(3-9-10) I recently visited GIA board member Robert Booker, Executive Director at the Arizona Commission on the Arts. They lost 34% of their funding from 2009 into 2010 and are looking at more cuts as their state legislature seeks to reduce budget deficits in 2011. I also had a conversation with Phillip Horn at the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. They are in the same situation and were nearly zeroed out last year.
(2-24-10) I’ve always said, “Money follows good ideas.” But, as we all know, that’s an oversimplification. We wish raising money was as simple as having a good idea, explaining that idea and waiting for the “investor” to respond, like pitching a movie script or TV pilot.
(2-10-10) I recently attended a session led by Clara Miller of Nonprofit Finance Fund on capitalization. NFF has spent years working with nonprofits as lenders and advisors on financial systems and practices. They are part of a handful of knowledgeable experts in the arts and finance. Much of what Clara said rang a bell with me.
(1-26-10) This is a personal New Year’s Eve story that has to do with connecting the dots. At a party in Los Angeles, I was introduced to a young couple who are both visual effect artists in the film industry. They were around 30. Both had undergraduate degrees in visual art from the Savannah School of Art and Design.
What I love most about local arts agencies is that you can’t define them, pigeonhole them or even tell anyone what a “typical” local arts agency does. I recently received the December 2009 copy of Americans for the Arts’ Monograph. Written by community arts developer and long-time friend (just for full disclosure), Maryo Gard Ewell, it is entitled “Effective Community Arts Development: Fifty Years, Fifty Tips.” And it does, in fact, go on to list fifty tips for successful community arts development.
This week my colleague and friend John McCann reminded me that leadership is a critical element to successful sustainability for organizations. I couldn’t agree with him more. I’ve always been fascinated by the study of leadership. I even wrote an “almost” dissertation on the subject. I say “almost” because it was a master’s program that required a final paper and not an official dissertation. It was still really long with lots of footnotes. The title was “Characteristics of Excellence in Nonprofit Leadership.”
Is the nonprofit arts community undercapitalized because there isn’t enough money or demand for the product or have we focused on developing product at the expense of creating an environment that can support it? That environment includes more than audience development and public support. It includes an infrastructure that feeds the industry both internally, serving the needs of the organization, and externally, promoting that product on multiple levels to the public.
(Thank you to all the GIA members and nonmembers who made our conference in Brooklyn a huge success. As always, GIA is working to make your lives easier and more informed. I was humbled and empowered at the same time by your stories, your confidence and your commitment.)
So it seems that the Big Government blog and Big Hollywood blog have been making big noise in the blogosphere about the NEA, the White House and artists. They have turned a small conversation to encourage “volunteerism in America” into a conspiracy of grants for political support. Of course, anyone who has any real working knowledge about the NEA knows how distorted and false these allegations are.
Barry Hessenius asked me and several others to answer some questions about the role of the National Endowment for the Arts. He's running this multi-week huge series in his blog at WSTAF's site. There are interesting ideas and thoughts by many people lots smarter than me. You can read it at Barry's Blog.