Flinn Foundation convenes Arizona arts-and-culture leaders to learn, share successes

May 9, 2018

By Matt Ellsworth

Arts Conference

By Brian Powell
Flinn Foundation

What happens when a museum curator asks patrons what they want in an exhibit? How does a performing company’s repertoire evolve with careful study of a changing subscriber base?

Since 2013, the Flinn Foundation has worked with nearly 20 of Arizona’s major performing-arts organizations, museums, and cultural pillars through a unique program to ensure that their best creative ideas are implemented on a foundation of sustainable capitalization practices.

Leaders representing the Foundation’s grantee pool gathered May 1 to learn from one another about how to achieve that goal, sharing the innovative strategies that exemplar Arizona organizations have used to answer some of the most persistent and significant financial and creative challenges facing the arts-and-culture sector.

The convening attracted about 75 representatives from organizations the Foundation has supported in Flagstaff, Tucson, and metro Phoenix—not just CEOs and development directors, but also organizations’ artistic directors, heads of programming and education, and importantly, many board members.

The event, held at the Flinn Foundation and Phoenix Art Museum, began with a morning session led by two nationally known consultants recruited by the Foundation to work individually with the Arizona arts groups—WolfBrown principal Alan Brown and TDC executive vice president Susan Nelson.

The afternoon featured a number of breakout sessions that provided examples of successful projects by some of the Foundation’s grantees, including a new program expanding access to target populations such as teenagers, the creation of risk capital for new works, and trial programs in which patrons pay extra for certain exhibits.

The Flinn Foundation’s arts-and-culture funding is anchored by the Initiative for Financial and Creative Health. This program provides funding, technical assistance, and data to help organizations prioritize capitalization needs and design both financial and creative engagement strategies to impact those needs. Another emphasis is DataArts, a national program to use standardized financial and organizational data.

The Foundation’s grantee pool is comprised of 19 of Arizona’s largest—by annual operating budget—arts-and-culture organizations.

Flinn Foundation president and CEO Tammy McLeod served as one of the convening’s facilitators for the afternoon breakout sessions. McLeod, who joined the Foundation in October, is a longtime community leader in the arts and is currently vice president of the Desert Botanical Garden’s board of directors.

“Arts and culture, in addition to providing entertainment and education to so many, truly enhances our quality of life and is critical to creating a sense of place in cities and towns across Arizona,” McLeod said. “The Flinn Foundation is proud to be funding this initiative, which helps arts organizations strive for solid financial footing while offering creative programming to Arizonans and visitors.”

Dr. Robert and Irene Flinn, who established the Flinn Foundation in 1965, were strong supporters of the arts and recognized their importance in improving the quality of life for Arizona residents. The Flinn Foundation began formal programming to fund the arts in 1984 and is one of Arizona’s largest private funders.