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Beyond the Bottom Line: Running a Non-Profit in a For-Profit World

In this volatile economy, nonprofits are often last and hardest hit by financial downturns. How do they stay fiscally viable and mission-focused when faced with dwindling funding?  Are there aspects of the nonprofit model that are advantageous when compared to the for-profit model, specifically concerning the arts? What features of for-profits would be beneficial to integrate into the nonprofit world?

Is there a better way to manage arts organizations?

These incredible power-houses of the DC Arts Scene will answer these questions and more come the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on April 15th:

Jack Rasmussen

Director of Art Gallery & Curator of the American University Museum at the 
Katzen Gallery. A native of Seattle, Jack Rasmussen earned his BA in Art from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA, before moving to Washington, DC, and completing an MFA in Painting, MA in Arts Management, and MA and PhD in Anthropology at American University. He worked in the Education Department of the National Gallery of Art before becoming the Assistant Director of the Washington Project for the Arts when it opened in 1975.

He left this position to open the Jack Rasmussen Gallery, one of the first commercial galleries to move to downtown Washington, and then launched Rockville Arts Place, served for ten years as the Executive Director of Maryland Art Place in Baltimore, and three years as Executive Director of the di Rosa Preserve: Art & Nature, a contemporary art museum and natural habitat in Napa, California.

Rasmussen is currently Director and Curator of the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. (Bio From In The Loop)

B. Stanley

Stanley is an actor, director, pedagogue, puppeteer, and performance artist. He founded Theatre Du Jour in Washington DC in 1982 as an experimental group with an actor-based approach to creating new works. As an actor he has performed with The Living Theatre, Theatre Du Jour, Protean Forms Collective, The Hungry Fetus, The Puppet Company, Cherry Red Productions, Guillermo Gomez Pena, and in a myriad of unusual solo performances with his puppet, Ubu. Influenced by Antonin Artaud, Alfred Jarry, Jerzy Grotowski, Ingemar Lindh and like minds, he has directed a broad array of plays and performances, including Peter Handke’s Self Accusation, Antonin Artaud’s There Is No More Firmament and The Spurt of Blood, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Cuckolded, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and Ossie DavisPurlie Victorious. As director of Theatre Du Jour he had lead many company-created works including Poor Oedipus (an adaptation of the Oedipus story), Tower of Babel, Last Minute, and Ritual Play. He has worked with several poets, including Silvana Straw and Quique Aviles in creating performances that combine literature, acting and multimedia.

Currently, Stanley is Executive/Artistic Director of The District of Columbia Arts Center, where he encourages the development of cutting edge work by new and emerging theater groups in Washington, DC. He conducts workshops on acting, directing and theater production and participates in conferences and seminars abroad with regularity.

Lissa Rosenthal

Rosenthal is a dedicated champion of the arts and a formidable music fan. She is committed to improving the lives of musicians whose work enriches everyone. Lissa brings 20 years of experience in arts leadership, advocacy and nonprofit development to her role as Executive Director of the Future of Music Coalition.

Prior to joining FMC, she was a marketing and fundraising consultant and the Development Director of the Pittsburgh Glass Center,  Director of Programs for the American Council for the Arts (Americans for the Arts), Development Director of P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center — an affiliate of The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

As a social justice advocate, she has served as the National Program Director for PAX: Real Solutions to Gun Violence where she directed its highly acclaimed national public health campaigns dedicated to reducing youth gun violence in America, including SPEAK UP — a teen violence prevention initiative in partnership with Teen People Magazine, MTVNetworks and Atlantic Records.

She has also worked extensively in AIDS fundraising and event production, raising millions of dollars and awareness for AIDS service organizations nationwide. Her volunteer service includes work with Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation program, ranking her among their most effective national advocates. A promoter of all things green, she has authored several “green” cover features for Pittsburgh Magazine. (Bio From Dance USA)

Katherine Gibney

Kate Gibney joined the staff of Americans for the Arts in April 2006. As vice president of development, she oversees all fundraising undertaken on behalf of Americans for the Arts, collaborating closely with the Board of Directors, program staff, and senior leadership to create new opportunities for corporations, foundations, and individuals to support the organization’s goal of advancing the arts and arts education. Kate also coordinates development for the Americans for the Arts Foundation, which provides an array of planned giving vehicles for donors interested in providing legacy support for Americans for the Arts.

Kate brings to her role a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from her past tenures at The National Museum of Women in the Arts; the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery; and The Corcoran Gallery of Art, where she oversaw a corporate and foundation relations team focused on both annual and capital campaign fundraising. A singer in her spare time and an avid patron of the visual arts, Kate earned her bachelor’s degree with honors from Guilford College.

Participate in this and other amazing panels during the upcoming Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium on April 15. You may find the schedule of the Symposium here. Register here.

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Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium Reflection

When Michelle Grove, MA arts management ’08, first imagined organizing a leadership conference, she described it as just a “half-baked idea.” But her initiative quickly gained ground and before she knew it, in 2008, she was the founder of the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS), an event that is still held annually at American University.

“It’s so exciting to see this initiative continue,” Grove says. “I felt like it was such an important thing to do, not only for the sector, the young people and emerging leaders who might attend the symposium, but a great opportunity for students in the program.”

The Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is an annual, one-day event catered to young professionals in the arts. It features networking opportunities, a keynote address, and professional development panels run by industry leaders. The fourth EALS will be held at American University on April 15, 2012, the day before Arts Advocacy Day.

“I think EALS is a really unique opportunity that American University can bring to the table,” says Sherburne Laughlin, AU arts management program director. “We have the assets to make it work, the student leadership, and the contacts. We have the location, and in so much of the content and thinking, we are on the cutting edge of the field.”

When Grove first envisioned EALS, her timing was a perfect fit for the university, Laughlin recounts, as she wanted more leadership education for her students. “She had an idea at the same time I saw the need,” she adds.

The goal of EALS was for it to be an open event that allowed arts management students to network outside the university, says Grove, who is now director of grants at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County. “It’s about building that network, which is so incredibly important when you work in a field that’s so small as arts management is, but so spread out geographically,” Grove says. “Opening up and engaging with your community and your peers is very important.”

The first EALS event was a success, and all of the seats were sold out, Grove recounts. “One of the highlights of the event was a question and answer session with a panel of arts leaders, which allowed the audience to have a meaningful conversation with them,” she adds.

Networking opportunities and hosting interactive sessions have remained strong components in each year’s conference. Each event also includes multiple breakout sessions, which in past years have covered topics such as career development, management, board governance, and building global connections. The symposium also features a keynote address from a notable arts leader. Past speakers include Sandra Gibson, former resident and CEO of the Association of Performing Arts Presenters; Rachel Goslins, executive director of the President’s Committee on Arts and Humanities; and Ben Cameron, program director for the arts at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Each year, EALS is organized by a new executive committee composed of arts management graduate students that plans all event details, including selecting speakers and panelists, hosting fundraising events, managing the budget, and developing marketing plans. Although Laughlin advises the students, she tries to remain as hands-off as possible. “This was a practice in leadership,” Laughlin says. “It was a perfect way to have students test out some leadership ideas and do it in a certain context and get in touch with leaders in the field themselves.”

Grove also sees the value of planning EALS and encourages students to become involved. “If you’re a current student, it’s an opportunity to interact with people outside of the academic world,” Grove says. “In terms of the planning, it’s not just classroom skills; it’s real hands-on learning with event planning and leadership.”

For more information on attending the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium 2012 on April 15, visit the symposium Website.

Reaction to Robert Pullen: Profit (Commercial Theatre) versus Not-For-Profit

So Friday, November 18, 2011 I had the privilege to attend the AU Arts management fall colloquium featuring Director of Special Programming at Kennedy Center, Robert Pullen. His topic was profit (commercial theatre) versus not-for-profit theatres. Although I do not come from a theatre background I found the lecture very informative and interesting. Ultimately the difference between for profit and not-for-profit is that a for-profits main goal is to make money while not-for-profits aim to fulfill their mission. Although both types of organizations can produce high quality art the bottom line for for-profit organizations is to make money.

Robert Pullen’s lecture on Friday made me think about why it is important to work for not-for-profit organizations. While some non-profit organizations such as Arena Stage have business models that are starting resemble those of for-profit organizations, their main focus still is, or should be the mission of the organization. It is the mission of non-profit arts organizations that drives me to want to work for one someday. It is important to have organizations whose main goal is to create quality art that is accessible to their community. It is my opinion that the arts enhance our lives and should be available to everyone. Non-profit organizations make this possible. Robert Pullen stated in his lecture that although non-profits are focused on the mission they can learn something from for-profit organizations. Just because an organization is not-for-profit it does not mean they have to loose money. Non-profit organizations can look at successful for-profit art organizations’ business strategies and learn from them. One thing in particular Robert Pullen said non-profits can learn is how to better negotiate. On Broadway everything is a negotiable while many non-profit organization are afraid to or don’t bother to negotiate.

Because as arts managers and future arts managers we care so much about the work we are doing it is important to make sure we are doing our job to the best of our ability. That means looking at non-profit organizations as well for-profit organizations as an example. With the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium and Arts Advocacy day coming in the spring we can continue to learn the skills needed to become great arts managers and activist.

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