Navigating the Art of Change 2.0

Janet Brown

In 2009, everyone was asking whether the change in the nonprofit sector was temporary, caused by the economic downturn or was the economy a catalyst that forced us to recognize that change had happened and this change was here to stay? I believe it was the latter. Pushed by technology, demographics, the changing behavior of audiences, and a disconnect between perception and the reality of the arts in our communities, there is a growing sense that funding changes are more necessary than we had first imagined.

Nowhere is change more evident than in the technology sector. Artists are creating and performing in mediums we never would have predicted ten or fifteen years ago. In some cases, the data we collect as funders does not even have a taxonomy for these new art forms. Video games have surpassed music in export dollars. Animation in film and video is a growing job market. Academic visual arts programs are expanding their programs to meet the needs of training young visual artists in this medium. This issue of the Reader gives us some insight into this exciting growth area for artists. It also may cause us to reflect on how we view technology and change, in general, from a philanthropic perspective.

When contemplating the theme of the 2010 conference, we couldn’t get away from the fact that this question of change is still with us. Funders in every part of the country are still reassessing the capabilities of their own granting programs and the needs of their constituents. But there is more to the analysis of grantmakers than just assessing the economy. We are reviewing over fifty years of organizational capacity and facility building, realigning grant programs with the changing demographics of our communities and seeing the arts in a more duplicitous role as a product of professionals and a process that engages community.

Consequently, the 2010 conference in Chicago will address the very issues we have all been dealing with for the past two years. Issues of capitalization, new grantmaking programs, social justice, arts education and individual artist support, community arts, advocacy, and the power of funder collaboratives will be highlighted. In my opinion, we are in a time of “in between” where everything that we believed was tight and secure is now loose and free-flowing. Although disconcerting, this time of uncertainty presents a huge opportunity for self-assessment and readjustment for greater results in the future.

Grantmakers in the Arts has convened experts and funders this year to address a couple of important questions, and the results of those discussions will be featured at the conference. The National Capitalization Project investigates how funders can respond to change the undercapitalized nature of the nonprofit sector. The Arts and Education Thought Leader Forum, sponsored by GIA and Grantmakers for Education, addresses the inequities of arts education in urban K–12 public education and suggests strategies to alleviate those inequities.

We are in a time of flux and what better way to learn about change and its possibilities than sharing with our own community of learning? Navigating the Arts of Change 2.0, which will take place in Chicago October 17–20, will continue the dialogue begun last year in Brooklyn. It will also confirm that we are not in a time of philosophical debate but rather substantive action driven by the environment in which we live.