Posted: 15 Jul 2014 09:12 PM PDT
“And the beat goes on…………………“
Note: For bios on the Forum participants, please see last week’s blog post (or, if you are on the blog site, scroll down).
Future of State Arts Agencies and NASAA – Day #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?
I wonder if SAAs need to be more attentive to relationships beyond the usual constituencies. Recruiting from other sectors for SAA council/commission vacancies and for grant panels. More coffee dates with people a little further away from our comfortably familiar constituent groups. I wonder if being on the agenda for the state conference of principals may be more important than attending a local arts agency’s annual meeting.
I wonder how we can provide data and messages that are useful to other constituencies: what arts education data will be most useful to principals? To economic development councils? To mayors?
I worry that too many arts meetings are too boring and totally void of anything creative or artistic. I worry that too many meetings have no agenda. I worry that arts advocacy is based too much on hyperbole and bad data. I worry that too few arts leaders participate in key community decisions about planning, design, education, tourism, or distribution of resources.
Southern California Grantmakers, which until now was made up exclusively of private foundation and corporate funders, has invited key government partners to join this year. I’m proud to say that Los Angeles County will be the first government funder to join. And I’m even prouder that the LA Arts Funders, a group that has been meeting monthly for almost two decades, co-founded by The James Irvine Foundation and the Arts Commission, led the way on showing how effective private and public arts funders can be working together.
But these have to be authentic partnerships, not excuses for public agencies to be propped up by private philanthropy. When the Getty Foundation created a paid internship program for undergraduates in visual arts organizations, we used the terrific research they had done on the outcomes of the program to leverage $500,000 in new funds from the county to fund the companion program for performing arts organizations. Together, these complementary programs make up the largest paid internship program for the arts in the United States. While the Getty graciously funds the educational opportunities for all interns—and this was an important carrot for the investment of the public dollars— Los Angeles County is equally committed both to the principals behind the program and its underwriting.
The Arts Commission is the backbone organization for the LA County regional plan for arts education, Arts for All. That means that we staff the initiative and manage a pooled fund made up of 25 private donors who coordinate efforts. Working together is a necessity. But make no mistake: we’re the largest donor and we should be. The point here is that the idea that state arts agencies should be, or can be, funded by private sources is misplaced. First of all, private funders don’t want to give money to others to give away; why would they when they are already doing this job themselves in a way that reflects their priorities? At its core, public investment in the arts needs to come from public dollars, because public funding brings a framework of public service with it. The distribution of taxpayers’ dollars is always going to address the issues of access and equity in some way, and should.
So now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, at the end of the day, the types of services a SAA offers needs to be tied to the strategic agenda of that state’s governor and legislature. In addition to access and equity, these may include economic development via cultural tourism, job creation through creative incubators, or a host of other priorities. What form these services take—whether grants or convenings, research or case making– has to follow function. What are we trying to achieve? Then how will we achieve it? Too many agencies never answer the first question so have no idea how to answer the second.
As leadership institutions in the Arts sector, SAAs must unlock their creative horsepower to help their local and regional constituents and partners find their most impactful roles in supporting the creative economy. This may require SAAs to step out of their comfort zone and take a more active role in leading collaborative initiatives amongst public/private and local/region partners to ensure the Arts remain strong in our community.
Too often, the tough work of organizing new initiatives or major funding efforts for the Arts are left to the private sector or local non-profit arts organizations to initiate or lead. In this scenario, the SAA is often excluded from the conversation or only approached as a potential funder of the initiative. SAA have and should use their experience, access to power, and resources to take an active leadership role in solving some of the industry’s most pressing needs.
Why shouldn’t an SAA be the organizer of a campaign to raise dollars for an arts education initiative or help build an endowment for a regional collaborative of arts organizations?
I am encouraged by the emergence of this type of leadership in several prominent SAAs. Take for example, the A+ Schools initiative led by the North Carolina Arts Council. NCAC saw the need to develop and scale this program throughout the State and took on the responsible of raising the private fundraising necessary to do it.
There is certainly not a one size fits all formula to define the role that an SAA should play in the partnership with other State, regional and local agencies, but I do think the default filter for evaluating their role should be that of a leader vs a follower. This mind set will help the Arts sector better manage the ever increasing pace of change in our communities.
In thinking about the ideal relationship between a state arts agency and its principal stakeholders, three key themes come to mind:
Power to the People – While much of the work of SAAs happens behind the scenes, it’s important to keep the people center stage. A core function of SAAs is to increase public access to the arts and work to ensure that people of all ages and all walks of life have meaningful opportunities to experience and participate in the arts. This work is deeply rooted in service to the citizens. In an ideal world, SAAs should ask themselves every day, how are they using the arts to make a real difference in people’s lives. Through strong partnership with artists and arts organizations, SAAs raise citizen awareness about the benefits of culture and position the arts as a public good.
Backbone Organizations – There’s been a lot of focus in recent years on collective impact efforts and the work of backbone organizations. I think there are many similarities between strong SAAs and effective backbone organizations. Within the arts sector, SAAs work collaboratively to connect networks of individuals and organizations including state arts advocacy groups, arts education associations, arts funders, local arts agencies, artists, creative enterprises, arts service organizations, unions and other cultural umbrella organizations. As leaders and conveners of the field, SAAs help guide vision and strategy for the sector, establish shared measurement systems, provide professional development and networking opportunities, advance policy solutions, and play an active role in building political will and public demand for the arts.
Planning Culturally — SAAs should work across state government and with other sectors of civic life to promote a pro-culture agenda. The idea here being the arts are more likely to thrive when they are embedded into the goals of multiple public agencies and partner organizations. Rocco Landesman referred to this all-hands-on-deck approach as the “insertion of the arts into the everyday business of sister agencies.” Here in Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Michelle Boone of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, refer to this holistic strategy as “Planning Culturally.” This comprehensive approach values culture for its transformative power and for its strength to inspire, express, and unite. SAAs should partner with other state agencies and regional planning organizations to achieve shared goals and incorporate the arts as an essential ingredient in economic development, education, public safety, public health, and strong communities.
Unfortunately many SAAs are woefully underfunded relative to the demand for services. More funding and bandwidth would be needed to help close the gap that exists for some SAAs between the current state and the desired future state described above.
Nimble-ness and bureaucracies
From KarenDe Herman, Administrative Specialist
From Cindy Kittredge, Folk Arts and Market Development Specialist
Keeping the expressed needs and wishes of the artists at the forefront provides the wind at the back to make the “right” decisions. Although there are those who feel that approach may be based too much in the “whims” of the masses, I believe that there is a strength in the collective knowledge of the public. If this forms the core of a strategic plan, then that plan will be strengthened, and decisions can be made that will carry the group forward in a cohesive way.
Maintaining awareness of and respect for the members of the public will provide the mindset to be open to the creative and innovative ideas that come your way. I always try to hold to Myles Horton’s advice in teaching, “Start with where the people are.” It really isn’t about those of us in the bureaucracy, although we may be pressed and stressed, but it is about the people we serve. Sometimes, collaborative work can be extremely difficult or suggestions may not initially seem to be a positive. However, in the end, this kind perspective allows for the open space that new ideas need to grow. It also may require nimbleness and creativity in how such difficult situations are handled, and that can lead to great innovations.
From Cinda Holt, Business Development Specialist
Because we aggressively go after private funding for certain initiatives, we are able to test pilot programs in ways we couldn’t if we didn’t have private funding.
From Emily Kohring, Arts Education Director
When you’ve never had “abundance,” you don’t really feel constrained. You just figure out ways to get the job done. It’s amazing how much you can get done with few resources when you are careful with them, and you have strong relationships with people.
I think we do a good job of not thinking of ourselves as a governmental bureaucracy, and that is key. It’s a mindset that I feel like everyone on this staff shares. You are only as bureaucratic as you think you are! I don’t think of myself as a bureaucrat who is here to push papers around and enforce policy and rules. Blech! I think in my position I am here to listen to what teachers, teaching artists and arts organizations in Montana need to provide the best quality arts education, and then figure out ways to help them do it. And, if you don’t have the resources, you need to build relationships. Find out who else is interested in what you are interested in, introduce yourself, make friends with them, share information, and then ask. It seems to have worked with the Office of Public Instruction (OPI). Also, assume good intentions of everybody and see them as allies. I hear a lot of people say disparaging things about OPI. I don’t listen to that or engage in it. Their staff is there to do the best they can for the students of Montana. I can’t think of them as bureaucrats either, or we won’t get anything done!
From Kristin Han Burgoyne, Grants and Database Director, and author of Kristin’s Blog
Ask forgiveness, not permission.
Play the small agency card.
Request exceptions and embrace change.
Never, ever stop trying to simplify and streamline processes and workflow.
Use technology wisely.
Become a trusted face and personality.
Can you see why I just love this staff?!
Needs more teamwork by, participation with, and service to these others.
What needs to be done to move the reality closer to the ideal? Wisdom, passion, organization and activism.
Forum continues tomorrow with questions re: NASAA…….
Posted: 02 Mar 2014 10:14 PM PST
“And the beat goes on………………”
Bio: Ruby Lerner is the founding President and Executive Director of Creative Capital. Prior to Creative Capital, Lerner served as the Executive Director of the Association of Independent Film and Videomakers (AIVF) and as Publisher of the highly regarded Independent Film and Video Monthly. Having worked regionally in both the performing arts and independent media fields, she served as the Executive Director of Alternate ROOTS, a coalition of Southeastern performing artists, and IMAGE Film/Video Center, both based in Atlanta. In the late 1970s, she was the Audience Development Director at the Manhattan Theatre Club, one of New York’s foremost nonprofit theaters.
Lerner has written and lectured extensively, including at Harvard Business School (in conjunction with a Harvard Business School case study on Creative Capital) and for the University of North Carolina’s Entrepreneurship Program. She regularly presents on arts issues at conferences and summits, including the Grantmakers for the Arts conference, the National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture, IdeaFestival in Louisville and the Independent Sector National Conference. Lerner was a 30th Annniversary ArtTable Honoree (2011) and recipient of the John L. Haber Award from the University of North Carolina (2009), the Catalyst Award from the National Association of Artists Organizations (2007), the BAXten Award from the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (2007), a Creative Leadership Award from the Alliance of Artists Communities (2005), the Artist Advocate Award from the Alliance of New York State Arts Organizations (2003) and a Special Citation from Artists Space for her support of individual artists (2003). Ms. Lerner currently serves on the Headlands Center for the Arts Advisory Council; the Goucher College Committee of Visitors; the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Innovation Circle; the National Advisory Board of the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC; and the National Advisory Board of the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Here is the interview:
Barry: Creative Capital was launched in response to the NEA’s movement away from individual artist support as a result of the culture wars of the 1990’s. Why hasn’t the Endowment reinstated its artist support and what would you like to see them do now?
Ruby: I think you would have to ask the NEA that question. I suspect it is because it was the individual artists’ grants that got them into “trouble,” and certainly things now are even more polarized, so I don’t think we will see any movement toward reinstating awards to individuals. This is really tragic, as they not only provided substantial financial support annually to working artists, which has not been replaced by the private sector, but they took a leadership role in articulating the issues. There is no private funder that has the authority or standing to do that. In the absence of direct financial support, they can certainly make a commitment to the infrastructure of organizations that directly support artists. This would include service organizations at the national, state and local level, and that tier of presenting and exhibiting organizations that stay very close to artists, especially to their local artists. They exist in many mid sized and larger communities.
Barry: In the past five years, there has been a marked upshift in concern for the challenges facing America’s artists with more organizations (like the Center for Cultural Innovation) centering on artist support, more commentators raising the issues of individual artists (like Diane Ragsdale’s Jumper blog) and from foundations across the country. Indeed the issue of how best to support individual artists is now a centerpiece of most gatherings. So perhaps we have come a long way from when you were a beacon in the desert as it were. But have we actually come very far? What is you assessment of the overall response by the nonprofit arts community to the needs of individual artists?
Ruby: Well, of course, it is great to see the increased discourse around issues facing artists. There was precious little conversation when we launched in 1999. And, of course, great to see new programs popping up here and there. So, all good. But I would say that what I feel Creative Capital has taught me is that a kind of piecemeal approach is just less effective. A new grant program here, a new professional development program there. At the end of the day, what is it all adding up to–locally or nationally? I heard the architect William McDonough (sp?) speak many years ago and he said that there is a big difference between mere “activity” and “legacy.” I think about that almost every day. At CC, I hope we are striving for legacy!!! I am not interested in just doing cool stuff.
Barry: What, in your mind, are the major challenges facing individual artists and how can we best address those challenges? If you had to pick one singular challenge that is most important (other than financial support), what would it be?
Ruby: It might be their expectations. Very few artists ever have, or ever will, make a living solely from their artistic work, and yet the mythology persists. This is not to say it is impossible, but it is unlikely. Some artists love teaching, some work in the nonprofit realm, others find work in the commercial arena that pays very well. I often say to students, find something else you love to do as much as you love your artmaking, since it is pretty unlikely your art practice alone will support you. I don’t see this as a sad thing at all. How exciting, really, to have the incredible skill set that artists are trained in, available to other sectors?
Barry: The nation’s universities continue to churn out those with degrees in fine arts (not all of whom, of course, are, or want to be, practicing artists.) Yet the total number seems far greater than the real world opportunities for them. Is that a problem or asset? What can (should) be done about it? Indeed in an interview you said: “I have a lot of questions after this decade of work about what is happening to people in arts schools and programs. I think a lot of it is not empowering training. People come out of it confused about success, or unable to define success for themselves.” How can that concern best be addressed on a large scale?
Ruby: Again, the vast numbers of graduates, both at the undergrad and graduate levels, coming out of our colleges and universities, is staggering. And no, the artistic fields will never be able to absorb the volume. But again, is this good for the society, to have all these creative brains running around–absolutely!
Barry: Arts Advocacy has been principally carried on by arts organizations, and that effort has had a hard time rallying the nation’s individual artists to join its campaigns. Why has it been so difficult to organize the vast numbers of artists on behalf of advocacy and lobbying efforts? What can be done to finally get them more involved?
Ruby: I think if artists think that their efforts are going to support organizations that don’t necessarily support them, they will continue to be uninterested in getting involved. And we have tended to see advocacy as being only in the public sector, but frankly, at this point, I would like to be lobbying Google, Amazon and Apple.
Barry: In your artsfwd Arts Summit address, you challenged your own organization to be more inventive in figuring out how to support imaginative and innovative art? You said you want to learn how to be as “savvy” as the artists in your program. How are you going about doing that? What are the human and financial resources necessary to be a useful partner to your grantees? How do you help them move from project to enterprise?
Ruby: It takes a village is what I feel we have learned. We now believe that we need to “surround” each artist and project with a team of people and a bevy of informational resources in order to give them the best shot at success in a very crowded and confusing marketplace. That is both people and dollar intensive. We do a pretty good job, but it is still not as fully formed as I hope it will become. We are just at the beginning of thinking about those artists who are moving from project to enterprise and that is really exciting–it will require different kinds of people and information–but the hope that we could help an artist further scale out the impact of their idea is pretty thrilling.
Barry: Creative Capital has an admirable record of having supported over 400 projects in its history. Yet that is but a drop in the bucket in light of the tens of thousands of artists that might benefit from more support. Creative Capital can only fund about 2 or 3% of those that apply for support. What is your thinking as to how to scale that number higher – much, much higher?
Ruby: We don’t necessarily think of growth in a linear way. I think we are at capacity for a program that works so intimately and over such a long period of time with its awardees. We don’t need more awardees (46 per round is a lot) and this isn’t something I find particularly interesting. We make about a $90,000 commitment to each project we support–up to $50,000 in financial support, with the services being valued around $40,000 additionally. That is a lot of money to be raising for each grantee roster! And as you will see in the next question, I think we found a much more interesting way to scale out our work-through the Professional Development Program. Instead of adding a few more grantees each round, we deployed resources to build a program that has now reached more than 7,000 artists. We can’t and shouldn’t be expected to do everything. What I would love to see is more local and regional organizations adapting our comprehensive approach, but I recognize that it is both money and people intensive and that it is a lot easier to just write someone a check and wish them luck on their project!
Barry: Your Professional Development Program provides career, community and confidence building tools to help all artists become successful artists, and you’ve worked with more than 5,500 artists in 150 communities in your first 10 years, What have you learned from that program and what are your plans for its future?
Ruby: The program is now up to more than 7,000 artists in more than 300 communities! It is so great, so moving. Everywhere I go now, artists will stop me to tell me the impact the workshops have had on them. It is such a powerful program. And it has so much potential to develop even further. The weekend workshops became pretty expensive for people to bring to their communities during the downturn and so we went “modular.” Partners, like state and local arts councils, fellowship programs, etc. can now design workshops for their very local needs–at a much lower cost. So, we have many less expensive options now, which is great. Plus, we started doing webinars about a year and a half ago and they are going gangbusters, we are doing almost one a week now, interviews, skills building, a variety of formats. It is great. We are working on Blended Learning now, trying to combine the best of what technology makes possible with those elements that only a live person in the room with you can bring. So, we will soon be able to offer an incredible range of ways for artists to participate with the program. Also, we have developed a LOT of collateral through our work with artists over the years, so could we put some of that together for additional offferings? In other words, how can we continue to make what we have learned and built through our work with our own awardees, more widely available to others?
Barry: Creative Capital was the focus of a Harvard Business School case study. What are the central elements of a program that is characterized by innovation and is entrepreneurial-centric?
Ruby: Staying alert to changes in the external environment, staying alert to opportunities, having a “bias for action,” the ability to move pretty quickly to try new things and a commitment to honestly analyze what is working and what isn’t.
Barry: The relationship between the nation’s artists and the arts organizations that support them, provide platforms for their work and serve as bridges to the wider public sometimes finds those two groups at odds with each other. What is your assessment about how that relationship can be bolstered to be more productive and effective for all?
Ruby: I think the question of how the relationship between artists and organizations can be bolstered is an important one and I am not sure I have an answer. We do something that seems to be useful: we bring all parties together around the premier of the artist’s project. The artist talks about their goals for the launch and the venue talks about what they are actually capable of doing to support the launch. I call these meetings “Rendezvous With Reality” sessions, because the artists are always disappointed by what the venue ISN’T going to do! But what is great is that we encourage the artist to use some of their CC money to accomplish some of the things they want the launch to accomplish. This is great for everyone–the artist definitely feels supported, but really, so does the venue! Nothing makes me happier than to walk into the conference room and see a table full of people all focused around maximizing the project launch. But really this activity reveals the artist to be a good partner to the venue, and we hope that is something that can be built upon for the future.
Barry: To what extent do those organizations like yours and others out there engaged in direct support for artists collaborate and cooperate with each other for the greater good? What might increase those working relationships?
Ruby: We have tons of collaborations through our PDP program–we rarely do direct marketing to individuals. But actually getting together to discuss what is working across all sectors, that isn’t happening, so I think we don’t know as much about each other as we should.
Barry: Have you noted any attitudinal changes on the part of artists over the past ten years? How do younger artists of today differ from artists of ten years ago?
Ruby: I think the current generation of artists does understand that they are walking into a tougher world. The infrastructure in the public sector has basically fallen apart, a lot of the foundation world is obsessed with impact questions, which represents a real narrowing to me (although they would say it represents focusing in on the work that is designed to promote social change). They aren’t afraid of words like “marketing,” and understand that the new media tools available allow them to amplify their voices in ways my generation of artists couldn’t even imagine. Also, they are really fun to work with because they often use humor to tackle serious subjects, which pulls people in.
Barry: Assess the current state of research into the needs, patterns of behavior, support for and public attitude towards individual artists. Where do we need more data and why?
Ruby: This is an area I really know so little about and where we all could use better information. But tracking individuals is so much harder than tracking organizations, so I know how difficult this is likely to be. And then what are we going to be able to do with the info once we get it? Is it going to make a difference to a conservative Congress, say? So, I think clarity about how we would use the data would be important before we go to the effort of collecting it.
Barry: Google calls you up one day and says: “Ruby, we want to do something to be supportive of America’s artists. Got any ideas?” What do you say to them?
Ruby: Here’s my number: 212-598-9900×225. Send them on over! We see so many possible offshoots from what we are learning from artists, I could keep them busy for years! Seriously, call me!
Barry: Your program provides a full suite of services to your grantees, adopting an approach that is really more full scale mentoring. What role might more seasoned artists play as mentors to younger artists and what is being done in that area that encourages you?
Ruby: When we reached our 10th Anniversary, about 5 years ago, we asked ourselves, what happened informally during our first decade that could/should be institutionalized? And the major thing we had observed is that artists who had strong support from other artists had fared the best. So we formalized this into an Artist Advisor program that brings in our previously funded grantees to work with a cohort of new grantees. This is THE best thing we have ever done, and not only are the Advisor to artist relationships strong, so are the relationships within each of the cohorts. It is fantastic!
Barry: What advice do you have to the philanthropic foundation community in terms of helping artists? What initiatives would you like to see come from that sector? What does it mean to risk negative blowback and even punishment for supporting controversial arts projects? What advice do you have for foundations to enable arts organizations to go forward as responsible change agents supporting change agent artists?
Ruby: The philanthropic sector should be the most adventurous sector in the society in terms of risk taking, and yet this isn’t always the case. Maybe it would be good for every philanthropy to have a “Failure Fund,” a small set aside for high risk ideas. We try to be that with every award, we often say that we are the risk capital for the field, but we know that isn’t for everyone! But a small mandated percentage, wouldn’t that be great? We have been really lucky, since we started our life with the charge to take risks in or funding, our wonderful donors, institutional and individual, have always known what they are supporting. And I think we have earned their trust, at this point. We have a pretty good track record of support for important, and sometimes, groundbreaking work.
The structure of philanthropic dollars really needs to be studied more. A number of years ago, to the best of my analytical ability and sleuthing at the time, I calculated that only the tiniest sliver of cultural support was going to assist living artists and the organizations that support them most directly.. (You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to figure that out.) I remember being shocked at how low the percentage actually was.
I suspect that foundation boards might be the culprit. The program officers I know are fantastic. So, how are we going to get more knowledgeable people on the boards of both larger institutional entities and family foundations as well? How can foundation administrators make a more robust effort to educate the boards they have now about all the diverse activity going on in their own communities? Maybe there is more education going on than I am aware of; I hope so…
Barry: Are artists fully seated at the table in the Placemaking efforts of the arts? What role ought they play? Is there a place for artist activists at those tables?
Ruby: This is not a question I can answer, I just don’t know enough about what is happening on the ground with these efforts.
Barry: There is considerable evidence (with more research in the docket) that art and artists can play a very meaningful role in health care and the aging process. Has Creative Capital gotten involved in projects that are in that vein? When funding projects do you give any weight to those you think might have long term benefits to both society and our sector?
Ruby: We support a lot of work that deals with social issues of all kinds, food, environment, criminal justice, etc. We also fund work that functions purely in the aesthetic realm and this inclusiveness and mix is what I think makes our artist rosters so juicy! I wouldn’t want to be an entity that only supports one kind of project. I think one of the things our artists love most is the mix of artistic disciplines, points of view, themes explored, diversity of aesthetics, age diversity, etc.
Barry: Why do you think the American public so little values artists, and do you have any thoughts on how that mindset and marginalization might be changed?
Ruby: I wonder how much interaction the public has with working artists. I think it is pretty limited. We have been going to the Idea Fest in Louisville every fall and bringing 4 artists with us to present their projects. The attendees are not necessarily arts patrons; I call them “civilians”. There are high school and college students and of course, many adults as well. And they won’t let the artists out of the auditorium, they have so many questions for them! The first year we went this lovely woman waited patiently for the crowd to clear and said to me, “I just wanted to say thank you. I have been a traditionalist my whole life and today you really opened my eyes.” Someone else said, “Your artists are talking about all the things we should be talking about as a society, but that we don’t.” Where are the opportunities for THIS kind of engagement?
Barry: The issues of diversity and race in the arts have become a front burner topic of late. How do you think we are doing in addressing the needs of artists of color, and what do we need to do more of?
Ruby: These issues have been at the forefront for as long as I have been in the field. They aren’t really new, and if they feel that way, I think that says what a poor job we have been doing in addressing equitability. This has been a key concern of ours since the beginning; in most years, at least 40% of our awardees have self-identified as other than Caucasian. I hope that number will just keep rising. We haven’t done nearly as well on the staff and board front, so we still have a lot of work to do. And geographic diversity, which we also care about, has not been what we would like either. We are pretty good on gender and age. A few years ago, the age range was from 27-79. That made me really happy! It ALL matters to us.
One of the reasons that we have been able to grow through experimentation has been the ongoing, never wavering, support of the Warhol and Duke Foundations and a number of committed individuals and small family foundations who have been consistent supporters since the very beginning. This adequate capitalization has given us breathing room. I have run undercapitalized organizations in the past and year by year project support–that is no way to support a field. IF something is working and you believe in it, commit to it long term. This is the only way to build a healthy cultural ecosystem.
Thank you Ruby.
Have a great week.
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Posted: 25 Aug 2013 09:39 PM PDT
“And the beat goes on……………..“
This is the sixth annual Barry’s Blog listing of the Most Powerful and Influential Leaders in the Nonprofit Arts. It has become far and away the most widely read of my postings (last year it attracted 12,500 page hits in addition to the subscriber base circulation – up from 5,000 additional hits from the previous year).
While I know many (most) people skip this introduction and immediately scroll down to the list itself, two points before you rush to judgment and / or criticize:
1. Please don’t send me a comment noting the conspicuous absence of artists on the list. That is intentional. There are, of course, countless artists, who because of their talent, skill, passion, genius and dedication are both powerful and influential. They greatly influence all of us. But this list is limited to those leaders who work in the nonprofit arts field as administrators. And that means that not only are artists intentionally omitted, but the classes of curators, directors, publicists, managers, and others are also not the province of this list – though I certainly recognize these people and others have considerable influence. There are several artists on this list, but their inclusion is because of their role in some facet of the administration of the nonprofit arts, not in their capacity as artists. Perhaps someone else may wish to compile a list of powerful and influential artists and others, but that is another list from this one. You have to stop somewhere.
And this list is only a list of those who work in the nonprofit arts field in America. Obviously there are powerful, influential and admirable leaders across the globe.
2. A few people (every year) let me know they don’t like this kind of list. More often than not, what they really don’t like is the inclusion of certain of the people who are on the list. It’s not that they have anything against any of these people, rather that they want to promote power and influence accruing to a different kind of arts administrator; leaders whose thinking is different from the prevailing approaches of most of the folks on this list. They want the future to be here now. I understand and appreciate that.
In fact, I am heartened that the list provokes some discussion about who should have power and influence and why, and where power and influence ought to reside, and why. One of my purposes in compiling this list every year is that I think it is important to know where the field perceives power and influence to lie, and why – because these people largely determine how the debates in our sector are framed and what the agendas will be. They drive our discussions of policy, and they are the people who control much, if not most of the money, and decide where the funding goes (at least in broad swatches). They influence what issues should be on the front burner, and what we talk about when we meet. They define our goals and objectives, our priorities and the positions we take – and even the way we do things. They can ‘green light’ new programs and projects and are chiefly responsible for prioritizing which challenges we address. In large part, they are our most experienced and knowledgeable people – arguably some of our best thinkers; certainly our established power brokers. Some of them represent specific segments within our larger community; others have at-large platforms. They have varied, substantial, and sometimes eclectic resumes and experience. Some have served in the field for a long time; others are newer to our ranks.
The reality is that some people do have more power and influence, or are perceived as such – whether anyone likes it or not. To pretend that any world (ours included) is not stratified, tiered, territorial and subject to politics and disproportionately controlled by an oligarchy at the top is naïve. If as a field, we want to change how we assign power and influence, to whom, when, and why – then that should be pushed via open and transparent dialogue across the sector. I think it of value to know who we think the people with power are. I believe the people who work in our field are passionate and motivated and seek the higher good, but I also recognize that they are human beings, and that our field isn’t some separate and perfect world – and that power and influence are tangible currency – sometimes spent wisely, other times needlessly squandered. And I acknowledge that there are people who honestly think that the people on the list holding power and influence is not necessarily a good thing.
Power is defined as “the capability of doing or accomplishing something; the possession of control or command over others; authority.” Influence is defined as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others”. Thus this list does not purport to necessarily measure impact, creativity, accomplishment or lasting effect – but rather who has the ability and capacity to get things done and move others to get things done – and in this case on a large stage – or (perhaps even more importantly) who is perceived as having that ability, for the perception itself confers a degree of power and influence. It isn’t meant to be a popularity contest. Indeed, some of those on the list are perhaps not universally loved – but they do have power and / or exercise influence. Neither does this list attempt to measure or evaluate anyone’s job performance or skill sets.
Leaders come and go, move from one post to another and their fortunes and the fortunes of the organizations they lead change from year to year, as do both the circumstances in which they operate and their own level of activity and involvement. Thus some leaders included on this list one year, may not be on the radar screen of my nominators the next year. Some leaders are active one year, quiet the next. Admittedly this is but a subjective exercise and the selections are arbitrary. As such this list is, of course, incomplete and flawed. All lists are. This one is neither exhaustive nor definitive. No insult is meant to anyone whose name is not on the list, and I am sure there are many people whose names should be on the list. While I personally agree with most of the final selections, as in prior years there are some I find surprising. I am also confused by the omission of others that I would have thought would have been consensus inclusions. Particularly surprising (and puzzling) to me this year is the absence of the nominations of leaders working so hard in the arts education field. Some may argue that the categories included are incomplete; that some categories should include more people, others fewer. People may agree, or disagree that the names on this list have power or influence. I acknowledge that it is merely a “snapshot’ in time of our leadership; one that tries to recognize influence exercised over the past year, and circumstances that will likely confer the power of influence in the coming year.
This year’s list includes many who have frequently been on the list (and not surprisingly, there is heavy representation of funders who control grants), but I also note a definite trend towards another generation of leaders – included not so much because they have the power of position, or purse or long standing place – but rather because their ideas speak eloquently and convincingly, and their thinking continues to gain traction with an ever widening group. This list is becoming less about power each year, and more about influence. Slowly – but surely. And more of the next generation of arts leaders are appearing on the list. As the Boomers retire, that trend can only get more pronounced. Power is never wholly static, nor is influence – both are in a constant state of flux and transition – nowhere more so than in our perceptions. (Certainly the perception of who has power and influence is a fickle thing; (Half the names on this year’s list were not on last year’s list; almost half of this year’s people have never been on the list before).
I also note that there is a shift in many places of power and influence moving from state agencies to city agencies. That may be largely a function of the fact of state funding cuts, and cities faring better in garnering public and private financial support. Funding cuts have curtailed the reach of state agencies and with less money for grants, programs and projects, their influence has naturally ebbed.
And as the private (foundation) funders continue to try to pick up some of the public funding slack – there has been a rise in their visibility, and in their power and influence. Like everywhere else in society, money talks.
There are, of course, countless unsung, brilliant leaders in our field – whose exemplary accomplishments and contributions are known to but a small circle and whose reputations are thus not yet widely established. That they did not make this list in no way diminishes their contributions; rather it is more likely an indication that they are not yet, for whatever reason, perceived as having as much power and influence as others in our field. Doubtless the profile of many of these leaders will rise over time. Others may move on. This list includes individuals who principally operate on a national stage, and most have long term tenures in the field and years of experience. But even though only six years old, the list has changed over time, and will, I suspect, continue to morph in the future.
Finally, this year WESTAF and I launched the Arts Dinner-vention project, which will take place at the end of next week. This is an attempt to give a platform and voice to some of those exemplary leaders and thinkers in our field who are not necessarily likely to be on this list — yet. It is a small attempt to acknowledge the influence of those coming up in the ranks. (And actually some of the dinner guests did make the list this year – indicative of change in the wind.)
Each year I ask leaders from all parts of our sector and all parts of the country to send me their nominations for the most powerful and influential leaders in our field. The process is anonymous and none of the nominators know the identity of any of the other nominators. At least 50% of the nominators in a given year are different from the previous year. All are free to nominate anyone they thought qualified, including themselves – the only caveat being that this was about arts administration and organizational leadership, and so I asked that we leave artists off this list (that’s a whole other listing – see disclaimer above).
Neither I, nor any employee at WESTAF, (which distributes this blog, but in no way has any part whatsoever as the author or originator of this list) was eligible for inclusion on the list.
This year I continue to group those on the list in broad categories – (e.g., National Leaders, Foundation Leaders, Policy Wonks, City Agency leaders, Bloggers, Researchers etc.), in no particular ranking.
For all those on the list, congratulations. You deserve the recognition. As I said last year, I wish this came with a trophy, or a cash prize or some dinner in a big city to publicly laud your achievements, but I am, alas, without the means or platform to enact such luxuries.
And finally: Don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger.
HERE THEN IS THE 2013 LIST:
Janet Brown: Executive Director, Grantmakers in the Arts
Her star can’t get much higher — or can it?. She is everyone’s choice as one of the principal people responsible for moving the nation’s philanthropic and government arts funders into new roles and thinking. Unafraid to tackle such diverse challenges as race and racism, federal funding of arts education, and the need for arts organizations to have adequate capitalization – she remains unassuming and the consummate diplomat. She has forever changed Grantmakers In the Arts, and probably the field as well. “Inspiring” is the word one nominator used.
Bob Lynch: President & CEO, Americans for the Arts
The Godfather of national arts service organizations, he has built one of the largest and most effective arts organization machines in the field, with a major presence in areas ranging from arts education and research, to business and marketing, to emerging leaders, to professional development — all on the base of local arts agencies. It is Americans for the Arts that defends and seeks to protect the National Endowment for the Arts budget – and without those efforts the agency might not have made it this far. Bob refuses to slow down and is on the road as much as anyone in the industry, and he is the default public spokesperson for the field. Few people love their jobs as much as he does his.
Joan Shigekawa: Acting Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts
Joan has astutely, competently and professionally filled in as Chair of the Endowment following Rocco’s departure, and has done so with quiet class and grace.
Aaron Dworkin President – The Sphinx Organization
Reportedly a serious candidate for the Chair of the Endowment, for whatever reasons he prefers to remain as the highly visible head of one of the country’s most regarded performing arts organizations. Very adept as using the bully pulpit and working philanthropic and corporate funders, he has made the Sphinx organization a premier training ground for gifted young classical artists of color — and in the process has become a national figure himself.
Maria Lopez De Leon – Executive Director, National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
Her influence and cachet grew even more last year with her ongoing place on the National Arts Council and her increased profile as one of the art sector’s foremost leaders of color. As the Latino community grows, and becomes more active in the field, her influence cannot help but expand. On people’s short list for bigger things?
Jamie Bennett – Chief of Staff / Director of Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts
Rocco’s, and now Joan’s, Chief of Staff and the Director of the Endowment’s public affairs arm, Jamie is one of the nonprofit arts highly respected rising stars. He has a huge network of supporters, a razor sharp analytical mind and is unafraid of sharing his thinking. His fan base has grown substantially over the past year, due in part in appreciation of someone who cuts to the chase. He appreciates the big picture, while understanding how the details work.
Mario Garcia Durham – Executive Director, Association of Performing Arts Presenters
He continues to deftly attend to the needs of the nation’s presenters while simultaneously fashioning that field into a more cohesive whole. Pressure is on as people expect big things from him.
Adam Huttler – Executive Director, Fractured Atlas
Still the most visible and successful of a new generation of arts leaders, Huttler has grown Fractured Atlas into a national influential powerhouse while keeping a “start up” buzz going. Like others of his niche, he is tireless and refuses to parse his words to placate the past. Has had significant influence on the way small arts organizations do business. Future Hall of Famer maybe?
David Fraher – Executive Director, Arts Midwest
Described as a “savvy, go-to guy on any subject”, Farher runs Arts Midwest – one of the regional arts organizations. Nearing his 30th year at his post, he is far more than just a survivor. After a half a lifetime in one gig, there isn’t much he hasn’t seen or about which he can’t say; “Been there, done that.” That kind of experience is invaluable. His commitment to support for arts organization infrastructure and the professional development of leadership, and his forging lasting relationships with funders and other partners, coupled with strong programs of artist support have made him a national leader in the field.
City Agency Leaders:
Jonathan Glus – CEO, Houston Arts Alliance
Awash in funding, Houston’s municipal arts agency is the envy of most of the other city agencies in the country, and Jonathan is the one who heads the decision making process as to where to spend a seemingly almost endless money stream. As the first head of the organization, his exemplary performance has significantly raised Houston’s and his own reputation. On the way up.
Michele Boone – Commissioner, City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events
She reportedly has Mayor Rahn Emanuel’s ear, and is using that access to wring increasing city support for the arts, arts education and artists in the windy city. Named to a handful of most powerful lists, she is seen as one of the “go to” people in the sector for advice and her opinion.
Michael Spring – Director, Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs
He helms one of the major urban arts agencies in the country and is a major player in the arts advocacy efforts both in Florida and on the national stage with his deep involvement with Americans for the Arts. Savvy, down to earth, experienced and knowledgable, he is highly esteemed by his colleagues.
Roberto Bedoya – Executive Director, Tucson / Pima Arts Council
Placing himself at the center of last year’s increased dialogue on race and racism (as manifested in the larger arena of the question of equity), he has established himself as someone who must be included in any conversation about the arts as related to people of color. He asks hard questions adroitly clothed in academic language, and is pushing the envelope.
Laura Zucker – Executive Director, Los Angeles County Arts Commission
A fixture on this list, she remains the pen ultimate administrator who runs one of the best shops ever. If something is on her priority list, the chances are that it is on everyone in LA’s list.
Olga Garay – Executive Director, Los Angeles City Department of Cultural Affairs
Having raised $21 million in additional funding for the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, she, together with Laura Zucker at the County Arts agency, have put Los Angeles on a solid footing for the future. She is a politician, knows how the game is played, and has worked well with the Mayor and City Council.
Sunil Iyengar – Director, Office of Research and Analysis, National Endowment for the Arts
He has raised the role of, and respect for, the NEA’s research activities, as well as the value of arts research, ten fold in the past year by championing transparency and a greater understanding for research.
Anne Gadwa Nicodemus – Principal, Metris Arts Consulting
She’s starting to climb out from Ann Markusen’s shadow and shine in her own right, and is increasingly recognized as one of the key, pivotal point people in the world of arts data and research.
Randy Cohen – Vice-President, Research and Policy, Americans for the Arts
Still the face of arts research and data to the rank and file of the nation’s arts organizations, he criss crosses the country preaching the gospel of the value of arts as confirmed by all kinds of data. Unapologetic chief defender of the importance of the economic argument for arts support. It works, and hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. His easy going style have made him very popular in the field.
Ian David Moss – Director of Research, Fractured Atlas
Through his blog Createquity, he has ramped up understanding and respect for both the value and the process of serious data collection and research. This year he spearheaded the establishment of an online community – the Cultural Research Network – with other stalwarts in the research community, and it has taken off. He also has expanded his reputation as project advisor and strategic planner. As one nominator put it: “While his blog is a major voice in the field, his work consulting on a number of large-scale community-based strategic planning efforts have helped us envision new models for arts organizations and they way they are embedded into their community.” Big future in the field.
Danielle Brazell – Executive Director, Arts for LA
Los Angeles has one of the handful of the country’s best arts advocacy organizations, and Danielle is its heart, soul and brains. She has learned the ins and outs of effective lobbying by being proactive for a long time now, and has raised the visibility of her organization to the point where people across the sector have taken note. Another rising star.
Nina Ozlu Tunceli – Chief Counsel of Government and Public Affairs – Americans for the Arts and Executive Director Arts Action Fund
Narric Rome – Vice-President, of Government and Public Affairs – Americans for the Arts
Consummate government experts, tireless protectors of the NEA and hearlded teachers and mentors to a generation of arts advocates across the country. Nobody in the field knows more about the maze of intrigue in the political corridors of Washington D.C. than Nina. And the Arts Action Fund remains the sector’s best foray into real world lobbying.
Yo Yo Ma – Artist
His artistry commands respect and attention, and his passion has made him the champion of the argument that the arts are essential to full growth of every individual in America. Willing to use his celebrity to further arts education.
Darren Walker – President, Ford Foundation
With a solid background in arts philanthropy, and having played a major role in the ArtPlace efforts, his impact and influence on the field, already substantial, is expected to grow in the coming years as he assumes the leadership of the nation’s largest foundation. Since 2010, he has served as vice president for Education, Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation, where he has shaped more than $140 million in annual grant-making around the world, covering areas as diverse as media and journalism, arts and culture, educational access and opportunity, and religion. He has been a driving force behind initiatives such as JustFilms, one of the largest documentary film funds in the world. He may walk softly, but he carries a very big stick. Lots of eyes on him.
Ben Cameron – Program Director, Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Still the best public speaker the arts has yet to put forward. He is a thinking man’s philanthropist with money to spend, and he continues to have major influence on arts philanthropy.
Judith Jennings – Executive Director, Kentucky Foundation for Women (KFW),
Leading a private, independent philanthropy that supports feminist art advancing social change, Jennings’ championing of women’s issues in the arts, has earned her the growing respect of the philanthropic field. She continues to show up on more people’s radar screens as a rising voice.
Ruby Lerner – President & Executive Director, Creative Capital
Lerner’s influence on grantmaking to artists continues to expand. She’s been around the block enough to fully understand all the issues in trying to help artists not just survive, but actually “thrive” – and the funding community listens attentively to her opinions. One nominator described her simply: “She is a very, very smart lady.”
Kary Schulman – Director, Grants-for-the-Arts – San Francisco
Another 30 year veteran, Schulman has navigated the minefield that the SF Arts ecosystem can be with consummate skill, and in the process has helped nurture and incubate scores of what are now model organizations – adhering to the philosophy of sticking with organizations while they grow. Over her span she has overseen many times tens of millions of dollars in grants, and she has played an important role in protecting the hotel tax revenue stream that funds her organization – Grants-for-the-Arts – from the political machinations of wannabe politicians bent on cutting the funding. Few San Francisco arts organizations would today still be around were it not for Schulman’s funding help at some point. A remarkable legacy for an unassuming stalwart.
John McGuirk – Program Director, Performing Arts Program, Hewlett Foundation
Having run both Irvine’s and Hewlett’s arts funding programs, and very involved in GIA, McGuirk continues to be a major voice in the sector, especially in California where Hewlett funds heavily in both arts education and performing arts. Organizations throughout the greater Bay Area are his constituents, so he wields considerable influence. He’s halfway through his tenure, and the next two years will be his legacy.
Huong Vu Bozarth – The Boeing Company
Huong oversees The Boeing Company’s Global Corporate Citizenship Pacific Northwest Region arts, culture, and civic grants portfolio. Previously, she was the senior arts program officer at The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, guest curator at contemporary performance center On the Boards, director of grants programs at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, fellow at the National Endowment for the Arts, and organizer of visual arts exhibitions. She is currently an advisory commissioner for the Seattle Arts Commission and a board trustee for the Seattle Parks Foundation, and she sits on the Board of GIA.
Deepa Gupta – The Boeing Company
Gupta is currently the Director of Education Initiatives and Strategy in the global corporate citizenship group at The Boeing Company. Prior to Boeing, Ms. Gupta served as a program officer for The MacArthur Foundation where she managed its institutional building program called the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions, the arts and culture grant program, and internal efforts to define a framework for MacArthur’s programmatic strategy development and impact assessment. She is a member of the National Council on the Arts.
Because Boeing as a private sector corporation is so heavily involved in support for arts and culture, Huong and Deepa are in great demand as speakers, advisors, and participants in all the policy convenings of the sector.
Carol Coletta – former Director, Arts Place. Now Vice-President, Community and National Initiatives, Knight Foundation
Under her direction, Arts Place became the major arm (and funder) of the Creative PlaceMaking movement, and she was the movement’s spokesperson, champion and articulate defender. Her direct experience with cities helped form her approach, and helped land her the VP position at Knight – where (while she will be once removed from the arts) she is likely to still have impact and sway on arts funding.
Jeremy Nowak – Interim Director, Arts Place
Carol Colleta’s successor, Nowak is a Non Resident Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution as well as a Non Resident Scholar at the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Urban Research. He currently serves as the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s board of directors. He was President of the William Penn Foundation from 2011-2012 in a somewhat stormy tenure, and the CEO of The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) in Philadelphia, which he co-founded in 1985. Among his publications is Creativity and Neighborhood Development, a monograph that integrates art and cultural practices within a community development framework. He certainly has the position and power to accomplish an ambitious agenda. Time will tell where his priorities lie and how he will helm the PlaceMaking apparatus – and whether or not he has found his niche and a support base.
Josephine Ramirez – Program Director, Arts – The Irvine Foundation
Foundations change their focus and stated strategic goals all the time, but few shifts have had as much play and influence across the philanthropic sector as Irvine’s move to “Engagement” as their operating philosophy. Whether breaking new ground, or recognizing and smartly reflecting a growing trend, their focus change has had major impact on the field, and Josephine is the one at the epicenter of the whole thing. She has handled both criticism and applause with professionalism and humility and won a legion of fans in the process.
Alan Brown – Wolf / Brown Consulting
Perhaps the most widely known and respected of all the arts consultants plying their trade today, Brown’s research and analysis continues to hold great sway over the thinking of the field. One nominator described his influence thusly: “He is so adept, and quick, at both recognizing and describing new trends, he holds the rapt attention of the nation’s arts leaders – and particularly the funders.“
Russell Willis Taylor – President and CEO, National Arts Strategies
Her Executive training initiatives remain the ‘sterling’ entries in the field – endorsed by scores of participants and funders, and the network of graduates of her programs gives her a huge base of contacts seeking her advice and counsel.
Bill Ivey – Author, lecturer, former Chair of the NEA and Director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy
Back in the national spotlight this past year with his book: Handmaking America, Ivey continues his role as one of the pre-eminent thinkers on the importance and workings of creativity in America, and one of the most respected of all our policy mavens.
Steven Tepper – Associate Director, Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy / Associate Professor, Department of Sociology – Vanderbilt University
Widely recognized as one of the leading cultural policy experts in the sector, his involvement with SNAPP (the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project) and its conference this year at Vanderbilt and the release of its report, raised his visibility even higher.
Meiyin Wang – Associate Artistic Producer, Public Theater / Under the Radar Festival
Greatly respected and admired head of the Under the Radar festival and her championing of new, and cutting edge theater, Wang is widely seen as one of the rising voices in the theater community.
Nina Simon – Executive Director, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History
Back on the list again this year for her growing leadership of a new generation of museum directors. Risk taker, thought leader, out of the box experimenter, her blog is not only widely read and discussed, it is widely quoted. Increasingly regarded as one of the faces of the future of museums because of her bold, innovative community emphasized approach.
Marc Scorca – President and CEO, Opera America
Champion of Opera – not just for his membership but Opera everywhere. He’s been in his post since 1990 and has overseen growth of his membership from 120 opera companies to nearly 2,500 members. Collaborative style, he’s an effective champion of opera, music and the arts domestically and internationally. He cares, and people respond to that.
Jesse Rosen – President / CEO, League of American Orchestras
When Rosen talks, people listen. Passionate, well versed in the issues facing all of the arts sector, he continues to speak for and on behalf of the nation’s music sector – bluntly and authoritatively.
Kristin Thomson – Future of Music Coalition
Accomplished researcher in the area of musicians’ revenue streams, she is shining a spotlight on artist survivability in the changing economic marketplace. She is also a pioneer in helping arts organization’s to better utilize digital technologies.
Diane Ragsdale – Jumper
Thought provoking blogger, she champions the artist and the underdog and asks everyone to think. One nominator noted: “She challenges us to reconsider our views about fulfilling the role of arts in community, measuring success, and public obligation.” Widely read, she has a major influence in certain policy areas.
Andrew Taylor – The Artful Manager
Back in full form as one of the nation’s most widely read bloggers and now settled in as a professor at American University, he has an uncanny ability to find the small things that make a big difference and provokes his large readership to think outside their own areas of expertise. Doubtful there is anyone blogging on the arts who is more respected and beloved.
Thomas Cott – You’ve Got Mail
Doug McClellan – Arts Journal
As one nominator put it: These two are “The kings of arts industry content aggregation. If you’re not following them you’re not in the loop, period.”
Cott is also an increasingly respected expert in the area of marketing, and McClellan
leads the charge in questioning the role of arts journalism in the wider pantheon of news and commentary from his new post as a member of the USC faculty. Those who interact with him appreciate his keen insight and his intelligence.
Michael Rushton – For What It’s Worth
Director of the Arts Administration program at Indiana University, Rushton’s no nonsense approach is winning him loyal readers across the field. Using his economics background, he asks the hard questions, and questions the basic assumptions of the field, as he debunks common held theories and ideas.
Laura Zabel – Executive Director, Springboard for the Arts
As one nominator described her: “the it girl for innovation in public community arts organizations”, she is on everyone’s list as an innovator and visionary – particularly in the support of artists.
Richard Evans – President, EmcArts
One of the field’s foremost purveyors of adaptive change for arts organizations, his organization is at the forefront of pushing for innovation in the way the sector thinks and operates. Skilled at forging new partnerships and collaborations, he is paving new ways to respond to community needs.
Clay Lord – Vice-President Local Arts Advancement – Americans for the Arts
His blog New Beans continues to break ground in the audience development arena thinking, and he is at the forefront of raising the issue of equity in arts support and funding.
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Posted: 12 Aug 2012 02:20 PM PDT
“And the beat goes on…………………….”
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. (She’s also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager’s Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.)
This piece of career advice (from a post of hers in Newsweek online) seems valuable no matter where your career trajectory (on the way up or already there):
1. You don’t look the part. It might seem superficial and unfair, but appearances really do count. You might get away with pushing your office’s dress code to the limit, but it’s probably impacting the way people perceive you and what opportunities you’re offered.
2. You’re terrible at time management. Managers need to keep track not only of their work, but also keep track of other people’s too. If you can’t stay on top of your own projects, your employer isn’t likely to have faith that you’ll be able to monitor the work of an entire team.
3. You aren’t very good at tough conversations. A manager needs to have tough conversations, make decisions that may be unpopular, and enforce standards and consequences. If you shy away from difficult conversations–or the opposite, if you’re too aggressive and confrontational in them–you likely won’t be seen as manager material.
4. You gossip or are part of a clique. Managers need to be unbiased and objective–and not only that, they need to appear unbiased too. If you’ve already crossed professional boundaries within the office, it will be difficult to rebuild those lines as a manager.
5. You don’t know how to prioritize. Managers need to look at a landscape of dozens of possible projects and identify the most important ones to spend time and resources on–and then stay focused on those goals without letting distractions intervene. If you already have trouble figuring out the best place to spend your time, the problems would only compound.
6. You act entitled. Entitlement from someone at a junior level is hard enough to deal with; entitlement in a manager is even worse. No employer wants to deal with a manager who thinks her department deserves a higher budget or more staff allocations than everyone else, or who tries to exempt herself from the policies and procedures that everyone else has to follow.
7. You don’t manage your own boss well. The ability to manage upward gets more and more important as you move up the ladder. If you’re not skilled at managing your relationship with your manager now–including communicating well, getting aligned on expectations, and getting her what she needs in the manner she prefers it–it’s likely to hold you back from higher-level roles.
8. You’re a complainer. Managers need to have the maturity and perspective to understand how policies that might be annoying still serve the larger good of the company. They also need the judgment to raise concerns professionally and through the correct channels, rather than sharing them with anyone who will listen.
9. You do your job duties and nothing else. Average work might satisfy the requirements of your current job, but it’s not enough to get you promoted. Promotions go to people who go above and beyond the minimum and seek out ways to improve constantly.
10. You don’t make your accomplishments visible. You might be doing a fantastic job, but if no one knows that, you won’t be rewarded for it. So don’t be shy about sharing accomplishments with your manager, whether it’s rave reviews from a client or a tricky problem that you solved before it caused damage.”
I WOULD ADD THE FOLLOWING TO THE LIST:
1. You project an air that you don’t really want more responsibility. We all give off vibes as to whether or not we really want to move upward. Some people, perhaps even unbeknownst to themselves, appear not to be interested in advancement.
2. Your co-workers think of you as a slacker. Even if you perform well, if you have the image of being distant and distracted, it will be hard to alter that impression with higher ups.
3. Your work / live line is too rigid. While it is fair to separate work from life, too rigid a demarcation line and the image that woe be to anyone who crosses it suggests you aren’t really a team player and that the job is only that.
4. You try to cover up mistakes, rather than acknowledge them. Leaders admit false steps and take responsibility for what goes wrong. Making excuses does not speak to leadership.
5. You don’t seek out ways to learn more and enhance your skills level. Complacency in improving your ability to be a better manager suggests you don’t care.
HERE’S A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT KIND OF LIST – 10 Rules for Students, Teachers, and Life by John Cage and Corita Kent taken from my favorite site Brain Pickings:
Have a good week.
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Posted: 30 Sep 2012 08:06 PM PDT
“And the beat goes on………………….”
Quick Note on the Dinner-vention Project: Thank you for all the positive feedback and support for the idea. We have already begun to receive a lot of suggested names for dinner guests. Please send in yours before the November 20th deadline. Given WESTAF’s substantial experience in convening planning, logistics and technical recording, I am grateful for their Sponsorship of this project. Otherwise I would likely have to cook, crowd 8 or more people around a table designed for 6, try to put up a dozen people in the (only) guest bedroom, and record the event on my iPad. Fortunately they have resources I lack, so we can do this right.
And that got me to thinking about how much more others across the field have probably learned over their long tenures working in our sector than I have.
So I thought I would do a blog on that. – The WHAT I HAVE LEARNED blog. I invited 24 colleagues to share the most important lessons they have learned; to pass on some of the knowledge that they might wish someone had shared with them when they were still coming up through the ranks.
Specifically, I asked:
What have you learned that you can pass on to the future leaders of our field. What one or two big pieces of advice can you give based on your experience that you think would most help our future leaders in their career development and in doing their jobs well?
There was near universal enthusiasm for this effort, and almost everyone I invited responded. I think the responses are insightful, smart and heartfelt. There are some common themes, some really sweet observations and lots and lots of good will. I am impressed with all of them, and very proud to work in a field with these people. If this is well received, I think I will do it again next year, as I have at least five times more people on my list to ask than I was able to get to.
Here then are the responses to What I Have Learned:
Randy Cohen – Vice President of Research and Policy, Americans for the Arts
2. Great leaders are great advocates—for their industry and for themselves. Advocacy can be boiled down to three questions: What’s the message? Who gets the message? Who delivers the message?
3. Inspired audiences will take action. Be a great speaker. Data alone won’t cut it . . . add a story to bring the message alive. Practice, be yourself, use humor, and go easy on the PowerPoint text.
4. You can do a bounty of good if you are willing to share leadership and credit. Everyone wants to be on the team that is doing the right thing.
5. Change is a constant condition. When faced with multiple choices, lean towards the one you fear most—that is usually where the greatest treasure is buried. Be brave!
6. We are in the people business. Help others get what they need, and others will help you get what you need. Don’t forget what Mom told you—say please and thank you, be on time.
7. Learning never ends. Fuel your brain with industry knowledge with the vigor of a squirrel gathering nuts for winter.
8. There is much to be grateful for. Start the day writing a couple short thank you notes. Go old school…pen, paper, stamped envelope.
9. When on the road, drink lots of water, don’t eat too many cookies, and carry your presentation materials with you.
10. Folks love Top 10 lists.
“To be interesting, be interested.” Former CAC member Fred Sands said he told that to all his employees. I think it is worthwhile for all of us to listen more and talk less. And listen everywhere. Our audiences have remarkable wisdom – even the children. Ask good questions. Remember too that different communities have different ways of addressing challenges.
“Don’t sacrifice the good while waiting for the perfect.” Don’t let analysis paralysis stop forward motion. Recognize that there are many right answers.
“Quick, cheap and good – pick two.” Mid-size non-profits don’t have the luxury of deep pockets enabling them to throw money at problems. And mid-size non-profits don’t want to settle for anything less than good. So that means we need to give ourselves adequate time to plan, prepare, recruit, manage and assess the many projects we undertake.
John R. Killacky – Executive Director of Flynn Center for the Performing Arts.
My CEO/Executive Director-self has no gravitas here. At the barn, I am a beginner. I’m always learning: from teenagers to one friend in her 80s who rides her 24-year old gelding every day. We never discuss one’s day job; all conversation is through and about our animals. Here I am Raindrop’s dad.
Being a novice at mid-life is rejuvenating. I love grappling with new skills that take a long time to master. Failures are almost as important as successes here. Laughter at failure and learning from mistakes propel improvement. My competitive self is satisfied with a training session well done; thrilled that Raindrop and I have done our best for that day.
In working with my pony, I must first understand the world through her eyes, her smells, her experiences, her fears, and her relationships. Equine logic is quite different from human thinking. I also try to see the world as my pony does. Human vision is focused straight ahead; horses see at 350 degrees, encompassing peripheral vision. I practice this perspective and vast horizons of fields, mountains, and clouds feathering the sky unfold.
Recently, my Shetland pony Raindrop and I went off-site to a driving clinic. Jeff Morse, who led the two-day event, encouraged us to “create the horse you want, rather than fix the horse you have.” He had me drive with my eyes closed to feel the connection of my hands on the reins to the bit in her mouth. It was transformative.
Training can get mighty complicated, with up to six horses and riders simultaneously in the indoor arena during the after-school and post-work rush hours. This necessitates an interrelated choreography of awareness, patience, and generosity by equines and humans alike. We lunge, jump, trot, and walk our animals in spiraling circles and figure eights. Loose but firm hands on the reins, the animals go where your eyes go. We dance together.
My favorite time at the barn is late at night, with no one else around. I love being in the stall with Raindrop as she and her stable-mates settle down for the evening. The sounds and smells of two-dozen safe, warm, and protected equines are divine. Just being there, in sublime stillness, through her quiet eyes, I am part of the herd. It’s at these moments that I experience Rasa, a Sanskrit term indicating a profound state of empathic bliss.
Pony precepts have taught me a lot of things, some of which apply to human interactions. Beginner’s mind, meeting colleagues on their terms, starting where they are, interconnectivity, embracing the peripheral world, dancing with others, and sublime stillness all seems like good ideas to bring back into the office each morning, after I finish mucking her stall, of course!
Claire Peeps – Executive Director, Durfee Foundation
On the occasion of Durfee’s 50th, we published a short chapbook with excerpts of their answers. I wrote in the intro:
“We ask leaders, ‘Why do you do what you do?’ What they do is usually quite easy to understand. Why they do it is often less immediately apparent, and their answers, so often, are disarming.
We ask them ‘What have you learned along the way?’ Their answers sing a whole chorus of melodies. It is people, at the end of the day, who make change. Yes, it takes money and strategy, buildings, infrastructure, and political will. But it is leaders who take up a cause and stoke an ember into a blaze. We are committed to those who tend the flame.”
So what I have learned from this work?
I’ve learned that people are our most valuable resource and that it is in our collective best interest that they be nurtured and sustained. This is true for leaders who must take care of the staff who work for them, and it is true of emerging leaders who must remember to take care of themselves.
I’ve learned that solutions are often where we least expect them, so it’s important to go outside of our usual stomping grounds on a regular basis.
I’ve learned that it’s important to listen.
I’ve learned that everything is inter-related – that education is in fact a housing issue, that housing is a transportation issue, that transportation is a green economy issue, that green economy is a jobs creation issue, and so on….and that the arts are woven into all of them.
I’ve learned that hospitality and good food are essential to candid conversations.
I’ve learned that laughter is a bridge across difficult terrain.
In the words of one of our fellows, Lisa Watson, director of the Downtown Women’s Center, “I’ve realized that putting all your life’s energy into work is highly overrated and incredibly unhealthy/unsustainable. An important part of being a successful leader is taking time outside of work to ground yourself, prioritize your overall well-being and lead by example – that time to recover is necessary to inspire progress, productivity, and passion as we tackle profound social issues and ultimately seek to build a fulfilling career for ourselves and those around us.”
And lastly, I’ve learned that kindness goes a long way. In the words of Plato, “Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
Robert Booker – Executive Director, Arizona Commission on the Arts
Always accept new responsibilities in your current position. Don’t expect an immediate reward for expanding your work load or pitching in to cover a position. In the end, you will be more knowledgeable about your organization and will be recognized as a leader and team player. The rewards will come later in your career with your organization, others and the field.
Remember to give credit to your teammates when they have worked on a project or supported your action with their skills and send handwritten notes to folks that help you everyday along the road, Help others reach their goals when you can. Never speak ill about people you work with.
Learn the history of the non-profit and for-profit arts industry. Be familiar with the successes and the challenges our field has faced over the years. Learn from the work your colleagues are doing in other communities and countries. Serve the people you see outside your window. Treat money as if it were time and time as if it were money…you can always make more money, but time is fleeting. Try to give back as much as you get as you work in this field. Always tell the truth. Take responsibility for your actions and don’t fear failure.
Bruce Davis – Consultant
2) Politics. The dreaded but inevitable word. Rarely will you see this word in an executive director’s job description. Shame on us! An executive director’s job is to master the art of politics in all its realms–internal, external, financial, community and media. While you dream of being an executive director, ask yourself, do you really have the stuff and experience? What real political battles have you won or lost?
Arni Fishbaugh, Executive Director, Montana Arts Council
Cora Mirikitani, President and CEO, Center for Cultural Innovation
So considering the vast amounts of time that I’ve devoted to both the grant-giving and grant-getting sides of our business, it may come as a surprise that one of my biggest arts career ‘ah-has’ is this: It’s not about the money!
Sure, money will always have a place in the transactional dimensions of our work, but when I really think about my most memorable arts experiences, what has been most personally gratifying and my best professional work, I think about these things instead:
§ It’s about the power of people and relationships. I love that there are so many committed, passionate, diverse people who work in the arts and that I’ve had the joy of working with so many of them, some for many years and others who are just getting started in the field.
§ It’s about remembering why we love the arts. There’s a lot to be said for things like economic impact, educational attainment and organizational sustainability, but for me, it has always been the ‘Truth and Beauty’ part of the arts that has swept me off my feet.
§ It’s about the work of artists. Hey, where do we think the work comes from anyway? Artists are my heroes.
§ Sometimes it’s just about hanging in there. Working in the nonprofit arts is full of challenges and sometimes victory comes from just being the last man (or woman) standing. People in the arts are pretty stubborn, and that’s a good thing. In this regard, the coda from Barry’s blog says it all: “Don’t Quit!”
Steven J. Tepper – Associate Director, Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy / Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University.
Passionless Leadership? How to think like a public leader and not like an evangelist
Thank you Barry for asking a simple but profoundly important question. What have I learned from my 18 years of working and studying cultural policy and cultural management?
When I look at arts research and arts advocacy I see private interests masquerading as public interests. Let me explain. Most of us entered the arts field because we were personally inspired by an arts experience, and we are passionate about classical music, literature, theater, dance, or the visual arts. With evangelical zeal, we have embarked on careers to promote these art forms and to help others see the light. We have been convinced that excellence requires stepping outside of the commercial realm and protecting our beloved art forms from the vagaries and the banality of the marketplace. So, we find ourselves defending particular types of art that get produced and presented by particular types of organizations (nonprofits).
But there is a difference between an evangelist and a public leader in the arts. The former is an ideologue – a faithful fan that does not question the value of the thing they love. We need evangelists in the arts. I am inspired by the army of people working in the arts who want to share with others their love for classical music or painting or dance. This is a truly humanistic impulse. But a public leader in the arts must approach the world more pragmatically and seek to define the public interest apart from one’s own private interests or passions. A public leader identifies a collective problem or benefit and then works creatively to solve the problem or advance the public good.
In other words, if we want to lead in the arts, we must try to be agnostic about the specific form and content of our programming. What experiences do we want audiences to have? What does cultural vitality mean for a city or community? How can we advance artistic careers? How can we guarantee that every child has the opportunity to express his or her own creativity? When I seek answers to these questions, I don’t begin with an assumption that orchestral music performed on stage in a symphony hall will necessarily produce deep cultural engagement. Or that taking drawing lessons or learning to play the piano is the best way to help children express their creativity. I don’t assume that advancing artistic careers means increasing the number of opportunities for artists to present or perform their work in nonprofit cultural venues. I don’t assume that cultural vitality requires that a community has a local dance company, an orchestra, a museum, and a professional theater troupe. In some contexts, investing in classical music or traditional theater might be exactly what a community needs. In other cases, it might be the wrong solution, crowding out investments we might make instead in festivals, film, popular music, comics and graphic novels and the everyday practice of arts, not just the nonprofit arena.
My point is that the public interest gets served when we seek to advance cultural vitality by any and all possible means. Good leaders bring a broad tool kit to their work. They get beyond special interest advocacy. They question their own assumptions. And, importantly, they realize that if they are to be public leaders and not evangelists, they must be willing to subordinate their own personal passions to the policies and practices that advance a shared notion of cultural vitality.
For example, let’s say my goal is to help children develop a meaningful and deep creative practice. I should not care whether that practice involves painting, playing traditional instruments, creating dance beats on a computer, designing a video game, making a film, doing origami, sewing costumes, or writing poetry. I do care that the engagement is creative, requires craft and involves personal reflection. If I don’t limit myself to the art forms I love, I have many more alternatives for reaching my goal.
In addition to my work in the arts, I am also a sociologist who teaches in a university setting. Were I in a leadership position to improve undergraduate education, I certainly would not limit myself to advocating for more sociology classes. In fact, perhaps we teach enough sociology… maybe what we really need is more foreign language instruction. Likewise, if our collective goal was to build tolerance and respect for group norms, teaching and reading more sociology might be one tool. But surely there are other ways that have nothing to do with the discipline of sociology that might better achieve this goal.
We need evangelists. We need people who want to share their faith. But we also need strong cultural leaders who will look beyond their own interests and passions and work on behalf of the public rather than on behalf of a particular art form.
Frances Phillips – Program Director, Arts and the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
A Rude Awakening
When exciting policy change has taken place, often it has been achieved because the arts have not fought for it alone but have aligned our interests with others.
Fear inspires bad policy and bad legislation.
Helping artists expand their networks greatly enhances the value of a financial award.
Communication with Grantseekers
I most admire organization leaders who are honest and forthcoming when things go wrong.
Good grant proposals vary widely, but many bad grant proposals have the same weakness: the narrative and the budget don’t tell the same story.
In London, arts organizations are unafraid to say that their remit is to achieve “highest artistic quality.” The belief we share in the United States that we need to make a cogent argument for the value of the arts makes us timid about announcing that intention.
Philip Horn – Executive Director, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
At some point you should be a mentor or a coach. Keep on the lookout for someone you can help along. Give those people opportunities.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness it is a sign of wisdom.. Being asked to help is the highest compliment.
Don’t try to impress people with your intelligence; impress them with you inquisitiveness. It is almost always appropriate to ask when you don’t know something.
If you stop being nervous, push yourself into an unfamiliar place.
Spend as much time as you can outside your office and outside your comfort zone. You’ll grow that way.
Don’t be an impediment to your staff. If they need something from you, get it for them as quickly as you can and they should do the same.
Who can afford to be wrong? Sometimes it makes sense to take responsibility for something that isn’t your fault.
What does it look like from the other person’s window?
One of my favorite books to read and re-read is Reframing Organizations. It takes the different approaches to organizational behavior and presents them in four frames; Structural, Symbolic, Human Resource and Political. I like to think of them as lenses. One of these lenses is more likely to give you clarity than another. Trying to solve one kind of problem one a different kind of approach can be problematic if not disastrous. I like this because it reminds me that one of my chief responsibilities is to always be asking, “What is really going on here?” http://www.josseybass.com/WileyCDA/WileyTitle/productCd-078797255X.html
One of my favorite articles is from the Harvard Business Review. “Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” Too bad it is cast in such a negative context but the lessons are invaluable. http://hbr.org/2007/01/leading-change-why-transformation-efforts-fail/ar/1
Leadership is more of a responsibility than it is a privilege. Leadership is situational. If you want to be a leader, start leading.
Finally, we approve of someone in power by saying, “he gets it” or more likely “she gets it” and wonder why more people don’t “get” us. But what is it that we don’t get about people who don’t “get it?” And isn’t it more important for us to understand what it is that we don’t “get” so we know how to move forward?
The arts are strange and forbidding to many but anyone can understand our work this way: We help people in our communities build and sustain programs that are important to them. We don’t create these programs; our fellow citizens do. Clearly these things are important to enough to them to make the considerable effort every year to sustain their favorite theatre or dance company or gallery or museum or poetry series. And there are a lot of those folks out there who do this to whom we are too weakly connected.
If these programs are important to them shouldn’t they be worthy of public investment? I think most politicians or “authorizers” (I hate that expression – sounds like part of a 12-step program) can appreciate that much more quickly than anything we like to say about the arts. We provide endorsement and encouragement and some measure of financial support for the good work of our fellow citizens in making their communities more rich, vibrant, lively, economically viable, diverse and interesting.
It is often better to just take “the arts” out of the conversation to begin the conversation.
Justin Laing – Program Officer, Arts and Culture, The Heinz Endowments
Today, I do my best to employ this practice in my job as a foundation program officer. When successful it allows me to highlight the unique capacities of skilled teaching artists in out-of-school time programs, the ways quality arts practice can meet the singular challenges of African American men and boys or the role an empowering arts pedagogy can play in positive community transformation. My hope is that this interest in mining has facilitated fruitful relationships with colleagues within and outside of my foundation and that it has supported quality arts practice of varied forms.
Betty Plumb, Executive Director, South Carolina Arts Alliances
Don’t let others define you, your issues or your efforts. When they do, take it as a compliment because they see you as a threat; then set them straight.
Never forget that we live in a democracy. Don’t let others define for you the proper role of government. The proper role of government is what the people think it should be. It’s your responsibility to help people understand that.
Know what’s at stake, including the issues, the political climate and the players who can make change happen.
Never forget that meaningful change must benefit everyone, even those whose lack of enlightenment causes them to disregard interests other than their own.
Don’t demonize those who oppose your cause. Issues and players change. Today’s opponent could be your next most valuable ally.
If you lose the battle, don’t despair. The war is never ending; your day will come.
No matter what the stakes, no matter how passionately you believe in something, never do anything you would be ashamed to have your mother – or your child – learn about.
Brad Erickson – Executive Director, Theatre Bay Area
Two: Take care of yourself. In my first executive director job, my board chair told me to make sure I was taking care of myself. Taking care of me was taking of the organization. What is that for you? Do it.
Ben Cameron – Program Director, Arts, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
In reaching that clarity, declarations of “I believe” can be seductive. “How I live”—a rigorous self-appraisal and analysis of those experiences that have been truly, deeply nourishing—reveals one’s values in startling ways. The best situations are those in which one’s values and the values of the organization where one works are in harmony—and a life worth living occurs when “I believe” and “How I live” are in alignment.
Physical exhaustion? Get some sleep. Burnout? You’ve disconnected from your core values. Make a change.
And do everything in your power to meet and work with Ronnie Brooks.
Three Short Stories by Tommer Peterson, deputy director, Grantmakers in the Arts
The culture of an organization, or a group, or an artistic company is more powerful and a more critical component of its life and work than any mission statement, by-laws, charter or statement. The culture of a group is an aggregate expression of the shared values of the participants, rarely recognized or explicitly addressed, but always present and informing every aspect of the work. It is often unspoken, but shared and recognized by all. In some ways it is akin to personality…intangible and not easily measured or defined. It is less what the group or organization does, than it is the way things are done. The culture of a group deserves close attention.
2. Food Stamps
3. Two Versions
In the same way, a person who seeks understanding in only a particular way is limited to that which can be known in that way, and misses the complete picture.
A number of blind elephants were discussing what men were like.After arguing among themselves, they decided to find one and determine what it was like by direct experience. The first blind elephant felt the man and declared, “Men are flat.” After all the rest of the blind elephants felt the man, they all agreed.
Robert Lynch – President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
I have learned that one plus one does equal three; collaboration works. There is indeed big efficiency, strengthened action, and real clout as payoff. But to get to that payoff is far more difficult than it sounds, which is why so many people give up. And in a sector like the arts where individual vision and creative doggedness are so valued, it can be even more difficult to bring us all together. Nonetheless, when that collaboration and determination can be harnessed as a united team, the effect is unbeatable.
I have learned that today’s support base for the arts is very mercurial (much like yesterday’s support base) and all too often influenced by the slogan of the moment, sometimes at the expense of the long-term vision of the artists and arts organizations. As that support model inches more and more toward earned income as sixty percent or more of revenue, marketing skills become critical. Learn how to sell stuff.
I have learned that against all odds, predictions, calls for limiting numbers, challenged support bases, negative headlines, predictions of audience attrition, this non-profit arts sector keeps growing. Organizational growth keeps defying the odds. Individuals keep gathering together ideas and resources and each other, forming groups armed with an idea or two and a lot of hope and taking their shot. What wonderful, hope filled, entrepreneurial, and very American spirit.
Olive Mosier – Director, Arts and Culture, William Penn Foundation
As a regional funder, we at the William Penn Foundation probably have a greater luxury in trying to work this way. To this end, the leadership of the Foundation is taking the needs of the local cultural sector out of the arts and culture funding silo by creating new, cross-sector funding programs that advance creative placemaking in Philadelphia neighborhoods, transform outdated business models, support new solutions, and find new ways of strengthening the field and engaging the public in the arts. We are pursuing an approach that allows for cross-sector learning by both the organizations and the Foundation, which I am also learning is a necessary aspect to all of us succeeding.
The most important lesson I have learned in 33 years as an arts administrator and grant maker is to ask for help. The worst mistakes I have made resulted from pride and embarrassment that kept me from asking for help to fix or improve something; the very worst mistake got me fired from a good consulting job when a problem turned into a disaster because I didn’t ask for help. The best programs I designed as a grant maker were all, every one, developed based on extensive advice and information from the people I was hoping to support; the most successful benefited from advice and tough critique from my executive and my board. When I didn’t listen to them, the programs weren’t so good.
It is especially important to cultivate your ability to hear people (not just listen politely) when you are on the up side of the power equation, as grant makers often are. I have learned how easy it is, from the safety and security of my perch, to be incurious, and to gloss over the urgency of mission, communicated in telling detail, being offered up by someone on the other side of the table. People who are not empowered are hyper-vigilant, and command a far more richly concrete understanding of their situation and their objectives than those of us who listen by choice rather than necessity. So if you want to do well, and to do good, honor your constituencies by making your listening a necessity.
Ramona Baker – Consultant
2.Include all voices
Anne Katz – Executive Director – Arts Wisconsin
§ There is astonishing creativity, overt and unseen, in the most unlikely places – well, unlikely to some, but obvious to me in my work in every corner of the state.
§ People are dedicated to their families, friends and community.
§ People will put superhuman effort into a cause they believe in.
§ Humans will stick to their habits and mindsets and work against their own best interests.
§ They will also open up their minds, learn new things, seek new directions, at every turn.
§ Patience is a virtue, maybe THE virtue needed in this work and in life. Real change happens slowly, much too slowly. And I am so impatient by nature.
§ Patience’s partner is persistence. It’s ok to understand that real change happens slowly, but the only way things change is if you keep pushing them to change. My daily mantra is Winston Churchill’s quote: “Never, never, never, never give up.”
§ Having a sense of humor in the face of absurdity goes a long, long way.
§ Volatility and uncertainty are part of the job. On every level, we can try to control people and situations, as much as possible, but in many ways, we can’t control anything.
§ Personalities and politics are the forces that shape a project, an organization and communities.
§ The more I am involved in the arts, the more I know that I don’t understand anything about art. I appreciate it, greatly, but understanding…that’s a whole different thing.
Dalouge Smith – President and CEO, San Diego Youth Symphony
Artists stretch and strive. It is inherent in supporting artists that arts organizations, the people running them, and the people working for them regularly extend themselves beyond reason or health. I discovered early that I didn’t always have a choice regarding when and how far I’d have to push myself during moments of production and creation. However, I also discovered that if I didn’t take control of the times when such effort wasn’t required and simply tried to keep up the same pace at all times no one else would guide me to slow down.
Letting art be all encompassing of your identity is often viewed as the route to the heights of achievement. I’ve seen and heard too often of relationships and families that don’t survive the artistic life because the art becomes so dominant. This is probably comfortable for some. I had the good fortune of realizing what was most important to me and what was secondary before reaching such a crisis. Ultimately, choosing to care for myself and having a relationship with my family was what I chose as primary. Even still, I’ve been able to achieve nationally recognized work for my arts nonprofit but within the boundaries I set, not to the dictates or expectations of others at my own expense. I’ve learned that I have to take care of myself and hope others will learn the same.
Barry: And finally here is some of what I have learned (and I say some, because one thing I have learned is that learning is a never ending process. But the process helps keep you involved and engaged, relevant and interested and your mind active. Good return for the investment.
Like many other fields, in our sector, who you know is as important as what you know. That’s not to say that we echo a ‘good old boy” network and do not value experience, intelligence and knowledge. We do. But it does recognize that much of success has always been built on personal relationships. So network as much as you can. Build relationships – ones that will last over time. And keep them. Ours is also a very generous field, and people are not just open, but quick, to respond to pleas for help. Ask when you need help, guidance, tutoring, mentoring or whatever. You will not very often get turned down.
Remember though, that to have friends, you have to be a friend. Relationships are take and give.
We all make mistakes. We all say things we regret. We all sometimes cross lines. When that happens, admit your mistakes and say you are sorry and mean it. People are very forgiving, if you are willing to accept responsibility for your wrongs. But if you are defensive, and cover up, people will not respect you. It helps if you can also be forgiving when wronged.
Avoid people for whom blame always lies elsewhere, and those who always know what is best – for they are either liars or fools.
You can learn a lot more by listening than talking.
There will always be people who will tell you why something won’t work; people who will tell you why your idea should be forgotten. Listen to legitimate criticism, but don’t let the naysayers keep you from moving ahead with your ideas and dreams. The whole world has been continuously changed by one person at a time, a single person who saw something that needed to be done, and then did it. Stick to your guns, believe in yourself, and follow your dreams. Never let them go, never wait for a more opportune time. The time is always now. Believe in yourself. Your job is to figure out how to get the NO people out of your way. Remember that reward often entails risk. And try hard never to step on someone else’s dreams.
Most accomplishments are realized by working with other people. Very few things get done all by yourself. Share the credit. Don’t worry too much that people will know your contributions to something. You can afford to be generous. And being generous as a mantra will get you farther than being recognized.
Always do your best to produce exemplary work of which you can be proud.
Fluidity will be the byword of the next decade.
When you get to a position of leadership, there is one axiom to remember — hire the absolute smartest people you can find (smarter than you) and then do your very best to get the hell out of their way and let them do their thing. At the very top of the heap, a leader is two things: a visionary and a cheerleader.
Do not always be too impatient with people, but be very impatient with incompetence. Champion people who report to you in public, criticize only in private.
Like Ringo said in Yellow Submarine in reference to the Nowhere Man: “The first time I met that Nowhere Man, I knew he was somebody”. For all of you out there, there are lots of people who know you are somebody too.
So when times are tough, and things aren’t going so well. When you are discouraged and life is seemingly relentlessly against you. Don’t quit. Just don’t, ok? Stay in there and fight — for your own sense of integrity and worth. Like the wise people know: Dance like no one’s watching; Love like you’ve never been hurt; Sing like you’re part of the choir, and somehow let that little kid inside of you back out before it’s too late.
If you would like, please feel free to share what you have learned by entering a comment.
Thank you very much to all the participants. You are all the best.
Have a GREAT week.