Thursday, October 22, 2015


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


Two sessions today:

I.  Cultural Policy and Local Arts Agencies: At the Nexus of Cultural, Economic and Community Development - featuring the work of the Tucson Pima Arts Council (Roberto Bedoya - Director of Civic Engagement) - shifting policy from grant making to serving the community directly; the City of San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs (Kerry Adams Hapner - Director of Cultural Affairs, Deputy Director of Economic Development), - moving on the challenge of cities to develop talented workforce pools; and the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture (Randy Engstrom,  Director) - emphasizing arts education as a "Creative Advantage" program.

A lively audience discussion followed the presentations centering around the role of the LAA in policy formation, noting the difference between planning and policy, and exploring ways policy might be developed via programming and internal work within city hall.  What we want, of course, are formal policies that the decision makers subscribe to that clearly set forth the value and role of arts and culture in every aspect of the lives of our citizens.  Something that transcends the frequent changes in the political landscape and is lasting.  How we get there is the question.

  • Randy suggested an out-of-the-box idea:  fund a FTE in the city planning department paid for from the arts agency's budget.  The notion of having an arts perspective embedded full time in the city's overall planning mechanism that comes from our side of the fence, moves way beyond having the arts merely seated at a decision making table.  This is perhaps a bold kind of move for our future.
  • Laura Zucker suggested that what we need is to work for policies valuing the arts not from an exclusively top down, nor bottom up, effort in city government - but from both - and which will survive the politics of city hall, so that we don't have to continually fight the same fights over and over again when regimes change and new politicians are in office.  
  • Jonathan Glus noted that the Houston Cultural Plan includes policies valuing the arts with specific guidelines for other city departments (though the guidelines aren't mandates) it does go beyond the traditional cultural plan "wish list" of inter-departmental collaboration.
There was general consensus that while a national policy valuing the arts is problematic, the next step might be a concerted effort to begin to develop local valuation policies.

Good session.

II.The major afternoon sessions were three hour offsite.   I choose to attend the Digital Media for Arts Grantmakers focusing on the need for grantmakers to learn to deploy digital media to reach and engage audiences and to become fluent in digital capabilities and tools.  

  • Have an articulated game plan, informed by the organization's overall vision strategy.
  • Build capabilities, don't just do projects.  Technology is not a project but a process
  • Shake up the organization chart with an integration of digital competency positions, including training
  • Put audiences first and be prepared for constant change.
This is, of course, a big, complex area where many arts leaders feel lost and / or incompetent and there are numerous obstacles to embracing full digital knowledge.  But as the generational shifts become more urgent, so too is the necessity of overcoming reticence and fears to understand the basics of IT and appreciate the rapidity of change as a constant.  I think the message is to be bold and take risks in digital technology as it relates to our publics - and to do that you have to at least have a working knowledge of the possibilities.  It is incumbent on us all to seek out that training and knowledge understanding.  There are resources out there.

The day ended with a visit to the newly opened BROAD Museum, which is housed in a stunning new building situated across from LA's iconic Disney Hall, and the modern museum, MOCA, along the Grand Avenue corridor -- which must rival, or exceed, any cultural district in the country.  

The BROAD collection is eclectic and varied and the experience is a joy.  I loved it.  There are the expected name collections:  the Warhols, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelleys, Ruschas, Lichtensteins, Koons and Basquiets and more (and while not always the premier pieces in each collection, all are extraordinary).  And there are many more less known including media installations that are provocative and stunning.  As a lay person, I was thrilled.

Have a good day

Don't Quit