Monday, December 22, 2008

Good ideas: The Give List

Ran across The Give List on idealist's blog. The Give List marks 71 ways to give without opening your wallet - a great idea not only holiday recession season, but also great ideas to add to appeal letters.

A favorite of mine that's incredibly easy, from LA Chamber Orchestra:

"If your favorite arts organization has a blog, a facebook page, or some other form of social networking – leave a comment, post on their wall, or just send them an email telling them what you love about that organization."

What other ideas would you add to your Gift List?

Good News: The Tank!

Found on Emerging Leaders of New York Arts (Google Group), The Tank moves into its new home in Jan 2009 with a subsidized Rehearsal Space and its continuing inexpensive membership! Check it out...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Have your say: Arts Infrastructure

Adam Forest Huttler of Fractured Atlas is calling for your Arts Infrastructure ideas for possible inclusion in their Arts Infrastructure proposal. Check out the blog post to post your ideas.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am SUCH a dork

I ran across this post on smArts & Culture in my reader about this website, Wordle that creates word clouds out of your own copy, and using it as a tool to re-vamp your marketing, press, donor copy. I ran the IT Awards copy to get an idea...

way too much fun...

web suggestions

Website everyone should know about: Doodle! The website with the funny name that offers the EASIEST way to get a scheduling consensus from a group of people...if anyone has other suggestions, let me know...

AND a blog you REALLY should be reading: The Mission Paradox Blog. I would point out some favorite highlights from the last month, but they've all been so good! it. LISTEN to it.

Good news!

After the not-so good news our latest study found and being in the middle of an economic crisis and all, I thought we could use some good news...The IT Awards staff got this last night right before our staff meeting from John Chatterton: After announcing staff changes, he stated:

"There is no longer any need to pay membership dues. We shall give priority to reviewing shows by our members until the expiration dates of their memberships. During the next year we will switch over to a system in which the reviewers will review shows that interest them, culled from the listings on TheaterOnline. Shows not listed on TheaterOnline will not
be reviewed, and the only way to get a listing on TheaterOnline is to
post it yourself with the online tools provided on the Web site. I
shall assign actual stories and maintain editorial standards. Reviews will continue to be limited
to Off-Off-Broadway shows only, meaning Equity showcases in New York
City or non-union productions of equivalent resources and scope."

Well done, OOBR!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Hey all I’m blogging. We never hear from Jason you say. Well soak it up, as I am self-confessed Bad Blogger. However I recently read the below posting and thought it was really great and worth passing along. At times I think it can be very worthwhile for us to look beyond our immediate work and reexamine why and how we are doing what we do and if perhaps we can do it better. Hope this inspires.

All the best for a Happy Holliday,


Jerry Yoshitomi shared this article from the November 3rd Grantmakers in the Arts Reader. The article was published prior to knowing the outcomes of the Nov 4th US elections.

The Obama Zeitgeist: Six Lessons for the Cultural Sector

1. People want to be inspired.

2. Link to a higher purpose, and herald the future.

3. The improbable is possible - with the right strategy.

4. Participation is our most important renewable resource.

5. Entitlement is dead.

6. Respect and empower the young.

No matter your political persuasion, your age, background or place of residence, your professional role or disciplinary affiliation, if you work in the nonprofit cultural sector, Barack Obama's presidential campaign holds lessons for you. The campaign marks a watershed in popular consciousness, and we will all do well to adapt - or evolve - accordingly.

Some things to ponder:

1. People want to be inspired.

Poetry counts. Language and lyricism count. Our most noble national achievements, our triumphs over prejudice and adversity, "the angels of our better natures" - they all really matter. People long for inspiration, particularly in times of significant change and uncertainty. Obama's eloquence about the power of hope and his pitch-perfect invocations of the great milestones in our collective American story have inspired millions of people to think bigger, act better, be bolder, and engage with others in new ways, and to believe in the possibility of meaningful change. We in the cultural sector will do well to remember our responsibility – and our opportunity - to inspire people's imaginations.

2. Link to a higher purpose, and herald the future.

Throughout his campaign, Obama has never missed the chance to link his campaign to a larger cause, a great public cause, the cause of a better United States, a more perfect union. Far more than other candidates, and with greater authenticity, Obama has connected his campaign to the ennobling purpose of refreshing our spirit, elevating our discourse, improving our image at home and abroad, and getting everyone focused on a common horizon: a better future for all people.

How many of us in the cultural sector authentically tie our work to the higher cause of progressive social change and a better future for people of all kinds? Might we fare better if we did so?

3. The improbable is possible - with the right strategy.

There are lots of reasons why Obama won the primary race, but high on the list is that he had the right strategy - a community organizing strategy.

Obama himself possesses the classic virtues of the community organizer: imagination; a sense of humor; a vision of a better world; an organized personality; a strong ego and sense of self; a free, open mind; and an ability to create the new out of the old (per Saul Alinsky, 1971).

And his team applied classic organizing principles in the primary campaign - starting with strategic mobilization at the neighborhood level to achieve early, assumption-altering wins. They then replicated that locally-based mobilization strategy in every contested state, fueling field workers with clear articulations of the challenge and the stakes, genuine rapport with audiences, effective communication of simple things that people could do to contribute to the cause, and continuous encouragement and appreciation of his supporters.

What would the audiences and funding base of cultural organizations look like if we approached our work with a community organizer's values?

4. Participation is our most important renewable resource.

Over 1.7 million contributors, most of them repeat donors and more than 2 million donations under $200. This sums it up. The structure of Obama's campaign has made it easy for people to contribute, made every contributor feel a valued stakeholder, and enabled his followers to get more and more deeply involved as the campaign evolved. Technology - developing that electronic social network - has been essential to his strategy. But as important have been the messages conveyed through the technology. Obama's regular email blasts give people a daily connection to the campaign and the greater cause of change, make them understand what their contributions of time and money will buy, and convey both Obama's long view and his real excitement about victories along the way.

Recent studies (such as Steven Tepper's, *Engaging Art*) suggest that cultural participation correlates with political and religious participation and that in the arts, "doing it myself" may be an important precursor to "appreciating the way the professionals do it," especially for younger people. Is there an opportunity for cultural organizations in this upsurge of new political participation? If creating catalytic participation was the primary goal of cultural organizations, how would that change our programming, fundraising, and live and electronic communications? Would it change the outcomes for both our audiences and our institutions?

5. Entitlement is dead.

In the marketplace of ideas, any whiff of entitlement is a turn-off, especially to young people. The sense of entitlement that Hillary Clinton exuded from the start of the race set her up for the fall. Technology is key to this attitudinal shift, it's the axe that levels all hierarchies.

People's increasing ability to receive and distribute information on the web diminishes the entitled class's power over ideas and cultural norms, and explodes the notion that any person or institution is sacrosanct. When people in their twenties can become millionaires (read YouTube, FaceBook, Google, and other fabulously successful Internet businesses) or challenge the nature of public school teaching and nonprofit practice (read Teach for America and Craigslist Foundation), the expectation that "the younger generation" should respectfully apprentice to their experienced, entitled elders becomes ridiculous.

In the twenty-first century, every enterprise - including the cultural enterprise - must make its case on the merits of relevance, utility, and responsive service. How many cultural institutions, consciously or unconsciously, convey a sense of privilege and entitlement that turns people away?

6. Respect and empower the young.

Obama's campaign has given unprecedented power to young people, uniquely melding the skills and experience of more seasoned political strategists (e.g., campaign consultants Axelrod and Plouffe) with the imagination and wit of much younger people. Obama's major speechwriter, webmasters and key field organizers are in their twenties! Obama has valued and maximized these people's skill sets, which include great fluency with technology and deep understanding of what motivates their cultural cohort. This generation takes technology for granted, and Obama's campaign has used the Internet with unprecedented success to get out the vote and the donations. This generation also takes diversity for granted. Twenty percent of the people under twenty-five in this country are bi-racial. Obama's field staff may be the most diverse in history. These people see themselves - and the future of our country - in Obama.

About how many cultural organizations would these people say the same? Barack Obama may or may not become president. And running any kind of political campaign, which has a finite timeframe, is different from managing an ongoing organization. But the ideas and values embedded in Obama's campaign have influenced and will continue to influence the consciousness of our larger society. It's obvious that he has set new standards for political campaigns, but he's also set new standards for performance for commercial and nonprofit enterprises. The smartest among us will take heed.

Published in Grantmakers in the Arts Reader, Fall, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

The more things change…

It is Finals week here in the Big Apple. This may not mean much for those of you already embarked on the real, grown-up world of work, but I’m hip deep in over-caffeinated summary and analysis.

As a break from the monotonous hum of my laptop’s internal fan, I attended NYU’s Wagner Alumni Association Annual Holiday Fundraiser. The WAA was screening “HAIR: Let the Sun Shine In”, a documentary about the making of the 40-year-old hippy musical, its cultural impact, and current revival. It was a treat to hear IT Awards presenter Ben Vereen and Honorary Award recipient Tom O’Horgan reminisce about the show.

I’ve heard it said that once you work on a show you either A) get sick of it and never want to hear another measure or B) fall in love with it and carry it with you always. Full disclosure: I stage managed a production of HAIR 8 years ago, and began singing along in my head all over again. The music and lyrics move me every time.

That said - the documentary is far from perfect. Milos Forman, Keith Carradine, Tim Curry, Melba Moore, and Michael Butler talk about their HAIR experiences. The interviews - both archival and new - are completely charming, but are presented without fact-checking. The “political analysis” and “current events parallels” are dubious and have all been said before. And Indie to my core I looked around the audience thinking, “Well, if you folks like radical theater so much, there is plenty of great new work that could use your patronage!”

“HAIR: Let the Sun Shine In” is worth a peek via Netflix one night. Keep making inspiring outsider art, kids, and maybe you, too, will be on French public television in 40 years. Stay warm and have a happy, healthy holiday season.