Sunday, July 6, 2014

Upcoming Blog Forum on the Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA

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

A Blog Forum on the Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA
Having been the Director of the California Arts Council, I am biased in favor of the importance of State Arts Agencies to the health and well being of the ecology of the nonprofit arts field.   Over the past decade, since I left my post, the fortunes of the SAAs have been a roller coaster ride.  Budgets have been slashed, agencies have had to jettison staff and cut programs, while still trying to provide needed services to their fields and stay relevant with their constituents.  Now there may be a rebound.  There has been no shortage of talk in the field about how SAAs must / should / are re-inventing themselves and redefining their core roles.

With the announcement by Jonathan Katz (head of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA - the umbrella service provider for the nation's state arts agencies) that he was stepping down after an almost 30 year tenure of deftly and ably leading his sector and surviving the numerous cycles of boom and bust - it seemed to me like a good time to gather some people together to talk about the future of State Arts Agencies and of NASAA itself.  Note:  I asked Jonathan if he would be willing to do an exit interview sometime before he leaves his post and after this Blog Forum, and he has generously agreed.  I am indebted to him.

So I asked the following people if they would respond to some questions (which questions I hoped would allow for, and perhaps encourage, a discussion of a host of issues that seem involved in any discussion of SAAs), and they accepted:  (I wanted both past and current heads of various SAAs - with geographic, and various budget size representation.  I wanted people who had been on the NASAA Board. I also wanted some representation of a couple of the stakeholders with whom virtually all SAAs interact - including advocacy groups and local city / county arts agencies.  And finally, I wanted some voice from the Regional Arts Organization perspective and some thinking from the SAA council / board group).

Participants in the Blog Forum on the Future of SAAs and NASAA

1.  Arni Fishbaugh:  Arlynn Fishbaugh is the executive director of the Montana Arts Council, a position she has held since 1992.  She received her undergraduate degree in theatre from The University of Montana, Missoula, and a Master's in Theatre Management from UCLA. She's held positions at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and with Houston Grand Opera's touring division, Texas Opera Theater. She also served for five years as the associate director of Marketing for the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Following this position, she became executive director of the National Video Corporation's Direct Marketing division in NYC.  She currently serves as the immediate past president of the Board of Directors for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and is also on the board of directors of Grantmakers in the Arts. Arni is the 2010 recipient of NASAA’s Gary Young Award for Outstanding Services to the State Arts Agency field, and is a former member of the board of directors of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters (APAP) and the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF).

2.  Randy Rosenbaum:  Randall Rosenbaum is the executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, a position he has held since 1995. From 1984 to 1995, Rosenbaum served in a variety of capacities at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, including deputy director and director of the Dance and Presenting Organizations programs. He has a bachelor of music education degree from Temple University in Philadelphia, and has managed orchestras and nonprofit arts organizations in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Ohio. Rosenbaum has served as a site visitor and panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts in the dance, theatre, musical theatre/opera and state and regional programs, and as a panelist for the state arts agencies of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Connecticut and Massachusetts, as well as for the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, the Heinz Endowment of Pittsburgh, and Cuyahoga Arts & Culture in Cleveland, Ohio. He has taught arts administration courses, classes and seminars at Brown University and Rhode Island College. He serves on the board of the New England Foundation for the Arts. A practicing musician, Rosenbaum has sung professionally in churches and synagogues, and with performing ensembles throughout the East Coast. He has served on the NASAA Board 2012-2014.

3.  Anita Walker:  Anita Walker has served as Executive Director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) since April 2007. Walker is the Commonwealth’s highest ranking cultural official, overseeing a range of grant programs, services, and advocacy for the arts, humanities, and sciences in communities across Massachusetts.  She led advocacy for the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, which over seven years has invested $70 million in arts and cultural building projects statewide.
Walker also launched MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative to help cities and towns attract new visitors and commercial activity by focusing on arts and cultural activity. And she led the creation of a new Cultural Investment Portfolio for more than 400 outstanding nonprofit arts, humanities, and science organizations that simplified the state’s support system for the nonprofit cultural sector. Coupled with the Massachusetts Cultural Data Project, it is helping organizations better understand their finances and become better advocates for their work and the sector as a whole.  She led the effort to include the arts as part of the Massachusetts Board of Education’s recommended core curriculum for high school students. She launched the Creative Minds Afterschool initiative, through which MCC has expanded its reach to provide arts education to more Massachusetts schoolchildren outside the traditional school day. She also led a partnership with the Bank of America Foundation to create the Big Yellow School Bus Program, which has helped schools send more than 150,000 students on field trips to Massachusetts cultural destinations.  Before coming to Massachusetts, Walker was director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs for seven years, serving simultaneously as executive director of the Iowa Arts Council, administrator of the State Historical Society, and the state historic preservation officer. Walker is a native of California and a graduate of Arizona University. She lives in Boston.

4.  Ra Joy:  Ra is the Executive Director of Arts Alliance Illinois, the state advocacy organization.  He has more than 15 years experience as an advocate, community organizer, and coalition builder. As executive director, he sets and implements the organization's strategic goals, manages its operations, and serves as a principal spokesperson. Prior to joining Arts Alliance Illinois, he served as a top aide to U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. In 2011, he was appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel to serve as a member of the City of Chicago’s Cultural Advisory Council, and in 2013, he was appointed by Governor Pat Quinn to launch the State of Illinois' Creative Economy Initiative.

5.  Scott Provancher:  Scott Provancher is President of provancher+associates, fundraising, social innovation and non-profit management consultancy.  Most recently he was President of the Arts & Science Council in Charlotte, North Carolina where he led efforts to secure over $100 million in public and private support for Charlotte’s cultural community.  Scott is also the founder of, a leading crowdfunding platform for cultural organizations that has expanded to 26 cities nationwide, securing more than 17,000 donors.  Throughout his career, which spans CEO roles at the Rockford (IL) and Louisville (KY) symphony orchestras to leading major fundraising campaigns for United Arts Funds, Scott has remained committed to designing adaptive business models and fundraising strategies to ensure cultural institutions remain relevant, accessible and sustainable for generations to come.  Scott currently serves on the Eastman School of Music Deans Advisory Board and has served on numerous foundation and non-profit boards including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation National Arts Advisory Board, North Carolina Arts Council Board, and the Americans for the Arts Private Sector Council to name a few.

6.  Laura Zucker:  Laura Zucker is Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and Director of the Masters in Arts Management Program at Claremont Graduate University.  The Arts Commission provides leadership in cultural services of all disciplines for the largest county in the United States, encompassing 88 municipalities. The Arts Commission administers a $4.5 million grants program that funds more than 350 nonprofit arts organizations annually; provides leadership and staffing to support the regional blueprint to restore arts education to all 81 school districts in Los Angeles County, Arts for All; funds the largest arts internship program in the country in conjunction with the Getty Foundation; programs the John Anson Ford Theatres; and implements the county’s civic art program. The Arts Commission also produces free community programs, including the L.A. Holiday Celebration, which emanates from the Music Center and is broadcast on public television.

During 2005 Ms. Zucker was on special assignment with Eli Broad to develop and launch Arts + Culture LA, a nonprofit responsible for marketing LA as a cultural destination. Previously, she headed the California Cultural Tourism Initiative, which marketed the arts of California’s three urban regions domestically and internationally. She is the author of a regional study of individual artists as part of the California Arts Council’s economic impact study on the arts.  Ms. Zucker serves on the boards of Grantmakers in the Arts, the Association of Arts Administration Educators, is an officer of the Ford Theatre Foundation board, a member of the Los Angeles Coalition, and was a founding member of the board of Arts for LA.  Ms. Zucker was previously the Executive Director of the Ventura Arts Council and was producing director of the Back Alley Theatre for ten years. She received a B.A. in English from Barnard College and attended the Yale School of Drama.

7.  Anthony Radich:  Anthony Radich has served as the executive director of WESTAF since August of 1996. In that capacity he is responsible for providing leadership to the thirteen-state regional arts organizations’ programs and special initiatives. He oversees WESTAF’s work in the areas of research, advocacy, and online systems development designed to benefit the cultural community. Prior to accepting his position at WESTAF, Radich served as the executive director of the Missouri Arts Council for eight years. There he led the successful effort to create a state cultural trust fund supported by a stream of dedicated state funding. Preceding his work in Missouri, Radich was the senior project manager for the Arts, Tourism, and Cultural Resources Committee of the National Conference of State legislatures (NCSL). As senior project manager, he worked with state legislators from across the country to develop state-level legislation and policy concerned with the arts, tourism, and historic preservation. While working for the NCSL, Radich was appointed by Denver Mayor Federico Peña to chair the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs, the city’s arts agency.  Radich earned a bachelor's degree in physical anthropology and a master's degree in art education from the University of Oregon. He also earned a doctorate from the Graduate School of Public Affairs of the University of Colorado Denver.

8.  Kris Tucker:  Kris Tucker served as Executive Director of the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) 1999-2014, where she led a staff of 12-18 to provide programs and services including Art in Public places, Arts in Education, grants to organizations, and community partnerships. She served for 14 years as a Trustee of the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF), served as a grant panelist for the NEA, and was active with NASAA (National Assembly of State Arts Agencies). Kris was previously Executive Director of the Boise City Arts Commission; Arts & Entertainment Editor of the Boise Weekly; and a freelance writer. She earned her MA in Whole Systems Design from Antioch University Seattle, and her BA from Oregon State University. She lives in Olympia WA and is currently vice chair of the Board of the Olympia (WA) Artspace Alliance.

9.   Mark Hofflund:  Managing Director, Idaho Shakespeare Festival.  Mark’s career began at The Old Globe under artistic director Jack O’Brien, producing director Tom Hall, and founding director Craig Noel. Mark acted, directed, produced new plays, held a board position with San Diego Performing Arts League, and edited his mentor Alan Schneider’s memoir Entrances. Joining colleague Charles Fee in Idaho, Mark served as liaison to Idaho Foundation for Parks & Lands and Idaho Department of Parks & Recreation, whose collaboration made possible the Festival’s 12-acre Amphitheater and Reserve at Barber Pool. The Festival’s statewide audience includes 50,000 students K-12 served by two nationally recognized school tours; high school apprentice and community access programs; and a School of Theater enabled by a merger with Idaho Theater for Youth.  Mark served on the WESTAF Board of Directors.  Appointed in 1994 to eight years on the Boise City Arts Commission, Hofflund now serves on the board of the Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau, chairs the Idaho Commission on the Arts, and has completed a presidential appointment to the National Council on the Arts. He holds degrees from Princeton and the University of California, San Diego. (He served on the NASAA Board 2010-2012.

Note:  I also invited former NASAA Board Chair and Executive Director of the Ohio Arts Council,  Wayne Lawson, but unfortunately Wayne hurt his hand on a vacation and had to have surgery.  Wishing you a full and speedy recovery Wayne.  

Here are the questions I put to the participants:


1.  For the better part of a decade state arts agencies have been under severe budget pressures. During that period, many of the state arts agency budgets have shrunk.  Meanwhile, in some cases, local arts agency budgets have increased.  In the process, there has arguably been a shift in influence and cultural policy-making power away from the states agencies to the local agencies, or to the philanthropic community.  Do you think that is true?  If so, what do you believe are the implications of such a shift?  To what extent have the state arts agencies seen their relevance diminish, how might they regain their former prominence, and what do you envision as their future role in the overall arts ecosystem?  What ought to be the role of SAAs in developing state arts cultural policy?

2)  Some of you on this panel, as well as others throughout the sector, have called for a re-envisioning of the SAAs away from grant making so as to cut the umbilical cord-like connection of their work to unpredictable state funding.  Some argue that there are all kinds of initiatives and programs, including case making, convening, research, professional development, and other efforts that would be as, or more, valuable to the arts sector than the provision of direct grants.  Others argue that it is the grant making that has been of the greatest value in growing the arts at the state level.  Some have argued quite forcefully that our field is overbuilt and that we simply cannot continue the fantasy that this isn't a problem.  What are your thoughts?  Please consider the following:

  • Were SAAs to move away from grant making as their central role, what would the new structure of an agency look like?  What other ways might a SAA re-envision its way of doing business
  • What are the state arts ecosystem political constraints (both within the sector and outside of it) that bear on any kind of re-envisioning and re-organizing of SAA's missions and priorities, and how can they be dealt with?
  • What is the role of State Arts Agencies, if any, in supporting or working to reduce an overbuilt arts ecosystem, and to what extent should SAAs use their grant making powers to address the increased supply / diminishing demand challenge?   Specifically what ought they do differently, if anything, than they are doing now? 
  • Is there a better way to balance the provision of grants and the provision of other kinds of services?  

3. What is the ideal relationship between a state arts agency and its principal stakeholders and logical potential partners and collaborators - including state arts advocacy organizations, local city and county arts agencies,  state arts education organizations, discipline based service provider organizations, other state agencies, private sector interests and the philanthropic community - and where does that ideal differ from the current reality?  What needs to be done to move the reality closer to the ideal?


1.  If the SAAs are in a period of re-invention and evolution to a different model, what kind of reinvention and evolution of thinking ought NASAA embrace?  Please consider:

  • Should NASAA's role be that of a change agent, or a provider of services to an established practice?  
  • What are the key services that are the most needed by, and valuable to, SAAs, and to what extent does NASAA need to rethink how it can provide those services?
  • What needs to change in the NASAA business model, and what steps can NASAA take to diversify or expand its income in order to increase the resources available to it to pursue its mission and insure its financial sustainability and capacity to serve its membership?  
  • On the other side of the coin, what new kinds of approaches might NASAA take to support state legislative budget increases to state arts agencies?  

2.   What are the innovations in association management that the leadership of NASAA and its incoming staff leader need to consider emulating and embracing, and why?  And what kinds of skills and vision ought NASAA be looking for in its new Chief Executive Officer?

3.   What is the ideal relationship for NASAA and its logical clients, stakeholders, potential partners and collaborators  - including state and local arts advocate groups, local city and county agencies, the Regional Arts Organizations, arts educator and arts education groups, private sector groups, the philanthropic community and various arts discipline service providers and the NEA - and how far is that ideal from the reality?  What needs to be done to make all of those relationships (and potential relationships with asymmetrical organizational partners) work for NASAA and each of those communities?

Beginning next Monday, I will post the responses of all the participants to each of the above questions - one per day - Monday through Saturday.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit