Can service orgs take the lead?

By Brian Newman, consultant, Sub-Genre Media
The training issue is a big one, and one which gets right to the heart of what Tim stated earlier - that "the idea of creative geniuses tending only to their art while others figure out how to find it an audience, and then turn that audience into money, isn't just a myth, it's a pernicious lie. Moreover, it's a lie that folks on the business side have a vested interest in perpetuating."

This lie is perpetuated by the very schools that should be teaching their students not just the art, but also the business side of the equation. I've spoken to film school deans, however, who feel that they barely have time to teach their students what they need to become artists in the three years they have them. Yet it is the very rare artist who can make a living just by being a creative, but not also entrepreneurial, genius. Some attention to the larger issues of control would be a nice primer - because the policy debates now are often about re-assertion of control over the means of artistic creation, dissemination and enjoyment.

I don't think that the education situation will change anytime soon, but I do wonder if the larger service organizations could play a bigger role? Bill Ivey asked this as well, below, and I just spent a little time visiting the websites of many of these organizations. My very unscientific survey showed only about one quarter (1/4) had any mention of any policy issues or advocacy for such issues on their websites. I know they all have a lot on their hands, and very few resources to devote to any non-revenue-generating activity, but who else is going to help take the lead?

In the world of film, we used to have a very strong network of media arts centers around the nation. As foundations shifted priorities (and the NEA's support changed dramatically), however, many of these organizations have shut down or refocused energies to where the money is - social issue action, youth training or corporate support for large activities, like film festivals. When attending a Grantmakers in the Arts conference a couple of years ago, I was amazed that there was a group of funders upset that they couldn't get filmmakers active in the policy debate - but they had helped disband the very network that could have served to rally filmmakers around these issues.

From my perspective the large national service organizations are the only possible remaining section of the nonprofit sector that can take on this role. I thank NAMAC for helping put this conversation together as one part of that job. I'd love to see them banding together more often with Public Knowledge, Free Press, Future of Music (oh how I wish for a Future of Film....) and others. I imagine each of these organizations could use the collective support as well. I could also imagine a series of one-off training days going on tour of the art schools, supported by a grouping of these organizations. Or a national challenge to an artist to work with Games for Change (here I go again) on making advocacy fun. Or perhaps they could just create an Ipad app?
July 20, 2010 7:33 AM | | Comments (0) |

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