This is apparently the month for Createquity guest-blogging. In addition to my contributions to Barry Hessenius’s NEA group blog, which continues this week with several panelists from the commercial music and television industries, I will be doing double-duty next week: running the official blog of the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference in Brooklyn, NY starting on Sunday, and contributing to a week-long discussion about emerging leaders in the arts for Americans for the Arts’s ARTSblog. More on both of those in short order.

  • Blogging at Parabasis, 99 Seats asks, “If [you] just slapped an MFA from whatever school you like most on your resume and left it there, who would question you?” It’s a provocative question, and unfortunately the answer is probably very few people. But this is nothing new – remember when the dean of admissions for MIT had to resign because she faked her own credentials? The more interesting question that it raises for me is this: if getting an MFA is increasingly seen as a requirement to get anything produced in the theater, how do all those MFAs distinguish themselves from each other? Maybe by getting an even higher degree? We’re already seeing it in music, where a master’s degree is no longer enough to make it in a lot of fields (notably conducting). This kind of “degree inflation” is happening in arts administration too, where enough people are getting master’s degrees that the degree itself doesn’t mean as much on its own as it used to. Net result: everybody’s getting smarter, but taking on more debt to do it.
  • Maryann Devine has quietly started reviewing marketing books at smArts & Culture, which is definitely the kind of thing we need more of (see Series, Arts Policy Library). Her latest entry is on Chris Anderson’s Free, about which she has mainly positive things to say. For another perspective, check the Clyde Fitch Report, in which Leonard Jacobs considers Anderson’s book from the perspective of professional arts criticism, blogging, and a column by noted music journalist Norman Lebrecht. Finally, at a site called QuestionCopyright.org, Nina Paley goes the whole hog and says, “It is assumed that a) Artists are inherently entitled to monetary compensation for their Art, and b) copyright is a mechanism for this compensation. I challenge both assumptions.”
  • Sean Stannard-Stockton has had a nice run of posts lately over at Tactical Philanthropy. In “Philanthropedia,” he points us to a new resource that surveys a network of experts for their opinions on the best nonprofits working in  a range of cause topics such as education and climate change. The assessments include not just the rankings and generic/public info about the nonprofits, but also a qualitative assessment of strengths and weaknesses for each organization. A good step in the right direction. In “Philanthropy at the End of the Recession,” Sean points out that, if indeed the Great Recession is nearing an end (a big if, mind you), now is a great time for nonprofits to retool and prepare for coming capacity building efforts. I think that’s true if said nonprofits have fully internalized the depth of the economic downturn and remodeled themselves as leaner, meaner organizations. However, those that have managed to squeak by without major cutbacks to this point might still have layoffs and other cost-cutting measures in their future, as foundations adjust their 2010 and 2011 payout levels to incorporate the full extent of their losses in the market in the past year. Finally, Sean has a guest post from the Nonprofit Finance Fund’s George Overholser, who puts forth a “bullet point manifesto” on how far we can expect impact evaluation to take us in our understanding of charity effectiveness. I have to say that I kind of love this format and may explore using it myself.
  • Compelling cases: over at New Voices in Philanthropy, Trista Harris (and E. J. Dionne) make a convincing argument for why the nonprofit sector should accept the Obama  administration’s proposal to lower the cap on charitable deductions for the super-wealthy in order to pay for health insurance reform. And at Better Together, Grantmakers in the Arts executive director Janet Brown comes out swinging on the subject of politically-motivated attacks on the National Endowment for the Arts. I was really glad to read these words from someone in her position: “The culture wars these days are not about culture. It’s a war about power and about winning. We need to call it what it is. And we need to continue with our work that unapologetically aspires to brighten the lives of all Americans.” Go Janet!
  • Thank you to Gary Steuer for making my job that much easier. Steuer, the Chief Cultural Officer for the city of Philadelphia, has an awesome direct account of what’s going on with the Pennsylvania arts budget. Apparently the much-dreaded “arts tax” (which is really just the application of the state sales tax to arts organization tickets and admissions) is not happening after all. On the other hand, it looks like the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts will sustain a cut of about 27% in all – not as bad as in some states, but still pretty bad.
  • Speaking of Philadelphia, I am coming to admire Peggy Amsterdam and the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance more and more. The latest news is a $750,000 grant program based on the GPCA’s recent audience engagement study, Research into Action: Pathways to New Opportunities. True to the report’s name, this has to be the fastest time on record that one of these research reports has been translated into a bona-fide new grant program.
  • The wise ones speak: go read some great tips from social media Beth Kanter on measuring the effectiveness of your blog; Adam Thurman warns us not to focus so much on thinking outside the box that we forget why the box is there.
  • What a difference a year makes: even real estate developers in New York are falling over themselves to offer cheap (temporary) storefront spaces to artists now.
  • RIP to Suzanne Fiol, founder of the experimental music space Issue Project Room, who passed away at only 49 last week after a battle with cancer.
  • I’m happy to report that Lalithya Vaidyanathan, one of the co-authors of the “Breakthroughs in Shared Measurement and Social Impact” report that we analyzed last week as part of the Arts Policy Library series, has chosen to engage us in dialogue with an in-depth response. Everyone should go read it here. This kind of serious and constructive dialogue around texts is exactly the kind of conversation we hope to foster here at Createquity.

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