artists aren’t fundraisers

This is a repost of one I wrote sometime ago. It is helpful to revisit old posts now and again, and see how things change. This one possibly hasn’t!

ArtsAppeal Fundraising in the Arts and the Craft of Arts Management, has a new post in defence of the need for administrators. Some of the points raised are transferable to UK (it’s an American site), the most useful to me is the comment that “The key question you should be asking for everyone, yourself included, is does this person in this position create value in some way (freeing up resources of others, enhancing customer experiences, finding new revenue streams, etc.) above and beyond what they consume themselves.”

What is great about that question is that it doesn’t automatically associate the word ‘value’ with ‘income’. It puts people first, after all, it is people that make an organisation sink or swim, not the other way around. Relationships between people on the team, and how a front-facing organisation develops relationships with partners, markets and audiences is key to creating value for everyone involved in the process. Sink or swim – which takes me to waves……..

Last night on TV (BBC4) was a wonderful programme about waves (as in the sea). It talked about how waves are not banks of water, as we primarily see them to be, but are volumes of energy being carried through water, water is the medium. Likewise, would it be fair to suggest that a successful organisation comprises not of it’s building, it’s institution, it’s profile, but is a conduit for peoples energy, driving life forward? And when it hits the shore it crashes and has a huge impact – isn’t that what good art does to society? So the value can be measured in terms of energy, not financial gain. Or am I getting carried away on this wave of thought?

Not all art can be directly self-financing. Let’s not forget art practices that improve our life or wellbeing, that redistribute the energy – and indeed the economy – that was invested in it. They often create associated spend in terms of local businesses and accommodation etc. In our appeal to our government, and to the public, to continue to support the arts, we have to make them recognise and acknowledge the wider impact successful arts organisations can have on the economy. Look at St Ives – how has it changed since the Tate arrived? Anyone who visited before will be aware that the arrival of the Tate put a massive boost into the local economy.

And the energy is visible in the whole region, the cultural economy is continuing to develop, originally inspired by the St.Ives school of artists, carried on in Newlyn, Penzance, the energy continues to spread. All on the back of people with energy to share. Artists couldn’t do that alone, one drop in the ocean cannot create a wave.

(with apologies for resorting to watery metaphors and seaside towns!)

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