Janet's blog

Robert Gard: Poet, Prophet, Pioneer

By Janet Brown, from her blog Better Together

In 1980, when I was living in New York City, I had a conversation with a man who at one time was general manager of Lincoln Center. We debated, rather heatedly, his premise that the National Endowment for the Arts should give money only to states that produce “good” art — in other words, New York. (He wasn’t sure other states should get any funding at all.) He believed the federal government should give funds to South Dakota, my home state, for what it does well — grow corn and beef. He believed the government should fund only what someone would decide was “good” art, and obviously, no “good” art came out of South Dakota. I was offended by that, and I can pinpoint that day as the beginning of my somewhat outspoken beliefs that all art has an element of excellence as long as it is authentic to a people and place. I delight in the fact that there are no rules of geography and environment in art making.

Race, Arts and Education: A Call to Action

An open letter from Richard Kessler, Dean of the Mannes School of Music and Executive Dean for Performing Arts, the New School and Janet Brown, President and CEO of Grantmakers in the Arts.

In the past few days, a growing controversy within the arts sector has emerged over alleged remarks made by the CEO of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) at a meeting of arts service organizations convened by the National Endowment for the Arts. As two arts executives who have spent a large part of our careers advocating for equitable access to high quality arts education and as members of the Steering Committee of Grantmakers in the Arts Arts Education Funders Coalition, an effort to enhance and develop arts education policies at the federal level, we are compelled to offer this public letter.

Building a Stronger ALAANA Arts Community: Keeping an Eye on Systems

By Janet Brown, President & CEO, Grantmakers in the Arts and Angelique Power, Program Director, Culture, The Joyce Foundation, and GIA Board Member

Grantmakers in the Arts is committed to promoting racial equity in arts philanthropy and increasing support for Asian, Latino/a, African, Arab, and Native American (ALAANA) artists, arts organizations, and communities. Our statement of purpose for this work, published in March 2015, comes after five years of internal discussions, workshops, articles, and forums led by a small learning group consisting of social justice funders and those concerned with social justice. Our use of the term racial equity is deliberate and reflects a new shift from using language about “diversity” and “inclusion.”

Artists in Community: Building the Movement

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together

Earlier in my career, I was privileged to work across sectors with passionate and gifted artists. In most instances, the connection with the non-arts organization (hospital, correction facility) was made by my organization. But the creation of the service to be delivered was designed and always implemented by these amazing artists.

The Art - Science Connection

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together.

Last month, I was fortunate to be invited to a small gathering of scientists and artists at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno sponsored by the National Science Foundation. Undaunted by the academic title of the convening, “Examining Complex Ecological Dynamics through Arts, Humanities and Science Integration,” I attended with a colleague and GIA member, Bill O’Brien, senior innovation advisor to the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Bill and I joined artists and scientists who are primarily working at scientific field stations focused on environmental data collection and research.

Lessons Learned So Far on GIA’s Journey towards Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together

Grantmakers in the Arts released its Statement of Purpose for Racial Equity in Arts Philanthropy in March 2015. It did not spring from thin air. Members concerned with social justice have been active within GIA for nearly a decade. Over the past six years, members have shown an overwhelming interest in equity issues facing their communities. Racial equity was deliberately selected four years ago for a thought leader forum in order to go deeper into one area of social justice. Two years later after several convenings of the social justice forum group, the GIA board of directors adopted racial equity in arts philanthropy as “core field work” and began its own training and preparation for a public statement and actionable steps.

Where Was the Oversight?

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together

From large major institutions to small nonprofits, one of the critical responsibilities of volunteer board members and funders is to assure best practices in fiduciary and organizational management. When a management issue arises that threatens the stability of a nonprofit arts organization, “where was the oversight?” is often the question on everyone’s lips. There are some common misperceptions and unfortunate “group think” that prevent or discourage adequate oversight by board members. Here are a few:

Racial Equity: The History and Purpose of our Work

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together

My first year at Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) was 2009. When I travelled the country to meet members and learn about their work, I was surprised by my conversations with most private funders.

Motivated by Love and Fear

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together:

A very smart woman once told me there are two motivating factors in the world: love and fear. I’ve spent the past several years analyzing actions, events, and people under this framework and trying to assess my own motivations in different situations. It holds up.

Challenges to Solve and Values to Express

By Janet Brown from her blog Better Together:

Over the past few years, Grantmakers in the Arts has identified four content areas that reflect core values and are the basis for much of our work. They are:

  • Arts education
  • Racial equity in philanthropy
  • Financial health of the nonprofit arts sector (capitalization)
  • Support for individual artists