NASAA Notes: November 2015


Pam Breaux Headshot

Pam Breaux

November issue
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November 2, 2015

CEO Report to NASAA Members

Pam Breaux joined NASAA as CEO in July. In this month’s column she shares her first report to the membership, presented in October at the conclusion of the NASAA 2015 Leadership Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Each day here with you has been incredibly informative for me and exceedingly important for our association. I have seen NASAA’s transition conversations come full circle. Last year, when it became clear that NASAA would be experiencing a leadership transition, your board of directors convened to talk about our future. In spring 2014, they discussed how our leadership transition could provide an opportunity to chart a new course for NASAA’s future, and by extension, for the future of state arts agencies.

Their conversation, in a very tangible way, informed the CEO search. The board confirmed the need to be strategic in positioning state arts agencies for a future that will indeed look different than today. They confirmed the need for NASAA to be bold in its advocacy work and in all its representation services. Your board resolved to strengthen our partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts—but to not stop there, as they insisted that NASAA has an important role to play in fostering additional federal partnerships to strengthen state arts agencies and their constituents by providing new opportunities. The conversations were as robust as the board’s resolve to take advantage of this moment in time for the benefit of all members.

Now, we’re on the other side of that transition discussion. Three months into a new leadership tenure, at this convening, state arts agency leaders engaged in honest, organic and passionate discussions about what should be next for NASAA and its members. Your conversations this week have not only affirmed the strategic thinking of our board of directors, but you have taken those considerations to the next level. You have envisioned a future where state arts agencies significantly raise the bar in developing new collaborative partnerships, more integrated approaches to our work, multigenerational support structures for the arts, engaging our younger citizens where they are, bolder work in access and equity for families in poverty, and so much more. These conversations give NASAA its marching orders.

Our action plan for 2016 will begin to address some of our collective new thinking. 2016 will also launch our work on NASAA’s next strategic plan, one that must address the opportunities, needs and expectations articulated by our board and by our leadership discussions here this week. For the moment, I’d like to unpack a little of what you can expect to see in 2016.

[Editor’s note: NASAA fulfills its mission to strengthen state arts agencies in three ways: Knowledge, Representation and Community.]


Let’s begin with NASAA’s KNOWLEDGE services, which are deeply treasured by members. Whether you need assistance addressing crises or opportunities, you can rely on relevant data, on-call assistance, customized reports, smart analysis of policy issues and examples of best practices. NASAA’s knowledge services will continue to help state arts agencies (SAAs) make informed decisions, but you’ll also see new knowledge services this year.

I’m sure you noticed NASAA’s first-ever State Legislative Roundup, published in August. The business of monitoring state legislation with the potential to impact the arts provides you with new, easy-to-access information. More importantly, it allows NASAA to better provide you with legislative models and serve as a resource for your policy entrepreneurship efforts. Our jumping-off point here was definitely productive, and how we strategically apply this new resource can create game changers. I predict this new service will grow even more relevant each year as we get better at deploying it.

Also new in 2016, you’ll see resource materials and policy guidance on topics such as state level military programs and SAA policies and practices that foster equity, inclusion and diversity. Arts in the military isn’t new territory, but the increasing attention being paid to this by policymakers shouldn’t be underestimated, making now an important time to lift up state best practices in this field, for the benefit of all our members. With respect to diversity, executive directors tell me they need to see what today’s best practices look like. At state arts agencies, a focus on fairness and providing access isn’t new. But as private-foundation grant makers collectively focus on this issue, the time is now ideal to shine a light on SAA best practices and, most importantly, consider future practice.


Under NASAA’s REPRESENTATION umbrella, two new efforts you can count on seeing in 2016 include work related to the upcoming federal election cycle and work within different federal agencies. With respect to the presidential and congressional elections, NASAA will represent you by informing the work of the candidates and their transition teams. We’ll promote NASAA’s cultural policy positions and encourage greater inclusion of the arts in federal policies and practices. This work will include seeking greater federal support for the arts, with Congress and beyond.

As I referenced earlier, it is also a goal of NASAA’s board to develop relationships and resources beneficial to the arts within other federal agencies, and I couldn’t be more energized about getting this work started. Our friends at the National Endowment for the Arts are engaged in smart partnerships with other federal agencies, and NASAA is uniquely positioned to mine and map expanded opportunities, to provide access to different and greater resources and opportunities for SAAs and their constituents. Please stay tuned.


I believe that much of NASAA’s heart lies beneath its COMMUNITY umbrella. This is the place members connect to each other. This is also the place we build the strength of our assembly, and that strength enables NASAA to best support SAAs. It is from this place that your board of directors and I have begun a conversation about diversity. Even beyond developing resource materials and policy guidance, as an association it’s important for us to ask and answer vital questions, including:

  • As NASAA and as SAAs, are we seeking and attracting a diverse work force? This informs our industry’s future.
  • As NASAA and as SAAs, are we creating pathways for new and different voices to grow within our field and become our next leaders?
  • Do SAAs know how and whether NASAA values diversity? There’s no doubt ours is a family that appreciates the beauty and importance of diversity in all its forms, but it’s likely time for our organization to give greater voice to that value.

This is on my mind for a number of reasons. Certainly my diversity discussions with our board and with many of you here this week energize me to move this conversation forward for NASAA. But another recent conversation also inspires me. A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to speak with two program directors from a state arts agency, both of whom happen to be people of color. The staffers made a specific point of talking with me about my selection as NASAA’s new CEO and what that meant to them. They were motivated by the appointment because from their vantage point, it means that someone who looks like them is welcome to advance within our industry, and this is something they didn’t take for granted. It means that they can commit to a long-term professional investment in state arts agency work, and that their hard work can be rewarded through advancement. They now inspire me to ask, What are we doing to prove them right? It’ll be a pleasure to roll up our sleeves and figure that out—and, frankly, it’s one of dozens of reasons I’m optimistic about NASAA’s future.

Throughout our time together, I’ve experienced so very much that makes me optimistic about NASAA’s future and about the future of state arts agencies. Together we’ve surfaced opportunities and challenges that we’ll most assuredly address as NASAA takes good advantage of this moment in time to chart our next course. Your passion and your commitment to the power of state arts agencies to advance America are mission-critical for NASAA. Thanks for sharing those virtues . . . and thanks in advance for staying engaged.

In this Issue

State to State

Legislative Update

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Research on Demand




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