Tag: arts

What’s your model of relevancy?

Take a look around at the search results for “why fund the arts” and you’re sure to find plenty of preachers chatting up their choirs for a rousing “amen” or two. The arts provide enormous economic benefits to local communities and the nation as a whole. But that’s not the whole story, and it’s not exactly the most compelling reason to head out to your local theater or museum.

And if you think about it, where would you rather send your charitable dollars? Would you rather send your money to an organization that fosters public dialogue, or to an organization that helps kids with cancer? Remember: your charitable dollars are limited. If such causes as “fostering public dialogue,” or “preserving artistic forms” fall higher in your charitable priority list above kids with cancer, your priorities may not be the same as the rest of us. That’s not to say your priorities are wrong — just different. And that’s okay.

There are many benefits to supporting the arts, and I would hope that if you’re reading this, you’ve heard most or all of those reasons, both intrinsic and extrinsic. It’s up to those of us who are practitioners in the field to recognize, deliver, and communicate the value we provide in the way of both public goods and charitable activities.

Let’s get to the heart of the matter. Times are changing, and no amount of holding on to 20th century American modernist models of the funding and production of art will save your arts nonprofit. The new reality brought to us, in part, by technology forces a structural change in the way institutions operate. Gwydion Suilebhan offered a perspective on the emerging role of the arts institution in his TEDx talk: not unimportant, but different.

So why should there be public funding for the arts in this age of changing relationships between artists, audiences, and institutions? There is no single answer, but many perspectives. Some of those traditional perspectives include “fostering public dialogue,” or “preserving artistic forms,” or “economic vitality.” Other reasons, in a quick roundup:

  • “Orchestras do not play Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony faster every year.” Michael Kaiser explains why subsidies are important to keep tickets for arts events affordable.
  • “The arts are a necessity.” Claire Willett makes the case that the arts are as essential to life as food and water.
  • “The most compelling argument for funding the arts is not factual but counterfactual. The cuts … will have major and still unpredictable effects on arts provision…” David Edgar ultimately reaches the conclusion that large institutions will not survive the shift to a more participatory model of art production and presentation.
  • “The musicians will expand the imagination.” Alan Balfour, Dean of Ga Tech’s College of Architecture explains why imagining a better future is necessary for building a better future.
  • “If you ask people what would improve their neighborhood the most, the arts come up time and time again.” Nonprofit consultant Kelly Kleiman changes her mind on whether the arts should receive public funding at all.

This is by no means a comprehensive roundup. To get into reasons for funding arts in education, I’d have to go into a bottomless pit of a rabbit hole. For every conceptual reason to fund the arts, there are relevant stories to be told that can speak to the economic reasons (why arts funding should be a higher priority), the social reasons (how arts funding improves quality of life in society), the political reasons (how arts funding democratizes culture), and so on.

The point of all this is to say there are many reasons to support the arts through both public and charitable funding. With this “blended approach” to making the case, it’s up to the rest of us to act the case, and not just communicate it. The blended approach also reflects the different ways we produce and present, and how those approaches are complementary to one another, not in competition.

When we were in Toronto for a conference with our fellow service organizations, Tim Jones, one of the keynote speakers, gave his opinion on the subject of arts advocacy: why do we argue about whether the “economic value” argument or the “intrinsic value” argument is better? We use up a lot of energy as a community arguing with each other about which of these cases works best. Jones refered to the quadruple bottom line of the arts: economic value, social value, environmental value, and cultural value. These values are not mutually exclusive of one another.

So what case do you make for supporting the arts? How does your arts practice reflect the case you make? I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions.

Acknowledgements for 2010

Starting a nonprofit is not an easy task. Starting an arts nonprofit is an even more difficult feat. We would be remiss if we did not take a moment to thank the dozens of individuals who gave us advice, encouragement and love (thanks, parents of C4 staff!) in 2010.

The C4 Action Team would like to thank our board of directors, donors, family members, friends, and the following community members for their time and talents in 2010 (Please forgive us if we left out your name… We talked to a lot of people!):

Jon Abercrombie, Common Focus
Alex Adan
Chris Appleton, WonderRoot
Ivan Betts, Turner Broadcasting
Jessica Booth, Fulton County Schools
Rabbi Rachael Bregman, The Temple
Joanna Brooks, Brooks and Company Dance
Stephen Brown, MSL Group
Kim Campbell, Hub Atlanta
Dave Charest, Astoria Performing Arts Center
Claire Christie, PushPush Theater
Tripp Cook
Sally Corbett, Arts Professional
Lisa Cremin, Metro Atlanta Arts Fund
Mickey Desai, Non-Profit Snapshot
Amy Ellis, MailChimp
Lazarus Epicurus, Culinary Artist
Ron Evans, Group of Minds
Amir Farokhi, GeorgiaForward
Sally Flocks, PEDS
Liz Frazier, Just Voices
Peggy Freedman, Independent Bookkeeper
Flora Maria Garcia, MAACC
Jill George, Kaiser Permanente
Joe Gfaller, Alliance Theatre
Bill Gignilliat, ArtsGeorgia
Gwyn Grafe, Global Crossing
Virginia Hepner, Young Audiences
Sherry Heyl, Concept Hub
Shelby Hofer, PushPush Theater
Claire Horn, Core Performance Company
Maigh Houlihan, Atlanta Photography Exhibit
Mark Hubbard, Renew Social Ventures
Adam Huttler, Fractured Atlas
Erica Jameson, MINT Gallery
Chris Johnson, ifPeople
Nicole Jones, Public Broadcasting Atlanta
Margaret Kargbo, National Black Arts Festival
Justin Karr, Fractured Atlas
John Kloecker, Raymond James Financial Services
Kathleen Kurre, Techbridge
Matt Lehrman, Alliance for Audience
Will Lester, TRG Arts
Tina Lilly, Georgia Council for the Arts
Clayton Lord, Theatre Bay Area
Stacey Colosa Lucas, Georgia Shakespeare
Chris Mackie, Open Health Tools
Rachel May, Synchronicity Theatre
Dorian McDuffie, Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs
Terence McFarland, LA Stage Alliance
Jay Morris
Lisa Mount, Artistic Logistics
Adam Natale, Fractured Atlas
Adisa Nickerson, Georgia Boy Choir
Josh Phillipson, Metro Atlanta Arts Fund
Val Porter, The Foundation Center
Barbara Pyle, Captain Planet Foundation
Aileen Reed
Keif Schleifer, K S Arch Design
Douglas Scott, Full Radius Dance
Kamal Sinclair, Strategic Arts
Priscilla Smith, Eyedrum
Lara Smith, Actors Express
Douglas Smith, Theatre Development Fund
Bryan Spinsby, Inworks
Nikki Strickland, North Fulton Drama Club
Daniel Summers, Center for Puppetry Arts
Matt Tanner
Melonie Tharpe, Bolster Consulting
Lance Weatherby, ATDC
Otis White, Civic Strategies
Lisa Wilson
Susan Winter
Dan Wykoff, Veritas Financial Services
Joe Zacherman, Lifeline Center for Child Development

Resource Market for the Arts – Save the Date

Save the Date!
Resource Market for the Arts
October 4, 2010

October is Funding for Arts Month at the Foundation Center!

You’re invited to come to the Resource Market for the Arts to network
with peers and learn about available funding, resources, and services.
There’s information for everyone!

Preceding the market, Susan Weiner, executive director of the Georgia
Council for the Arts, will speak on “Arts Advocacy Now!” Come for the
program and stay for the market.

Monday, October 4, 2010
1:00-1:45pm Arts Advocacy Now!

Where: Rialto Center for the Arts

Register now

Watch our calendar for information about other programs and events in October.

Presented by:

Foundation Center-Atlanta, Fulton County Arts Council,
City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs,
Georgia Council for the Arts, C4 Atlanta,

Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund, and South Arts

The Culture of Arts: Or Just Another Story About Monkeys

Okay. You may be familiar with the story below. But stay with me. There is a point…

Five Monkeys

There was an interesting experiment that started with five monkeys in a cage. A banana hung inside the cage with a set of steps placed underneath it. After a while, a monkey went to the steps and started to climb towards the banana, but when he touched the steps, he set off a spray that soaked all the other monkeys with cold water. Another monkey tried to reach the banana with the same result. It didn’t take long for the monkeys to learn that the best way to stay dry was to prevent any monkey from attempting to reach the banana.

The next stage of the experiment was to remove the spray from the cage and to replace one of the monkeys with a new one. Of course, the new monkey saw the banana and went over to climb the steps. To his horror, the other monkeys attacked him. After another attempt, he learned that if he touched the steps, he would be assaulted.

Next, another of the original five was replaced with a new monkey. The newcomer went to the steps and was attacked. The previous newcomer joined in the attack with enthusiasm!

Then, a third monkey was replaced with a new one and then a fourth. Every time a newcomer approached the steps, he was attacked. Most of the monkeys beating him had no idea why they were not allowed to climb the steps or why they were joining in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing the fifth monkey, none of the monkeys had ever been sprayed with water. Still, no monkey ever approached the steps. Why not? Because as far as they knew it was the way it had always been done around here…

Two things we accept because of our current culture as an art community:

Artists starve – The assumption is that if you choose the life of  the cloister…uh, I mean arts, then you have chosen poverty. Your art sustains you more than food, clothing, or shelter. But lets take a lesson from our friend Maslow: you cannot achieve self actualization without meeting basic needs. So much of art creation is in self actualization.

The arts community is fragmented – I can only speak to what I observe now but I see a community that is coming together. I see young leaders emerging with amazing talent and intellect.  There is a time to lean on colleagues within a particular affinity group; yet, there times when all of the disciplines, in one accord, strive for toward policy change, community outreach and public awareness. Collaboration should be organic and further the mission of all parties involved.  A varied arts community is to our advantage…as long as we can come together at the right moment–and I think we will.

Culture – As in biology, grow in a special preparation. Atlanta is our petri dish. We can grow our own culture.

Special note: I ripped this lesson off from my husband. He used this framework for a morning office meeting. When I told him “thank you” for letting me use this idea, he replied: “sure, baby. we share the same brain anyway.” That is the culture of us.


Just a brief update from your neighborhood arts service organization:

Tonight we will be participating in Gather Atlanta. Come see us, and visit all the other cool groups there as well. In preparation for Gather, we have put together a rocking one-sheet. We will have this up on our site next week for you to download. We also created an email sign-up page on our website. Our email solutions provider is Atlanta’s very own MailChimp.  We love MailChimp (and no we did not receive money for writing that). Join our list!

Over the next three weeks we will:

  • File  for our 501 (c) 3 – we have an attorney thanks to Georgia Lawyers for the Arts
  • Create a Board Development Plan
  • Develop our first Fundraising plan
  • Develop a plan to launch our professional development seminars in late fall
  • Spec out our website – and put out an RFP for programmers (later we will move to designers)
  • Work on our branding & Media

We also have two potential strategic partnerships that we hope to implement. We want to gather more details about both before we announce our plans, but as soon as we know, you will know.

Did I mention you should join our email list? Yeah. You should. Our list will give you the opportunity to learn more about C4 Atlanta AND about other organizations as well. We plan to make our general email only go out once per month (with the exception of advocacy alerts and items that need immediate attention).

We hope to see you at Gather Atlanta!


P.S. – Join our email group!

The Guts of C4 Atlanta

The Guts of C4 Atlanta

This is our BUSINESS MODEL coming together. Oooohhh. See how it glows. One day, it will get it’s wish and become a real boy…uh, a real Business PLAN.

Okay. You want to know what we are up to–more specifically, what is it that we plan to offer AND how is that different from other organizations. Well, it is simple. It is true that we do serve the arts–we support artistry. Our services are designed to answer one HUGE problem for all artists and arts organizations: sustainability. By providing resources that help support artistry (access to insurance, collective bargaining, expert training opportunities, partnerships in K-12 education, technology innovation & a philosophy of social responsibility) C4 Atlanta contributes to the cultivation of a healthy arts ecosystem.

Jessyca & Lyre Work on The Business Model

How is that different from what others might be offering?

Research & Development – artists and arts organizations often do not have time to invest in honing in on the next technology, business or educational trend. C4 Atlanta does…that is what we do. We research. We keep up with national and local trends in arenas other than just the arts. Combine that with feedback from the people whom we serve, and we have a constantly changing network that saves artists time and money. We figure out the best routes for implementation and evaluation of services for an entire ecosystem.

C4 is somewhat like a social service program for the arts community. Our programs are interventions that help individuals and organizations create and sustain a business. However, we also believe in community. We believe in the intrinsic and extrinsic value of art.

Still Working On the Business Model
Joe & Lyre. Still Working On the Business Model

Just Around the Corner…

We envision a community where the arts are not some separate appendage from the rest of society; rather, it is an integral component of responsible citizenship–it is a measure of the health of the community.

Ingrained in our business plan is transparency. C4 Atlanta works with the community to find solutions to problems and to track trends and issues affecting the arts ecosystem. We do not see a hierarchy of organizations, sectors or people. That is out modded thinking. Networks (or image a series of webs) are how we learn, communicate and interact with one another.

In the spirit of transparency, I am posting a link to our guts…our wiki. This wiki contains brainstorms, notes and specific outlines about C4 Atlanta tasks. Feel free to comment, ask questions or add to the mix. You will not be able to edit, but there is a field for you to leave your thoughts. NOTE: keep in mind that some of the service we have outlined are short term goals, but many are long term that carry with them particular dependencies. Internally, we have goals for one month, three months, one year, and so on.

Enjoy! Here is the link to our Wiki: http://c4atlanta.pbworks.com

Beanie. He would rather be chewing on Jessyca’s shoes.

Field trippin’

Last week, the C4 team journeyed to Memorial Drive in Atlanta to visit Wonder Root. Wonder Root is more than just a building. They provide a place and a mission for artists in Atlanta to unite around. According to their website, this is the Wonder Root mission: “WonderRoot is an Atlanta-based 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization committed to uniting artists and community to inspire positive social change.”

Their community center offers a place for artists of different disciplines (film, visual and music) to create art. On our tour, the C4 team was greeted by Omotola Ajibade (or Tola for short). Tola guided us through Wonder Root’s community center: the sound studio, a room full of film editing equipment, a darkroom, a ceramic studio… The space reminded me of the old Dr. Who–the building is far more expansive than it looks from the outside (sorry for the old-school geek-out).

Field Trip to Wonder Root: Tola, Lyre & Jessyca (Joe took the photo)

After our tour, Tola, Lyre, Joe and I all sat down to talk about arts in Atlanta. We discussed the philosophy behind an arts service organization (like C4). Service organizations are defined more by who we serve than by how we serve. C4 serves the arts community. I think we all felt that room for collaboration is wide open among arts peers.

Real quick about collaboration: I am very familiar with this word. It is now a buzz word in education, arts, nonprofits, and other sectors. It is a way to stretch dollars. Good. I get it. However, what we need to distinguish quickly within the arts community is true collaboration verses cooperation. Very different. In my experience, most of the so-called collaborative experiences have really been just nice cooperation. Not always a bad thing, arts disciplines (and arts service nonprofits) need to retain some autonomy to stay relevant. Otherwise, we begin to water down individual organization’s strengths.

Now I will return to the Wonder Root story. Thank you for indulging me.

Whether your are a seasoned professional or you would like to dabble in a new adventure, I would suggest looking into a Wonder Root membership. It is not a lot of money, and you get access to their resources. It is on my “to do” list. My husband and I would like to use the darkroom. I have been wanting him to teach me how to develop film, old-school way, for about 10 years now…

For more about Wonder Root, check out this article from Creative Loafing.

Meetings of Minds

I love talking to people. In particular, I love talking with people. Face to face.

The C4 team has been doing a lot of this lately…uh, meetings that is. And we are just getting started. We are gathering great feedback from artists and arts leaders. We have even met with consultants, Artistic Directors and technology leaders.

You see, we want this to be a community effort. We want YOU to help us shape this organization. If you want to meet with us to explore ideas for collaboration, programs, meetings, education, technology, whatever you fancy, pick up the phone or shoot us an email.

We look forward to hearing from you soon…really soon. Actually, we are working on a business phone line. 🙂