Blog Posts for Community Engagement

The Social Enterprise of Being a Local Arts Agency

Posted by Richard Stein, Dec 07, 2011 0 comments

Richard Stein

When government support is reduced or non-existent, when philanthropic support wanes due to the sagging stock market, and when corporate support is increasingly tied to direct shareholder interests, the local arts agency funding model is in jeopardy.

Unlike the organizations we serve—the producers and presenters of art—arts services organizations don’t typically incite passion for the cause the way a love for Mozart, Mondrian, or Mamet will. The major gift model of cultivating members up the ladder into large donors is far more difficult when your product is a grantwriting workshop as opposed to an opera production.

A trending topic in recent years is “social enterprise.” The term means something slightly different to different people. It often reflects the creation of a for-profit company to serves philanthropic goals.

Social enterprises may also be adjunct funding mechanisms to traditional nonprofit organizations or agencies. One of the biggest examples of this in the arts world is the California Arts Council.

When its general fund allocation was eliminated by the state legislature (except for the $1 million required match to its National Endowment for the Arts block grant), the council was forced to rely entirely upon the proceeds from selling its “arts license plate,” designed by famous California pop-artist Wayne Thiebaud, and introduced in 1994.

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E Pluribus Unum

Posted by Will Maitland Weiss, Dec 07, 2011 0 comments

Will Maitland Weiss

I had a cup of tea recently with Rachel Cohen. You probably don’t know Rachel, which is too bad.

She’s a choreographer, and her dance company is called Racoco. She’s lithe and creative—and happens to be really smart and articulate (it cracks me up to know her Ivy League alma mater, a place you do not associate with turning out dance talent).

She has a day job, three days a week, in order to afford cups of tea and, really, to feed her demon within, which cries out her version of Gotta dance!

There is absolutely only one Rachel Cohen, but—you know what I mean, you know some of them—there are hundreds of Rachel Cohens. Thousands, just in NYC.

She talked to me about how Racoco partners with a couple of other dance companies to pay for a booth at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters gig in NYC each January, and for a space and time to showcase some of their work. How else, we wondered to one another, might Racoco partner with other companies?

Share the effort to get college residency bookings, and share the residencies? Share marketing, having figured out who would perform on which weekend in which venue, so every one of their precious few NYC performances isn’t on the same Saturday? Share auditions, and you know what—share hiring of dancers who can perform the work of more than one choreographer, offering them a longer, contiguous chunk of employment?

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Finding a Local Business Partner to Support the Arts

Posted by Wayne Andrews, Dec 07, 2011 0 comments

Wayne Andrews

The arts have always been a reflection of community -- creating from the cultural fiber of their environment and serving as the original grassroots marketers.

This connection between community and the artist has been the key to building support. In the technical terms of marketing professionals, artists create brand loyalty and businesses have started to recognize the value of partnering with the arts to reach their loyal customer base.

Check any social media site and you will find a wealth of businesses trying to show their support arts and charitable organizations.

Pepsi has their Refresh Project, CITGO offers to Fuel Good, Maxwell House offers Drops of Good, and Tom’s of Maine offered a nationwide promotion entitled 50 States of Good.

This drive to connect is beneficial as the programs offer access to funds for groups both large and small, while providing marketing a media that expands the reach of groups. Yet, many of these programs although seemingly altruistic, are just efforts by corporate marketing departments to create a program that makes a national company feel local.

Still, these programs have value because they encourage smaller, local companies to think about how to support their communities.

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My Year in Horoscopic Preview

Posted by Aileen Alon, Dec 07, 2011 0 comments

Michael Spring

Guru(?) Michael Spring

November -- Take ideas and turn them into concrete concepts. This is the month to unveil adventurous public art works because media and elected officials are in an uncommonly distracted state of mind due the launch of the holiday season and preoccupation with this year’s election cycle.

December -- It is OK to have a hidden agenda. Put as many items on the county commission meeting docket as possible this month -- the planets have aligned in celebratory configuration to curtail debate in the interest of good will, peace on earth, and holiday shopping for all peoplekind.

January -- Take time to get in touch with your inner budget. Now is the moment to act as though old issues are new again and assume a fresh and cheerful view as though it were not insanely optimistic to propose increases in staff and resources.

February -- Sometimes cupid plays tricks on us. Go ahead and believe that there will be love for the arts in the state legislature but redouble your advocacy efforts as the planets’ collisions over redistricting, casino gambling, and presidential primaries may deflect arts’ arrow’s flight.

March -- Adopt a playful demeanor. Never let your staff know how worried you are about forecasted revenue shortfalls, possible mergers, and the end of the world (see December below).

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Local Arts Agency - What’s in a Name?

Posted by Ms. Jennifer A. Armstrong, Dec 06, 2011 6 comments

Jennifer Armstrong

Jennifer Armstrong

Local Arts Agency -- These three words strung together cause confusion among the general public and within the arts industry.

What is a local arts agency? Even local arts agencies have asked this of me.

I receive inquiries from many discipline-specific organizations who are creating arts locally -- aren’t they local arts agencies, they wonder.

Illinois neighborhoods, villages, cities, towns, and regions are coming together and forming what could be considered local arts agencies (LAAs). However, provided with a commonly accepted definition or description, often the leaders in these efforts are reluctant to jump into that ‘box.'

Yet more and more non-LAAs seem to find a connection to LAA issues and want to join our Local Arts Network.

If I have to spend so much time explaining what an LAA is, does that label still fit?

Does it have relevance and resonance? Who falls under that nomenclature today? Is it exclusionary? Is it too wide-ranging?

Do our definitions and parameters still make sense? Does the label mean anything?

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Creating a Suburban Cultural Hub in the Metropolitan Kansas City Region

Posted by Sarah VanLanduyt, Dec 06, 2011 0 comments

Sarah VanLanduyt

Sarah VanLanduyt

How does a county arts council better serve the arts sector segment of its constituency? This is a question that began a two year conversation for the Arts Council of Johnson County (ACJC) and ended with this answer: a new website.

At first glance it’s a fairly simplistic solution; however for a small arts agency working within the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area it’s a way to reach more constituents, connect them to regional resources and build a foundation for future ACJC initiatives and partnerships.

First a little background on the Arts Council of Johnson County.

ACJC is predominantly an advocacy organization who works with community leaders to promote the cultural and economic development of the county through the arts. Some of our previous work has included developing the Arts Business Plan and serving as lead advocate for Johnson County’s One Percent for Public Art Program. Through these projects and other initiatives ACJC has developed a good working relationship with the county government but in doing so we allowed our relationship with the arts community to weaken.

In 2010, ACJC held a series of forums for arts educators, organizations, and artists, to gain a better understanding of how to support their work in the community. It also gave us a chance to learn about their concerns and challenges within the current economic and political climate.

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