Wednesday, May 11, 2016

What's in DCCAH's Strategic Plan for DC Artists?


Just wanted to pull out the explicitly artist related content, versus arts organization material which has more of an indirect effect on artists, from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities Strategic Plan, preceded by some of the introductory copy to help put the artist content in context. This strategic plan was updated and published September 12, 2015 (just about 8 months ago), presumably to begin implementation in FY2016 that following October.

For the bulleted strategies, the number in parentheses is indicates the priority of the strategy, from 1 to 4.  Brackets contain how many total sub-strategies are identified in the actual document. The following is directly extracted from the strategic plan:

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In 2014, Cultural Planning Group was engaged by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities to assist with the development of its new strategic plan.

Over a period of one year, Cultural Planning Group led an inclusive process to receive input from stakeholders and the public at large, conducted a comprehensive review of agency practices, and researched best practices from model agencies elsewhere in the United States.

The Plan: Strategies 
  1. GRANT MAKING
  2. ARTS EDUCATION
  3. BUILDING COMMUNITY
  4. POLICY LEADERSHIP
  5. EQUITY AND ACCESS
  6. PUBLIC ART
Key Findings

Stakeholders provided remarkably consistent messages to the Commission. They believe that the Commission is filling an essential role, and doing an effective job, as a grantmaker. They also consider it time for the Commission to expand its leadership role as an advocate for cultural development in the District. Stakeholders strongly support and urge Commission to take on a larger, visionary and more proactive leadership role. They describe an arts and culture sector that is large, creatively vital and often overlooked. The field is also beleaguered by the forces of gentrification, increasing social and economic disparity, and the stresses of sustaining a nonprofit organization or an artistic career. These challenges underscore the need for redefining leadership for the agency. It is based on widespread acknowledgment of the leadership platform the Commission possesses. This approach was affirmed in a subsequent Town Hall discussion with stakeholders to share draft strategies.

Where should the Commission direct its leadership? It can leverage partnerships inside and outside District government more strongly with an intentional and transparent strategy to accomplish objectives of recognized value to the community. Objectives include addressing a range of needs for 
affordable spaces repeatedly identified in this and other plans. Also, addressing systemic change in K-12 arts education, promoting artists’ entrepreneurial activity, and serving under-served populations in neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River and elsewhere in the District.

Mission and Vision Statements

The Commission’s mission and vision statements were reviewed and revisions
developed that reflect the concepts of this plan.
Our mission is to serve and advance the diverse cultural interests of the residents and workers of the District of Columbia. We believe in the power of the arts, humanities andthe entire creative sector of the economy to enliven and strengthen our communities. We focus our efforts on the nonprofits arts community, individual artists and creativeentrepreneurs, the humanities field, and decision-makers. We provide support through funding, programs that address gaps, and educational opportunities and we provide leadership through policy, innovation initiatives, knowledge and connections.
Vision Statement
The Commission enhances the quality of life and economic well being of DC residents by nurturing DC’s artists and cultural institutions and by fostering the conditions where creative enterprises can prosper.
1. GRANT MAKING

Invest in Excellence and Access to strengthen DC’s creative sector of nonprofits, individual artists and creative businesses.

At the core of the Commission’s work is is grant programs and focus on supporting the vibrant artists and cultural sector in the District of Columbia as part of its unique and thriving creative economy. Encompassed in that sector are the non-profit organizations in arts and humanities who are the primary producers, presenters and suppliers of programs and activities. The numerous grantmaking programs and initiatives account for nearly two thirds of the agency budget and reach into and across all eight wards of the District. Hundreds of nonprofit arts and humanities organizations, individual artists, partner organizations and project partners are recipients of Commission grant funds.

This section of the plan expands those traditional constituencies to include other participants in the broader creative economy. In particular are strategies that build on the District government’s creative economy plans and additional ways in which the Commission can invest to support creative activity. The Commission can play a critical role in marshaling the resources needed to address the question of artist space needs, leveraging relationships inside and outside District government. 

The Commission also intends to provide professional development services. With a focus on artists as small businesses, operating to generate a profit from their creative activities, the Commission can provide artists with registration and forms for DCRA and provide workshops on marketing and writing an artistic statement.

Grant programs will continue to be refined to respond effectively to specific issues in the changing arts and humanities sector. In FY 2015 there are 10 distinct grant programs, ranging from general operating support, to arts education, to artist fellowships and a focus East of the River.

Creative Sector Strategies
  • Grantmaking [4 total strategies]
    • (1) Ensure greater cultural diversity among artists who serve on grant panels.
  • Supporting Artists [3 total strategies]
    • (2) Create an ongoing program of artists’ engagement in District government, involved as on-call artists to provide design advice for all departments, including general services, public works and transportation.
    • (1) Actively recruit professional artists to apply for service on City boards, commissions and other policy-making bodies.
    • (2) Invest in professional practices training and workshops that help artists in creative development and professional development. This may be through programs developed directly by DCCAH or through augmenting existing programs by providing resources to partners and programs focused on professional development for artists.
  • Creative Economy [3 total strategies]
    • (1) Revisit and reassess the recommendations of Creative Capital: The Creative DC Action Agenda and the Creative Economy Strategy Plan to identify specific priorities for action, such as meeting the space needs of artists, providing entrepreneurial training and networking for artists, and providing financial support for entrepreneurial projects.
    • (3) Partner with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to streamline the permitting process for artists and creative businesses.
[The following don't have artist specific strategies]
  • Community Wide Arts Marketing [ 1 strategy]
  • Humanities [1 strategy]
  • Partnerships [ 2 strategies]
2. ARTS EDUCATION

Promote Systemic Improvement in pre-K – 12 Arts Education

[4 strategies]

3. BUILDING COMMUNITY

Facilitate creative placemaking to address the space needs of the creative sector.

It is important to distinguish placemaking and community development from economic development. Economic development focuses on the standard of living, financial returns and job growth. Community development is more inclusive, centered on place: city and neighborhood. Similarly, the goal of creative placemaking is improving the vibrancy of place, as a means of improving quality of life. The arts can play an essential role in this broader community development agenda. They can promote inclusiveness and a sense of belonging. They can bring diverse peoples together. They can add vibrancy and a sense of specialness to a neighborhood.

The District has a number of tools and resources it can utilize to support creative placemaking. The District has access to a number of vacant and  underutilized buildings, including schools that are no longer needed. The District has funding to support capital improvements. The District is in a position to negotiate with private developers to include the amenities that will support placemaking, including such elements as affordable artist/creatives live-work spaces. It has the potential to provide financial and other incentives to make these things happen, particularly if the various District departments combine their resources. The Commission already has a program to provide cultural facility grants of up to $100,000. These grants could be used to provide matching dollars for nonprofit capital campaigns related to creative placemaking (arts facilities, arts elements of public spaces), as well as to incentivize for-profit developments with support for arts and cultural uses.

Placemaking Strategies [ 7 total strategies]
  • (1) Set a goal to construct up to 1,000 live-work spaces for artists and other creative professionals within the next five years, working with the Housing Trust Fund, nonprofit developers such as Artspace, Inc., and with private developers and utilizing such facilities as surplus schools.
  • (4) Develop a clearinghouse of affordable living and working spaces for artists in the District, including maintaining an inventory of vacant City-owned facilities that might be converted to artist spaces (studio, performance, workshop, rehearsal) on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • (4) Explore the potential for creation of artist co-working and maker spaces, similar to the co-working spaces that have been established for tech start-ups.
  • (3) Conduct a comprehensive review of City zoning and permitting regulations to eliminate regulatory barriers to live-work, home studios, home studio sales and other artmaking activities.
  • (2) Identify opportunities for arts assets in private development projects, especially in underserved neighborhoods, providing a creative center of gravity for the neighborhood. 
  • (1) Consider a program of “creative pop-up spaces,” dedicating a vacant land and buildings for the purpose of facilitating and funding artists and cultural groups to activate the spaces on a temporary basis.
4. POLICY LEADERSHIP

Provide cultural policy leadership.

Creation of a “policy shop” within the Commission, with a broader mandate, could establish the agency’s leadership in activating the full resources of the District government and selected partner entities to address critical issues pertaining to arts and cultural development in the District. On an annual basis, the Commission could identify one or more critical issues to which it turns its attention. Convening of stakeholders would assist in defining the issues, followed by facilitating action by District departments and partner agencies.

Several of the issues that have emerged would be appropriate initial areas for exploration:
  • Artist space issues and the cost of real estate
  • Creative placemaking and neighborhood revitalization
  • Equity in the distribution of funding and resources
  • Development of creative economy initiatives
[I decided to not include the two strategies identified because of their indirect impact on artists, in the holistic nature of the positions and their responsibilities, but thought it worth including the summary of the strategy nonetheless.]

5. EQUITY AND ACCESS

Foster greater equity and access

It is important to note that the creative industries often provide a means for artists from outside the mainstream to develop a career and to “assure their own equity” outside the nonprofit model. Hip hop and guerrilla artists are among many artists who often pursue their work in the commercial pop culture market, perhaps within a freelance career that includes work with community organizations and schools. The implication for the Commission is that by facilitating artists’ creative economy initiatives, it can foster equity simply by  enabling the entrepreneurial activities of diverse artists.

Equity and Access Strategies [ 3 total strategies]
  • (3) Identify creative economy initiatives that support the entrepreneurial activities of diverse artists, such as an incubator in Ward 7 or 8 that could include a recording studio, business training for artists, youth programming/mentoring, etc.
6. PUBLIC ART

[1 strategy]

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That's the extent of the extracted text.

Let’s recap. Here are the individual strategies in order of priority:

Priority 1
  • Actively recruit professional artists to apply for service on City boards, commissions and other policy-making bodies.
  • Consider a program of “creative pop-up spaces,” dedicating a vacant land and buildings for the purpose of facilitating and funding artists and cultural groups to activate the spaces on a temporary basis.
  • Ensure greater cultural diversity among artists who serve on grant panels.
  • Revisit and reassess the recommendations of Creative Capital: The Creative DC Action Agenda and the Creative Economy Strategy Plan to identify specific priorities for action, such as meeting the space needs of artists, providing entrepreneurial training and networking for artists, and providing financial support for entrepreneurial projects.
  • Set a goal to construct up to 1,000 live-work spaces for artists and other creative professionals within the next five years, working with the Housing Trust Fund, nonprofit developers such as Artspace, Inc., and with private developers and utilizing such facilities as surplus schools.
Priority 2
  • Create an ongoing program of artists’ engagement in District government, involved as on-call artists to provide design advice for all departments, including general services, public works and transportation.
  • Identify opportunities for arts assets in private development projects, especially in underserved neighborhoods, providing a creative center of gravity for the neighborhood. 
  • Invest in professional practices training and workshops that help artists in creative development and professional development. This may be through programs developed directly by DCCAH or through augmenting existing programs by providing resources to partners and programs focused on professional development for artists.
Priority 3
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of City zoning and permitting regulations to eliminate regulatory barriers to live-work, home studios, home studio sales and other artmaking activities.
  • Identify creative economy initiatives that support the entrepreneurial activities of diverse artists, such as an incubator in Ward 7 or 8 that could include a recording studio, business training for artists, youth programming/mentoring, etc.
  • Partner with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to streamline the permitting process for artists and creative businesses.
Priority 4
  • Develop a clearinghouse of affordable living and working spaces for artists in the District, including maintaining an inventory of vacant City-owned facilities that might be converted to artist spaces (studio, performance, workshop, rehearsal) on a temporary or permanent basis.
  • Explore the potential for creation of artist co-working and maker spaces, similar to the co-working spaces that have been established for tech start-ups.
That's it for now. Would love to hear what your questions, thoughts, suggestions, etc., so please leave a comment.

- JR

Thursday, May 05, 2016

FY 2017 Budget Report for the Commission on the Arts and Humanities

With reports being posted yesterday, I just wanted to pull out some highlights from the Committee on Finance and Revenue's Budget Report, related to the Commission on the Arts and Humanities:


I. Summary

D. Summary of Committee Budget Recommendations

Commission on the Arts and Humanities

Operating Budget Recommendations

The Committee recommends adoption of the Mayor’s FY 2017 budget for the Commission in the amount of $15,534,436, with the following changes:

  1. Increase Arts Building Communities by $3,000,000.
  2. Increase Arts Learning for Youth by $1,450,000.
  3. Increase Training and Employee Development by $30,000.
  4. Increase Legislative and Grants Management by $20,000.

Policy Recommendations

The Committee recommends the following policy changes:

  1. Provide updates to strategic and master plans.
  2. Improve coordination with the Department of General Services.
  3. Explore opportunities for jazz and the creative economy.
  4. Reinstate the dedicated funding source.

Capital Budget Recommendations

The Committee recommends adoption of the Mayor’s FY 2017 capital budget for the Commission of $0.

II. Agency Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Recommendations

A. Introduction

The Committee has and will continue to support the arts through the mission of the Commission on the Arts and Humanities. The Committee remains impressed by the efforts of the new leadership at the Commission. The Committee aims to provide additional funding to the arts so that the District may adequately assist all of those within our arts community.

B. Recommendations for New Budget Support Act Subtitles

18. TITLE VII, SUBTITLE XX. COMMISSION ON THE ARTS AND HUMANITIES DEDICATED FUNDING

a. Purpose, Effect, and Impact on Existing Law

This subtitle would fix the perpetual problem of funding for the arts in the District of Columbia. This subtitle, while subject to funding, would provide that one quarter of one percent out of the current 5.75% sales tax would be dedicated to funding CAH. This revenue, estimated at around $22 million this year, would be implicitly indexed to inflation. This is not a proposal to increase the sales tax, but rather to dedicate a portion of the current tax toward arts funding, as new revenue is identified in upcoming revenue estimates by the Chief Financial Officer

The source document for the Committee on Finance and Revenue Budget Report can be found here: http://dccouncil.us/budget/2017

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

So...Arts Advocacy in DC

So...arts advocacy in DC. Been having a lot of great discussions with friends, peers, & colleagues. In addition to wanting to work more on the policy anlaysis side of things, one suggestion that came up was mobilizing a coalition of artists.

I believe this was partly in response to arts advocacy day and the two main arts advocacy groups in DC historically and generally having a strong representation of arts managers from instiutions and organizations (which was also clearly evident in seeing who showed up to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities hearing), but the individual artist voice not being as present. I know part of the challenge is that artists are often juggling a lot, and sometimes don't even know what's happening regarding arts advocacy to begin with, because most just don't have the time or energy or simply know where to start. It's also a challenge with folks who balance being both arts manager (or simply employed) once place and a working artists everywhere else.

Thought I'd put it out there. And while I will definitely be continuing my own pursuit regarding arts advocacy conversations looking at policy level issues (funding, legislation, etc.), I also wanted to gather a..."council" of artists from across the District and nearby areas. It'd be especially great to get participants representing each ward. Definitely not trying to reinvent the wheel, but thinking this group could be a way to compliment existing arts advocacy organizations and their efforts, while making sure to hold them accountable not just for the interest of arts organizations, but individual artists working and/or living in DC as well.

If you're interested, just leave a comment, along with which ward you live in (if you live in DC), or whether you're in MD or VA but still work in DC. I'll start:

JR - Ward 5


  1. P.S. This is also my thesis at American University, where I got my M.A. in Arts Management, coming full circle. The topic? How working artists in the DC area defined "community" and "arts advocacy".

Monday, April 11, 2016

Regarding DCCAH's FY17 Budget

A #DCArts PSA:

Today is the DC Council's FY17 Budget Hearing for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

The numbers again (becase as of this post, it's still not updated on the DC Advocates for the Arts website)?

FY15 Actual - $14,555,386
FY16 Approved - $15,955,248
FY17 Proposed - $15,534,436

From Part 1, beginning on page 336 or B-85, here: http://cfo.dc.gov/node/289642

Of particular note regarding increases and decreases in the agency's submitted budget, and enhancements and reductions in the Mayor's proposed budget, are the following excerpts:

*Agency Budget Submission*
Increase: The budget proposal in Local funds reflects a net increase of $672,375 and 8.0 FTEs across
multiple programs. This adjustment redirects funding from budget allocations for contractual services as
DCCAH transfers certain operational responsibilities that are currently carried out by contractors to
agency employees. Additional funding is also proposed in Local funds in support of DCCAH’s
sponsorship and marketing activities, and this accounts for an increase of $257,619.
In Federal Grant funds, an increase of $7,500 aligns budget with projected grant awards from the Arts
in Underserved Communities and Arts Education grants. This adjustment supports DCCAH’s operations
in the Arts Learning and Outreach and Arts Building Communities programs. In Intra-District funds, the
proposed budget includes an increase of $93,000 to the Arts Learning and Outreach and Arts Building
Communities programs. This adjustment is based on a Memorandum of Understanding agreement with
the Department of Employment Services in support of the Marion S. Barry Summer Youth Employment
Program.
Decrease: The budget in Local funds is proposed for a decrease of $108,561, based on DCCAH’s plan to
move certain contractual services in-house, thereby eliminating the associated contractor service fees. A
decrease of $897,116 across multiple programs in Local funds accounts for reduced funding allocations
for DCCAH’s diverse range of sub-granting activities that support practicing artists, arts organizations
and community groups.
In Special Purpose Revenue Funds, the proposed budget is reduced by $300,000 to align funding with
projected revenue.

*Mayor’s Proposed Budget*
Enhance: DCCAH’s proposed budget in Local funds reflects an increase of $91,301 in funding to the
Agency Management program to support an additional 1.0 FTE that enables the agency to establish a
General Counsel position to meet its increased legal services volume.
Reduce: The budget in Local funds is decreased by $312,613 from the Arts Building Communities and
Arts Learning and Outreach Programs to account for projected programmatic cost savings in nonpersonal
services.

If you can't make it, you can still tune in and watch live here: http://dccouncil.us/videos

Saturday, April 09, 2016

On Street Harrasment and Speaking Up

This is reposted from a Facebook post.

Facebook: What's on your mind?

Me: Glad you asked. If you've seen either of my last two videos, street harrassment and a culture of consent (thank you Burning Man Global Leadership Conference) are top of mind right now.

Let me just say that I personally think that we do have a right to say hello to each other in public spaces.  I'd say where the line was drawn last night is that we do NOT have the right to expect and receive a response.

Last night a gentleman didn't receive one after multiple attempts to engage a woman waiting for a cab. So I spoke up, and not for her, but as witness to her and the situation. I know women can speak up for themselves. At the same time, I can only imagine how hard it is to want to say No but not, because even THAT is a response that can actually encourage further harassment, so the safest thing to do might be to do and say nothing.

And I certainly appreciate the expression of concern from friends, and am seriously thinking about taking self-defense classes. But my concern for the lady simply feeling safe and knowing she wasn't alone trumped my own feeling of safety, not that I ever felt unsafe. We were right in front of a bar we had just exited, and staff was right inside still closing and cleaning up.

I will say while I've been accused of not being a native Washingtonian, I've never been called a "leader of gentrification" or "the biggest contributor to black-on-black crime", the latter of which I didn't even realize was potentially a veiled threat until friends asked me to simply be safe. But those and other attempted insults, including calling out my perceived sexuality, only reinforced how absurd this conversation was in the first place.

On the latter though, I found it ironic that in saying women felt safer around gay men, he implied that straight men by nature are predatory and/or don't make women feel safe...not helping his point at all.

I guess my only thought is that while silence on her part was an attempt to not engage, does silence on the part of people nearby condone the behavior, at least when in public spaces? I understand the concern for personal safety, but again, if that's what we feel as a passerby, what must the person who's the object of that attention feel. Not saying there's a right answer, but I can't stop asking the question.

Anyway, personally I will be looking more into the work of Collective Action for Safe Spaces. If you haven't heard of them, it's an organization "working to empower people in the DC metropolitan area to build a community free from public sexual harassment and assault."

And if you have your own story to share, maybe we should make a night of it, to raise awareness and keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why educating youth is NOT a waste of time

Responding on Facebook to an interview with RuPaul. Wanted to share.



So...I liked and/or loved about 97% of this. The part I didn't? His answer to: "Do you think it's important for the...
Posted by JR Nexus Russ on Wednesday, March 23, 2016
Let me know what you think.

- JR / Nexus

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

"Art, Money and the Renaissance" from Burning Man's blog

Check this out, a video that was posted as part of Burning Man's latest blog, Art, Money, and the Renaissance: Re-Imagining the Relationship.






One of my favorite quotes from the blog itself is:
So we’ve gone from a period where artists were hyper-aware of money, and open about it, to a period where artists talking about money endangers their status as “artists.” This would be understandable, even laudable, if artists were actually less worried about money, but since they’re not — since in fact we live in a time of profound economic uncertainty about artists and arts funding — this just won’t do.
Anyway, check it out. Would love to hear what folks think,

Nexus aka JR