PreConference

Good morning.
“And the beat goes on……………”

The Arts Education PreConference

Sunday was a glorious day in downtown Chicago. Blue skies, sunshine. What an absolutely spectacular city.

The Arts Ed PreConference centered on one of the more difficult challenges of this area – assessment – of student learning and by implication, teaching models and methodologies. The day was split into two parts with the morning focus on the conceptual and theoretical aspects if Basic Assessment 101 – a quick and concise tutorial on the central elements of assessment by Professor Janmes Pelligrino of the University of Illinois at Chicago, who advised the atttendees to:

Be assessment ‘literate’ and focus on how the arts can be part of the dialogue of quality assessment in support of teaching and learning; and To ask: “What is the nature if competence in the arts on learning progressions.”

Basically “assessment” refers to a process of gathering information for purposes of making judgments about the current state of affairs of something. In education, it helps teachers, administrators, parents, the public and students to infer what students know about a subject and how well they know it. That information is useful on the classroom, district, and state / nation levels to assist learning, measure individual achievement and evaluate programs. There are different assessments for different needs and purposes, and those differing approaches must be coordinated, integrated, and synchronized to reach reasonable conclusions.

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What the heck is “capital”?

The Grantmakers in the Arts conference in Chicago is swirling around the question of capital and capitalization in the arts. They’ve released the summary report from their extended conversation on the subject, called the National Capitalization Project. And they plan a series of talking sessions on what that report recommends.

It’s an absolutely essential conversation for any industry, and particularly for arts and culture, where ‘capital’ is both a necessary and harsh companion to creative work. It’s also a relatively impossible conversation to have, since the word casts a sleepy spell whenever it is invoked. It’s like the word “policy,” which we all grant as important but would rather talk about anything else.

So, what’s capital? And why do we need to talk about it? The best definition I’ve heard to date is that capital is “wealth that’s used to make more wealth.” It is money, or machinery, or buildings that are necessary to the production of goods and services, but aren’t consumed substantially in that production.

A factory is capital, as it enables stuff to get built in a warm, dry place. But the factory doesn’t get consumed in the production line. A large machine is capital, because it increases the productivity of workers to get work done. But the large machine doesn’t need to be replenished as often as raw materials. A large wad of money is capital when it is used to buy the factory or machine, or when it sits in a pile to generate return — like an investment or a long-term loan. The principal isn’t consumed or spent, it’s just there to generate interest or future equity.

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Shine on Me: Scenes from the Support for Individual Artists Preconference

Shine on me
Let the light shine on me

The Black Monks of Mississippi

I spent the day at Grantmakers in The Arts’ Support for Individual Artists preconference (entitled Artists and Grantmakers: A Shared Enterprise). Dozens of artists and funders took part in the program, performing, offering panel presentations, Web pages, video clips, and PowerPoints.

While the subjects varied from the psychodynamics of funder-artist relationships to program evaluation to small-scale experiments with alternative funding models, two underlying themes emerged again and again.

People don’t work hard to devise alternatives if they’re happy with the way things are. I’d say dissatisfaction mingled with the desire for improvement is the dominant mood, albeit generously leavened by gratitude (those who’ve received grants), pleasure (those who enjoy their work as artists and/or grant-givers), and an ever-renewing spirit of social entrepreneurship (widely shared).

The meta-unhappiness, of course, has to do with the scale of available resources. Even more of it would have been expressed if the artist-panelists had been consistent losers in the grants game, instead of fairly regular winners. But it also has to do with the challenges of being a grants-giver in a field in which one reliably says “No” ten or twenty (or thirty) times more often than “Yes.” Even the smallest, most experimental programs are inundated with applications: Lorelei Stewart of the brand-new Propeller Fund (one of several experiments in direct support to nontraditional groups and artists seeded by the Warhol Foundation) reported 143 applications for the first round of 15 grants (five at $6,000, ten at $2,000).

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Funders in Flux

Good morning.

“And the beat goes on…………………….”

Funders in Flux:

I’m off to the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in Chicago. Funders — government, corporate and foundation — from all over the country, gathering to make some sense of the times in which we find ourselves. I will be blogging from the conference and posting entries Monday – Wednesday of next week.

“Funders” is a broad category that we conveniently use to denote any and all of those entities that offer grants to arts organizations, and there is a tendency to lump them all together into one monolithic whole, with the implication that they are all similarly structured, that their protocols and processes are interchangeable, that their priorities are always aligned, and that their thinking is more alike than dissimilar. Such conclusions are, of course, fraught with peril, for funders are as diverse and different as are arts organizations themselves. They come from vastly different perspectives and legacies, have wholly different starting points based on widely divergent sets of assumptions, are governed by very disparate sets of rules, have the full range of priorities in what they hope to accomplish in the allocation of their funds based on their board guidelines and histories, must address the significantly varied circumstances of local situations and politics, and look at the role of funding in totally different ways. In short, sometimes the truth is that the only thing they have in common is the label “funder”.

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Gearing Up for Grantmakers

I’m thrilled to be an ‘official’ blogger for the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference, and particularly thrilled that there’s a special emphasis on the impact of capital investment and infrastructure on arts and culture organizations. I’ll admit I’m a business geek (I direct an MBA degree program in Arts Administration, after all), but capital keeps coming back as a vexing theme in need of productive focus by arts leaders and arts funders alike.

I’ll likely be harping on that theme throughout the event, and riffing off my blogging colleagues Arlene Goldbard and Barry Hessenius along the way. I hope conference participants and observers from afar take a moment to join the conversation through comments and blog posts of their own.

Off we go!

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Looking Forward

Any enterprise can form a perfect setting for the human comedy. Generations of writers have drawn existential parables from offices, ocean liners, classrooms, farms, and operating theaters. But the philanthropic field seems especially rich—indeed, downright operatic. I think that’s because the noblest of human impulses, empathy and altruism, contend there so passionately with some of the basest, the desire to dominate, the wish to clothe one’s image in glory. When we have the capacity and privilege to grant others’ wishes, a bright light is cast on both the moral grandeur of which human beings are capable and our potential for brokenness and distortion.

Philanthropy presents individuals with an unusually large and intense set of challenges, so I have the greatest admiration for those who are able to stay in touch with a strong inner voice and a clear vision of their own roles in actualizing beauty, meaning, and justice tempered by love.

That’s why I’m really looking forward to the Grantmakers in the Arts 2010 Conference, “Navigating the Art of Change 2.0,” beginning this weekend in Chicago, where I have been given the opportunity to observe, consider, and comment on the proceedings.

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Welcome to GIA 2010 Conference Blog!

GIA is pleased to have three influential bloggers covering the 2010 conference; Andrew Taylor, Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, an MBA degree program and research center in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business and author of The Artful Manager blog;  Barry Hessenius, writer and consultant and author of Barry’s Blog, News, Advice and Opinion for the Arts Administrator; and Arlene Goldbard, social activits, writer, and author of the blog, Arlene Goldbard: Culture, Politics, and Spirituality.

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Meet the bloggers: Barry Hessenius

Barry HesseniusFormer Director California Arts Council, President California Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, and Executive Director of LINES Ballet. Author, consultant, blogger and public speaker. Barry published his work Hardball Lobbying for Nonprofits in 2007 (Macmillan & Company, New York). He conducted a two phase study with reports released in 2007 and 2009 for the Hewlett Foundation on the issue of generational management & succession in the arts. He authored several other studies including the California Arts Advocacy Handbook, the Local Arts Agency Funding Study for the Aspen Institute and the City Arts Agency Tool Kit. He is author of the most widely read blog in the nonprofit arts field – BARRY’S BLOG blog.westaf.org.

A founding member and Vice-Chair of California Arts Advocates and the United Statewide Community Arts Association, he was also been a board member of the National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), the California Alliance for Arts Educators (CAAE), California CultureNet, the California State Summer School for the Arts, the California Travel Industry Association (CalTIA), and a member of the State Superintendent’s Task Force on Arts Education. Barry is currently on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Architectural Foundation.

Read a full bio here.

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Meet the bloggers: Arlene Goldbard

Arlene GoldbardA provocative independent voice for our times, Arlene Goldbard is a writer, social activist, and consultant who works for justice, compassion and honor in every sphere, from the interpersonal to the transnational.

Arlene’s essays have appeared in such journals as Art in America, The Independent, Theatre, High Performance and Tikkun. Her books include Crossroads: Reflections on the Politics of Culture; New Creative Community: The Art of Cultural Development; Community, Culture and Globalization; and her novel Clarity.

Arlene has helped dozens of organizations to make plans and solve problems. They include nonprofits such as the Independent Television Service, the National Campaign for Freedom of Expression, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art; foundations such as the Rockefeller Foundation and the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media; a score of state arts agencies; and many others.

She is President of the Board of Directors of The Shalom Center. She has served as Vice Chair of the Board of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, and Tsofah/President of Congregation Eitz Or in Seattle. She co-founded such activist groups as the San Francisco Artworkers’ Coalition, the California Visual Artists Alliance, Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts and Draft Help.

See Arlene’s website: arlenegoldbard.com.

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Meet the bloggers: Andrew Taylor

Andrew TaylorAndrew Taylor is Director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration, an MBA degree program and research center in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. An author, lecturer, and researcher on a broad range of arts management issues, Andrew specializes in business model development for cultural initiatives and the impact of communications technology on the arts.

As founder and president of arts/axis consulting–a communications and management consultancy–he has worked with the International Society for the Performing Arts, American Ballet Theatre, StreamingCulture, the Center for Arts and Culture, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the League of Historic American Theatres, among others. He helped develop the pro forma and operating plan for Madison, Wisconsin’s $205-million downtown arts district, and led the business model development team for a proposed Digital Dance Library initiative.

Andrew is currently the president of the Association of Arts Administration Educators (an international association of degree-granting programs in arts and cultural management, research, and policy), and is a consulting editor for The Journal of Arts Management, Law, and Society. He received his master’s in Arts Administration from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

See Andrew’s blog, The Artful Manager.

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