Had a quick trip to NYC for a bona-fide Chinese wedding banquet, complete with a 12-course (!) meal and embarrassing games involving the bride and groom. In other news, I’ll be blogging the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference on October 18-21 in Brooklyn, NY. Let me know if there’s anything you want me to try to check out.

  • There are a lot of other cool conferences and panels coming up besides GIA. I unfortunately can’t make this half-day mini-conference on Wednesday in NYC, but if you go please tell me how it is — the Clyde Fitch Report will be providing coverage as well. Next week brings us the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit in Philadelphia, PA – “no frills” registration is only $75. Americans for the Arts is putting on the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in my current home base of Providence, RI on October 30-November 2, and I will be moderating a panel on the creative economy at the Net Impact North America Conference November 13-14 at Cornell University. And too late to register for this one, but it’s nice to see Ben Cameron from the arts program at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation tapped for a conversation about innovation across the spectrum of social philanthropy.
  • I was glad to see that last week’s postings on Americans for the Arts’s economic impact study Arts & Economic Prosperity III managed to make their way around the web. One of the more interesting responses came from theater blogger 99 Seats, who brings up a great point:

    If you want to argue that art is unnecessary, then you better be ready to argue that sports are even less necessary. And, yes, many, many people argued that it was a poor use of public funds to build [the new Yankee S]tadium. But that didn’t stop it.

    99 goes on to argue that this is why we shouldn’t use the economic impact argument for the arts. I draw a different lesson from the comparison. The Yankees were able to get a billion dollars of subsidy for the new stadium because they have more local political clout than Broadway. Why do they have more clout? Well, part of it certainly has to do with class issues. Broadway is very expensive, and most people can’t afford to experience it more than occasionally. But hey, tickets to Yankee Stadium aren’t cheap either. No, I think the bigger issue is that Broadway is seen as an amenity that, despite being in New York, belongs to tourists more than it belongs to New Yorkers. Whereas the Yankees have an indisputably local appeal. (They also have broader, free or bundled distribution through television and radio than does Broadway.) They’re also only one team (or two if you count the Mets), whereas Broadway has many theaters and shows, making capture of the local imagination more difficult for the latter. Anyway, what this example tells me is that a sense of belonging and local ownership/pride builds local political clout. Can an economically-focused argument help to build these things? Maybe in some places more effectively than others. It no doubt has to be only one prong of a broader strategy.

  • Looks like Maryland arts dodged a bullet with the state’s latest round of budget cuts. Meanwhile, this site uses cool data visualizations to illustrate the vastly disproportionate impact of the cuts to arts funding in British Columbia as compared with other funding priorities.
  • Culture Monster has more on the NEA conference call debacle, with some of the first actual reporting I’ve seen from the mainstream media courtesy of the LA Times‘s Mike Boehm. Boehm correctly identifies Patrick Courrielche as more than a disinterested filmmaker (though he mistakenly lists Courrielche as Yosi Sergant’s former employee, not his boss), and picks up on the fact that the conference call participants went out of their way to deflect an explicitly political question from an audience member towards the end of the call. Boehm also looks into the charge that Courrielche may have broken the law by secretly recording the conversation (answer: maybe, but there’s a loophole that could get him off the hook) and gets the back story on a couple of health-care-related links on the NEA’s website that were recently removed. Meanwhile, ArtNet Magazine gets into the act with a great, long op-ed on the matter, and a conservative commentator (who, thankfully, sees through this particular tempest in a teapot and is not afraid to say so) provides some advice to his colleagues on the other side:

    Shouldn’t liberals be asking, why doesn’t the administration stand up for someone who’s [sic] offense was actually figuring out a way to “creatively” advance the administration’s objectives? […] Realistically speaking, if a political base doesn’t believe that a politician or an administration is willing to stand up for that base’s principles — and the people in the administration trying to effect those principles — the base will lose heart and confidence.

    Yup.

  • The mainstream media repeats conservative talking points about Obama administration “scandals” with no further investigation? You don’t say. Meanwhile, the nonprofit media ascendancy continues: following in WNYC’s footsteps, public radio station WGBH in Boston has put in a bid on the city’s commercial classical station, WCRB. WGBH plans to transfer its classical programming to the new station, opening up the parent station for news and talk radio. Over on the left coast, the USC Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles has formed a partnership with nonprofit story crowdsourcers Spot.Us to integrate the innovative model into its academic programs, and Bay Area financier Warren Hellman is sponsoring journalism big-time. And while not a nonprofit, this is certainly new in other ways: a (print) photography magazine in Australia was conceived, compiled, and published in barely more than a 24-hour span using HP’s MagCloud on-demand printing technology.
  • I’m getting ready for my own contribution to Barry Hessenius’s NEA mega-blog next week. For this week’s panel, which debuts tomorrow, Grantmakers in the Arts head Janet Brown has released a set of recommendations for new NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman.
  • The Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance has released a new study on cultural engagement conducted by a range of consultants. I doubt I could do a better job summing it up than they did without running it through the Arts Policy Library ringer, so I’ll just link you to the press release. Also on the research front, Richard Florida points us to a study that apparently draws a link between the pre-Industrial Revolution concentration of bohemians in cities in Germany and subsequent regional economic growth.
  • Local arts news: Dallas is getting ready to unveil a new arts district (though reaction is mixed judging by the comments). Milwaukee has received a grant from the US Economic Development Association for a study that “will identify, map, link, and strategically foster the creative/innovation industry micro-clusters that both exist now and that should be a future priority within the region.” Sounds like a cool project!
  • At what appears to be a new blog called Partners in Performance, John McCann comes out with a big, bold idea:

    Let’s consolidate the numerous national discipline-specific arts service organizations into one robust, influential, and vital American Institute for the Arts. Each discipline would have its own division where areas of specific need could be addressed, yet the new Institute would provide substantial economies of scale (no need for many CEO’s, development officers, etc. etc.), and a cohesive, coordinated approach.

    This comes after a few participants in the Barry’s Blog NEA discussion discussed the Endowment’s potential (and largely untapped) role as a convener for the field, especially across disciplines. McCann’s idea has attractive elements, but a service organization for service organizations may be a more realistic interim solution. Yes, it’s adding more infrastructure, not less, but in this case I think the benefits could be substantial: more so than other arts organizations, service organizations tend to have similar and often overlapping programming such that greater coordination and cooperative planning could be of substantial benefit. Maybe down the road, further consolidation could be a possibility.

  • Looking into philanthropy’s crystal ball: Lucy Bernholz continues to decode the future, Sean Stannard-Stockton portends the continued decline of foundation grantmaking into 2010 and beyond, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy has published the entire contents of its latest (normally subscriber-only) issue online.
  • While trolling the job search listings the other day, the following entry caught my eye:

    How to Apply:
    You must use JobScore to apply, See below. Please no phone calls.

    You must answer the following question in your cover letter:

    When was FAB Alliance signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg?

    And I thought to myself, what a great idea! I posted the other week about how Generation Y was finding itself in a new kind of rat-race, one in which the lowered convenience and time barriers to pursuing certain opportunities (like jobs) was feeding a cycle of encouraging people to submit more and more applications, increasing competition for everyone. Well, this strategy effectively acts as a screening device, asking applicants to perform a basic research task on spec — albeit one that shouldn’t require more than a 10-second Google search — discouraging people who aren’t seriously interested from applying and allowing the company to filter out applicants who don’t include the information automatically. To me, this is fairer and smarter than other techniques like requiring a certain email subject line with the application, since the ability to follow directions by rote is not the same thing as the ability to search and find relevant information. (For the record, I decided not to apply for this particular opportunity.)