Updated NASAA Member Directory

Friday, July 10, 2009

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NationalAssembly of State Arts Agencies

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Executive Director's Column

NASAA Executive Director Jonathan Katz

Opportunities for Arts Participation in Summer 2009 is a new feature on the NASAA Web site that suggests ways in which artists and arts organizations can participate in the nationwide United We Serve initiative, which is being coordinated by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The purpose of this initiative, according to a White House press release, is ato help make volunteerism and community service part of the daily lives of all Americans.a Though the period from the June 22 kick-off through September 11 represents a spotlighted push, President Obama has expressed hopes that people will be inspired to remain engaged in community service projects. Toward this end, CNCS has created the Serve.gov Web site, and Congress, when it passed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act in April, designated September 11, 2009, as the National Day of Service and Remembrance.

Opportunities for Arts Participation in Summer 2009 provides basic information on the Corporation for National and Community Service and its new Serve.gov Web site, the All for Good database (a national hub of volunteer opportunity listings), an on-line toolkit with tips on how to design local community service efforts that make a difference, and other aspects of the United We Serve initiative.

NASAAas purposes here are to make it as easy as possible for state arts agency leaders to:

To assist state arts agencies in this determination, we outline the information available to individuals and organizations about how to post a call for volunteers, become a volunteer, create their own project, share their story, and promote their participation.

Serve.gov offers a vehicle for people to state their volunteer interests, to start projects, to publicize volunteer opportunities, and to share stories relevant to community service. It also links to sites with information about how to participate in AmeriCorps, Citizen Corps, Peace Corps and Senior Corps, as well as to GovtJob.Net, which lists state and local public sector jobs. These other sites contain information that state arts agency leaders may want to know about, act on with colleagues, and pass along to constituents, perhaps with some guiding advice. For instance, you find out that the selection of ainterestsa the AmeriCorps site offers individuals does not include anything that looks like athe artsa or acultural activities,a but does include acommunity development,a aeconomic development,a achildren/youth,a educationa and aneighborhood revitalization.a Also, interested individuals may refine their search by selecting the skills they have to bring to the program, including aarchitectural planning,a acommunity organization,a afine arts/crafts,a aleadership,a apublic speaking,a awriting/editing,a ayouth development,a ageneral skills,a and other competencies that may be documented by arts activities or applied to many kinds of service projects. Exploring these sites will reveal how those with arts expertise and interests can participate.

Also, the AmeriCorps site contains information about AmeriCorps State, a program through which governor-appointed state service commissions provide grants to non-government and government entities that sponsor service programs. These organizations use their grants to engage AmeriCorps members in service to help meet critical community needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. While athe arts and culturea may not be listed as a priority service for a state grant, some arts organizations may be well positioned to help with priorities such as mobilizing more volunteers, ensuring a brighter future for youth, engaging students in communities, harnessing the talents of older adults, helping communities recover from and prepare for disasters, and engaging veterans as service recipients or providers a which happen to be the priorities of my own state of residence.

I like the connection of the remembrance of September 11 with the American tradition of volunteerism. Volunteerism is a tradition too often taken for granted and the American brand of it is distinctive. In the United States, volunteerism is institutionalized to an extraordinary extent, supportingaalong with our tradition of charitable givingathe not-for-profit sector that we depend upon to supplement the private sector and government to achieve the most basic social goals. A nationas character is indicated nowhere else more clearly than in its tax structure, and ours awards individuals with a tax deduction for volunteer hours; in many cases, it allows organizations (such as NASAA and other not-for-profit cultural groups) to translate volunteer hours into matching dollars for government grants. President Obama, in highlighting the $50 million Innovation Fund in the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act, laid out his intention to stimulate creativity in the public-private-not-for-profit relationship. aWeare going to use this fund to find the most promising non-profits in America. Weall examine their data, and rigorously evaluate their outcomes. Weall invest in those with the best results; that are most likely to provide a good return on our taxpayer dollars. And weall require that they get matching investments from the private sector, from businesses and foundations, and philanthropists, to make those taxpayer dollars go even further.a Books could be filled with not-for-profit cultural groups that meet those high standards a in fact the Coming Up Taller awards brochure does that every year by listing organizations judged as exemplary in providing after-school programs in the arts and humanities. State arts agencies should do their part to encourage their grantee groups, which have all been judged in a public process to meet high standards, to pursue Innovation Fund recognition.

NASAA is currently exploring how we and other national arts service organizations will be able to retrieve information so we and our members can tell the story of arts participation in the United We Serve initiative and can encourage the good work by volunteers and not-for-profit organizations stimulated by the initiative. As always, please know that your comments, suggestions and questions are welcome.