Defining R & D in the cultural sector: why we need innovation in grantmaking strategy


As part of the research project I'm working on with the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation (see previous posts), I recently had the opportunity to attend the Annual Forum for Nesta's Digital R & D Fund for the Arts in London. To give you the lay of the land in case you don't already know anything about it, Nesta calls itself "an innovation charity with a mission to help people and organizations bring great ideas to life." Nesta works in partnership with other businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and funders to increase social … [Read more...]

Announcing Hothouse: Exploring new ideas in co-working with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts


Something new is launching in Minneapolis next week! I'm excited to announce Hothouse, a 12-week pilot co-working project I've created as MIA Entrepreneur in Residence. In collaboration with Hunter Palmer Wright, Venture Innovation Director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Hothouse will explore whether and how the museum can foster a creative co-working space that is inspired by the museum’s collections, capabilities, and setting but operates independently as a lively incubator and convener. The pilot will demonstrate new ways the museum … [Read more...]

Be the orchestra: thinking far beyond putting concerts online

photo (10)

Recently I went on an excursion with staff from Philharmonia UK, the London orchestra founded in 1945.  The Philharmonia was then in week twelve of its thirteen-week iOrchestra project that engaged residents of rural south-west England in large-scale digital installations created to encourage exploration of orchestral music in very new ways. The installations travelled in three regions, and in each of them, the Philharmonia also scheduled a free live orchestral concert. In the months preceding, Philharmonia sought out local music, education and … [Read more...]

Practicing extreme transparency: Why does your “About Us” section have to be so boring?

Entrance to Walnut Creek's maintenance yard

As part of a major project I’m working on with the Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the websites of cultural organizations; looking at their apps, social media projects, and other digital channels; visiting them to see projects first-hand; and talking with them about the capabilities and resources needed to do the work. In the course of this research I’m engaging with interesting people and seeing a lot of terrific work and so I’ve decided to start blogging about it, in part to engage all of you in … [Read more...]

What would a Minnesotan orchestra look like? A reverie on place

Road sign along Highway 38 in northern Minnesota

With the Minnesota Orchestra lockout over and with musicians and audiences re-united in the newly renovated Orchestra Hall, there is a lot conversation in our cities about what sort of orchestra we have and what’s needed for its long-term vitality. The conversation is taking place more frequently than you might expect, in cafes and at dinner tables, in blogs and newspapers, and certainly within the arts community and its primary donors. And all of this has led to much discussion about the nature of arts organizations both generally and … [Read more...]

New digital culture report from Media Impact Funders

On The Boards TV Homepage

Late last week Media Impact Funders (MIF) released a report I helped create titled Molto + Media; Digital Culture Funding.  The report consists of data MIF commissioned from the Foundation Center documenting private sector giving to cultural organizations in the U.S. for media purposes, and nine profiles of organizations doing exemplary digital media work. It's great that media funders are exploring the increasingly blurred line that once divided media and cultural organizations. In prior generations, cultural organizations needed "the … [Read more...]

Organizations as platforms

Northern Spark logo

I credit Steve Dietz, the founder and director of the Twin Cities’ treasured organization Northern Lights, with casually saying to me one day, “Build platforms not organizations.”  It stuck and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Dietz, a self-described “serial platform creator,” is the director of Northern Spark, a once-a-year, all night festival that last Saturday drew 20,000 people to St. Paul’s arty and urban Lowertown neighborhood to participate in dozens of performances, installations, and participatory experiences (sing, dance, … [Read more...]

Reflections on a week at Harvard Business School (and thank you NAS)

Harvard Business School classroom

For the past two weeks I have been digesting the terrific week of learning at Harvard Business School that National Arts Strategies offered as part of its Chief Executive Program. The week’s theme was The New Nature of Relevance, and our case studies, HBR articles, and group exercises were designed to foster conversation about leadership and how to steer our organizations through the opportunities and obstacles presented by the post-recession, digitally-enabled, generationally-shifting, globally-connected world. For me, the location of … [Read more...]

Landmark 1988 Oakland Symphony study released in digital format


Thanks to the efforts of Grantmakers in the Arts, the landmark 1988 study of the Oakland Symphony bankruptcy is newly available in digital format. Titled, Autopsy of an Orchestra: An Analysis of the Factors Contributing to the Bankruptcy of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra Association, the research was conducted and the report written by Melanie Beene, Patricia Mitchell, and Fenton Johnson. They interviewed dozens of artists, staff, board, funders, and community observers and had access to all of the orchestra's files and correspondence. The … [Read more...]

Don’t hope

Graffiti photo by Rupert Ganzer

About a month ago there was a NY Times interview with Ben Lerer, co-founder and chief executive at Thrillist Media Group. He says, "One thing we preach at work all day long is 'don't hope.' What that means is don't wait for somebody to do something for you. Don't do something 90 percent well and hope that it'll slide through. Don't rely on luck." Lerer went on, "It is important to know that you're giving as close as you can to 100 percent, dedicated effort, and you're being thoughtful about it. Definitions of hope: "The feeling that … [Read more...]