Blog: Maud Lyon

Our guest blogger for this week is Maud Lyon. Maud is the founding director of the Cultural Alliance, and a consultant for numerous nonprofit organizations.

Check back here each week day to read Maud's thoughts on the state of arts and culture in Michigan.

Sharing Resources

The creativity of arts and cultural organizations is not limited to the stage, the exhibition gallery, or the art form itself.  These non-profit organizations can also be very creative in the ways they find to get the work done.  Managing scarce resources is an art in itself.  

All too often, the people who manage the business side of arts and culture are doing so in isolation.  There hasn’t been a forum to share ideas about better ways to maintain facilities, manage human resources, contract for services, or the myriad other necessary work of running arts non-profits. The Sharing Resources initiative of the Cultural Alliance is designed to solve this problem, in two ways.

The first way is to establish networking meetings that bring together the staff who work on these issues, so that they can learn from each other and gain useful information from outside experts.  The Cultural Alliance is surveying members to identify the issues that are of the greatest interest, and will organize a series of management seminars that lift up best practices and promote innovations for more efficient cultural business management.   This will also help professional staff to meet their peers – and to share their business creativity with each other.

The second way is a barter program – a clearinghouse to trade resources and assets between arts organizations for mutual benefit.  The first trade has already occurred – while we were planning this initiative last summer.  The school busses of Cranbrook Educational Communities are usually parked in the summer.  The Arts League of Michigan had a summer camp program that needed transportation.  So Cranbrook provided the busses last summer, and last fall, the Arts League provided free jazz clinics for Cranbrook students in return.  

We are now in the process of establishing a system to help Cultural Alliance member organizations to identify the assets and resources that they have to share.  It could be unsold seats in performances, exhibition pedestals or other props, or even a special expertise.  Every organization has some special, unique asset – which could be exactly what another organizations needs.  The goal is to place un-used resources into a pool, and to enable arts organizations to help each other. 

These two programs will help arts and cultural organizations operate more efficiently – and also focus energy on what we can do to help ourselves.