One of the hardest challenges of being an arts grantmaker is deciding how to choose among so many worthy applicants. Even an organization with the Hewlett Foundation’s resources has to make some very hard choices: With more than 2500 arts organizations in the San Francisco Bay Area, our Performing Arts Program can fund only 10% of the them. (We focus on the highest performing companies with annual operating budgets greater than $100,000.)
But that leaves out a host of worthy organizations, and we recognize that very small organizations, fiscally sponsored projects, and individual artists play an important role in a healthy arts ecosystem. To help to meet their needs, we have invested consistently in a dozen regranting intermediary organizations to provide direct support to these players. We contribute to pooled funds (such as local arts councils and community foundations), commissioning funds (such as Creative Work Fund and Gerbode Commissions), and discipline specific funds (such as Theatre Bay Area’s CA$H program and San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music).
This past summer, we engaged consultants from Olive Grove and Informing Change to conduct an assessment of our strategy supporting these regrantors. Their report contains a wealth of ideas and recommendations that are beneficial to the Performing Arts Program, as well as other funders that support regranting intermediaries. Among the recommendations contained in the report are:
Deepening our investment with current regrantors, particularly those reaching underserved communities;
Exploring new regranting partnerships in underserved communities unmet by current regrantors; and
Deepen advocacy role among peers to step up funding in the arts to reach underserved communities.
We cannot accomplish everything recommended in the report by ourselves, so we’re sharing it in hopes that together, we can continue to build a thriving arts ecosystem in the San Francisco Bay Area.
In 2006, a seminal research report, “Critical Issues Facing the Arts in California” determined that the next generation of artists and arts managers was not being prepared to respond strategically and effectively to changing conditions. Additional independent research in 2007-2008 by the Hewlett and Irvine Foundations affirmed that great barriers are inhibiting the next generation of arts leaders from ascending to the top of the field in the years ahead. This challenge is amplified by a generation of baby boomers and arts organization founders preparing to retire over the next decade. In 2009, the Hewlett and Irvine Foundations launched Next Generation Arts Leadership, a three year initiative to begin to address these challenges.
The Next Gen initiative has three strategies:
Support emerging leaders networks in four major metropolitan areas (San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego)
Work with the Center for Cultural Innovation to make Innovation Grants to support organization-level approaches to promoting leadership development for young arts professionals.
A formal assessment of this initiative was conducted by an outside consulting team from Harder+Company Community Research in partnership with Diane Espaldon in 2012. We are seeing significant progress in each of these strategies, which led to the renewal of the initiative for an additional three years, through 2015.
We believe other arts funders and arts managers would benefit from our experience, so we are sharing the executive summary (and the full report, for those who are interested) with the field. Funders can adapt various strategies of the initiative, each of which could be integrated into existing grantmaking programs with measurable benefits. Arts managers can provide employees with encouragement and time to participate in a network or NextGen professional development grant—provided through our close collaborator the Center for Cultural Innovation—resulting in increased employee retention, satisfaction and impact. We encourage others in the field to consider how they can help to prepare emerging leaders for productive careers in arts management.