The Fund for the Arts’ annual campaign has ended and the organization’s energy will now turn inward, toward revising its mission and policies. The shakeup at the fund started earlier this year, when CEO Allan Cowen retired amid a flurry of criticism over his brusque interactions with artists and arts groups. Much of the dissent came from visual artists, who say the fund doesn’t give them the money or attention they deserve compared to performing arts.
Cary Stemle wrote about the fund in a recent issue of LEO. He says the fund is taking a new look at how it operates. That could lead to a change in the funding process, or in the structure of the 70-member board.
“It’s kind of a who’s who of corporate people. Because it is a fundraising board, from an organization that runs employee contribution campaigns, they want people who can deliver the corporate money from their companies,” he says. “It’s kind of a balancing act between not changing that paradigm and opening it up to maybe non-corporate people like artists for example.”
The fund has also released a survey for artists and community members to fill out. Stemle says that will help guide the fund as it searches for Cowen’s successor.
“It has a lot of specific questions, but it also has open-ended questions that allow people to enter a narrative of their own, to be as candid as you like,” he says. “If people take anything from this story I’d like them to know about that survey. The people I talked to say this is significant that they’re open to this input.”
Fund board members have previously rejected many of the complaints that the board is too large and that the funding process is unfair or not transparent enough.