Dobrin: Are arts groups changing who they are to win grants?

Posted on: February 25, 2015

In Sunday’s (2/22) Philadelphia Inquirer, Peter Dobrin takes an in-depth look at arts funding, citing a new William Penn Foundation-commissioned study by Boston consultant TDC. Dobrin writes, “Is the act of funding great art its own reward? Or does the funder have the right—or even the responsibility—to make sure that what gets produced accomplishes a set of objectives for both the giver and the recipient? … To get a foundation grant, it’s often not enough to simply apply for funding of what you do day in and day out. What do funders want? Innovation! New ways of ‘engaging’ younger audiences! High-impact special projects that others will want to emulate! I don’t mean to belittle these goals, or even the jargon.… But increasingly, funders are calling the tune, and arts and culture groups are changing who they are—the art itself—to win grants…. The report asks a key question: By what metrics do we judge growth? Simply a bigger budget and more audience? … [There is] an underlying assumption by many local board leaders that if only a business plan could be righted, arts groups could somehow pay their way.… But it doesn’t work this way, and TDC puts numbers behind the reality.”

Posted February 25, 2015