Answers to BACE Questions

I have not had time to read and digest this, but wanted to thank Bari Amadio for providing answers to the community questions.  If you are a member of an arts organization I would appreciate your feedback.  Just as when we compiled the list of questions it will be anonymous.  I have had a lot of feedback that a think tank and any organization overseeing funds must be keep separate for either to have credibility.

I put the breaks on pretty hard at the last council meeting before any decision could be made.  The fact is we only got the responses at that meeting and the council and community need time to digest the material.

Response to Request of City Council Representative Michael Wojcik April 4, 2014

There is a misconception concerning the term BACE which needs to be clarified prior to the response to any questions. Building a Creative Economy aka BACE was a concept designed to change the thinking about the arts in Rochester. It was never a body or an entity in and of itself therefore any reference to BACE as such is a misreading of BACE.

1. What is the purpose of presenting to the Rochester City Council today? (note-reference is to March 24th) Is there a specific ask of the Rochester City Council?
In May of 2013, the Rochester Arts Council (RAC) came before the Committee of the Whole
to seek advice on future direction. RAC specifically asked three questions:
a. What do you want from the Arts Council?
b. What should we be?
c. Where do you see us going in the future?
After serious consideration of the City Council’s response, RAC returned to present an update on its work and to solicit the green light to continue in the direction it was traveling, to develop an inclusive, comprehensive body (think tank) that will be a private/public relationship designed to unify the arts community and develop a comprehensive Arts and Culture Master Plan, similar to the Downtown Master Plan and the current development of a Parks Master Plan.

2. There is currently a DMC Arts, Culture and Civic Engagement Task Force that has an opportunity to hold public input sessions and interpolate that data to inform and influence the DMC Master Plan through a community-driven, grassroots effort. Why take action separate from or before these results are known?
The DMC Arts, Culture and Civic Engagement Task Force is not in conflict with the purpose of the Trust. In fact, the DMC Task Force is an asset because it will be providing information to DMC that can then be part of the informed decision-making of an Arts and Culture Master Plan. In the forthcoming proposed organizational structure of the Trust, a representative from DMC will have a seat on the Trust.

3. How were the members of BACE selected? Are meetings open to the public? Are minutes of the meetings available for public review?
Once again, BACE is a concept. I am assuming the reference is to the Task Force? When the BACE concept was first launched, the Arts Council, in partnership with RAF and RDA, held four public meetings. The first meeting brought together ALL the board members of ALL the known arts organizations (27 at the time) in Rochester and divided them into 5 facilitated group discussions. It was deemed a success by the participants. The second meeting focused on the artistic and executive directors of those same arts organizations. The result of the two meetings was a signed joint statement of commitment to 7 principles that was published as a full page in the Post Bulletin. To further show their commitment, the signatory organizations contributed financially to the publishing of the statement. Two meetings followed devoted specifically to
artists in the community to gather their input, with gathering space a major desire. “Just give us gathering space and watch us go”. The meetings produced four major areas to address, one of which was building a new administrative structure for the arts council. It was determined that the Arts Council would naturally address its own structure. It chose to appoint a task force to investigate other modes of operations and to return with a recommendation to the Arts Council. The Arts Council could then accept, reject or tweak the recommendation. In choosing the members of the task force, the Arts Council wanted a broad representation of the community and decided to have one representative from the different sectors. As a non-governmental agency, the Arts Council is not subject to open meeting laws, which is no different than the board meetings of the Art Center, Civic Theatre, RSOC or any other of the arts organizations in Rochester. This would also apply to any Task Force meetings or minutes of the meetings. Notes taken were informal and the work product of the executive director to be reported back to the Arts Council board.

4. How is the Trust going to be paid for? What would the operating budget for the Trust consist of and where would the money come from? Who is the staff of the Trust?
As the Arts Council is transitioning into the Trust, the current budget and resources would transfer as well. Maintenance of the 501 c 3 status allows for the continuation of tax deductible contributions/grants received from foundations, corporations, private donors and FUN-raising events, which has been the Arts Council’s mainstay since 2008. One of the five issues presented at the March Committee of the Whole meeting focused on the overall Financing of Arts and Culture in Rochester. Membership is a definite possibility, along with the others mentioned above; however, financing is an issue to be addressed by the new board of the Trust. The staff of the Trust will require an executive director and an assistant.

5. Will the City be expected to contribute to the Trust?
The City is the only entity authorized to answer this question. The City will naturally have
representation on the Trust board.

6. Will City organizations be subject to policy or funding recommendations by the Trust?
It is not the purpose of the Trust to be making policy or funding recommendations to the City that impacts City organizations. Only the City has the authority to determine the allocation of its resources.

7. Have members of organizations within the Rochester Arts community asked for the creation of the Trust?
The executive director conducted two needs assessments of arts organizations in two separate years which brought to light several areas that could be addressed with a unified body. Organizations were still operating in a silo mentality. When the BACE initiative was launched, what became apparent during the meetings of the BACE initiative was that there was an even greater need for a unifying body in the area of the arts. Board members and artistic/executive directors from 27 organizations signed a joint statement to work together and this is merely another step in the pursuance of that camaraderie. When the Trust concept was explained to those in the arts community, the comment most frequently heard was “It’s about time!

8. What value will a trust create in Rochester? What results should we expect within the first 3 years?
One need only look at other cities that have established similar entities to realize the importance of establishing a trust (or commission) to provide a unifying voice for not just the arts organizations and artists, but for the entire community. The issues which the executive director originally promulgated for discussion (performing arts venue, comprehensive programming, arts and culture funding, public art and an arts & cultural district) are just the tip of the iceberg. Is there a plan for downtown development? For development of Rochester outside of the downtown? For parks? What is the value that those currently have or will have in Rochester? Why do we have a Sports Commission and not an Arts Commission? The Trust would provide a place where those who have the best interests of the community in mind can meet to address the arts issues that will be of import to the community as we go forward 10, 20, 30 plus years into the future within the framework of the DMC initiative. Remaining silos need to be eliminated to develop a comprehensive arts and cultural plan, not just the piecemeal project- oriented approach that currently exists. And we, as a community, need to be nimble enough to adapt as new issues are brought forward. This is a major undertaking, but the community would see first the establishment of the Trust board. Any future results would be dependent upon the decisions of the Trust board, based upon appropriate input.

9. How does BACE determine “policy recommendations”?
BACE is a concept. It does not determine “policy recommendations”.

10. Who does BACE make policy recommendations to?
BACE does not make policy recommendations to anyone. Is there confusion with the Rochester
Downtown Alliance that makes policy recommendations to the City?

11. How are institutions that receive such “policy recommendations” expected to heed and act upon them?
What institutions are being referred to in this question? The term “recommendation” is defined as “a suggestion or proposal as to the best course of action”. Nowhere does it say that any “institution” receiving said suggestion is expected to heed and act upon said suggestion.

12. What is the purpose of BACE making “policy recommendations”?
A policy recommendation is simply written policy advice. Policy recommendations are the key means through which policy decisions are made. It is basically the result of problem-solving, which is the unifying purpose of the Trust.

13. Will these policy recommendations be directed to existing and established arts organizations (501 c 3s)?

14. Several arts organizations have expressed concerns with the Trust concept but are unwilling to state their unhappiness publicly because they don’t want to be seen as unsupportive of task force member organizations such as Mayo and RAF that are funders. What type of outreach have you done to reassure these organizations that the Trust will add value?
In the name of public openness and transparency, it is difficult to reach out to anonymous organizations that do not contact the Arts Council to express their concerns. While Michael
Wojcik speaks to receiving emails and calls, what are the breadth of those calls as the Arts Council has also received numerous contacts expressing support. Both Mayo and RAF are honorable organizations that have never been seen in the light in which this question seemingly portrays them. Why would they start now?

15. What Rochester arts organizations have been contacted regarding the Trust in the past 12 months?
The past 12 months is an invalid range as the Task Force only concluded its recommendation in the past few months and the recommendation of a new administrative structure for the Arts Council was only received and approved in the same time period. The Arts Council is the only entity that can determine its own administrative structure, which is what it is doing. Recently an email was sent out to resurrect the Art Administrators Round Table (AART) and the Arts Council welcomes that resurrection as it could be an important body representing the views of arts organizations on the Trust board.

16. What criteria and expertise does BACE have in creating policy recommendations? Many of these institutions that currently have policies, missions, bylaws, measurements and strategic plans adopted by their governing boards and implemented by professional staff?
BACE has no criteria and expertise, but the Trust would have such through those sitting on the Trust board and through the qualifications of its executive director.

17. How will arts and culture be defined by this group? What metrics will be used to establish funding levels?
It will be up to the group itself to define arts and culture. That said, the Arts Council has always defined arts and culture as relating to the five disciplines which are symbolized in the Arts Council logo: Drama, Dance, Humanities (Literature, Museums), Visual Art, and Music (Instrumental and Vocal). The Trust will not require metrics to establish funding levels as there are no funding levels.

18. I was told that the Rochester Area Foundation decided not to fund local arts organizations until the Trust was up and running so that the criteria for arts funding could be established. Is this correct? Are other funders planning to run funding through the Trust?
The Arts Council submitted a grant request to RAF in the last grant round, and received the same letter that the Art Center received. So the Arts Council is quite familiar with the contents of the letter. Grant money has been set aside by the RAF board for arts organization requests. The RAF board is taking a prudent approach with its funding and, on a personal note, the Arts Council’s executive director has a donor-advised fund at RAF, and RAF would not have been entrusted with said money had the thought been they would not be diligent in their approach. It is a misconception that funders will be solicited to run their funding thorough the Trust. It is set up as a think tank, not the World Bank. Funders will have information to make informed decisions as to what they choose to do with their resources.

19. Do you expect the City of Rochester to utilize the priorities established by the Trust? If so, how will these priorities be established?
The Trust board will count among its membership the Mayor and a City Council representative. It will be up to the City to determine whether or not priorities will be utilized. It is presumptive
to think otherwise. Priorities will be established by the Trust board with input from the community. For example, at the recent “community meeting”, attendees were given a card with the five current issues and were asked to rank them 1-5 in order of preference (or priority). What is known as a “quick and dirty” reading of the responses was calculated.

20. Why is this organization in a unique position to establish priorities?
The Trust will be in a unique position to establish priorities because of its organizational
structure, the composition of its board and the input from the community.

21. The Arts Council has the Dancing for the Arts as its main fundraiser for the year, with proceeds going to youth arts programming. How much money was raised last year and how much was distributed to youth arts programming? How much went to the Arts Council for operations? If the Arts Council transforms into the Trust, will the Arts Council still have this yearly event? In the slides shown at the public meeting, it was stated that the Trust would not hold events to raise money. Is this still true?
The first part of this question has no relevance to the topic under discussion. That said, DFTA has two functions- to provide funding for unique youth arts education programs not currently addressed in the school system and to support the programs and services of the Arts Council. When the Arts Council was formed, the board made a conscious decision not to compete with other arts organizations’ funding sources. This has been upheld even to the extent that the Arts Council has never ever sent out an annual year-end fundraising appeal. The board approved that voting monies raised for the celebrities be designated for youth arts education, and a panel of independent funders determine the grantees and the amounts granted. The Arts Council then carries out the distribution based upon the funders’ decisions. Because the Arts Council is transparent, it lists the grantee names and amounts awarded on its website, which anyone can access if they would go to the website. It is also published in the Post-Bulletin. Also on the website is a YouTube link with a testimonial video showing what the grants accomplished. The amounts vary each year because it depends on the total number of votes. The Arts Council plans to continue The Fete and Ardee Awards, and there are so many people talking about the tradition of DFTA, that the Arts Council has no plans at the moment to eliminate it. People have already approached the executive director for consideration as a celeb dancer for 2015. It could exist as long as people are willing to be a celebrity dancer. We have sold out all three years. The slide at the public meeting had a caveat- the slide actually said: “The Trust will not be involved in event production or management for the express purpose of funding its operational costs. If the Trust is involved in an event, it will be to enhance the arts and cultural experiences of its stakeholders.” The Arts Council believes it is readily apparent that DFTA and The Fete accomplish the intent. Further, there is precedent in other cities for hosting events that contribute to the artistic enhancement of the community- activities of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust are only one such illustration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.