NASAA Notes: July 2017

July 10, 2017

Being Prepared for Controversy

Public arts programming and funding occasionally faces crisis as well as controversy. That’s not especially new to state arts agencies. Addressing crisis and controversy productively is a fundamental challenge we face, and your team at NASAA is working to equip members to handle both.

State arts agency (SAA) leaders will find a portion of this fall’s NASAA 2017 Leadership Institute curriculum focuses on building crisis leadership skills. Council members, executive directors and deputy directors will explore what’s needed from SAA leaders in a time of crisis. They’ll study decision-making and communications models that offer practical guidance for leaders during times of turmoil or trauma. In fact, we’ll draw on actual controversies and crises experienced by SAAs to equip leaders with the tools to handle future challenges. (If you haven’t secured your spot at this deep-learning conference, I encourage you to register!)

In the meantime, I’d like to share some tips and considerations for handling controversy, especially as related to funding controversial artwork. Having a strong communications plan in place is essential, ideally before there is a problem to tackle. The NASAA white paper Facing Controversy: Arts Issues and Crisis Communications can help you do just that. This resource offers general guidance on developing a plan and putting that plan into action.

  • accessibility to the public
  • community involvement
  • community impact
  • sound business practices

As we know well, SAAs organize citizen panels to review grant applications using published criteria (like the ones above), not criteria based on political content. The panel process is transparent and is not a political process, and it’s often helpful to lift up that fact when facing controversy.

Currently, we at NASAA are refreshing our guidance related to working through controversy, and I look forward to sharing it with SAA leaders soon. As always, anytime you find yourself confronting a challenge related to controversy (or anything else, for that matter), remember that your NASAA team is ready to assist.

In this Issue

State to State

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA

From the CEO

Legislative Updates

Research on Demand




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