Live from Cleveland: Arts Philanthropy in Action

I’m going to let you in on a little secret (okay, maybe it’s not such a secret): for the better part of the past decade, I’ve been fascinated with arts philanthropy. Ever since I was a low-level staffer in the development department of the American Music Center, I wanted to know why grantmakers made the decisions they did. Did they know what it was like to be on the ground, trying to get people to come to your show, trying to make a fledgling venture work? Did they see even a tiny fraction of their applicants’ concerts, events, and exhibitions? Did they care that their decisions might make a genuine difference in the ability of my organization to do its work? That someone’s job might even hang in the balance? Or for that matter, an artist’s career?

The sense of mystery that I felt was only exacerbated by the shroud of secrecy that the world of arts philanthropy continues to draw over itself. Some of our nation’s largest arts funders are among its least transparent. I just got back from the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference, the only annual national gathering of arts philanthropists of all stripes, which is still largely closed to non-grantmakers and this year discontinued its recent practice of inviting bloggers to report on the proceedings from within.

So I thought it was notable when I was invited to participate on a grant panel that eschews this behind-closed-doors approach. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the major government instrument for supporting the arts in Cleveland and its suburbs, was formed several years ago through a voter-passed tax levy on the sale of cigarettes. Like many grantmakers, especially government funders, CAC uses a panel of outside experts to help adjudicate applications, rather than handling those decisions at the staff level. A key feature of CAC’s panel process is that it is open to the public. Starting this morning at 10am Eastern time and continuing through 5pm tomorrow, I will be in a room at PlayhouseSquare’s Idea Center along with my six fellow panelists, CAC program staff – and an unknown number of members of the public, including the representatives from the very organizations we’re evaluating. The audience is not allowed to participate in the discussion itself, but they are invited to answer questions posed from the stage and correct “objective misinformation” presented by the panelists – so if any of us do a poor job reading an application, we’re not likely to get away with it.

While this public panel is not unique in the arts (the San Francisco Arts Commission has a similar process for its Cultural Equity Grants program), as far as I know, CAC’s is the only one that can be followed remotely, from anywhere in the world, via live stream. So I’m inviting you, dear Createquity reader, to join me in this rare, public glimpse into a real live grantmaking session. The 64 proposals I’m reviewing are part of the Project Support II group, which means they are all requests for $5,000 or less and come from a wide range of organizations, including some very small and grassroots entities. If that sounds like the kind of grant you often find yourself applying for, I think this could be an particularly educational experience. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, either here or – hell, let’s create a hashtag – #CuyArtsC. (This is chosen to match the official CAC Twitter account, which posts updates throughout the day regarding the progress of the panel.)


Cool jobs of the month

Program Associate, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation seeks a Program Associate in the Performing Arts Program. The position reports to the Program Officer and requires close collaboration with two other Program Associates and an Administrative Assistant.

Responsibilities may include, but will not be limited to the following:

  • Conduct proposal review for music-related grants, including financial and project budget assessment.  Assist Program Officer in communication with grantees to guide them throughout the proposal revision process.
  • Monitor grantee performance, including careful review of all reports, financial information, and other communication with directors and primary investigators.  Perform related follow up.
  • Monitor grant management issues, including modifications, matching payments, etc.  Draft official correspondence with grantees regarding such grant matters, in coordination with other Foundation departments.
  • Assist program officer in preparing and proofing docket summary recommendations, including relaying financial assessments, and generating special reports to the Trustees and Executive Staff.
  • Participate in meetings with current and potential grantees and partners administering regrant programs and prepare detailed notes for the record.
  • Assist with program schedule planning and budgeting.
  • Conduct research in connection with current and new initiatives.
  • Attend performing arts events and conferences.
  • Help plan and coordinate arrangements for on-and off-site meetings.
  • Help maintain files within the department and in the Foundation’s file room.
  • Respond to general inquiries and requests for information.
  • Stay current in arts-related news and trends in the performing arts field.

No deadline.

Arts Management Consultant, Webb Management Services

Webb Management Services is a management consulting practice dedicated to the development and operation of cultural facilities and organizations. We are a New York City-based firm, but our practice is national in scope.

 We are currently seeking a project manager to work on (and eventually lead) feasibility studies, business planning and strategic planning.  Clients include municipalities, arts organizations, foundations, developers and educational institutions.  Candidates should have extensive experience with and knowledge of arts facilities, programming, marketing, administration, finance and cultural policy.  Several years of professional experience in the performing arts industry is required.  A graduate degree in arts administration or an arts-related field is preferred.  Research, finance and technology skills and experience are a plus.  The position requires energy, flexibility, travel, public speaking, research, analysis and writing.

Please email a one page cover letter along with a one to two-page resume in PDF format to

No deadline. I know the folks at Webb quite well and they would make excellent colleagues.

Executive Officer, International Fund for the Promotion of Culture, UNESCO

UNESCO’s International Fund for the Promotion of Culture is recruiting an Executive Officer, to be based in Paris. The International Fund for the Promotion of Culture (IFPC) promotes: cultures as sources of knowledge, meanings, values and identity; the role of culture for sustainable development; artistic creativity in all its forms, while respecting freedom of expression; and international and regional cultural cooperation. IFPC is looking for an Executive Officer to work in its Paris office, with the overall task of ensuring the implementation of the Decisions of the Administrative Council, and manage on a day‐to‐day basis the Secretariat of the International Fund for the Promotion of Culture.

Deadline: October 28.

Grants Program Officer, Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County

The Grants Program Officer is responsible for providing oversight for the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County’s (AHCMC)’s grant making program, in addition to administering the various grant award and related roster processes. The Grants Program Officer is also responsible for acting as a positive public figure for AHCMC and the grants  program, and for creating an environment wherein applicants, potential applicants, grantees and the community perceive AHCMC as being both a leader and resource for the arts and humanities community.

No deadline, but the position starts on January 2, 2013. Salary is $45,000-55,000.

Knowledge Officer, Community Foundation for Greater New Haven

The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, the region’s largest grantmaker, is seeking a qualified candidate for a professional position in the Grantmaking and Strategy Department. The Community Foundation’s mission is to create positive and sustainable change in Greater New Haven by increasing the amount of and enhancing the impact of community philanthropy.

Deadline: November 9.

Senior Research Analyst, Standards and Measurement, Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy

CECP is seeking an articulate, personable, and insight-driven Senior Research Analyst to oversee the organization’s annual corporate philanthropy benchmarking initiative and to represent CECP as an eminent expert on emerging trends in corporate giving. Specifically, the Senior Research Analyst will manage the full lifecycle of CECP’s Corporate Giving Standard (CGS) survey, which is widely accepted as the industry’s leading survey of corporate contributions among Fortune 500 firms as well as by industry and national press. Reporting to the Director and working alongside a fellow Senior Research Analyst focused on a parallel project related to global measurement, this position will be accountable for annual data collection, trend analysis, report authorship, valuation guidance, and client support. The ability to find the story within the data; articulate it in presentations, media interviews, blogs, and a written report; and work closely with giving officers to understand their day-to-day issues and assist them in putting the findings to use in a practical manner are all at the heart of making the most of this exciting career opportunity.

No deadline.

Philanthropic Services Program Manager, Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University

Philanthropic Services seeks a full time Program Manager to manage The Grantmaking School’s projects. We are looking for candidates who have experience managing multiple projects, excellent written and verbal communication skills, and a strong knowledge of the philanthropic sector. The successful candidate will assist in overseeing the scheduling of annual courses, work closely with regional association and foundation partners, and conduct professional presentations.

Deadline: October 31. Salary $40,000-55,000. The position is located in Grand Rapids, MI.

Program Manager, Association of Small Foundations

The Association of Small Foundations (ASF), the largest membership association in philanthropy, seeks a Program Manager for the Educational Programs Team of its Member Services Department. This Program Manager position is ideal for someone with a desire to apply their demonstrated volunteer management, educational program development, and project management experience to a national membership association working to enhance the power of philanthropy. The Program Manager is responsible for piloting and managing ASF’s local engagement initiative, which in 2013 includes 30-40 peer-learning and connecting programs in targeted cities across the country. A cornerstone of the initiative is working in close collaboration with ASF member leaders and volunteers, colleague organizations, and funding partners. This position is also responsible for strengthening and coordinating ASF’s strategy for general member engagement and volunteer management.

Deadline: October 26.

Call for Artists, Creative CityMaking, Intermedia Arts

Intermedia Arts, a nonprofit arts center in Minneapolis, MN, is seeking four artists to participate in Creative CityMaking, a new partnership with the City of Minneapolis that fosters collaborations between local artists and City planners to develop fresh and innovative approaches for addressing long-term transportation, land use, economic, environmental and social issues facing Minneapolis.

Creative CityMaking will embed four artists in the Planning Division of the Minneapolis Department of Community Planning and Economic Development (CPED). Their collaborative talents and work will be showcased throughout the year at community meetings related to city planning projects, citywide community events, and will culminate in a public exhibition and forum at Intermedia Arts. In addition, artists and planners will come together throughout the year in a series of participant convenings, where they will share ideas, learnings, successes and challenges.

Deadline: October 24 (tomorrow). Thanks to Sharon DeMark for the tip!

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Around the horn: poolside edition



  • The New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts is the anchor attraction for a new residential development in economically challenged Newark called One Theater Square. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is cited as a model.
  • The Pacific Standard Time art festival in Los Angeles, organized by the Getty Foundation, was a big success in terms of drawing national media attention to LA and its 20th-century artists. But in terms of driving attendance to the participating museums? Not so much.
  • The Baltimore Symphony’s “Rusty Musicians” program has become a poster child of sorts for institutional programs that welcome adult audience members as participants. The New York Times‘s Dan Wakin embedded himself among the amateur musicians over the summer, and offers an entertaining account of the experience.
  • Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge CEO Derek Gordon passed away last month at the age of 57.


  • Very interesting: Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok of the Marginal Revolution blog, after talking up the coming sea change in online education, are getting in on the act with their own resource entitled MRUniversity; their first course covers developmental economics. Cowen and Tabarrok are themselves professors at the bricks-and-mortar George Mason University.
  • Is it already backlash time for collective impact? Silicon Valley Community Foundation CEO Emmet Carson plays the devil’s advocate; FSG’s Emily Gorin Malenfant offers a defense.
  • Roberto Bedoya has an important critique of creative placemaking in a new online journal entitled Arts in a Changing America published by former LINC collaborator Maribel Alvarez. Bedoya argues that in their zeal to refashion America’s communities, creative placemaking advocates have ignored “history, critical racial theory, and [the] politics…of belonging and dis-belonging” at the expense of economic development and urban planning technocracy. On the one hand, I think Bedoya’s right to call attention to the creative placemaking movement’s tendency at times to blithely dismiss hot-button cultural tensions like gentrification and social inequality. It’s something I’ve noticed and commented upon here as well, though only in passing so far. At the same time, I don’t want creative placemaking to get bogged down in academic “discourses” that delight in problematizing status-quo practices without, in my estimation, offering much in the way of practical solutions. As much as I agree with aspects of Bedoya’s critique, I found myself wishing by the end of it that I had a better sense for what kinds of arts grantmaking or programming practices promote his desired sense of belonging.


  • The Warhol Foundation is planning to sell off its collection of the artist’s work, boosting its endowment by nearly half.
  • David Byrne’s new book offers a “radically transparent” view into the economics of the music industry, through his own experiences.
  • It turns out that one of New York City’s most significant institutional funders of the arts, arguably, is one you’ve likely never heard of. Arts Brookfield is the cultural programming and presentation arm of Brookfield Office Properties, managers of several high-profile buildings including the World Financial Center. Run by Deborah Simon, Arts Brookfield spends $1 million directly presenting performances and exhibitions in the public spaces of its properties each year. The article includes this money quote: “Brookfield executives say that for them art is an investment in the core business that pays off in a better class of tenants and higher rents.” In an ironic twist, Brookfield Office Properties is perhaps better known to artists as the owners of Zuccotti Park, made famous as the staging ground of the Occupy Wall Street protests. OWS and Brookfield tussled in the press and the courts for months last year as the latter tried to evict protesters from their de facto headquarters. Perhaps strangest of all is to see Judd Greenstein, a ringleader of the Occupy Musicians offshoot of OWS (and friend of this blog), quoted in the Times article singing the praises of Brookfield now that he is curating a concert series for them: “’They have been really open-minded and flexible….You can talk to them about the power of an idea, and that’s really liberating.” Sometimes the world is very weird.


  • Kudos to the Foundation Center for coming clean about published mistakes in recent research about multiyear giving patterns.
  • One of the tragic consequences of our field’s fragmented funding infrastructure is that support for the arts tends to be concentrated in large urban metros. While especially apparent in funding for art projects themselves, it applies equally to research about the arts, which means that creative activities in rural areas fly even further under the radar than they would otherwise. A new project called the “Rural Arts and Culture Map” aims to do something about this by crowdsourcing stories, media, and video testimonials about art in the boonies.


  • A panoply of established leaders in the arts share the wisdom they have learned over the years. A highly personal and at times touching collection of lessons.

The Arts Dinner-vention Project

Readers may be familiar with the name Barry Hessenius from his annual list of the top leaders in the nonprofit arts sector. A former director of the California Arts Council and an elder in the field, Barry has long taken an interest in developing and nurturing the involvement of the  next generation of leaders, and authored a report for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation a few years back that helped lead to an increased investment in emerging leader networks by Hewlett and another California foundation, Irvine.

Barry’s always cooking up new ideas, and his latest creation has quite a kick. “The Arts Dinner-vention Project” starts off with a familiar premise: who would you invite to your dream dinner party to talk about the arts? Barry is encouraging us all to submit our ideas and nominations. A nice, if a bit superficial exercise, right? But here’s the awesome part: he’s actually going to throw the dinner party, and film it for all of us to watch!

Yup, that’s right. You could be a witness to this extravaganza, and if you submit your proposed slate of dinner party invitees to Barry by November 20, you could win a chance to watch it in person, all expenses paid. It’s important to note that Barry’s not interested in having the usual suspects be a part of this event.

We aren’t looking for the people you usually think of as exemplified by the Most Powerful and Influential list.  We want those who are to a large degree still unheralded, but who are highly regarded as the future of the field; people without the same voice as those who have been in the field long enough to develop power and influence, but who have something to say and ought to be heard.

Along with a bunch of brainiacs like Nina Simon, Gary Steuer, and Ron Ragin, I’ll be reviewing the list of suggestions and helping to narrow down the final list. The focus of the conversation will not be on rehashing old problems, but instead on offering new, concrete solutions and ideas for moving the arts forward.

To get your thinking juices going, here’s Barry’s list of “archetypes” one could bring to the party (note that these are just suggestions):

The Connector*  - the person who links us to the world; those with huge networks of contacts and who span different spheres and sectors; the bridge builder with multiple perspectives.
The Maven* – the person who accumulates knowledge; the one who is the information broker and wants to share their new information.  The constant thinker.
The Salesperson* – the charismatic person with powerful negotiation skills who plays the role of the persuader.
*the first three categories are Malcolm Gladwell’s the Tipping Point categories.

Here are some others:
The Provocateur - the person who provokes and pushes towards new solutions and acceptance of upending the status quo.
The Power Broker - the person who can move other people and organizations to act based on knowledge, insider position and the ability to identify and implement what kinds of influence are necessary to effect change.
The Visionary - the one with the long range big picture in mind; the person who sees the future – what it will be and what it might be; a realistic dreamer.
The Organizer / Ring Leader - the person who provides on the ground leadership to get things done. The take charge leader with experience under his / her belt.
The Cynic / Skeptic - the person who plays Devil’s Advocate and asks the hard questions and keeps in check unbridled enthusiasm based more on passion than reality.
The Risk Taker - the person who argues for bold moves and action now.
The Master of Bureaucracy and Detail - the person in the trenches who actually makes things happen; the one who knows how to get things done and wade through all the detail.  The one who works with the Organizer.
The Policy Wonk / Geek - the theoretician; the student and strategist who revels in overarching implications.
The Practitioner / Artist - the centerpiece of why we all do what we do.
The Technology Guru - the tech nerd who understands and revels in all the latest technological advances and who understands their long range implications and how they might be applied to the field.

I’ll look forward to reading your submissions!

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Around the horn: Amtrak edition


  • Really scary stuff about political meddling in editorial content at the Alabama public television network. Seems like one of the underreported stories of the year.


  • Congratulations to Randy Engstrom on his appointment as interim director of the Seattle Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, replacing Vincent Kitch who left abruptly in August. Engstrom won the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Award a few years back for his pioneering work with the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle.


  • Victor Kuo offers a good overview of FSG Social Impact Advisors’ work in Cincinnati to develop shared outcomes across a range of funders and help build “backbone organizations” in the region.  Kuo will be presenting with ArtsWave’s Mary McCullough-Hudson and me at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference later this month.
  • Is crowdfunding a good fit for museums? The recent experience of the Hirshhorn and Contemporary Art Museum Houston suggest not. On the other hand, with the help of superstar web cartoonist The Oatmeal, a campaign to build a museum honoring the inventor Nikola Tesla has raised over $1.35 million on Indiegogo.
  • What it’s like to (not) make a living as a poet.


  • Diana Lind on the revitalization of Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood: “It becomes harder to complain about gentrification when investment returns to the community the benefits of street lights, restored facades, new trees and eyes on the street.”
  • Burning Man is not just an inspiration for artists – according to this article by burner Jessica Reeder in Utne Reader, it also could be a model for city planners. A well-written, thought-provoking piece.


  • Interesting list of economists who support, or are practitioners of, the arts. Be sure to read the comments too.
  • Check out this super fascinating interview with young economists about the future of their field. Some quotes of note:

    Although we have accumulated considerable evidence showing that people do not always behave rationally, we do not have as good a sense of how they actually do behave and what this means for policy.

    [W]e are far from a unified, versatile, believable alternative to the rational-actor model.  I am hopeful, though, that this might be overcome—in part because of progress in the sister disciplines (psychology and neuroscience) and basic modeling, and also because empirical anomalies are forcing the economic profession to be more open-minded.  Contributions by computer scientists and physicists will help inject new perspectives into economics.

    In his famous 1945 article, “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” F. A. Hayek argued that despite their inequity and inefficiency, free markets were necessary in order to allow the incorporation of information held by dispersed individuals into social decisions.  No central planner could hope to collect and process all the information necessary for social decisions; only markets allowed and provided the incentives for disaggregated information processing.  Yet, increasingly, information technology is leading individuals to delegate their most “private” decisions to automated processing systems.

    Economics is in the midst of a massive and radical change.  It used to be that we had little data, and no computing power, so the role of economic theory was to “fill in” for where facts were missing.  Today, every interaction we have in our lives leaves behind a trail of data….The tools of economics will continue to evolve and become more empirical.  Economic theory will become a tool we use to structure our investigation of the data.


  • Cool visualization of the top-selling artworks from the past four years. I recommend checking out the “men / women” view.
  • Lots of people are talking about Walk Score, but some users (including me) find its ratings a bit unreliable in practice. Urbanist Steve Mouzon thinks it’s because Walk Score misses the crucial point that some places are simply much more pleasant to look at than others, and that affects how far people are willing to walk. Two adjacent suburban strip malls might have lots of amenities clustered in one place, but no one wants to walk from one to the other, because walking through parking lots is soul-destroying. So Mouzon has developed the interesting concept of Walk Appeal as a potential next-generation index of walkability/livability.
  • Amazon releases its book sales data in the context of an interesting political “heat map,” which suggests that GOP voters buy more politically tinged books, proportionally speaking, than their Democratic counterparts do.
  • Michael Hickey is examining the details of nonprofit arts organization budgets in New York City in a multipart series for his new blog, Man About Town. In his first post, he finds that four institutions (which he doesn’t name, but I’m guessing are the Met Museum, the Metropolitan Opera, Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall) received nearly half of all the dollars granted by the city to arts organizations in 2010. His next entry discusses the mysterious “Other Earned Revenue” budget category that accounts for more than 20% of earned income across all organizations. A third includes testimony to the NY City Council on the impact of the arts on small businesses and community vitality. And finally, Hickey makes a passionate argument for data aggregation tools for New York City (hmm, that sounds familiar). The Municipal Arts Society of New York (which absorbed the research functions of the Alliance for the Arts after the latter organization dissolved last year, and for which Hickey has done some consulting) has a new report out exploring some of these topics in more depth.


  • Cool story from Michael Kaiser about getting fathers involved in their kids’ ballet dancing.
  • Great, hilarious taxonomy of jazz musician career archetypes. One of the categories is simply called “The Industry,” which includes this definition of the “arts administrator”: “This well-fed, parasitic middleman—typically a jealous amateur musician formally trained in non-profit business administration—may work either directly for the government or for a government-funded non- profit presenting agency. Either way, he or she enjoys a salary and accompanying benefits unthinkable for a working jazz artist.”

Miami Beach, DC

After a brief respite this summer, I’m back on the speaking/conference circuit and looking forward to seeing some new places and new folks! In a couple of weeks, I’ll be livin’ the dream and presenting at the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference about our work with ArtsWave in Cincinnati.

October 14-17
Grantmakers in the Arts Conference
Eden Roc Hotel
4525 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL
Info and registration; GIA is open to grantmakers and “national partners” only.
(I’ll be presenting at the session entitled “Collective Impact and the Arts: A Dispatch from Cincinnati” on October 16 from 9:30-11am, along with ArtsWave’s Mary McCullough-Hudson and FSG’s Victor Kuo. In addition, Fractured Atlas’s Adam Huttler will be a part of the “Technology, Data, and Metrics: Emerging Tools and Practices in Asset Management” session on October 17 from 9:30-11am.)

And on Monday, October 1 (aka today!), I’ll be reprising my “Well-Informed Arts Professional” workshop as a guest lecturer in Andrew Taylor’s “Survey of Arts Management” class at American University. Will post the slides after I’m done.

UPDATE: And here they are!

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Cool jobs of the month

Lead, Local Arts Advancement, Americans for the Arts

The leader of the Local Arts Advancement area is a strong leader who designs and executes programs that provide support and resources to those working throughout the country to advance the arts in their communities. To do so, the position designs, implements and oversees a series of programs and services to increase the knowledge, visibility, and engagement of professionals in the field of arts and culture.  The leader is a knowledge expert on the full diversity of Local Arts Agencies and the organizations and individuals engaged in local arts development—their budget trends, programs, innovations, and their diversity of structures and organizational and leadership needs.  S/he leads a team that implements innovative professional and leadership development programming, convenings, on-line resources, peer networking opportunities, strategic partnerships and other essential tools and services.

Deadline: October 8.

Kickstarter Analyst, Kickstarter

When you’re browsing Kickstarter, do you wonder what makes a project succeed? Question how one project affects the others? Feel a need to analyze the effects of social networks on projects? If those or other data-related questions run through your mind, and you’re ready to answer them, come lead those efforts as our Kickstarter Analyst.

No deadline. Thanks to Sarah Collins for the tip!

Research and Evaluation Officer, Wallace Foundation

The Research and Evaluation Officer has an integral role in fulfilling The Wallace Foundation’s commitment to using an evidence-based approach in our initiative strategies, designing and managing major research projects, and broadly sharing knowledge. The officer contributes to identifying high leverage knowledge gaps; manages important research projects to fill knowledge gaps and help shape policy in the Foundation’s fields of interest; and contributes to the development of strategy for initiatives. The officer reports to the Director of Research and Evaluation.

No deadline.

Policy Associate, Community Solutions

The Brownsville Partnership is a comprehensive community development initiative in Brownsville, Brooklyn sponsored by Community Solutions that involves government and not for profit organizations and local residents. Through this collective approach we are building a safer, healthier, and more prosperous community. Our approach combines innovations in physical and social development and a strong reliance on data to guide investments and measure progress in a neighborhood of concentrated poverty.

The Policy Associate, under the supervision of the Director of Research and Evaluation, will analyze the impact of internal CS programs in Brownsville and community-wide efforts to increase the safety, health and prosperity of Brownsville residents. The Policy Associate will also provide research and analytic support for the combined group of stakeholders working together in the Partnership and will assist in gathering and visualizing data consistently from partner organizations and other local and public sources.

No deadline.

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Around the horn: Tampa/Charlotte/Chris Stevens/47% edition

It’s been a while!


  • Bob Lynch reports out on the recent activities of the US Travel & Tourism Advisory Board.
  • Americans for the Arts was out in force at the Republican national convention, organizing a panel with a Mesa mayor who skipped his own election to be there (he was running unopposed), former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, and, uh, “jazz musician” Bernie Williams.
  • Future of Music Coalition legal intern Joseph Silver looks into how the first sale doctrine, which affords consumers the right to lend or resell copyrighted works they lawfully purchase, is adapting to the digital age.
  • Shannon Litzenberger reflects on her two years as the first ever Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow and describes five models for fundraising and “friendraising” for the arts from the US, Canada, and Australia.
  • The Economist hosted a weeklong debate on the topic of “Should government fund the arts?” Such debates pop up at least once a year (I participated in one in May), but this one is notable for its distinctively English flavor and also for a guest appearance by Adam Huttler on day 4.
  • Jo Mangan has a substantive report from the first-ever International Culture Summit in Edinburgh.
  • Did you know that the mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland is a comedian? As in, a real comedian, not a career politician who does some stand-up on the side?


  • RIP Louise Nippert, heiress (by marriage) of Proctor & Gamble fortune who gave many millions of dollars to the arts in the Cincinnati region over her lifetime.
  • Congratulations to Jennifer Ford Reedy, the new president of the Minnesota-based Bush Foundation (no relation to the two US Presidents). Reedy had been chief of staff and vice president of strategy for Minnesota Philanthropy Partners.
  • …and to Carolyn Ramo, new executive director of Artadia: The Fund for Art and Dialogue.
  • Sadly, arts philanthropy has lost a rising young star in Deepa Gupta, who jumps from program officer for the MacArthur Foundation to director of education initiatives and strategy for the Boeing Company in Chicago. Great news for Deepa, though, and perhaps there will be opportunities for her to be a voice for the arts in her new role.


  • Boston’s public television station WGBH has acquired Public Radio International, which produces Ira Glass’s “This American Life” among other programs.
  • It’s apparently contract renegotiation season, and the orchestra world is absolutely filled with stories of hardball negotiations between musicians and management. Witness: the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, previously lionized in these pixels for its innovative marketing, slapped musicians with a proposal for 57%-67% cuts (subsequently moderated); the Indianapolis Symphony proposes to cut wages by 45%; the Minnesota Orchestra might be headed for a lockout after offering musicians a 34% cut; San Antonio is on the brink; Philadelphia may be out of bankruptcy, but is not out of the woods. Meanwhile, perhaps inspired by their teacher compatriots, the Chicago Symphony musicians went on strike for three days even though they were offered an increase in base pay in their new contract, because it came with a corresponding increase in health care costs. The CSO players are among the best-compensated in the country. And even museum workers are getting into the act, with employees of San Francisco’s DeYoung Museum and Legion of Honor trotting out the ol’ inflatable rat in front of the grounds. Diane Ragsdale wants to know why can’t we all just get along? Well, I like this approach: the Atlanta Symphony musicians said sure, we’ll take a pay cut, as long as you administrators take one too. And here’s a novel idea: the Milwaukee Symphony just hired its principal trumpeter – and union representative – as its new chief executive.
  • For-profit NYC rock venue takes to crowdfunding site, builds audience, avoids bankruptcy. Indie bookstore in Palo Alto converts to hybrid corporate form, raises nearly $1 million. (part 1part 2part 3) Are artists and nonprofits about to get a whole lot of fundraising competition from well-loved businesses that can no longer pay the bills?



  • Here’s some more reaction to the new research report on cultural facilities, “Set in Stone,” from Joe Patti (and again) and Janet Brown.
  • Keith Sawyer has another (very lucid) take on last week’s NEA “How Art Works” convening and the accompanying system map.


  • Starting next year in Kansas City, Google will offer super high speed internet for about what you’re paying Time Warner or Comcast – and basic internet for free.
  • I’m sometimes characterized as a “numbers guy” in the arts, but the reality is that I rarely find myself performing mathematical operations more complex than arithmetic. That being the case, I can get on board with this:

    ”Why do 50 percent (probably closer to 70%) of engineering and science practitioners seldom, if ever, use mathematics above the elementary algebra/trigonometry level in their practice?” If algebra is the limit for most engineering and science professionals, why does a typical citizen need algebra? As Hacker says, much more useful than algebra is quantitative literacy: being able to estimate, judge the reasonableness of numbers, and thereby detect bullshit. Our world offers plenty of practice.

    …and here’s more from Dr. Mahan, on long division:

    I’ll illustrate with an actual example of division. For my environmental-protection lawsuit, now in the Massachusetts Supreme Court, I needed to divide 142,500 by 4655. Here is the long-division calculation, my first use of the method in 30 years: [snip] The calculation took me a few minutes with paper and pencil, some of the time to reconstruct the algorithm details and to get the bookkeeping straight — even though I already knew the answer quite accurately. I knew the answer because I had already applied a more enjoyable method: skillful lying.

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Early fall public arts funding update


The big news last month was the campaign for and passage of a millage (property tax) in Detroit to support the beleaguered Detroit Institute of the Arts. Hyperallergic’s Jillian Steinhauer and ARTSBlog’s Kim Kober are celebrating the new legislation, which passed easily in Wayne and Oakland counties but only by a hair in suburban Macomb. The DIA took the campaign very seriously, spending an astonishing $2.5 million on raising awareness and getting out the vote, despite facing little organized opposition. It’s clearly a victory for hard-nosed arts advocacy, but I only wish that victory (and the resulting tax revenue) could have paid dividends for the entire arts community rather than a single institution, as it does in places like San FranciscoDenver and Cleveland. If other arts institutions follow suit, as Terry Teachout suggests, we could end up with an extremely unhelpful patchwork of government support for the arts whose lack of flexibility is written into the law. On the other hand, the voters in Detroit and environs have spoken, and it’s a meaningful testament to the DIA’s community relevance that this measure was able to pass. Indeed, attendance at the museum has jumped (at least temporarily) since the vote was taken. (Nina Simon, Diane Ragsdale, and Maria Vlachou have more.)

The first draft of the much-ballyhooed 2012 Chicago Cultural Plan has been unveiled. Conducted by Lord Cultural Resources for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, the plan contains a mind-bogglingly ambitious raft of recommendations for the city’s next few decades, based on participation by about citizens in four town halls, about 20 “neighborhood cultural conversations,” meetings, interviews, and online. All in all, about 3,000 people have participated, according to the draft. This extensive process produced 36 recommendations and hundreds of potential initiatives, which, if collectively adopted, would add tens of millions of dollars to the city’s annual investment in the arts. The reaction so far has mostly focused on this level of ambition – as Chris Jones writes in the Chicago Tribune, “if half of the recommendations in the draft of the Chicago Cultural Plan — heck, even 5 percent of the recommendations — were implemented, Chicago would become an artistic nirvana without global peer.” It seems obvious that the initiatives are not intended to be implemented all together – but it seems like an effective plan would prioritize specific actions in a clear sequence, not just present a gigantic brain dump of options. There are other criticisms as well – most notably, the Chicago Reader points out that “nine of the ten priorities and 33 of the 36 recommendations are updates or restatements of items in the original Chicago Cultural Plan, commissioned in 1985.” The final version of the plan is due to be released this fall. There’s more reaction and commentary – not all of it negative – from Kelly Kleiman, Elysabeth Alfano, Tanveer Ali, and Philip Hartigan.

In other local news, the Fort Worth (TX) Arts Council has had its budget cut by 25% as a result of recent financial issues for the city.  By contrast, there’s not much going on at the state and federal level. But remember the Kansas Arts Foundation, the nonprofit that was supposed to replace the Kansas Arts Commission after the latter’s budget was zeroed out by Governor Sam Brownback? Well, it ended up raising $105,000, but surprise surprise, has not made any grants.


The real action these past few months has taken place outside of the United States, and unfortunately most of the news has been bad. Europe’s financial instability is not surprisingly having an effect on government support for culture in countries suffering from high debt, particularly Greece, Spain, and Italy. Greece’s spending has dropped 35% since 2009, and in Italy,

[T]he Uffizi Gallery in Florence is renting itself out for fashion shows, and Rome’s MAXXI Museum has been placed under state receivership. The building opened just two years ago and was feted internationally for its splashy design by architect Zaha Hadid, but after its €7-million ($8.7-million) subsidy shrank by 43 per cent, the museum could barely cover staff wages.

In Spain, the Fundación Caja Madrid has closed 48 cultural centers around the country, and analysts fear thousands of creative sector jobs are at stake. The arts are feeling the pinch in some of Europe’s richer countries as well. After suffering through a cut of 25% last year, the Netherlands culture budget is looking at potentially losing another up to another 16 million euros to meet EU debt targets, and even Finland of all places is tightening its belt (while increasing funding for sports clubs).

In the South Pacific, Australia is in the midst of a major upheaval to its arts funding system. Following a review by two “corporate advisors,” the Australia Council for the Arts is restructuring many of its programs and considering doing away with its discipline-based peer review system that mirrors in many respects that of the National Endowment for the Arts. And speaking of transition, the UK is changing culture ministers (who apparently won’t be missed) and chairmen of Arts Council England (the new guy’s claim to fame is bringing the TV show Big Brother to the Brits). Just two years after sustaining substantial cuts, Arts Council England is facing the prospect of having its administrative structure decimated, resulting in the loss of up to 150 staff members by next July. But hey, at least ACE is pioneering a new program to help encourage more paid internships in the arts!

Meanwhile, the past couple of months have featured more than their share of repression of artistic statements by conservative governments. The recent cause celebre of free speech advocates has been the all-female Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot, who were sentenced to two years in a forced labor camp for staging a 45-second guerrilla art performance at an Orthodox church. Coverage of the initial sentencing was extensive, but Jillian Steinhauer has been keeping a close eye on the aftermath of the decision. Meanwhile, officials in the island nation of the Maldives have banned mixed-gender dancing altogether and discouraged any singing and dancing at government-sponsored events, deeming such activities contrary to Islamic values. And the right-wing leadership of Hungary has actually gone the opposite route, co-opting the government-controlled Budapest New Theater so as to promote performances of an anti-Semitic play.

Finally, three very sad stories from Africa and the Middle East show how art can be grievously impacted by the absence of a functioning government. First, in Mali, a gang of Islamic fundamentalists has wreaked havoc on the historic treasures of Timbuktu. In Somalia, a comedian (yes, a comedian) was assassinated by members of an extremist group in retaliation for his biting satire of said group. And in war-torn Syria, many museums, monuments, and historical treasures are either at grave risk or are already lost, recalling the disaster that befell Iraq’s cultural heritage following the American invasion in 2003. These tragedies may seem far away, but referring to the upheaval in Timbuktu, Delali Ayivor puts it in starker terms: “Imagine a group of people who make no apologies for desecrating your history, who revel in the destruction of your identity. Envision then, the sense of helplessness, the horror as you watch them dismantle the Statue of Liberty, the Lincoln Memorial, The Alamo, Ground Zero, as they set fire to Yosemite, set off a blast that decimates the Grand Canyon.” Yikes.

Sorry to be depressing! I wish I could tell you that there was some good news for arts funding coming out of the international arts community during this period, but there seems to be precious little to celebrate. Just one of those accidents of history, I guess.

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Live-blogging the “How Art Works” convening

NEA Systems Map

[7:29] Oops! I ran out of juice (the electrical, not the metaphysical kind) just as things were wrapping up. Anyway, I thought Andrew Taylor did a great job of moderating that last panel and pointing out some of the more interesting features of the model as it’s been developed. At the end of the day, as he pointed out, this was developed to satisfy a federal OMB requirement for all departments to have logic models describing what they do. And since the NEA now has that, it’s mission accomplished in a sense. But I can’t help but feel that this was a missed opportunity to dig deeper than we’ve yet seen into the detailed dynamics of how arts work. Tony Siesfeld at one point put up a slide of an insanely complex drawing by a RISD student to illustrate what the model could have looked like had they tried to map everything, implying that this was something to be avoided. But honestly, I think we need that complexity – or at least, that’s where the true value of these efforts lies, since no one seems to be eager to take it on. I don’t have any gigantic issues with the model that was shown today other than that it seems, well, kind of obvious. It’s the other aspects of the presentation – particularly how the model fits into the NEA’s research agenda, and how the NEA has used it as a framework for gap analysis – that intrigue me more.

[5:08] Kushner: same mapping process will work for other countries, but values attached to different nodes may be different. (But that would require values to be attached to the nodes in the first place!)

[5:00] This panel is really elevating the conversation. Making a valiant attempt to connect the map to everything else.

[4:49] Roland Kushner: who are the audiences for this research? Are we the wrong people? Also struck by relative absence of dollars in the system. If these benefits are flowing one way, what’s flowing the other way? Also wishes that it said more about aesthetics.

[4:47] Andrew Taylor loves the fact that “Human Impulse” needs to “jump” over the system in order to get into it.

[4:45] Roland Kushner: what happens when we start to fill the holes? What do we do with it next?

[4:44] Lots of praise for the NEA’s research work on this panel, which consists of David Fraher, Roland J. Kushner, and and Kathy Dwyer Southern. They’re particularly responding to the fact that the agency is reaching out to other arms of government and trying to do work in context.

[4:36] some chatter about the “Education and training” bucket. Does it refer to education and training of artists or of the general public? Also, how does this translate between cultures?

[4:30] Questioner making the point that the map placing the arts in the center is perhaps too comfortable for artists. Anne L’Ecuyer says it’s “mapping the artistic ego.”

[4:10] Ximena Varela questioning subsuming of economic impact into the larger “benefit to society and communities” category in the main map.

[4:03] John Borstel making useful analogy of the map to anatomy – understanding how all the parts work together.

[3:37] Creating a taxonomy or “menu” of arts benefits also seems like a solved problem. Gifts of the Muse explored this territory seven years ago, and I see it is heavily cited in the report. I also like Alan Brown’s “Architecture of Value.”

[3:35] My thoughts: I’ll be interested to dig into the report further, but from this presentation I’m surprised that it doesn’t get into more detail. The result is, as the first questioner pointed out, a very highly abstracted framework that seems like an anticlimactic result for a year’s work.

[3:30] OK, break time. Next panel: Impacts on Individuals, moderated by Anne L’Ecuyer, with panelists John Borstel, Shahin Shikhaliyev, Ximena Varela.

[3:24] Regarding the virtual research network, sometimes NEA feels like they’re a step behind the field – they’re especially wanting to tap into international dialogue about arts research.

[3:20] Joan Jeffri, commenting from the audience, commends everybody on job well done, makes plea for continuing to involve graduate students.

[3:17] Sunil ending with a couplet for Joan Shigekawa via Frost: “We dance around in a ring and suppose. But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”

[3:16] Sunil: The “dark horse” of the report is the appendix listing resources and data sources, available online here.

[3:13] Cross-cutting projects to support capacity building include research grants, an online data repository, and a virtual research network.

[3:11] Sample NEA research projects for second-order outcomes of the arts (societal capacities to innovate and express ideas; outlets for creative expression; new forms of self-expression): The Arts, New Growth Theory, and Economic Development; Analysis of Arts Variables in the Rural Establishment Innovation Survey; Study of Design Patents and Product Innovation. Shortage of high quality research in this domain.

[3:09] Sample NEA research projects for direct and indirect economic benefits, benefit or art to society & communities, benefit of art to individuals: NEA-NIH-NAS Public Workshop and Paper Series on the Arts and Aging (completed); National Children’s Study Arts/Music Supplement; Arts and Livability Indicators; Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account

[3:07] Sample NEA research projects for arts participation: An Average Day in the Arts (completed); SPPA 2012 First Look, Summary Report, and Monograph Series; GSS Arts Supplement Report and Monograph(s)

[3:05] Sample NEA research projects for arts infrastructure and education and training (input variables): Artists and Arts Workers in the United States (completed); How the United States Funds the Arts (3rd edition); Understanding Arts Education Access by School and School District Characteristics

[3:04] NEA says that they’ve taken the map and painted upon it the NEA’s research projects over the next five years. “Arts participation” has five projects, “arts infrastructure” has four, “benefit of art to individuals” has 10.

[3:01] NEA has a five year strategic plan whose research goal is to promote knowledge and understanding about the contributions of the arts. Emphasizing “contribution” again. Also distinguishing between evidence of the arts’ value vs. impact. Value is primarily internal, impact refers to effects on arenas outside the arts.

[2:59] Over to Sunil Iyengar, Director of the NEA’s Office of Research and Analysis, who will talk about how this work fits in to the NEA’s research agenda.

[2:57] Audience member/choreographer expresses gratitude for having art at the center. Alludes to shift in funders’ perspective.

[2:55] AFL-CIO’s David Cohen delivers a provocative question: what happens if you take out the word “art” and replace it with “science”? Points out the very high level of abstraction. Siesfeld does say that they tried it with “sport.”

[2:53] Obligatory “more research is necessary” message delivered: Siesfeld calling the map “a beginning, not an end.”

[2:48] Key findings of the project, as reported by Siesfeld:

  1. System map reflects several key “truths” reaffirmed throughout this collaborative research project:
    • Nice to see that art is at the center.
    • The human impulse to create is a key driver/input.
    • Benefits are not always equally distributed and not always positive.
    • Art makes important contributions to quality of life. Not a cause per se, but can enhance or detract.
  2. System map provides “negative capability” – can imagine the system without having to resolve apparently contradictory aspects. E.g., is it high art or low art? In the map, it doesn’t matter. You could look at symphonies or mashed-up music, can test the same things.
  3. The system map does provide an integrative & holistic framework for organizing research and measurement for arts impact.

[2:46] Whoa, Siesfeld just spoke of gentrification and artist colonization in Oakland as a “net positive.”

[2:43] Discussing system “multipliers” – factors that hit the system and influence it: markets/subsidies, politics, technology, demographics/cultural traditions, and space & time.

[2:38] Siesfeld taking the position that this is a model of “contribution, not attribution.” There are many factors that can improve quality of life, art is one of them.

[2:38] Siesfeld notes that lots of attention is being paid right now to the economic benefits of the arts.

[2:37] Here’s a link to the report, which includes the map in question.

[2:33] OK, now we’re getting to content. Map has arts participation at the center, with arts creation as a subset of participation. It divides first-order benefits into society/communities (economic & civic) and individuals (cognitive & emotional).

[2:28] The process took nearly a year, and the map went through a number of revisions based on feedback from practitioners. Initial version was very simple, looking almost like a heart, but gradually got more complex as more elements were added.

[2:22] Siesfeld quoting Hewlett Foundation ex-president Paul Brest on theories of change. Initially they thought about doing a traditional theory of change, but quickly decided that what was being described was far too complex for TOCs’ left-to-right structure. So they wanted to incorporate non-linear elements, and thus went with systems mapping.

[2:18] Tony Siesfeld from Monitor Institute is now presenting the map (which, to be clear, is a conceptual map rather than a geographic map). The goals of the project are to “establish a measurement framework for assessing arts’ impact over time” and advance our understanding of relationship between the arts and key domains such as creativity, sustainable communities, health and wellness, economic prosperity. It’s also designed to flow into a research agenda by identifying which areas of the map have lots of research available, and which have less.

[2:15] The systems map so far has been variously referred to as “both too complex and too simple” and “productively inaccurate.” Reminds me of the maxim that “all models are wrong, but some are useful.” In any case, interesting to see the crew downplaying things a bit.

[2:03] Starting off with introductions from Sherburne Laughlin, Phyllis Peres, Peter Starr, and Rocco Landesman. Two simple questions: 1. What is art? 2. What exactly happens when art happens?

I’ve gotten away from event blogging for the most part, but I thought I would emerge from semi-retirement for this one since it’s the most public forum to date at which the National Endowment for the Arts has shared its plans for research. If you want to follow along, you can do so at the Twitter hashtag #HowArtWorks or watch the livestream here. Keep refreshing for updates, which will appear in reverse chronological order.