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The role of media festivals in strengthening independent media

August 28, 2023

Festivals taking place across the Global South are attracting increasingly global attendees. This brief discussion paper looks at four diverse examples of such festivals – Media Party in Argentina, Festival 3i in Brazil, Splice Beta in Thailand, and the Africa Media Festival in Kenya – and seeks to develop preliminary hypotheses about the nature of these events, what distinguishes them from other events in the independent media ecosystem, what they hope to achieve, and how they are evolving.It also seeks to discern patterns or learnings emerging from these festivals that suggest practical recommendations for those running, setting up or supporting such events in the future, and includes concrete examples of practices that other practitioners can learn or adapt from. We also explore the role of media festivals in the resilience of local regional and global digital native ecosystems.The report has been authored by independent consultant Sameer Padania, who was an active participant in all four festivals featured, as part of a consultancy project for International Media Support, funded by the Ford Foundation. He was a judge for a pitch session and ran one workshop at Media Party, gave three clinics and one workshop at Splice Beta, co-ran one workshop and co-moderated a donors' meeting at the Africa Media Festival, and spoke on a panel at Festival 3i. The report also draws on inputs from IMS programme managers and partners.

Setting the Stage: Practical Ideas for Implementing High-Quality Afterschool Arts Programs

August 16, 2023

Afterschool programs looking to add high-quality arts learning to their programming might do well to keep three practices in mind: Employ professional teaching artistsProvide current, high-quality equipmentCreate dedicated art spaces that welcome and inspireThese practices are essential to enriching arts experiences that engage young people. They may entail higher costs than what an organization currently spends on arts programs. But these costs may not be vastly different from the costs of sports, STEM, or other programs.And there are ways to keep the costs down.  These are the major findings from research about a Wallace Foundation effort that sought to increase access to high-quality arts education for students from historically marginalized backgrounds.

“Developing” Intellectuals in Cold War Burma: The Production of The Atlantic's 1958 Country Supplement

July 28, 2023

This report features part of an article I am working on about development, soft power, and Cold War competition in 1950s Burma and Indonesia, from the perspective of Burmese and Indonesian intellectuals and artists.  It tells the backstory of the production of The Atlantic's 1958 supplement on Burma, one of several country supplements the Ford Foundation produced throughout the 1950s as part of its Intercultural Publications project. James Laughlin's reports in the Ford Foundation archives reveal the fascinating backstory of the issue and the agency of intellectuals within Cold War development programs, while pointing to the neglected role of "culture" in the history of development.  

Towards the Asian Cultural Council: Blanchette Rockefeller and Her Engagement with Asia, 1951-1986

July 20, 2023

On April 6, 1971, Blanchette Ferry Hooker Rockefeller delivered a formal talk to New York's Colony Club titled, "Amateur Collecting at Home and Abroad." Mrs. Rockefeller had visited Japan for the first time in 1951, where she spent six weeks in Tokyo with her husband, John D. Rockefeller 3rd, who served as an unofficial cultural attaché to Douglas MacArthur's Japan Peace Commission. Like his mentor— former High Commissioner for Refugees of the League of Nations, and first US Ambassador to Israel— Dr. James G. McDonald, Mr. Rockefeller spent most of his time as part of the commission interviewing political, economic, and cultural authorities to find ways of improving cultural relations between the two countries. As a result, John devised a model based on bilateral cultural exchange—a two-way street . Toward that end, he later planned and built a conference center, the International House of Japan, where scholars and public officials from Europe and the United States exchanged ideas with their Japanese counterparts. These luminaries included the likes of Arnold Toynbee and Eleanor Roosevelt. Rockefeller's  Japanese collaborator in that venture was an internationally minded journalist, Shigeharu Matsumoto. The Rockefellers and Matsumotos formed their own two-way relationship spanning the rest of their respective lives, as well as those of their children.While this study emphasizes the evolution of Blanchette Rockefeller's interest in Asia and the subsequent founding of the Asian Cultural Council, it bears understanding how such a study fits within the field of Asian cultural exchange during the twentieth century. 

Engaging the Arts to Build Vaccine Confidence

July 1, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on all aspects of life, including the arts and culture sector. However, artists and cultural organizations have also played a crucial role in the vaccination effort. Although vaccination is a key element in overcoming the pandemic, vaccine hesitancy and misinformation have become significant challenges to achieving high levels of vaccine uptake. In this report, we explore how arts and culture have been utilized to promote vaccine confidence, dispel myths and misinformation surrounding vaccines and support vaccination efforts in the United States.

Mental Health Conditions Across 300 Popular Films: A Research Update from 2016 to 2022

June 29, 2023

This report examines the prevalence and portrayals of mental health conditions across the 100 top-grossing films from 2022, comparing the new findings to the Initiative's previous studies covering 2016 and 2019.

Lights, Camera, Change: A Filmmaker’s Guide to Private Foundation Funding for Social Impact

June 17, 2023

This guide is a comprehensive resource that empowers social justice filmmakers and creatives to navigate the complexities of foundation funding. Securing grants can be daunting for filmmakers, sometimes hindered by federal regulations on lobbying and political messaging.With the aim of making a difference through film, this essential guide equips filmmakers and creatives with the necessary information and guidance to navigate the world of foundation funding. While it primarily targets non-501(c)(3) tax-exempt entities with compelling educational or charitable stories to share, 501(c)(3) filmmaking organizations and those within public charities can also benefit.

Arts and Culture at the Core of Philanthropy : Volume 2

May 23, 2023

As multiple crises have unfolded in recent years, the arts and culture sector has been among the most damaged financially, and its structural fragilities have significantly deteriorated. At the same time, its value to society throughout these crises has been undoubtedly clear.This second volume of Philea's research into European philanthropic funding in the field of arts and culture reveals a philanthropic sector that is strongly committed to resourcing artistic and cultural organisations to strengthen their resilience; has a cross-cutting and intersectional tendency in its work; and is clearly open to collaborative and participatory approaches.This edition of the mapping surveyed 64 foundations from 17 different countries, and includes contributions from several experts in the field. 

The 1963 Ford Foundation Program for Film Makers and the Networks of Experimental Cinema

May 12, 2023

In June 1963, the Ford Foundation's Humanities and the Arts program sent out a call for nominations for their Program for Film Makers. Nine months later, in March 1964, twelve American filmmakers received grants of 10,000 dollars "to enable a limited number of creative film makers to extend and deepen their artistic experience and productivity." The documents surrounding the creation and development of this one-time grant in support of experimental filmmaking reveal the challenges facing private foundations engaged with an evolving and diverse art form. Furthermore, they counter a representation of experimental filmmaking as individualistic and author-centered by uncovering networks of support among artists and the cultural milieu that sustained their works.

The Creator Economy: A guide for impact investors

May 4, 2023

The "creator economy" is the online ecosystem of platforms, products and services that enable independent content creators to make their work, build their audiences, monetize their ideas, and manage their careers. Technology is transforming how creative work is produced, distributed, compensated, and enjoyed — while simultaneously expanding who gets to tell their stories and who sees their own experiences represented online. Upstart Co-Lab believes impact investors can play a role to ensure the values of diversity, equity, inclusion and access are prioritized in this rapidly growing sector.The latest in a series of deep dives into key creative industries, this report looks at a fast-growing segment of Upstart Co-Lab's pipeline of impact investment opportunities in the U.S. creative economy.

Local Arts Agency Funding and Arts Vibrancy: Exploring how funding from local arts agencies impacts arts vibrancy and its underlying dimensions

May 4, 2023

Those who work for local arts agencies (LAAs) witness the community impact of their work. Organizations and artists who are direct beneficiaries of local arts agency support leverage the funding to fuel their creative activity. Yet politicians and citizens who live in arts-vibrant communities may not connect the dots between their local arts agency and the direct value it adds. We decided to turn to data to empirically explore the question: Do local arts agencies contribute to their communities' arts vibrancy? As part of a project with Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, we undertook an effort to examine the effects of LAA funding on overall Arts Vibrancy and the individual, underlying components of Arts Vibrancy. Our colleagues at Americans for the Arts generously shared with us LAA data they collected through a survey so that we could explore the topic. Our research pointed to multiple ways that LAAs are catalysts for art vibrancy in their communities. The more grant dollars they have to invest in artists and arts organizations, and the more programs and services they provide, the more their communities pulse with arts-driven creative and economic life, vigor, and activity.

Sustaining Art Research Collections: Case Studies in Collaboration

April 18, 2023

Art research collections continue to be impacted by the lingering effects of economic uncertainty and the global COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted in reduced or stagnant budgets and staffing cuts. These impacts have coincided with a period of institutional reflection and examination of the fundamental role of cultural heritage institutions in society. The case studies presented here illustrate how partnerships can support sustainability and growth, and they also share case study participants' generous insights into the lessons learned from their experiences. The report provides recommendations like conducting an upfront analysis of the benefits that a partnership will provide to each participant, understanding the core mission values that a potential partnership would support, and ensuring that the effort required to create and sustain a partnership aligns with the partnership's benefits. This timely report offers key insights into successful and sustainable collaborations for practitioners who may be facing immediate staffing, technology, or space needs and provides a framework that can guide future collaborations that not only meet basic needs, but also advance experimentation and innovation.