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June 20, 2007

So what's next?

by Moy Eng

Foundations have historically seeded new ideas, especially in the sciences and arts. For example, The Rockefeller Foundation's Green Revolution, The Aaron Diamond Foundation's sole focus on developing an AIDS cure and Mellon Foundation's current initiative with symphonies. Amidst a time of change and intriguing challenges, perhaps my colleagues and I need to look at what we can do individually and collectively to fuel provocative ideas as well invest in those ideas that improve the conditions (modest and systemic) in which more people engage in the arts such as pimpin' up the visual element of classical music concerts (Lynne Connor's Armani wardrobe suggestions) and increasing the user friendliness of Houston's River Oaks Chamber Orchestra concert format making the experience more fun, open and genuinely interesting. Investing in new/provocative ideas will require a somewhat different perspective and skill set: openness, taste for risk, skills to assess new ideas and the possibility for success, and understanding that many ideas may fail.

For the past twenty some years, the paradigm on growth and until recently, sustainability in the nonprofit arts sector has required a slightly different set of skills in foundation staff. Some are thinking about how to grapple with the changed environment such as Rockefeller, Wallace and Duke. I hope that this conversation may stimulate a much larger dialogue and action by individual and institutional donors focused on fostering increased opportunities for cultural engagement toward, as Stephen Tepper eloquently wrote, a culturally vital citizenry. I know that I am looking forward to it.

Posted by meng at June 20, 2007 9:39 PM


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