The Arts and Social Capital (cont’d)
Posted by Allison Fine on March 20, 2009
I am so grateful to all of the interesting feedback and comments and tweets and emails I received yesterday regarding the post on the loss social capital in communities across the country when arts and news organizations fold.
Wrestling with the loss of news organizations has become well worn ground for bloggers, tweeters and others, but I was very interested in some of the feedback I heard regarding arts organizations that I wanted to share.
First, the good news. I received an email from Barbara Schaeffer Bacon of Americans for the Arts, the same org that is predicting a loss of 10% of the total number of arts organizations across the country this year. Barbara wrote in her email (and subsequently posted as a comment):
But there are promising new models. I look to many exemplary small and medium sized cultural organizations that foster excellence in artistic production and presentation but do so closer to the ground in small towns and urban neighborhoods around the country. Diaspora Vibe in Miami, Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle and Cornerstone Theater in LA are three examples. They promote art, artists and cultural expression as a catalyst for engagement around civic, social and community issues. They demonstrate resourceful leadership and many have successfully encoded true diversity into their core values, mission and practice. Unfortunately, these organizations are creating social and creative capital but come to this downturn undercapitalized themselves.
I also learned about a very interesting initiative spearheaded by the Nonprofit Finance Fund called Leading for the Future: Innovative Support for Artistic Excellence to support and strengthen arts organizations over a five year period. The lessons that they learn about how to structure, stabilize and grow arts organizations, presumably (hopefully!) using social media, will be important to watch.
And finally, on a philosophical note, the brilliant Lucy Bernholz was thoughtful and thought provoking as she is in every conversation with this comment:
Don’t get me wrong – I love art and art orgs – but I worry less about them, and maybe not from a rational stance. The arts are, I think, proof that some things come back stronger the harder they get whacked. The arts always get whacked when economies tank. This doesn’t make it OK and don’t take me for a art-hating hard-heart, (I think I’m just the opposite). I just feel like we’ve seen this moment before, new structural types will emerge, and the arts will thrive again in some way we could never have planned. I think of artists like water – water always finds the lowest point and artists always find the highest ground.
I sure hope Lucy is right! Perhaps Barbara is seeing a glimmer of these new signs of hope. The key question is how sustain arts organizations that have relied for so long, centuries really, on a few large patrons. Maybe another way to put the question is: What is the “iTunes” model for living performing arts?
Lots of interesting questions, and, hopefully, lots of interesting answers soon.
This entry was posted on March 20, 2009 at 9:02 am and is filed under Social Media. Tagged: Americans for the Arts, Lucy Bernholz, Nonprofit Finance Fund. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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