ACA Letter From Crisis & Opportunity

Thank you to all who attended the Crisis & Opportunity open meeting on June 7th. We were pleased that so many of you took the time to gather with us for discussion.

After opening remarks and framing, and an uncomfortable silence, a conversation began. We soon became aware that the level of specificity and personalization we expected would not emerge, but what did emerge was a clear direction for future topics for discussion.   We began the conversation about what we can do as an arts community to further our aims collectively and proactively.  Instead of dwelling on recent events, and talking about what’s been going on, we acknowledged that the state of our arts is less than desirable, and instead tried to focus on where we go from here.

Points were made and questions posed as the conversations picked up, such as the nature of the nonprofit model, and how it could be outdated, how business and sustainability should be more of a priority, the notion of not dwelling on mistakes–a theme the evening certainly highlighted–and instead move forward together after learning from them quickly, and emphasizing communication between groups as well as collaboration, mentorship, and innovation.

Moreover, there was a prevailing sense that participants appreciated the opportunity to speak with their peers more directly—that night and ongoing. This was apparent not only in the attendance, but in the level of emphatic speaking and specifically in many comments/questions posed. Organizations big and small referenced a feeling of isolation as they navigated the economy and its many challenges.

We acknowledge that the forum was perhaps too open in that many participants left feeling the topics of the moment weren’t addressed. We had hoped people would bring up topics that mattered to them, and we did not want to call anyone out. Still, it seemed that the large forum left some feeling too vulnerable to share. We will explore formats that might better suit a discussion of crisis.

After reviewing and listening to feedback we heard that some attendees wanted an action-oriented outcome from this meeting.  We hope to take the main points and questions from this initial meeting to do just that.  On July 28th, we will host a follow up meeting at the MACC to discuss one or all of these three topics:

What is the future of the nonprofit model?

  • Why do we exist and who is our community and our audience and who are we?
  • Is there a natural Life Cycle for NPOs?
  • Is the 501 (c) 3 model flexible enough? Too antiquated?
  • What are we doing right?
  • LC3 Model
  • Are there too many conflicting interests on boards/serving on too many?

Innovation and Collaborations are necessary to stay afloat

  • Talking is the first step
  • Become business-savvy or find those that are
  • Can larger orgs. take smaller ones under their wings/mentor
  • Can we learn from other arts organizations
  • Important to know what other artists and orgs are doing/be aware of surroundings/overlap
  • Sustainability and Change
  • Sharing resources
  • Resource: Greenlights
  • Creating a think tank

Cultural Planning

  • Engaging the arts in all aspects of the city through public/private partnerships
  • ImagineAustin
  • CreateAustin
  • Platform for news where artists and supporters can share and communicate?
  • Can we create a different brand for Austin besides “Live Music Capitol”?

We are currently planning for the next meeting, and are considering formats and content.  We welcome suggestions and feedback in this process.  Again, thank you for your participation in this discussion and we look forward to seeing and hearing from you on July 28th at the Mexican American Cultural Center.

The Austin Creative Alliance staff and board.