Get to know your assumptions, then throw them out the window.

Posted by Sarah Cunningham On September - 18 - 2014
Sarah Bainter Cunningham

Sarah Bainter Cunningham

New sustainability models break through belief barriers about the business of arts education.  If teens must be employed during their high school career, why not employ them to make art? One organization pays students to participate as employees and upends assumptions about student participation. If fund-raising is challenging for smaller organizations, why not gather together tackle this beast? Another organization runs common development events for multiple arts education organizations, and upends the assumptions that local organizations must be pitted competitively against one another.  Both of these examples threw out prior assumptions to create new models. Read the rest of this entry »

Connecting Creative Youth Development and In-School Arts Education

Posted by Laura Perille On September - 18 - 2014
Laura Perille

Laura Perille

Is it possible to rapidly increase the level of arts education offered in an urban district? Based on the example of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Arts Expansion Initiative launched in 2009 by EdVestors, the BPS Superintendent, and local foundations, the resounding answer to that question is yes. This effort was rooted in the belief that arts opportunities play a powerful role in the life and learning of students in urban schools, and that a fundamental part of creating these opportunities was increasing access to quality arts education in order to create equity for all students.

One of the main challenges initially faced by BPS Arts Expansion was increasing the amount of in-school arts education offered in Boston Public Schools. Read the rest of this entry »

“Will you share your donors?” “Sure!”

Posted by Mari Barrera On September - 18 - 2014
Mari Barrera

Mari Barrera

Collaborative fundraising provides nonprofits with more donors and more donations for all – $8 million in new dollars in total over a five-year period. That was the experience of the 30 youth arts organizations that participated in the ARTWorks for Kids coalition, an effort initiated and supported by Hunt Alternatives in Cambridge, MA.

How did 30 different youth arts organizations – all collaborators in serving youth in the Greater Boston area, but also competitors for donations – join forces to raise money together? First, we supported the leaders of these organizations as they worked together to build trust with their colleagues. Then, we provided a venue for each coalition member to showcase the great art their youth were producing for a large and diverse group of funders. Read the rest of this entry »

Presenting Our Vans Custom Culture Grant Winning Schools

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On January - 15 - 2013

Learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to succeed in today’s ever-changing world. Vans and its national charity partner Americans for the Arts envision a country where every child has access to—and takes part in–high quality learning experiences in the arts, both in school and in the community.

Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce, as a component of its ongoing partnership with Vans, the winners of the inaugural year of the Vans Custom Culture Grant Program. This new grant program seeks to increase both visibility for and resources available to schools across the country who are engaged in working to sustain the arts as a vital part of education.

The grant program is supported by funds from Vans Custom Culture—an art competition whose winners design a shoe that is produced and sold by Vans. (Make sure your school registers to enter the shoe design competition to win up to $50,000 for its art education program!)

Vans Custom Culture Grants are available to public high schools (grades 9-12) that have allowed arts education to thrive in their school community. The grants are intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts as an integral component of an excellent education, and to support activities that are consistent with local and national learning standards for arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Soroko

Probably the best part of producing BizSmART for Arlington (Virginia)’s supported arts organizations was the pleasant surprise of unintended outcomes. Nothing salacious (sorry!), no misbehaving, but something that was an indirect benefit of having thought provoking speakers, interactive sessions, and opportunities to step outside daily challenges all in the same space at the same time.

As simple as it sounds, there was little way to plan, direct, or script a day that helped build our arts community.

On November 13, 2012, Arlington’s first BizSmART conference at Artisphere surpassed ‘symposium’ in both content and connectivity and drew on smart growth strategies for the arts. With the Arlington Commission for the Arts sponsorship of BizSmART, which began as a suggestion to create a symposium for arts organizations and Arlington Cultural Affairs’ recent move to Arlington Economic Development, a new direction in meeting the challenges facing arts organizations took root. The arts in our area may be extensive, but as public and private funding dwindle, organizations still struggle.

Arlington is no stranger to breaking new ground on many fronts and the arts are no exception. In 1996, Arlington Cultural Affairs was the winner of the Ford Foundation and Harvard University’s Innovations In American Government Award, the first time the award was given to an arts program in a local government. Leveraging resources, materials and facilities of the county government and applying them to the arts made way for an incubator program that was soon to be replicated throughout the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Economies and Diseconomies of Scale in the Arts

Posted by Ian David Moss On December - 4 - 2012

Ian David Moss

How does scale influence impact in the arts?

In 2007, back when I was a fresh-faced grad student, I actually addressed this question head on in the eighth post ever published on Createquity. I argued pretty strongly that scale in the arts was a myth, or at least not salient to the same extent as in other fields:

“It’s not that I don’t think large arts organizations do good work, or that they don’t deserve to be supported. What I’m going to argue instead is that there is a tendency among many institutional givers to direct their resources toward organizations that have well-developed support infrastructure, long histories, and vast budgets, and in a lot of ways it’s a tendency that doesn’t make much sense (or at the very least, could use some balance).

For one thing, those well-developed support infrastructures don’t come cheap. Consider the case of Carnegie Hall… [snip]

In contrast, small arts organizations are extraordinarily frugal with their resources, precisely because they have no resources of which to speak. It’s frankly amazing to me what largely unheralded art galleries, musical ensembles, theater companies, dance troupes, and performance art collectives are able accomplish with essentially nothing but passion on their side.

A $5,000 contribution that would barely get you into the sixth-highest donor category at Carnegie might radically transform the livelihood of an organization like this. Suddenly, they might be able to buy some time in the recording studio, or hire an accompanist for rehearsals, or redo that floor in the lobby, or even (gasp) PAY their artists! All of which previously had seemed inconceivable because of the poverty that these organizations grapple with.” Read the rest of this entry »

Bold Partnership for Dallas Arts Orgs (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Michael Granberry On November - 29 - 2012

Dallas-based AT&T is putting its business acumen to work for five financially challenged arts organizations. The corporation will provide free oversight to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Opera, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Theater Center, and Dallas Summer Musicals.

The goal of the partnership is to stanch the financial bleeding that has plagued the organizations since the 2008 recession.

“The old economic business models are not working,” DSO chairman Blaine Nelson said. “Revenues are falling far short of costs and expenses.”

Financial woes have besieged the DSO, Dallas Opera, and Dallas Summer Musicals, which recently asked the city for money.

The partnership is designed to help the companies streamline operations and share numerous endeavors, while preserving their independence. It’s also aimed at quelling the fierce competition that has existed at times between the performing arts center and Dallas Summer Musicals, both of which present Broadway shows.

Nelson says that “donor heroics” are no longer a winning strategy. Donors are, he said, increasingly younger givers who have tired of “a bottomless pit” and the absence of a “sustainable business model.” They prefer to be seen, he said, as investors, not donors.

Nelson helped conceive the new model, called the Performing Arts Collaboration, which was first broached six months ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Agency Fills in the Arts Education Gap for School District

Posted by Rob Schultz On August - 21 - 2012

Rob Schultz

One of the more disturbing trends in our local public schools is the reduction of classroom time devoted to non-tested subjects. Despite the arts being labeled as “core,” tested areas of the curriculum are among the few things receiving adequate time and resources from strapped school districts.

Going the way of the horse-drawn carriage are things like music, chorus, theater, and visual arts, as well as formerly routine components of a well-rounded education such as recess, and field trips.

For those of us who work outside of public school systems but are determined to provide children with quality arts opportunities, one answer lies in building effective partnerships with our schools.

For many years (decades, actually) the Mesa Arts Center has worked with our local public school system as a partner in delivering accessible programs. For several years, grant funding allowed us to bring fifth graders from a 100 percent at-risk school to our arts center for targeted, afterschool activities in both visual and performing arts, taught by our full-time arts instructors. While the school didn’t have resources for transportation, our grant provided it—from school to the arts center, and we took them home.

More recently, for the last six years the arts center has used funding from our own Foundation to present our “Basic Arts” program at another elementary school. This program focuses on literature, with the school hosting our teaching artists and kids learning about a literary story. As a finale, the students are brought to the arts center to see the story performed live on the stage of one of our theaters, followed by talk-back and Q&A with the actors and director.

As we saw the results of these two programs and the benefits they bring to underserved children, we committed to hiring a full-time Arts Education Outreach Coordinator to really move things into high gear and create other partnerships.

Under her direction, we began a Creative Aging Program that brings a visual artist and a dance artist to assisted living facilities to work with ambulatory seniors, as well as a group of seniors afflicted with dementia; the Culture Connect Program, which provides free theater tickets to area schools so their students can attend performances, participatory activities, workshops, literature, and live artist demonstrations; and a comprehensive Jazz A to Z Program that uses the National Endowment for the Arts’s Jazz Curriculum as a guide to provide students opportunities to improvise, analyze, synthesize, engage in group collaborations, develop an individual voice, and broaden cultural perspectives—all through the uniquely American medium of jazz. Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit Voters Save the Day for 125-Year-Old Museum

Posted by Kim Kober On August - 8 - 2012

Kim Kober

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a ballot measure to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Two of the counties, Oakland and Wayne, passed it by more than 60 percent, while the third county, Macomb, came down to the wire at 51 percent.

The museum was founded over 125 years ago, but began to suffer financially when public funding dried up in the nineties, followed by the Great Recession over the past several years. The measure was included on the ballot for the primary elections held in Michigan yesterday and its passage adds a property tax, also known as a millage, that will cost homeowners an average of $15–$20 annually.

The resulting funds will provide approximately $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years, covering their annual operations. During that time, the museum will focus on building their endowment to ensure the museum’s sustainability after the ten years have passed.

Detroit arts advocates employed some creative tactics in the weeks leading up to the primaries.

Free Art Friday, led by Skidmore Studio, invites artists and arts supporters to create art and leave it around the city with a note, for others to find and keep. Last Friday, the event began with a rally at the DIA in support of the museum. Just days before that, Art is for Everyone sponsored a rally in a nearby park. Between the two events, hundreds showed up in support of the museum, and the visibility made a difference.

Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan. Yes, it is only one organization out of hundreds, but voters representing counties totaling 40 percent of the state’s population just said yes to funding the arts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Proving the Economic Power of Local Arts Agencies

Posted by Theresa Cameron On July - 13 - 2012

Theresa Cameron

Well its official, our Local Arts Agency Blog Salon (catch up and read all of the posts with that one easy link) was a home run!

We heard from more than 20 bloggers representing all parts of our great nation about ways communities and their arts economic development strategies are being harnessed to create the 21st century creative community.

This week, bloggers have given very specific examples of how having the right message and the right data can help propel a community forward. The arts at the local level are being taken seriously because of the data, the stats, and the vision.

We all know that the arts are very important for many reasons but it was particularly interesting to hear from bloggers about how having the right data can get you a seat at the table to make your case.

In particular, it was interesting to learn from the corporate side about how to present arts and economic impact data to corporate funders—and that there are many layers of messengers before the data gets to the CEO—and that doing your homework will help you overcome the objections and obstacles with that potential funder.

I loved seeing the photograph of the Mona Lisa on the dollar bill from The Omaha World-Herald.

And what about Boise? Who knew that Boise is the most geographically-isolated urban area in the lower 48 and that the arts infrastructure has helped shape the city create a haven for arts organizations?

So, many thanks to our wonderful, diverse group of bloggers. They are the “rock stars” of using the research and data to shift ways community leaders are thinking and using the arts as a local development strategy!

How to Present Arts & Economic Impact Data to Corporate Funders

Posted by Julie Muraco On July - 11 - 2012

Julie Muraco

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV is another seminal piece of research by the Americans for the Arts staff led by Randy Cohen. (Okay, so I am biased). But, passion for the arts runs throughout our organization. I hope to provide insight into how AEP IV might be used with corporate funding sources.

How to Use AEP IV with Corporate Funders: What Do the Numbers Mean?

It is probably a revelation to most corporate funders that the arts & culture industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity, supports 4.1 million jobs, and generates an aggregate $22.3 billion in government revenue.

Some corporate funders may not be looking at how arts & culture within their community support their own business revenues or government revenues with expenditures on snacks and refreshments (think restaurants and restaurant suppliers), lodging (resorts or hospitality industries), transportation (buses/taxis), or retail establishments with shopping from clothing to gifts for home.

Corporate funders need to be shown the light. And if it is anything like corporations I have worked for, what turns the light on in corporations are numbers and quantitative data. Why?

Whoever you have approached with the data needs to deliver it to someone else, who will then deliver it to another layer of management, and so on before a decision is made. That includes the CEO.

But, may I clarify a point about “corporate funders?” It is no longer just a decision made in the executive suite with the CEO or CFO of the company. A “corporate funder” decision-maker might be found within the sales and marketing, human resources, or corporate communications departments. The numbers and the rationale for funding arts organizations based on the data needs to resonate with all of these people. Read the rest of this entry »

Governor Shuts Down South Carolina Arts Commission

Posted by Jay Dick On July - 9 - 2012

Jay Dick

Here we go again…

On Friday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the South Carolina Arts Commission’s budget. This is the third year in a row for such a veto, two by Governor Haley and one by former Governor Sanford. It should be noted that prior to Governor Sanford’s veto, he systematically cut the Commission’s budget over the seven years leading up to the veto during his last year in office.

To complicate matters, the legislature failed to submit a budget to the Governor until after the start of the new fiscal year that began on July 1. The Commission, under the veto, has no budget and thus, has had to shut down pending the legislature voting to override the veto on July 17 (House) and 18 (Senate).

Governor Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million for everything from a slight pay raise for teachers to a North Myrtle Beach museum, the preservation of African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, and a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims.

But, it was only the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium that were totally eliminated—a move that puts 38 state employee’s jobs in limbo.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September, but Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner. The Senate is coming back on July 18.

Governor Haley’s reasoning for her veto of the Arts Commission is that she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

The Arts Commission is a charity?! Read the rest of this entry »

Private Sector Funding in the New Normal: Working All the Angles!

Posted by Valerie Beaman On June - 13 - 2012
Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, moderated a convention panel on creative methods for growing new funding born out of the experiences of the recession. The rise of online funding campaigns, emphasis on creating partnerships with businesses and, more radically, treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding and don’t rely on it for core operating income were some of the ideas explored. The consensus was to, remain flexible but, above all, stay true to your mission.

Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, used the Community Foundation Challenge in Detroit as an example of the challenges and best practices for online giving/day of arts giving campaigns. A major goal of the Challenge was to raise awareness for the arts and culture sector.

Referencing it as “Glitches to Riches,”  Maud said the Challenge program raised $4,992,000 million for 75 organizations in one day. While the larger organizations raised higher dollar amounts, smaller organizations raised a higher proportion of their budget size. Existing donors were the mainstay of the Challenge (59 percent), but the Challenge brought in a significant number of new donors as well (28 percent).

Lessons learned by the arts community include: the importance of being prepared with technology and social networking in order to be able to respond quickly to challenge opportunities; the future of online giving is with younger donors; and, convenience, ease, flexibility and lack of pressure are the appeals of online commerce.

Maud emphasized the necessity of a good donor database and an excellent donor stewardship program. She personally donated to twelve different organizations during the Challenge, received very few thank you letters, and only three of the twelve followed up the following year for new donations. Lost opportunities! Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Adlers

It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.

Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.

My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.

Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.

In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Departments Announce New Tourism Strategy

Posted by Narric Rome On May - 17 - 2012

Narric Rome

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and the U.S. Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar released the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Strategy as developed through the Task Force on Travel & Competitiveness.

The task force had been set up through a Presidential Executive Order in January that called for a strategy within 90 days. President Obama announced the Executive Order at a visit to one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, Main Street USA in Disneyworld.

That same day in Orlando, FL, a new slate of members of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board was sworn in by Secretary Bryson, including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch and Linda Carlisle, the Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources—both critical voices representing the arts and cultural tourism community within the larger tourism sector.

In its first three months of work, The U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) developed a set of recommendations to Secretary Bryson to inform his work, and that of the task force, on the development of the national strategy.

Among the TTAB recommendations that relate to the arts and culture were:

(1) the inclusion of the arts as an objective to attracting tourists to secondary markets throughout the country,

(2) how an “authentic” experience is critical to a quality experience, and

(3) the need to include local tourism partners, such as city agencies and destination marketing organizations as partners with the federal government. Read the rest of this entry »