122 posts categorized "Arts and Culture"

'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 2)

September 13, 2018

Yesterday, in the first installment of a two-part series, Kathryn Pyle explained how the new "House on Henry Street" exhibition came about. In part two, she talks to the people behind the project about the unique challenges they faced in trying to distill a hundred years of social work and history into a cohesive experience.

HSS_Intro panel"Given our limited resources and the small space, we realized that any attempt to describe the significance of Henry Street Settlement in the late nineteenth century and show its relevance to our time meant that it had to be a multi-platform project," historian and curator Ellen Snyder-Grenier told me when I met with her earlier this summer. "On-site displays of artifacts and text could only tell a limited story. We decided that short films could round out the history and a website could expand the exhibit, breaking down temporal and space limitations."

Keith Ragone, the exhibit designer, recommended creating a 450-square-foot gallery from two smaller rooms on the first floor of the agency’s original townhouse and then "extending" that physical space through the clever device of having two windows looking out onto a late-nineteenth-century streetscape.

Ragone and his collaborators were familiar with the extensive trove of still photographs from that era and selected a number for the exhibit and website, but they also wanted to incorporate moving images into the display. Snyder-Grenier's research led her to the Edison Company films collection at the Library of Congress.

"I was flabbergasted by the extent and scope of the collection," she told me. When she discovered the three-minute film New York City 'ghetto’ fish market, she knew she had found the key element for their "view from the windows."

Another surprise was the Visiting Nurse Service of New York Film Collection, a digitized archive housed at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts. The collection includes two hundred VNS promotional films, the earliest made in 1924. Lillian Wald herself appears in one from 1927; it’s in the exhibit and is embedded in a graphic timeline on the website that takes the visitor from the 1910s into the twenty-first century.

Cantos/ New Dances (1957) is a short film featuring the work of choreographer Alwin Nikolais, who established his dance company at the Henry Street Playhouse, later named the Abrons Art Center. Nikolais served for two decades as the artistic director of the center.

"Culture and the arts have been important from the beginning, and the Abrons Art Center has presented some of the most influential artists of our times," said Susan LaRosa, a marketing and communications officer at Henry Street for the past eleven years. "It was important that we acknowledge that, and the Nikolais film highlights one of our pivotal figures."

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'The House on Henry Street' Exhibition (Part 1)

September 12, 2018

HHS_entrance signThe first time, eleven years ago, Susan LaRosa, then a new marketing officer, pulled opened a cabinet drawer in her office at Henry Street Settlement, she discovered some forgotten letters written by the agency's founder, Lillian Wald, and early twentieth-century New York City civic leaders Louis Abrons, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and Jane Addams. The existence of the letters wasn't the surprise — LaRosa knew Wald had attracted many influential New Yorkers to her project. But the discovery made her wonder whether Henry Street's remarkable history was adequately preserved and what lessons that history might have for the present.

The questions her discovery sparked eventually proved to be the catalyst for a new exhibition, opening September 17, that explores the legacy of community through the story of a remarkable institution.

When I learned earlier this year about the upcoming exhibition and its designers' plans to include documentary films, a particular interest of mine, I decided to reach out to LaRosa to learn more about how the exhibition came to be.

Founded in 1893 by Lillian Wald, Henry Street Settlement, located on the Lower East Side of New York City, was one of hundreds of settlement houses that sprang up around the country in the late 1800s, primarily in cities with large, impoverished immigrant populations drawn by the huge demand for labor in a rapidly industrializing United States.

Settlement houses soon became a feature of the Progressive Era, a period of widespread social reform that understood poverty as primarily a social phenomenon rather than a failure of individual character — a distinction that continues to generate debate in our time. Settlement houses typically offered some combination of social services, recreation, education, job training, health care, and arts and culture, all geared toward helping lower-income working people, particularly immigrants, improve their living conditions and economic opportunities. There were once more than four hundred such houses around the country, and many still operate as community resource centers.

With its roots in Wald's original mission to provide visiting nurse services to the indigent on the Lower East Side, today's "Henry Street" serves sixty thousand people at seventeen neighborhood sites and thirty public schools with social services, education, and health care programs, and operates the Abrons Arts Center. A century ago, Wald mobilized support for the agency from wealthy supporters such as Abrons, whose family was among its first clients and whose descendants have continued their involvement with Henry Street up to the present.

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Disrupting Arts Philanthropy: Five Lessons Learned

July 10, 2018

Memphis_music_initiative_1The work of Memphis Music Initiative (MMI), which was featured in the recent study Toward the Future of Arts Philanthropy, is centered on  community empowerment through arts funding. The study explores MMI's funding and programmatic practices in the context of promoting equity and inclusive practices in arts funding, access to arts education, and youth development and offers a potential strategic framework for other capacity builders committed to equity in the arts.

The effects of race and place on access to funding and other resources are evident in what we call "philanthropic redlining" — patterns of exclusionary funding practices that all too regularly frustrate arts organizations led by people of color and hamper their efforts to serve marginalized communities. As noted in our study, public funding for the arts at the state and federal levels is down as much as 30 percent over the last decade, and the situation for black- and brown-led organizations, which are often dependent on such funding, is even more precarious. At MMI, a crucial aspect of our work is our commitment to address this issue through a proactive, and corrective, approach we call "disruptive philanthropy."

In addition to operating direct programs that provide music engagement opportunities for black and brown youth, we work to nurture and expand the arts ecosystem in Memphis by supporting community organizations working on the frontlines to increase access to music programs for youth of color. We believe that investments in black-led organizations are an investment in long-term community sustainability. We invest to build strong and efficient organizations — with a focus on communities of color — through general operating support grants as well as supports aimed at fostering sustainability and improving the quality of their programs. Our goal is to enhance the capacity of nonprofit organizations to deliver programs and secure sustainable funding and other resources beyond those provided by MMI. We are working to build a pipeline of community-based leaders dedicated to improving conditions for black and brown youth and to give black and brown leaders the space and time to fulfill their potential and achieve their goals.

In our direct programs, we take our people-centered investment to an even higher level. Our summer program, MMI Works, provides paid opportunities for high school students to work in arts nonprofits and businesses. Participating black and brown youth gain access to career training as well as professional and personal development, building the skills and the networks needed for long-term success. We also invest in the region's creative economy through our In-Schools Fellowship program, which pairs local musicians with Memphis schools and reaches more than four thousand students through instruction and mentorship.

We are a learning organization and constantly evaluate what is working well and what we can improve on. Here are five takeaways from our work that continue to inform our disruptive approach:

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 12-13, 2018)

May 13, 2018

Pexels-photo-414659Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Power is shifting at the top of U.S. museums — and that's a good thing. Nadja Sayej reports for the Guardian.

Communications/Marketing

If the latest Atlas video released by Boston Dynamics hasn't got your attention...well, take a look. But before Atlas and his pals decide that we're all so much useless wetware, you might be wondering what the implications of AI for nonprofit marketers are. Forbes contributor Dionisios Favatas, digital lead for the award-winning Truth Initiative, a youth tobacco prevention campaign, shares some thoughts.

Google has rather sneakily announced significant changes to its popular Google Ad Words program. In a post republished on Beth Kanter's blog, Whole Whale's George Weiner fills in the details.

Health

New menu labeling rules that require chain restaurants and other food retailers to provide calorie counts and other nutrition information to their customers are about to go into effect. How did we get here? And how do the guidelines connect to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health vision? The foundation's Jennifer Ng'andu explains

Higher Education

"Anyone who believes that public higher education is crucial to our democracy should be alarmed by the recent suggestions by George Mason University’s president that donations to the institution from the Charles Koch Foundation have had 'undue influence in academic matters,' " writes Rudy Fichtenbaum, a professor emeritus of economics at Wright State University and president of the American Association of University Professors, in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Why? Because such donations threaten the twin principles of shared governance and academic freedom that "ensure that institutions of higher education serve the public interest, as opposed to the narrow special interests of big corporations, wealthy donors, or powerful politicians." 

The 18-year-olds graduating high school this spring have known schools as sites of violence their entire lives. How can higher education support them and help advance the movement they have started to prevent gun violence in schools? On the Inside Higher Ed site, Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, shares some thoughts.

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Weekend Link Roundup (May 5-6, 2018)

May 06, 2018

Lies_truthOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Jane Chu, chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts, which twice has been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration, is stepping down from her position on June 4. Peggy McGlone reports for the Washington Post.

Criminal Justice

Is America ready to rethink the mass incarceration policies of the last thirty years. The results of a new poll by the Vera Institute of Justice hints at the possibility. CityLab's Teresa Mathew spoke with Jasmine Heiss, director of outreach and public affairs strategist at Vera, about what the new data means and how it might lead to changes in policy.

Diversity

"The concept of 'fairness' is easy for people to understand, and on a superficial level it seems good and something we should aim for," writes Nonprofit AF blogger Vu Le. "But 'fairness' guarantees the status quo. 'Fairness' eliminates qualified candidates and perpetuates the lack of diversity in our sector. 'Fairness' continues to ensure the communities most affected by systemic injustice — black communities, Native communities, immigrant/refugee communities, Muslim communities, communities of disability, rural communities, LGBTQIA communities — continue to get the least amount of resources."

Food Insecurity

In a new post, Fast Company contributor Ben Paynter profiles Goodr, a food-waste management company (and app) that redirects surplus food from businesses to nonprofits that can share it with those who are food insecure.

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Weekend Link Roundup (April 14-15, 2018)

April 15, 2018

Uncle-sam-taxesOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

Lincoln Center president Deborah L. Spar, who left the top job at Barnard College to helm the performing arts mecca, has decided to step down after only a year. Robin Pogrebin and Michael Cooper report for the New York Times.

And across the East River, the Brooklyn Museum has come under fire for its decision to hire a white woman, Kristen Windmuller-Luna, as a consulting curator for African art. Alex Greenberger reports for ArtNews.

Civil Society

Writing in openDemocracy's Transformation blog, Vern Hughes, director of Civil Society Australia, suggests that the problem with the public and private sectors' "embrace of ‘civil society’ is that it bears little resemblance to what civil society actually is or means. Most of civil society is not constituted formally or headed up by a CEO," adds Hughes. Indeed, "[j]ust 40 years ago, very few not-for-profits or charities had CEOs at all: that term was associated with the corporate sector, and few community groups or charities had even contemplated mimicking the language and culture of such a different sphere. But in just four decades all this has changed, and it has changed at an extraordinarily rapid rate, with very little public discussion or scrutiny of the enormity of the organizational transformation involved and its social and political impact."

Roused by certain statements made by Mark Zuckerberg during his testimony to Congress earlier this week, Philanthropy 2173 blogger Lucy Bernholz shares some thoughts about the often-unappreciated role that civil society organizations and nonprofits play in curating and moderating content for the Facebooks of the world.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 31-April 1, 2018)

April 01, 2018

Easter-eggsOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

"Attaching a donor’s name to a building, courtyard, hallway, gallery or even a restroom in return for a significant contribution has been a growing practice since the 20th century, primarily influenced by the philanthropy culture of the [United States]." And today the practice is pervasive. But what does it mean to put a wealthy donor's name on a museum's door? Linda Sugin, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at Fordham Law School, explores the question.

In The Politic, Jack McCordick looks at how recent changes in the admission policies of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art may be changing it's role as "a place of refuge, a sanctuary in a city that also pledges to be one.”

Congratulations to Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem; Agnes Gund, president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA); and sculptor Richard Serra, winners of this year's J. Paul Getty Medal.

Giving

Forbes Nonprofit Council member and Give.org president/CEO Art Taylor explains the benefits of spreading your giving efforts over the full calendar year.

We promise you'll enjoy this conversation between Marc Gunther and fundraising consultant (and DAF critic) Alan Cantor about whether giving is an affair of the head or the heart.

Inequality

Inequality won't solve itself. "Societies tend to become more unequal over time, unless there is concerted pushback," writes Sarah van Gelder in Yes! magazine. "Those who accumulate wealth — whether because of good fortune, hard work, talent, or ruthlessness — also accumulate power. And over time, the powerful find ways to shift the economic and political rules in their favor, affording them still more wealth and power...."

How much does luck have to do with the "logic and morality of inequality"? More than you think, argues Kaushik Basu, former chief economist at the World Bank, in an opinion piece on the Project Syndicate site.

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Weekend Link Roundup (March 3-4, 2018)

March 04, 2018

Rising-pricesOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans

Writer and activist Alicia Garza, who helped found the Black Lives Matter movement, in partnership with the Center for Third World OrganizingColor of Change, Demos, Socioanalitica Research, and Tides Foundation, has announced the launch of the Black Census Project, which hopes to talk to 200,000 black people from diverse backgrounds about their hopes, dreams, and needs by August 1. African Americans in participating can take the first step and fill out the online census.

Arts and Culture

ArtsPlace funders have released a statement on the Trump administration's 2019 federal budget request.

Climate Change

Nonprofit Chronicles Marc Gunther published an op-ed about climate philanthropy, and its failure to drive real progress on the issue, in the Chronicle of Philanthropy a few weeks ago. The Chronicle has given him permission to repost it on his own blog, here

Education

This should come as a surprise to no one: in a statement released earlier this week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) called Betsy DeVos "the worst Secretary of Education this country has ever seen — by a large margin. Secretary DeVos has spent her first year bending over backwards to allow students to be cheated, taking an axe to public education, and undermining the civil rights of students across the country. [She] has failed in her job and she must be held accountable." Mother Jones's Edwin Rios has the details.

Higher Education

Public colleges and universities are facing a perfect storm of existential challenges over the next decade, and institutions in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are the canaries in the coal mine. Lee Gardner reports for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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Weekend Link Roundup (February 3-4, 2018)

February 04, 2018

AP-Groundhog-Day.3Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

African Americans,

"It's obvious," writes Andre Perry on the Hechinger Report site, "that black history is needed all year long. But white history as we know it can no longer be the standard in a multicultural society, which is supposed to maximize the potential of all of its members."

Arts and Culture

Janet Brown was named executive director of Grantmakers in the Arts in December 2008 and retired from that post in December. On his blog for the Western States Arts Federation, Barry Hessenius talks with Brown about what has changed in arts philanthropy, GIA's racial equity work, and the current status of creative placemaking efforts in the U.S.

Civil Society

We look to civil society for many things and benefits, but do we appreciate and understand the critical role it plays in our democracy? In an excerpt from Philanthropy and Digital Civil Society: Blueprint 2018, philanthropy scholar Lucy Bernholz lays it out for us:

Majority-run democracies need to, at the very least, prevent those who disagree with them (minorities) from revolting against the system. Civil society provides, at the very least, the pressure-release valve for majority-run governments. Positioned more positively, civil society is where those without power or critical mass can build both and influence the majority. It serves as a conduit to the majority system and a counterbalance to extreme positions. It also serves as an outlet for those actions, rights, and views that may never be the priority of a majority, but that are still valid, just, or beautiful. When it exists, civil society offers an immune system for democracy — it is a critical factor in a healthy system, and it requires its own maintenance. Immune systems exist to protect and define — they are lines of defense that "allow organism[s] to persist over time."...

Corporate Social Responsibility

The UNHCT, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that it will only reach 1 out of every 4 Syrian refugees at risk this winter. And with 200,000 displaced families in Syria, 196,000 in Iraq, 174,000 in Lebanon, 115,000 in Turkey, and 83,000 in Jordan, the global refugee crisis isn't likely to be resolved simply or quickly. Writing for Inc., Anna Johansson has a nice list of companies that are stepping up to help refugees.

Perhaps in an effort to appeal to socially aware millennials, Hyundai and Anheuser-Busch InBev will be running cause-based marketing spots during this year's Super Bowl. A harbinger of things to come or just business as usual? E. J. Schultz reports for AdAge.

Education

Here's another (bittersweet) milestone of note: DonorsChoose Just funded its millionth project. Fast Company's Ben Paynter has the details.

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Weekend Link Roundup (Jan. 27-28, 2018)

January 28, 2018

640_2015_01_02_15_45_20_04_2015_08_23_13_12_33Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Following recent allegations of workplace misconduct leveled at Human Society of the U.S. chief executive Wayne Pacelle, Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther takes a closer look at charges of widespread sexual harassment and gender bias in the animal welfare movement. 

Arts and Culture

Be sure to check out the Q&A on Barry's Blog, a service of the Western States Arts Federation, with John E. McGuirk, the recently retired director of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Performing Arts Program.

Fundraising

On the Inside Philanthropy site, IP contributor Mike Scutari asks: When should nonprofit institutions keep a gift that has been tainted by the bad actions of the giver?

Grantseeking

You've been awarded a grant and now the deadline for reporting your program's outcomes is looming. Should you invest as much time and effort into writing the final project report as you did in writing the grant proposal? On the Philanthropy Front and Center-Cleveland blog, Jenna Gonzales, a program associate at the San Antonio Area Foundation, shares six things you can do to "articulate your impact and demonstrate you are a credible partner to consider for future grant opportunities."

Higher Education

At a time when postsecondary educational attainment in the United States remains below 50 percent for the 25-34 year-old age group, "the vast, affordable, and extraordinarily diverse community college system is central to the national debate about access and quality in postsecondary education, and about work life readiness for the next generation of Americans." The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Mariët Westermann explains

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Weekend Link Roundup (October 14-15, 2017)

October 15, 2017

California-fire-story7-gty-ml-171012_4x3_992Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Arts and Culture

We've always admired Herb Alpert — chart-topping musician, innovative record producer/executive, generous philanthropist — and are happy to pass on the news that his foundation has a brand brand new website.

Economy

"[F]or the first time since World War II, American children have only a 50-50 chance of earning more than their parents" — proof that our "economic system is broken," and why jobs and opportunity are America's most pressing challenge, writes Rockefeller Foundation president Rajiv J. Shah.

Giving

How might tax reform affect charitable giving? On the NPR site, Jonathan Meer, a professor at Texas A&M University and an expert on charitable giving, shares his analysis.

Cash-strapped though they may be, cause-driven millennials are finding ways to support causes and organizations aligned with their passions and concerns. Justin Miller, co-Founder and CEO of CARE for AIDS, a faith-based NGO that provides holistic care to families affected by HIV/AIDS in East Africa, explains.

Grantmaking

On the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog, Anthony Richardson, a program officer at the Nord Family Foundation in Ohio, argues that it is critically important for funders "to listen and be discerning about what may be most helpful — and what may indeed be unintentionally harmful — to organizations doing challenging work on the front lines."

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Funding Disability Arts

October 09, 2017

The following post is part of a year-long series ;here on PhilanTopic that addresses major themes related to the center's work: the use of data to understand and address important issues and challenges; the benefits of foundation transparency for donors, nonprofits/NGOs, and the broader public; the emergence of private philanthropy globally; the role of storytelling in conveying the critical work of philanthropy; and what it means, and looks like, to be an effective, high-functioning foundation, nonprofit, or changemaker in the twenty-first century. As always, we welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Fudning for disability artsThe stage has been set for a new and vibrant era of funding for disabled artists and disability arts. A spate of innovative programs — Dance/NYC’s Disability. Dance. Artistry. Fund, Alliance for Artist Communities’ Creative Access Fellowship Program, and the Apothetae and Lark Playwriting Fellowship, among others — are putting new dollars into art made by and with disabled people and raising the bar for the broader philanthropic sector.

With CreateNYC, released this summer, the City of New York established the first cultural plan in the United States with disability-specific strategies for expanding cultural access, including a new fund for disabled artists, cultural workers, and audiences. In this and other ways, the city is modeling the kind of leadership that is urgently needed at all levels of government.

Because they embrace disability as a positive artistic and generative force, these efforts are already generating value. They also represent a shift in arts philanthropy, where the exclusion of disabled people is entrenched and where niche disability-specific funds largely have been limited to facility improvements or programs focused on the therapeutic and educational benefits of the arts. And they are demonstrating how, by funding the field of disability arts and its workforce, philanthropy can move the whole creative sector forward — and, by extension, drive social change.

The moment is rife with opportunity. On the one hand, there are opportunities for more expansive disability-specific funds. Indeed, a new generation of disability arts organizations and fiscally sponsored projects is primed for capacity-building investments, and there are critical gaps in funding for disabled artists along the artistic development continuum, from public school classrooms to professional studios and stages.

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Disrupting the Traditional K-12 Model

September 19, 2017

Computer_classI remember my fourth grade classroom outside Seattle: rows of plastic desks with uncomfortable chairs that inevitably had old bubble gum stuck to the bottom. My teacher sat at a larger wooden desk in front of a large chalkboard, every inch of which was often covered. I remember hurrying to copy all those math equations and English homework questions into my notebook before they were all erased.

You will not be surprised to hear that my kids' teachers rarely use chalk. Students today will never take notes on paper or have to remember what had been on a long-erased chalkboard. These changes have affected not only the way teachers teach and the way students learn, but also the way classrooms and teaching tools can be designed to optimize teacher effectiveness and student ability.

I've noticed two tremendous opportunities in the disruption of the traditional K-12 model — trends that are helping educators reimagine the classroom and how they teach, and reshaping the student learning experience. The first is the imperative to democratize digital skills; the second is the increasing potential of personalized learning and approaches that put students at the center of education.

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Newsmakers: Laura Callanan, Founding Partner, UpStart Co-Lab

August 25, 2017

In its most recent Arts & Economic Prosperity report, Americans for the Arts found that the U.S. nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity in 2015, prompting Robert Lynch, the organization's president and CEO, to comment, "Leaders who care about community and economic vitality, growing tourism, attracting an innovative workforce, and community engagement can feel good about choosing to invest in the arts."

But where were the impact investments? While the economic importance of the arts has long been recognized, arts-related organization and businesses often fly under the radar when it comes to comprehensive community development, and the relative lack of such investment in the creative economy was one of the things Laura Callanan was determined to explore when she established Upstart Co-Lab in 2016. What's more, Callanan — who majored in theater in college and began her professional career in the financial world, working as an investment banker on Wall Street after graduate school before serving as an endowment manager at the Rockefeller Foundation, a consultant to foundations at McKinsey & Company, and deputy chair of the National Endowment for the Arts — was well positioned to find out.

Earlier this year, Callanan and her colleagues at Upstart Co-Lab released Creative Places & Businesses: Catalyzing Growth in Communities (55 pages, PDF), which identified a $1.54 billion pipeline of more than two dozen projects administered by twenty-two creative places and businesses seeking impact capital. The findings came as a pleasant surprise to many in the arts community, and, according to Callanan, who was recently named to the NonProfit Times' Power & Influence Top 50 list, are a clear sign that the creative economy is ready for impact investment on a significant scale.

PND sat down with Callanan earlier this summer to discuss the findings of the report and the role philanthropy can play in catalyzing impact investments in the creative economy.

Headshot_laura callananPhilanthropy News Digest: The first thing that jumped out at me in the report was the almost complete lack of impact investment in the creative economy, despite the fact that the arts, in the most recent year of record, generated $704 billion in nonprofit and for-profit economic activity, or 4.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product.

Laura Callanan: Actually, since we published the report in April, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bureau of Economic Analysis have updated their assessment of how much of the U.S. economy is driven by arts and cultural production. It's still 4.2 percent of GDP, but the dollar total is $730 billion, $26 million more than the figure mentioned in the report.

That's the best number currently available on the size of the creative economy, of which the arts are a core part. The National Endowment for the Arts emphasizes music, literature, visual art, and activities related to artistic disciplines. That means it's light on things like fashion, food, furniture making, and some other areas that we at Upstart Co-Lab include in our definition of the creative economy.

PND: That only makes the lack of impact investing in the creative economy more surprising. Why hasn't impact capital been flowing to these areas?

LC: We don't yet have dedicated investment products, investment funds, or investment managers with strategies that make it easy for individuals who are impact investors — or for institu­tions like foundations doing mission-related investing — to target their capital to the creative economy. Yes, an individual investor can buy a share of stock in Etsy, which is a public company, and feel like they're supporting the creative economy. And a foundation can make a program-related investment with a nonprofit arts organization or creativity-based social enterprise. But these one-off investments don't equal scale.

Let me give you an example of why that's a problem. Stockade Works and Stockade Studios in Kingston, New York, were started by the actress Mary Stuart Masterson and her business partner Beth Davenport. Stockade Works is structured as a nonprofit. Stockade Studios is structured as a for-profit social-purpose business. They've been approaching foundations about supporting their efforts to create a film/TV/media hub in the Hudson River Valley. This could be through a grant to the nonprofit, or a program-related investment, or a mission-related investment in the social-purpose business. But a foundation has to know that Stockade Studios exists, so it needs to have an active deal-sourcing process. And then the foundation has to do its own due diligence, its own risk assessment of the oppor­tunity. Plus track performance on the investment once it's made. These are things that an investment manager could do once, and then make the information available to any number of potential investors. Not being able to get information easily is a disincentive to investment.

Today, there are products, funds, and strategies that facilitate impact investment in education, in affordable housing, in support of women and girls, in support of the environment. Not surprisingly, those are all big areas where impact investors are directing their money. And it's not that we can't tweak and re-deploy existing investment products and funds and manager strategies for the creative economy. It's just that it hasn't happened yet.

PND: Looking out five or ten years, would you expect impact investing in the arts and the creative economy to be a focus only for larger foundations, or will foundations of any size have opportunities to participate?

LC: Everyone's able to pursue impact investing, from the individuals who invest $20 in a Calvert Foundation Community Investment Note to ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and from small foundations to some of the largest in the country, like the Ford and Gates foundations. Once we have the dots connected, and the products, funds, and strategies are in place, it won't matter whether you're an individual or an institution, or whether you have a modest amount of capital to deploy or a lot of capital to deploy. People and institutions today should be able to support the creative economy with impact investments just as they can support the environment, affordable housing, education, and other important priority areas.

PND: Do the politics of the moment help or hinder what you're trying to do with Upstart Co-Lab?

LC: To my mind, they shine a bright light on the gap we're trying to fill. There was a story in the Wall Street Journal recently that said: "No matter what the Trump administration does to the Environmental Pro­tection Agency, impact investing for the environment cannot be stopped." Of course, we can’t expect that to be the case if the administration pulls the plug on the National Endowment for the Arts, because impact investing for the creative economy hasn't gotten off the ground. But that just underscores the significance of the opportunity.

The NEA deploys $150 million a year for the arts. That's far less than the $17 billion annually that philanthropy puts into the arts. It's certainly a lot less than $8.8 trillion of impact investing assets under management in the United States today. If we can target a small portion of impact investing assets for creativity — as much, say, as currently flows through crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo — it would be many times more than the budget of the NEA. As a country that cares about free speech, it's important that we support arts and crea­tivity at the federal level. But on a pure dollar basis, there are a lot of resources available in the impact marketplace that can be deployed in support of arts and creativity.

PND: What do you hope to accomplish with the Creative Places & Businesses report?

LC: I hope the report is the beginning of a robust conversation that intro­duces the concept of a "creativity lens" to impact investing and leads, sooner rather than later, to concrete action.

It is incredibly important that any definition of a creativity lens highlights creative places and creative businesses as an important long-time contributor to comprehensive community development. That's why we started the conversation where we did. There's a lot of discussion in the foundation arts community about cultural equity. If we want to shape a creative economy that is inclusive and equitable and sustainable, we have to back up our words with resources.

We know the future of the United States is the creative economy. We're no longer an agrarian economy; we're no longer a manufacturing economy. Today, what we really have is an innovation economy, an ideas economy. But what do we want that economy to look like in the decades to come? Do we want an economy where a few people get paid a lot of money to make apps, and the rest of us are driving for Uber and Lyft and don’t have a retirement plan or health benefits? Or do we want an economy that is inclusive, equitable, and sus­tainable; that is generating quality jobs at every level of the wage scale; and that fully celebrates the imagination and inno­vation that is present in every community in the United States?

PND: Where do you see things going with respect to impact investing and the creative sector?

LC: Upstart Co-Lab has had hundreds of conversations with impact investors and wealth managers over the last couple of years, and they all have clients who have been asking for impact investing opportunities related to arts, culture, and creativity. There's great potential here. Philanthropy did a lot to build the ecosystem of impact investing, social inno­vation, and social entrepreneurship. Arts philanthropy absolutely has a role to play in enabling this new creativity lens for impact investing. The work that philanthropy has done to build thought leadership, technical capacity, and awareness around creative placemaking has been an important early step.

PND: Has it been difficult to build on that early momentum?

LC: It's only just begun! What I'm excited about are the examples, those mentioned in the report and others that I learn about every day. In the last couple of weeks, for instance, I've had a chance to make site visits around New York City and visit Chicago. I see people who are ambitious and thinking big, who see the potential that can be unlocked by connecting impact capital with creative places and businesses. In Chicago, for example, there's an effort under way to redevelop the Avalon Regal Theater. Jerold Gary, an investor-entrepreneur has been actively working in the African-American community on the South Side, investing in residential housing. He had an opportunity to buy the theater — it's a landmarked 1920s property, amazingly detailed, with an ornately painted lobby. In its day, it was a large-capacity venue that drew A-list performers like Ella Fitzgerald and Michael Jackson, but it has been shuttered for quite some time. The good news is that they're on course to re-open the theater by the end of the year.

But it's not just about the theater. The Avalon is an anchor for a whole new cultural corridor on the South Side that's going to include retail space, incubator space where people can do creative work, and a museum of black music. The project is crucial to ensuring that the South Side has a stake in the emerging creative economy, because it's not just about nostalgia and the cultural expression of the past, it's about recognizing that creativity exists in every neighborhood, and that every neighborhood deserves places where people can develop and showcase their creativity.

PND: What role do you see for arts foundations in the development of an impact investing market linked to the creative economy?

LC: Philanthropy played a crucial role in establishing impact investing, social innovation, and social entrepreneurship. It was early philanthropic support that made it possible for people to explore these new ideas, build awareness and understanding, and establish standards, tools, and metrics that enabled the impact investing community to coordinate and grow. And now we see philanthropy taking the next step, bringing more endowment resources to bear on critical issues through mission-related investing. Foundations that support the arts, creativity, and innovation can follow this playbook for the creative economy.

For foundations that have been making traditional grants to the arts — but may not yet be ready to embrace impact investing as a tool to advance their mission — there's a lot to be done by supporting the growing ecosystem, investing in new ideas, investing in thought leader­ship and convening activities, in standards-setting and documentation of the types of projects we describe in the report. I wrote for Grantmakers in the Arts ;about what program officers can do, even if they don't have mission-related investing avail­able to them, and that includes things like making grants to build the ecosystem for impact investing in the creative economy and using their bully pulpit and convening power to spotlight what's happening in creative communities around the country.

One key thing program officers can do is bring to the attention of their fellow grantmakers the artists who are social entre­preneurs who are doing great work. They could be artists focused on the environment and climate change, artists who are focused on reforming the criminal justice system, artists who are focused on immigra­tion. You name it. Folks handing out social entrepreneurship awards always overlook the artist social entrepreneurs.

In short, philanthropy can play an important role in jump-starting the new idea of a creativity lens for impact investing and getting it to a place where the market can take it to scale.

PND: Have we reached a tipping point with respect to how philanthropy views impact investments in the creative economy?

LC: I certainly hope so. And we think there are three reasons why. One: creativity is cool. The excitement around creativity is palpable. You have mayors and governors commissioning creative economy reports and plans. They recognize that creative activity is going to be crucial to building wealth, ensuring social cohesion, and creating quality jobs in their com­mun­ities. When you look at surveys that ask corporate CEOs what will drive business success in the future, creativity in their workforce is top of the list. Just look at how many billions of dollars people have put through platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo — in small increments — to fund creative projects. Even people who don’t think they are particularly creative themselves are happy to invest $25 in someone else’s creativity, whether that's making a film, starting a band, painting a mural, you name it. Creativity is having a moment.

Two: at the same time, impact investing is having a moment. McKinsey & Company, the World Economic Forum, Forbes — all are telling us that impact investing is going mainstream. And as they launch first-time impact investing portfolios, there's no better time to encourage new impact investors to focus on an area that we know they care about: arts, culture, and creativity. As the field of impact investing becomes more devel­oped, there are more targeted opportunities for impact investors to put their money to work: for women and girls, organic food, education, housing, aging in place, sustainable fisheries. These are things that impact investors can support right now. The creative economy is simply too big to be left out of the picture.

The third reason this is a great oppor­tunity is because creative people gravitate toward solving problems, whether that means bringing jobs to the Hudson River Valley or launching an innovation district on the South Side of Chicago. In our research, we identified $1.5 billion in demand for impact capital over the next five years from creative places and businesses catalyzing growth in communities across the U.S. There are investable opportunities searching for values-aligned capital.

At Upstart Co-Lab, we think this is the right moment to apply a creativity lens to impact investing, and we're trying to bring as much energy, intelligence, and workable solutions to the challenge as we can.

— Matt Sinclair

NMAAHC and the Museum of the Future

August 07, 2017

In my previous post, I shared details of a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, during which I had the opportunity to meet with Rhea L. Combs and Jon S. Goff of the museum’s film and photography program. With the help of Combs and Goff, I also was able to connect with a number of staff in related areas and quickly came to appreciate that another important dimension of NMAAHC — really, the key to its identity — is technology and the way, today, it has been integrated into exhibition design, audience engagement, and the extension of a museum's programs beyond its walls.

Nmaahc_separate-but-not-equalThis includes things like interactive exhibits, touch screens, livestreaming of events, and much more. As I visited  various galleries, for example, I encountered an impressive number of items, many of them digitized; the museum is committed to sharing the majority of its collection with the public rather than keeping it in storage. I was also struck by how all the exhibits I saw were beautifully enhanced by digital technology, including one wall of objects that delighted a group of teens as they took turns touching images and uncovering additional information on everything from baseball memorabilia to pop culture couture.

In Best of Both Worlds: Museums, Libraries, and Archives in a Digital Age (78 pages, PDF), former secretary of the Smithsonian G. Wayne Clough notes that the institution has committed to digitizing millions of objects in its collection and anticipates that the initiative will make the collection more accessible in ways we can hardly imagine.

As Clough explained in a 2013 interview on Smithsonian.com: "In the past, the creative activities were entirely behind the walls of museums and collection centers. The public only got access through labels in exhibitions, which told them what we thought. Now, in this new world…, people are going to be engaged with us in a conversation, not a monologue."

Museums established prior to the digital age have had to rethink their collections and reconfigure space to accommodate these developments, but NMAAH's long lead time has been an advantage in this regard. Although Congress voted to establish the museum in 2003, African- American veterans of the Civil War first proposed the idea for a museum devoted to the African-American experience in 1915. Founding director Lonnie G. Bunch III, whose career as a historian and curator includes several previous Smithsonian positions, arrived in 2005 with a staff of two. (The museum employs nearly two hundred people today.) The museum itself didn't open until 2016, but Bunch and his small staff launched its first program in 2007, embracing technology and partnering with other Smithsonian museums, including the National Museum of American History (which hosted the photography show I wrote about in my previous post), in 2009.  

In a Smithsonian magazine article marking the museum's opening last fall, Bunch elaborated: "Rather than simply plan for a building that would be a decade away, we felt that it was crucial to curate exhibitions, publish books, craft the virtual museum online — in essence, to demonstrate the quality and creativity of our work to potential donors, collectors, members of Congress, and the Smithsonian."

 "Black Culture and History Matter," an article by folklorist Kirsten Mullen in The American Prospect, emphasizes this point: "The NMAAHC is the first major museum to 'open' on the web before its physical structure is even built."

A PND On the Web profile of the museum earlier this year praises its "standout" website; director Bunch credits early support from IBM for the site. (IBM has contributed more than $1 million to the museum.) The PND profile notes that the site allows visitors to access collections and exhibits, and highlights a section for educators, a mobile app, and the Many Lenses initiative, which features staff at several Smithsonian museums discussing personally selected objects in their respective collections.

With thousands of objects, programs, and exhibitions to manage, the museum has done a marvelous job — and should be credited — for the amount of material  already on display and the many points of access to those materials provided to the public. Even so, as I consulted the website for information on the museum's many areas, projects, resources, and exhibitions, I sometimes found it difficult to navigate the volume of information. (To help readers of this article, I've included links throughout.)   

Even before it opened, NMAAHC could take advantage of the Transcription Center, the Smithsonian-wide project mentioned in my previous post. In his 2013 interview, Clough anticipated a future in which a museum would "crowdsource its research," an experiment the Smithsonian had just launched with the center. Fully operational now, the center has mobilized a corps of nearly nine thousand digital volunteers from all over the world who have transcribed more than two thousand projects using their own computers and broadband connections. The volunteer transcriptions are reviewed by center staff and then posted on the Web, where they can be accessed by researchers and the general public.

Laura Coyle, collection manager and head of cataloging and digitization, tells me that since the museum joined the transcription initiative in 2015, thirty-four collections or items in the NMAAHC project have been transcribed. As an example, the James Baldwin collection, with a hundred and twenty-four pages of material, was completed thanks to the efforts of forty-three volunteers.

Another project is focused on indexing and transcribing the archives of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands, which was created by the U.S. government after the Civil War to address the problems of the four million formerly enslaved people and hundreds of thousands of impoverished white people living in the South; there are nearly two million letters, reports, contracts, and other documents related to administration of the bureau. Preserved by the National Archives, the materials are now being made accessible to the public. NMAAHC’s "Freedmen’s Bureau Project" includes a partnership with FamilySearch International, which has indexed the material to capture names and dates, allowing people to search for ancestors. With the assistance of the Transcription Center, the museum also is in the process of transcribing bureau documents.

 "So far, we've made available all thirty thousand records of the Assistant Commissioner for North Carolina," Coyle tells me. "And we're continuing to process and prepare the remaining records for transcription and will eventually make available the entire Freedmen's Bureau collection online and through the Robert Frederick Smith Explore Your Family History Center at the museum."

In addition to the transcription work, NMAAHC has created at least a minimal digital record of all thirty-seven thousand items in its collection — photographs, documents, and artifacts. To date, more than eight thousand images are available online via the Collection Search page. And later this year, the museum will expand access to its film and video collection (which at the moment is only available via YouTube), making it viewable directly through the museum's website.

"Because so much is possible through digitization," says Coyle, "it makes all the other things we do possible: our website, our prints and publications, our exhibits, our mobile access. And we were able to do everything right from the start."

I ask Coyle, who has a degree in art history and worked at the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington prior to joining NMAAHC in 2010, if her education and experience prepared her for the opportunities, and challenges, of the digital age.

"This job did not exist when I was in school," she says. "Museums started using digital tools to manage collections when personal computers became widely available in the nineteen-eighties. With the advent of the Web in the nineties, museums realized they could share their collections and stories digitally, but no one was quite sure how to do this. We just couldn't imagine all the ways digitization would be a part of our lives.  Now, of course, actual and virtual visitors expect museums to offer a variety of digital experiences. But we still don't know what the digital museum will be in the future. NMAAHC was committed to digitization from the start and remains committed to the digital museum concept, wherever that takes us."

Coyle tells me that when she came on board, "It was just me working in this area. Everyone was focused on building the collection and building the building."

Today, her staff of nineteen includes specialists in cataloging, record creation, rights and reproductions, digital assets management, and photography. Rounding out the "Digi Team" are the five media digitization and preservation staff working in the Digitization Media Center. All together, the team produces catalog records and images for internal and public platforms; reformats audio-visual materials; manages digital materials and intellectual property rights related to collections; responds to requests for collection information; and oversees publication projects.

"My team is a service organization within the museum," Coyle says. "We work with the curatorial team and participate in the creation of digital content for various platforms. That's essential for online and traditional exhibitions, collection research, and publications." For instance, of the nearly twenty-five thousand photographs in the museum's collection, a digital archive of more than sixty-three hundred photographs is now accessible through the website.

But keeping up is a challenge. "Digitization is time consuming and costly," says Coyle. "At this point, only 25 percent of the museum's collection is well cataloged, imaged, and online to the public — our definition of fully digitized. And we're continuing to collect, so digitization will always be a little behind. Cataloging is also an ongoing process and we can always add more information. People expect a lot in this area, so we want to meet the demand as much as we can."

Meanwhile, demand is growing. In the first three months of this year, for instance, 319,000 people visited the museum's Collection Search page. "We know that people are searching our collection online" says Coyle. "And we'll be collecting more analytics to learn more about what visitors do once they get there."

The Digi Team also manages the Collection Stories feature on the website, where NMAAHC staff are invited to share their response to an item in the permanent exhibits. Coyle chose the dress worn by Carlotta Walls ("Dress for the Occasion") on the historic day in 1957 when Walls helped integrate an Arkansas high school as one of the "Little Rock Nine." An image of the dress, digitized along with related photographs and documents, appears there and is also available through Collection Search.

"That dress made a mighty impression on me," Coyle tells me, "and I was really honored to meet Carlotta Walls LaNier, who donated the dress to the museum."

Collecting the Collection

One of the defining qualities of NMAAHC is its process for acquiring material. Collecting began a decade ago, and director Bunch has described the task of starting a collection before a museum even opens in various interviews. In a 2016 Washington Business Journal article, he shared some of the details of his own family history, what led him to become a historian, and some of the experiences that helped shape his vision for the museum.

"I thought the best thing we could do," Bunch said in that interview, "was to use African-American culture as a lens to understand what it was to be American. This was not a museum for black people by black people. It was a museum for resilience, for optimism."

He then related a story about the first item received by the museum, the result of a serendipitous meeting with an Ecuadoran man, Juan Garcia, who subsequently donated a canoe seat carved a century ago by his great-grandmother, who lived in a community of escaped slaves — an encounter that impressed upon Bunch the presence and history of Africans throughout the Americas.

"That artifact helped me frame the museum as a global museum, not just an American museum," he told the Business Journal. "That was transformative for me."

But not all items came to the museum that serendipitously. In the 2016 Smithsonian.com article mentioned above, Bunch shared the concerns he felt in those early days.

"Maybe it was the curator in me, but what worried me the most was whether we could find the stuff of history, the artifacts that would tell the story of this community," he said. "Some of the early plans for the museum de-emphasized artifacts, partly out of a belief that there were few to be collected and technology could fill any void. But I already knew that even if you have the very best technology, a tech-driven institution would fail. People come to the Smithsonian museums to revel in the authentic."

Bunch reflected on his experiences, over his career, with "community-driven collecting," including reaching out to African-American families and securing gifts "over a cup of tea." And he spoke eloquently of the urgency he feels to find and preserve these artifacts.

"I believed that all of the twentieth century, most of the nineteenth, maybe even a bit of the eighteenth might still be in trunks, basements, and attics around the country. I also knew that as America changed, family homesteads would be broken up and heirlooms would be at risk. We had to start collecting now, because the community's material culture might [not] exist in ten years."

With support from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the museum created "Save Our African American Treasures," a program designed to appeal directly to communities and surface those forgotten items stashed away in attics and trunks while at the same time educating people on how to preserve family photos, documents, and artifacts. That approach continues, although as the museum's staff has grown to include professional curators, the approach to curation and the collection has shifted.

At the same time, the stories of Naomi Long Madgett, the poet who donated the films of Rev. Jones to CAAMA (see my earlier post), and Carlotta Walls LaNier, who donated her dress, are echoed over and over in the larger collection. While many items in the NMAAHC collection have been purchased, many more have been donated by people whose fervent desire is to see the preservation of their family history.

According to Michèle Gates Moresi, supervisory curator of collections at NMAAHC, the vast majority of the items in the collection have been donated. "I don't have a current count of the total number of people who have donated artifacts to the museum," she said in an email exchange, "but last summer, when we organized a special event for object donors, we had a list of more than sixteen hundred." An estimate of the value of all the artifacts donated does not exist, but the donated material is quite possibly the museum's most valuable asset. In addition, many individuals have stepped up with monetary donations; as of the end of the first quarter, the museum had a hundred and sixty thousand charter members, some who had given substantial amounts, and many more who had donated what they could.

(The generosity of donors is a consistent theme in studies of African-American philanthropy. A recent PND article points out that "African-American households tend to give more of their discretionary income — as much as 25 percent more — to charitable causes than white Americans; that figure increases as African Americans move into the ranks of the wealthy.")

A Great Convener

In Lonnie Bunch's interview with the late Gwen Ifill shortly before the museum opened, the PBS NewsHour co-anchor, in reference to a series of racial incidents around the country, stated, "We are at a crossroads in our country." Bunch agreed with her characterization and expressed his conviction that NMAAHC could play a positive role in moving forward as a society. 

"Our job is to create a space that, through dialogue and exhibitions, can make America better," he added. "We expect this to be one of the most diversely visited places in the U.S. In surveys, 75 percent of white Americans said this is a story they want to know as well. I hope this museum will continue to evolve, continue to change, because it really has to be a place that is the great convener."

Since I attended my first NMAAHC exhibition (the 2009 photography show I mentioned in my earlier post), I've been looking forward to seeing the finished museum. Even at a time when interest and scholarship about the African-American experience has flourished, it has not always been easy to learn about that history and culture. NMAAHC redresses that gap; its film and media programs in particular are reaching audiences on a deep emotional level, and the integration of technology in almost every aspect of its operations has greatly enhanced its impact. The museum's collection and the way it is presented affirm an African-American identity, as was always the intention. But the museum also succeeds brilliantly in advancing the mission crafted by its founders and articulated by Bunch: "To tell the story of America through an African American lens."

Kathryn Pyle is a regular contributor to PhilanTopic. Check out her other posts for PhilanTopic here.

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