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Over the past two years as the first-ever Metcalf Arts Policy Fellow, I have spent time taking stock of current industry trends at home and abroad in order to identify ways in which the arts sector can better adapt to its changing environment. I met with more than 100 cultural leaders across Canada, the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, and arrived on the other side of this arts policy immersion with a better understanding of how Canada might begin to address its own process of systemic evolution and innovation in order to realign policy and practice in today’s dynamic social, cultural and political climate.

In recent years, the economic recession has incited new conversations across industry sectors about how to adapt to a volatile, unpredictable and rapidly changing economic environment. In the arts, we have been closely monitoring government decision-making across jurisdictions in order to protect the important investments that underpin the arts ecosystem in Canada. A political focus on deficit reduction, financial recovery and the negative impact of failing global markets have informed major cuts to important public resources. To the credit of arts advocates, many governments in Canada have protected arts spending while affirming their understanding of the positive social and economic impacts the arts have in communities. Some have even championed the notion of increased support, though in the short term, most government’s still face significant challenges in funding these convictions.

While arts supporters are admirably defending the sector’s fragile ecosystem in this time of economic instability, there is simultaneously a quiet, large-scale arts industry (r)evolution ensuing based on major shifts in the environment that are redefining our working reality. New technologies, global interconnectedness and the changing nature of public engagement in the arts are all at the root. Art is created everywhere, by anyone. It is broader, more innovative and boundary-less. The culture of participation and personal creative expression is growing rapidly, defining a more multi-modal form of engagement in the arts that goes beyond simple consumption. Equally, the gap between government investment and industry growth is widening. Public dollars alone can no longer support professional arts practice as it once did. Our system of public investment has catalyzed significant organizational infrastructure growth for over 50 years and today, the industry is prolific and now expanding at an accelerating rate. Consequently, the relationship between governments and the arts has become more and more challenging as growth in the sector has far outpaced the growth of investment. A recent report by the Martin Prosperity Institute From the Ground Up: Growing Toronto’s Cultural Sector shows that between 1991 and 2009, the creative industries grew in Toronto at a rate of 2.9% per year, now exceeding the growth rate of financial services, the medical and biotechnology industries, and the food and beverage industry.

And so, we in the professional arts sector have found ourselves in a difficult situation, asking questions about how to adapt to this new environment. Inevitably, new partnerships, new systems, new structural models and new ways of working must emerge. The resourcing model that succeeded in past phases of industry growth makes less sense today when existing organizations are struggling to find stability and so many new high potential ideas and innovations are left unsupported by the long relied-upon government sources. The new generations of artists that are attempting to replicate an existing business model focused heavily on public investment and unlimited organizational infrastructure growth are not succeeding at effectively supporting their artistic pursuits. So while we are waiting for the economic storm to pass, with our attention fixated on sustaining our current assets within the current limitations of public support, irreversible and long-term changes in the operating environment for the arts are taking hold.

Given this new reality, it’s clear that the need to re-define our working practices and reconsider our structures is imminent. We need to re-imagine how we articulate our public value and pursue new supporting partners to help us fulfill our mandates. Policy makers in the cultural sector must work to realign critical support structures with current practice. Current and future generations of artists and arts organizations will need to move from a culture of growth and independence to a culture of adaptability and collaboration. In his 2010 article Entering Upon Novelty: Policy and Funding Issues for a New Era in the Arts, U.S.-based arts consultant Richard Evans tells us that we need to develop our adaptive capacity – our ability to remain relevant and sustainable in a changing environment. He encourages arts organizations to innovate by questioning old assumptions, discontinuing outdated practices and forging new pathways to mission fulfillment.

Key to the future success of arts enterprises is building new relationships with the private sector based on shared values and mutual goals. How to expand such relationships is an active topic of discussion in the communities and countries I visited throughout my fellowship.

In particular, the need to build the capacity for small- and mid-scale arts enterprises to cultivate private sector partnerships is essential to the future economy of the arts as a whole. Large institutions have exceptional competencies in fundraising and corporate engagement, and traditionally seek private sector support in a competitive way. That is to say, they pursue individual relationships focused on growing the commitment of a private sector partner or philanthropist in support of the work and mandate of their organization. However, if we want to grow private support overall as an industry sector, it’s important to acknowledge that major institutions as a group are ultimately limited in how many new partners they can interest in their particular product. Furthermore, building support exclusively by cultivating one-to-one relationships between arts and business may not be appropriate for the kind of growth that is needed.

Collectively, small- and mid-scale arts enterprises represent the vast majority of Canada’s professional cultural infrastructure. According to Imagine Canada, over half (54%) of arts and cultural organizations report annual revenues of less than $30,000. An additional 39% of arts and culture organizations are mid-sized, with annual revenues of $30,000 to $499,999 . This segment – 93% of arts and culture organizations – is diverse and present in every community across the country. It could, if properly leveraged, connect to a different and widely diverse set of business and philanthropic interests, tapping into new segments of potential arts supporters. But without the capacity to cultivate this support, and without new collaborative strategies, the sector as a whole will be unable to significantly expand its resource base.

Finding ways to build both the fundraising and friend-raising capacity of small- and mid-scale arts enterprises is a challenge that requires new thinking, new tools and a lot of courage. To do things differently, we have to take risks, build new skills, and learn from our failures along the way. But of course, here in Canada, we are not the first to tackle this issue and we can certainly learn from successful models and initiatives beyond our borders. New initiatives and tools for support are being developed and there are already successful examples we can look to for inspiration, including some right here at home. A new generation of arts development calls for new conversations, including new conversations about connecting arts and business. Here are five examples of innovative initiatives that are leading the way.

1 – Focus on Capacity Building: Artsupport Australia
Launched in 2003, Australia’s Artsupport program focuses on growing philanthropic support primarily for small- to mid-sized arts enterprises with annual budgets of under $1 million. Led by National Director Louise Walsh and housed at the Australia Council for the Arts, Artsupport has facilitated over $50 million in philanthropic income for over 200 artists and 600 arts organizations in Australia over its seven-year existence, all for a government investment of just over $5 million. To achieve such exceptional results, Artsupport works with both arts and philanthropic sector players including individual artists and arts organizations, as well as individual philanthropists, and private and corporate foundations.

Louise Walsh, Artsupport Australia

For arts organizations, Artsupport provides access to expert advisors and mentors, in six regions across the country, who work one-on-one with program clients to build their fundraising capacity. For most of the organizations Artssupport works with, fundraising is not a core activity and many lack the staff and resources for development. For these organizations, Artsupport provides coaching and strategic advice on developing philanthropic funding sources, helps to engage board leadership, and provides advice on trusts and foundations relative to an organization’s activities. Beyond the tailored guidance it provides to individual arts companies, Artsupport also hosts annual lectures and master classes and takes on special projects, such as the publication of An arts guide to philanthropic gifts and tax: the dry stuff.

Programs and services for philanthropists, trusts and foundations include the active encouragement of high net worth Australians to become more strategic and structured with their philanthropy. Artsupport introduces them to the arts and demonstrates how the arts can also address a vast number of social and community needs. Partnerships with private banks and wealth management arms of investment banks, financial advisors and planners, trustee companies and tax lawyers have all been essential networks that help to build new philanthropic prospects for the arts. Artsupport connects them to arts giving opportunities, provides seminars promoting the tax benefits of philanthropic trusts, and hosts networking events in order to forge a community of arts philanthropists.


2 – Focus on Arts and Business Partnerships: Americans for the Arts – The pARTnership movement

“When arts and business partner, everyone profits.” That’s what Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, said at the January 2012 launch of the pARTnership movement – an initiative to enhance business and arts partnerships. The pARTnership movement is a national campaign to demonstrate how the arts can help business achieve their goals by “enhancing the critical thinking, team building and creative skills of the corporate workforce, while also helping communities to attract and retain talent.”

The campaign is placing ads directed at corporate America within major newspapers, magazines and other publications that demonstrate how partnering with the arts is good for business. In Times Square, a video ad played four times an hour for a week, capturing the artists, business people, NYC tourists and residents that make up the over 1.5 million people, 56,000 cars and 15 bus lines that pass through Times Square daily.

The pARTnership movement also provides a series of tools that help arts organizations advocate for greater engagement from business and better equip them to propose new collaborations. Through their website http://www.thepartnershipmovement.com, online resources (including a publication dedicated to small- and mid-sized organizations) help prepare arts partners to connect with business in innovative ways. For businesses, they provide the necessary information they need to engage in a rewarding partnership with an arts organization, including case studies that showcase innovative ideas and program concepts, and a zip code finder that will help interested businesses locate potential local partners.

Since its launch, the movement has been growing rapidly, spreading the word that partnering with the arts can give business a competitive advantage. New arts and business partnership success stories are posted online regularly. Ongoing research conducted by the Americans for the Arts research team provides compelling and supportive data on the Arts and Economic Prosperity. Robert L. Lynch will be launching a book bearing the campaign’s namesake in the coming months.

3 – Focus on Collaborative Models: America’s Creative Capital
Creative Capital is a national nonprofit organization in the U.S. that provides integrated financial and advisory support to artists pursuing adventurous projects in all disciplines. Founded in 1999, in response to the defunding of individual artists by America’s National Endowment for the Arts, it is the only national grant-making organization with an open application process that supports individual artists on a multi-year basis. Their approach to grant-making integrates financial and advisory support to help artists realize their projects while building individual capacity to sustain their careers beyond the grant term.

In its pioneering model of support, Creative Capital confronts the realities that working artists face in increasingly challenging times by offering career-, community- and confidence-building tools to enhance capacity for creative and professional success .

They work in a long-term partnership with their grantees, providing the time and advisory services that are crucial to artistic and financial success. Over the course of a funded project, they work with each artist to establish a range of external partnerships, as well as partners(?) with them directly to determine how funding and services can best help them achieve their goals. Creative Capital’s grants include up to $50,000 in direct funding, and career development services valued at $40,000, a total commitment of up to $90,000 for each project. Funding for Creative Capital comes from over 500 individuals and institutions, including a quarter of past grantees. Leading donors include The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Toby Devan Lewis, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and The Theo Westenberger Estate. Creative Capital has reached over 4,000 artists in 50 communities across the U.S. and has been the subject of two Harvard Business School case studies.

4 – Focus on Corporate Leadership: Boeing
When I visited Chicago in early 2011, I came across a great example of forward-thinking corporate arts philanthropy and engagement. Boeing – the airplane maker – is a company interested in arts and culture and positions itself as a partner interested in supporting participation and innovation, including “performances and exhibitions that introduce new voices and perspectives to our community; collaborative efforts developed to create a more sustainable arts and cultural environment; and programs that engage people to become lifelong arts and cultural participants, patrons or practitioners.”

Its Chicago office houses about 450 employees who are deeply engaged in the company’s local charitable mandate. Boeing contributes to the arts through business sponsorships, cash grants, in-kind support, as well as through their employee volunteering initiatives and Employee Contribution Program, where employees direct regular paycheque deductions to causes of their choosing. Their charitable focus on innovation means that, in addition to supporting large organizations and events through sponsorships, they also support small- and mid-scale arts organizations through their granting programs. They recognize the inverse relationship between organizational size and innovation, with the largest organizations acting as anchors with established reputations that attract tourism to the city, and smaller organizations as innovative risk-takers that not only play a role in enriching the local cultural scene, but also tend to be more mobile, frequently exporting Chicago’s cultural products and reputation internationally.


5 – Focus on Investment Incentives: artsVest™

Business for the Arts’ artsVest™ program is one of Canada’s homegrown solutions to cultivating new partnerships between arts and business. The national initiative is a sponsorship training and matching incentive program that aims to “spark innovative business sponsorship opportunities, offering the local private sector the potential to double the impact of their investment” . Arts and culture organizations with annual budgets under $1 million are invited to apply to the program. Those selected benefit from matching funds, free sponsorship training workshops, as well as community-building and networking events that catalyze cross-sector partnerships.

This May, I had the opportunity to attend the launch of artsVest Ottawa and witnessed first hand the enthusiasm of local arts, civic and business leaders including Mayor Jim Watson, Chamber of Commerce Chair Dave Donaldson and Jean-Claude Des Rosiers, Président du Conseil d’administration, Le regroupement des gens d’affaires de la Capitale Nationale, as well as government funding agencies, local businesses and over 80 cultural organization representatives. It’s clear that the program is rooted in a spirit of collaboration and mutual benefit for arts, business and community, with all three sectors wholeheartedly engaging in the program.

artsvest Launch Ottawa

artsVest is currently active in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Calgary, Winnipeg and Vancouver thanks to over $3.5 million in investment from Canadian Heritage; the Government of Ontario; the Saskatchewan Ministry of Tourism, Parks, Culture and Sport; the Winnipeg Foundation; the Ontario Trillium Foundation; the Calgary Arts Development Authority; the B.C. Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development; and the City of Vancouver. Since the inception of the program in Ontario in 2002, 502 businesses have partnered with 180 cultural organizations through artsVest – 282 of these businesses were first-time sponsors of the arts, according to Business for the Arts. The program continues to expand. National Program Manager Laura Adlers estimates that from 2011–2013, artsVest will generate approximately $3.9 million in private sector sponsorship and result in an influx of approximately $6 million to the cultural economy. It will provide 40 free, full-day sponsorship training workshops to approximately 1,000 arts and culture organizations and will create synergistic new partnerships between an estimated 750 local businesses and 280 arts groups across the country.

These initiatives and others are the bright spots that we can look to for guidance as we devise our own solutions to expanding and creating new relationships between arts and business – strengthening our current cultural assets and fostering the next generation of arts development. Arts institutions that are experienced in engaging private sector interests could act as valuable resources as could governments, civic leaders, businesses, and business leaders with deep knowledge about the benefits of supporting and partnering with the arts.

It’s clearer now than ever before that the current and future vitality of the arts in Canada relies on our collective ability to embrace change, to innovate and to challenge old assumptions. Firmly rooted in the value of the arts as defined by contemporary society, we must focus on new forms of engagement with a diverse set of partners. While we may not yet know what approaches and strategies will succeed, we must employ new thinking, new partners, new initiatives, new models and new structures. Hungarian psychiatrist Thomas S. Szasz said: “Clear thinking requires courage rather than intelligence.” With this in mind, our task is to embrace change, engage our creativity to find innovative solutions, be prepared to learn from our experiments, and remain determined not to fall prey to the comforts of the status quo.

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A couple of weeks ago, I spent two days in America’s “Windy City” gathering information on the local arts scene and the corresponding policies that keep Toronto’s sister metropolis a thriving international cultural capital.

Chicago’s cultural politics have been on public display as of late, as journalists and members of the creative sector continue to criticize outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley’s bold move to make some structural and programmatic changes within cultural departments after 21 years in office. Six months prior to his departure, Daley announced that the Mayor’s Office of Special Events would merge with the Department of Cultural Affairs to make the (big surprise) Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and that several of the city’s free festivals would be outsourced to private companies, potentially compromising their accessibility to Chicagoans and city visitors. As a result of the re-structuring, twenty-nine staff were cut from the former DCA office, though twenty of them were simply re-located to the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture – a city-funded non-profit agency, where they will carry on with the same job profile as before. The staff shuffle was apparently connected to noncompliance with hiring protocols outlined in the Shakman Decree, though the situation seems more complicated than that and even those personally affected seem unable to explain or even speculate on the decision’s full motivation. Lois Weisberg, long-time Culture Commissioner and beloved local culture champion promptly resigned after the decision was made public, having not been consulted by Daley in the process. Nine cultural workers were laid off permanently though no grant programs were lost in the aftermath of the merge. Given Daley’s imminent departure, it’s still unclear as to whether the decision will stick. (Read more on Weisberg’s legacy here).

Chicago Mayor-Elect Rahm Emanuel

Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel will take office in mid-May and members of the arts community are taking a wait-and-see attitude before fully settling in to the changes already in motion. A former dancer and White House Chief of Staff, Emanuel ran with a strong and positive position on arts and culture. When asked by Time Out Chicago how he would define the importance of arts and culture to the city of Chicago, he replied “The arts help to define who we are, and they make our city an exciting place to work and live while attracting business and tourism. I believe the city government can and must play a role that allows our arts and culture to flourish…” A coalition called Arts Power Chicago played a key role in bringing arts issues to the fore during the recent mayoral election. Much like Arts Vote Toronto, they articulated a set of priorities for the sector and organized an all-candidate arts debate, among other collective actions.

Millennium Park

Currently, the City of Chicago invests over $100 million in culture. These funds come only in part from the core Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional monies are leveraged through other departments, including the former Mayor’s office of Special Events, the Parks District (which supports museums), the Chicago Office of Culture and Tourism, and others. In addition to direct public investment, Chicago imposes a “Hotel Operators Occupation Tax Fund”, collecting nearly $14M in 2009, to bolster its culture budget. The city also leverages State and Federal cash through community development programs that funnel money to cities for redistribution. Toronto’s culture budget is currently at $45M, just under half that of Chicago. While this comparison speaks volumes in and of itself, the details of the policy framework are worth a closer look. As I met with arts sector stakeholders, including city staff, service organizations, foundations and corporate donors, I was able to gather some interesting perspective on Chicago’s cultural policy framework and how this system aims to support a thriving, internationally recognized culture scene.

Guggenheim Outdoor Stage at Milliennium Park

Unlike Toronto, very little of Chicago’s local public dollars are invested in the core operations of arts organizations. Operating funds from government sources are acquired primarily and often exclusively through State level investment, whereas local investment is focused in other key areas such as infrastructure and public access through event programming and promotion. According to the newly articulated mandate at the Department of Culture and Special Events, they are responsible for ‘”promoting an ongoing celebration of the arts, supporting the people who create and sustain them, and marketing the city’s abundant cultural resources to a worldwide audience”. The City of Chicago realizes this mandate by funding, programming and promoting thousands of free festivals, exhibitions, performances and holiday celebrations – presented at venues such as Millennium Park, Grant Park, the Chicago Cultural Centre and others (many of which are city-owned) – making the city itself the largest producer of cultural activity in Chicago.

Chicago outgoing Mayor Richard M. Daley

Former Culture Commissioner Lois Weisberg

Under the joint leadership of Daley and Weisberg, Chicago’s cultural identity developed and thrived through their sixteen year partnership, though for better or for worse, much of this evolution is undeniably connected to their shared vision, interests and ambitions. They were known to act on their interests, at times bringing home creative ideas from other cities they’d visit in the course of their international sojourns, finding ways to make them their own – such as the famous artist-decorated cow sculptures – an idea originated by artist Walter Knapp in Zurich, Switzerland – which Toronto also later mimicked in the form of moose.

The Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture (COTC) is also an important organization in the mix. It is a non-profit agency at arms length to the government that functions as THE major promotional vehicle for Chicago’s arts and culture scene at home and abroad. With a budget of $14M and 120 employees, it is funded by both city and state, as well as through private sector giving. It touts Chicago as a “premier cultural destination to domestic and international leisure travelers, providing innovative visitor programs and services, and presenting free world-class public programs”. Beyond its role as a culture cheerleader, COTC also programs events at city-owned cultural facilities like the Chicago Cultural Centre, Millennium Park and the Storefront Theater, among others. It also provides direct grants and other resources to individual local artists including the Chicago Artist Resource and the Creative Chicago Expo – two initiatives that were born out of the Chicago Artist Survey conducted in 2000. A similar survey was conducted in 2010 called the Chicago Creative Survey. These surveys help COTC periodically take the pulse of the sector and determine what it can do to better support Chicago’s creative workforce. In the last 10 years, Chicago has given focus to three emerging creative industries – the culinary, fashion and literary sectors – designing new programs of support to help nurture these burgeoning cultural scenes. The collaborative spirit within city government and the cultural sector seems to be a key factor in spurring development on all fronts, including the new and the emerging.

Boeing offices

Because the city is driving so much of the programming and production of culture, it also plays a significant role in cultivating private sector partners – acting as a major fundraiser. Together, Daley and Weisberg developed powerful relationships with key corporate businesses in the city, to ensure cooperation and a shared vision to build and celebrate the cultural assets of the city – attracting tourism, investment and talent. Their personal networks of civic leaders ran deep and in Chicago, a company’s relationship with the Mayor and the city are really important. One of my very first meetings there was with Angel Ysaguirre, the Director of Global Community Investing at Boeing – a company interested in arts and culture (as well as civic issues, environment, early learning, health and human services) as part of its mandate to be a good global corporate citizen. In this portfolio, Boeing positions itself as a partner interested in supporting participation and innovation, including “performances and exhibitions that introduce new voices and perspectives to our community; collaborative efforts developed to create a more sustainable arts and cultural environment; and programs that engage people to become lifelong arts and cultural participants, patrons or practitioners.”

Its Chicago office houses about 450 employees who are deeply engaged in the company’s local charitable mandate. Boeing contributes to the arts through business sponsorships, cash grants, in-kind support, as well as through their employee volunteering initiatives and Employee Contribution Program, where employees direct regular paycheque deductions to causes of their choosing. Their charitable focus on innovation means that, in addition to supporting large organizations and events through sponsorships, they also support small and mid-scale arts organizations through their granting programs. Angel explained to me that they see an inverse relationship between organizational size and innovation, with the largest organizations acting as anchors with established reputations that attract tourism to the city, and smaller organizations as innovative risk-takers that not only play a role in enriching the local cultural scene, but also tend to be more mobile, frequently exporting Chicago’s cultural products and reputation internationally.

Besides corporate partners, Chicago also has several arts-interested foundations, including one of the nation’s largest foundations, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. With an asset base of $5.6 billion, MacArthur operates throughout the US and in 50 countries internationally, though their cultural programs have a local focus in Chicago. They distribute $8M annually to the local arts and culture sector, 75-80% of it in the form of operating grants to 200+ organizations. Because of the relatively low levels of local public dollars supporting operations, MacArthur prioritizes this kind of investment in the arts through their giving strategy, reaching organizations of all kinds and budget sizes. In order to lessen overhead costs, it partners with other foundations to deliver funds. For large institutions (budgets of $2M+), it grants directly, for mid-sized organizations ($500K – $2M), grants are managed through a partnership with Prince Charitable Trusts of Chicago and for small-scale organizations ($500K and under) the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation redistributes MacArthur’s investment as well as provides assistance to applicants. Grants are commensurate with budget size and range from $2,000 to $100,000. In addition to providing operating support, MacArthur also engages in several special initiatives that strategically address key issues identified in the sector. Their ability to proactively initiate and lead such projects is significant to the local sector. As Program Officer for Media, Culture, and Special Initiatives, Deepa Gupta explained that special initiatives are meant to address issues pertinent to the arts ecosystem – projects “that could make a marked difference in the health of the sector”. These efforts leverage public and private dollars as well as galvanize the energy and will of the sector and important partners around key projects and initiatives. Currently they are involved in a national cultural data collection project, a local space rental subsidy program for small and mid-sized organizations, and a capacity building program for minority organizations, among others. They’ve also recently initiated a $1M Working Capital Loan Fund for existing clients of the Foundation to assist with recession-related financial challenges, as well as a $1M International Connections Fund to support the international distribution of local Chicago art and artists.

Another notable foundation is the Chicago Community Trust – a nearly century-old organization that was formed as “an innovative way for concerned citizens to put charitable dollars to work for the benefit of metropolitan Chicago.” The Chicago Community Trust grants over $100 million per year, strategically directed to supporting Arts and Culture, Basic Human Needs, Community Development, Education and Health. The Trust is a convener of non-profits, local governments and businesses, leveraging “knowledge, creativity and resources for a greater impact”. In the Arts and Culture division, current priorities include artistic and cultural diversity as well as organizational development through their Art Works Fund – a funding initiative directed specifically at helping strengthen the management and operations of small arts and cultural organizations. The Trust also partners in research initiatives and in 2009 worked with Arts Alliance Illinois to develop The Arts and Culture Report to support the GO TO 2040 comprehensive regional planning effort led by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). The report articulates a vision for Chicago’s arts and culture sector along with a series of 23 recommendations for action. It’s well worth reading all 57 pages.

At The Trust, I had the good fortune of meeting with Cheryl Hughes, who is a former employee of 17 years at the Mayor’s office of Special Events, as well as a member of incoming Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s transition team on arts and culture. She is also the author of a shiny new graduate thesis that analyses the structure and policies of municipal arts agencies in America’s top 60 cities – measuring them against Florida’s Creativity Index. Needless to say, I could have spent all day in her office and emerged fully educated on Chicago’s cultural policies and how they fare relative to other cities all over the US. With the hour I had, she shared with me her recent graduate work, which I have discovered is a goldmine of great information about how cities can enhance their role and status as creative capitals. Her research findings conclude that there are four significant indicators that affect a city’s ranking on Florida’s Creativity Index. They are: 1) the presence of a local government funded culture department or agency, 2) the scope of programs and services provided by such agencies, 3) the presence of a public art program; and 4) city-driven cultural planning efforts.

Using Hughes’ indicators, Chicago fares very well and at first glance, Toronto also seems to perform strongly in all four areas. Though, I would add a caveat that while Toronto has a cultural planning process in place, it is currently not integrated into the plans and priorities of other relevant city departments, and has to fight for implementation dollars amid a host of other spending considerations. Chicago’s GO TO 40 regional plan is a noteworthy example of how a city can effectively integrate planning processes across departments, though it’s worth mentioning that this was developed in a context where there was 16 years of continuity within city administration.

After my return to Toronto, I contacted Julie Burros, Chicago’s Urban Planner responsible for culture, to find out more about her role and how she works with city government and the local arts community. Together with a small staff team, she acts as a high level advisor and advocate for cultural development inside wider city planning processes. She collaborates closely with other government branches such as zoning, transit, business development, housing and others to inspire and implement cultural development projects. She shepherds projects like the development of cultural districts, the designation of city-owned land or property for arts uses, capital projects for cultural infrastructure development and renewal, and the development of artist live/work spaces. Sometimes these projects are led and managed by the city, though often they’re led by arts organizations in the community. When cultural development projects are in motion, she and her team are important intermediaries between cultural organizations and the city. They navigate a complicated bureaucracy in order to help artists and arts organizations leverage the city’s programs, assets, policies and resources for cultural development of all kinds. At times, cultural planning specialists are like pro bono consultants to the arts community – especially small and mid-sized companies – ensuring they have the necessary permits, are accessing available funds, and connecting with relevant departments in the process of realizing a project. Having cultural specialists embedded at a high level of city planning is an intelligent organizational design that ensures arts development opportunities are fully integrated into big picture city planning agendas.

Chicago skyline

As the Toronto Creative Capital Initiative assembles its recommendations on how the city can become a world-class cultural centre, it’s worth remembering that it is our artists and arts organizations that are the heart of the creative city. They are the ambassadors and front line public service deliverers of Toronto’s cultural goods and their ability to live and work sustainably in Toronto relative to elsewhere is an important gauge when measuring the current and future potential of our city as a creative capital. Unlike Chicago’s more bureaucratically controlled system, Toronto’s system of support is based on the premise that public investment is best spent directly supporting artists and organizations working on the ground in neighbourhoods and communities, making Toronto the vibrant cultural Mecca that it is. However, insufficient public investment that hasn’t kept pace with the exciting growth in the industry has, over time, reduced the capacity of the sector to deliver on the city’s goals and aspirations to attract and retain talent, incent economic development and build international profile. So quite simply, if the city wants to improve its global rank and status as a premiere place to live, work, and invest, it should first and foremost equip the cultural sector to deliver by increasing its investment now and in future, ensuring we don’t fall behind our competitors as we have. Important private sector relationships must also be further developed, providing complementary systems of support and promotion at all levels of infrastructure.

Chicago Cultural Center

Beyond direct investment, the city can more proactively promote its cultural assets, working together with service organizations and other agencies like Tourism Toronto to raise the profile of Toronto culture at home and abroad. Encouraging cultural exchange throughout the city region as well as nationally and internationally is an essential part of establishing Toronto as a premiere creative centre. Mayor Ford and other civic leaders should be at the forefront of these efforts. Furthermore, the city could take a greater role in coordinating efforts around bigger sector-wide goals like arts education, the development of cultural districts, affordable artist housing, and cultural infrastructure repair and development. This can be achieved through the integration of culture into higher-level city-planning processes across departments and by strengthening relationships wit the private sector. As urban planners, architects, designers, promoters, politicians and civic leaders gather to set city-building agendas, culture should be an important item on that agenda – ensuring that as we build and maintain roads, parks, sewers and bridges, we also plan and maintain our cultural facilities, treasure our heritage, provide affordable live/work space for our artists, map our arts districts and promote our cultural scenes.

Like it’s sister city of Chicago, Toronto is already a vibrant cultural centre that we can all be proud of. Now more than ever, city leaders within government, private and non-profit sectors must recognize and leverage the potential of the cultural sector to improve Toronto’s position among the ranks of world-class cities – as a true leader in today’s creative economy. Lessons can be learned from other leading global cities, though many solutions will also be homegrown. Great cities lead the way forward, and Toronto has all the talent and potential to set the bar high.

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Part Three – Private Sector Giving and The Foundation Center

Lincoln Monument

My last stop in Washington was the Foundation Center where I spent some time combing through their exclusive access database. I was curious about how foundations play role in resourcing the arts, given lower levels of public investment relative to Canada. When it comes to charitable giving, America’s reputation is strong and I am increasingly interested in how we can learn from our southern neighbours in terms of building stronger ties with the private sector in order to address growing challenges of capitalization. What I am particularly interested in is the prevalence of foundation giving in the US for artists and arts organizations of all kinds and sizes.

White House

While most private sector giving comes from individuals, foundations and corporations make major contributions. In 2008, the private sector contributed $12.34 billion to arts and culture overall, representing about 4% of total charitable giving in the US. Foundations account for about a quarter of that contribution. According to the Foundation Center, the 1,490 larger foundations included in their 2008 sample awarded 22,902 arts and culture grants totaling $3.2 billion. Nearly 10,000 of those grants were given to organizations with budgets under 25,000. Giving to the arts represents 12.5% of overall foundation giving, a much higher instance of giving than in the private sector at large.

Alongside the reflecting pool

In Canada, there are only a small handful of private foundations that give to the arts, meaning that the nature of private sector giving is almost exclusively through one to one relationships between an arts organization and an individual or corporation. This leaves the responsibility of cultivating private sector relationships and the attached benefits to the arts organization itself and it’s no surprise that in this model, the capacity of an organization has a relationship to its ability to cultivate private sector resources. It seems that by and large, the bigger the organization, the more private sector support (as a percentage of budget) it tends to receive. Inversely, the smaller the organization, the more reliant it is on public resources. Furthermore, as new generations of arts innovators look for seed money from public coffers, it is in our collective interest to find new, substantive sources of revenue to resource the arts at all levels of infrastructure in order to ensure that new entry into the system of public investment is possible – supporting new artists and ideas now and for years to come.

Smithsonian

While Canadian governments, with some exceptions, are doing their best to hold the line on arts investment, the sector is still grossly under-resourced and even with the hope of post-recovery gains on the horizon, government investment will never catch up or keep pace with the growth of the arts sector. Figures I obtained from Toronto Culture Division indicate that since 1992 the arts sector in Toronto has grown by 144%. In that same period, public investment has grown by 117% and private sector contributions have increased by 250%. The situation is likely similar across the country.

Atrium at the Smithsonian

Given the current environment, change is inevitable. In tandem with our efforts to make the case for new public investment, we also need to put energy toward cultivating private sector support in a new way. The traditional one to one relationships that we’ve established over the years won’t be enough. We need to think more creatively about how we can work with the private sector to build common cause. Foundation giving is but one model to consider and there are many others.

Here are some inspiring examples of foundations in the US as food for thought:
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation
Boeing
Creative Capital
United States Artists

Deciphering the situation of arts investment, advocacy and policy outside of our borders brings to the fore new information that helps us re-evaluate our own work. I hope to continue my research by looking outward for inspiration on new ways to think and innovate. Stay tuned for more to come.

Capitol Hill

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