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San Francisco Chronicle: Why the Arts Matter

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Feb 03, 2009
The following op-ed article by Jim Canales, Irvine's President and CEO, ran in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 3, 2009.

The arts are in trouble. Many of the institutions that make the Bay Area's cultural scene so compelling are facing financial difficulties. Some are severely cutting programs; others are on the verge of closing. The arts are particularly vulnerable because they rely upon ticket sales and memberships, which are often among the first to be cut from consumer spending during an economic crisis. At the same time, the philanthropic revenues that arts organizations rely on - from government sources, foundations, corporations and individual contributions - all stand at risk today, given shrinking endowments and discretionary income.

Thankfully, arts leaders are applying their creative powers to these economic challenges, thus finding new ways to cut costs or raise revenues. For example, the Magic Theatre recently announced that it will be able to complete its season, thanks to an emergency fundraising campaign that brought in $455,000 from 1,100 donors. And the San Francisco Opera, in announcing its 2009-2010 season, was able to reduce its costs without compromising on artistic quality.

These organizations and their leaders deserve credit for doing whatever it takes to stay afloat. But all the creative ideas to keep the doors open won't be enough if we don't fundamentally change our collective understanding of why the arts matter. When times get tough and choices must be made, it is often the arts that lose. Why is this so? When compared to health or human service needs, the arts are often viewed as less important and therefore more discretionary in nature. But this line of thinking misses the point about why the arts are so important. Until we fully recognize how essential the arts are to the vitality of our communities and our quality of life, our cultural infrastructure will continue to be given short shrift. There are countless reasons why we should renew our commitment to the arts. Consider the following:

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Irvine in the News: January 2009

BY Thuy Nguyen Kumar
Thuy Nguyen Kumar
As Communications Project Manager, Thuy provides project support for a broad ran
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| Jan 31, 2009

In January 2009, the following published articles mentioned the work of the Foundation or our grantees:

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Pioneering S.F. Program Puts Bank Accounts in Reach of Poor

BY Amy Dominguez-Arms
Amy Dominguez-Arms
As Director of the California Democracy program, Amy leads strategies aimed at i
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| Jan 22, 2009
"Cash back fast!” their front windows promise. “Loans up to $255!” “C’mon in and get happy!"

Such pitches are an ordinary part of life in San Francisco’s Mission District, home to the city’s highest concentration of check-cashing outlets and pay day lenders. A single corner of Mission Street boasts two side-by-side outlets, nestled amid the laundromats and carnicerias that serve neighborhood residents, more than half of whom don’t hold traditional bank accounts.

"Bank on San Francisco is a pragmatic solution to a widespread problem, and a great example of the power of public-private partnerships."

– Amy Dominguez-Arms, director of the Irvine
Foundation’s California Perspectives program

Every year, these outlets siphon off millions of dollars from a community that can ill afford to lose it. They charge up to $40 just to cash a paycheck and up to 450 percent in interest rates on short term loans. For Mission District residents, many of them working two to three jobs just to get by, that can add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year – for a service that most consumers get for free.

"In our city, the price you pay for using check cashers is so high, it really impacts the household. When you open a bank account, you benefit immediately, from day one," explains José Cisneros, San Francisco’s City Treasurer. Yet more than one in five San Francisco residents are "unbanked," including half of the city's African-American and Latino population.

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In California's Inland Regions, Culture Thrives Outside Mainstream

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jan 22, 2009
Luis Jovel, a fourth generation cowboy boot and shoemaker, used to drive regularly from his home in Fresno to Mendota to teach traditional Salvadoran folk dancing to fellow immigrants, particularly children.

It was something Jovel did with his sister, for free, in order to pass on important cultural traditions and give youth of Salvadoran descent a sense of collective identity. But as the price of gas rose, it became too expensive to make the roughly 80 mile round trip, and Jovel had to stop.

"If arts groups want to have greater engagement with their communities, and more public support, this study points out avenues for them. They need to start looking for more points of relevance."

– Alan Brown, principal at WolfBrown and co-author of
"Cultural Engagement in California's Inland Regions"

"I couldn't afford it. I didn't have the money. I was doing it from my pocket," said Jovel, adding that he would continue teaching but for the cost. "I have a list of 24 kids who want to learn."

Jovel is just the sort of local cultural role model who should receive more support from established arts organizations and grantmaking institutions, according to a thought-provoking new study recently published by The James Irvine Foundation. Titled "Cultural Engagement in California's Inland Regions," the report is an effort to better understand culture and community in California's San Joaquin Valley and Inland Empire.

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Leadership Award Recipients Tackle Key Issues, Balance Competing Interests in Central Valley

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Jan 22, 2009

It's good orchard land here along the banks of the Sacramento River, nearly 70 miles north of Sacramento, as a recent planting attests. Ranks of young trees sink their tap roots into the rich loam. In a year or two, these saplings will tower over the two men who now walk the rows, evaluating the progress of their project.

This bucolic agrarian scene is interrupted abruptly by the appearance of a black-tailed deer bursting through the foliage. It's a big buck, with sunlight glinting off its impressive set of antlers. In a few stiff-legged bounds, it disappears from sight.

Deer in an orchard usually isn't the kind of sight that gladdens a farmer's heart, but the two men surveying the planting smile broadly. "Wow, that's a nice buck," says John Carlon, as his partner, Tom Griggs, nods appreciatively. "And it's a good indicator that we're on the right track."

The James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards

"River Partners reminds us that, as insurmountable as some challenges may appear, solutions are in reach."

– Amy Dominguez-Arms, director of the Irvine
Foundation's California Perspectives program

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Executive Growth in Context: The Fund for Leadership Advancement

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Jan 22, 2009

They stand at the center of their organizations. But nonprofit executive directors often place their own professional growth at the periphery of efforts to build organizational capacity. How can the development of leader and organization go hand in hand?

For one answer to this question, consider The James Irvine Foundation's new Fund for Leadership Advancement. Seeking to boost the leadership capacities of executive directors of selected grantees, the Fund helps nonprofit leaders advance mission-critical changes in their organizations. The focus is on an executive's individual development — but in the context of overall organizational growth. Eight grantees were funded in the first round, and two more rounds of funding are planned for 2006.

Dr. Joseph Marshall, Director and Cofounder of the Omega Boys Club in San Francisco, talks with club  							member Ameer Tate. (Photo: Jason Doiy)

"We want to get the board more involved in fundraising and strategic planning," says Joseph Marshall, Director of the Omega Boys Club. "And I want to develop my ability to communicate Omega's vision and engage more constituents in our movement."

Irvine is focusing the leadership program on executive directors who are poised to take their organization to the next stage in its growth or respond to significant new opportunities on the near horizon. In other words, the organizational moment is key.

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Arts Funders Launch Statewide Collaboration To Simplify Applications, Collect Better Data

BY Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado
Ray Delgado was with The James Irvine Foundation from 2006 to 2013, last serving
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| Jan 22, 2009

For many California arts organizations, the process of applying for grants can be a major headache, with almost as many different application requirements as there are grantmaking organizations in the state.

But starting in January, the state's largest arts funders will take a major step toward streamlining that process with the launch of the California Cultural Data Project, a statewide collaboration that will standardize the information that funders collect from grant-seeking arts and cultural organizations. More than 30 major private and public arts funders have joined the collaboration.

California Cultural Data Project

"One of the things I've heard from groups is that we make it easier for them to collect their numbers so that they can spend more time thinking about what those numbers mean."

– Bobbie Lippman, director of the California Cultural Data Project

The goal is not only to simplify the grant application process for thousands of California arts organizations but also to give arts groups an improved ability to track and analyze their financial and operational data over time and compare it to their peers. Another benefit will be a powerful, long-term database resource for documenting the overall contribution of the arts sector to the state's economy.

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California Mayors Roundtable To Address Education Issues

BY Daniel Silverman
Daniel Silverman
A native Californian, Daniel Silverman leads the Foundation’s communications wor
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| Jan 22, 2009

Shortly after taking office in 2006, Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster invited the local school superintendent, Christopher J. Steinhauser, to his home for lunch. The newly elected mayor had no official role in the Long Beach schools, but he wanted to get the superintendent's support for a program Foster proposed to prepare high school students for careers in the fast-growing building industry.

During that first meeting, the superintendent and the mayor talked more than they ate, Steinhauser recalled, and agreed to create the ACE Academy, which opened last year on an existing high school campus. The academy offers students job training and hands-on experience in architecture, construction and engineering along with other rigorous high school course work. It seeks to prepare students for apprenticeship programs after graduation and careers in architecture and engineering.

California Mayors' Education Roundtable

"With the roundtable, we can encourage more effective governance by amplifying the voices of the people who run our cities every day."

– Anne Stanton, director of the Irvine
Foundation's Youth program

Steinhauser made the academic arrangements, while Foster lined up support from the building trades and began raising the $500,000 in private donations he'd promised to help pay for the new academy. "This program worked remarkably well," Foster said. "We have 54 students now, and we will have more than 400 students over a four-year period."

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From the President: Reforming California's Budget System

BY Jim Canales
Jim Canales
Jim Canales served as President and Chief Executive Officer of The James Irvine
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| Jan 01, 2009
Jim Canales, President & CEO

Dear Friends,

As the global economic crisis continues to unfold, California faces ever greater fiscal challenges. To fill a budget deficit of more than $40 billion, lawmakers are contemplating cuts, such as a shorter school year, that once might have been unthinkable. Moreover, as is often the case with budget cuts, the contemplated reductions in services threaten disproportionately the very populations at the heart of the Irvine Foundation's mission: low-income and underserved Californians. If nothing else, what this recent round of budgetary wrangling makes very clear is that we not only need to address the deficit in the short term, but we also need long-term, fundamental restructuring of California's budgetary system and fiscal policies.

It is for this reason that Irvine, along with four other major California foundations, invested together more than $15 million last year to create California Forward, a bipartisan reform effort established to seek long-term solutions to the state's underlying structural problems, including its chronic financial woes. The current crisis offers a unique opportunity for reaching bipartisan accord on significant reforms. Recently, California Forward began working with lawmakers and other leaders on a set of reforms that would result in smarter fiscal decisions and greater public trust.

California Forward not only illustrates the value of philanthropic collaboration — likely to become even more important in an era of diminished resources — but it also underscores for its funders that, without systemic reform of this kind, the outcomes our foundations care about — whether in education, health care, the environment or economic development — become more elusive.

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Irvine Initiative Helps Empower Parents to Improve Local Schools

BY Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum
Alex Barnum was a Communications Officer at The James Irvine Foundation from 200
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| Sep 22, 2008

Patricia Rodriguez is a fulltime mother who is devoted to her two daughters and wants the best for them. But she was "too shy" to even discuss her concerns about her children's education with their teachers at a Fresno public school because she speaks only Spanish, and their teachers speak only English.

"I didn't really have the nerve to come up and ask the teachers questions," she said through an interpreter. "I would just brush off my concerns."

Maria Casillas

"We all know that it's the squeaky wheel that gets the attention. We want that noise to become a melody that will generate changes in our schools and improve education for all our children."

– Maria Casillas, president
of Families in Schools

 

Such reluctance is not uncommon among California's non-English speaking parents and in low-income communities. Even though their children are more likely to attend one of the state's underperforming schools, many of these families often don't speak out at school board meetings or get involved in local educational policy and funding decisions.

Yet studies show that when parents do voice their opinions and organize themselves, they can make a difference in local schools. Their efforts have contributed to changes in policy, resources and educational programs in districts and states around the country.

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