Organizing the Creative Community for Change

Organizing Creative Community PPT

Organizing Creative community

Sarah Stackhouse actor Shakespeare project Brad Erickson

Sarah -has heard a lot of themes lately about not enough financial respect-so she suggested a panel on advocacy instead of just a panel on fundraising

Brad-Toby and I have worked on similar issues with Toby.  Sarah has put a good frame around the question of the environment of fundraising-changing the mindset from how do you change your organization instead how do you change the world.

Sarah-personal stories  and then the how-what works-some shared experience but Sarah has done  a lot of grassroots work, and Brad has done a lot of lobbying.

Why organize and why –

Sarah – worked in lots of art forms and milieus-and discovered abilities at arts administration.  Lately she’s been having ideas about some possibilities

professional theatre/youth arts work-then met hunt who told groups that they needed to do collective fundraising in order to get grants-some resistance from groups

She made donors come to parties and then when donors gave money, she would match.  Sarah began to realize that rather than stealing from each other, donors began giving not just to them, but to others as well, and that the organizations became a sector, not just individual groups.

Then at Harvard fellowship-and at Martin Ganz workshop-tools from working with farmworkers-and mainly the tool of telling stories-they thought they’d be good but realized they actually sucked-so they did exercise in telling stories rather than just mission and activities.

1) start with story about themselves, then group, then outward, then the moment.

2) Great political organizing -St. Crispin speech-

a) personal story

b) our story

call to action-time is now

2nd 2004 Obama convention speech-same deal

Mass Creative-arts advocacy-lots of hunger and ease with working collectively-instead collective could flex muscles.

Brad-intro Meredith Barber-

Meredith Barber – CA arts council- CA leader in creative jobs, loser in creative funding.  Because lots so much money in the tech bust-realized too isolated -that lawmakers are worried about other things besides “arts for arts sake’-need to re-frame

for example-there is money out there for programs that is not being spent that could be given to the arts-ie corrections-another example is bringing communities together, for example seniors-

also the creative economy and it’s integral part of everything government does- especially the idea of arts as what brings people to cities. Arts and culture have had independent studies that show that arts are what makes cities beloved.

Otis Report-game changer in California

Brad story-

2003-job at TBA-e-mail 1st thing in the morning-head of arts council-saying he needed a letter that day for 20 million to go out to the big five-uncertain what to do but just did it.

3 weeks later at lunch meeting in sacramento and heard funding was about to be cut-had to run across to the legislature and start screaming-1st time doing advocacy-eventually talked to legislatures-did not cut entirely but cut funding 97% -and funding level stayed there for 10 years.

Realized didn’t have effective advocacy -and with mayoral election feared same problem would happen in city.  Created a forum san francisco, did mayoral debate just to get on radar screen, when run off happened arts became a part of the debates. After Newsom won, the arts stayed on his agenda.  Have continued to have fall forum, etc -well attended.

Because of statewide experience, Brad created new group for the purpose of state advocacy -finally after hiring lobbyist, got bump in funding (2 million)-last year got sign off at 6 million increase-current total is 12 million-goal is to get to 20, and then get it locked into place-over long haul of 10years of developing advocacy.

Realization that no one is paid to do advocacy- trying to get all membership and board, etc. to get involved in advocacy and change environment-

Sarah-SF inspiration for Boston

Sarah -How to-

Find allies

1) Once you realize that your advocacy base is not just your organization but also: audience, artists, vendors,etc.

2) other advocacy groups

festivals and parades

other non profit art groups

restaurants, etc.

3) Not just intrinsic value of art but also economic value to a community

4) other allies-improvement with community life and youth, building community and bringing them together-important to other groups and politicians

Sarah-if you believe art is crucial-then it relates to transportation, youth, housing

question-how do you capitalize while avoiding mission drift?

Sarah -figure out things you’re already doing and find connection

Brad-talking about what you’re doing in a new way

Sarah- also what your colleagues are doing-thinking of yourself as a sector

audience member-sometimes just the semantics-mentorship instead of education

Telling your collective Story

Organizations speaking as we-collective info graphics

(I had to take a quick break here)

Taxes, etc-

Question-problems with lobbying regulations-

Sarah-mass creative (non-profit)-equal playtime-no endorsement-all boats to rise-get arts platforms from all politicians


during mayoral campaign-did an “Arts Matter”  campaign -including a variety of social media builds-

Difference between advocacy and lobbying-

advocacy is about education-has not direct action item with it (we would like you to think about increasing funding) -lobbying is more when you are talking to a decision maker about an action (ie-we are asking legislature to increase funding by x amount)

Audience member-in Indiana, if you’re talking to a legislator it’s lobbying

What can a 501c-3 do about lobbying?

1) Can lobby up to 15% percent of your resources-and that’s a lot

2) Can create campaigns that are used by other lobbyists

3) Invite everybody-not just the most powerful

4) Have more than one topic

5) Organizations can Never endorse party or candidate-but individuals can

6) Invite politicians to speak to groups and audiences-just not near election


Also being a movement allows there to be the powerful and powerless because they are united in the movement

What can you do?

1) Get out there-encourage organizations to support advocacy-

2) Join local arts council, state organization and participate!

3) Get your crew involved -need encourage

4) Think municipal, state and national level (especially city)

5) Develop relationships with your public officials-in person

6) Insist at a seat at the table

Audience feedback

From St. Louis- what is a seat at the table for you?

Brad-discussion of the mid-market area, and trying to turn around the depressed area-no change through re-development committee-eventually a tax break brought tech industries to the area.

Arts groups were invited to meetings about the area  to use arts as a way to turn area around-even small companies were involved-the reason they turned to arts was because no one else would move in-and has had a big effect-now bigger theatre and smaller theatre are building up and creating spaces in the area.Brad believes that was partly because of the advocacy of arts forums

Sarah-story about local group that used advocacy to bring about change in policing on the MBTA.

keeping up the advocacy helps to support bringing people in power that are arts advocates

Audience-statehouse story reminded member of difficulty with county funding-advocacy in “quality of life” -confronted about too much of lobbying just for arts funding-presentation as a good citizen helps.

audience member-small city-asked themselves-“what can we do to encourage economic development” as a way to get a seat at the table-i.e. adding arts to the community makes a small city more of a draw.  Even reading a book together as a city.

Peter Kagayam -book For the Love of Cities

Sarah-look for connection in sector instead of allowing yourself just to concentrate on your stuff-showing up for everybody-create reciprocity.

members of a chamber of commerce-or visitors bureau, etc.-other civic groups

audience member-in New Hampshire-groups are very spread out-so having different kinds of non-profits as part of your movement is vital.

audience member-you can even make partnerships be part of what you do-your art can be part of advocacy

Sarah-yes, a LGBT theatre group  with a lot of young people of color wanted to get involved politically after Ferguson-That was more vital than cultural planning- have to take that in when working in political sector

audience member-we’re from Wisconsin and life is very tough-and statewide advocacy group is kind of weak-also spread out -so how do you gain momentum?

Brad-during deficit period kept hammering away, so when the economy turned around the relationships were good

Sarah-make sure all your disparate groups-donors, major corp, artists, etc., other groups-make sure they know each other.

Brad-got high powered lobbyist through Boeing Corp. – one of board members called up Boeing and found lobbyist

Sarah-find connections that can make connections

audience member-any strategies for going to companies that don’t traditionally support the arts?  How do you talk to them?

Brad-depends on different companies-quality of life, education-what do they need in their workforce,etc.

audience member-how do you find to do this with your other job?

Sarah-well, now there’s more staff-also thinks very broadly about what development is, so worth her time because being connected to advocacy groups connects her to her development base-there is an opportunistic side to it.

She thinks a lot about what is going in her city, and wondering what the connection is to her group, and that makes her a great source of communication.  Also she engages her creative team and other people in the organization.  She also utilizes team members who work in different circles.  However, it’s very tiring.

Brad-involve board and staff so they support it.  Also, then the knowledge can be part of the institution, not just the individual.

audience member-we had an “aha” moment last month when the board of directors met-one of the long term actors told a story at a board meeting-in Canada, there are only 300 full time working actors, and I’m one of them-if you think that’s important, then support-find that individual story

Sarah-also use your artistic ability to create advocacy-power in using what you’re good at.

Brad- board member had been dogging on advocacy-decided he wanted to use crayons to make a statement-had each politician take a crayon and said “this represents Cal per capita spending on arts” and then showing ever bigger boxes of crayons as comparisons to other state’s spending-had a big effect.

audience member-missed question-

Sarah-learning to find easier asks-and also be flexible in how you advocate-because of constant changes in political landscapes.

audience member-invited group to think about how theatre organizations are uniquely situated for effective creative advocacy.

audience member-what advice would you give to organization who recently  dipped into advocacy for an arts event that collided with desires of board members?

Sarah-community arts organization-one of the speakers spoke about concentrating on the people whose point of view can be changed-Sarah doesn’t engage donors in advocacy who don’t believe in government funding


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