Arts in Action: Arts, Philanthropy, and Community

What makes art necessary? Who decides what kinds of arts and culture should be provided for and supported and for whose benefit?

We will explore the world of nonprofit arts management and the ways in which arts and culture is consumed, produced, and supported in the U.S.

Communicating the power of the arts to enhance the lives of individuals and transform communities is central to the success of today’s arts leaders, educators, and practitioners. In the United States philanthropic giving is a key contributor to funding and sustaining artistic expression and cultural life in communities, and funders are eager for artists and cultural organizations to reach out to audiences and engage communities in meaningful ways. In an environment of extreme community needs, changing cultural tastes, and exponentially increasing competition for funding, arts institutions must demonstrate relevance and vitality and find ways to connect the art experience to broader community priorities.

Inside the Classroom

During the first half of the course students will examine the nonprofit arts infrastructure and the changing cultural landscape and how nonprofit arts organizations respond to these contemporary issues. A second part of the course will examine the relationship between arts institutions and the communities in which they exist and how these institutions reach out to audiences and utilize new forms of community engagement.

Through research, class discussion, and readings students will explore the respective roles of private philanthropy and public policy in advancing the arts and its expression in the community. Case studies and trends in philanthropy, as well as role-plays and in class-debates, are opportunities for students to apply ideas to real-world scenarios and to examine the larger issues confronting today’s nonprofit arts managers.

Outside the Classroom

Students will connect what they learn in the classroom through various experiential learning opportunities in the community. Community philanthropists and local nonprofit leaders will join class discussions as guest speakers, offering students the opportunity to learn directly from those in the field.

Students will participate in community trips to Washington, D.C. and New York to visit with some of the nation’s leading arts and cultural organizations and to experience first-hand what they have studied throughout the fall semester. Locally, students will attend various cultural programs to examine artistic initiatives in their own community.

Research and Capstone Project

Successful programs and grant proposals clearly address a need in a specific community, demonstrate an understanding of one’s audience, provide public value, and include strategic partnerships and goals. The grant writing process allows for a comprehensive approach to developing a program or project, and often involves a cross-disciplinary team. As part of the capstone experience, students will work in teams to develop a grant proposal for a community arts project that they create and provide a presentation of their plans and ideas to the campus community.