Quick announcement: Createquity Writing Fellowship alumna Katherine Gressel is curating an art show! And raising money for it!

OK, back to regularly scheduled programming…



  • Rob Stephany is the new director of the Economic and Community Development program for the Heinz Endowments in Pittsburgh. The program will coordinate with each of the Endowments’ program areas – including arts and culture – on place-based investments.
  • Outgoing Hewlett Foundation President Paul Brest offers a rundown of outcome-oriented philanthropy’s growth in the decade he has spent at the top of the one of the nation’s largest funders.
  • What good has organized (i.e., foundation) philanthropy accomplished in 100 years? GiveWell’s Holden Karnofsky analyzes a hundred case studies from Joel Fleishman’s book The Foundation: A Great American Secret to find out.


  • The Chicago News Cooperative, a nonprofit news site launched with major support from the MacArthur Foundation, is suspending operations, at least in part because the IRS apparently isn’t sure that newspapers can be nonprofits. Or at least that’s the reason given by MacArthur, whose legal counsel wasn’t satisfied with the fiscal sponsor relationship that CNC had with local public television station WTTW. Regardless, there’s some egg on the face of MacArthur, who invested $1 million in what is currently looking like a failed experiment. Meanwhile, a lot of us are anxiously awaiting the IRS’s long-anticipated arrival into the 21st century, in which real journalism will hopefully be recognized as a genuine public good.
  • The Metropolitan Opera is the latest arts institution to adopt dynamic pricing.
  • Following up on our post about bad public art, John Metcalfe shines a light on a European conceptual public artist whose prankster aesthetic seems to involve annoying as many people as possible.
  • Brandon Reynolds takes an in-depth look at Kansas City’s jazz district, a creative placemaking initiative that hasn’t been very successful thus far.
  • Some good news for a change: Hawaii’s symphony orchestra is back from the dead. And there’s a new “fire arts” festival in Pittsburgh.


  • It’s been a big couple of weeks for Big Data. First, the New York Times ran an article trumpeting the increasing importance of statistics and number-crunching in daily life (and the opportunities that abound for those fluent in such matters), to which Fractured Atlas’s Adam Huttler responded with a post about FA’s data initiatives in the arts. Michael Rohd had an interesting post on the artist as data scientist, making the point (which I completely agree with) that stories and emotions are data too. Joe Patti comments on the creepy side of Big Data, especially when the subject is us. And bringing it all back to the Grey Lady, their data artist in residence (yes, that’s his actual title), Jer Thorp, gave a well-reviewed speech at TEDxVancouver that is worth a watch.
  • Great article on Data Without Borders, a startup nonprofit that connects data scientists with nonprofits in need, founded by yet another New York Times staffer. They’ve been getting a lot of (well-deserved) attention, and while still very young, could end up being the most significant fieldbuilding organization since GiveWell.
  • Theatre Bay Area and its indefatigable Director of Marketing and Communications, Clayton Lord, are out with a new book on intrinsic impact in live theater. The anthology’s centerpiece is a study commissioned by TBA from WolfBrown of theatrical performances in six cities, using WolfBrown’s unique methodology for understanding intrinsic impact (basically, the emotional or cognitive effects that arts experiences have on individual participants). There are also four original essays and a number of interviews with leaders in the theater field. While the book is only available for purchase, the folks at TBA are rolling out a series of excerpts and supplementary material that can be consumed for free; check out this interview excerpt with Diane Ragsdale as an example.
  • A new study purports to demonstrate a positive impact on test scores for Chicago public school children receiving arts education.
  • Helicon Collaborative is out with a new paper looking at the characteristics of arts organization “bright spots” in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Adrian Ellis revives the supply & demand conversation in a big way with this expansive article for the Grantmakers in the Arts Reader.
  • The NEA hosted a roundtable on arts education standards and assessment last month; you can read a brief report here or watch the webcast here.
  • Welcome Joanna Woronkowicz, new program analysis officer at the NEA’s Office of Research and Analysis.
  • The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s Kevin Bolduc writes about the progress of the Charting Impact project, which asks nonprofits to fill out a simple form describing their intended and actual results.
  • Cogent article from the Foundation Center’s VP for Research Larry McGill on the value of being transparent about limitations in data quality.
  • Interesting field experiment attempting to measure the effect of social pressure on charitable giving. Cool research design, although as several commenters point out, it would have benefited from a more sophisticated control.
  • There’s a Journal of Art Crime?
  • We too, are having a festival of fire arts. Coast to coast trend? http://www.santacruzmah.org/event/3rd-friday-march-fire-art/

  • Will Moss

    Data Without Borders’ Jake Porway was featured in a talk at last year’s PopTech in Camden, Maine:

  • Andy Solomon from the MacArthur Foundation got in touch to share this statement that MacArthur put out in response to the Chicago News Cooperative story. If true, especially the bit about the project vs. general support not affecting the level of grantmaking, then it would seem someone at CNC’s been spinning a tale to the media. I also think I was a little hard on the foundation regarding its “failed” investment in CNC – frankly, we should all (myself included) be encouraging foundations to take risks that might result in failure, not shaming them. In any case, it’s sad to see a journalistic enterprise go under like this, regardless of whose fault it may be.

    Statement of Elspeth Revere, Vice President for Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, on the Chicago News Cooperative
    February 22, 2012

    “The MacArthur Foundation supports the production and distribution of news and documentary programs for television, radio, and the Web that help inform the American public about important domestic and international current affairs and policy issues. We provide grants to about 15 national news organizations ranging from NPR and the PBS NewsHour to Investigative News Network. None of these organizations receives all of its support from MacArthur; many receive far less than $500,000. In no case do we monitor or get involved in any editorial decisions at these organizations.

    “We provided early support to the Chicago News Cooperative (CNC), awarding its first grant very quickly in order to help it make its deadline to start publishing in The New York Times. We did so because we believed it was important to back an experimental new model for substantive local news coverage, however risky that model might have been. Since CNC started in 2009, we provided a total of $1 million in grants. We were working on a renewal grant to CNC when it notified us that it was closing. While we had not yet recommended a specific amount, whether our funding came in the form of project support or general support would have had no bearing on the size of our grant.

    “CNC had other funders, both national and local. We do not know whether any of them were asked for emergency support. We do know that CNC was testing different approaches to raising revenue in addition to foundation grants. The slow economy may have contributed to the lack of immediate success of some or all of those efforts.

    “We are sorry to see the CNC come to an end in its present form and hope that it is successful in maintaining some elements of its work in the future. MacArthur is committed to continuing our 30-year history of support for non-profit journalism because informing the American public matters as much now as it ever has.”