Tuesday, January 19, 2010

In the UK: Can US-style arts philanthropy work?

I've had a running discussion with Jody Myers, a former executive of London's Royal Festival Hall and now a top consultant to British arts organizations and that nation's arts council. It's about the growing possibilities for arts philanthropy in the UK. Jody doesn't see it as likely to become a major force there--mostly because the British mentality is so ingrained that the arts are a necessity and that taxpayer monies should be funding them. That makes it exceedingly difficult to persuade potential donors to give anything there. (Of course, the arts in Britain are experiencing the same sea-wave changes wrought by the technological revolution and demographics, but the accessibility [read: free & inexpensive admissions] has dampened the impact there so far.)

Here's an article that just appeared in the UK's Guardian on the subject, outlining other perceived pitfalls of building a new dependence upon arts philanthropy in Britain.

Here in the US, we have done a pretty good job of developing top level philanthropic support for the arts. But we have done an abysmal job of making the case for public funding for the arts (possibly why there's also so little grass roots arts philanthropy). There is a widespread effort under way to change that on the national and state levels, as well as here in Orange County. And Arts Orange County is already leading the way with pilot efforts to reinforce support for arts education in the public schools.

These are not efforts that will likely bear fruit overnight, but the arts community has been too impatient in the past to stick with it: we need every arts lover to sign-up for the long haul!
PS: Jan. 21: Today's NY Times has an article that weighs the American way of arts funding vs. Europe's.

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