Recently, I attended a meeting of Seattle-based funders and Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser. One of Kaiser’s points as he travels around the country on an “Arts in Crisis” tour, is the need for greater competency in management of nonprofit arts organization. His point that we spend a great deal of resources training artists in this country but very little on the training of managers rang pretty true to me.
August 28, 2009 is the deadline for early bird registration for the GIA conference in October. Join our “community of practice” and register today.
“Community of Practice” is a term created by anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the 90s. Wenger defines it as “Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” There is, of course, more to this than one sentence, but that’s the essence of it.
In the total scheme of things, last week was darn exciting for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Rocco Landesman was confirmed by the Senate as the new Chairman and Joan Shigakawa, past Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) board member most recently with the Rockefeller Foundation, was appointed Senior Deputy Chairman. To top it off, I was in a meeting with Anita Decker at the NEA when she received the Senate committee confirmation notice.
I recently spent time meeting, learning and sharing information with arts grantmakers in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC. It was one of those plane, train, train, train, and plane trips. Weather was glorious, evidently the only week it didn’t rain in June on the east coast.
Today we launch the 2009 GIA conference registration site. The “Navigating the Art of Change” national conference of arts philanthropists will take place in Brooklyn, New York, October 18-21 at the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge (one stop in from Manhattan). It is the only opportunity for arts grantmakers from around the country from all sectors to come together, learn from one another and share their challenges and solutions in what has become a very difficult year for philanthropy. I hope you will join us.
Having served on the board of directors of Americans for the Arts during the 90s, I looked forward to seeing many friends and colleagues in Seattle. I was not disappointed. The arts community came to the glorious northwest in solid numbers to debate, share, learn and drink a little Seattle coffee. They came from all corners of the arts world – from private foundations to local and state arts agencies, from community activists to politically savvy advocacy leaders. There were artists and directors of theatres, dance companies, and consultants.
About six years ago, Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) opened its membership to public agencies and became the only national association for all organizational grantmakers in the arts. The “big tent” analogy is a good one. Our members include private and community foundations, corporate funders, national, state and local government arts agencies and any nonprofit organization that supports artists and arts organizations through a grant process.
My heart soared when I heard there would be a meeting of arts “activists” at the White House. This meeting, led by GIA past president Claudine Brown, Nathan Cummings Foundation, brought together over 70 individuals who have been working, writing and living the practice of connecting artists and communities for decades.
The scenario goes like this: a group of funders come together out of concern for their grantees who are having financial troubles. One of the funders has decided one organization would be best served by merging with another organization which is also having budgetary deficits. Funders strategize about how that would work and how to go about it. Funders agree to support the costs of possible merging and will offer that “carrot” to the institution as a lifeline. The artistic directors of the institutions being discussed are in the dark about this discussion.
I spent the morning of May 4th at the Council on Foundation’s conference in Atlanta meeting with other folks who run affinity groups and regional organizations. According to the Council on Foundations, there are 37 interest-based organizations (like GIA) and 37 geographically-based networks, like Northern California Grantmakers or Delaware Valley Grantmakers. Not everyone was there but there were enough organizations present to have a great discussion.