For Arts Professionals in the Know
Last month I attended the first XOXO festival in Portland, OR. The event was intended to bring technologists and artists together to explore new ways of working that are possible on the internet. Most of the attendees work in the tech sector, but a few brave artists decided to attend. I, for one, am very glad that they did. Artists need to be a part of this discussion.
There is a lot that the arts and technology sectors can learn from each other, about developing an audience, about transformative experiences, and about how to communicate with large groups of people. There are lessons to be learned on both sides, and I look forward to future events that can bring these worlds closer together.
A New Role: Community Manager
The role of community manager is a great example of something that we in the arts can learn from the technology sector. The job title has sprung into existence in the last few years, primarily at consumer facing tech start-ups.
These companies need to develop and serve a base of users for their products, and the community manager’s job is to understand the needs of that community, to talk to them, and to connect their needs with the development of the core technology product.
Inside the company, the community manager’s role is to speak for the users. There’s a single person responsible for understanding and representing the needs of everyone who doesn’t work at the company. Because of that structure, there’s always someone in meetings who can talk about the experience of the people you serve. And if the community doesn’t have the answer you need ready, it’s their job to find it, and make sure it’s part of the company’s process.
These structures for tech companies on the social web have emerged organically along with the companies themselves.Read More
The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report comes at an interesting time for Portland as we prepare to launch a campaign for a transformational arts funding measure that’s headed for the November ballot.
If approved by voters in November, a new income tax capped at $35 per person will raise $12 million per year to support arts organizations and arts education in the City of Portland. Specifically, the measure would restore 65 arts specialists in elementary schools and allow our local arts agency to provide general operating support for about 50 leading arts organizations at a rate of at least five percent of their operating budgets. (Our largest organizations currently receive about one percent of their budgets from local public support).
The measure would also help our Regional Arts & Culture Council set up a fund to increase access to arts and culture, specifically within communities of color and underserved neighborhoods.
The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) is leading this initiative, and even the most recent polls have been strong, earning 75 percent approval of the actual ballot language among likely voters; we are cautiously optimistic about our chances for success.
However, inexplicably, our local newspaper recently published an appallingly ignorant editorial that dismisses the notion of public funding for the arts, and value of arts education in particular. We’re not quite sure what rock they’ve been living under, but we know they don’t represent the opinion of the vast majority of Portland residents. The letter writing campaign to enlighten them has begun! (Thank you, Bob Lynch, for your letter.)
We’ve also done polling to make sure we understand which messages are most likely to resonate with the voters, and we found that economic impact was not very high on the list. The fact that our local arts organizations constitute a $253 million industry, supporting 8,529 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $21 million in state and local government revenue was deemed “persuasive” by slightly less than half of the likely voters we surveyed.Read More
Since I started my job 4 ½ years ago, I have been looking for a way to quantify arts education. There are an overwhelming number of models circulating:
Washington State did an invited, online, school principal survey, leveraging the partnership of their Arts Education Research Initiative to elicit responses.
Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming worked with the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to develop a shared survey instrument, administered in collaboration with the four state offices of education and public instruction.
Communities involved in The Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child initiative have created extensive school-based survey instruments, drawing on the expertise of locally-formed partnerships to create the best instrument and guarantee response rates.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
With over 1,300 public schools in the state, the cost to hire a research firm to design and administer a survey instrument was prohibitive, and every existing survey instrument we looked at needed substantial adaptation to satisfy our stakeholders.
Luckily, two years ago, a graduate student in public policy at University of Oregon, Sarah K. Collins, mentioned to me that her thesis project involved pulling data from the Department of Education to examine access to arts education. The Oregon Arts Commission hired Sarah to produce a state-level summary report of her thesis, which we then published.
While the summary data was useful in tracking overall trends, it wasn’t applicable to most citizens, who wanted to know what the numbers meant for their local school. This demand evolved into what is now the Oregon Arts Commission’s newly launched online arts education database.Read More