NASAA Notes: January 2011


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Jonathan Katz

January issue
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January 5, 2011

Three Questions for the New Year

In my annual report to the NASAA membership, I noted that three of the primary forces shaping the future of public support for the arts at the state level are the recessive economy, changing expectations of government and the continuing impact of the digital revolution on how people participate in the arts. In this complex environment, state arts agencies face new challenges to fulfill their missions. I made three general suggestions. One was to consider with new emphasis those programs that cut across sectors, including place making, community identity and creative economy activities. A second was to keep pushing arts education and the integration of the arts in all learning. The third was to continue educating advocates and cultivating decision makers—with a specific emphasis on the public benefits uniquely provided by your state arts agency.

Several of you have asked for more specific suggestions about how state arts agency leaders can most effectively adapt to their evolving environment and, at the same time, foster the adaptive capacity of their constituents. One suggestion is to use the strategic planning process as an occasion for both agency reflection and dialogue with the field on a few critical questions. Here are three key questions for your consideration:

  • To what extent is the future of your agency going to be determined by its identity as a resource for jobs, industries and revenues?
  • How should the changes in how people are participating in the arts influence your agency’s mission, goals and indicators of success?
  • What constituency will be needed to maintain and advance the public value and the resources of your agency in three to five years?

The answers to these questions will vary, not only from state to state, depending upon the artistic, cultural, economic and political environment; but from group of leaders to group of leaders, depending upon their values, perspectives, experiences and expertise. As each question is explored (a) by each agency and (b) in dialogue between each agency and constituents, leaders need to drive the discussion to consider what the answers imply for the state arts agency’s leadership activities, grant programs and services.

In ideal circumstances, reflection and dialogue around the three questions listed above would consider broadly and thoroughly how adaptive priorities should affect key operational aspects of the state arts agency, some of which are:

  • placement in state government
  • structure and staffing
  • policies
  • grant programs
  • services
  • strategic planning process
  • annual work plan
  • partners within state government
  • partners statewide
  • communication networks, processes and messages
  • research and evaluation
  • resource development

In the world of limited time, staff and financial resources that most of us inhabit, one facet of leadership is to decide which of these operational aspects it is most important and most practical to focus upon.

NASAA keeps track of how state arts agencies are adapting, and informs member agencies through its leadership development activities and through such resources as its Key Issues list (in center column) and its strategy samplers. Your comments, questions and advice are welcome as always. NASAA staff and NASAA colleagues are available should you want to discuss any topic related to strategy and adaptive capacity, or seek any assistance.

This is a time of year when we take stock and look ahead. Times for our field are as challenging as they have ever been. Drawing upon each other’s support, experience and ideas is as important as it has ever been. NASAA staff and I wish you a joyful holiday season and a happy, healthy, fulfilling new year.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

Executive Director's Column

Research on Demand




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