Rebel with a Cause

Posted by Richard Stein On December - 6 - 2011

Richard Stein

My first full-time job after finishing grad school was as executive director of the Oswego County Council on the Arts in upstate New York.

Three and a half years ago, I returned to arts council management after more than 25 years as a theatre producer and director, when I was appointed executive director of Arts Orange County.

I don’t know which is worse, running an arts council or running a theatre in times like these, but one thing I’m sure of: I owe my success to breaking the rules.

There are plenty of people who’ve attempted to dissuade me from that path or criticized me for failing to adhere to the conventional wisdom of the field. Conventional wisdom may have contributed to the growth of America’s arts organizations in decades past, but it sure isn’t helping them much today.

I see this every day—and not just in the reforms I’ve been instituting at Arts Orange County, but among the many constituent organizations we serve. Read the rest of this entry »

What I Look for in a Job Candidate

Posted by Mara Walker On November - 18 - 2011
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

We all know finding a job is no easy task these days. To help, we just completed the second in a series of webinars about how to get a job in the arts today.

It featured four brilliant colleagues and myself:  Tara Aesquivel from Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles; Stephanie Evans Hanson from Americans for the Arts; Marialaura Leslie from the Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts; and Jennifer Cover Payne from the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington.

Last week’s webinar focused on the interview process from the perspectives of both the interviewer and the interviewee, and included a lot of valuable tips. Our previous webinar talked about getting noticed through a cover letter and resume that clearly explain why you are the right person for the job.

I have the privilege of interviewing all of our finalists for positions at Americans for the Arts and regardless of the level of the position or whether the job is operational or programmatic in nature, here’s what I look for in an interview:

1) Personality: Come into the interview relaxed, interested, and prepared. Be genuinely enthusiastic about the organization and the job and let it show. The interviewer wants to know that you are a good fit and if you seem uncomfortable or disengaged during the meeting, then they will assume that’s the real you. Read the rest of this entry »

Developing Community through an Integrated Arts Approach

Posted by Jim Sparrow On November - 16 - 2011

Jim Sparrow

Some of the greatest growth in formal arts institutions has taken place in the last 40 years. Why?

As we look at budget growth, sustainability, and growing gaps in earned revenue vs. contributed, was something flawed in this growth?

The Rockefeller Institute report on the performing arts from 1961 identified trends that sound eerily familiar today. Decreasing audience and demand, continued struggles with aging infrastructure, need for increased revenue, and new earned income were all outlined.

Ironically many of the traditional arts organizations used as baseline examples in 1961, had guaranteed weeks and production schedules that were much less then they are today. There were no 52-week orchestras nor were there guaranteed contracts, production or administrative staffing at levels that are even close to today — even with adjustments for today’s inflation.

So why have we grown in many cases without apparent demand, but in spite of it?

The recommendations from that report advised focus in key areas, growing access and infrastructure to build appreciation and understanding and using foundations such as the Ford Foundation for growth as part of a Great Society vision for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

More Than Cash – A Corporation Boldly Support the Arts

Posted by Michelle Mann On November - 15 - 2011

Michelle Mann

As the former Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Adobe, employees often shared with me their passion for giving back. More than just helping at the food bank once in awhile, they sought to spend time in the nonprofit sector, to make a difference.

Recently, I’ve had an opportunity to do exactly that and I’d like to share with you my experiences and view of the arts from a corporate perspective.

For the past six months, I have been a loaned executive to 1st ACT Silicon Valley, a catalytic organization whose mission is to inspire leadership, participation, and investment at the intersection of art, creativity, and technology.

Adobe’s former CEO, Bruce Chizen, had been a founding board member of 1st ACT in 2007 and the Adobe Foundation has supported the organization’s efforts to increase the vibrancy of Downtown San Jose (Adobe’s headquarters) and support the arts ecosystem. Read the rest of this entry »

Business & Arts Partnerships: The Benefits and the Challenges

Posted by Neil McKenzie On November - 15 - 2011

Neil McKenzie

For years the arts have received the support of patrons in order to grow and prosper. Today the role of the patron is increasingly being replaced by support from the business community.

To many in the art world, this trend is a welcome sight in an era of strained sources of traditional funding.

Ironically, even while businesses are viewed as a source of arts funding these same businesses are faced with shrinking budgets. One of the challenges that businesses face is that they are being asked to support a multitude of organizations and worthy causes including the arts.

As the competition for corporate support increases, arts organizations must be able to prove that they provide measureable benefits. Businesses are in their comfort zone when they can quantify the outcomes or benefits associated with an expenditure or investment.

The problem is that many of the benefits associated with the arts are “soft” or intangible and thus difficult to measure — this is a major challenge for both business and the arts as they seek to develop partnerships. Read the rest of this entry »

The Future of Business is the Arts

Posted by John Eger On November - 14 - 2011

The Conference Board's "Ready to Innovate" report.

A few years ago, The Conference Board, an international non-profit business research organization, released Ready to Innovate, a study that unequivocally says, “U.S. employers rate creativity and innovation among the top five skills that will increase in importance over the next five years, and rank it among the top challenges facing CEOs.”

But as The Conference Board cautioned, “educators and executives must be aligned” and that is happening much too slowly. I think what the study was suggesting was that somebody has to take the lead.

So who’s going to align the educators and the executives and how? Where is the leadership?

The problem, I fear, is with businessmen and women…and with the educators, and the artists too, who are best suited to play the lead.

John Hagel III, co-author, along with John Seely Brown, of The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion, made a rather telling observation that business recruiters are always looking for creative people. Then noted that they look again at these creative people on their “exit interview.” So be it for too many corporations. Read the rest of this entry »

Community-Based & Creative Strategies for Local Waterfront Revitalization

Posted by Anusha Venkataraman On November - 8 - 2011

Anusha Vankataraman

Artists and creative organizations are becoming increasingly more engaged in what is the traditional terrain of urban planners and local politicians—from local neighborhood planning, to revitalization projects, and even real estate development.

Engagement of the creative community in local planning issues not only increases the relevance of and helps to create broader bases of support for artists and arts organizations; it also ensures that the city planning policies enacted are sustainable, responsive to community needs, and perhaps more effective in the long-run.

One area of urban politics and economic development that is being tackled by creative institutions and local artists is waterfront revitalization. Because of the large public and institutional investments needed to accomplish projects of this magnitude, waterfront revitalization has typically been a city government-led effort.

However, in the face of limited public resources, citizens, grassroots organizations, and local institutions are taking the lead in re-imagining how their rivers and waterways can be used. This form of city re-development is more socially and environmentally just, equitably shared, and creatively implemented. Read the rest of this entry »

What Arts Managers Can Learn from Steve Jobs

Posted by Jeff Scott On November - 4 - 2011

Jeff Scott

With the recent release of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and several other bios scheduled to come out in the near future, there’s a lot of discussion on what kind of a manager Jobs was.

While the management of a publicly-traded tech company and that of a nonprofit arts organization may seem worlds apart, there are some basic kernels that arts leaders can take from Steve Jobs’ career.

We’ve heard a lot about Jobs’ so-called “reality distortion field.” He pushed his employees to the max, believing that work that normally would take a month could be done in a few days. While the pressure was too much for many employees, others said it caused them to do some of the best work of their careers.

For arts managers working with limited resources in terms of people, time, and money, the notion of a reality distortion field is probably a familiar one. So many times we find ourselves making something out of almost nothing and hopefully that something is a brilliant work of art. But what is perhaps more significant is how Jobs handled his employees. Not only did he believe that a particular task could get done a certain way in a certain time frame, he believed that his people would be able to accomplish it. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 4)

Posted by Marete Wester On October - 27 - 2011

The Fairmont Hotel's Venetian Room Circa 1950

The historic Fairmont Hotel has sat atop Nob Hill in San Francisco for over 100 years; built and rebuilt after surviving earthquakes, fires, and numerous redecorating efforts for nearly eleven decades.

Pristine marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and towering Corinthian columns trimmed in gold punctuate some fun historical facts: the Cirque Room was the first bar in the city to open after prohibition; the International Conference held there after World War II led to the drafting of the Charter for the United Nations; and the Venetian Room  supper club, which has featured artists from Marlene Dietrich to Vic Damone, was where Tony Bennett first sang “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”

The Venetian Room seemed an unlikely place to host an early morning discussion that was all about the future. Nevertheless, the “Funding & Changing Business Models” session I facilitated at the recent Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) conference ended up filled with energetic and motivated funders, including state and local arts agencies, small family foundations, as well as regional and national foundations. As the group swelled two deep around, a cry went out to “Change the Model!” and we started moving tables (mindful of all the crystal). It was clear this was a hot topic. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 3) (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Emily Peck On October - 26 - 2011
Emily Peck

Emily Peck

The theme of this year’s Grantmakers in the Arts Conference reflected the big challenges facing arts funders and also arts organizations. The changes in demographics and changes in technology are issues that are being confronted across the country.

It seemed appropriate to gather for these conversations in San Francisco, a city in close proximity to the technological advances coming out of Silicon Valley and a state which became a majority minority state in 1999, about 42 years before we will become a majority minority country.

That last fact came from the keynote speech by Dr. Manuel Pastor, professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Dr. Pastor successfully managed to make census data entertaining and relevant as he addressed how California and the rest of the country will need to address shifting demographics in order to stay relevant. The ideas presented in his speech resonated throughout the conference as funders reflected on how to address these changes in their grantmaking.

The James Irvine Foundation has been keeping close watch on these changes and the impact of these changes on the arts organizations they fund. In a breakout session, Arts Program Director Josephine Ramirez provided an inside look into how the Irvine Foundation evolved their arts funding guidelines to better address the needs of arts organizations and the community. Here is a video that does a great job illustrating the foundation’s arts funding priorities:

Read the rest of this entry »

More Questions Than Answers: The Role of Cultural Organizations in Arts Education

Posted by Katherine Damkohler On October - 24 - 2011

Katherine Damkohler

With school districts across the nation failing to include arts instruction as part of their curricula, many cultural and arts organizations have decided to step in to fill this gap by providing arts education programs for nearby schools.

These amazing organizations have taken action to ensure that our children have at least some exposure to the arts. However, could these activities actually be detrimental to the long-term sustainability of in-school arts programs?

For instance, the prestige of a regional organization might lull a principal or school board into thinking that a part-time program is sufficient and they no longer need to hire a full-time arts instructor.

While organizations may be aiming to enrich a student’s education, are they also helping schools justify their choice to eradicate arts instruction?

What is an arts organization to do? What role should they have in arts education? They wield enormous power, which if used correctly can be very effective in supporting a child’s artistic education. But how should they go about catalyzing arts education reform? Read the rest of this entry »

What Laundry Detergent Can Teach Us About Winning Audiences

Posted by Christy Farnbauch On October - 7 - 2011

Christy Farnbauch

A couple of years ago the makers of Gain laundry detergent, Proctor & Gamble (P&G), were looking for a way to better engage and win customers. They used web and social media tools to launch a “Sniff Contest.”

They invited current and new Gain customers to purchase a bottle of detergent, open the cap, and sniff the scent. Then, customers were to visit the company’s website or Facebook page and write a brief story or upload a video about their experience with that bottle of detergent.

When I first heard about this request, I found it hard to believe that anyone would take the time to do this…for laundry detergent?

As it turns out, the campaign was wildly successful, resulting in over 300,000 stories, videos, and fans. P&G dubbed these people the “Gainiacs” and continues to engage them in a variety of ways to increase product sales.

Everybody loves to hear a good story. A powerful story is a critical tool for engaging and winning audiences – current and potential ticket buyers, class participants, board members, artists, and donors. Read the rest of this entry »

How Strong is Your Social Net? (Part 2)

Posted by Mary Trudel On October - 6 - 2011

Mary Trudel

Our 2011 How Strong is Your Social Net? Survey – that gathered responses from more than 1,600 arts organizations across the country – explores adoption and usage of digital and social media, measurement tactics, platforms, and return on investment (ROI).

The findings track the “how,” “to whom,” “what,” “why,” and “how often” of communications across multiple platforms and probes perceptions of effectiveness. We also examined internal policies and institutional protocols around issues of community building and audience feedback.

Trudel|MacPherson developed the survey to help arts groups connect with target audiences using a wide array of available digital communications options. The survey gathered data on how arts groups regularly communicate with various target publics; whether and how groups are connecting with patrons and fans – creating communities of interest and responding to their ideas and concerns — and how groups are measuring the ROI of their digital efforts.

Creative Connections with Audiences

We asked respondents to share their best/worst experiences with digital media.

Very few arts groups reported any horror stories and most praised the intimacy and immediacy of social media to help them repair relationships, deliver last minute information, and build awareness and demand. A few examples: Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Fire Your Staff

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 6 - 2011

Brian Reich

There is little denying that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, is a genius. He created a site that not only attracts more traffic than any other on the web, but also influences behavior, business, and social norms at an unprecedented level.

He can sit down and build something that most of us could never even imagine existing with lines of code that almost none of us can understand. But for all that brilliance, I wouldn’t give him the task of running a nonprofit organization. And especially not an arts organization. He is not the right fit for the task.

But if Facebook were to commit its resources and energy towards supporting the arts, Zuckerberg would almost certainly assume a leadership role in that effort because of his existing role as CEO of Facebook.

Thankfully that is a hypothetical situation. But it happens all the time – an existing organizational leader is thrust into a position where they are not a good fit. They are asked to guide an effort, inspire a team, and help an organization transform itself to meet a new set of challenges, only to find out too late that they weren’t up for the task. That practice needs to stop. Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Evans

A colleague emailed me the other day and wrote “I gave a donation to an arts organization via (insert any popular online social fundraising site here). Does the organization get my information? I never got a thank you.”

Ouch!

Although it is possible that a fundraising site wouldn’t share the information of a donor to an organization, it’s really unlikely, and with this specific online social site, I know that they DO share the donor information.

So the organization didn’t get back to their donor(s) to thank them. I see this happen a lot with donations through newer technology channels. I’ve seen statistics for something like 71% of nonprofits (not just arts organizations) don’t send any sort of thank you (email or otherwise) to online donors. Wow! Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.