Monday, February 27, 2017

Get Real - Effective Advocacy Is About Amassing Voter Sentiment

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

All over America, citizens angry over policy changes emanating from the White House and Congress have been registering their anger and frustration at local Congressional Town Hall Meetings as well as via telephone calls, faxes, letters, emails and more.  This massive outpouring is unprecedented in recent times.  It is democracy in action.  And it is having an impact - precisely because of three factors:  1) it is from voters in the elected official's district; 2) it sends the message that angry voters will be using their votes to register their anger; and 3) it is massive.

It remains to be seen whether or not this political involvement will be sustained over time, and what effect and impact it will have long term. And the real test won't come until 2018 at the earliest, when the next election will give those unhappy the chance to unseat those politicians they blame for changes to which they object.   But make no mistake, the effort thus far has got the attention of even those who are opposed to the positions of the protesters and at whom much of the anger is addressed. This is because it hits at the one vulnerable spot that politicians have - at their chance of being re-elected.

And getting re-elected is virtually every elected politician in the country's number one priority.  Their job is at stake, and for many their job is, like jobs are to many of us, their source of income and how they maintain their lives, the way they define themselves and their purpose in life -- it is, in part who they are and what they do.  No matter how principled they may be, no matter how much they believe they want to create positive change in people's lives, no matter how honest or how hypocritical they are, very, very few will give up the power, prestige, privilege and trappings of being in Congress.  And so their election and re-election is their number one priority.  It (excuse the pun) Trumps everything else.

And massive turnout of unhappy, dissatisfied voters in their districts is something they do not ignore, nor fail to take seriously (and that is true even in the era of gerrymandered "safe districts", for nothing is ever absolutely certain, including how people will vote).  Note the use of the words: "massive", "voters", and "in their districts".

We ought to learn from the recent Town Hall Meetings reality staring us in the face.

If the Trump budget eliminates the NEA, then it will be much more difficult to fund it via Congress, than if the agency had funding in the President's budget.  We don't yet know whether or not the NEA will be axed in the coming budget, but it seems more possible than ever.  And even if the President includes some funding for the agency in his budget, there may still be attempts to cut or eliminate that funding by Congress - attempts that may have a better chance of succeeding than ever before.  If the arts really want to influence members of Congress, the sector has got to have large numbers of people who are registered to vote and reside in their district contact their Representatives and Senators directly, and let them know that they want the NEA to be funded, and that failure to vote that way will cause the voter to vote against that elected official in the next election.  This communication doesn't have to be, and should not be, nasty or accusatorial or negative.  Just the simple fact that funding the NEA is a make or break issue for the person communicating, and their future support - including their vote for or against the representative - is dependent on the official's vote one way or the other.  And it won't mean much unless there is a huge number of people who express that opinion.  And while it is important to thank those politicians who are supportive, the bigger challenge is to amass votes in the districts where the official is not supportive.

So if all the arts can manage is people signing a White House Petition or a few hundred DC visits, then we might as well just save our energy.  Of all the means of registering one's position, signing an online petition is the absolute least effective, particularly in trying to influence a month old White House administration that very likely (and with good reason) believes that people for whom NEA funding is a big issue, were not, and will not become, Trump supporters.   Whatever the Trump Administration decision on the NEA turns out to be, it is almost assuredly not going to be based on any petition of people urging the NEA's survival.  And patting ourselves on the back for getting to the magic 100,000 signatures mandating a WH response is as big a waste of time as the Atlanta Falcons celebrating a Super Bowl win at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Don't believe me?  Read this simple advice from Barney Frank based on decades in the U.S. House of Representatives on how to influence Congress.

Wake up people.  Thus far there has been reports of a number of op ed pieces in support of the NEA.  And, of course, the 100,000 signature petition.  But I haven't seen much more than that.  And frankly I think this year that is not nearly enough.  Do we really want to rely on trying to rally a few hundred people to make our case as we have in the past?  Is that the best we can do?

If the existence of the NEA is important to the sector, then it had better organize immediately to demonstrate massive numbers of people for whom the issue will determine their vote in the future.  That's the only language the elected officials truly understand and respond to.  All the stories and arguments notwithstanding - they mean very little.  You want support?  Make your elected officials understand you are talking about votes - against them.  Lots of votes.  That's how it works.   Personal visits are best. Then phone calls, then letters, then emails.  Robo-letters using templates are ignored. You don't have to have some convincing argument.  The value of the arts - intrinsic or economic or whatever? That's irrelevant.  Your argument is how you will vote.  Period.  Don't make this more complicated than it is.  

As Barney Frank advises, the only communication that matters is from voters in the official's district. And the only real position that matters is how you will vote in the future.  That may not be enough to get what we want, but it's the only way the system works.  If you think truth and justice will out, you're living in another dimension.

It's long past time the arts come to understand that the political system does not work like some fantasy textbook idea of government in action.  It would be nice if it did, but it doesn't.  If we want to continue to believe that our talking points, our stories, our arguments, our value are what persuade politicians aligned against us to support us, then we might as well ask Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to grant our wishes.  About the same chance of success.

Get real.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bay Area LAA Leader Blog Forum - Day 5

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

Concluding the ABBA Blog Forum with Local Arts Agency leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area (see Monday's blog for the introduction and participant's list).

Final Question:
Equity, diversity and race remain high level priority issues for the entire nonprofit arts field.  How are you addressing the challenges in your territory?  Are the issues such that solutions will likely require a larger map approach, and is it incumbent on the whole Bay Area to work together for truly meaningful change?  What are the principal roles LAAs can, and should, play, and what role does your organization favor?


Kerry Adams Hapner:  Racial and cultural equity are primary goals for local arts agencies as we serve all residents. This is true in San Jose, one of the most diverse US cities. Cultural pluralism and access are guiding principles of Cultural Connection: San Jose’s Cultural Plan for 2011-2010. We address equity through cultural funding and initiatives that focus on serving immigrant populations.

Income disparity and affordability are huge pressing issues in San Jose and the Bay Area now. The Ghostship tragedy has placed a national spot light on affordable, safe live and work spaces for artists. The San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs is currently working with the San Jose Housing Department to explore an affordable housing project in downtown San Jose, and we are conducting outreach to the arts community on their specific housing and space needs.

Silicon Valley Creates is developing a critical project in Japantown called the Creative Center for the Arts, which will provide rehearsal, production/studio, and administrative space for arts organization and creative entrepreneurs.

Community Arts Stabilization Trust, the Rainin Foundation, and the Hewlett Foundation are among regional funders that, along with local arts agencies, are making significant investments to ensure cultural spaces are retained and sustained in the Bay Area.

Michele Seville:  These are critical issues, especially now. The Richmond Arts & Culture Commission just lost City funding for its Neighborhood Public Art program, which provided grants to a highly diverse group of youth and emerging artists. So, we are currently partnering with RYSE, a local non-profit serving youth to apply for funding, both state and federal(?), for projects similar to the ones we used to fund. Yes, I believe it is incumbent on the Bay Area to set the example of working together for change. We are leaders in the arts, and should act like it. Please help organize such collaborative events.  

Kristen Madsen:  First, we plan to watch the smartest, most thoughtful expert in this field, Roberto Bedoya, the new Cultural Affairs Manager in Oakland, and imitate everything he does that we possibly can.

But meanwhile, we are in the final planning stages for a new joint grants program, in partnership with Community Foundation Sonoma County.  The grants will fund arts education projects specifically serving diverse communities, neighborhoods, and organizations across the County.  Equity is a primary, stated goal of the grants and the guidelines are as broad and open as we can make.  Eligible grantees include arts and cultural organizations, and projects can occur in or out of schools and in non-traditional settings.  Partnerships with other community based organizations, including non-arts organizations, will be encouraged.

The next phase of work on this project will require us to dig deep into our communities to find the thoughtful work we know is being produced by individuals and organizations that may not have found their way to us on their own, and help them come in.  We are clear-eyed that the learning curve in Year One will be steepest for us as funders as we re-think our systems to be more open, inclusive, and impactful across the entire county.  And as two of the primary arts funders in the county, we hope that we are leading by example -- and are certain that the results of this work will make the case that the investment is more than worth the effort.

Tom DeCaigny:  Cultural equity is the San Francisco Arts Commission’s guiding value. In the past year, we have engaged Race Forward to train all staff members on racial equity principles and practice so that we are better able to advance racial equity through all the SFAC’s programs. We have established an internal cultural equity working group that is charged with researching promising practices in racial equity and analyzing the SFAC’s programs through a racial equity lens. The SFAC has also joined multiple SF City Departments in the Government Alliance on Racial Equity (GARE) program where we will be contributing to a GARE issue paper on equity in the arts this coming year.

The SFAC stewards the historic Cultural Equity Endowment Fund which was founded to support artists and arts organizations from historically underserved communities. The Fund, now approximately $3 million annually, is one of the only pieces of legislation in the country to specifically name cultural equity as a focus for public arts funding. Combined with approximately $2.5 million annually to support our city-owned cultural centers, the SFAC grants out approximately $6 million annually in support of cultural equity. We also continue to work closely with our partners at Grants for the Arts to ensure coordinated investments for our shared grantees and to respond to emerging needs in the SF arts ecology, most recently co-administering a $2 million nonprofit arts displacement mitigation program to keep arts organizations in San Francisco.

It is important to work both at local and regional level because every city has unique challenges in terms of equity that might require customized solutions and policies. However, regional conversations allow us to share promising practices and a common language to discuss issues that pertain to all artists and arts organizations in the region such as displacement, which disproportionately impacts organizations working in communities of color and other underserved communities.

Olivia Dodd:  For us to see industry-wide change in our regional (and national) arts and culture field, we will need to work at all levels as well as from both within individual organizations and together through regional/national associations to address these issues. While reorienting an industry may seem a daunting task, it is also an incredibly exciting and necessary one. It is on each individual organization, speaking for our organization as well, to identify where you need to grow and to resolve as a whole to make the changes necessary to become more equitable and diverse. To address this, we have to be willing to look at and modify our representation in our own staff and board makeup, our development strategies, our choices in programming, and our audiences. This is also a process we as an industry need to support each other through by holding each other accountable, identifying common challenges, and sharing successful practices.

In Napa County, normalizing representation as well as diversity, equity and affordability are top of mind, not just for the arts but for our community as a whole, whether in local politics, education or business leadership. The arts, however, lag behind many other sectors in proactive policies and actions to address these needs. With that said, this is one of the aspects of our agency that needs the most strengthening. It is not only something we see as important to our mission but a great opportunity for our local arts to serve and make an impact. With thoughtful programming, an orientation to authentic relationship cultivation, and diverse creators, we believe the arts can flip our role to become leaders in developing equity and diversity within our communities. Specifically, we as a local arts agencies can and should be proactive centers to champion the work of those who are leading the way as well as provide connections, guidance and resources to arts organizations and artists.

Local arts agencies, whether representing a city or the nation, can help drive movement in our field by: 
  • Organizing conversation among local leadership and facilitating networking to bring new voices into the traditional structures; 
  • Providing or soliciting grants for local organizations to facilitate new transitions, outreach, and programs;
  • Gathering and disseminating demographic information, baselines to track progress, and facilitate data sharing;
  • Raising awareness for diverse voices and stories of those that are successfully evolving; 
  • Spearheading relationship cultivation across traditional boundaries;
  • And, Actively networking and promoting partnerships with sectors or programs that serve more  diverse constituents and help cultivate relationships;
Although we are early in our diversity strategy and have a long way to go in our agency, we have initiated a handful of services to drive conversation and action on equity, diversity and race locally. Beyond active recruitment for diversity within the institution and programs, we have established the ACNV Leadership Network in order to facilitate a united movement with our local nonprofit arts groups. Collectively this group, representing about 20 arts nonprofits, agreed that we do not currently represent our community and agreed that we want this to change. We recognize that these issues are institutional, not just a marketing challenge, and have begun a systematic approach to clearly articulate the specific issues for locally. This will enable us to have clear talking points, common goals, and the ability to share the initiative widely. 

The first phase is an assessment of our community demographics, our local arts leadership, and arts audiences/participants. We are in the midst of this process now so the profile is not complete, but what we can say is that our county is home to a population that is 23% foreign-born, over 30% Latino, 26% in poverty, with 50% of our students who are or were English Language Learners.  Meanwhile, our local arts administration is by a far majority made-up of college educated, upper-middle class, white, females and the majority of our audiences are white, native-born English speakers. This little bit is a powerful reminder of why diversity and equity rise to the top of issues facing our arts community. We know we have a lot to do to start seeing change, but are inspired by the vision of a more welcoming, relevant and representative leadership serving a greater diversity of voices and audiences in our local arts. 

Connie Martinez:  I think exchanging ideas and best practices around equity, diversity and race is better than a larger map approach. We favor experimenting with what works locally, with an emphasis on: 1) setting the table with diverse voices (network engagement); 2) paying attention to our pipeline of diverse leaders (genARTS and MALI – Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute); and 3) ensuring equity and diversity with our investments in people and organizations (Grants programs/Artist Laureates etc).

Deep thanks to all the participants on this Forum.

Have a good weekend.

Don't Quit

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Bay Area LAA Leader Blog Forum - Day 4

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

Continuing with the ABBA Blog Forum with Local Arts Agency leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area (see Monday's blog for the introduction and participant's list).

Today's Question:
Arts Education remains somewhat of a Have and Have-Not proposition, with wealthy districts offering more than those that are struggling financially.  Is the solution an approach that unites all the districts in the greater Bay Area? If not, then what can each district do at this point in time to maximize the possibility of offering meaningful arts education to local students K-12?


Kristen Madsen:  Fun fact:  Sonoma County, with a population of 500,000, has 40 school districts, while as a comparison, San Francisco, with a population of 850,000, has a single school district. And each of the remaining counties in the region is somewhere in between.  My point is that the idea of unified efforts within each of our counties is fraught with challenges – the idea of expanding that to a 9 county region is likely to implode before liftoff.

However, the idea of learning from each other and piggy-backing on existing efforts is incredibly effective.  This month, with funding from the Community Foundation of Sonoma County, the California Arts Council, and the Hewlett Foundation, we are undertaking an assessment of arts education in our K-12 schools, county-wide.  And I’ll pause here to give a lot of credit to the Hewlett Foundation for its leadership in guiding this process.  Shortly after we learned that the Arts Council of Napa County had launched a similar effort, Hewlett stepped in with access to new data and an invitation for potential funding.   They introduced us to the recently released California Arts Education Data Project produced by Create CA, also with Hewlett funds.  CreateCA has culled all the arts education data that schools report to the state Department of Education and put it online in a searchable and very user-friendly set of dashboards.  Hewlett also let us know that Marin County was also mid-stream in a county-wide arts education project.  And the Hewlett offer of funds was very helpful in leveraging additional funds from Community Foundation Sonoma County for the project.   So we are starting this work on second base.  And huge thanks go to our friends in Napa who have been extraordinarily generous with their information, tools, and process to help keep us from reinventing the wheel.

Our goal is to gain real, meaningful, accurate data about what is happening in arts education in our county’s schools.  Once we understand the current state of affairs, we can determine if there are gaps, how big they are, where they are, and more.  At that point, we can develop a strategy to begin to fill those holes, starting with the deepest first.  Stay tuned.

Olivia Dodd:  When it comes to equal access to arts education, we are all fortunate to have Joe Landon leading the California Alliance for Arts Education and helping local communities develop our own action networks to promote change. The Alliance helped us to kick-off our own local network and through this work, we have seen that this multi-front strategy, state and local, is an effective approach. There are absolutely areas where this work can be expanded and the initiatives tackled at a regional level and some that have already begun.

Our county offices of education’s VAPA representatives already meet as a region through the Alliance for Arts Learning Leadership of the Bay Area and collaborate on the Inventing Our Future integrated learning summer institute, a program of the Alameda County Office of Education.  This is a great example of a regional effort to maximize resources and leverage regional assets for the professional development and networking of arts education providers and advocates. There is a lot more to be learned and shared with each other regionally like, strategies and tactical resources for LCAP advocacy, teaching artist trainings, pooled private resources/funds, greater access to classroom teacher trainings in methods like Visual Thinking Strategies, and strategies to create access to our unique resources in museum collections, performance experiences, and teaching artist databases.
However, with as much that can grow from a regional collaboration, we will need to be mindful of and resourceful in addressing logistical challenges in implementing shared resources, like limited PD budgets, transportation, and district-based decision making. As we consider the district power base for budgets, strategic priorities and curriculum, as well as to be most impactful in our understanding and outreach to students, we have to equip ourselves for action at the local district and school level.  In Napa County, we have found that there are a lot of assets that have gone underutilized and relatively little attention spent in addressing the institutional issues that have kept socio-economic barriers in place.

One of the greatest challenges in instituting equitable arts education is, of course, sustainable funding. While the ability to allocate arts funding through the district LCAPs and now through Title 1 funds is a huge advantage to arts advocates, we have found that it will take much more support than what our underfunded districts can do alone. As we have built our local action network, the ACNV Education Alliance, we have found a wealth of resources emerge from simply bringing together the local private resources (funders, teaching artists, arts nonprofits, voters and volunteers) with the educators. The networking alone has lead to new partnerships to serve diverse classrooms, but also has lead to rich conversations and strategies about the issues that are keeping access limited.

There were a few of key actions that I have been essential in building support for the ACNV Education Alliance and I would recommend these to any local advocacy network; a) agree on common terminology in your definition(s) of “arts education” (Are you focused on sequential standards based education, integration, enrichment programs, or simply increasing exposure?), b) develop and unite under a shared mission that puts student interests first, c) be conscious and respectful of the competing interests the district has to manage, d) involve the students in the process, e) be strategic and inclusive - don’t underestimate the importance of relationship and trust building in your planning, and, f) develop a cohort of funders, small and large, to partner in matching funds and collaborate on strategies. Through sticking with these strategies, we have found that passionate and intelligent partners have emerged and when conflicts inevitably arise, despite competing agendas that we are able to go back to the shared vision of equitable access and relevant arts education for ALL students as our primary objective.

Michele Seville:  I think an appeal needs to be made to each County District, especially since federal money for the arts looks unlikely. Better at the county level than relying on the school boards, some of which are currently being challenged with regards to their use of funds.

Connie Martinez:  I believe a system wide solution for K-12 arts education is beyond the capacity of regional arts leaders.  Each school district has unique challenges and resources and so arts opportunities often need to be customized.  In Silicon Valley, we have created a marketplace for teachers to “buy” Common Core inspired arts education from our arts ecosystem with mini grants through ArtsEdConnect, a technology platform that matches teachers needs and interests with arts education opportunities and providers like Starting Arts.  Perhaps the regional opportunity is more around advocacy for the importance of STEAM, rather than STEM.  And the sharing of best practices, models.

Tom DeCaigny:  The challenges in arts education are often unique to a specific school district. A uniform solution for all districts in the greater Bay Area might not be effective in addressing those unique challenges. However, conversations at the regional level can provide insights into innovative strategies and promising practices. The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) currently provides an annual operating grant to the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area to support their knowledge-sharing and regional convening efforts. In San Francisco, the SFAC and several other municipal agencies participate in an arts education taskforce that aims to advance the City’s Arts Education Master Plan. The SFAC works directly with the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families to enrich the out of school time programs in the school district which supplement the in-school arts education curriculum. In SF schools with limited resources, the SFAC has a grant program that places trained teaching artists at school sites for an entire school year. In addition to providing high quality arts education to students, the grant program aims to help the school build its capacity for providing a high-quality arts education to all students.

Kerry Adams Hapner:  In San Jose, there are 21 different school districts. Each of them are supported in part by the Santa Clara County Office of Education. Therefore, working at either the district level or through the SCCOE are the most effective means to advance arts education. I serve on an advisory committee for Artspiration, the SCCOE arts education masterplan. 

Friday's Question:

Equity, diversity and race remain high level priority issues for the entire nonprofit arts field.  How are you addressing the challenges in your territory?  Are the issues such that solutions will likely require a larger map approach, and is it incumbent on the whole Bay Area to work together for truly meaningful change?  What are the principal roles LAAs can, and should, play, and what role does your organization favor?

Have a good day.

Don't Quit

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Bay Area LAA Leader Blog Forum - Day 3

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

Continuing with the ABBA Blog Forum with Local Arts Agency leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area (see Monday's blog for the introduction and participant's list).

Today's Question:

Funding varies from area to area, across disciplines and organization size - and remains one of the key challenges to every arts organization.  Is there any kind of tax or dedicated revenue stream that might have a chance of voter passage that would include all nine Bay Area counties?  Is that kind of approach viable?  Are there other ways the funding issue might be addressed from a cooperative approach?


Olivia Dodd:  A dedicated revenue stream for the arts that has a chance of passing is the million dollar question (pardon the pun)!  A meaningful revenue stream has been something our agency has spent a lot of time considering, as it has the potential to be transformative for not only our region but our California culture.  Although we have not yet found that there is an obvious path forward, I certainly believe there is merit to working collaboratively on the issue. There are several models deployed by other regions and industries that could be guides for us - of which many might only be lucrative if applied on a larger regional scale.

A few models we’ve discussed internally may be worth exploration on a regional level. Business Improvement or Tourism Improvement Districts have been successful for collecting pooled funds through industry-led self-assessments, helping re-development and destination marketing organizations at the city or county level. If applied to the arts, might this be an added art sales or ticket fee assessment that goes back into local nonprofit arts? In areas like Cincinnati and Louisville, regional united arts fund models have raised millions of dollars from philanthropists, special events, and corporate giving programs.  In the greater Portland area the regional governments support the operations of their local arts agency based on a cost of living formula and they even have an agreement that the arts can not be cut disproportionately to other services. Voters additionally approved an income tax levy that provides $35 per person for grants in education and access to the arts. Whether or not the Bay Area would be willing to do an income tax or sales tax like our northern counterparts is yet to be seen but worth exploring. Or, maybe, it would be better to explore a retail program that benefits a regional arts fund, like the state-run English Lottery or California vanity license plate program.  Whether privately or publicly funded, by looking at the issue of funding on a regional level we open up a much greater opportunity for our residents and arts community.
Within our county, I have seen how this sort of asset can transform an industry’s presence. Just seven years ago our county’s conference and visitor bureau was as a small agency hovering around a $250,000 budget annually. Then, the hotel industry came together and adopted a Tourism Improvement District for the county and within in each city that added an assessment to each visitor’s overnight stay in order to fund the marketing of Napa County as a destination. The CVB was then contracted as the agent for this joint marketing of the county as destination, now yielding them just over $6 million annually for our small county of just under 140,000 residents.

If we were to look at funding for the arts through a nine county approach, the challenge will be in deciding what is equitable and strategic in geographic distribution of the funds as well as what sort of infrastructure would support this venture. Would we need to establish a regional arts agency that the local organizations and agencies apply to or could it be a consortium of agencies that run the fund co-operatively?  Should we explore mergers among local arts agencies to combine our administration and grantmaking?  All of these questions offer great opportunity to step back and explore what could be if we’re willing to think outside the normal territorial boundaries.

Connie Martinez: I’d like to be wrong but hard to envision a public funding mechanism across all nine counties that would speak to the values and priorities of each unique sub-region AND be able to get voter approval.   That said, funding mechanisms that align with local values and priorities are worth exploring and could be reinforced by overarching regional messages that connect to and complement local campaigns.

Tom DeCaigny:  A regional tax or dedicated public funding stream for the arts across all nine Bay Area counties isn’t a viable option. Jurisdictional authorities in California are defined by city, county and state legislative bodies. Public funding structures mirror those jurisdictions making it difficult to fund multi-county initiatives. Historically, very few regional measures have passed and critical regional infrastructure bond measures like BART have struggled for decades.

That said, the arts stand to benefit from several regional planning efforts, particularly the long-term development of a second Transbay BART tube. A second Transbay tube would allow late night entertainment and cultural workers as well as arts audiences to access BART on a 24-hour basis which will become essential as more and more artists and cultural workers seek affordable housing around the Bay Area. The recent success of the BART bond measure gives hope that critical transportation infrastructure improvements may be able to secure regional funding in the future.
The best opportunity for securing new Bay Area arts funding may be through securing community benefits from the expansive amount of development taking place in the region. In 2015, the San Francisco Arts Commission worked with the SF Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development to negotiate an arts community benefit package valued at more than $12 million. The benefits package, to be paid by Forest City as part of their development of the 5M project in the South of Market neighborhood, includes the gifting of the historic Dempster Building to the Community Arts Stabilization Trust as well as approximately $3 million to seismically retrofit and restore the building. The benefits package also includes an arts programming fund for the neighborhood and a nonprofit arts displacement mitigation fund to be administered by the SFAC. By sharing promising practices and lessons learned through networks like the U.S. Urban Arts Federation, communities across the Bay Area could negotiate similar community benefit packages for the arts.

Kristen Madsen:  The list of people who are smarter than I am about the intricacies of taxes and ballot measures is … oh right … everyone.  So I’m steering completely clear of that part of this question.

And I will also caution against imagining that the voters of our 9 geographically-connected-but-still-quite-diverse counties are homogenous enough to support a new tax or proposition.  There is a lesson to be taken from very recent history on making assumptions about our fellow travelers’ life concerns.

Here’s what I am comfortable saying.  Taking advantage of existing strategies and smart work by others is always a good option.  As an example, the Sonoma County Economic Development Board has recently submitted a proposal in partnership with Mendocino County’s Economic Development Board to the US Economic Development Administration to become an officially designated Economic Development District (EDD).  This program is specifically for multi-county regions working together to improve and expand their economic development efforts.  The proposal pre-approved a list of projects that will become eligible for federal funds if the EDD designation is approved.  Plus, the imprimatur of a federal designation may be helpful with other funding sources.  Creative Sonoma has a project that has been approved as part of the Sonoma-Mendocino proposal.  So, we’re taking advantage of an existing multi-county effort, where the heavy lifting has already been done, hoping that it will help open doors to potential new arts funding in our counties.

Michele Seville:  What about a $1 allocation for the arts on income taxes?

Kerry Adams Hapner:  Funding is a perennial issue. I frankly don’t see a regional effort as a viable option in the near future as getting voters across counties to support a regional initiative is a huge effort and the mechanisms to administer it are narrow. Alternatively, I see National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and California Arts Council funding as more urgent priorities. The Trump administration has threatened the eliminate the NEA and the field must act to protect this national resource.

With an annual appropriation of $146 million, the NEA is the single largest national funder of nonprofit arts in the U.S. Locally, the NEA’s investments meaningfully catalyze cultural vibrancy. Over the past three years, the NEA has awarded approximately $9.1 million in grants to organizations based in San Jose, San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, Santa Cruz, and Berkeley.
I urge people to join Americans for the Arts’ Arts Action Fund for free at  We can’t be complacent in this environment.

Thursday's Question:   
Arts Education remains somewhat of a Have and Have-Not proposition, with wealthy districts offering more than those that are struggling financially.  Is the solution an approach that unites all the districts in the greater Bay Area? If not, then what can each district do at this point in time to maximize the possibility of offering meaningful arts education to local students K-12?

Have a good day.

Don't Quit

Monday, February 20, 2017

Bay Area LAA Leader Blog Forum - Day 2

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

Continuing with the ABBA Blog Forum with Local Arts Agency leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area (see yesterday's blog for the introduction and participant list).

Today's Question:
Working in the arts probably means we understand the intrinsic value/ transformative power that the arts can provide or tap into.  How is your department or arts organizations in your county building public will for the arts across it's residents, so we aren't always pitting arts against every other important experience?


Connie Martinez:  We are working closely with the City of San Jose on their Building Public Will initiative and are using the language and messaging that the research has deemed important to building public will. As for pitting the arts against others, we use a collaborative approach in all of our work and see arts as a value add to many other sectors:  health, education, urban development, etc.  To that end, we bring the arts to the table to contribute to the strength of other sectors when we can and avoid an "us vs them" acknowledging that we are part of same community and share the goal of strengthening the common good.

Michele Seville:  Two ways: a) the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission is proposing a Percent for Art in Private Development ordinance – which will bring even more public art to our environment; and b) the commission has decided to embark on a project called “Community Conversations” where we invite unlikely partners to the table to discuss what they want to see in their community, and how to achieve it together through the arts.

Kerry Adams Hapner:  The San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs is participating in a multi-phase national initiative called Creating Connection to build public will for the arts and culture.  Through aligning the arts with the existing closely-held values of San Joseans, the goal is for the arts to be recognized as a vital and essential part of the daily fabric of life.

Conceived and led by Metropolitan Group and Arts Midwest, this initiative is supported by multiple local, regional and national funders in the public and private sectors who understand that a thriving arts and cultural environment is essential to sustain strong communities. Because of its diverse population, vibrant neighborhoods and thriving cultural community, San Jose was selected by our partner the California Arts Council as the pilot community to represent the State of California for this growing national initiative. The Packard Foundation has been a wonderful supporter of the three phases of this project to date.

This public will-building approach coalesces support for social change by connecting an issue to existing, closely held values of individuals and groups. Through this connection, new expectations can influence long-term changes and achieve positive community outcomes.  This approach has a proven track record in other public policy areas, having catalyzed significant change in community expectations regarding now-commonly accepted practices as smoke-free public space, library support and improved water quality.

Phase 1 focused on national surveys, supplemented by focus groups in local communities, to uncover the core, shared public values and behaviors around community, education, self-expression, and family. The research found that the value of connection - with ourselves, the people closest to us, and the world around us - is the most strongly aligned with arts and culture.  Entitled Creating Connection, the research report for Phase 1 can be found at   Key findings for the San Jose and other pilot areas include:

  • Connection is a key motivation driving personal behaviors. 
  • “Creative expression” has a greater resonance with the public than “arts and culture.” 
  • Engaging in or experiencing creative expression is associated with a beneficial personal outcome. 
  • People under 40, women, parents of younger children, and people of color are key audiences for whom creative expression is a priority. 
  • Barriers to creative expression and activities exist, but, not insurmountable. 

The research findings in Phase 1 informed the development of a national message framework which serves to communicate the connections between the inherent benefits of the arts and existing community priorities.  Recently completed, Phase 2 equipped a cohort of diverse arts organizations to take the research findings and messages to a broader audience. Organizations in the implementation cohort received message training with tools, programmatic recommendations, and funding to implement the framework. An exciting outcome of the cohort is that the organizations chose to adopt a hashtag called #408Creates that serves as a means to develop critical mass. A third phase is being launched now, which will offer another cohort and funding opportunity to San Jose groups, a social media campaign, as well as a convening of cross sector leaders to provide input on the building pubic will initiative.

In addition to working through arts partners, the OCA has designed a complementary programming initiative entitled San Jose Creates & Connects, which is designed to build a more vibrant San Jose by connecting San Jose residents across communities and within neighborhoods through creative, participatory experiences in arts and culture.

In supporting cultural activity within neighborhoods across the city, OCA’s objective is for residents to view the arts as integral to their everyday lives. Residents will celebrate their neighborhoods, connect with their neighbors, and have their voices heard through the arts. This initiative also supports the local employment and financial viability of artists and artist-run business as cultural producers, teachers, neighborhood anchors, and community organizers.

Specific initiatives being considered for inclusion over the course of two years are:

  • micro-grants and investments in place-based arts-businesses;
  • city-wide public art initiative connecting across communities, such as murals at underpasses or participatory art projects in parks, libraries and community centers; and
  • participatory arts festivals in non-traditional venues.   

Working synergistically, Creating Connection and San Jose Creates & Connects help ensure that San José’s robust cultural environment continues to thrive now and in the future.  These efforts serve to strengthen the local arts and cultural sector - by providing organizations with proven messages and strategies that demonstrate the connection between their offerings and the public’s existing values.

Olivia Dodd:  To my mind, it is critical that we (the arts most devoted fans) understand how the average person sees and feels about the arts (or at least the term) and work to: demystify the field, make it more approachable, and find relevant ways to engage in public issues.  It’s on us to speak and show why we believe so passionately that the arts matter, not in our own terms but in the language that is relevant to our broader communities. If we want to be a part of the fabric of California life, then it would go a long way to show how the arts can be a resource for the other important issues and experiences. 

While lack of access, lack of diverse arts exposure, or a distant association with the term “art”, there are a number of reasons the value of the arts haven’t yet resonated with the general public. BUT I believe that more of them have experienced the transformative power of the arts, than realize it - so I propose that it’s our task to breakdown our own walls, whether it’s between disciplines or genres or between pop, folk/traditional and academic arts. Each aspect of culture is a gateway to being exposed to another. 

As an agency, we have prioritized building public will as critical to the success of our local arts and culture field.  Beginning in 2015, we started to convene a cohort of local arts leaders to develop common language and pilot a Leadership Seminar program that focused on advocacy and public-will training. We started with an exercise in considering what our community cares about and how the arts might serve some common values within our resident populations and how we might integrate with reigning public issues of transportation, land use, agriculture, environment, affordable housing, visitor management, and immigration. Just this year, we announced the reorientation of our annual arts month, Napa Valley Arts in April, to engage the public where they already are in arts that is relevant to their lives - a locals first approach. Putting student voices at the forefront of our arts education communications for advocacy.  Public Art programs prioritizing community-build projects. 
We can look to  groups like ArtsWave in Cincinnati that have institutionalized this approach to better serve their communities, with great success. I am very appreciative to Margy Waller of Topos Research who was a part of the public will building initiative for ArtsWave and has shared insights into their work with our community through a workshop last Fall.  I also recommend we follow Arts Midwest’s national public will building campaign, being piloted locally in partnership with the City of San Jose (I am curious to see Kerry Adams-Hapner response to this question and how they are finding the work in practice.)  

Roberto Bedoya:  In light of the Ghost Ship Fire it has been invigorating to see how the artists’ DIY community who been have organizing themselves around policy matters related to “space” and in these efforts they have spoken clearly at public hearings and community meetings either at City Hall, neighborhood centers or art venues that artists are part of a larger community of folks in need of affordable housing, not a special interests group. Articulating how an underground illegal housing market whether it is a warehouse or residential garage is a civic crisis that demand remedies.

To speak of will – there’s the political will, public will and poetic will that I encounter that enliven the city. The political will of elected officials, lobbyists or get out the vote drives; the public will of a Women’s March, or the Save the Bay movement and the Poetic Will of how we imagine our plurality via images, the lyric, the story, or gestures, through acts of cultural citizenship that make a claim on civil society are woven together in my job as a civil servant.

I pay attention to the poetic will at play in civil society and how it moves in society, not so much as the I, but the we. The poetic will of art often unhinges the rational world of empirical reasoning with its images – images of freedom, beauty, possibilities, the abject, morals, or ethics as opposed to facts as definite, scientific, and absolute. The composing, the dreams, vision, utopia or dystopic energies that animate the secular, the interconnectedness that governs daily life via the promise of the city - expressive life a locale which is woven together through an interplay of people, land, arts, culture, and engagement that is a form of aesthetic ordering that roots a city in its development, its identity and creates the space and place called home. It is a form of ordering and speech that sources the work we do.

Kristen Madsen:  Let’s avoid the trap in this question that imagines the binary argument of the arts against every other cause.  If you’ve sat through a City Council of Supervisors’ budget hearing, you know that every issue and every cause is – and will always – be fighting to increase its share of the pie.  

That said, helping any resident of our community understand that creativity is in all of us – that we can get in the habit of exercising our creative muscles a bit more often – is core to the mission of Creative Sonoma.  We’re starting at the start with the recognition that providing access to arts education for all students is as likely as any other arts related issue to garner broad support.  I outline our specific plans in that regard in response to Question 4 below.  

On another, quite different track, we are working to launch a new mini-grant program, adapted from an existing program from LA Cultural Affairs:  “Pop-Up Creativity Grants.”  The grants will be made to fund production of temporary creative events, objects, installations or experiences, in neighborhoods across the county.  Projects that include engaging community members in art making will be encouraged.  We’ll market the projects as they occur and after each season’s worth of grants in an effort to show the collective creativity that exists of all kinds in Sonoma County.  This is a our first effort to remind Sonomans that they should take great pride in the creativity that is on full display every day in our county, with the ultimate goal of making “creativity” a defining characteristic of Sonoma County.  

Tom DeCaigny:  The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) is currently in the fourth year of a 5-year strategic plan. One of the issues identified in our organizational assessment during the planning process was low visibility of the City of San Francisco’s arts investments with members of the public. In response, the SFAC’s strategic plan defines several strategies to build public will for the arts. They are: 
  • Act as liaison between the arts community and policymakers to increase understanding of how artists can contribute to creative problem solving of larger policy issues.  
    • Over the past three years the SFAC has received over $2.5 million in special ‘add-back’ funding from the SF Board of Supervisors to support neighborhood arts projects that improve the quality of life for San Francisco residents and visitors. Examples of projects from our most recent Request for Proposals can be found here.
  • Collaborate with other city agencies to understand the intersection between arts and support for children, youth and families, public health, environment, etc. 
    • The SFAC currently has partnerships and work order funding from several peer City departments including the SF Department of Public Works, the SF Public Library, the SF Planning Department, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.
  • Participate in national research projects that highlight the importance of the arts in the local economy and improving the quality of life for San Francisco residents and visitors.  
  • Support small, grassroots organizations that serve the community directly through grants and capacity building. 
    • The SFAC’s Cultural Equity Endowment Fund received an ongoing annual increase of $1 million in Fiscal Year 2016. These new funds represent a 50% increase to the Cultural Equity Endowment Fund and have supported increased grant amounts to grassroots arts organizations for artmaking and capacity building.
  • Connect arts to other social sectors and issues.
    • The SF Arts Commission Galleries has recently expanded into a new space at the Veterans War Memorial Building. The current show, Not Alone addresses the experiences of veterans and their families and has received significant press coverage including a recent feature in Hyperallergic.  
The SFAC’s Arts & Communities: Innovative Partnerships grant program supports organizations working at the intersections of art, social justice, immigration, public health, education and the environment.

Wednesday's Question:

Funding varies from area to area, across disciplines and organization size - and remains one of the key challenges to every arts organization.  Is there any kind of tax or dedicated revenue stream that might have a chance of voter passage that would include all nine Bay Area counties?  Is that kind of approach viable?  Are there other ways the funding issue might be addressed from a cooperative approach?

Have a nice day.

Don't Quit

Bay Area LAA Leader Blog Forum - Day 1

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

Katherin Canton, Lead Organizer of the San Francisco Bay Area based consortium of arts leaders  ABBA - Arts for a Better Bay Area  - asked me if I would organize an online blog forum with leaders of the local arts agencies in the area.

Despite their popularity, I haven't hosted a blogathon (blog forum) in some time, as these events seem to get ever more difficult to organize.  It isn't that people don't want to do them, it's that schedules have never been more demanding for people, and time a precious commodity of which there is never enough.  So it now takes considerable effort on everyone's part to find a convenient and consensus time period to schedule a forum.  And so I am very grateful to the panelists who agreed to participate in this forum and for their thoughtful answers to five questions. 

All five questions adhered to the general theme of the Bay Area as an interconnected, interdependent whole - one in which, while local agencies still function as separate and independent arts ecosystems, often in silos, those agencies are increasingly part of a larger construct.  And the challenge is whether to, when, how and where to work as part of a region.  That reality is, I think, not unlike any number of metro areas across the country. 

The Bay Area is generally thought of as nine contiguous counties with the major cities of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose included.  And while San Jose is actually a larger city than San Francisco and more of a hub to Silicon Valley, and while Oakland has seen tremendous growth in their arts and artists moving there, and while the outlying areas (including a number of cities) have developed vibrant arts ecosystems and infrastructures of their own, San Francisco still continues to be the principal hub for the entire region. While San Francisco is home to more arts organizations than in the other cities and counties, those organizations depend on people in the other counties as their audiences and supporters.  Indeed, there is a certain interconnectedness and synergy, as well as cooperation, collaboration and competition by and between the nine counties and the various cities, each of which has a version of its own local arts agency.  While increasingly these organizations are out of their silos and interface with each other, they are all still autonomous entities dealing with widely varying demographics, populations, issues, circumstances and challenges. 

The participants who accepted the invitation to ihis blog forum are:

Tom DeCaigny - Director of Cultural Affairs, San Francisco Arts Commission
Michele Seville - Arts & Culture Manager, City of Richmond
Connie Martinez - CEO, Silicon Valley Creates
Roberto Bedoya - Cultural Affairs Manager, City of Oakland
Kerry Adams Hapner - Director of Cultural Affairs for the City of San Jose
Kristen Madsen - Director, Creative Sonoma
Olivia Dodd - CEO & President, Napa Valley Arts Council

I will post their answers to one of the five questions each day beginning today and continuing through the week.

I believe ABBA plans to post the entire forum on their site as well.

ABBA Blog Forum:

Question 1:  
The greater Bay Area arts ecosystem is dependent to a degree on residents of different areas patronizing and supporting the arts in neighboring cities and counties.  Yet historically organizations have essentially operated in territorial silos.  How might city and county local arts agencies and individual arts organizations cooperate and collaborate together more to the benefit of all?  Is it a good idea? What kind of infrastructure exists, or might be created, to facilitate and nurture those kinds of joint efforts?  What are your suggestions to move forward?


Tom DeCaigny:    It may be a misconception that greater Bay Area arts organizations operate in territorial or geographic silos. Data shows that Bay Area arts audiences often travel to follow programming that appeals to them and many arts organizations have added new project locations and collaborative partnerships in response to the diverse communities they serve. Organizations such as The Lab, Queer Cultural Center, Youth Speaks, SFMOMA, A.C.T., Radar Productions, Axis Dance, Destiny Arts, Zaccho Dance Theater and many others have missions that serve the region and include regular programming collaborations throughout the Bay Area and beyond.

The Bay Area also has several strong arts service organizations that serve the region well. Established service organizations such as Theater Bay Area and Dancers’ Group as well as advocacy organizations such as Californians for the Arts and the Arts Education Alliance of the Bay Area facilitate regional dialogue and foster collaboration. Newer organizations like the Community Arts Stabilization Trust (CAST) are also set up to serve the region. CAST started in San Francisco with seed funding from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and recently expanded their real estate model to Oakland. Organizations such as CAST offer innovative models for public and private sector partnership and therefore offer a promising path forward for advancing regional solutions to persistent challenges such as affordability of space for artists.

City and county local arts agencies are not as well positioned for regional cooperation when compared to private arts organizations and philanthropy. Public policymaking has consistently shifted more and more to local control and local arts agencies such as the San Francisco Arts Commission typically have geographic restrictions on public funding. Elected officials who control public arts funding are inherently focused on their local constituents and therefore lack incentive to support regional initiatives. On the contrary, much of private philanthropy serves the region and has greater flexibility around funding guidelines and regional initiatives. The Arts Loan Fund at Northern California Grantmakers has provided longstanding infrastructure for regional sharing of resources and promising practices. This group of greater Bay Area public and private funders meets monthly to review loan applications and discuss regional arts policy issues. Northern California Grantmakers is also host to the regional Nonprofit Displacement Project which grew out of San Francisco’s Nonprofit Displacement Mitigation Program, a $4.5 million initiative to help nonprofits find permanently affordable space in San Francisco.

Kerry Adams Hapner:  There exist numerous organizations that provide critical forums and networks, offering opportunities for collaboration and knowledge exchange. Through these networks, we are able to advance goals at the local, regional, state and national levels. As a local arts agency leader, I am in regular dialogue with my regional colleagues, many with whom I partner. We share resources, get referrals, provide advice and feedback, and share opportunities. In the Bay Area, we often do this through organizational convenings of the Center for Cultural Innovation and Theatre Bay Area. For example, on March 13th, I will be participating in the Theatre Bay Area’s annual conference with Tom DeCaigny of San Francisco and Roberto Bedoya of Oakland to discuss emerging public policy in the arts and other contemporary issues like art spaces after the Ghostship tragedy and threats to the NEA.

In Silicon Valley, the San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs partners with Silicon Valley Creates on multiple initiatives. Their CEO, Connie Martinez, and I meet at least monthly to ensure our agencies are supporting and complementing each other.

Statewide, I serve on the Californians for the Arts board. CFTA holds an annual conference called Confluence in partnership with the California Arts Council. There, arts professionals of all disciplines come together to learn, network and advocate.

Nationally, there are several service organizations that connect peers from across the US. Among them are Americans for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts, United States Urban Arts Federation, and Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Each serve a unique niche. It is through this local, statewide, and national arts ecosystem that we advance our own local art agency and collective goals.

Olivia Dodd:  My answer here is, wholeheartedly, ‘yes - let’s do it!’ We all share the goals of providing access and engagement in the arts within the Bay Area and to see a thriving local arts culture. There are a wealth of ways both individual arts organizations and local arts agencies can more effectively collaborate to the net benefit of all.  Whether we are a local arts agency, individual organization, or a community-minded artist, the human capital we have in the Bay Area is incredible in our creativity, diversity and resourcefulness. There is much to be gained by simply sharing information and ideas in our areas of strength and seeking partners who have found success where we are weaker.

The first steps, as I see it, are to identify the common goals, to know our shared audiences (habits, interests, and needs), and to build relationships with groups sharing those interests. A quick phone call or email to these groups can be the start to a whole new approach. If there is one thing I have learned about our field, it is that we like to help each other out. I have grown so much from just being able to reach out to a fellow arts professional and say “I love what you’re doing, would you be willing to share a bit about it?”. This does mean that we have to prioritize pausing, every once in awhile, to step back from our own work and engage in what our colleagues are up to.  This can be one of the most challenging aspects of collaboration - simply making the time - but when you do, you will find it exponentially worth it and so will our audiences.

The easiest ways to begin may be simply information sharing (communicating among ourselves opportunities, news, program offerings, etc) and document outlines/templates (governance toolkits, program applications, creative for arts advocacy, etc). Beyond this we can enhance our promotional reach by finding  partners to cross-market to each other's networks or by developing more reciprocal membership programs  (like studios arts centers - where you may have certain facilities and another city may offer complimentary but different tools).  As we get more sophisticated, I think there’s opportunity to build strategic partnerships that can support cost-saving in shared administrative functions like web development, accounting, human resources, etc. (an example of this live is ArtsPool out of New York).

That being said, there is a lot that can be done to better facilitate and sustain this collaboration among arts throughout the Bay Area, which is the function of the local arts agencies, regional organizations, and networks. Together, we can function in a greater capacity to host collaborative ideation, problem-solving, and infrastructure development.  Thanks to the growing capacity of the California Arts Council and Californians for the Arts, we have been helped forward with statewide convenings, re-initiating our State-Local Partner regional networks and even available funding to formalize alliances (like the five-county True North Arts & Culture).  While we have not convened as the full nine county region, the 2016 Confluence conference gave our North Bay region the opportunity to connect and discover our commonalities and points of differentiation. And I am excited to continue this work, especially among those of us who share large numbers of commuter and tourist populations, like Sonoma and Solano counties. There has been relationship development among the local arts agencies in Marin, Napa and Sonoma over the past three years to discuss everything from calendar systems, education advocacy, grantmaking, and regional arts marketing. However, I believe I speak for all my North Bay friends when I say that we can and should network more regularly to facilitate easier connections for our artists and arts organizations. I see that there is especially fertile ground for collaborating in offering professional development, leadership training, disseminating opportunities, and networking.

I’d even extend the benefits of collaboration past the audiences who travel to participate in the arts, to those who have not and perhaps might not even be aware of what lays beyond the territorial border. In our community there is a very real “Napa Valley bubble” - once you move here, the invisible boundaries of the rural county quickly become your world view and, especially for the economically disadvantaged, access to the greater Bay Area is extremely limited. In this instance, a relationship of a local museum with a partnering institution in another part of the region may provide the students’ first opportunity to leave the county.  And we may be able to provide urban students with their first opportunity to be in an agricultural and open spaces environment.

Roberto Bedoya:   Communication among the local LAA leadership is paramount and if a common agenda is to be advanced related to some of the cultural challenges we face in our jobs, the first step is the dialogue among us. I’m fortunate that through my involvement with the United States Urban Arts Federation (USAF, which is a network of Executive Directors from the largest 60 cities), I’ve gotten to know my colleagues Tom from SF and Kerry from San Jose. To have professional colleagues to talk shop and policy with, that you admire is a joy. It is an informal network of information sharing and one of trust. How to deepen this peer network into a more formalized structure…an arts version of ABAG (The Association of Bay Area Governments) is up for discussion. I’m lukewarm about it this idea. For the time being the old-school phone call or a meal together works fine. On those occasions where we do meet we discuss our challenges and our working relationships to elected officials, philanthropic, civic and arts leaders who will engage with as we move forward to enliven a Just City and support the aesthetic articulations of our city.

The Ghost Ship tragedy Oakland has brought me to the table of the City’s Housing, Building, Public Works, Fire, Police Departments with the Mayor as convener as we work on ways to respond to this tragedy. As we generate actions that will build safety, we are establishing some common language that move us out of work silos and deepening our cross-sector working relationships and civic charge.

Connie Martinez:  Specific to a regional cooperative campaign it would only work if a funding source existed that could showcase the strength and diversity of Bay Area arts as a whole, and the unique value of each sub-region and its artistic or creative personality.  It is great that arts lovers travel across city and county borders and are able to enjoy an eclectic menu of offerings.   But “inclined” patrons find the information they need through social media and the Internet.  And the task of cooperating and collaborating between organizations is only possible if both sides trust each other and perceive equal value.  In other words it has to come from within the participating organizations for a collaboration to work, rather that a partnership designed or controlled by a regional strategy.  If there were funding sources to encourage these kinds of connections and collaborations that would be great. I would start by asking regional arts agencies (infrastructure already in place) if they would be willing to help fund of find funding for regional initiatives.

As for regional initiatives and collaborations in general, each of our local communities are unique, have unique arts communities, and unique populations, so a broader plan might be most useful around advocacy, visibility of importance of arts and key issues (ie displacement), and for LAAs to share best practices and support each other with staff development opportunities and internal collaborations on execution.

Kristen Madsen:  We’ve all heard people say, many times:  “Arts Organization X, you should work with Arts Organization Y, because you are both arts organizations doing similar things.”  I’ve never really understood why people think that makes any sense.  Imagine saying to Nike, “You should work with Adidas because, you know, you both make shoes.”  Of course, if any organization or enterprise can find organic reasons to collaborate with another and that leads to more effective use of limited resources, that’s a total win.  I’m just not sure it’s as easy as it sounds or inherently a good idea.

If an LAA has already tested the market to determine that there is a need and a will for collaboration, a grant program encouraging and supporting collaborative efforts would make sense, whether it be for artistic or administrative – or otherwise.  LAAs that are already supporting arts incubators are probably bumping up against this objective.  They would be a good focus group to determine if it’s a viable concept, especially as participants in the incubators graduate.

A final comment, particularly important for those of us on the north side of the Bay.  Localization is a fascinating and growing trend in so many areas of our lives, including how and when we want to experience and participate in art.  So for organizations whose audiences may live or work within the same neighborhood, but are divided by the somewhat arcane county lines, the idea of collaborating likely holds a greater potential to explore.

Michele Seville:  This is something that we have tried to do over the years in Richmond…getting our art non-profits and related entities together at meetings. We had minimal success, partly because each of the entities sees itself as vying against the other for private funding. Eventually we stopped having the meetings. However, I still think that regional events could work periodically where art-relevant topics were discussed that affect us all. Especially now that federal art funding is being challenged! This could be a great opportunity for brainstorming and collaboration.

Tuesday's Question:
Working in the arts probably means we understand the intrinsic value/ transformative power that the arts can provide or tap into.  How is your department or arts organizations in your county building public will for the arts across it's residents, so we aren't always pitting arts against every other important experience?

Have a great day.

Don't Quit

Sunday, February 12, 2017

States Arts Advocacy Report Update

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

Updates to the State Arts Advocacy Scan Report.

1.  Florida was inadvertently left off the list.  It should have been listed as a Tier I organization.

2.  Nina Ozlu Tunceli, at Americans for the Arts, asked me to clarify the legal position of the Arts Action Fund.  Here is her suggested language:

"Federal:  Americans for the Arts is the primary organizer of arts advocacy at the federal level.  Their grassroots advocacy arm – the Arts Action Fund – has a PAC and it is the only really viable PAC for the nonprofit arts in the country, and their annual war chest to award to candidates at the federal level who are arts supportive is the largest and basically only financial clout the arts have.  Working with AFTA are the NASAA, the national service provider organizations representing the various segments and disciplines within the arts sector, which organizations also rally their memberships in support of federal arts issue positions, and provide them with advocacy tools, training, information and advice."

3.  Narric Rome at Americans for the Arts provided me with new information suggesting changes to several of the classifications as listed in the report.  Based on the information from Narric,  and at his suggestion, I am pleased to move the general advocacy arts organizations in Arkansas to Group I, and North Dakota and Virginia to Group II.

Narric had several other suggestions about moving a number of State Arts Education Advocacy organizations higher in the Groupings - mostly from Group IV to Group III, with some from Group III to Group II.   This State Arts Advocacy scan was attempt to get a picture of the status of state advocacy efforts - both as participants in supporting federal advocacy efforts, and as organizations able to advocate on behalf of state and local issues - but beyond just arts education issues.  The various Arts Education Advocacy groups were included in the scan primarily to note some state advocacy presence in those states where it appeared that there was either no active general state arts advocacy organization (Group IV), or the general state arts advocacy organization was largely dysfunctional (Group III).  Indeed, in interviews many stated that they actively advocate for support for their state arts agency.  Narric also noted states that are in the process of launching (or re-launching) general arts advocacy efforts, and those states will hopefully, at some future point, then more appropriately be grouped in higher tiers, but that reality awaits further progress.  Finally, the Washington D.C. advocacy organization was not included as the scan was limited to the states.

As stated in the initial report, Americans for the Arts is the premier organization organizing and coordinating national advocacy at the Federal level, and they do an extraordinary job.  As such, their principal concern is federal policy.  The AFTA State Arts Action Network (SAAN) includes many state Arts Education Advocacy leaders as state captains, primarily in states that don't have a general arts advocacy organization, and while their participation is no doubt invaluable in helping to organize on the state level for federal advocacy and, in all likelihood, to the extent they are able, on the state level for state issues advocacy as well, the scan's focus was on the existence, or non-existence, of general arts advocacy organization structures that had as their charge the full range of arts issues.  The Arts Education Advocacy groups, by definition, as well as practice, for the most part focus the lion's share of their energies and resources on Arts Education advocacy, and that is their purpose.  They do excellent work, and many help, when and where they can, in general arts advocacy efforts, but Arts Education Advocacy organizations are not the same as having a fully functional and formal general arts advocacy organization.  Thus, for the purposes of the scan in identifying functional state arts advocacy organizations that have the full complement of nonprofit arts issues as their portfolio, state arts education advocacy organizations don't really qualify.  Their groupings in the scan were indicative of their assuming, from time to time, and in specific instances, a modest role of a general arts advocacy group.

The takeaway from the scan was the reality that there is a relatively high proportion of states that do not have a solid general state arts advocacy organization, or which have a barely functioning organization.  I note that even allowing for upward movement of all of the state arts education advocacy organizations included in Narric's analysis, there would still be roughly 28% of the total that would fall into Group III or Group IV - non functional or non-existent.  I would also note that the criteria was a fully functioning organization with staff, resources, a structure and means of communication.  Without criticism, Board run organizations, those with Facebook presence, and organizations that limit their activities to an Arts Day or the like aren't really the fully functional kind of advocacy effort we really need in the arts to protect our interests and advance our priorities.  That is not  meant to diminish their support, nor a criticism of the efforts out there, but rather a lamentation that we haven't yet been able to do better.  As noted in the previous blog, the scan was not a comment on the efforts and / or successes of advocacy efforts in any state, on any level; nor, as noted, was it a comment on the Herculean efforts of thousands of dedicated arts supporters across the country.  It's premise was that a formal general advocacy organizational structure was an asset every state ought to have to maximize their potential effectiveness.  The grouping of states into various tiers was meant to give a thumbnail assessment of the existence (or absence), and the relative strength, of such a formal structure - one dedicated to general arts advocacy.

We believe every state should have both types of organizations.  It is our hope that every state will continue to try to do whatever is necessary, and within their means and abilities, to insure that they have solid, funded, staffed, advocacy organizations for both general arts issues and for arts education issues specifically.  And we hope many of the players, including State Arts Agencies, funders, AFTA and other national organizations, will devote their funding, personnel, expertise and experience to help every state achieve that benchmark.

Advocacy and lobbying on all levels is getting ever more important, while simultaneously more complex and competitive.  We need the best infrastructure and tools we can get to do the best job we can in furtherance of our positions.  We need to ask why our state advocacy infrastructure isn't as formidable as we want, and whether or not we can do anything about that reality.  As said in the last blog, We can and must do better.   Many states need help.  I hope that help can be forthcoming.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit