July 9, 2008
Executive Director's Column
I hope all of you plan on attending Assembly 2008 in Chattanooga. The Tennessee Arts Commission is pulling out all the stops to showcase Chattanooga, and the NASAA staff is putting together an exciting menu of sessions and speakers. Visit the Assembly 2008conference site to learn more and to register online.
A gathering of all SAA staff and council members to discuss public sector leadership and state arts agency practice. The location, conference design and budget accommodate 350-500 participants. The meeting format – which includes plenary events, topical breakouts and job-alike gatherings – encourages learning and networking both across and within peer groups.
Examples: Boise (2005), Baltimore (2007), Chattanooga (2008).
A smaller gathering of state arts agency leaders. The format varies according to the Institute objectives, which typically focus on SAA policy, leadership and governance. Executive directors, chairs and council members and deputy directors are included. Other individuals/positions with policy leadership roles may be invited, depending on the agenda. The host facilities, format and budget accommodate 150-200 participants.
Examples: Scottsdale (2001), Orlando (2004), Anchorage (2006).
At its May 2008 meeting in Washington, DC, the NASAA board approved the implementation of a convening cycle that offers Assemblies and Institutes in alternating years. Following a full Assembly in 2008, an alternating meeting cycle will entail a Leadership Institute in 2009, an Assembly in 2010, another Institute in 2011, and so forth. An annual business session will continue to occur each year.
This strategy optimizes NASAA’s ability to:
Accommodate SAA planning and budgeting. Members will appreciate being able to predict the kind of NASAA meeting that will occur in any year. Formalizing the meeting cycle will address this need, allowing state arts agencies to forecast their calendars and expenses with greater confidence. This is particularly important for states on biennial budgets (21 out of 50), which often need to craft budgets more than two years in advance.
Expand location options. It is vital—for representation, inclusion, access, and learning purposes—that NASAA convene in diverse locations across the country. Not all states, however, can provide the facilities, funding, staffing or community support needed for a full Assembly. Increasing the number of Institutes will allow hosting opportunities for more members. It will also help NASAA to collaborate more flexibly with potential hosts in order to benefit the agency, the local community, the meeting participants and NASAA.
Optimize the use of NASAA resources. Planning, financing and executing a full Assembly every year restricts NASAA’s ability to address other important activities in our strategic plan. Alternating Assemblies and Institutes will allow NASAA to devote money, time and resource development efforts to other services and activities that have been identified as priorities by the membership – including the expansion of year-round learning services, knowledge tools and orientation services.
Help SAAs make the most of scarce travel funds for council members, as well as staff. Travel continues to be one of the most restricted areas of SAA budgets. Holding full Assemblies every other year may help members bring more Council members to Institutes and/or achieve some cost savings in years where a full staff cohort does not need to travel.
Relieve the “meetings squeeze.” Budget realities force many agency staffers to choose between NASAA conferences and other convenings relevant to their jobs. Convening all peer groups at NASAA Assemblies every other year may reduce this pressure. It may also increase the visibility of SAA representatives in other networks, which would be advantageous to all.
Provide ample planning time. Special activities that could be held in conjunction with Assemblies and Institutes would benefit from additional lead-time for planning.
In-person meetings are a significant component of NASAA’s services to state arts agency staff and council members. NASAA’s new strategic plan outlines an aggressive expansion of year-round learning opportunities, recognizing the evolving understanding of what a “meeting” is and how different types of learning can be most effectively delivered.
Based on our conversations with the membership during the strategic planning process and—most recently—at the June executive directors retreat in Denver, the board and staff expect that most states will welcome the plan to alternate between Assemblies and Institutes. While some may miss the chance for an annual gathering of all staff positions, we are confident that the wealth and diversity of year-round learning opportunities coupled with the development and nurturing of more vibrant and cohesive learning communities should help to address these concerns.
Looking ahead, NASAA will monitor the changes which might impact the considerations outlined above. From time to time, NASAA may gather in a different way to attain a specific goal. This may include formats such as a “Congress” (a larger multi-organization gathering, such as those we’ve had with Americans for the Arts) or a “Summit” (a smaller gathering around specific policy objectives). As special opportunities or circumstances warrant a change from the Assembly/Institute cycle, NASAA will communicate early and clearly with the membership.
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