2014 Grants Challenge

Arts & Culture Infrastructure Initiative

Our Arts and Culture Infrastructure Initiative strengthens support for the arts community with a focus on diversity, inclusion and access.


Please describe yourself.

Collaboration (partners are signed up and ready to hit the ground running!)

In one sentence, please describe your idea or project.

Our Arts and Culture Infrastructure Initiative strengthens support for the arts community with a focus on diversity, inclusion and access.

Which area(s) of LA does your project benefit?

All of LA County

What is your idea/project in more detail?

Our Arts & Culture Infrastructure Initiative will strengthen the region’s environment for art making by developing strong, diverse board leadership and cultivating new philanthropic support for non-profit arts organizations, ensuring broader access to arts experiences. Our Arts and Business conduit will galvanize business leaders in support of the arts community through leadership and advocacy training, networking, and mentorship. Our pilot region-wide Arts Fund will focus on the feasibility and development of a re-granting program similar to a “United Way” for the arts with the Alliance raising money in support of our region’s arts organizations from new individual or institutional donors, creating new money flowing into the sector.

What will you do to implement this idea/project?

1. Arts & Business Conduit/Network

We will serve as the conduit between the arts and business community. Referencing our studies of cultural board participation, we will approach and build relationships with the top fifty institutions with demonstrated arts board participation. 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 is for the talented employees of top industries in the region to be trained about arts board service and to be placed with a cultural organization that matches their interests and expands their understanding of the cultural infrastructure of Greater Los Angeles. Engaging Angelenos with cultural board service by itself is not enough. We will create ongoing 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 to combat, and many feel at a loss on how to effectively address this issue. 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. Additionally, we will contract Arts for LA to provide their nationally recognized advocacy-training academy for our Board network to amplify the reach of nonprofit arts organizations throughout the region.

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 an inclusive re-granting to support parts of LA’s cultural landscape that are often overlooked or underfunded.

How will your idea/project help make LA the best place to CREATE today? In 2050?

In the short term, our project enables stronger and more connected boards of directors of arts nonprofits in the region. The United Arts Fund approach will identify and distribute new grants dollars into the arts ecosystem, allowing for a deepening of support for current working artists.

In terms of LA in 2050:

1) Multi-use community arts centers exist in every neighborhood with multi-lingual, around-the-clock programs composed of participatory, professionally produced, or presented productions

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 Nonprofit 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 engagement will become 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 nonprofit sector.

After 30+ years of these mutually beneficial relationships taking root, it will be hard to see where ‘for profit’ businesses end and ‘nonprofit’ 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 arts 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.

Whom will your project benefit?

Our project benefits all of Los Angeles by enabling a stronger, more robust arts and culture sector, contributing to the quality of life, economic vitality and social connectedness of the region; making LA the best play to CREATE, LEARN, PLAY and CONNECT. Specifically, our project will directly improve the lives of artists, volunteers and arts administrators by fortifying their foundation of support within the communities they serve.

We seek to ensure a robust and diverse constituent base with programs and services that meet their needs and allow them to further connect with their audiences. We see a gap between those performing arts organizations who are reaching underserved communities and/or communities of color and our current roster of programming. Our goal is to refocus our efforts to ensure greater access to the arts while enabling a more diverse and inclusive group of organizations benefitting from our services. To accomplish this we will leverage our Arts Census, which contains arts participation information on nearly four million unique households provided by nearly 400 local arts organizations.

This work will leverage our NEA and LA County Arts Commission grants focusing on training and networking the boards of our local companies around issues of diversity, inclusion and access while strengthening our tech infrastructure to support increased access to the arts. The technology focus will look at modeling the access initiative of Theater Development Fund as a model to extend our discount ticket program to underserved audiences throughout the region. The Inclusion aspect will look at services to the field provided by Culture Works in Philadelphia as a model for programmatic efficiencies and sustainability. We anticipate that this committee will also provide a blueprint with best practices and recommendations to the community to address issues of Diversity among boards, administration, artists and audiences throughout the region.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

As an alliance, we exist through partnership and collaboration. We’ll activate the 1000+ arts organizations we currently serve and develop this initiative with our local, regional and national partner organizations 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 and the networks of philanthropists and business leaders who support the cultural life of Los Angeles. 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, which develops non-profit arts leaders. As previously mentioned, we have confirmed with the staff of Arts for LA that, if funded, we would contract with them to provide advocacy training over a six-month period with our Board Network.

How will your project impact the LA2050 CREATE metrics?

Employment in creative industries

Arts establishments per capita

Please elaborate on how your project will impact the above metrics.

Our Arts Census tracks the arts participation behavior of over 4 million unique households. We can track, over time, an increase in participation and impact by zip code and neighborhood. We anticipate, for example, that the Arts Census might highlight typically “underserved” areas and populations, therefore enabling the Board network to better assess where arts programming could be delivered. We acknowledge a field-wide shift toward questions around definitions of arts engagement and suspect that our core constituents, those who produce and present performing arts events, will broaden their focus to create active arts experiences with their stakeholders. The Arts Census tracks transactional data, not “survey” responses and therefore will provide a valuable tool in tracking increasing participation and engagement in the sector.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project.

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.

- How many individuals, arts organizations, corporations and philanthropic entities are engaged with the Initiative?

- Have we increased the number of diverse, non-performing arts entities participating in current LA STAGE Alliance programs?

- Have we created Program/Operations/Fund Development Plans for all three aspects of the initiative?

- Have Advisory Councils and Task Force/Working Groups been established with work plans and timelines?

- What changes in satisfaction occur for non-profit Executive Directors regarding the participation and support of the Board?

- What changes in satisfaction occurred for current Board members regarding the participation and support of other Board members?

- How many Board members of nonprofits met new colleagues (on their Board or on other Boards) through the Initiative?

- How much funding for cultural organizations was raised and distributed through the regional Arts fund program? How many individuals or organizations participated?

- 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?

What two lessons have informed your solution or project?

We know from direct experience and conversation with arts non-profit board members that there exists little to no training for joining arts boards and no formal network for board members to exchange ideas, learn from peers or mentor newcomers. We have researched existing infrastructure and similar programs throughout the country and will bring industry best practices to our initiative.

We understand from talking to the philanthropic leaders in our sector that there is no aggregated effort to bring new money into the field. Many initiatives have been born out of funders coming together around a specific project or initiative, but no combined efforts to raise general operating support for the entire field exist today. We understand from the leaders at Americans for the Arts, which oversee the Arts & Business Councils and Business Committees for the Arts around the country that new hybrids of support are forming around the idea of the arts improving not only quality of life in their regions, but also creating economic impact and other measurable outcomes. We will leverage the great work of these national groups to ensure that we build a strong case for support and flatten our learning curve toward success.

Explain how implementing your project within the next twelve months is an achievable goal.

As an Alliance, one of our strengths and core competencies is mobilizing our network around new ideas and initiatives. Our board and staff stand by the ready to launch this initiative. Once funded, we will activate the resources necessary to convene the field, hire the appropriate personnel and deploy our initiative.

Please list at least two major barriers/challenges you anticipate. What is your strategy for ensuring a successful implementation?

One barrier will be overcoming the geographic challenge of networking and convening a broad spectrum of stakeholders across the region. As an Alliance, one of our strongest mechanisms of service delivery is our ability to convene, but we know from experience that meeting times and meeting location contribute significantly to turnout. As such, we will need to be open to a longer lead time and having multiple meetings in a variety of locations to ensure the widest possible participation. Additionally, our work on the diversity, inclusion and access aspect of the initiative might lead to charged conversations. We know from similar conversations in the field that these are hot button topics and we will work closely with consultants and facilitators used to working in this “charged” space to ensure a fair and equitable facilitation of dialogue around our program development.

What resources does your project need?

Network/relationship support

Money (financial capital)

Volunteers/staff (human capital)

Publicity/awareness (social capital)

Community outreach