don' of the Community Arts Movement) offers a valuable entry on Mapping the Terrain, and Margo Gard Ewell gives a useful historical perspective on the whole idea of Community Building and the Arts.

Doug takes the notion of the role the arts ought to play in building communities significantly further than the current dialogue centered around Creative Placemaking.  Starting from the proposition that "the number of established not-for-profit arts organizations that are actively engaged in on-going substantive partnerships with members of their communities outside of the arts is tiny", Doug suggests that the field needs to begin what will be a long process in embracing real community involvement by placing the arts foursquare at the center of addressing community problems and needs.  Doubtless this will be a hard sell to a large portion of our field, but there is movement in various quarters of our ecosystem to, at least, begin that engagement process.  The focus is on organizations, not artists, and likely adds to the current debate as to whether or not artists are too often lost in the mix of what we do.  The difficulty in "proving" a general thesis of the necessity of a dramatic shift away from a legacy of one cultural approach, in favor of others -- because of shifting demographics, will likely add to the debate about how we "prove" any of the propositions we are putting forth. And the embedded argument to arguably reconsider the model structure that best suits the future of the arts will add to that debate.  Doug's book makes for a very good starting point for the debates that will undoubtedly ensue.

And while I am at it - Congratulations to Diane Ragsdale, Ian David Moss, Adam Huttler and Michael Kaiser (among others) for sparking these internal debates on artists and organizations, on proving our claims, and on the necessity for consideration of new models, respectively.  That there is dialogue and debate on these issues is good news for our field.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Arts Community's Town Hall 2012 - a candidate forum scheduled for August 20th at 6:00 pm at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco.  Now in its third year of operation - the SRO event is a chance for the arts community to inform candidates for office in the city about the impact of the arts, and for those candidates to show a "wide range of arts community members that they value the contributions made by the arts community".  The arts vote in the city is not unsubstantial, and successful candidates appreciate that their platforms must include a relatively sophisticated understanding of, and support, for our field.   This kind of event should be organized in every city across the country.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.