New thinking for new challenges: A learning opportunity for Philadelphia arts organizations – Knight Foundation

New thinking for new challenges: A learning opportunity for Philadelphia arts organizations

Knight Foundation recently opened an opportunity for Philadelphia-based arts organizations to apply to participate in a workshop series focused on building capacity for innovation. Knight’s Priya Sircar shares details below. 

Maintain Relevance. Achieve Sustainability.” It’s a familiar mantra for arts organizations around the country as they strive to engage audiences and balance budgets. Yet, despite the good intent, many continue to struggle with issues of both resilience and impact. Why?

The truth is, our industry is facing new challenges with old ways of thinking, and the outcomes are less than ideal. 

Changes in today’s operating environment — such as declining government and philanthropic support and technology’s impact on audience expectations — have prompted existential crises for many arts organizations. 

Often, immediate challenges with finances, space, or leadership demand such urgent attention that organizations have neither the time nor the energy to devote to bigger-picture concerns. And, even if they do, the skill set required to reimagine their modus operandi — and potentially even their value proposition —  is very different from that required to develop a bandaid for the latest cut. 

Organizations may have the will but not the way.

This reality is a worrisome one for any who believe in the promise of the arts. It certainly is for Knight Foundation, which believes great art attaches people to the places they live and to each other, ultimately building stronger, more engaged communities. 

It’s in this context that we’re offering a new opportunity for Philadelphia-based arts organizations to participate in a workshop series focused on capacity-building for innovation (i.e. exploring and exercising new ways of thinking to thrive amid today’s challenges). The four-month series, Building the Capacity to Innovate and Adapt, will be designed and facilitated by EmcArts, which hosts national leadership development programs for change-makers in the arts and cultural sector. All arts organizations in greater Philadelphia, regardless of size or artistic genre, are encouraged to apply. 

Through this training, cohort members will strengthen their organization’s ability to think adaptively about their missions and operations; to proactively identify and address complex challenges, including challenges to innovation; and to envision and experiment with new ways of working. Each participating organization will receive $10,000 in support. 

Our goal is to offer a unique professional development opportunity that sets a foundation for the future success of arts organizations in Philadelphia and beyond. We hope to foster a network that can develop and share learnings with others, creating a ripple effect of progress and improvement that benefits the field at-large. 

Applications for the opportunity are due by 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 11. Learn more, register for an info session, and apply at  

Priya Sircar is a director of arts at Knight Foundation. You can follow her on Twitter at @priyasircar.

Image (top): CC0 1.0 Universal, via pxhere.