The Self-Centered Pursuit of Diversity

Nashville

In my last post I reflected on the 2014 Americans for the Arts Conference in Nashville. I concluded by mentioning an important session on diversity and promised a follow-up. There is much discussion (lip service and otherwise) of and occasional work toward diversity and inclusion in the arts industry. One difficulty is that much of the support infrastructure in the arts is connected via metaphorical superglue to the white monied establishment. … [Read more...]

Mental Logjam

Logjam

During my participation in Utah Arts and Museum's Mountain West Arts Conference, I had the opportunity to hear Laura Smith from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies present an overview of recent funding trends in the U.S. Listening to the statistics, a not directly related thought occurred to me. (My mind does tend to wander. But this time it was relevant wandering.) Standard categories for tracking charitable giving include "arts and … [Read more...]

Plan B

PlanB

In the context of posts that write themselves, this one falls in the category of "written (primarily) by someone else." The Guardian (London) published, earlier this year, an opinion piece titled "Public arts funding: towards plan B." (It was written by Three Johns and Shelagh: John Holden, John Kieffer, John Newbigin and Shelagh Wright.) The article is a critique of Arts Council England's arts funding report titled Towards Plan A, a report they … [Read more...]

Civic Footprint

Footprint

Last week I mentioned that I had participated in the 2014 Canadian Arts Summit in Banff. While there I learned many things about both the arts generally and the arts in Canada specifically. (Our neighbors to the north seem to have things well in hand.) However, one concept in particular leapt out at me. In a session someone mentioned the idea of tracking an organization's "civic footprint." (I think this came from someone in a tabletop … [Read more...]

More? You Want More?!!

OliverTwist-Bumble

There is an iconic scene in the musical Oliver in which the young orphan Oliver Twist approaches Mr. Bumble, the workhouse supervisor, and asks for a second bowl of gruel. Bumble's enraged reaction is "More! You want more?!!" In his mind, the little whippersnapper had unmitigated gall to request seconds. The firsts were more than generous. This, of course, put me in mind of fundraising. (While my mind may not have only one track, the number is … [Read more...]

Deconstructing a Revelation

LightBulb

In my last post (Eureka), I shared an insight about the nature of not-for-profit arts organizations that was valuable to me. However, I have discovered that in my enthusiasm for the insight, I gave articulation of it short shrift. My friend and fellow blogger Diane Ragsdale, for whom I have the utmost respect, took that post to task for what she interpreted it to mean. If I had meant what she thought I meant, I would have done the same. One … [Read more...]

Eureka

LightBulb

In perusing videos from the ArtPlace Grantee Summit on Creative Placemaking, I saw Lyz Crane's intro to a session on "In(tention)s + Out(come)s of Placemaking." (Disclosure: Lyz is a friend and occasional co-conspirator on things "engagementy.") I have long opined about the disconnect between the not-for-profit arts establishment and the rest of the 501(c)(3) world. All of a sudden I put together some things I've been saying (separately) but had … [Read more...]

Indispensability

BecomeIndispensable

I recently had a conversation with a friend in which I used that phrase, “making the arts indispensable.” While he agreed with my intent, he was concerned that one view of it would be to reinforce a sense of entitlement that some in the industry feel today. “Yes, the arts are special and since they are, we should be supported to continue doing what we are doing.” Clearly that was not my intent so I thought it might be useful to pursue it a little … [Read more...]

The Relevance Test

WillWorkForRelevance

I am currently working on "how to" processes for a book about establishing community engagement as a core function in arts organizations. Certainly, one of the first and most important steps is developing a cadre of engagement advocates. The arguments for engagement are many. However, I'm starting to believe that  the best place to begin may be with what I'm calling "the relevance test." Here is how I'm articulating it right now: The following … [Read more...]

Dark Future?

TunnelOpening

In a recent post, Elizabeth Merritt, the founder of the American Association of Museum's Center for the Future of Museums, gave a good synopsis of impending threats to nonprofit status that the arts may well be facing in the near (or immediate) future. (Dark Futures: Nonprofit Fragmentation) The essence of the argument is that in a time of budgetary despair for government, there is great pressure to examine the legitimacy of the tax benefits … [Read more...]