SPEAKING WITH ONE VOICE
Karen Brooks Hopkins
I’d like to begin my remarks today with some complaining—whining, actually—about the general economic climate; why it’s a total pain in the neck; why we haven’t succeeded in making sure that our field is one that is more valued and appreciated by consumers; why every time there is a downturn we feel the pain immediately, are dismissed as a frill, and so on and so on. As a New Yorker, a Brooklynite—as well as a 28-year veteran of the field of arts administration and a life-long fundraiser—I am used to taking rejection in every form. I’d like to think I’m resilient—able to roll with the punches, live to fight another day and all that stuff. But the truth is, I am aggravated. Here we have our field—the arts—that:
- offers distinctive, creative programs that inspire and educate millions of American school children;
- stimulates the economy of the local community—when we are dark, every local business suffers;
- generates tourism—let’s face it, no one is going to New York for the weather;
- can be an effective tool in diplomacy. Think about the New York Philharmonic in North Korea, or popular culture, such as hip hop, in places like Hong Kong and Seoul, where American street culture is emulated by youth and could, if properly channeled, be an effective Public Relations tool for the United States.
- should I even mention the art itself, which ignites the imagination, illuminates the best of our history as a civilization on this planet, and inspires us by touching both our hearts and our minds?
- creates “social profit”—I ask, how can we reposition not-for-profits as sources of social profit, a concept that Chronicle of Philanthropy writer Claire Gaudiani has put forth, in essence asserting that not-for-profits exist to create value for society rather than for shareholders.
Throw all this together and add to it the fact that private sector support and ticket sales pick up most of the tab--could there be a better return for the money or a better investment for every citizen? And yet, somehow we have not succeeded in convincing the public of our true, enduring value.