Grantmakers in the Arts: Discoveries & Resources

McKnight Artist Fellows: Visualizing Artists' Careers
Wynwood Walls sign in Miami, Florida

Last week I attended the Grantmakers in the Arts Conference (GIA) for four days. I suppose it sounds dreadful, but to an arts administrator like me, it is not. It is invigorating, humbling, reassuring and inspiring. This year, it was held in Miami Beach. The sunshine and tropical vibe certainly helped kick-start my good mood after a red-eye flight from Seattle. I arrived ready to learn. I frantically took notes so I could share ideas and information with you all.

Rather than writing up a detailed summary of sessions I attended, which could become tedious, I will just share some of my favorite moments with you here. Through links, you can explore the places, artists and resources I learned about. If these inspire you to share some recent discoveries, please do.

At the Light Box at Goldman Warehouse in the newly formed Wynwood District, we heard from a panel of artists about support systems, my favorite being Bora Yoon, a very articulate experimental sound artist and composer.

A small group gathered for a candid conversation about program evaluation and assessment. You might think this would be boring, because it usually is, except that speakers Sacha Yanow of Art Matters, and Laura Zimmermann of the McKnight Foundation were hilarious. We ended up talking about funders wanting to build relationships with our awardees rather than just tracking them. Laura showed us this amazing artist-designed evaluation tool they commissioned.

McKnight Artist Fellows: Visualizing Artists’ Careers

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission is doing some compelling work to build relationships with those they fund through evaluation. Their consultant, Dr. Kamella Tate was so genuinely excited about research, it was intoxicating.

A team of folks from The Hauser Center for Non-Profit Organizations at Harvard, Fractured Atlas and the Foundation Center presented information about their Initiative for Sustainable Arts in America, which is an ambitious project that aims to collect data about the arts to ultimately create a national arts and culture policy.  Wow.

A long with cultural heroes, Ruth Abram, the founder of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, Jorge Hernandez, Vice Chair of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and Keith Magee, Director of the National Public Housing Museum, I tromped around the Wynwood Walls.  Wynwood Walls is an inspiring new project by developer Tony Goldman. He had the vision and courage to revitalize a warehouse district by hiring some of the worlds most renowned graffiti artists to paint some buildings. The energy has spread and the Wynwood District has blossomed into a creative hub of Miami. During this tour, I had a chance to talk about about the intersection, and sometimes clash, of art and historic preservation – something that comes up a lot for me here at 4Culture.

I spent my final day on Miami Beach completely engrossed in conversations about arts and health. I learned about work being done by Americans for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Department of Defense’s National Intrepid Center of Excellence and the National Institutes of Health to provide evidence about the arts impact on health and healing. I proudly shared details about our venture with veterans and our past work with the Combat Paper Project with these leaders. Knowing this research will help sell my personal belief that art makes life worth living and can even save lives, I was ecstatic.

As I drove past the art deco buildings and over the causeways of Miami toward the airport, I felt fortunate to have been given the opportunity to learn, and excited to bring it all back home.