Surdna, McKnight Foundations, others celebrate work of arts-based community development center.
A Surdna Foundation grant of $550,000 to Juxtaposition Arts (JXTA), an arts-based community development center, will support the organization’s entrepreneurship and creative skills training for low income youth in North Minneapolis.
The grant is intended to build the long-term capacity of the organization with a particular emphasis on increasing enrollment in JXTA’s Visual Arts Literacy Training program and expanding JXTA Labs, the organization’s production unit and home of its arts apprenticeship program.
Surdna’s President, Phillip Henderson, said of JXTA, “This is an extraordinarily well-managed nonprofit that has successfully implemented a deeply imaginative vision of arts-based community development informed by principles of social justice. JXTA’s programs are cultivating the artistic skills teens will need to succeed in creative businesses, and then offering them quality jobs in JXTA Labs designed to build their resumes and develop their artistic portfolios. The significant experience gained by these young working artists in turn opens new pathways to college, business creation, or employment in the creative field.”
Referring to JXTA’s executive director, who founded the organization with working artists Roger Cummings and Peyton Russell, Surdna’s Henderson said, “DeAnna Cummings has used art as a medium through which teenagers from an economically underdeveloped neighborhood have not only discovered and refined their artistic talents, but also nurtured their confidence to achieve educational and career goals. Within North Minneapolis, the young artists who emerge from JXTA animated with imagination, energized by possibility, and passionate about their artistic practice, have become drivers of economic development and community revitalization.”
JXTA’s Visual Arts Literacy Training (VALT) offers opportunities for young artists to explore, refine, and grow their skills learning alongside professional artists. Once students reach a level of mastery through the VALT program, they are eligible to apply to JXTA Labs, the organization’s production unit and an engine of local economic development. The paid JXTA Labs apprentices, working in teams with professional mentors, create products and provide services ranging from graphic design, screen printing, and environmental design to contemporary and public art to local businesses and organizations.
Because its work intersects with two of Surdna’s programmatic goals, the grant to JXTA will be awarded jointly by the foundation’s Thriving Cultures and Strong Local Economies programs. Thriving Cultures supports artistically rigorous and culturally relevant initiatives that equip teenagers with practical and life-enhancing skills and prepares young, emerging artists to be creative and innovative leaders in their communities. The foundation’s Strong Local Economies program supports local job creation through alternative business development, increasing the growth of businesses owned by people of color, women, and immigrants, and promoting job quality strategies benefitting communities that have been most impacted by inequitable economic policy.
About The Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States -- communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. www.surdna.org
When I took the job as president of the Surdna Foundation in 2007, I was not surprised to be showered with flattery and pursued by people who hoped I might just write a check to support their work. What I hadn’t fully anticipated were the many requests to serve on nonprofit boards.
Early in my career, I have to admit, I was a bit of skeptic about boards, thinking they were really just window dressing. Wasn’t a board member’s job simply lending his or her name to the organization’s letterhead, attending quarterly meetings, and offering the occasional nugget of wisdom? In other words: Don’t board members just show up and smile? It would be difficult to convince a skeptic otherwise, for we’ve all heard the not-so-apocryphal-sounding of big corporate boards that were asleep at the wheel while their CEOs did nefarious deeds.
Some of my doubt about board service stemmed from the utter failure of boards at companies like Enron and WorldCom. While these catastrophes did lead to legislation aimed at creating greater accountability at both corporate and nonprofit boards, the primary effect of that law, known as , seems to have been an increase in paperwork and formal checklists, not to mention fees paid to lawyers and accountants. It’s difficult to say how effective it has been. Board members do, however, pay far more attention to the tax returns and the work of audit committees. More
by Phillip Henderson | President, Surdna Foundation | Dec. 2, 2013
Years ago, the Surdna Foundation board decided that its November meeting should be different. They believe that grantmakers like Surdna are afforded the great opportunity of taking a long-term view of their work. We were established to exist in perpetuity and have a responsibility to use this unique status to help foster just and sustainable communities in the United States. We’re doing this not only by looking at today’s challenges, but also by peering around corners to try and understand how a complex mix of emerging trends and currents is shaping the communities we care about. In trying to understand the forces impacting the future, and how we can prepare for them, we have to first look at how our work is doing in the present.
So at our November board meeting, unlike the year’s other three board meetings which are closely connected to our grantmaking rhythms, we step back to reflect on the year that was and think together about the years ahead.
November marked a full year since the launch of refined strategies in each of our three programs: Sustainable Environments, Thriving Cultures, and Strong Local Economies. Embedded in those strategies are hunches about how Surdna could use its know-how to push for just and sustainable communities. And within each strategy are assumptions that guide our thinking—big questions we are trying to answer.
The meeting was designed to allow all of us to lift the hood and look at each of our core strategies, and to have a robust discussion about what we’ve been learning. And, to ask questions, lots of questions. I think we succeeded. But a successful meeting is not synonymous with success in all of our work. We are far from answering all the questions underlying our strategies, but we think we’re on the right track. If you’re not grappling with the right questions, it’s pretty certain you won’t find useful answers.
Foundations have to be very careful when labeling something a “success.” We don’t contend with traditional market forces, and the very act of giving away money generates positive feedback, so it can be easy to fall prey to the belief that your work is performing better than it actually is. Declaring something a success might also suggest that we are aiming too low and not taking enough risk in our work. So it’s no surprise, then, that some our hunches were somewhat naïve or incomplete, but others turned out to be right on the mark.
Our culture is such that board meetings provide a space for authentic discussion of the mistakes we’ve made, where we’ve succeeded beyond our initial hopes, and how we’re learning from both. So what were some of the issues we discussed in November?
In Sustainable Environments, when we embarked on our Next Generation Infrastructure work last year, we believed one measure of success would be if innovation was articulated as an integrated set of solutions in transportation, energy, food, and water infrastructure. But we thought this “integrated” approach would take a while to be developed and accepted. Transforming the way elected officials, community leaders, and experts think about this work would require patience and persistence. However, over the course of the past year, we’ve found that the field is already ripe for this kind of new thinking and is increasingly receptive to conversations about integrated infrastructure.
One area within our Strong Local Economies program began its work last year focused, in part, on stimulating the growth of worker-owned cooperatives and other non-traditional business models. Our assumption at the time was that we were seeking the best “model” of such businesses, and our core question was how to grow that model once we determined which one was best. What we found, however, was that the underlying financial, leadership, and other essential support systems for these kinds of businesses – regardless of which model we chose – was weak and incomplete. So we have had to modify our approach, take one step back, and concentrate on building a support infrastructure so that, regardless of the model we invest in, it can succeed.
We refined our Thriving Cultures program with the belief that artists and culture makers are critical to sustainable communities, as they help to create places that are healthier and more livable. Last year, when we began assessing the funding landscape and identifying like-minded foundations, we asked a series of questions about how—and if—others were designing their strategies for the explicit benefit of low-income communities and communities of color. While we realized that we are not alone in affixing an equity lens to our cultural investments, we do find ourselves in the minority of arts funders who have a social justice approach. Moving forward we plan to collaborate with like-minded funders to better support the field.
Learning from and adjusting our strategies is part and parcel of being successful in our work. But pausing to reflect and think about how accurate our hunches have been is not a natural act. The tendency is to simply look forward and take on the next challenge. The fact that our board has designated each November meeting as one for reflection challenges all of us to pause and take the time to assess how we’re doing.
We are addressing a set of ever-shifting, complex problems. Almost daily, issues take on new, sometimes confounding dimensions. So we cannot for a moment afford to grow overly satisfied with our approaches. Learning what works and what doesn’t, and then pivoting, demands that we constantly evaluate and tweak our work. And, importantly, that we are honest when we have missed the mark.
I am looking forward to sharing more lessons over the next year.
As ever, let me know your thoughts and suggestions as Surdna continues its work to foster just and sustainable communities in the United States.
Shawn Escoffery | Program Director, Strong Local Economies| Nov. 26, 2013
Last week I was in Washington at a listening session with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez and his team. The Department of Labor (DOL) brought together workforce funders for a meet and greet with the new Secretary. We were also there to share with Secretary Perez what we’re doing in the field, our opinions about DOL, and to identify opportunities to work together. Already, many of us are excited about what we think is going to be a very different DOL under Secretary Perez’s leadership.
The Secretary opened the meeting with a few remarks about what he has seen around the country in his first 128 days in office. He talked about a meeting in St. Louis with low wage workers and the struggles he saw of people living on minimum wage. He pointed out that when communities are faced with the loss of a major economic driver--think the autoworkers in Detroit or coal miners in Kentucky—we often tend to overlook the huge impact it has on workers’ mental health. When multiple generations of your family worked in the same industry and now it's gone.....the need for healing is typically ignored. Secretary Perez candidly discussed the inefficiencies at DOL and the multiple agencies that have job training dollars. I’m encouraged that he is eager to break down DOL’s internal silos.
Surdna's Shawn Escoffery at meeting with Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez
Two growing challenges facing the country, that are especially concerning to him and that have reverberating impacts : getting the long term unemployed back to work; and youth unemployment / opportunity youth. (Most funders no longer use the term “disconnected youth”). Jennifer Hunt, DOL's chief economist, explained that the true unemployment picture is closer to 13%. It’s closer to reality because it factors in people who have stopped looking for work or are taking part time work after more than 26 weeks of unemployment.
Hunt said the unemployment rates for youth 16-24 are in the 30-40% range. And, they’re disproportionately youth of color. Despite the economic recovery, there are roughly 3.5 unemployed people for every new job. We are simply not producing enough jobs.
I know the numbers are sobering, but there was plenty of hope and fight around the table. At the meeting were people from Hitachi, Chase, AARP, Joyce, Rockefeller, Mott, Ford, Weinberg, Alcoa and Walmart. The Secretary asked each of us to talk about what we are doing in the workforce space, our critique of the DOL, and what role we would like to see DOL play. The comments from around the table were great and many of them resonate with Surdna’s approach to building strong local economies. One funder suggested that DOL champion quality job creation—and not just through training. And, of course, several of us talked about DOL’s role in the fight to increase the minimum wage.
Several of my comments definitely resonated with the Secretary, as he noted three of them in his closing remarks. I described to him how Surdna is focusing on quality job creation while also addressing economic policy and improving low wage work. It was clear to him and others in the room that Surdna's work is a departure from typical workforce funding.
I also discussed the challenges of the current economy and the meager opportunities for low income people. In my critique of job training and perceived career pathways, I underscored to the Secretary and other funders how we must all start thinking and acting differently: When a person goes through training, gets a job, and starts walking the career path, we have to remember LIFE HAPPENS! There are so many obstacles and every day occurrences that can derail a worker's pursuit of career and economic mobility.
In my critique of the DOL, I noted their absence in most of the sustainable communities’ conversations, as well as in interagency efforts to improve the federal government, or funding flows like Strong Cities Strong Communities.
I suggested that DOL should be working directly with EPA around issues related to water infrastructure. And, that it is imperative that they partner with public utilities companies (PUCs). Over the next five years, a significant portion of PUC employees around the country will soon retire. DOL could work with PUCs to create a pipeline of well-trained new workers to keep the taps flowing.
Despite the suggestions and DOL’s receptivity to them, I couldn’t have left the meeting without making one more appeal for increasing the federal minimum wage.
The Secretary also talked about the need to engage the private sector in meaningful conversations and partnerships. There are two challenges that surface immediately with the business sector. First, small businesses who could greatly benefit from workforce partnerships are often ignored because the low number of jobs created by an individual business. In aggregate, however, the job growth from these businesses rivals major corporations. Second, some major retailers and other industries provide low wage jobs with limited career pathways. As a result, their employees must often rely on social safety net subsidies to survive. These partnerships often contradict the agencies’ efforts in promoting quality jobs.
All in all, it was a great meeting and there was lots of interest in meeting again to talk real strategies for working with DOL. It's great to know how committed the Secretary is to improving the lives if low income people.
As a former civil rights attorney, he said one of the greatest civil rights you can give a person is a good job.
I'm looking forward to working with DOL more closely this year.
Sustainable Jersey, a Surdna Foundation grantee, announced today the winners of the 2013 Sustainable Jersey municipal awards in four categories: 1) Sustainability Champions, 2) Creativity & Innovation, 3) Leadership and 4) Collaboration. Award winners are selected from the 59 municipalities that achieved certification in 2013.
The Sustainability Champion award recognizes municipalities that have scored the most points in the Sustainable Jersey certification program in three population categories. These towns far exceeded the minimum requirement of 150 points for bronze-level certification.
by Phillip Henderson | President, Surdna Foundation
I'm writing to share some wonderful news. Our board has elected Jocelyn Downie, a fifth generation member of the John E. Andrus family and a prominent scholar, as its next chair. Surdna's board also elected Tracy Palandjian, an innovator in impact investing, as its newest member. See our press release for more detail.
Jocelyn has been on the board since May 2007 and will succeed Josephine R. (Josie) Lowman, who completed her six-year term as chair and now becomes Secretary, Treasurer, and Chair of the Investment Committee. Both Jocelyn and Josie are from the family's fifth generation and serve with eight other family members.
Jocelyn takes the chair at an exciting time for us. She's a well-known ethicist whose passion for social justice has helped refine that part of our mission. And, she captures the board's and staff's energy and enthusiasm for our recently revised programs. As we near our centennial in 2017, we are looking forward to having Jocelyn's inquisitiveness, and confidence to guide--and challenge--the foundation.
Tracy Palandjian, our newest board member, has experience tackling complex social challenges, and will be especially helpful as we continue to think through how best to create access to quality jobs and upward economic mobility. The expertise she brings as an impact investor is well timed--our board has just approved, and we will soon close, our first two Program Related Investments.
Tracy replaces Thomas Castro who has completed two three-year terms of board duty. The board position that she takes over in May 2014 is one of three non-family seats on Surdna's 13-member board.
It's helpful to add a bit of history to these board transitions to better understand Surdna's continued evolution.
Back in November 2004, nearly 87 years after its founding, in an effort to introduce fresh ideas around the board table, the Andrus family appointed the first non-family trustees. During the search for the initial two--and all subsequent searches for outside board members--the focus was on inviting candidates who would introduce different insights and expertise, and add greater diversity. While they sought new faces, the family was careful to select candidates who would continue the foundation's collegial, ideas-driven approach--a style of operating in which no board member hesitates to draw out and challenge a colleague's assumptions, or shies away from advocating alternative approaches.
Surdna's transformation shifted into high gear 25 years ago when the family responded to observers who believed that the foundation was capable of so much more. So, with the hiring of my predecessor Ed Skloot in 1989 as Surdna's first full-time employee, the foundation created its first programs and began to attract top talent.
With the addition of staff, the board was quite deliberate about cultivating a relationship with them that centered on collegiality and dialogue--it's a part of our culture we believe is pretty unique. We are encouraged to take risks by a board that places a high value on the resulting lessons--be they successes or failures. It's quite liberating when a board is engaged and educated, and is a real partner in the grantmaking. And, we think, it adds far greater accountability.
We've continued our very deliberate evolution so that we can play even smarter and push even harder for social justice. That's what energizes us. It's also what compels the board to select inquisitive purposeful leaders like Jocelyn, and identify outside voices with new competencies like Tracy.
The Surdna Foundation, a private grant making foundation committed to fostering sustainable communities in the United States, announced the election of Jocelyn Downie, a prominent scholar, as the next Chair of its Board of Trustees.The foundation also announced the election of a new member, Tracy Palandjian,an innovator on impact investing.
Professor Downie has been on the board of the 97-year old family foundation since May 2007 and will succeed Josephine R. (Josie) Lowman, who completed her six-year term as Chair and now becomes Secretary, Treasurer, and Chair of the Investment Committee. Both Jocelyn and Josie are from the family’s fifth generation and serve with eight other family members.
Jocelyn Downie: Scholar, activist, leader.
Downie, a Professor in the Faculties of Law and Medicine at Canada’s Dalhousie University, is a leading authority in the intersecting areas of health law, policy, and ethics, and is one of Canada’s foremost experts on end-of-life law and policy. Her book Dying Justice, advocates for the legalization of euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. A review of her book in the New England Journal of Medicine praises the author for setting out “a broad ethical framework that would apply in any culture that prizes individual autonomy.” Professor Downie has helped to set the standards for governance of research involving humans and has led the movement to build a thriving community of health law scholars across Canada.
Professor Downie has received numerous awards and honors. She is a Fellow of both the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences and held a Canada Research Chair, one of Canada’s most prestigious university research fellowships. She clerked for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and was Director of the Dalhousie Health Law Institute for ten years. Professor Downie is the author of several books and has been published extensively in leading journals including Science, Journal of Law, Medicine, and Ethics, Health Law Journal, Journal of Clinical Ethics, Journal of Medical Ethics, and Bioethics.
“Jocelyn will become chair of the board at a very exciting time for Surdna,” said Phillip Henderson, President of the Surdna Foundation. “In collaboration with the board, we recently refined our programs and are making considerable progress toward our mission of fostering just and sustainable communities in the United States. Internally, the foundation has emphasized the importance and strategic value of collaborating across our three core programs—Thriving Cultures, Strong Local Economies, and Sustainable Environments—and learning as we go.”
“As we near our centennial in 2017,” said Henderson, “we look to Jocelyn with her distinctive passion, inquisitiveness, and confidence to guide—and challenge—the foundation. And, to continue to urge us to be bold in our grantmaking, to take risks, and learn from successes and failures.”
Tracy Palandjian: Social entrepreneur, passionate visionary.
Tracy Palandjian,Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Social Finance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to mobilizing investment capital to drive social progress, will be one of three non-family members on the 13-person board. She replaces Thomas Castro, also a non-family member, who has completed two three-year terms of board duty and is stepping down. Ms. Palandjian will begin her board service in May 2014.
Tracy Palandjianhas been working to forge innovative ways to increase social impact by re-imagining the role of the capital markets in enabling social progress. Prior to co-founding Social Finance in 2011, Palandjian was a Managing Director for 11 years at The Parthenon Group where she established and led the Nonprofit Practice and partnered with foundations and NGOs to accomplish their missions. She also worked at Wellington Management Company and McKinsey & Company. Palandjian currently serves as Co-Chair of the U.S. National Advisory Board to the G8 Social Impact Investing Taskforce.
“Tracy will bring to the board a deep commitment to the nonprofit sector and valuable experience as a social entrepreneur,” said Jocelyn Downie, Chair of the Surdna Foundation Board of Trustees. “Tracy’s well-deserved national reputation has been established through her commitment to a belief that all individuals deserve an opportunity to thrive, and that social impact financing can play a catalytic role in creating these opportunities.”
Downie added: “Tracy is dedicated to tackling complex social challenges such as poverty and unemployment and is guided by the very values of social justice that lie at the heart of Surdna’s mission.”
A family foundation’s evolution: adds staff; non-family members to board.
In November 2004, nearly 87 years after its founding, in an effort to introduce fresh ideas around the board table, the Andrus family appointed the first non-family trustees. During the search for the initial two—and all subsequent searches for outside board members—the focus was on inviting candidates who would introduce different insights and expertise, and add greater diversity. The family wanted people who wouldn’t hesitate to draw out and challenge assumptions and who would advocate for alternative approaches.
The decision on non-family members—and the election Tracy Palandjian—continues a process of the professionalization of foundation activities Surdna began 25 years ago when the family responded to some observers who believed that the foundation was capable of so much more. So, with the hiring of Ed Skloot in 1989 as the foundation’s president and first full-time employee, Surdna’s evolution began in earnest. Skloot built the organization’s first programs and attracted top talent.
Surdna Foundation family trustees are elected by the full board and can serve up to four three-year terms. Non-family trustees can serve up to two three-year terms. Trustees develop and refine the foundation’s mission, and set strategy related to grantmaking, investments, governance and professional standards, and they have fiduciary responsibility for independent audits. The foundation’s trustees come from North America and have extensive experience in the fields of local government, academic medicine, philanthropic investment, marketing, secondary and higher education, finance, and the nonprofit sector.
About The Surdna Foundation
The Surdna Foundation seeks to foster sustainable communities in the United States—communities guided by principles of social justice and distinguished by healthy environments, strong local economies, and thriving cultures. Learn more at www.surdna.org. On Twitter @Surdna_Fndn
Business, civic and elected leaders from across the country call on Congress to boost and refocus transportation funding.
Kicking off a new push to rejuvenate the nation’s investment in transportation, business and civic leaders from cities, towns and suburbs across the country came together Tuesday to urge Congress to help them innovate and build the infrastructure needed for today’s economy.
At the same time, event host Transportation for America, a Surdna Foundation grantee,released a proposal to raise an additional $30 billion a year for transportation, to plug the funding hole in the 2012 MAP-21 program while funding competitive grants to support innovative projects with strong economic impact. T4America announced the launch of a new campaign around the proposal.
“Under deadline to renew the federal transportation program and save the highway trust fund from insolvency in 2014, congressional leaders have said they want to hear from ordinary communities, and local civic and business leaders,” said James Corless, director of Transportation for America. “Today, they got that chance, and our alliance will make sure they hear from even more communities going forward.”
The Capitol Hill event, dubbed “Local Economies, National Prosperity: Community leaders make the economic case for federal investment in transportation,” featured speakers from communities as diverse as Nashville, Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Minneapolis and Tampa Bay. Business leaders and mayors explained why it is critical for their economies that Congress not only rescue the sinking trust fund, but raise enough revenue so local communities can fix bottlenecks and broken bridges while building new connections to support future prosperity.
“Local business leaders recognize that the right transportation infrastructure is a matter of economic life or death,” said Will Schroeer, Director of Infrastructure for Economic Development for the Minneapolis Regional Chamber of Commerce and the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce. Underscoring the economic importance of transportation, he is the first joint appointment of the two chambers. “But we know we can’t go it alone, so it’s important to join with leaders from other communities to ensure that we have a strong federal partner.”
Participants in the day’s activities included Mayor Ben McAdams of Salt Lake County, UT; Mayor Mark Mallory of Cincinnati, OH; Mayor Ken Moore of Franklin, TN; Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League and former mayor of New Orleans, LA; and Dave Williams, Vice President of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, among many others.
“Transportation investments make common sense,“ Morial said. “Helping people of all wage levels get to work and get to jobs, helping employers get access to the widest community of employees. It’s something that all of us, people from all parts of the political spectrum should be able to agree on.”
In addition to inaugurating a new membership network of mayors and county executives, major employers, key institutions, civic groups and many others, such as those that participated in today’s event, T4America is also today launching a new and improved website, complete with new features and ways to get involved.
Transportation for America is an alliance of elected, business and civic leaders from communities across the country, united to ensure that states and the federal government step to invest in smart, homegrown, locally driven transportation solutions. These are the investments that hold the key to our future prosperity. Learn more at www.t4america.org
NEA Chief of Staff Tapped to Lead Second Phase of ArtPlace’s Strategic Plan to Support and Enable a National Creative Placemaking Movement.
Jamie L. Bennett has been appointed Executive Director of ArtPlace America (ArtPlace), effective January 6, 2014, it was announced today by Rip Rapson, CEO of The Kresge Foundation and Chairman of the ArtPlace Presidents Council. Mr. Bennett, who is currently Chief of Staff and Director of Public Affairs for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), will be responsible for providing strategic and operational leadership for ArtPlace, a unique collaboration of philanthropic foundations, financial institutions, and federal agencies that promotes the inclusion of arts in community development strategies.
Established in 2011, ArtPlace was originated when then-NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman and the Ford Foundation’s Darren Walker convened foundation presidents to discuss building on and importantly expanding the Endowment’s support of creative placemaking projects, i.e. programs that engage the arts to help shape the social, physical, and economic character of communities. As the first major public-private partnership to encourage creative placemaking across America, ArtPlace brings together the expertise and resources of thirteen major national and regional foundations, six of the nation’s largest banks, and a diverse group of federal agencies. To date, ArtPlace has made grants totaling over $42 million to 124 organizations in 79 communities across the nation, with projects ranging from a series of site-specific art interventions in Anchorage, Alaska, to the coordination of arts-based strategies for community planning and business development near a commuter train station in Upham’s Corner, Boston, to the creation of an art center and residencies in Prattsville, New York, to help the community reimagine the town after Hurricane Irene.
In September, the ArtPlace Presidents Council and Operating Committee approved a long-range plan that further develops the important body of work accomplished in the past three years. Mr. Bennett will oversee and refine the implementation of this plan, which includes an array of grant-making, a place-based lending initiative, a broader research agenda, and an emphasis on helping to strengthen the national creative placemaking movement. The plan will be presented at ArtPlace’s second national summit to take place in Los Angeles in March 2014.
Mr. Rapson stated, “Jamie’s extraordinary depth of experience in philanthropy, public policy, and the arts and culture—notably the vital role he played in the establishment of ArtPlace during his time at the NEA—made him the ideal candidate. Through his long-term involvement in and passionate commitment to the arts on a variety of levels, he fully grasps the role of creative placemaking, making the arts and culture central in community and economic development, civic engagement, and public investments. Jamie will be able to hit the ground running as he deploys his arsenal of wisdom, expertise, perceptiveness, creativity, resourcefulness, and good humor. The Presidents Council is thrilled to have him at the helm as we embark on the next phase of ArtPlace’s critical work.”
Mr. Bennett said, “It was a pleasure and a privilege being at the table as ArtPlace was launched and completed the first phase of its strategic plan. I am delighted to have this singular opportunity to work with Rip, the participating funders, and ArtPlace’s partners, supporters, and staff as we move forward into the next phase. With great enthusiasm, I look forward to continuing to work with and support arts, civic, and elected leaders to contribute to the creative placemaking field and, most importantly, to serve a diversity of communities.”
Mr. Bennett has been Director of Public Affairs at the NEA since 2009, and was promoted to additionally serve as Chief of Staff in June 2011. Prior to the NEA, he was Chief of Staff at the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, serving as a senior member of the Commissioner’s leadership team, and Chief of Staff in the Office of the President of Columbia University, in New York. From 1997 to 2005, Mr. Bennett provided strategic counsel to the Agnes Gund Foundation and was actively involved with Ms. Gund’s philanthropic activities. He has also held positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York Philharmonic, and Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development. His non-profit affiliations have included the Board of Directors of Art21 and HERE Arts Center; Foot-in-the-Door Committee of the Merce Cunningham Dance Foundation; and Studio in a School’s Associates Committee. Mr. Bennett received a B.A. from Columbia College.
About ArtPlace America
ArtPlace America (ArtPlace) advances creative placemaking across the country, the practice of making arts and cultural projects central in place-based strategies to transform communities. To date, ArtPlace America has awarded 134 grants to 124 organizations in more than 79 communities across the U.S. for a total of $42.1 million.
ArtPlace is a collaboration of thirteen national and regional foundations and six of the nation’s largest banks. ArtPlace also seeks advice and counsel from close working relationships with various federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts, the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, Education, and Transportation, along with leadership from the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Domestic Policy Council.
Participating foundations include Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Ford Foundation, The James Irvine Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The William Penn Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, Rasmuson Foundation, The Surdna Foundation, and two anonymous donors.
ArtPlace is also supported by a $12 million loan fund capitalized by six major financial institutions and managed by the Nonprofit Finance Fund. Participating institutions are Bank of America, Citi, Deutsche Bank, Chase, MetLife and Morgan Stanley.
ArtPlace is currently inviting letters of inquiry regarding its 2014 Innovation Grants applications; deadline for submission is December 13, 2013. For more information, visit www.artplaceamerica.org.
Michelle Knapik is the Director of the Sustainable Environments Program at the Surdna Foundation where she engages in grant and program-related investment making to advance Next Generation Infrastructure, including Transportation Networks and Equitable Development Patterns, Energy Efficiency in the Built Environment, Urban Water Systems, and Regional Food Supply. Prior to Surdna, Michelle served six years as the Environment Program Director at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. In that role, she developed strategies to support sustainable community solutions in close partnership with grantees, civic and business leaders, and funding colleagues in the New Jersey region. A lawyer by training, Michelle worked for 11 years for the City of Philadelphia, first as a legislative aide to Councilwoman Happy Fernandez focusing on policies related to low-income energy services, and then as the Philadelphia’s Director of Energy Policy, where she initiated energy efficiency programs, transportation fuel alternatives, green building/sustainable development initiatives, and low-wealth community energy strategies. In addition to her experience in urban environmental contexts, Michelle's background also includes service in the U.S. Navy as an aviation structural mechanic. Michelle did her undergraduate studies in sociology and women’s studies at East Stroudsburg University, and earned a law degree from Temple University. A native of New Jersey, Michelle now resides in New York’s Westchester County.
How would you describe your career?
I have always seen my career choices in terms of different forms of service. I approached my legal training as a path to public service and urban policy reform. I aspired to help turn what can often feel like an arcane language and system (the law) into a more accessible platform for social change. My interest in the Armed Forces was about understanding a particular sense of "service to country." Before that, I engaged in grassroots environmental activism (service) that included 80s-stye “issue canvassing," and organized protests and awareness raising campaigns. I rappelled off buildings to hang signs and rode zodiacs in the dark to maneuver close to protest sites. Through all of it, I experienced various levels of small and capital "P" politics and power, communication frames, and languages - all of which can be understood and moved in ways that pull on different levers of formal and informal change.
When I hopped into city-scale environmental policy (late 80s/early 90s) it was pre "sustainability director" era. Cities like Philadelphia were still figuring out how much energy each individual facility it owned or leased was consuming at different times of the day. The work was about a shift to energy management that combined smart mechanical systems, operator education, and user behavior to achieve economically motivating energy use reductions. It was also the era of utility deregulation, and although I was inside the machine of city government, there were voices organizing from within and outside of the system to protect low-income customers from then "hidden" impacts of "consumer choice" and new energy purchasing schemes. This mix of emerging green architectural and engineering solutions combined with questions about “what is the impact on people’s lives – especially those who historically and institutionally have been shut out” (i.e., institutional racism, etc.) led me to dig deeper into the forces that can catalyze socially just change while also improving our relationship with nature and supporting our responsible, sustainable use of all types of resources.
This “connect-the-dot” approach to social change eventually led me to the philanthropic sector (noting that the City of Philadelphia needed to fill my position with a Sustainability Director, which it did!). I think cities can be tremendous places of experimentation and innovation, but making change stick, replicating best practices, and ensuring that we set inclusive tables for change in terms of system redesigns, access and benefits often requires flexible, risk-taking, patient capital. I’m not sure philanthropy always lives up to its promises on these fronts, but more and more people in the sector are taking steps in this direction.
When did you begin working with AGree?
Only about a year ago – it was in parallel with Surdna's program strategy shift to "next generation infrastructure." Food systems might not be the first thing one thinks of in a "next gen infrastructure" frame, but it is clear that we need to rebuild regional food infrastructure in new ways if we want to achieve healthier, just, and sustainable communities. And we need the folks who are thinking about transportation, water, energy, and other forms of infrastructure innovation and investment to include regional food infrastructure in their worlds. AGree's emerging policy focus on regional food systems is a strong bridge to so many ag and urban-rural leaders and perspectives – and to other parts of the global food system. Our engagement in AGree is accelerating our movement toward new models of regional food supply – and we hope that our on-the-ground, socially just, food hub, and value chain funding is bringing learning to AGree as well.
What may surprise people about you?
I was an All-American field hockey goalie, a rugby player, and member of most other forms of team contact sports, and now devoted to more contemplative practices, including Kundalini yoga – an ancient and exacting yoga that integrates meditation, chanting, mantra, and body movements to raise awareness and consciousness (let’s call this spiritual service!).
reprinted with permission of AGree