what I would like for christmas. from funders.

I was recently having a conversation with a few of my arts administrator friends reflecting on some of the more recent funding initiatives we’ve seen of late and wondering – who sets the priorities?? if anyone were to ask me – and all due respect to createquity but those of us who didn’t go to grad school are unlikely to get invited to the decision-making meeting – I’d say we’ve got a serious gap between life in the trenches and the major initiatives being undertaken by big time funders.

FIRST – I would like to see a real commitment to infrastructure and human capital. Arts organizations, particularly small arts organizations, like small businesses, are labor-intensive. they rarely pay well, they rarely have adequate human resources departments, there is no “career track” or performance reviews, incentives for performance, nor any investment in professional development.  The arts admin infrastructures that have developed – like the grad school MFA programs in acting – have stifled innovation, creativity and resourcefulness. There should be more investment in small arts organizations and helping them develop adequate governance and management capabilities, there should be a commitment to making small, innovative arts organizations places where people can build careers, not just survive for a few years before burning out.

SECOND – Funders should start thinking about ways to use funding to encourage interdisciplinary, arts/non-arts collaborative projects. Part of the audience development problem is a relevance problem. Funding innovation means funding start-ups – not just big established orgs or “innovative” programs in those orgs. And many start-ups arise around a single project rather than an abstract idea.

THIRD – bigger investment, for longer commitments to smaller organizations. Really invest deeply in a few, small, innovative organizations and commit for ten years. I have heard that a big part of the success of Philly Live Arts is due to really deep support from the Pew Foundation that worked with Nick Stuccio on growth, infrastructure, planning, etc. Growing good art ecosystems requires long-term, substantial support.

I think numbers ONE and THREE are pretty related. There are numerous other things I would like from Santa and the Funders.  I think support for independent producers would also be an interesting thing to explore.

PERSONALLY – I would like a funder to fund me.  But that’ll take more than all the Christmukkah wishes I’ve got.

One Response to “what I would like for christmas. from funders.”
  1. I’m with you 100% on 1 and 2, though I think a number of funders are already trying to do some things with technical assistance/management training, it’s just inadequate to the demand/need. I also mostly agree on #3, though 10 years seems like a pretty big commitment unless it’s for a truly exceptional idea/project, and I think funders would need to set some pretty specific intermediate goalposts and hold the startups to them so they don’t end up throwing good money after bad in the event of a fiasco. Here’s hoping Santa/Hanukkah Harry grants your wish!

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