In Arts Management, the gift isn't simple…

published3 months ago
2 min read

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now?
William Stafford, from "You Reading This, Be Ready"

Find and comment on this post over there, instead.

Weekly Features (scroll down to find them)
Function of the Week: Gifts & Grants | Framework of the Week: Capital Continuum
Ask ArtsManaged

Dear Reader,

All arts endeavors are fueled by gifts – whether the gifts of insight and impulse flowing through the artists, or the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that nurture that work into the living world. Arts Management, therefore, is deeply entangled with the cultivation, care, and consequence of giving and of gifts. That turns out to be one of the greatest joys and most durable challenges of a professional life in the arts.

As Lewis Hyde details in The Gift: How the Creative Spirit Transforms the World, artistic expression lives at a complex intersection:

…works of art exist simultaneously in two “economies,” a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art.

In any nonprofit arts organization, these two economies are encoded in the operating budget. One category of income is recorded as "earned" – generated through exchange of goods or services. The other category of income is recorded as "contributed" – received as gifts or grants from individuals, foundations, corporations, or governments.

Of course, neither the earned nor the contributed income is purely "market" or "gift." The impulse for ticket or entry fee purchase is often infused with generosity, joy, and community spirit. As Hyde puts it:

Even if we have paid a fee at the door of the museum or concert hall, when we are touched by a work of art something comes to us which has nothing to do with the price.

And, many (most?) forms of gift or grant income arrive with expectations for positive return – if not in money, then in social, civic, or status outcomes. Any seasoned development professional will tell you that wealth wants things in return for its gift (not always, but often). And our effort to center the donors in creative work, rather than the creative community, gets us in all sorts of trouble.

I often joke that graduate study in Arts Management is equal parts MBA and Master of Divinity. The practice demands a deep understanding of markets and money, of course, but also a durable commitment to the generous, communal, and spiritual core of what we do.



Function of the Week: Gifts & Grants

Gifts & Grants involve attracting, securing, aligning, and retaining contributed resources (also called fundraising or development).

Framework of the Week: Capital Continuum

Capital is accumulated wealth that is invested, or available for investment, toward a purpose. In the for-profit world, that purpose is usually more wealth. But capital can also be applied to support artistic, social, civic, or other purposes. The Capital Continuum describes the full array of ways that capital can be applied to achieve a purpose – from private equity investment on one side of the continuum to gift or grant support on the other.

Have a Question? Ask ArtsManaged

Do you have a puzzle, problem, or persistant concern about Arts Management? Post your question to this online and anonymous form. I’ll select questions to answer in the Field Guide, or in this newsletter, so that we can all learn together about the real-world messes we face.

ArtsManaged Field Notes

Weekly updates and insights on Arts Management practice. Part of the ArtsManaged bundle of Field Guide, Field Notes, and YouTube Videos (see links for details).

Read more from ArtsManaged Field Notes
Photo of an awards podium with steps for first, second, and third place winners.

Best practice is the worst

23 days ago
2 min read
Photo of a person balancing on a rock, with the sunset behind them.

Beauty and the Balance Sheet

about 1 month ago
2 min read
Photo of a man sitting on bridge, looking at mountains.

Three paths to action in Arts Management

about 1 month ago
2 min read