NASAA Notes: January 2010


Suzette Surkamer Headshot

Suzette Surkamer

January issue
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January 12, 2010

Message from the President

This month’s issue of Notes features a column by NASAA’s new president, Suzette Surkamer, former executive director of the South Carolina Arts Commission.

As 2010 begins, I would like to share some thoughts about the next two years as I serve as your president.

NASAA is recognized as an organization that has served its members well and enjoys a high level of member satisfaction. The state arts agencies, along with the NASAA staff, have developed a strategic plan that has proved to be useful and is flexible enough to meet the needs of the future. However, this is a critical time for NASAA. Many member states are struggling to adjust to difficult financial times, and there is a new administration at the National Endowment for the Arts as well as at every federal agency. To keep NASAA strong in serving its members, representing the state arts agencies at the federal level and opening new doors for members, we must be strategic in our work, as NASAA has finite financial and staff resources. So, as I used to say to the staff at the South Carolina Arts Commission, “We do really good, important work–but is it the RIGHT WORK for this particular moment in time?”

Our priorities seem clear:

  • Continue to identify and focus on member needs and provide information, leadership development and assistance in a timely manner.
  • Be assertive about developing relationships with the new leadership at the National Endowment for the Arts. Communicate more with the program directors at the NEA so that they understand the role of state arts agencies (SAAs). In turn, SAAs will be able to help their constituents clearly understand the priorities and resources of each program area.
  • Develop relationships with other federal agencies. Frequently, their programs could be used to fund the arts–but we must know the people at these agencies and help them to understand how the arts can be used to further their mission. Similarly, we must establish beneficial relationships with the White House.
  • Expand our relationship with national organizations such as Americans for the Arts, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, the National Governors Association and others, and develop relationships with other national organizations where none currently exists.
  • Maintain a continuous open dialogue and orientation practice among ourselves so that SAA directors, chairs and council members know each other, work as a community, are knowledgeable about critical issues facing our field, and are aware of current national initiatives, such as the Cultural Data Project and Arts Ready.

A proven path to success is to get the best minds working together toward definable and achievable goals. We know where we have been, we know where we are and we know where we want to go. In unity there is strength. To that end, I need each of you to be informed, in depth, about the issues and to be more involved in moving NASAA forward.

Soon I will be appointing members to standing committees and to ad hoc, short-term task forces to address some of the immediate issues facing us. Please be involved. If you are appointed to a committee that you are not excited about, please let me know. There is plenty of work to be done and you will be more productive if you serve on a committee in which you are interested. Another way you can help is to recommend people whom you think have the necessary skills to serve on a committee or task force.

Committee service is just one of the ways members advance our work. NASAA will be reaching out to many more of you throughout the year to enlist your help in achieving our policy goals. In fact, every one of us has a role to play as a NASAA member to implement these goals successfully.

Thanks for placing your confidence in me. Together we can continue to make NASAA a member organization to be proud of. Whenever you have questions or suggestions, please give me a call. I am accessible and would love to hear from you. My e-mail address is and my cell phone number is 803-603-4439. My wish for all of us is that we continue to thrive and grow as a field serving the citizens of this great country, and that we are all involved in NASAA–helping it achieve the work that is the RIGHT WORK at the RIGHT TIME!