I just returned from the annual Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) conference in Brooklyn.  And as usual, I am so full of ideas and inspiration that it will probably take a couple of blog posts to get to all the stuff I want to share.  But if you want a blow-by-blow now, you can check out David Moss’ blog as he reported from the conference each day.

First, for fun, I took a few hours to walk to Manhattan across the Manhattan Bridge and back to Brooklyn on the Brooklyn Bridge – about four miles, round trip.  At one point on the Brooklyn Bridge, looking out across the water, I stopped precisely at a point where the Statue of Liberty was narrowly caught and framed between two buildings.  Had I stopped one step  further forward or back it would have been hidden from view.  Now that was a New York moment.

Second, for fun, while there is always a lot of art at these conferences (Wynton Marsalis and the Urban Bush Women performed for us this year) there is also a Late Night Cabaret at these conferences that is something unique and very special.  Most arts Grantmakers are artists themselves and many are performers and so we get together after the day’s meetings and dinners are done to perform for each other.  Highlight this year – a spot-on, screamin’ cover of Janis Joplin – feathered hair, stompin’ feet, Southern Comfort and all.  Piece of My Heart and Down on Me.  Amazing!  There were fabulous acapella jazz stylings, a little opera, folk guitar and banjo, and poems.  Who says conferences are no fun?

But the serious stuff was truly serious.  Billed as “The Recession Conference: Navigating the Art of Change,” GIA took on the recession with an attitude of opportunity.  Right off the bat, foundations were segmented by groups (corporate and community foundations, family and other private foundations, local and state public agencies), and asked to share the innovative steps we were taking in response to the recession. 

While this was an expected topic for sharing, we were also asked to imagine a healthy arts community in 2020 and describe what we would/could be doing to support that vision.  We were then asked what GIA could do to support our work toward this goal. GIA will use our responses to frame their advocacy and service planning and programming.

One thing was clear: under the leadership of its new Director, Janet Brown, GIA sees itself as an increasingly pro-active advocacy and policy organization. The new theme for the organization, stated often and proudly throughout the three-day conference, was that GIA will be LOUDER and BOLDER in support of the arts going forward.