Irene and Barry

This is a blog about two very different topics: Hurricane Irene and Barry’s Blog. Hurricane Irene kept my attention this past weekend. In fact, at one point I put 9-volt batteries and candles on my shopping list. And I live in Seattle.

It gave some urgency to a proposal that Grantmakers in the Arts is contemplating. The National Coalition for Arts Preparedness and Emergency Response, a small but dedicated group, has been working steadily since Katrina to better prepare arts organizations, artists and funders for emergencies. Led by Cornelia Carey of Cerf+ in Vermont, the group has independently and collectively created tools to help us to protect artwork and arts organizations during an emergency. Cerf+, which supports craft artists in crises, developed the studio protector, a very handy planner for artists. Ironically, Cornelia is busy assisting artists in her own back yard as Vermont suffers its greatest flood damage in decades.

Because of Katrina’s impact on the arts and artists of New Orleans, South Arts, a regional arts agency, became a proactive player in creating a dynamic website called ArtsReady. I would encourage everyone to check out this site and begin today in preparing your own emergency plan for your agency, organization or studio. As well as having their own emergency plans, funders can also encourage (or require) their grantees to have plans in place.

GIA is looking at examples of databases that would connect funders with each other in times of crisis, informing them of local efforts to coordinate need and response. This is just in the talking and research stages. I believe this is important work. I’d be happy to hear about any examples of a website that functions in this manner, either in the arts or other sectors. As the waters of Irene recede, there will be many artists and arts organizations (and arts administrators for that matter) whose basements are water logged and whose artwork or resources have been destroyed or damaged. The Coalition will meet again at the GIA conference in San Francisco. Unfortunately, their message is one that most feel they can put off, because the worst won’t happen to them. I’m sure all those affected by floods from North Dakota to the Carolinas this year tell a different story.

In response to Barry’s Blog and the 25 Most Influential People in the Nonprofit Arts, I feel the need to reprint part of an article I wrote last year:

I believe the arts administrator heroes are those people working at the local level. Whether it’s a local or county arts agency, a theatre, dance company, museum, opera, or festival, these are the people who make it happen. They are the ones that produce art, support artists, advocate in their towns, rally supporters and donors and educate children. They are the ones we all want to succeed. They may not be nationally influential but they are the life-blood of communities where the arts flourish.

Then there are the thousands and thousands of volunteers running organizations that can’t afford to employ staff in small communities and neighborhoods throughout America. They do the work, not because it’s a profession and they are making a living but just because they love it. For years, I ran a statewide arts association in a rural state. I witnessed first hand the incredible determination of arts enthusiasts to present, produce and exhibit in school gyms, community centers and vacated store fronts. Their devotion was inspiring and their hard work was rewarded with community involvement and appreciation. I was continually in awe of them.

It’s nice to be recognized for what one has done or most likely in my case, what people think I might be capable of doing. But the administrators (paid and unpaid) that support artists and make artistic events happen in counties, cities and towns across this country are number one in my book.