After Tumultuous Year, Fund for the Arts Prepares for Next Campaign

by Gabe Bullard on January 30, 2012

This week, the Fund for the Arts will launch its first fundraising campaign under new leadership.

Fund CEO Allan Cowen retired during last year’s campaign. He was accused of bullying certain artists and the fund was criticized for favoring performing arts over visual arts. Interim CEO Barbara Sexton Smith took over after Cowen left and is still at the helm. She expects to handle all of the campaign’s responsibilities until the search for a permanent CEO is complete.

“Our board is more engaged than ever,” she says. “I’m very pleased with the activity of our board members and I know they will get to conducting the search when the time is right but for the time being we are very focused on this audacious plan and this extreme goal.”

Visual artists said last year that the fund favored the performing arts for allocations. A review determined that the fund should be more relevant, innovative and evolutionary. Some steps have been taken to remedy that. For instance, if an arts organization finds a new business to make payroll contributions to the fund, that organization will get three quarters of all the money that business donates.

But the fund hasn’t addressed all of its critics. Artist Craig Kaviar recently called for ten changes to the Fund for the Arts in a letter to the organization’s leadership. A panel put together by the fund is reviewing the budget and allocation processes. Sexton Smith says the panel will suggest change during the campaign, and the fund will try to adjust.

“It’s an evolutionary process,” she says. “That’s the third thing the community asked of the fund was to be revolutionary and change with the times. So we will continue to evolve.”

The goal for this year’s campaign has increased 25 percent, to $9.2 million. The campaign kickoff is Tuesday at noon.

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