National Arts Conference

Several coworkers and I have arrived in Las Vegas for the annual convention of Americans for the Arts. Last time I was in Vegas I was tagging along with Rob for an adidas-related conference, nicely situated in the splendiferous Bellagio. Nothing quite so fancy this time around; our home base for the next few days would be The Flamingo Hotel, a noisy, kitchy, reminder of the Vegas of yesteryear. Actually there are some renovations underway that promise to punch up the fun retro potential of this landmark on the strip – new flamingo-pink paintings and moderne Jetsons’s furniture – but my wing still had the tired old tiki carpets and musky reminders that once upon a time, all rooms were smoking rooms.

Bellagio it’s not.

But it’s got retro potential. (This is how they've remodelled one of the wings.)

My day on Thursday consisted of a series of pre-conference meetings and workshops focusing on the topic of United Arts Funds. These are collaborative fundraising approaches on behalf of multiple arts organizations in a community, often incorporating United Way-type workplace giving campaigns.

Many of you know that I was first hired at RACC to launched Portland’s first United Arts Fund in 2003, and that program has finally come into viability now in its third year. Our program, Work for Art, raised $35,000 in 04-05, $45,000 in 05-06, and next week we will announce more than $425,000 raised in 06-07. Yeehaw.

So in meetings on this topic we talk about things like, What are some of the best practices in workplace giving? For better or for worse, how is technology changing how we ask for money and related with our donors? And what are some of the ways that we can help build successful programs in other communities, because research shows that communities with United Arts Funds have more stable arts organizations than those without.

By the way, yes the Flamingo does have flamingos.

Learned lots our first day here, and went to a very tasty dinner afterwards at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill inside of Caesar's Palace accross the street. My veal chop was really really fantastic!

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