October 1, 2014
Looking Back, Looking Forward
Dear NASAA friends and colleagues,
I have sent literally hundreds of monthly messages to NASAA members and to our extended readership since I began my tenure as NASAA CEO in 1985. In this one, I want to acknowledge some of what I have been privileged to witness state arts agencies and NASAA accomplish, to wish you well going forward and to share with you some of my plans.
Any narrative of the state arts agency (SAA) movement would document how National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants to states in the 1960s and 1970s helped create a nationwide network of state arts agencies. SAAs distributed federal funds and broadened NEA congressional support; added state leadership, staff and revenues to the national cultural development effort; and almost immediately created the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies to represent them to the NEA and federal lawmakers and to serve as a learning network.
As state budgets rose and fell through the 1980s, state governments experimented with various SAA grant making, service and leadership activities, equaling and surpassing the annual federal NEA investment. Then, in the 1990s, SAA budgets doubled in the aggregate, aligning with state government goals and demonstrating public benefits in economic development, education, cultural tourism, youth assets and strengthened community life. Now rebounding a bit from major budget and staff cuts in the 21st-century recessions, SAAs have integrated their activities in state creative economy, creative place making and competitive work force education strategies.
Throughout these decades, NEA support of SAAs has pivoted on its peer panel review of their planning processes, plans and plan implementation. In turn, SAAs have required plans from tens of thousands of applicant groups annually, advancing the management skills, accountability and data collection capacity of the not-for-profit arts field over time. SAA community development staff founded many hundreds if not thousands of local arts agencies, contributing to that movement and fostering statewide assemblies of local arts agencies to add effectiveness to that infrastructure.
While SAAs from their earliest years placed artists in school and community residencies, sometimes with special NEA grant support, the late 1980s marked a significant change in NEA arts education policy, focusing on the inclusion of arts learning as basic in the curriculum, and beginning an investment in the professional development of SAA arts education managers to achieve that goal that continues today. In the mid-1990s, a national campaign resulted in the U.S. Department of Education declaring that the arts were one of seven important curricular areas, adding the arts to the six areas recognized by the National Governors Association. In 1995, the NEA, the Department of Education, NASAA and the Council of Chief State School Officers founded the Arts Education Partnership, which, now supported by more than a hundred additional groups, continues to provide the primary national forum that advances learning in the arts.
In the decade following the Mapplethorpe, Serrano and “NEA 4” controversies of the late 1980s, Congress, as it limited the ability of the NEA to fund general operating support, season support and individual artists, doubled the percentage of NEA grant funding to states and regions from 20% to 40%. In recent years, the House Appropriations Committee in particular has reiterated its commitment to this partnership percentage and has encouraged the NEA and the states to consult on arts education policy and programs.
It’s been my privilege to work with the impressive individuals who have chaired the NEA, with their staffs and with NASAA’s staff to craft partnership roles for states to participate in NEA initiatives, to raise a million dollars in private money and make grants to states in order to advance arts education as an integral part of the nation’s Goals 2000 education agenda, to maintain the network of state folk and heritage directors, to produce National Governors Association policy briefs and reports, to broaden the reach and impact of Challenge America, and to establish Poetry Out Loud, which now engages more than 365,000 students annually.
The next NASAA CEO will have many opportunities to build on current successes and lessons learned, and to lead NASAA to new levels of membership benefit. Participation in the arts—not-for-profit, for-profit and amateur—is changing enormously, influenced greatly by electronic and digital media. Artists and arts groups are experimenting with business and revenue models as much as with the forms of art they are creating. America is engaged in a reconsideration of the role of government at every level of policy-making and resource allocation. State arts agency human and financial resources are in flux. At the same time, SAAs are engaging in exciting initiatives connecting the arts and aging, arts and health and human development, arts and the military, arts and after-school activities, and many other “arts ands.” While NEA support of NASAA is as high as it has ever been and NASAA members have just contributed to two years of record-breaking individual support, NASAA is heading into consideration of new dues policies and the exploration of earned revenue strategies. In this time of transition, NASAA is well positioned to consider how to maximize the future benefits of strategic relationships, such as those possible with Congress, the NEA, other federal agencies, regional arts organizations, Americans for the Arts, Grantmakers in the Arts, selected funding partners and others.
Meanwhile, I want to thank everyone who has not used the R word (retirement) to describe my post-NASAA-CEO plans. My decision was driven by two ambitions. One is a writing and presentation agenda that includes projects such as Explaining America: American Values in Politics and Business, Gain Theory: How Movements Win and Lose, Problem-Solving in Professional and Personal Life, The Calculations of Winning Poker Players, and others. My other ambition is to devote more time to the kinds of consultation I enjoy the most—keynote speaking, strategic planning and leadership development. Recently, on behalf of NASAA, I keynoted the Educational Theatre Association on “The Public Value of Theatre Education” to a standing ovation. I’m looking forward to addressing SAA arts education managers at their Professional Development Institute in New Orleans. “Plan to Plan” presentations and participation in strategic planning processes have long been enjoyable parts of my job for NASAA and for other organizations. Some of my favorite leadership development work has been adapting my problem-solving workshop for university faculty, foundation executives and emerging leaders; it was especially interesting for me at NASAA’s Leadership Institute in Wyoming to have enough session time to expand that workshop and offer participants an additional menu of leadership development approaches.
I have been the beneficiary of great NASAA presidents, Executive Committee members, board members, committee and task force members, and of creative, dedicated, incredibly productive staff members, among whom Kelly Barsdate, Dennis Dewey, Tom Birch and Johanna Misey Boyer have each worked with me for at least 20 years. All of you, NASAA’s membership and extended family of colleagues, represent the best of American public service, mission-driven professionalism, and volunteer leadership. You are a source of constant inspiration to me. I thank you for the wonderful life you have made available to me and I look forward to seeing you in New Orleans at Assembly 2014.
In this Issue
State to State
- Alabama and Connecticut: Arts Administration Fellowships
- North Dakota: STE[A]M Team Program
- Massachusetts: STARS Residencies
More Notes from NASAA
Executive Director's Column
Research on DemandSubscribe
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