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...]

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...]

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...]

Inventive capitalization program reaping benefits for theater festival

Legacy Bond image

The Great River Shakespeare Festival (GRSF) in Winona, Minnesota has created an inventive capitalization instrument that will interest the broader field. The Festival's "Legacy Bond Investment Program," launched in September, 2011 is a state-approved investment offer for Festival patrons that provides GRSF with significant working capital.  Essentially, GRSF is offering donors the opportunity to support the organization through interest-bearing loans, with the idea being relatively small loans ($5,000) from a relatively large number of … [Read more...]

New business models? Bring them on

Peter Frumkin

I have been following the modest torrent of discussion in the blogosphere about appropriate business models for the nonprofit cultural sector. A recently published paper was useful to my own thinking about this so I'll summarize it here and direct you to the link. The paper's author is Peter Frumkin of the RGK Center for Philanthropy and Community Service at the University of  Texas, Austin. It was distributed to the 100 arts leaders who are part of National Arts Strategies' CEOs Program, which convened in Austin in May and is now posted on the … [Read more...]

Thoughts on being a worthy opponent


Earlier this month the Walker Art Center hosted a symposium on agonism in collaboration with Northern Lights. I only attended a small portion of the week-end's offerings but even a small dose has been enough to keep my mind active for the past two weeks. And what's stuck with me is the idea that there is good work to be done in being a worthy opponent, "a thoroughly dedicated adversary." More on that in just a bit. The first question is, what is agonism? Maybe you all already know all about it but I had to read and think about it before the … [Read more...]

American Mavericks 2012

american mavericks logo BIG

The San Francisco Symphony is celebrating its Centennial this season with gusto -- they've invited six major American orchestras to perform in their home at Davies Symphony Hall, created three national symposia on the state of American orchestras, issued new recordings and produced new television, web, and radio broadcasts, and produced the second American Mavericks festival, the brainchild of the Symphony’s energetic music director, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT). The festival ended Sunday in San Francisco and now is traveling to Chicago, Ann … [Read more...]

The problem with problemization

Snapshot of 2009 foundation funding, from Foundation Center and GIA Reader

I wasn't sure whether or not problemization was a word until I looked it up and found that it is one. Problemization is to consider or treat as a problem (Merriam Webster). I've been thinking about this a lot. The reason is that increasingly when you look at a foundation’s grant guidelines you are asked: “What problem are you trying to solve?" I put the following into Google: “Foundation funding what problem are you trying to solve.” The search result: 182 million hits that included dozens of foundations’ guidelines and many articles about … [Read more...]

“The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras”

Robert J. Flanagan

Stanford Emeritus Professor Robert J. Flanagan's book, The Perilous Life of Symphony Orchestras, Artistic Triumphs and Economic Challenges, was just released from Yale University Press and will be of interest to anyone working in, volunteering for, or listening to orchestras. The slim volume is jammed with interesting data, and its extensive bibliography will be helpful to readers who want to delve even deeper into the subject of the economics of symphony orchestras and their prospects for financial health and artistic vitality. Flanagan's … [Read more...]