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Thursday, July 5, 2007

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Executive Director's Column

NASAA Executive Director Jonathan Katz

One major premise that has persisted through the four decades since the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) jump-started the creation and funding of state arts agencies is that the primary vehicles through which government would provide access and excellence in the arts would be not-for-profit, tax exempt organizations. In a changing environment, even this premise is worthy of scrutiny. The consequences of increasingly sophisticated for-profit provision of leisure time options, the advent of digital technology and short-comings in public education are all at play. The not-for-profit arts world is engaged in entrepreneurial adapting and hybridizing (yes, we will need new words!) to address the always increasing relative expense of labor-intensive endeavors in a technological society, to diversify revenues, and to aggregate capital in ways that enable it to compete with for-profit leisure time providers. Public arts agencies, many of whom have created companion foundations and fostered statewide not-for-profit service groups in order to meet specific needs, are faced with additional changes in their environment related to increasing skepticism about the effectiveness of government in general, the resulting demand for measures of accountability, the growing popular understanding that it takes public-private partnership to realize a significant goal in any field, and human and financial resources reduced during the 2001-2004 fiscal years. At the same time, knowledge-based wealth-producing strategies associated with the "new economy" have evolved into the "creative economy," innovative planning and programming has integrated the work of state arts agencies more thoroughly in the agendas of their governments, research continues to document the public value of the arts in education and health care, the arts advocacy community is increasingly sophisticated and has new tools to work with, and some regional economies are yielding good tax revenues at the state level.

In this dynamic environment, state arts agency leaders find that their most basic questions have a new complexity:

As state arts agency leaders consider choices that will shape their next four decades and beyond, they will find it useful to draw upon the insights that history provides, the most current information about trends in their environment and the array of approaches being tested to address them, and the most creative thinking of colleagues within and outside of the state arts agency field. NASAA is dedicated to being the primary knowledge resource for these choices. Your comments, suggestions and questions are always welcome. Now is a good moment to mark your calendar for Assembly 2007, NASAA's Annual Meeting in Baltimore, MD, December 6-8.