Statement on the Passing of Joan Mondale

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 6 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

I know the nation’s arts community joins me in mourning the loss of one of our country’s staunchest arts advocates, Joan Mondale.  As the wife of Walter Mondale, vice president to President Jimmy Carter, she used her public position to place a bright spotlight on the vital role that artists and arts organizations play in strengthening American communities.

Mrs. Mondale intersected with Americans for the Arts on a number of notable occasions, beginning with her service on our board in the mid-1970’s, when we were known by one of our predecessor names, the American Council for the Arts.  In 1977, she was the guest speaker at the tenth annual meeting of the Business Committee for the Arts (now a division of Americans for the Arts).

I first met her at the Americans for the Arts annual convention in 1987 in Portland, Oregon, where she was a fervent keynote speaker and great motivational figure for hundreds of local arts agency leaders.  I later had the privilege of serving with her on the national advisory board of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), where we shared a passion for fine craft—she as a potter and me as a woodcarver.  And in 2008, Americans for the Arts was pleased to honor her with the Public Art Network Award, in recognition of her lifelong nurturing of art in public places.

She was a long-time museum guide who, while her husband was in office, ensured that the home of the vice president, and later, the ambassador to Japan’s residence, were infused with art.  A frequent board member for arts organizations and an avid speaker for their gatherings, Mrs. Mondale was particularly effective in her most visible role as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.

On behalf of those of us who work in the arts who had the pleasure of knowing her and admiring the important work she did in promoting the public value of the arts, we salute “Joan of Art.”  Her voice will be deeply missed.

What Every Junior Board Should Know

Posted by Jess Kaswiner On April - 4 - 2012
Jess Kaswiner

Jess Kaswiner

On February 28, Emerging Leaders Network Chicago hosted a wildly successful panel conversation and networking event simply titled “Junior Board Mega-Mixer.”

Weeks before the event, we had over 50 RSVPs and 7 local sponsors, including Changing Worlds, Steppenwolf Theatre, Urban Gateways, Snow City Arts, Auditorium Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, and Links Hall.

Our dedicated ELN team worked swiftly to spread the word, sharing the event announcement via email, Facebook,, and word of mouth. Participating panelists—including junior board chairs, general-body members, and representatives from sponsor organizations—weighed in on what it takes to incubate and sustain a successful junior board.

Below are seven key takeaways from this event, in addition to a few additional creative suggestions and how to host your own junior board mixer.

1) Efficiency is key – Young professionals are very busy between work, play, and volunteering. When planning your meetings, always send an agenda ahead of time.

2) Be nimble – Although your organization may have a very clear idea of what you want the organizational structure to look like or what type of events you want your junior board to plan, it’s important to first evaluate your capacity. As Dana Adams of Urban Gateways mentioned, “Think about the type of event YOU enjoy attending, and go from there!” Read the rest of this entry »

Margot H. Knight

Those of us in the mission-driven arts resource business (this means YOU), all have stories about the moment you connected to a donor from the business community—an authentic, real MOMENT when you and your organization connect either professionally or personally with the businessman/woman on the other side of the desk, cocktail, or dinner table.

Sometimes it happens right away. Sometimes a relationship takes months, even years, to develop.

And sometimes, that moment of truth reveals a dead-end future, or more painfully, spells the end to an existing relationship. Here is some of my best advice based on my own experiences—I hope it’s helpful:

1. Always bear in mind that money is the means to an end, not an end to itself. This premise has ripples—it means you won’t compromise your mission for money. It means you won’t get ahead of yourself in a conversation and talk about money before you talk about mission. And it means you MUST understand what your potential business partner values. For him or her, money is the means to an end as well.

2. You have to do your homework. Just like you, the person sitting across from you woke up with a notion of what a successful day looks like. Before you walk into any business, large or small, do a little research. What does the business do? How and where do they do it? How are they doing? What are the external pressures bearing on THEM? Most businesses have vision and mission statements of their own. Look them up. The old adage of “seek to understand before being understood,” comes to mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Being an executive director or board member for a local arts organization is tough work.

For the board leader it is often difficult for them to know enough about the organization’s work to have informed opinions, yet feel comfortable offering opinions.

Executive directors often deal with board members who don’t know enough about the organization’s work to have informed opinions yet feel free to offer opinions anyway.

In the eyes of many arts administrators, board members many not know much about day-to-day operations or often “get in the way” of the work the organization is trying to accomplish.

Executive directors often pay lip service to the importance of the board, but in practice they do everything they can to keep the board marginalized and out of the way.

This relationship is often described as a partnership in a carefully-choreographed dance, a marriage, and like that of an orchestra and conductor.

Let’s face it-this relationship is complicated. That’s why I wanted to pass on a very good set of guidelines written by my friend Rick Moyers of the Meyer Foundation. I think these are terrific and applicable for our local arts organizations… Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Agencies Are Like Snow Flakes

Posted by Marc Folk On December - 8 - 2011

Marc Folk

No two are exactly alike. Each has its own strengths and challenges. Some are well funded Departments of Cultural Affairs. Some are small organizations with a shoe string budget. The rest fall somewhere in between.

We land into the category of being created in our city’s charter but stand as a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

What this means is we have to fundraise to deliver our programs and services and partner as often as possible. Both require patience, flexibility, and an innovative mindset to extend our reach into the community and get the arts to the people.

Partnership is often talked about like a simple and obvious solution; however, those that have taken it on know just what may lie in the details.

Partnerships in fundraising, especially cross sector, can prove even more challenging. But they CAN work.

As we enter into 2012, The Arts Commission will be heading into its second year fundraising partnership with ProMedica, a locally-owned nonprofit healthcare organization, and its subset the Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation. This joint effort combines the agency’s efforts with the Autism Collaborative to centralize services for children with autism and their families and the Arts Commission’s mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeanie Duncan

(Note: This post is a continuation of Part 1 and Part 2 posted earlier this week)

Implementation: A Strategy-Focused Business Model

Our closest stakeholders and constituents had been a part of the research and discovery process with us along the way, participating in information gathering and report-out sessions. While we had been together through this process, changes were going to be significant, and nothing makes reality more sobering than implementation. The change, while it wasn’t easy, was supported by the voice of our community-at-large.

We rolled out our new plan and its supporting tactics beginning in spring 2009. Most notably, we:

•    Recruited new leadership reflecting the diversity of our community.
•    Formed teams to work on launching advisory groups for Hispanic/Latino, African American, and young adults with the goal of building relationships and engaging people in these sectors.  Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating National Volunteer Week

Posted by Valerie Beaman On April - 11 - 2011

Valerie Beaman

It’s National Volunteer Week and time to celebrate all those volunteers who help keep the doors open and the wheels turning in nonprofit arts organizations across the country.

With funding cutbacks and staff layoffs, volunteers are more important than ever.

Pro bono volunteers are filling in the gaps providing CEO coaching, marketing, financial services, and legal services among others.

On-call volunteers are ushering, painting sets, making costumes, helping with mailings, copying scripts, and sweeping stages.

And let’s not forget our board members who volunteer their expertise, funds, and influence in the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Showing Appreciation in the Arts (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tiffany Bradley On July - 29 - 2009

I sometimes leave my desk and actually see performances occasionally (how exciting!). A month or so ago, I was lucky enough to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at BAM, one of my favorite companies at one of my favorite spaces. My friend Anna let me buy one of her subscription tickets from her, so she picked the date. It turns out that she magically picked opening night.

As we settled in our seats, out comes Judith Jameson to do the pre-curtain speech.

Side Note: this being Ailey in Brooklyn, it is a well-dressed multiculti crowd who just can’t wait for the show to start. While I am normally a fan of church hats and headwraps, they do tend to ruin sightlines. But everyone looks great, so I get over it. Read the rest of this entry »

People Problems

Posted by Adam Thurman On March - 9 - 2009

I spend of a lot of time thinking about the structural challenges arts organizations have, i.e. whether or not the traditional nonprofit model is the best way to present non-commercial art, whether having a Board of Directors is a good or bad thing . . . you get the idea.

The irony is that when I work with troubled arts organizations most of their problems have one of three causes: Read the rest of this entry »