2015 marked the mid-point of our current Performing Arts strategic framework, which runs from 2012-2017, and lays out the goals of our grantmaking, as well as measures for how we’ll evaluate our progress. In order to get a view into how we’re doing, last year we engaged two consulting firms, Informing Change and Olive Grove, to conduct an assessment for us. I won’t keep you (or our grantees) in suspense: the headline is that we’re making progress on the goals we set for our program when we adopted the strategy—thanks, of course, to the wonderful, creative, innovative work that our grantees are doing—and while there are certainly areas where we feel we can improve, we aren’t planning any major shifts in our grantmaking in the near future.
The assessment, which we are sharing publicly today, shows that “from 2011-2014, total participation in grantees’ performing arts activities, including performance, events, workshops, and classes, grew by 33%, from 10.3 million to 13.7 million,” which is well above the modest growth goals we set in the original strategic framework. While evaluating progress in our arts education grantmaking was somewhat more difficult because the available data does not track perfectly with what we want to measure, the research showed that “[California] K-12 enrollment in arts courses increased from 1.3 million in 2012-13 to 1.4 million in 2013-14 with all ethnicities except White and Asian/ Pacific Islander meeting the growth target of 1%.”
A key question for us in commissioning this assessment was which geographic and demographic communities have benefitted from Hewlett Foundation support and where are the gaps? The answer to that question is slightly more complicated than the topline results. We are seeing an increase in the percentage of grantees working with diverse communities across three metrics that we track internally: organizations led by and serving historically marginalized and under-resources communities (which we call “California diverse” in tracking); those whose artistic product is rooted in and reflective of a historically under-resourced or marginalized form, expression, or community (“culturally specific”); and those with an operating model rooted in and reflective of a historically under-resourced or marginalized community (“community-based”).
There is, of course, a great deal of overlap between these categories, and many grantee organizations fall into more than one of them. What’s important, though, is the overall trend, with more of our grantmaking over time going to these organizations, an important part of our goal of supporting both “traditional works from multiple cultures that reflect the diversity of the San Francisco Bay Area and innovative works that represent emerging cultural expressions.”
But keeping pace with the increasingly diverse Bay Area remains a challenge, and data from an audience research project we supported for a group of our grantees—the Audience Research Collaborative (ARC)—shows where we still have work to do. It’s important to note that the survey methods used may introduce bias towards more White, female and highly educated respondents, and that this is a data sample taken from only one third of the grantees we categorize as part of our Continuity and Engagement grantmaking strategy—it does not include data from any of our Infrastructure or Arts Education grantees. What’s more, U.S. Census categories themselves have not kept pace with rapid demographic change, and don’t reflect the true diversity of our society, something many participants in ARC addressed by collecting data about both the census categories and expanded categories that better reflect the communities they serve—to track gender, for example.
Having said that, the data shows ARC participants’ audiences to be more White than the Bay Area as a whole—78 percent of our audience indicated “White, non-Hispanic” in audience surveys versus 61 percent across the Bay Area—and that both Hispanics/ Latinos and Asians are underrepresented among racial/ ethnic groups.
At the same time, the geographic reach of our grantmaking is reflected in ARC participants’ audience demographics, with San Francisco residents considerably overrepresented, and Santa Clara county residents underrepresented, as our some of the more rural Bay Area counties, such as Monterey, Solano, and Santa Cruz.
We continue to try to find new ways to ensure our grant dollars are reaching arts organizations and audiences who are representative of the Bay Area overall. Our support of regranting organizations, who provide our funds to smaller organizations reaching historically marginalized or more remote geographic communities is one way we are trying to expand our reach. This includes our ongoing partnerships with local arts councils, community foundations, commissioning funds, and arts service organizations.
There is a great deal more information about our grantmaking and the audiences our grantees are serving in the midterm assessment report. I encourage you to read the whole thing. And of course we welcome your questions and comments about the findings. We pair this assessment with the recent anonymous feedback from our Grantee Perception Report, conducted by the Center for Effective Philanthropy—we are grateful to the hundreds of grantees that provided input to us through that survey. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, we are achieving the goals we have set for ourselves thanks to the wonderful work of our grantees, and we will continue to look for ways to ensure that our support is sustaining artistic expression and encouraging public engagement in the arts for the benefit of everyone in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The leadership team at Rising Arts Leaders San Diego provides programs and opportunities for emerging arts and cultural administrators to build their professional network and skills. (Photo Credit: Leah Fasten)
The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Performing Arts Program invests in arts leadership because we believe the vitality of the sector is fundamentally dependent on the quality of its leadership. As part of our commitment to strengthening leadership, we recently commissioned Open Mind Consulting to conduct research—including in-depth interviews with Bay Area, California, and national arts leaders—to help shape our future investments.
Today, we are releasing a new report, “Moving Arts Leadership Forward: A Changing Landscape,” because we believe the findings have implications that go far beyond our grantmaking. They show how different generations experience their work in the arts sector and highlight how the differences affect engagement, innovation, and other factors critical to the success of individual arts organizations and the health of the field as a whole.
Written by my colleague Emiko Ono, who has led this work for the Performing Arts Program, the report explains the research and contains recommendations for the field, as well as more detail on our plans for responding to the findings. It also contains a quiz that we encourage you to take to learn more about your organization’s approach to cross-generational leadership and begin a conversation about what that approach means for your work.
At the heart of the findings is a challenged definition of “leadership.” Members of younger generations often see leadership as the fostering of a culture of connectedness, collaboration, and change—they believe leadership is rooted in the efforts of many. This view is in contrast to the more traditional, hierarchical structures and practices of many arts organizations and funders.
What is at stake in this ongoing conversation about the meaning of leadership? Arts organizations must make the most of their talent, or risk driving away potential leaders who are ready to contribute, reluctant to “wait for their turn,” and who have the entrepreneurial chops to find other ways to realize their ambitions.
But organizations should also consider the diversity of ideas and experiences embodied by their entire staff, and how embracing these perspectives can help them connect with new audiences and develop innovative approaches to achieving their mission.
Leadership that flows from the vision of a single individual has served the nonprofit arts sector well for a generation or more. But to be able to effectively respond to an increasingly demanding environment, organizations not only must adapt, they must be adaptive.
Individuals with the responsibility, and the authority, to ensure that their organizations continue to thrive should invite their colleagues—people who care deeply about the mission of their organizations and understand their unique value to the communities they serve—to participate meaningfully in shaping the future of those organizations. In other words, they should invite them to share leadership.
Based on the research findings, we are modifying our approach to arts leadership funding. After six years of work focused on equipping young and emerging arts leaders with necessary skills and competencies, we will broaden our focus to facilitate and leverage cross-generational leadership practices.
Early-career leaders will continue to be our primary targets and beneficiaries, but we’ll help them by paying attention to mid- and late-career managers as well—helping these experienced leaders find new ways to share responsibilities and authority within their organizations. In addition to improving leadership, this kind of support should strengthen the arts sector as a whole.
The research also revealed that leadership networks are not neatly confined to particular geographies. At present, California has five overlapping and interlocking networks. To address this complexity and ensure proper support for Bay Area leadership, we need to expand our investments beyond the Bay Area to include other major metropolitan areas in California.
This limited expansion acknowledges the interdependent nature of California’s arts ecosystem and addresses the reality that focusing our efforts in leadership development on one region constrains the potential to fully realize our goals even for that region. We will, accordingly, continue to work with the Center for Cultural Innovation to fund statewide opportunities for individual and organizational leadership development projects, as well as convening activities. We also plan to add complementary supports for leaders of color, as well as mid-and late-career leaders, over time.
Experience and research show that a singular focus on skills training for emerging leaders, while vital for the sector, is not sufficient to create a healthy arts ecosystem. Having begun to address needs of emerging arts leaders in our funding to date, the next phase of our work will focus more intentionally on helping organizations adapt to new and emerging leadership styles—an initiative we are calling Arts Leadership Forward.
Reimagining leadership is not a call to action that we take lightly. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the insights from a growing body of research that clearly shows it is a necessary one. Change will not be easy, of course, not least because the change required is in many ways antithetical to the more traditional form of leadership that our sector currently embraces. That is why the future of the field depends on what current leaders and funders choose to do in this moment.
In sharing our research, we hope to contribute to the broadening of the field’s view of leadership, prepare it for a future that is rushing toward us, and urge our colleagues to seize this opportunity for building an even more resilient and vibrant nonprofit arts field.
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.