So here we are, and what do we do now?
Welcome to the Green Paper discussion on Private Sector Support for the Arts. As a way to celebrate the successes of the past 50 years, Americans for the Arts has partnered with over twenty arts service organizations and peer groups to collect Green Papers. And most importantly, we want your feedback!
I’m proud to serve as an Ambassador to the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties’ Green Paper on Private Sector Support for the Arts. This short vision of the future is meant to inspire a dialogue on the future of the arts, so I invite you to comment, make suggestions, and offer alternative visions in this virtual exchange of ideas through the ARTSblog Green Papers.
Andy Witt is the Executive Director of the Cultural Council of Richland and Lexington Counties. I encourage you to read Andy’s Green Paper on Private Sector Support for the Arts in its entirety, but here is a quick summary with questions at the end:
In the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, business and civic leaders recognized the need to support the growing diversity of arts groups, beyond the traditional symphony and museums. In communities across the country, United Arts Funds (UAFs), Arts & Business Councils (ABCs) and Business Committees for the Arts (BCAs) were established to offer centralized funding support. Businesses were happy to give one (supposedly) large chunk of cash to reduce the growing number of individual solicitations, and they would get the benefit of knowing they were supporting their community and the arts at the same time.
Then, the rise in individual income among the baby boomer population made the arts popular. Alternative theatres grew. Non-profit galleries exhibited new and controversial works of local artists. And the need for cash increased at a much greater rate than funders could provide. Enter – the government.
Cities and counties were tapped. New taxes were approved, and state arts councils made grants. But public dollars required public service, so money was made available for free events for the underserved, education programs, or other public art and cultural activities. These new grants required new programs and more staff.
Businesses, foundations, UAFs and donors came under even more pressure to support the quality and diversity of all these activities. More funds were raised in many cases, but as the funding pie grew bigger, more pieces were being cut. The slices got smaller and smaller, and in many cases, some groups got no pie at all.
However, recently the economy ain’t doing so good to be perfectly frank. Funders are faced with more difficult choices like poverty, homelessness, education and drop out rates. They are concerned about the costs of overhead, program duplication, and how their contributions are aligned with the company’s charitable goals.
So here we are, and what do we do now? Our organizations need cash that doesn’t require more work for an already strapped staff. It’s your turn to help us answer some hard questions and provide solutions about private sector support for the arts. Please give us your feedback on the following questions:Is the failure of the arts to maintain market share a short-term problem related to increased social service, health and educational needs? Or will the problem persist long-term?
- How do we define the relevance of the arts to business in the face of urgent and basic social needs?
- Are funding losses a symptom of a more fundamental problem related to donors and funders not appreciating the arts?
- How can we engage the business community as arts participants in ways other than requesting cash donations?
- Foundations appear to be dropping the arts from their funding priorities. How can we reverse this trend?
- Can we find a better way to tell the story of the benefits of the arts on social issues like health care?
- Should United Arts Funds (UAFs) change from providing the majority of their grants for operating support to a multi-level approach to foster artistic, audience, and economic development
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