Arts & the New Administration:
Perspectives from Artists, Arts Workers and Field Leaders

December 13, 2017Arts and the New Admin Cover Image

In the spring of 2017 I joined up with a group of fellow arts consultants and former arts funders to find out what individual artists and culture workers in America thought about the incoming Trump Administration. We created an online survey and 1,100 people from 47 states working in a range of artistic disciplines and types of organizations participated. We also interviewed 15 arts advocates and culture sector leaders.

We put together a report that contains findings from our survey and interviews and our recommendations about what we, as a consortium of individuals who care deeply about our country and who have devoted our lives to the ideal that the arts are inseparable from a just, healthy, inclusive society and a fully-realized life, believe we need to do next.

READ THE FULL REPORT: Arts and the New Administration

Winter is Coming: What the Culture Sector Needs to Worry About Now
December 2, 2016

While we could wait to see what Trump and an emboldened Republican Congress does before considering our response I agree with Van Jones that now is the time to “hope for the best and plan for the worst.”  So, with regard to Trump and the damage his administration and a Republican Congress could do to the arts in America, let’s understand what the “worst’ could plausibly look like.

READ THE FULL BLOG cross posted from The John Nicholas Brown Center for the Public Humanities & Cultural Heritage

And now a word from the Crime Desk…
April 26, 2016

When I worked as a program officer for a foundation one of our grantees got into trouble with the IRS. They had not paid their payroll tax for several years and the Federal Government was not happy. I was reminded of this episode when I read this horrific story in The New York Times….

Read the full blog here>>>

Thinking & Acting Strategically
March 1, 2016

Plans are great but they don’t do anything by themselves. And having a strategic plan is no guarantee that your organization will act strategically.

Read the full blog here>>>

Can I Just Plan on Winning a MacArthur Genius Grant Please?
October 8, 2015

It would be great if the MacArthur folks had deep enough pockets to buy every artist the capacity that Eisenman says she can now afford, but of course they can’t. So planning for an angel to descend from on high and take all the ‘outside stuff’ off your plate is really no plan at all. But that doesn’t mean that serious artists and small-budget arts organizations can’t develop strategies to enhance their capacity.
Read the full blog here>>

Who was Simon Kuznets?
July 9, 2015

Normally I do not gravitate to articles about economic statistics, much less the history of them. But Adam Davidson is a canny writer and I was drawn in by his recent NYT Magazine article about them and the stories they tell and the ones they don’t. Davidson’s essay on why the US Government tracks certain data (the number of employed adhesive-bonding-machine operators, for example) and not others (Python vs. Java programmers, for example) led to an interesting fellow named Simon Kuznets…
Read the full blog here>>

Fire in the Belly
July 8, 2015

Diane Ragsdale posted her provocative take on new research by the James Irvine Foundation on arts participation and recommendations on approaches arts organizations can take to engage audiences.  I wrote 500 word comment and figured, hey, that’s a blog post!
You can read it here>>

Talking Data! Data! Data! map
August 27, 2014

Increased demand for data-literate professionals in the nonprofit and public sector echoes a theme heard in the conversations we’ve been a part of: knowing what data is important to collect, assess, and apply is vital to running a cultural organization today.
Read full blog post>>

Reflections on Intersection 
June 7, 2014

My thoughts on the announcement by Intersection for the Arts that their business model is not sustainable and they are contracting programs, laying-off staff and restructuring.
Read full blog post>>

Is It the Product or the Package? beermug
May 7, 2014

A friend of mine who works in advertising told me once about a brewing company who came to his firm looking to rebrand their beer. The client was convinced that their poor performance in the market was due to the lame packaging, the unappealing name, and the crummy commercials they’d been running. My friend said that that was all undoubtedly true. Then he took a sip of the beer and realized they had a bigger problem.
Read full blog post>>

Cash Reserves: Too Much of a Good Thing?
March 15, 2014

Warning: this post could be annoying, and should be filed in the “nice problems to have” folder.
Recently I was speaking with a client about their cash reserve. I thought it was too big. He suggested I sounded a bit like Paul Krugman and I took that as a complement.  Funders, donors, and non-profit finance professionals have worked diligently with social change organizations for years to help them understand basic principals of capitalization and expand definitions of non profit capitalization but not enough attention has been paid on how and when to put capital to work.
Read full blog post>>

To Be (a charity) or Not To Be, That is the $40 Billion Question
December 20, 2013

In his column Robert Reich makes a fair point to say that rich people patronize certain institutions because they’re elite, but the capacity of these organizations to be more democratic — to provide free admission, scholarships, education programs on and offsite – is a function of someone paying for it. Limiting the ability of arts organizations and private universities to raise money from those who have it (i.e. the wealthy) to put on programs and provide services for those who don’t only widens the gap culturally, educationally and, I’m sure Reich would agree, politically and economically too.
Read my full post at National Arts Strategies’ Field Notes at>>

The Sustain Arts Project: Data, The Arts and Working Smarter (Online and Off)
November 4, 2013

The New York Times used to have a section of their Sunday paper called Databank. An expansive collection of financial information thrilling to anyone who couldn’t get enough from the charts and graphs filling the regular weekday Business section. The Internet made the print edition of Databank obsolete a few years ago but since then data has burst through to every other section of the paper, and so it seems, our lives.
Read my full post on the Foundation Center site>>

Larry Ellison Has $100 Million for a Boat…How About a Little for the Arts?OracleGG
October 4, 2013

The Bay Area is an arts mecca and home to the world’s largest tech companies. One would think the arts and tech communities would have a lot in common and, with corporate support of the arts rising, the local tech giants would make local arts organizations a philanthropic priority.  But that’s not the case.  So, who do Google and Apple give their money to? What causes do mega-wealthy tech entrepreneurs underwrite, how do venture capitalists give money to do good and what can an arts organization do to make a compelling case for local tech-sector support?
Read my full post on the Theater Bay Area site>>

Balancing the Best of Today and Tomorrow
September 10, 2013PendulumAcadSciences

The title of Angie Kim’s recent post articulates a vexing challenge for service and intermediary organizations very well: Nonprofit Membership Associations: Serving Members Today or Shaping the Field for Tomorrow?
Kim, Director of Programs and Membership for Southern California Grantmakers,  contends that these two mandates are not inherently in conflict and membership organizations can say yes to both.
But can they really do both really well?
Read full blog post>>

Next-Gen DonorsNextGenDonors
July 19, 2013

There are 122 million Americans under the age of 50. They have, or will inherit $40 trillion.
When it comes to giving some of this money away, what do they care about?
Through the recently released #Next Gen Donors report it becomes clear that some of their interests and criteria for philanthropic engagement present a serious challenge to the arts and culture sector.
Read full blog post>>

Handmaking America –Book ReviewIvey_handmaking-america
July 7, 2013

Book review in Grantmakers in the Arts’ GIA Reader, Summer 2013 on Bill Ivey’s new book Handmaking America

The Warped Bay Area Economy
June 27, 2013

I’ve read two distressing (and lengthy) articles recently about what the latest rise of the 20-something technorati means for the Bay Area. In the East Bay Express Ellen Cushing focused on the disconcerting materialism of engineers and coders who earn gobs of money; in the New Yorker George Packer examined the clunky way in which entrepreneurs and CEOs are getting into the mud politically. Both pieces point out how rich kids and their mega-rich bosses are warping the Bay Area economically and dooming San Francisco to be a de facto gated community/playground for a wealthy and overwhelmingly white elite.
Read full blog post>>

Has Crowdfunding Revitalized the Arts?
June 15, 2013

Thanks to Kickstarter $1.7 million was raised for 381 dance projects in 2012 –  an average of $4,600 per successful campaign, an amount larger than the median awards given by The Zellerbach Family Foundation’s Community Arts Program and Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H Grant program (those in the Bay Area will appreciate the frame of reference).
It’s a good size number but it made me wonder if I should take the CEO of another popular crowdfunding website’s declaration that “crowdfunding has revitalized the Arts at a time when public programs that support it are steadily dying off,” at face value.
Especially given the recent crowdfunding backlash critiquing famous and well-heeled fundraisers for raising money they don’t appear to need; and the awkwardness of giving or not giving (or not giving very much) to peers, friends, fellow artists or even family members.
Read full blog post>>

Guest Post on NAS’ Field Notes Blog
May 12, 2013

Guest post on National Arts Strategies’ Field Notes at Building Cultures of Innovation, Embracing Change and Becoming More Foxy

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