Welcome to GIA 2011 Conference Blog!

GIA is pleased to have three influential bloggers covering the 2011 conference. Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer is executive director of the Queens Council on the Arts and blogs at hoongyee.com. Barry Hessenius is a writer, consultant and author of Barry’s Blog, News, Advice and Opinion for the Arts Administrator. Richard Kessler is dean of Mannes College The New School of Music and blogs at Arts Journal’s Dewey 21C.

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The Absolute Beginner’s Guide To Changing The World With Art

gia bloggers

Hoong Yee, Richard, Janet

&

Barry

Blogging for a better world

At this year’s conference, I was joined by two other bloggers to capture in words the spirit and essence of this universe we call grantmakers in the arts – Richard Kessler and Barry Hessenius.

What is art about, really?

If you have ever heard Dr. Manuel Pastor speak, you would know what he would say.

Dr Manuel Pastor writes and speaks frequently on issues of demographic change, economic inequality and community empowerment.  At his keynote speech at the Grantmakers in the Arts 2011 Conference, he said many things I thought were cool:

On December 15, 199, we became a majority/minority state.

Collaboration and conflict go together.

Collaboration is principled conflict.

Do you know the difference between chess and jigsaw puzzles?

Chess                                                                                               Jigsaw puzzles

2 colors                                                                                            many colors

some pieces are more powerful than others                              every piece is important

you gain by knocking a piece out                                                 you gain by putting pieces together

the goal is to win                                                                             the goal is to complete

 

As a nation we play way too much chess

 

Art is making things of beauty with friends

 

beowulf sox

Frances Phillips and her Beowulf socks

Frances Phillips is a quietly impressive force with a knitted sock patterned with the opening lines of Beowulf beginning with, “Hwaet…” wrapped around two slender needles tucked away in her pocketbook.

Hwaet?

“I’ll send you the instructions, you’ll love it.”  Frances clearly loves literature and knitting to depths beyond me and the rest of the GIA Knitting Circle.  “Just remember to weave in your strands when changing colors mid row.”

 

Believe it or not, that makes sense to me.  Later on during the conference, Tommer asked me if I had lost a ball of green yarn.  At the moment I am knitting something in a silver cotton so no, the yarn did not belong to me.

“Hmmm, I wonder if Frances is using green in her Beowulf socks.  Lynn Stern might be, she is working on a pair of multicolored gloves.  Let me put the word out for you.”  In my opinion, the fact that I know this stuff is actually impressive as an example of niche knowledge, thank you very much.

I turned to Frances, smiled bravely thinking to myself, “Wonderful!  Just in time for holiday knitting.”

We were serenaded at the plenary brunch by Eugene Rodriguez, Linda Ronstadt, David Hidalgo and Los Cenzontles.

Throw me the lemon

Throw me the lime

Throw me the key

To your heart.

 

You are my dear

You are my love

You are my dove

That sings at sunrise.

 

Here’s something Linda Ronstadt said at the closing of the conference:

Mexican audiences know just when to howl and they know when to be quiet.

 

Hwaet everybody!

 

 

 


 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

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What A String Quartet Can Teach Us About Crowd Control

Mason

Mason Bates

What do you think of when you hear the word – symphony?

I am sure these are a few that may come to mind:

Classical
Full
Concert
Beethoven

Crowd management

What?

Try hiding your surprise without choking on an artichoke heart in a ballroom filled with hundreds of Grantmakers with arched eyebrows.

Yet, crowd management shared space with other words such as

acoustic
perfect
string quartet

– and of course, it took the American composer of symphonic music, Mason Bates, to make musical sense of it all.  And it took the San Francisco based Del Sol String Quartet to bring everything to life.

We lucky Grantmakers were serenaded by Del Sol who performed Mason’s  “Bagatelles”, a piece for strings and electronica.

“The string quartet,” Mason stepped up to the podium wearing a black leather jacket and a boyish smile.  “is a perfect acoustic creation.”

I love that.

Mason spoke about the challenge of putting a string quartet in new spaces.  The difficulties in acoustics, outreach, managing audience engagement and expectations. And at the same time, there is the intriguing possibilities in creating a “hybrid musical event” such as his Mercury Sol.

Picture this, or rather, listen to this:

Consider a traditional musical group, such as the Chicago Symphony or the San Francisco Symphony,  who work on artistic programs and invest in large marketing campaigns to prepare audiences for what they are going to hear and shape their expectations.

Now consider a newer musical group such as Mercury Sol, who work with stagecraft, lighting and technology to create immersive experiences for audiences and project program notes and somehow make the artist part of the audience.  The sounds of a string quartet playing slowly drifts into a new space,  gradually there is a change in perception, a light projection draws everyone to a point of focus.

There you have it.  Crowd Management in the key of C.

 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

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Art Game or Game Art?

Alice
Alyce Myatt

They say the fastest growing population of video game players are women over 60.

“Oh my God I’ll never get there!” a woman in the back of the room was clearly overwhelmed by the though of disappointing her demographic.

“Well, that’s because you aren’t 60 yet,” Marian Godfrey, one of the organizers of “Don’t Get Pwnd! A Video-Gaming Salon  For Grantmakers” held at the Grantmakers In The Arts 2011 Conference, smiled soothingly as we all collegially chuckled, relieved that we all had a little more time to spend with our Playstations. “We’ll throw you a party in an arcade.

“My goal, as a game designer, is to create a mind expanding experience for people with rich inner lives.”

Such a game would not be a time eating/time filling activity. It would include:

  • A system of rules
  • Simulation
  • A tiny toy version of our universe
  • What if?
  • A recreated new history of the world

Interesting objective for someone who gained financial success from Braid, his video game about manipulating time.  Jonathan Blow, an independent video game designer, describes it as an engaged exploration of ethics and consequences.

Sketch 2011-10-12 16_42_58.png
Jonathan Blow

Even more interesting.

Jon began making small independent art games around 1996, riding the video wave. Several years ago, he founded the Indie Fund, a source of funding with the goals of supporting people who want to make art games and to move the field forward. This fund is intentional user friendly, awarding grant amounts ranging from 10k to 200k with an open submission process and a simple application asking for:

  • A short description of the game describing what the game is and how you interact with it
  • A YouTube video of a playable prototype
  • He looks for skill in making games and something he calls the “quality standard gene” which he says is, “very important and rare to find.”
  • Of five funded projects, two came from the open process.  The rest were people he knew from the field.
  • There is a low acceptance rate, 1% to a third of 1%.

What is a video game?

Definition: mainstream video games are screen visuals that react with viewers’ input.  In coin-op games, a player receives a fun experience in exchange for coins.  A skinner box that runs slot machines gives rewards in unknown amounts at unknown times to a player which sets off triggers that can become addictive.  Is this ethically bankrupt?

Definitely intriguing: the action that happens between frames of a comic book

Alyce Myatt, director, Media Arts, NEA, shook her head and said with a sigh, “The cycle is the same. Independent films experienced a similar shift.”

The NEA now funds:

  • games
  • mobile apps
  • satellite delivered content
  • electronic art delivery

About 360 proposals were received with requests ranging from 15k to 200k.  “The process got people thinking” said Alyce.  She was delighted to see applications come from across disciplines demonstrating how media is embedded in artmaking and in growing audiences.

“Philanthropic dollars are the only risk capital in this country.”

There are several challenges:

  1. Production and development – attending game development conferences are expensive, admission ranging between 2k to 4k.  Alyce stressed how important it is for grantmakers to be at these gatherings. Is there funding for travel to conferences such as SXSW and Indie K?
  2. Distribution – a marketing plan takes time and intense effort. A game faces the challenge of bottlenecks when trying to get to the market.  Alyce suggested exploring the possibility of getting a graduate student with marketing skills.  Is there funding for marketing fellowships?
  3. Open video movement – this helps to get games out to larger audiences. Grantmakers should be funding these initiatives.

Questions from the bewildered:

How deeply can we understand the artistic process and value of making games when making funding decisions? How can we learn from this?

Jon:
Play games.  Don’t get hung up in the “tooliness” of the tools.  It is better to allow someone to explore, broaden an experience, knowledge, context and be immersed in it.

Alyce:
We need an independent nonprofit game community and public media for the stability and the benefit of society.

Ron:
Think of games as novels that ask big questions of humanity and the way we see each other
 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

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The Buzz About HIVE: Digital Learning Media

Christian

Christian Greer

We are tech heads, not lab rats.

 

Well, there you have it.

That is what kids felt about themselves as they entered the space Christian Greer of the Chicago Community Trust created for youth to explore games, music DJ-ing and app development.
In New York, the New York Community Trust learning network, HIVE, developed a project with the NY Hall of Science that helped kids become citizen activists.  They travelled throughout Flushing, New York armed with smartphones with probes designed to measure CO2 content, air quality, collect data and report back on their findings.  They developed a public relations program about the risk of idling vehicles on the streets and they became lobbyists who pestered the CEO of NYSCI to move buses off the street.

Be careful what you wish for.

KerryKerry McCarthy

 

In a session presented by Kerry McCarthy of the New York Community Trust, Christian Greer and Stephanie Schipper of The Mozilla Foundation talked about the opportunities and the challenges of how kids can use digital media constructively and how funders can work in a networked philanthropic landscape.

In 2011 and 2012, the New York Community Trust made grants to middle and high schools that linked youth, art, science, museums, libraries and new partners with the intent to gain insight to the community, extend into the five boroughs and to serve the most disadvantaged kids.  Was it possible to create an innovative process where learning happened anytime, anywhere that could scale?  And could this happen on their preferred devices where they become creators?

A project involving the New York Public Library and Global Kids involved kids in a social media scavenger hung by using QR codes on iPads.  This initiative, piloted in the Bronx, challenged kids to build a game to find and discover things such as, where did Edgar Allen Poe live?

The enduring question is how to replicate such projects in other branches and in other boroughs.

Stephanie

Stephanie Schipper

Stephanie, just a few days into her new position at Mozilla as the VP of Web Strategy, said that the goal of Mozilla is to leverage open networks of people to create things.  In 2003, Internet Explorer had 97% of the market share.  The Mozilla browser was created to safeguard the open web.  The Firefox open source browser is open for participation.  This open source philosophy can be applied to learning.  As a platform of created opportunities, scaffolding and shared mission, Mozilla engages large networks to amplify impact.  The Mozilla Foundation’s goal is to support the next generation of web makers.

Here’s a cool idea:   X Ray Goggles

With X Ray Goggles, you can look at the actual structure of the web and remix it in real time.  For example, you can go to the Google home page and replace the Google logo.  The goal of this program is to encourage people to think of the web as something they can make changes to and to create things out of and to facilitate the use of co-creating products such as Hackasaurus.

Here’s what is highly encouraged:

early fail often models

bringing learners to co-create products

de-scarifying the process

 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

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Racial Equity, Grantmaking & Chandeliers

Javier tim Roberto
F. Javier Torres, Tim Dorsey and Roberto Bedoya

Have you ever sat at the edge of the pool with a bunch of friends waiting to see who would jump in first?

chandelier

“Is this the gayest chandelier you ever saw?”

Tim had everyone in the Pavilion Room looking up at a  verpitzt lighting fixture hovering heavily above us.

 

Welcome to Grantmaking with a Racial Equity Lens, a salon session organized by Justin Laing of the Heinz Foundation.

No question, racial equity is a highly charged topic that brings people together with complex emotions simmering beneath their conference badges.  No question, we work in a dominant society that is managing our system of race and culture.  It is structured racialism, poverty and colonization, all the time.

“We must commit to rootwork.  To constantly question powerbrokering.”  said Tim.  I like that word rootwork.  In my mind I imagine deep questioning and determined fistfuls of newer ideas.

Lynn Stern of Surdna described her foundation’s working challenges in supporting “artistic training for young artists, building a training pipeline through college and investing in art colleges committed to outreach and scholarships to targeted populations.  There is currently no conversation where a racial equity lens is used.  Another question is how to fund small community based organizations.  Surdna’s grantmaking mechanism with a budget of $7.5 million has 3 staff members.  How can we become familiar with the field?  Should we be working with intermediaries?”

 

Justin

Justin Laing

 

Justin spoke of a racial framework of “your people and you”.  This is why culture doesn’t work.  He sent a survey that explored whiteness to colleagues and family.  There was no response.  OK, so I am thinking that whiteness, another highly charged and potentially polarizing topic, cannot be something you ask people to examine without setting up a little context. Blacks have had way more time discussing racial identity.

As Gary Vaynerchuk of VaynerMedia says, “Content is king.  Marketing is queen and she rules the house.  But context is the heir apparent.”

Clearly we all know the current context and challenges racial equity and social justice pose in our field.  Michelle Coffey of the Lambent Foundation suggests “working with critical research partners to help us in our challenge facing race.”  She says, “Our concept of race is still dated.  We need stronger partners. We are flawed.”

Justin describes a capacity building initiative that identifies young leaders of color by asking the following questions:

  1. Who are they and what are they doing?
  2. What is the logic model, the scorecard, the projected impact?
  3. What resources do they need?
  4. What about people with disabilities?
  5. What is their branding, messaging, communications plan?
  6. Is there a dashboard with quarterly benchmarks for assessment?
  7. Do they have a strong board?
  8. What is their fundraising plan?

Huong Vu of Boeing raised the question of individual strategy.

“Don’t you get tired of being the one who has to be indignant about racism just because you are the person of color on staff?”

There is always the spectre of consequences and repercussions – financial, emotional, psychological – when you challenge an unacceptable statement or action, when we summon up personal courage to own our actions.

Perhaps there are other ways to work with colleagues and board members such as challenging imagery that portray white people as donors and privileged, and people of color as receivers and less fortunate.

We need to speak as a group more often, more knowledgeably.

So come on in, the water’s fine.

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

 

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Why Sixty Is Sexy

Is There More To Life Than Donuts And Bingo?

 

Tim c

Tim Carpenter

 

Tim Carpenter does.

Tim, the radio host of Experience Talks and the 2011 Winner of the James Irvine Leadership Award, also believes there must be more for people than bingo and donuts in their later years.  He tells the story, of course he does – he comes from an Irish Catholic family where storytelling was a competitive sport.  The older people told better stories so he sat at that end of the dinner table.

“Retirement is like college.  It is a launching period.  Free time.  Time to ask yourself, ‘OK, what do I do now?‘”

Tim grinned at his co conversationalist, Mark Freedman, the author of Encore: Finding Work That Matters In The Second Half Of Life at a session organized by Rohit Burman entitled The Big Shift: The Velocity Of Change In America’s Aging Society.

Rohit

Rohit Burman

“An acre of time.”  I love that phrase.

What would you put in this acre of time?

They spoke about developing buildings around programs that get people out doing stuff.  Including college level programs and workforce development for artists, building an artist colony.  Asking the question – what if you could live here among artists?

 

 

Marc

Marc Freedman

“Age is a time to bloom, a time of great fertility.  A time to celebrate their best work when they are ‘over the hill’. People think genius happens early in life but actually many artists were late bloomers such as Cezanne. Priorities are affected by the sense of mortality which people experience as a compression of time, a heightened sense of time left to live.  Relationships deepen, spirituality attracts. ”  said Marc.  “It is the trifecta of mortality, longevity and urgency.”

“The process of becoming something is more interesting.”  Tim said.  “Suzanne, a woman in her mid 60’s, single mom with 2 kids, was ‘old before her time‘.  She attended my writing class and wrote a 12 page screenplay about the challenges and needs of aging called Bandida.  I remember thinking to myself ‘please don’t stink’. But it was good.  And we made it into a film that was eventually shown by Ira Glass on This American Life.

This answers the question ‘Where does funding have impact?’  Suzanne is a new person, a mentor and teacher to others.  This is why we need optimism, something Marc often speaks of.”

Marc shook his head.  “I worry that we feed the notion of magical reinvention, that there is a genius inside waiting to pop out.  What is a more realistic vision for us?  Perhaps a reintegration of preexisting goals and ideas, more an extension of what you already are.”

“There is a need for arts in the schools to build these skills early, to get art experiences and to connect older artists with kids,” said Tim.

“What about that gap year we have at 18 and 19?  What if we had a disruptive creative period of time in our 50’s.  It could be a period of renewal focused on the arts.  Could we build in a leap year, a gap year.  In the UK, 200,00 people are grey gappers.”  Marc smiled.  “You could have an encore career, a second career after 50.”

“How do you get one of those?”  asked Tim.

Marc said, “We need the arts to give a realistic vision to this new phase of life.  There is a lack of focus on this time.  There is a second group between midlife and elderly old age with no arts avenue.  Their challenge is to reimagine the shape of living.”

They closed with this:

“60 is the new 60.  Live your legacy.”

 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?

I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe at www.hoongyee.com and get my interview post and new style notes for people who change the world delivered to your inbox.

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Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Formula For Changing The World

Marc

Marc Bamuthi Joseph

How do you listen to a whirlwind?

 

If the whirlwind has a name, such as Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and he is before you – natty, smart, hey let me check you outstylish with a sharp lid tossed casually to the side as he picks up speed and lets the words fly –

– you sit back.  Now.

As a conference blogger, I sat at Marc’s Keynote Performance at the Plenary Breakfast Session on Monday at the Grantmakers for the Arts 2011 Conference, confident in capturing the essence of the experience while having my morning coffee with a ballroom full of my colleagues.

It became very clear that Marc operates at speeds unfamiliar to most people and I was left both delighted and bewildered by his message.

So in the spirit of capturing the wind, here is what I caught from that performance:

If you can’t outrun it, get out in front of it and figure out where we’re going

Let’s transform the iconography of an environment

Practice the art of believing that these things, dance, buildings, art, have redemptive quality

Here’s a recipe for a creative ecosystem of critical adjacencies –

Take equal parts revenue potential, artistic presence and invested audience consistency.

Mix well.

Let rise.

Voila! A localized interdisiplinary network.

No amount of Facebook contact can compete with public proximity and investment

Art happens everywhere for anyone

Art is not and object or an outcome only

Art is a process and an opportunity for community

It is hard for grantmakers to track outcomes and creative stimulus but perhaps we should be looking at metrics to measure the scale and health of creative partnerships in our ecosystems

Success is tied to the growth of others

Good changes in structure focus on interdependence, not products

Invest in artists who create contextual work within communities

Let’s shift nonprofit practice and structure to value accumulated surpluses

Formula for changing the world –

Audience development + good fiscal health = healthy arts field

 

Whew!  If you want to get closer to the wind and get more of Marc, check out http://www.lifeisliving.org/

Let me leave you with my favorite piece of current wisdom from Marc:

If you can’t outrun it, get out in front of it and figure out where it’s going.

 

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?  I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe and get new style notes for people who change the world at www.hoongyee.com.

Posted in Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer | 2 Comments

Individual Artists, Social Justice and Fabulous Food Trucks: Preconference People and Their Stories

 

Cassandra
Rhodessa Jones,  how should I begin?

Yes  you are a performing artist, writer & director, founder and artistic director of The Medea Project: Theater for Incarcerated Women – is everyone following me?  Stay with the tour, people.

The Individual Artists & Social Justice Preconference

I am really honored to be one of the bloggers at this year’s Grantmakers in the Arts 2011 Conference in San Francisco.  Here is some great stuff I took away from the Saturday preconference.

maurine and lynn

Maurine Knighton and Lynn Stern

 

We spent the day at SOMArts getting into a single question:  How are artists changing the world?

ron and frances

Ron Ragin and Frances Phillips

Rhodessa had us cooing like pigeons, insisting, “Nobody told her” like a restless Greek chorus as she folded that question into poetry, quotes and stories.

“The team is everything”  Lionel Ritchie

“The Creator has a plan”  John Coltrane

rhodessa

Rhodessa Jones

 

Rhodessa says the job of an artist is to introduce different communities to each other, such as incarcerated, HIV positive women and theatre.  She changes the world through the theatre of everyday tragedies and unexpected glories such as Cassandra Steptoe, an HIV positive woman who not only is surviving, she is thriving.  She is the story of a woman whose life was transformed through the crucible of theatre into a positive life force and more importantly, a way for others like her to achieve a full life.

Oh, by the way.  Did I mention that the food trucks were awesome?

frances and food truck

Frances in front of the breakfast truck

 

Jeff Chang, executive director, Stanford university Institute for Diversity in the Arts, said something very cool about waves.

He said that the waves on the south shore of Tahiti, perhaps the most beautiful in the world, are a process that begins with Antarctic storms that are a gathering force that push their way thousands of miles to Tahiti and manifest themselves as waves.  So these waves are actually part of a process of visible and invisible forces.

Jeff said that culture is like the ocean.  Culture is the realm of ideas, stories, identity, where public sentiment is formed.  It is where people are at.

Cultural change always precedes political change.  Culture is essential in the theory of change.

Artists are essential to the process of shaping public sentiment from the beginning.

This one I really like – Communication is surfing.  Artists want to be makers of waves.

We believe we can move national imagination.

We can make some waves.

Favianna Rodriguez, the artist who designed the image of this year’s GIA conference, is interested in opportunities for visual artists and cultural workers to become part of the core movement, specifically in:

  1. Publishing
  2. Rapid response
  3. Convenings
  4. Education and skills

What are the ideal conditions to inspire artists?

What ideas can reshape the situation?

Art reframes the debate.

Erin Potts, executive director of Air Traffic Control, spoke of how small investments can yield great results.  Taking 75 artists on a four day retreat empowered them to engage their 16.6 million Facebook friends, 2.5 million Twitter followers, and 3 million YouTube viewers to think about their world differently.  For example, one band encouraged their fans to rethink carbon consumption caused by driving to their concerts and created phone apps with information about utilizing public transportation to get to the concerts.

In this session, these models of cultural strategy and cultural organizing were, at their core, all about creating support for artists, moving hearts to create art and to become waves of change.

l frank

 

L. Frank

“I am a decolonizationist,”  says  L. Frank, an artists and activist, who is a member of the Tongva/Ajachemen Nations.  “Being extinct is not easy.”

She also says,

I was once a shadow of my former self

I followed my footsteps to the past but the journey was too far

I turned away failing to run but succeeding to fly

Allison Smith remarked that more and more conference were including hands-on art making experiences.  She offered a workshop on trench art, inviting us to create beaded and embroidered pieces that can “bridge the gap between civilian arts and crafts people and military service people and veterans.”

She says,  “It is a way to start a conversation.  Crafts and textiles make visible a hidden history.”

allison and heart

Allison Smith

What did I learn from all this?

In the larger picture, you have artists in communities engaged in social practice.  On a smaller one on one level, you have engaged personal experiences and storytelling.

About the Author: Hoong Yee Lee Krakauer writes about how to be a nimble nonprofit, make life creative and make a difference at www.hoongyee.com.

She is also the Executive Director of the Queens Council on the Arts. Hoong Yee can be found surfing in the Rockaways whenever there are waves.

Do you want to know the fears, visions of perfect worlds and world changing advice of your peers and keynote speakers?  I have a special bonus post for you of interviews I conducted with people during the conference.  Just leave me a comment with your email or better still, subscribe and get new style notes for people who change the world at www.hoongyee.com.

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GIA Conference D3: Final Thoughts (Arts Education IS Social Justice)

GIA Conference D3/Wrap Up

While this will be my final post as one of the three official conference bloggers, I have no doubt that so very much of what I encountered idea-wise will infiltrate not only my blogging on Dewey21C, but also my work for quite some time. That statement should tell you a lot about how I experienced the three days.

It was interesting and affirming, that a fair number of presenters made a stump speech for the importance of arts education. It was a refrain for the session on aging, the demographics session with Pastor, and the absolutely, freaking-fantastic, wonderful closing session with Eugene Rodriquez, Linda, Ronstadt, David Hildago, and all of Los Cenzontles. They delivered the message of art education, its importance, the gross, immoral inequity, and its overall fragility. (More on that last session in a moment.)

I don’t know how to say this without it coming out like a lecture, but I think that a lot of funders are missing a key meaning of arts education, while at the very same time the embrace arts and social justice. It’s impossible not to notice the growing mass of funders connected to social justice, while the arts education cohort appears to be getting smaller. I am not going to argue against social justice, I mean really, but rather for seeing arts education as social justice. I mean, REALLY!!

I know that there are people who are frustrated about arts education. There are many, for good reason, who feel that it is a sinkhole and that it is impossible to make real, lasting change.

But, if you are one of the growing number of funders looking at arts and social justice, think about this:

  1. The most important issue in arts education is equity. Children of color in underserved urban school districts are being denied access to engagement in the arts, engagement that is about learning, democracy, art making and experience, creativity, youth development, community building, and more. It is ENGAGEMENT, folks. It is equity. It is inherently SOCIAL JUSTICE.
  2. Arts Education blends the interests of arts and education, combined with larger issues related to demographic changes and equity in ways that are fundamentally aligned, but somehow many miss this point.
  3. There are organizations doing ground level work in community organizing, public policy, community engagement, capitalization, technology, and more, putting their institutional necks on the line in the name of equity. They put those necks on the line through coalition building, public rallies, legislative advocacy, media advocacy, and speaking of truth to power.
  4. I sometimes wonder how many who are so enamored of arts and social justice, that don’t see the forest for the trees when it comes to arts education, have ever stood on the steps of City Hall, shoe-horned an elected official, issued a public statement that challenged the civic elite, or had the pleasure of being labeled as hostile by those in power? I would wonder how many have seen the communities gathered, built, connected, and respected by arts education?
  5. While the key issues in arts education are equity oriented, the vast majority of funding in arts education goes to direct service, leaving those who want to advocate to survive on the razor’s edge, even in the good times.

Okay, I am frustrated. And the older I get, the less likely I am to filter. There you have it. To anyone who thinks this was a hostile missive, read the words again and think again about what Manuel Pastor, Marc Freedman, Linda Ronstadt, Janet Brown, Eugene Rodriquez, and others had to say about arts education. Take a moment to rethink. Be part of the velocity of change in your very own backyard.

One more time: Arts Education is Social Justice.

I don’t think the conference planners could have chosen a more perfect performance to illuminate the meaning of the conference than that of Los Cenzontles. It was the real deal. It was the complete package. The music could not have been better. It was traditional and new. It reflected the moving target of what it means to be Mexican American, particularly in how it drew from traditions, while being influenced by other streams of music and culture. The performances were fully committed, from the heart, soul, and tied to great technical abilities. The story of Los Cenzontles was about the building of community, embracing of tradition and change. They used video and very old instruments. They were sweet, funny, touching, and superbly honest. And, if you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved it.

I tip my hat to all concerned in the planning and execution of this conference. I take away so much about the nature of change, that must be reflected upon, and integrated into my own work in my own community. The shapes are indeed shifting, and we must not only shift with it, but do it in ways that make sense for those ready to come along and those not. Just like Los Cenzontles, the shapes must be old into new and the reverse. We must recognize that the pace of change is not static, and not mistake a snapshot for something more long-term. Ultimately I believe in what Sandy Gibson said at the Irvine Foundation session, that we must be savvy and intentional in how we pilot, how we try and fail, as well as succeed. We must all recognize that a commitment to the scientific method, as well as embracing organizational cultures that are based in learning and artistic practice, is not only who we are but what will enable us to evolve in healthy, productive, and essential ways.

Sorry for the speech-ifying. Thanks for indulging me.

Bye from San Francisco.

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GIA Wrap Up

Good morning.

“And the beat goes on…………………………”

GIA – Day 3:

The final day at any arts convention is usually a little anti-climatic.  People are checking out in the morning, some off for early flights; others are staying over to see friends or play tourist — there are good byes and promises to be better at staying in touch; vague expressions of follow up on mutual projects — some conceived this week after food and drink; and last look arounds to see if you can find long lost friends who are listed on the participant list, but who inexplicably you have not crossed paths with in three days.  There are, of course, scheduled sessions and the obligatory final plenary or meal.

BTW – congratulations to new GIA Board members elect:

  • Maurine Knighton – Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Felicia Shaw – San Diego Foundation
  • Laura Zimmerman – McKnight Foundation

I went to a session supposedly on one of my pet interests — Building a Larger Table:  Cross-Sector Collaborations in the Arts – organized by two capable and unquestionably bright stars in the arts firmament, but alas for whatever reasons – this session didn’t deliver.  From the title I assumed the gist of the presentation would try to center on how you can build that larger table and include case examples of what works and what doesn’t in making cross-sector collaborations happen.  I had hoped that there might be a cogent, organized presentation of some basics for successful cross-sector collaborations, or at least a set up that would have encouraged some deeper discussion that would drill down to some of the obstacles encountered, and the means for overcoming those obstacles in attempting to make this kind of thing work.  In conversations during the break with other people who sat in on this session, there seemed consensus that it just didn’t work.

There were some pearls of wisdom but you had to reach to find them, as the presentation tended to wander and ramble and seemed to lack focus.  One of the lessons that was mentioned – ironically then – was that “focus” is an essential element in forming successful, workable collaborations.

Two other quips caught my attention:

1.  I’m not sure what this was used for, but I love it as a title for an effort:  “Building a Base Before the Next Crisis.”; and

2.  Everybody involved in the effort to establish a collaboration has to believe that it is a cause worth fighting for.  That is a lesson that can be, and I suspect, often is overlooked.

I think collaboration is such an important issue for funders that I hope GIA continues to include it as subject worthy of devoting time, energy and session time at conferences.

I dropped in on the tail end of Richard Kessler’s session:  The Challenge of Change:  Public Policy Advocacy for Arts in Education, and I just want to mention Richard’s spot on part plea / part admonition to GIA members to fund those who are trying to work in the policy arena to change public policies to embrace arts education and the other priorities that we share in advancing our sector.  He cautioned that if funders don’t fund that kind of activity –  the advocacy in the trenches and the work to make public policy reflect both the value of the arts, and the needs of those engaged in nurturing and facilitating that value – then it will not happen.  And that for us to advance arts education it must start with our involvement in fashioning public policy.  We cannot and will not move arts education anywhere near where we want it to be, if we do not engage in changing public policy.  He also asked funders to ask themselves what their role – collectively as part of GIA – which is the trade association of the arts funder world – should be.

Janet Brown was in the session, and as much as anyone in the field, she understands exactly what Richard was saying.  She knows the essentiality of being involved in public policy formulation and she knows from practical experience how it works, and why collective ‘concerted’ action is necessary to compete with other sectors that have their own agendas and demands that vie for public policy decision makers to address.  One challenge for GIA will be to determine for itself how far it wants to leverage the power of its collective voice in this area.  My sense in talking to people over the past three days – from the far corners of the arts funding world – is that an increasing consensus in support of working more together in collaboration is becoming apparent, and that while individual funders are trying to find solid ground on which to stand within their own worlds, they are paying more attention to being part of this larger world together.  There are some very, very smart people involved here, and as Richard Kessler reminded them: they are the only ones in the room who really do not directly benefit from taking a stand in the policy arena — other than moving things forward.  I hope GIA members can overcome the hurdles of convincing their own boards that support for policy formulation makes sense, and that GIA – as the trade association for arts funders – can play a logical role in leveraging the combined strength of its members.

My take-away from this conference is that the arts funder’s legacy of acting pretty much alone is no longer thought to be the preferred way to approach goals, and certainly not  a viable way to deal with the “velocity of change” that was the theme of the gathering.   I think the potential of this sleeping giant may in the not too distant future surprise even themselves.

On a personal note (and another reason I like these gatherings) —  I was able to corral several people whom I have wanted to interview for the blog, and now have those commitments (some good stuff coming up in the future).    So I enjoyed myself this week.   Had some very good conversations, saw old friends (Olive Mosier I looked and looked for you and I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to spend some time with you), I laughed, learned some things, and came away optimistic.  And but for some rain on Monday, the city shined (I was right, wasn’t I Daniel Windham?)

Safe journeys home to all those who came to our city.  Thanks GIA.

Don’t Quit.

Barry

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