Friday, January 19, 2007

Arts Organizations Teleconference

Earlier today we held a teleconference with some of the Islands Arts Organizations. Attending were the senior staff of eleven of the some of important organizations that dot the Island.

The conversation was engaging, free flowing, and very insightful. I was glad to have the chance to start an independent dialogue with these people and their respective organizations, and I hope that more join in.

The “agenda” was based on our need to determine what the issues are and what role we can play in addressing those issues. The three agenda topics for discussion were:

  • As an Island Arts and Culture organization, what challenges, do you face for success and sustainability?
  • What changes would you make to the current arts and culture infrastructure and supports?
  • How does the current funding model meet your needs as an arts and culture organizations?

From this discussion, some main points arose. In the area of challenges, we identified the following:

  • General lack of funding
  • No long term funding (year to year scramble, have to reconfigure programs each year to meet funding requirements) Having to justify the value of arts and culture funding (in terms of return on investment and making the intrinsic value resonate with public and funders)
  • Funding programs are not aligned with arts organizations’ programs (decisions made too late in the year, criteria too rigid, no core funding)
  • Nature of funding requests (a divided effort with too many small requests from various sources)
  • Human resources (hard to find seasonal professional staff)
  • A general arts grounding is lacking (e.g. arts in education, provincial museum, and volunteer supports)

And in terms of areas for change to improve the general situation:

  • Funding: access to secure, adequate multi year funding (eg. once a strategic plan is in place, funding should continue unless the organization deviates from the plan)
  • Collaboration amongst organizations: Plan an event to promote cohesion, develop connections and set priorities; open communication
  • Advocacy: One broad and unified message to articulate arts organizations’ needs to government; find new methods of evaluation, frame an argument that resonates
  • Public engagement: arts awareness campaign, motivate the public to mobilize their elected officials; mentorship model to engage youth and family

Considering that we’d never spoken together as a group, it was remarkable how collegial and flowing the discussion was, and the degree of agreement on these issues. To further prioritize the results, we prepared an online survey for the participants to use.

As everyone agreed that the conversation needs to continue, we’ll be looking at a face to face meeting in the near future, winter weather notwithstanding. If you missed this conversation, and want to be a part of the next one, please get in touch.