Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013
Arts & Culture Infrastructure Initiative
Let’s Create LA … with a vibrant and thriving arts and culture infrastructure initiative.
Greater LA has a robust and active cultural scene, with more artists and arts organizations per capita than almost any other region in the country. LA is also home to a powerful and productive economy that generates billions of dollars a year in a variety of industries, helping to make California the 8th-largest economy in the world. However, as the LA2050 Report indicates, financial support for the arts is weak compared to other major markets. This deficiency is created by a low number of private culturally-focused foundations, low levels of corporate sponsorship, and most importantly, a gap that exists between business managers and executives who want to engage with the cultural life of LA. In contrast to many other regions that have robust Board Placement programs, Arts & Business Councils, and United Arts Funds, LA has very limited programs to prepare for and match business/civic leaders for service on cultural arts non-profit boards. LA STAGE Alliance hopes to address these concerns by becoming a robust cultural alliance, providing service to the entire arts, business, and philanthropy community. We have completed the initial research for the Arts & Culture Infrastructure Initiative. A LA2050 grant is needed as ‘seed money’ to allow us to fast track this initiative by piloting test cases, developing program/operations and fundraising plans and creating a network of invested stakeholders through a series of interviews, surveys, convenings and research reports. Our research indicates that the Initiative has the potential to be financially self-sustaining through both earned and contributed revenue after the two-year pilot phase.
The Initiative will include the following three components:
1. Arts & Business Conduit: We want to serve as the conduit between the arts and business community. We will build relationships with the top 50 institutions with demonstrated arts board participation from our research. We will interview key leadership and corporate social responsibility officers on their formal and informal board placement, leadership development and community outreach strategies. Our goal would be for the talented employees of top corporations in the region to be trained on arts board service and be placed with a cultural organization that both matches their interests and expands their understanding of the cultural infrastructure of Greater LA.
Engaging Los Angelinos with cultural board service by itself is not enough. We will create ongoing Board Support Networks between board members at cultural organizations for mutual support, similar to support networks in other fields through surveys, communications, convenings and networking events. Arts non-profits often run into challenges that their boards do not have knowledge in and may feel at a loss on how to effectively address. By creating networks between board members - including mentor-mentee relationships and periodic gatherings of board members/board chairs, etc - major decision-making challenges can be addressed with the knowledge base and community support of leaders from across the region. We will consult with national thought leaders in leadership development and arts non-profit management to create the program design for the Arts & Business Conduit.
2. Region-wide Arts Fund: We will develop a plan to create a Region Wide Arts Fund through workplace giving, employee-driven corporate sponsorship support, individual donations from high-net-worth individuals and crowd sourced methodologies. By engaging with the businesses of Greater LA through the Board Placement and Development process, we expect that many LA citizens will be identified who are interested in the cultural landscape of LA, but who are not in a place to engage immediately through Board service. This component of the program will provide a pathway for those who want to support the LA cultural infrastructure without board service. The funds raised will be distributed through re-granting to support parts of LA’s cultural landscape that are often overlooked or underfunded.
3. Arts & Cultural Alliance Pilot We will pilot the expansion of our programming, from serving the performing arts predominately to serving the entire arts and culture sector through the following channels: Current Program Outreach, Expansion of LASTAGETimes.com Arts Journalism coverage, and Research and Program Development. This will lead to a new mission, new name/branding and a more robust operation. We would conduct outreach to build awareness of these benefits to an expanded arts population while simultaneously working with the broader community to ascertain what community-specific services and programs are still needed.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
LA STAGE Alliance has provided dozens of services and short-to-long term initiatives over our 30 year history. A few highlights include:
1. The creation of the LA STAGE ARTS CENSUS, in partnership with TRG Arts, that is now the largest and most robust collective dataset of cultural patrons in LA’s history with over four million unique households currently included.
http://www.laimyours.com/40804/what-is-up-with-la2050/2. The creation of the LA PatronManager CRM initiative, providing gold-standard corporate data technology services to arts organizations at zero cost, through a multi-pronged partnership with a for-profit technology firm (Patron Technology), a corporate foundation (Salesforce Foundation), private foundations (the James Irvine and Doris Duke Charitable Foundations), over 100 non-profit arts organizations, and a non-profit service organization (LA STAGE Alliance).</p>
3. The creation of LA STAGE Magazine in 2001, which moved online to become the award-winning LASTAGETimes.com in 2009. It is now guided by Editor-in-Chief Deborah Behrens and is the largest professional journalism outlet in Los Angeles dedicated specifically to in-depth, quality coverage of Los Angeles performing arts.
4. The founding of the LA STAGE Warehouse Co-op, a 10,000 square foot shared materials facility for the LA theater community, saving LA theaters thousands of dollars a year and preventing the loss of tons of reusable materials (sets, props, costumes, equipment) that would otherwise be sent to landfills.
5. The creation of the LA STAGE Ovation Awards, now in their 24th year, the highest-profile awards for excellence in theater on the West Coast. The Ovation Awards consider over 400 productions each year; celebrate over 150 nominees and 35 Ovation recipients at an annual black-tie ceremony, which is attended by 1300 leaders of the LA cultural community.
6. Hosting the 2011 Theatre Communications Group Conference in Los Angeles – the first time it had been to LA in its 50 year history – bringing over 1,000 theater professionals from around the country to Downtown LA, in conjunction with the first ever RADAR LA international theater festival.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
We’ll activate the 1000+ arts organizations we currently serve and develop this initiative with our local, regional and national partners who work in this connectivity-collaboration space, including the LA Chamber of Commerce, Arts for LA, municipal cultural agencies, arts funders, service providers and others. We will also leverage individuals serving on cultural boards, networks of philanthropists and business leaders who support the cultural life of LA. We have strong relationships with national partners who have encouraged us to pursue this Initiative including both Americans for the Arts (their network of Arts & Business Councils, Business Committees for the Arts and United Arts Funds) and National Arts Strategies.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Evaluation will include tracking the following on an annual basis, with the first data being derived from a comparison of the pre- and post- LA2050 activity period (June 2013 and December 2013).
1. How many individuals, arts organizations, corporations and philanthropic entities are engaged with the Initiative?
2. Have we increased the number of diverse, non-performing arts entities participating in current LA STAGE Alliance programs.
3. Have we created Program/Operations/Fund Development Plans for all three aspects of the initiative.
4. Have Advisory Councils and Task Force/Working Groups been established with work plans and timelines?
5. What changes in satisfaction occur for non-profit Executive Directors regarding the participation and support of the Board?
6. What changes in satisfaction occurred for current Board members regarding the participation and support of other Board members?
7. How many Board members of non-profits met new colleagues (on their Board or on other Boards) through the Initiative?
8. How much funding for cultural organizations was raised and distributed through the regional Arts fund program? How many individuals or organizations participated?
9. What changes in compensation for artists and arts administrators have occurred since the beginning of the Initiative, both with-in individual organizations and across all participating cultural organizations?
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
What is particularly exciting about this project is that it will not only impact the Arts & Cultural Vitality indicator, but also the Social Connectedness and Income and Employment indicators. The core of the Initiative is to build an engaged and active web of relationships between Angelinos and arts and culture non-profits through arts participation, board volunteerism (Social Connectedness) and philanthropy. In turn, these engaged citizens will bring more resources– financial and knowledge based– to non-profit cultural organizations and thus improve the success of those organizations. Ultimately, better-supported arts organizations will help increase compensation and standards of living for artists and arts administrators, which is a significant challenge in the LA cultural landscape.
LA STAGE Alliance’s major strengths are building relationships and aggregating resources. This project is a great example of the work we do. We have two sectors (for-profit corporate businesses and non-profit cultural institutions) that could greatly benefit from working together on many levels. The for-profit employees will have the opportunity to gain skills, network with each other, and become personally invested in the cultural organizations and artists in their communities in a way that is tailored to their individual interests and needs. The artists and cultural organizations will make huge strides in organizational stability, sharper mission focus and strategic planning by engaging with a new set of talented and trained board members and will thrive with an infusion of new services and funding streams. This Initiative will build a growing set of passionate professionals on both the for- and non-profit sides, who are excited about LA’s cultural landscape. They will be given the necessary tools to take our current cultural assets and turn them into a powerhouse that will propel Los Angeles into truly being the Cultural Capital of the United States.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
Our CEO, Terence McFarland presented the following six components of a vibrant and thriving arts ecology in 2050 at the community meeting on the Arts & Culture Indicator:
1. Multi-use community arts centers exist in every neighborhood with multi-lingual around the clock program composed of participatory, professionally produced or presented and commercial or purchasable product.
2. The LA region enjoys the highest per capita investment in the arts from Government, Individuals AND the Corporate Sector.
3. Business Leaders from every sector are clamoring to join Arts and Culture Non Profit Boards – Arts groups enjoy a waiting list for potential Board members.
4. All artists are making a living wage.
5. Artists of every discipline are in residence at the top 200 businesses in the region and every major municipal agency.
6. Low income residents enjoy free access to and feel welcomed at any arts experience they choose at all arts organization in the region.
The Board and Giving networks will become a core group of LA’s ecology and civic engagement that participation in them will be a given. Once you reach a certain level of career progression in any field in Los Angeles, it will be socially presumed that you join your peers in Board service within LA’s cultural non-profit sector.
After 30+ years of these mutually beneficial relationships taking root, it will be hard to see where ‘for profit’ businesses end and ‘non-profit’ organizations begin. You will find more for- and non-profit businesses fusing into cooperative ventures beyond sharing board members. For example, it will become a standard practice for art experiences to be incorporated into the business activities of a store or restaurant.
Participation in our Regional Arts Fund will be so commonplace that it will feel like a tithing at church to all those above the poverty line in the region.
Los Angeles will be known as the Cultural Capital of America - the ‘Creative Powerhouse’- where a vast economy is driven by creative activities at every level; where business acumen is tightly woven with art to reach higher levels of community impact and artistry. New generations of cultural innovation will springboard from LA. The best and brightest minds of Los Angeles will collaborate effortlessly, propel our region forward, and help the LA arts sector grow economically and culturally to inspire all of America and the world.