Around the horn: convention edition

Later today, I’ll be off to Seattle for the Americans for the Arts Convention, and will be live-blogging and -tweeting my experiences there as time and internet access allow. W00t!

  • Recession blues roundup: JazzTimes is no more (at least for now); The Ford and Robert Wood Johnson Foundations are offering buyouts to 33% and 40% of their employees, respectively; it’s time for St. Ann’s Warehouse to look for a new home; charitable giving fell an inflation-adjusted 5.7% in 2008, and the arts were among the hardest-hit; and Connecticut and New Jersey join the arts advocacy fight.
  • Making lemonade department: this is a great story about a California company that is paying its employees to volunteer at local charities for part of their working day, rather than lay them off. This allows the company to take a tax deduction, making the proposal economically viable. Now that’s creative thinking!
  • Nonprofit Finance Fund and MetLife are teaming up to offer a cool-looking new technical assistance program to help arts organizations through the recession. Services “will be customized based upon need and will include workshops, webinars, recession planning and financial analysis.” Via Grantmakers in the Arts, the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation has a new initiative focused on international cultural engagement. And Atlanta-area small-to-mid-size arts organizations now have 2.5 million new dollars to play with through an arts stabilization fund.
  • I’m always curious to see what kinds of causes from the arts world break through to mainstream attention. In this case, TED’s Chris Anderson is calling for donations to fund an El Sistema fellow.
  • Sean Stannard-Stockton points us to a new information exchange platform that could have ramifications for the nonprofit sector. And to an article about that TV show The Philanthropist, which as it turns out is based on a real person.
  • One of my favorite blogs that no one seems to have heard of is Carolyn Jack’s space at Geniocity.com. She had a great post this week on gatekeepers and their role in a functioning artistic marketplace:

    Even with the Internet putting public access in reach of anyone with a website, an e-mail account or a social network, it’s clear that gatekeepers still control whose creative work gets widely seen or heard. And [there] will always be gatekeepers of some kind, as long as humans have mass communication. And that that, believe it or not, is a good thing.These days, many of those choosing the information to disseminate are self-appointed. [...] But even if every one of us on the planet ends up with a blog someday, most of us likely still won’t have real access to the public. That’s because access comes through influence, and influence comes from the ability to reach a consistently large number of people. And what consistently draws a large number of people?

    Expertise and useful, reliable, entertaining content.

    I would amend this slightly to say that influence comes either from being able to reach a consistently large number of people, or being able to consistently reach the right people. Many DC political blogs are influential even thought they reach far fewer people than, say, cable news, because the people who write the cable news shows read the blogs. What the Internet does make possible is the democratization of gatekeeper status: the point is not that everyone will become a gatekeeper (except, perhaps in their own minds), but that almost anyone could, through the combination of expertise and content that Carolyn defines above. This is a critical principle of my own vision for an artistic marketplace that I articulated back in March:

    By funding artistic systems instead of artistic producers, funders can distribute those resources to a much broader network of informed decision-makers, each of whom will make their own judgments about the artistic merit of individual players on the scene. Their aggregated decisions, awarding this date to that band and that residency to this performer and so on, collectively represent the artistic marketplace of which I speak: a marketplace in which the currency of trade is respect from one’s peers rather than the ability to draw a big-spending crowd.

  • Creative thinkers have been doing their part to jumpstart local cultural policy. Exhibit A: Louisiana is unexpectedly ahead of the creative economy curve, having identified 39 cultural districts around the state and hosted a World Cultural Economic Forum last October. Exhibit B: Portland, ME has come up with a brilliant way to compensate artists for the actual economic value they create in communities. The lede says it all:

    The City of Portland has figured out a creative way to support the arts. The new arts tax increment financing (TIF) is the first of its kind in the country. It recognizes that as artists make a place more attractive, they threaten their own sustainability. So now, when developers make improvements through renovation or construction in the Arts District, an increase in property value means giving back. A portion of the increased taxes will go to support those same individuals and organizations that played a critical role in making the area attractive to begin with and whose ongoing presence contributes to the vitality of the area.

  • This week’s BLOGGER ON FIRE is Guy Yedwab, with two great posts on the arts as social movement and this intriguing, though very complicated, scheme to turn arts funding into a game.
  • Lots of arts ed news this week. First, this case study bonanza released by IssueLab; second, this arts education report card published by the Department of Education.
  • A new book details how the whole “rational market” hypothesis came to be dogma in academic institutions and houses of economic policy alike. Meanwhile, a new report argues “that academic economists were too disconnected from the real world to see the crisis forming.” Two plus two equals…?
  • A propos of my post yesterday, the NEA’s new research on art and public participation finds further evidence of convergence between professionals and amateurs, noting that “more than 78 million Americans enthusiastically make art in their free time, but they are spending less time and money going to watch the professionals.” Seems it’s something most everyone would like to do if they had the money. Indeed, says Richard Florida, while Harvard kids are still heading into finance and consulting, if they had their druthers, they’d be artists:

    When grads were asked “what career they would choose if finances were not a concern,” the number one field was the arts, with 16 percent choosing it as their “dream field,” followed by public service (12.5 percent) and education (12 percent). Finance and consulting dropped to five percent each.

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One Comment

  1. Betsy
    Posted June 16th, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Good lord you're a smart and prolific blogger. Make sure to seek out Springboard's Laura Zabel at AFTA!

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