Comments We Can’t Ignore

A seed library for community use is housed at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History.

This week, a guest column by Robert Reich entitled “What ‘charity’ should really mean” appeared on the Christian Science Monitor's website. In his column, Reich challenges the idea of tax-deductible donations to arts organizations, arguing that these deductions primarily support the lifestyles of the wealthy. Reich’s article highlights that we have serious a public perception problem. Either we are not doing enough work to share the arguments we use to demonstrate our value to those outside the bubble of our field, or we need to develop a … [Read more...]

Change Leadership Lessons in the Gettysburg Address

photo: Mr. T. in DC via flickr

At the sesquicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, Marketplace spoke with Nancy Koehn (Harvard Business School professor and faculty for the NAS Chief Executive Program) about leadership lessons in the iconic speech. Koehn notes elements of the address that make it a great example of effective change leadership, including succinctness, framing, acknowledging the stakes and, perhaps most importantly, candidness about costs in service of a larger mission (she cites Howard Schultz's response to a Starbucks shareholder's concerns … [Read more...]

Committing to Engagement

Engagement Ring

Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll feature posts around the final convening of our Chief Executive Program, The Summit at Sundance. We invite you to participate in an online discussion of four major issues facing the cultural field. In this post, Theresa Remick introduces the third problem statement. Problem to solve: Engage users/customers/stakeholders as true collaborators in shaping an institution’s agenda. Customers are shifting from passive consumers to active collaborators, and many desire experiences designed for and … [Read more...]

Mapping the Issues


How do you incorporate feedback from audiences, donors and other stakeholders to design a season, exhibit or service? This is a common question among cultural organizations striving to become more relevant and inclusive, and NAS is right there with them. Throughout The Chief Executive Program, we heard from leaders that they desired the time work together to find solutions to their toughest challenges. We knew that we wanted The Summit at Sundance to be the place for participants to do just that. Our task was to figure out the “how” – How do … [Read more...]

An Unlikely Partnership: Reinventing Swan Lake

photo: Cecil Sanders

Developing audiences, deepening engagement and expanding creative horizons are some of the biggest concerns of the leaders we work with at National Arts Strategies. With increasing entertainment options and access to technology, organizations feel the need to make their work more innovative and appealing to modern consumers, but many struggle in figuring out how to do so. For some, exploring new forms of collaboration can be the answer to remaining relevant and competitive in today’s environment. Earlier this year, Ballet Memphis Founding … [Read more...]

Tell me about a time…


Hearing about how our colleagues in the field address challenges can be extremely motivating and energizing. But sometimes, it’s hard to see how the steps one organization took can be translated to our own work. There’s no carbon copy solution to the issues facing the field but we can certainly benefit from understanding others’ experiences. What’s important is to find the key lessons that emerge from an experience rather than focus on the how-to of a particular example. At NAS, we love digging into stories from the field to find these learning … [Read more...]

Partnerships: From Good to Great

capp header

One of the most important responsibilities for any nonprofit is to understand how you can best leverage organizational assets to serve your mission and your constituents. But often, our assets alone aren’t plentiful enough to let us deliver on our mission with the level of impact we’d like. Partnerships are one way to do more without the requirement of additional internal resources, but it’s important to enter into a partnership for the right reasons. Regardless of shared vision or a great rapport, making the most out of collaborations requires … [Read more...]

Change at Work: The NAS Wellness Challenge

photo: Mike GL via flickr

No alcohol for 30 days! Daily workouts! Low carb from now on! It’s a new year, and like every January, many of us are guilt-stricken over holiday indulgences and bad habits. We resolve that this year, we will be better. But inevitably and despite our best efforts, life takes over. February 15 comes around and we’re back on the bread, feeling even guiltier than we did on New Year’s Day. While personal change is on many of our minds right now, creating change in our work can be just as difficult. What can we learn from personal efforts that … [Read more...]

Salzburg Global Forum: Some Final Thoughts

Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders

We introduced Field Notes as a means of amplifying meaningful conversation. Over the last couple of weeks we put that to the test with content from the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders, a program that was essentially 5 days of non-stop (and I mean that in the best possible sense) conversation among 64 people from 35 different countries. On an individual basis, I learned something from each conversation, each interview, each post. On a collective basis, what I learned was not something new but it was still incredibly valuable … [Read more...]

Stories from the Field: Intersection for the Arts

5M Project

For many of us, physical space dictates the work we present and how we serve our communities. Many artists and organizations have found creative and alternative ways to use theaters, symphony halls and galleries, but what if we abandoned the idea of traditional spaces altogether? Could reaching outside our comfort zone help our work reach more people? Letting go of traditional venues provides an opportunity for the arts to take on a new role in the community – from the audiences we serve and where we serve them to the type of work we present … [Read more...]