Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Speaking of funding...

I was invited recently to participate on a panel regarding fundraising in the arts. I was told by the organizer that I was being invited for my experience in fundraising for the HighWaterLine project. I told them, you know I only raised about 30% of the cost of the project and funded the rest of it independent filmmaker style (credit cards) and am still working on ways to recoup, so I'm not sure I am the best representative. They said, actually that's the other reason we have invited you, we want someone who is honest about their fundraising achievements and challenges.

I'm pretty excited about the panel, since, as you may have noticed, I am really interested in talking about new funding models.
I think there are a couple of important parts of the conversation around fundraising which need to be addressed, I will look at value/integration and support of artistic communities today...

First, how we talk about value of the arts in a community. The argument on the monetary value of the arts, while valuable and of great merit is overused and doesn't fully address all of the facets of a strong arts economy. I just read a good article in the New York Times Magazine about arts in education, it profiles a report which debunks the power of the arts in strengthening skills in the "tested" subject areas. (I've had a problem with this argument for a while). Instead it notes that what was witnessed was: "persistence in tackling problems, observational acuity, expressive clarity, reflective capacity to question and judge, ability to envision alternative possibilities and openness to exploration." (Nowhere has this been made more visible to me than the week I spent at ACPA, where high school students undertook a week long art project with me where they solved problems, collaborated, focused and expressed).Similarly it is important to find ways to talk about the broader impact that the arts has on our community psyche and collective consciousness. What does it mean culturally and socially to be a creative community?

And what does all this have to do with arts funding? It's re-framing the argument and looking deeper at the value of the arts and encouraging broader support, which gets us back to the other facets of a healthy funding environment for the arts. While city, state, and federal support of the arts combined with private support giving money or resources to both organizations and individuals provides fertile ground, an active patronage also needs to exist to help create a sustainable environment (somebody has to buy the work/tickets/etc).

The final (and possibly most complicated) pieces are both government regulation in support of arts (low rent/tax breaks for venues and orgs, housing subsidy for artists, open permitting and city agency support) and integration of arts and artists into private sector economy.
The integration could occur in a variety of ways - one idea I like is to hire artists within the corporate community to inspire creative thinking. I guarantee that if you put me on your board of directors that I would be able to see things from a different point of view and come up with creative solutions. Within the private sector artists have the ability to inspire the creativity necessary to advance companies. I would also advocate for institutions to host, essentially, artist residencies. I could provide a number of inspiring community based projects to help with any variety of Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club or NRDC initiatives.

Tomorrow I will write about creating a supportive artistic community, as an artist, and how we can help each other overcome the scarcity myth.

Images courtesy of Creative Commons on Flickr (from top to bottom):
"Fund Public Art" by bourgeoisbee
"Funds Please" by otherthings
"Creative Hands - Mindy" by Dalydose
"fuck it i'll fund that." by yatta

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