Around the Horn: Far East edition

Posting has been light because I’m just wrapping up two weeks in Japan, my longest vacation in three years. As much as I attempted to disconnect from the world while I’ve been away, I couldn’t make myself let go completely, particularly since I knew that Google Reader would get very, very angry with me if I didn’t give it regular attention. (A typical weekday now dumps 150-200 blog posts in my lap.)  More on Japan in a bit, but in the meantime here’s what was happening in this hemisphere all this time:

  • Last month, I had the opportunity to participate in three different Creative Conversations (panel discussions and presentations organized by local emerging leader networks affiliated with Americans for the Arts). Materials related to two of them are now available in case you missed them. On Tuesday, October 5, I spoke at NYU’s Wagner School about measurement and research in the arts as it relates to philanthropy and advocacy with Andras Szanto and Randall Bourscheidt; the full podcast is available here. Then, on Monday, October 18, I was part of a panel hosted by the Chicago Emerging Leaders Network talking about emerging leaders and arts philanthropy with Marc Vogl and Daniel Reid. That event wasn’t recorded, but enterprising blogger David Zoltan (who has the best name this side of Guy Yedwab) wrote a nice wrap-up here.
  • The ballot for elections to Americans for the Arts’s Emerging Leaders Council has been announced, and if you’re a member of AFTA you should vote. Helena Fruscio, who was interviewed on Createquity a couple of months ago, is among the candidates.
  • Createquity friend Rosetta Thurman has just come out with a new book called How to Be a Nonprofit Rockstar, written with co-author Trista Harris (of New Voices in Philanthropy fame). If anyone can tell you how to be a nonprofit rockstar, it’s Rosetta. And in other book news, 20UNDER40, Edward Clapp’s anthology of 20 essays about the future of the arts and arts education all written by professionals under the age of 40, is coming out in December. New info about all of the chapters has been posted on the website.
  • The axe has finally fallen on Arts Council England, which after much hemming and hawing sustained a 29.6% cut to its budget. In order to limit the impact on grantees to 15%, ACE is being asked to take a draconian 50% hit to its administrative costs; in response, ACE will introduce a competitive application process for the first time, which will result in about 100 organizations losing their funding entirely. This is the first significant casualty, that I’m aware of, for the European method of supporting arts and culture primarily with government funds, but it probably won’t be the last. Already, for example, the Netherlands is considering shutting down the government-funded Netherlands Broadcasting Music Centre, which would entail the closure of three different orchestras and a library in Hilversum. The situation is leading to the odd spectacle of overseas arts groups looking to the U.S. for inspiration from our, um, oh-so-successful? arts advocacy campaigns and research. A new report from the Australia-based International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies examines eight arts advocacy campaigns undertaken throughout the world, and three of them are from the USA; Judith Dobrzynski and Leonard Jacobs have further commentary. Most European countries have little tradition of private philanthropy on a mass scale, since the government pays for public services; as that begins to change, American fundraising gurus like Michael Kaiser may find themselves in higher demand (at least, he thinks so).
  • Meanwhile, in the States, Americans for the Arts produced a “report card” for Congress judging individual Senators by their votes on several arts-related issues as well as statements of support for the arts. While this is a very, very nascent effort (indeed TenduTV has some pertinent criticisms, particularly that it was released so close to the election), I’m glad to see it. If nothing else, it points to how rarely legislation of special relevance to our community comes before our elected representatives. At the same time, perhaps we should be broadening our definition of what relevant legislation is; Scarlett Swerdlow makes a good case over at ARTSBlog for why we should be repaying housing and transportation advocates with interest in their issues since they recently showed interest in ours.
  • Finally, for some rare good news in public sector arts support: Massachusetts (which is far and away the state leader on creative economy policy) recently asked mayors from across the state to make the case, via video, for why the arts are important in their city. And my old haunting grounds in New Haven are going to start seeing more storefront art soon. Arts advocacy, at least of the traditional variety, continues to make the easiest and best connections at the local level.
  • In general, we should remember that many of the exciting new initiatives we see are really pilots, and don’t necessarily reach maturity or their true potential for a long time. Phil Buchanan says that the entire field of foundation strategy is in that stage, and I would agree. Money quote: “Too much of what passes for strategy in foundations isn’t of a high enough quality. Our research suggests much of it isn’t even really strategy.” Another good post in the series is here.
  • At least one foundation isn’t taking the arts’ demographic challenges sitting down. The Maltz Family Foundation has pumped $20 million into an endowment for something called the Center for Future Audiences at the Cleveland Orchestra. The Center “will work to eliminate economic, geographic, and cultural barriers to attending the orchestra’s performances,” with initiatives such as subsidized ticket prices, outreach programs, and nontraditional concert formats and venues on the agenda. The ideas don’t sound particularly new, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re wrong; it will be interesting to see whether the scale of the investment or details of the execution help produce the hoped-for results.
  • Here’s a new model for corporate philanthropy: Converse (as in, the shoe company) is opening a free recording studio for bands in Williamsburg. I am turning in my head all sorts of possible explanations for why they might want to do this. Very interesting.
  • RIP Arts Admin, the blog of Indiana University arts administration program head Michael Rushton.  I never understood why Rushton’s blog didn’t catch on with the mainstream arts community the way that some others did; he posted top-notch content at a fiendish pace, which is usually all you need. I had actually planned to include Arts Admin in an upcoming feature on “The Best Arts Policy Blogs You’re (Probably) Not Reading.” It will be missed.
  • Andrew Taylor has the goods on Square, a new mobile phone application that could make processing in-person credit card transactions a whole lot easier for small arts venues and individual artists (e.g., at craft fairs).
  • More coverage of the Social Capital Markets conference here. And it looks like next year’s will be hosted by the State Department!
  • A few interviews of note: Philanthropy News Digest talks with AFTA’s Robert Lynch; Culturebot snags Sam Miller (the new director of Lower Manhattan Cultural Council). Barry Hessenius has two: first, with the co-Chairs of the Presidential Committee on the Arts & Humanities (shows you why we need technocrats in this position rather than figureheads), and the second with Adam Huttler of Fractured Atlas.
  • In the latter of those interviews, Adam talks about his concept for “organic data collection” – getting data from platforms that people and companies use every day as part of their normal lives or business operations rather than through surveys that may be biased, hard to replicate or standardize, and/or plagued by low response rates. Some for-profit companies have already been exploring such possibilities; OKTrends, for example, shows how aggregating and segmenting data from millions of singles on the lookout for love can yield insights everything from racial differences to sexual norms to dating strategies. Now Mint.com, a website through which you can connect your bank, investment, and credit card accounts to each other and manage your finances holistically, has announced that it will collect local data on spending patterns throughout the United States, something that could be important for future economic impact and creative industry studies, not to mention many other applications.
  • Whaaa? Google has developed a car that can drive itself. It’s already logged 140,000 miles without an accident (except for being rear-ended once). I guess this means that if Fractured Atlas wants to be the Google of the arts, we’re going to have to step up our game. Maybe we can take on teleportation next?
  • This year’s 10 Acumen Fund Fellows recently spent a day pretending to be a poor person in New York, to see what it was really like to live on $5 a day. It might sound gimmicky, but I wish more people (myself included) had the guts to try something like this. Obviously one’s personal choices make a big impact on success or failure. But one’s assigned position on the starting line is pretty damn important too.
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    2 Comments

    1. Posted November 6th, 2010 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Our research, reviewed on this blog, on how to build broad public support for the arts came to the same conclusion about use of the word “arts” as the recent review of arts advocacy campaigns by International Federation of Arts Councils and Cultural Agencies. Their summary is: “Campaigners should be aware that the term ‘the arts’ can be vague and can have less than desirable associations.”

      First, people don’t know what we mean. And if/once they figure it out – they think about high/fine arts – which they think of as something for OTHER people, supported by rich donors and ticket sales or memberships. This perspective gets in the way of considering the arts a public good, worthy of public funding.

      The other thing that people think about when we use the word arts is entertainment. This is fine when you are marketing an event – but since choice of entertainment options is a PRIVATE choice, entertainment is also not something we think of as a public good.

      So — we can use the words arts, but always define it. At ArtsWave we say things like: “the arts — our theatre, music, dance, festivals, galleries, museums, and more!” to ensure that the public knows what we mean and finds it relevant.

      Read more about our research here: http://www.TheArtsWave.org.

    2. Posted November 6th, 2010 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Hope your vacation is rocking this world! Can’t wait for the stories.

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