Focusing In with Eyes Wide-Open

Published in: GIA Reader, Vol 26, No 1 (Winter 2015)

Janet Brown

Grantmakers in the Arts embarks on an ambitious agenda in 2015. The board of directors has designated four primary areas of interest for us: arts education, financial health for the nonprofit arts sector, racial equity in arts philanthropy, and support for individual artists. You will see these themes appear in the Reader, in our web conferences, in sessions at our conference, on our news feed on the website, and at special national convenings.

With “eyes wide-open,” GIA is responsive to trends and the interests of our diverse membership. These are areas like arts and health, including work with returning troops and patients suffering with debilitating diseases and their caregivers; and arts in aging programs and opportunities for artists and arts groups to engage a baby-boomer population that wants to keep active through creative activities. Data collection and research in all aspects of the nonprofit arts sector continue to pique the interest of our members. Other areas we are following include the connection between arts and media funders, the resurrection of international exchange, and the effects of integration of arts funding into goals of community building and economic development.

Grantmakers in the Arts is a “big tent” association. Our members represent large and small foundations, community foundations, corporations, state and local arts agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts, and nonprofit regranters. These organizations have diverse missions and operational structures, but they have a single belief in common: that the lives of all people are made better by the contributions of artists and by their participation in art forms.

The complexity of operating within a transitional landscape is challenging, to say the least. Research tells us more individuals are participating or making art than ever before, while the reliability of past business models, like subscriptions for performing arts organizations, is diminishing. Technology and the realization that changing demographics cannot be ignored have challenged past norms and perceptions. We are in a time of transition, and no one has all the answers, but our members are actively seeking solutions.

GIA is here to help as best we can. We know that learning together is better than operating alone. We know that a “community of practice,” thinking and operating collectively, has greater impact. We know that funders achieve more when they discontinue old practices of guarding their privacy and acting singularly. We feel the palpable excitement in the room when funders come together to solve systemic problems through discourse and collaboration. We see the power of public and private funders working together.

Along with our members, GIA is focusing on systemic issues while keeping our eyes wide-open for new opportunities, trends, and practices that increase the value and support for artists, arts administrators, and arts organizations. 2015 will be another ambitious year of exploration and discovery.

Note: With this issue of the Reader, we say thank-you and best wishes to past editor Tommer Peterson, and we welcome new editor and GIA Deputy Director/Director of Programs Jim McDonald. Both are extraordinary men with great hearts, an amazing work ethic, and, most of all, a love for artists and arts groups that drives their daily work. GIA has been and continues to be blessed with this kind of devotion to our work.

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