Since 2009, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's Performing Arts Program has been making grants to help emerging arts leaders develop satisfying and successful careers through the Next Generation Arts Leadership Initiative. The first phase of that work, which ended in 2015, was funded in partnership with the James Irvine Foundation. It focused on training and retaining emerging arts leaders -- defined as eighteen to thirty-five-year-olds with ten years or less of arts experience -- in anticipation of a widely predicted wave of retirements.
The Initiative made grants totaling $1.9 million to five leadership networks across California, and to statewide regranting programs, managed by the Center for Cultural Innovation to support professional development for individuals and innovative organizational practices. While an assessment conducted in 2011 showed that the Initiative was successful in achieving its early goals of building infrastructure and opportunities for younger arts leaders, the Performing Arts Program and our partners continued to grapple with a few persistent questions: what were we preparing up-and-coming leaders to do? To what degree did we aim to sustain the field as it exists or spur its transformation? Were we adequately preparing leaders for the challenges to come?
To help answer these questions, in late 2014 we commissioned Michael Courville of Open Mind Consulting to reassess the arts leadership landscape in California and explore opportunities for future investments in arts leadership.The research was conducted in collaboration with a cross-section of local, regional, and national arts leaders, and with the Initiative's partners. It reveals that the arts landscape is in a state of flux and that there is a timely opportunity to reimagine how the nonprofit arts field defines and practices leadership.