One of my volunteer activities is serving on the board of directors of California Arts Advocates (CAA), a statewide nonprofit organization that provides political advocacy services for arts organizations and individuals. CAA's stakeholders include a vast array of sizes and activities, from very large organizations such as the San Francisco Opera to individual poets, writers and visual artists. One of CAA's main missions is to shape and influence public policy as it relates to museums, orchestras, theaters, musical groups, performing artists, visual artists, arts education, etc. Because we deal with public policy, we also deal with public funding. Due to California's massive $25 to $35 billion (yes, billion with a B) budget deficit, arts funding is at risk of being severely limited or eliminated entirely in the coming state budgets.
As the "outside" director on the board, the only director who is not managing an arts institution or organization, I am relied on to bring an independent business management perspective to our efforts. As such, I clearly see the challenge to effectively communicate the very real value of the arts in our education system, in our society and in our quality of life. To the "internal" board members, it is self evident that arts participation leads to higher test scores and less crime with young people; it is readily apparent that arts events draw as many or more attendees annually than major sporting events; it is easy to see the economic benefit of between $11 and $17 returned to the local community for every dollar invested in local arts programs; and it is clear that the arts are separate and distinct from Hollywood. To "outsiders" such as myself, those messages and truths are not always clear, nor well understood.
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