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Publications: Speeches

Holding Up the Arts: Can we sustain what we’ve created? Should we?

On October 27, 2012, Diane Ragsdale addressed fellows of the 2012 Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Leaders with a keynote address entitled, “Holding Up the Arts: Can we sustain what we’ve created? Should we?” Ms. Ragsdale’s speech examined the meaning and implications of sustainability for the arts and culture field and the life cycle of organizations, including the idea that death is a necessary part of the arts ecosystem. She discussed the role of the arts organization and the importance of mattering to one’s community, warning against current tendencies towards market-driven tactics, exclusivity and becoming “nonprofit arts zombies.”

Read the full text of “Holding Up the Arts” »


Why the Arts Matter Now

NAS President and CEO Russell Willis Taylor recently delivered the keynote address to attendees of the Midwest Arts Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Mrs. Taylor’s speech, “Why the Arts Matter Now,” stresses the importance of creating a shared value for our communities and that the nonprofit arts organizations are in the business of meaning before markets.

Read “Why the Arts Matter Now” »


Local Faces: D.C.’s Local and National Art Scene

On June 12th, NAS Program Manager Sunny Widmann moderated a panel at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. The panel, entitled “Local Faces: D.C.’s Local and National Art Scene,” was co-presented by the Corcoran and Emerging Arts Leaders DC. Panelists Lisa Gold (Washington Project for the Arts), Ryan Hill (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, YOUmedia Network), Mariah Johnson (Porch Projects) and Jayme McLellan (Civilian Art Projects, Corcoran College of Art Design) explored the unique challenges and opportunities that local arts organizations and artists face when sharing a city with national museums.

Watch a video recording of the panel »


Defining Values: A training for developing new opportunities for uncertain futures

Europe’s critical economic situation has resulted in the United Kingdom government making cuts across the board and once again issuing a plea for “more American-style fundraising in the arts,” or, a more diverse, less government-centered financial base for the arts. The potential of the arts to build true engagement across conventional boundaries of culture, generation, economic status, class and professional expertise has a long and rich history in the UK, as evidenced by the establishment of the BBC and national cultural institutions, but the need for a fresh look at fundraising strategy and philosophy has never been greater.

In October 2011, three senior arts and education practitioners brought together 40 participants from 15 organizations in the UK to address practical and effective ways to strengthen the real value of the arts, thereby sustaining their varied revenue streams. The program, Defining Values, was presented by National Arts Strategies President and CEO Russell Willis Taylor, Anna Ledgard and Julia Rowntree at London’s Somerset House with support from the Fidelity UK Foundation, the Fidelity Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The aim of the program was to help arts organizations discover latent potential in their existing values and activities, thereby enabling them to move from one-off transactions in fundraising to sustainable relationships in fund development. The session offered case studies and group exercises exploring the skills, language, philosophical and pedagogical underpinnings necessary to successful fund development, with special focus on how to create enduring relationships. The following organizations took part in colleague teams of CEO/Artistic Director, Head of Learning and Head of Development: Arcola Theatre, B3 Media, Battersea Arts Center, English National Opera, Iniva, National Portrait, Gallery, The Place Theatre, Project Phakama, Roundhouse, Serious, Somerset House Trust, Sound and Music, South Bank Centre, Tate, Theatre Royal Stratford East.

The program saw many favorable outcomes from participant organizations. In particular, Battersea Arts Centre is taking steps to bring the fundraising process itself into the creative embrace of the organization, recognizing its power to build creativity, neighborly cooperation and citizenship across its various constituencies. BAC recently hosted a lecture by Dr. Franklyn Prochaska on English philanthropic traditions as further inspiration for the social, creative and civic benefits of associational philanthropy.

Download “Good Neighbors: Associational Philanthropy and Civic Apprenticeship in 19th Century England” here »


The Challenges of Cultural Leadership

This is a time of great reinvention for cultural enterprise, as we examine the value we provide to audiences and how we can reshape institutions to do this better. In this keynote address delivered at the Bolz Center Collegium, NAS President and CEO, Russell Willis Taylor explores the unique leadership demands of cultural enterprise.

Read the text of the speech, “The Challenges of Cultural Leadership


There Are No Crises, Only Tough Decisions

There are no crises in the arts – there are crises in arts organizations as they are currently constructed. Audiences are not shrinking, they are growing, but they are not necessarily interested in consuming all the art our member organizations produce. Between 1970 and 2010, the number of arts organizations grew from 2,700 to 27,000 but the number of people funding them, and attending their events, did not grow at all. In this keynote address delivered at the joint annual conferences of Chorus America and The League of American Orchestras, Russell Willis Taylor, President and CEO of National Arts Strategies, explores the extraordinary opportunities that arts organizations have today.

Read the text of the speech, “There Are No Crises, Only Tough Decisions”