Expanding on my first post, we need to:

  1. Identify what business wants from, thinks about, and considers the obstacles, challenges and opportunities to continued, substantive talks between the two sectors, and;
  2. Ascertain what changes in the arts sector’s approach to building meaningful coalitions and collaborative efforts are essential prerequisites to address the business community’s needs. 

This knowledge would help the arts sector to move the status of potential collaborative efforts from the current “conceptual level” to more active status by developing strategies that could move towards specific action steps in fostering working alliances – by designing action steps that are in alignment with stated business needs.   Specifically, it is incumbent on the arts sector to fully understand and appreciate what factors the business community identifies as essential for its involvement to be of benefit to them.

That kind of inquiry might include the following discussions with business: Read the rest of this entry »

Thinking Local

Posted by Mary Trudel On March - 10 - 20105 COMMENTS

As the late Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill said famously, “all politics are local.” Could this be a lesson for the arts sector? I was interested in a recent article in The New York Times on February 17th about the formidable Huntington Theater in Boston which is charting a new course to become more relevant to its neighbors. Artistic Director, Peter DuBois noted – “The fact is, the artistic and business models of the regional theaters in the 20th century are over, given the costs of creating theater and the competition for people’s time, so I needed to rethink our relationship with our home community.  To thrive we need a theater with work and audiences that look more like the city of Boston in terms of class, age, race, background. And you have to talk to people here to learn how to do that.”

Maybe that’s our answer for this arts-challenged time, listen first, then talk and make sure you speak the local dialect. Read the rest of this entry »

Do what Presidents Do.

The nonprofit marketplace was changed forever by the Obama presidential campaign. Alum of the nonprofit sector, the President used our business model to get elected. In the last month of his campaign, Mr. Obama raised $152 million on the Internet with an average gift of $68.

The business model used by the president reflects a model most of us are familiar with, but don’t use anymore. Before flush corporations stepped up to do “cause marketing” and before we could do multiple events to raise big dollars, most arts nonprofits used their volunteer leaders (Board members) to spread the message. Volunteer leaders are best suited to make friends with high net worth donors, find collaborative opportunities, and engage others by sharing their passion for what you do. In other words they are engaged and invested in the arts.  The President taught us a lesson by having groups of people in communities across America rally around a message of change, make a contribution, and go find others who would do the same thing. Read the rest of this entry »

by Kristin Symes

The James Joyce Pub

The James Joyce Pub, just a short walk from the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront.

Wondering what the food is going to be like in Baltimore this summer when you come to visit during the Annual Convention? It should come as no surprise that a city generating so much buzz about its recent growth and downtown development also boasts some of the greatest chefs and cuisine to match. It’s as if Baltimore has experienced a gastronomic renaissance. The locally grown culinary scene has sprouted a new crop of extraordinary restaurants for you to harvest.

Baltimore has an emerging culinary scene and is quickly becoming a hot spot for foodies from around the globe. With culinary accolades appearing in Gourmet, Food & Wine, and Bon Appétit, and with two Baltimore chefs recently featured on The Food Network’s hit show, Top Chef, it’s clear that Baltimore is finally gaining the culinary recognition it deserves.

Local restaurants feature sophisticated and original menus that embrace the farm-to-table concept. No longer is Baltimore thought of as only the home of the crab cake (although we do have the best!). The city’s progressive compilation of cutting-edge eateries pedaling fresh, funky-fusion recipes like crispy Thai string beans, lobster mac and artisan beers has put Baltimore on the map as an up-and-coming culinary city not to be missed. Read the rest of this entry »

Tagged with:

In January, The San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts, with support from The Wallace Foundation, hosted a daylong Dynamic Adaptability Conference.  Over 700 community members attended, learning from creative thinkers from the arts, neuroscience, business, media, and philanthropy.

Neuroscientist Jonah Lehrer encouraged us to reclaim our value proposition and have faith in our stories.  His research on meta-cognition drew upon many examples of artists.  Lehrer also stressed the importance of building in periods of relaxation as part of the creative process, cautioning when people get too focused on solving a particular problem, this often results in being ‘locked in’.

James Rucker from Color of Change and Hugo Morales from Radio Bilingüe called for rethinking relationships to audiences and donors and forming deeper and more authentic connections to communities.  Merely broadcasting invitations isn’t enough in the socially engaged, interactive, high-touch, and multi-platform online environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Continuing from my first blog post

Feeling like we’d leveled off in our effort to build broad support for the arts, we decided to get more information. We studied how people think about the arts — that is, we engaged in some real research over the past 18 months. With this information, we’re crafting a new communications strategy—one built on a deeper understanding of the best ways to communicate about the arts—that we believe will lead to increased shared responsibility and motivate action in support of the arts.

In order to create a more constructive dialog, we had to explore the dynamics of the current public conversation—in the media, for instance—as well as in the thinking of the majority of people who do not focus on the arts in their daily lives. Understanding attitudes and beliefs more deeply is a key to negotiating them more successfully in future efforts. A new argument, or lens, on the issue is useful to the extent that it can move people to a collective perspective and shared action in support of the arts.

When legislators, business leaders, community leaders, and others all take in the same core message seen through the same lens—and in turn repeat them to their own constituencies—the resulting echo chamber can begin to transform the accepted common sense on the issue. Read the rest of this entry »

The first question (suggested topic) posed for this panel blogging on the Private Sector relationship was: How to define the relevance of the arts to business in the face of urgent and basic social needs. Once again we make the mistake of always approaching the business relationship from the perspective of our needs and not theirs. It is, think, an arrogant conceit and a strategic misstep to always approach this issue from what we want and need.

For three decades, the nonprofit arts sector has been seeking – with very limited success – to capitalize on intersections between it and the corporate / business community. The vast majority of efforts in this arena have been small and localized (i.e., individual arts organizations attempting to build bridges and form partnerships / alliances on individual, isolated projects, often limited to seeking corporate sponsorships; or Arts & Business Council/Business Committee for the Arts initiatives, for which arts organizations have shown far more enthusiasm than businesses). Larger forays into the promotion of sector wide collaborations have principally been limited to periodic dialogue characterized by the most general of precepts; lacking specificity, strategic / practical next steps, and any timeline for the accomplishment of specific agenda items.  Read the rest of this entry »

The increasing globalisation and interconnectedness of our societies and our economies means that the trends here in the UK and those in US are not wholly different from each other. Consumers on both sides of the Atlantic are becoming increasingly demanding, culturally literate and media savvy. To engage with such customers and to retain their loyalty, businesses must create meaningful consumer experiences which, in turn, require those businesses to be more authentic, trustworthy and transparent.

This, we believe, is changing the nature and scope of the relationship between the private sector and the arts. The appetite within businesses in the UK to engage with the arts is still strong, as they recognise both the direct and indirect benefits of doing so (cultural attendances increased by 12% in 08/09), although obviously the financial level at which they are able to commit is being challenged by the current economy climate (with a decrease of 6% in business investment to the arts in 08/09).

To maintain this, however, we need to continually explore new ways in which the business and arts sectors can work together.

Read the rest of this entry »

A story – sometime in the early 1970’s when I was the managing director of a non-profit theatre, a group of us were sitting around during a LORT or TCG meeting bemoaning the high cost of producing a Shakespeare – too many actor salaries, AEA restrictions on non-members, and so on. We even complained, probably following an adult beverage or two, that even the ghost of Hamlet’s father probably needed and equity contract.

One comment led to another and since science fiction and special effects were beginning to actually become real tools, the idea of the ghost as a hologram was put forth.  Yes holograms were static, fuzzy, and still mostly unknown but we did not let that sidetrack us.

Then the brainstorm!!  What if holographic technology were really practical. Let your imagine feast on this. 25 different theatres allover the country would collaborate on a major Shakespeare play. Each theatre would hire only one actor (cost saving there, eh!). The production would take place simultaneously in all cities and in each theatre every character save one would be a hologram!! And the audience would not be able to tell the real from the virtual. Now that’s disintermediation! Read the rest of this entry »

When talking about private sector or corporate funding .… it occurred to me that we toss around the word corporation like there is one person on the other end of that word. And indeed, corporation is derived from the Latin word for body “corpus”, with one definition of corporation as ‘any group of persons united or regarded as united in one body’.

However, for the arts organizations that seek funding in today’s environment, this definition poses a conundrum. Who is the corpus in corporation? In the recent past, arts support might have come through a champion in the company’s executive offices, or through the corporate foundation. It was easier to navigate the decision maker (s) for philanthropic support when funding dollars were coming from one source.

But corporations are not made up of one individual. They are made of many individuals, just as the definition states. These individuals are in positions of authority. They have their own operating budgets, their own P&L statements, and decide, on a day to day basis, the budget dollars spent. Read the rest of this entry »

Most of the marketing in the last half of the 20th century was focused on associative marketing. A friend of mine refers to this as “be there or be square” marketing. This was usually demonstrated by making something so compelling that we all wanted to have it, be a part of it, use it, or do it. Running alone in the cold rain at 5:30 AM seems like a crazy idea, but Nike made it sound so simple — just do it. And, smoking may not have been very attractive but the Marlboro Man sure as heck was.

The arts were marketed the same way. We told everyone who would listen that the arts were important and that they had a positive impact on our communities, businesses, and individuals. We promoted the arts in relationship to economics, education, cultural tourism, civic pride, regional visibility, etc. We presented the arts as compelling and we explained how bereft we would all be without the arts.

The 21st century question seems to be: Are the arts relevant? Are we relevant to businesses, cities and individuals?

Consumers have more power today than ever before. Their power is due in part to the speed with which we communicate and in the strength of sheer numbers. Thanks to the Internet, with its viral communication and social networking, consumers can now make or break products in the amount of time it used to take to write the first press release.

This situation requires we do much more listening than talking. We need to hear what our businesses, communities, neighborhoods, and individuals are saying about what is relevant to their lives and how they choose to live and do business.  And, we need to be open to change.

The Cultural Alliance of York’s campaign has been active since the beginning of January. Our increases are coming from our Marquis Society, a leadership giving initiative. The corporate contributions remain flat or decreased/declined. Since the alliance began as a corporate United Arts Fund, we are so glad we slowly moved to leadership giving.

We began the Marquis initiative after a few individuals wanted to donate early on when we were strictly a corporate ask and our partner agencies said “take the money.” Over the past few years, as our corporate CEO’s retired, the notion of a place for them to continue giving to our campaign turned into leadership giving.

Read the rest of this entry »

As I begin this year-long journey of addressing the compilation of the Future of the Public Voice in Arts Advocacy, I can’t help but start by referencing a webinar I participated in a few weeks back on the status of funding of state arts agencies.

This presentation showed a slide demonstrating the total state appropriations for state arts agencies over the past eighteen years. As we were told, funding has gone up and down consistently over stretches of time, consider the visual of a roller coaster. We were told that when state resources and revenues go down, so too do the funding of the state arts agencies. However, when revenues come back elected officials understand the importance of arts funding and the economic impact that it holds, thus increasing funding.

I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t make sense to me. How can the arts only be seen as important in good times? How can the economic impact of the arts only be realized in times of surpluses? I think that there is a fundamental problem if most across the country subscribe to this reasoning. Now, some may say that cuts are being made across the board and therefore fair. But are those cuts truly equitable? Consider a 10% cut from a department budget of $500 million and a 10% cut of that of the $5 million budget of the state arts council. It’s not just about the size of the cut, but what the cut will cost that program or agency. Read the rest of this entry »

The benefits that the arts bring our communities are extensive, but often the value is difficult to appreciate or not readily measurable. It is for this reason, cultural community leaders need to communicate the economic value of the arts and speak in the language of the corporate community by offering research and quantitative facts to compete for funding dollars.

Americans for the Arts is a prolific source of this information which can be used to build a case for arts funding. But, in building that case, one needs a few research tools in their toolbox.

Read the rest of this entry »

Here in Portland, business giving to the arts has been in the news quite a bit lately. Our Business Journal reported that giving is down 33% since 2006, and isn’t likely to recover anytime soon. And a recent article in the Sunday Oregonian noted that large corporate gifts are becoming increasingly rare – not only due to the economy but also a lack of said corporations here; Portland has only two Fortune 500 companies, vs. oodles of small independent businesses.

These articles recommend that arts organizations scale their visions accordingly, recognizing that major visionary cultural projects may never be able to come to fruition. Some say that that’s not necessarily a bad idea, conforming toward our city’s strengths, anyway: progressive, smaller scale, more indie, and a bit quirky. When an arts reporter from New York comes to town, she’s not interested in our Sondheim or Tchaikovsky but rather the creative collaboration between cellos and local rock bands, or the way our ballet dancers are attracting hipsters to their performances at night clubs. These are the more unique aspects of Portland’s vibrant arts community, and programs like these are developing quite a grassroots following. Read the rest of this entry »