NASAA Notes: March 2015

March 10, 2015

We're on the Move!

NASAA is open for business and happily settling in after our office relocation. On a practical level, our new lease terms are great for NASAA’s bottom line. We’re already benefiting from a more efficient floorplan, better bandwidth and a conference room that’s large enough for our whole staff to gather in one place. We pride ourselves on being a flexible and close-knit team, but it’s a relief that staff meetings no longer resemble a game of Twister!

This time, however, is not just about a physical change. NASAA is on the move in many other ways—and state arts agencies are, too.

Facing Forward

Our search for a new CEO is advancing (see our latest News from NASAA memo), and the applicant pool has been narrowed to an extremely competitive short list. Our new leader will join an organization with a powerful mix of assets: a smart and energetic board, an engaged and confident membership, a sound budget, a portfolio of popular services, and the uniquely potent influence that states wield in Congress. These assets position NASAA to seize―and to create―new policy and programmatic opportunities. Whoever the board chooses as NASAA’s next chief executive, he or she is going to have a great springboard into the future.

Current Changes

We’re not waiting for a new CEO’s arrival to get started, though. In just the last couple of months, we’ve increased outreach to member agencies, upped the frequency of our general communications, and developed a new system for identifying emerging state legislation affecting the arts and state arts agencies. These changes will help NASAA to serve your needs in an even more proactive way.

On the federal level, we’re establishing working relationships with key leaders in the new Congress. We’re working formally (through testimony) and informally (through member contacts) to make sure that lawmakers of every political persuasion hear the message that federal support for the arts is good for the nation.

Even NASAA’s information is on the move, with our ongoing efforts to help members use data in more dynamic ways. Check out this month’s Research on Demand column about our new tool for estimating how your legislature’s latest budget proposal would affect your state’s national ranking. Seriously cool stuff.

State Arts Agencies in Motion

As we were packing for NASAA’s office move, we found many items that gave a great “then and now” view of the state arts agency field. Examples of your plans, annual reports and communications show that state arts agencies have been committed to arts education, institutional support, economic development and creative place making for decades. But the ways in which you support these endeavors are evolving constantly. Especially notable in recent years have been:

  • Policy entrepreneurship: State arts agencies’ legislative involvement increasingly extends beyond annual appropriations bills. State arts agencies now are leaders in many different policy initiatives to support creative enterprise development, to improve education through arts standards and to encourage collaborations with the private sector.
  • Interagency collaborations: Today we can cite many examples of state arts agencies working in concert with other branches of state government, such as state departments of education, health, transportation, historic preservation, tourism, aging and veterans affairs.
  • Advocacy: In past decades it was rare to see the word advocacy appear in state arts agency plans. Now quite a few plans include advocacy as an explicit goal. Even those states with the most severe restrictions on agency advocacy are making it a priority to inform and inspire the policy process.

Another gem I found when packing was our file on the reauthorization of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990. These proceedings were a good reminder that, contrary to popular perception, the culture wars were not just about controversial art. Fueling the flames were sharp geopolitical divides and the need for public arts agencies to show how they benefitted all citizens, not just a (real or perceived) privileged few. We learned many lessons then: the need to vividly demonstrate our public value, the imperative of fostering support on both sides of the partisan aisle and the need for state arts agencies to speak with a united voice about federal policy. Our contemporary context has certainly changed, but those underlying lessons remain relevant today.

A Good Place

NASAA’s new location positions us well to navigate even more changes in the future. There is a special synergy between places, people and ideas, and today NASAA is in a great new place―literally and figuratively. Many thanks to all of you for being part of the journey.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

Executive Director's Column

Research on Demand




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