The powerful panel of “A WAY FORWARD” focused on the connection between the arts and local economy in a forum taped for broadcast and posted online by WOSU TV. The broadcast is Sunday, September 25th at 1 pm. The Dispatch called the event a pep rally and it certainly emphasized the positive over the fact that many nonprofit arts organizations have extremely thin margins…or that there are some major corporations in Columbus provide little or no support for the arts. Some of this is due to a new emphasis on contributing to support social service needs in the community. Yet, somehow the usual corporations step up and find a way to support both areas.
The best question of the evening, from my perspective, was the last one — what single piece of advice do you have for nonprofit arts leaders in this time of austerity? One answer was to be bold, rather than sitting in the office and worrying. Another answer expressed concern that the “recalibration” of arts organizations have weakened their abilities to provide quality programming. The third answer, which interestingly came from Les Wexner, CEO of Limited Brands Inc., was the best. Wexner is emphasizing a focus on his customers. He wants the corporate folks in his stores talking to customers and understanding them better during this time of economic distress. This translates well to any size nonprofit. We need to go back to our base and talk with our long-time donors and connect better with our membership. They are our lifeblood.
The panel included NEA Chair Rocco Landesman, Les Wexner, Mayor Michael Coleman and Doug Kridler of the Columbus Foundation. The moderator was Julie Henahan of the Ohio Arts Council. Again, catch the whole hour broadcast this Sunday at 1 pm on WOSU TV. We were proud to be a part of this event.