Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Communications

Will Leitch, in his February 16th New York Magazine article, “How Tweet It Is”, brings up a point that has been on my mind all week, despite having only gotten around to reading his story today.

I once watched a Cardinals game with him as part of the New York City Cardinals’ Fan Club, so I feel comfortable calling him Will, not Mr. Leitch, as I write this.

Will’s story sums up corporate culture at Twitter, gives the 30 second elevator speech on what Twitter is, and then asks whether we’re ready, as a culture, to adopt the concept behind twitter as the new wave of communication.

In short, Will asks if we’re ready to adopt a “New Communication” that will mean no more old-fashioned news rooms, no more delays from the time news happens to the time publications release stories, and more free, real-time, peer-to-peer information exchange.

Will uses the Flight 1549 crash into the Hudson River as an example, because the story wasn’t broken by a print newspaper or by any major publication online. It was broken by one man who happened to see the plane crash into the river, pull out his camera, TwitPic the crash, and then tweet about it.

The fact of that matter is that this story didn’t wait for a newsroom editor to send a reporter out to cover the story, then burn midnight oil to edit the story for release in the morning paper. This story broke in real time, which brings me to the thing I’ve been thinking about this week in my own organization:

In a world where news breaks so quickly, and in such raw form, how relevant are our traditional practices of writing and editing press releases before disseminating information at times deemed institutionally appropriate?

The more tightly institutions hold onto information, the deeper they’ll be slitting their own wrists in the long run. Organizations must find betters balances between the way information has traditionally been controlled and released, and the way that new audiences seek to engage with that information.

The days of two-page, perfectly edited press releases may not be over quite yet, but they are certainly numbered. The sooner non-profits recognize and adapt to these change in immediacy and informality of New Communications, the further towards the front of the field they’ll remain.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Meaning of Distance and Geography

I don't aim for personal reflection in this blog (that's what diaries are for), but my next step professionally is going to mean a big change personally; a move from Brooklyn, New York to rural Southeast Missouri.

Put another way, I'll be moving from one of the most densely populated cities on the planet - and a city that's recognized largely as the epicenter of both art and business in the United States - to take a job on a 5,000 acre YMCA twelve miles outside of a town of 2,500.

...Take a moment to digest that...

Yep, you read right; I'm leaving New York for 5,000 acres of woodland in Southeast Missouri, and I'm doing it in two weeks.

I'll soon be breathing fresh air, seeing the stars at night, and walking without bumping into anyone. I'll be running trails after work at night, and renovating a turn of the century house with my dad on the weekends. Life, I think, will be good.

The New Yorkers among you, from my experience, just had two almost simultaneous reactions; your eyes flickered with envy for just a moment before your eyebrows raised in skepticism.

For the most part, I'm right there with you; in one moment I can't wait to start my new life, and in the next, I find myself clutching my latte, my metrocard, and my NY Times in horror that I've chosen this fate for myself.

All of that said, I'm intensely interested in social media, and how traditional geography is changing in an increasingly digitally communicative world. Is it possible for me to have the best of country life and city life without being able to afford an apartment in the city and a house in the country?

Is it possible that twitter, blogging, Facebook, flickr, and the occasional weekend of crashing on New York couches will be enough to sustain my need for the city when I'm living in the rural midwest?

I don't know the answers to these questions, but I'm about to find out. Stay tuned here and follow me on twitter (@MilliGFunk) to see how this little adventure pans out.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Missouri Mall Media Coverage

I don't usually write two blogs in one day, much less three (I also wrote a personal blog today), but I wanted to share some different perspectives (and kudos) for the shopping mall arts program in St. Louis, Missouri, that I wrote about a few days ago.

The writers at Missouri Green seem to share my sentiments on the brilliance of this shopping mall renaissance.

Glad to see that the AP and a New York-based website both picked up the story here.

The St. Louis Business Journal picked up a short story, including details on the developers.

I think this story will continue to pick up momentum and become a model for other ailing retail environments. I'll continue to try to post more on this as I learn more.

Leadership, the Arts, and Art Cars

This entry  work, leadership, and a clever link. 

I had a particularly inspiring meeting today with our contracted photographer for the organization's annual calendar. Seeing his brilliant and beautiful perspectives on our creative product reminded me why it is that I entered the field. (

During our conversation, I became excited about potential opportunities to expand my marketing work at the institution to include continued work with creative partnerships, photography, and gallery curation.

Serendipitously, my boss stopped in as I was in mid-brainstorm with ideas of her own for my redefined role at the institution, and many of our thoughts were astonishingly well-aligned. 

It's a good feeling to work beneath someone who has both vision and diplomatic tact. We'll see what the coming months bring. 

I'm reading two things right now*, both of which have touched in their initial pages on leadership, a subject that I'm increasingly interested in after seeing much leadership turnover in my division in recent months.

Specifically, both of these sources discuss the differences between executive and legislative leadership styles. I hope to write more about my take on these distinctions soon, but for now, I'll leave you with this quirky art blog. Enjoy!

*Reading #1 is A Survival Guide for Project Managers by James Taylor
*Reading #2 is Good to Great and the Social Sector: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Crestwood Arts Plaza?

As a Southeast Missouri native, one of the biggest laments I have about my career is that it's difficult to do what I want to do professionally in St. Louis, much less in the rural area where I was raised seventy miles south of it. 

There is no shortage of space in Missouri, and though it may not be a widely known fact, there are a slew of talented artists there, many of whom, like myself, leave the state to persue their careers in other, more metropolitan, cities. This is among the reasons why the following St. Louis Post Dispatch article was so exciting to me that I could hardly read through it without skipping ahead. 

I haven't been so proud to be a St. Louisan (alright, technically, I'm a Farmingtonian) or so excited for the arts in a long time. Way to go St. Louis for thinking creatively in a tough economy, making use of the limitless space you have access to, and, maybe most importantly, for not leaving your "little" city like so many of us have, for more attractive opportunities. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

More on Arts Funding

My status message on gchat yeterday read something to the effect of, "wondering what portion of arts funding comes directly from the banking and financial world." A friend of mine directed me to an article in The Washington Post that answers part of the question, citing an NEA study that found that only 3% of total arts funding comes from corporations.

The Post's article points out the potential ripple effect of the current economic state; that even though 3% of funding comes from corporations, a significant portion of funding comes from the employees of those corporations who are inidividual donors to the arts. Another significant portion of arts funding comes from foundations that receive money either directly or indirectly from the corporate world.

We're destined to see a little tightening up in the coming months.. Diversity in our audiences and our funders is key; anyone who was reliant on a single grant from Lehman Bros. is clearly out of luck right now, but for the rest of us, spreading our funding between earned revenues and individual, corporate, and government contributions is what we know from experience will keep us afloat in tighter times.

But I go back to my point yesterday that the arts will survive, and this time with some back-up from The Post, who says, "It's an article of faith among theater honchos that when the going gets depressing, the depressed go to the theater."

Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall Street May Not Take the Arts Down with It

Arts and cultural institutions have traditionally recieved significant funding both directly from banks and other financial istitutions and indirectly from the well-paid executive employees of those institutions. With so many New Yorkers unsure of what will happen next on Wall Street, but certain that "the Street" will never again be the same high-rollers paradise that it has been in recent years, I wonder how Wall Street's troubles will become our own in the Arts.

Discussions of the current financial crisis are compared to those during the Depression. I can't count the number of times I've heard lately that this is, "the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression". The federal government is stepping in to save Wall Street firms, much as they stepped in to creat jobs in the Depression, but what can we learn from history about what can be done to help preserve arts and culture in times of economic hardship?

I don't claim to be an expert on the economy, or on the history of the arts during economic hardship, but out of curiousity, I set out to learn more.

During the Depression, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) helped to build parks, schools, swimming pools, libraries, and other culturally relevant institutions. Construction of physical spaces and administration of the programs held in those spaces created jobs, stimulating the economy, but what about helping artists, whose skills were not in program administration or construction? Did the government reach out to them? The answer is "yes", they did.

The WPA's Federal Project Number One was a five-division project (music, theater, art, writing, and cultural records) that employed approximately 40,000 artists, writers, thespians, and other cultural workers within a year of its inception. Granted, these programs weren't without controversy; conservatives accused participants of membership in the American Communist Party, and the programs were criticized for being used as propaganda for the New Deal. Ultimately, these programs were not sustained, but they are well-documented, and in some cases the project themselves were documentation projects of the arts and cultural activities of the times. These projects created jobs, including jobs for minority artists, helping keep artists and the arts alive (potentially literally) through tough times.

Private funding for the arts hadn't yet taken the shape we know today. Andrew Carnegie had only begun undertaking major philanthropic activities 25 years or so prior. The first private family and community foundations had been established in 1907 and 1914, respectively, but corporate philanthropy didn't begin in earnest until the mid-1950s with advances by the GE Foundation (General Electric's philanthropic division) and others.

Individual giving for the Arts continued throughout the Depression, however. The advent of the "talkie", the last of the Vaudeville shows, big bands and other live music, radio programming and dance halls all helped to provide distraction. People continued to spend hard-won cash on the Arts, at least those "low arts" that let people forget the day-to-day for a few hours at a time.

With corporate giving, major individual donors, and individual ticket buyers all contributing to the survival of arts and cultural institutions today, it gives my own morale a boost to realize that government, the Arts and culture, and wealthy donors/patrons all adapted to and learned from the Depression. Art did not die, and the economy did bounce back.

As we all face the financial unknowns of the near future, I hope that we'll adapt to the climates we find ourselves in, and that we'll recognize that while these waters rough ones, that they're not completely unknown either.

Links: New Deal Cultural Programs: An Experiment in Cultural Democracy
The History of Philanthropy
Woes of Wall Street's titans worry charities, arts groups
Too early to know how arts will be affected