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:

  1. Support emerging leaders networks in four major metropolitan areas (San Francisco Bay Area, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego)
  2. Work with a regranting intermediary, the Center for Cultural Innovation, to provide financial support to individuals through Professional Development Grants
  3. 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.