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Serving the Creative Arts Community Since 1974

With Thanks to Mr. Jobs!

Thursday, November 10, 2011 2:09 PM | Alma Robinson (Administrator)

Notes from 1985 and beyond:


We didn't realize it, but when our group of five VLAs went to Apple Computer's training facility to learn how to use the first MacIntosh computers, we were becoming "early adopters." CLA (back then we were "BALA" or Bay Area Lawyers for the Arts) had successfully applied to Apple for a computer grant. The grant came with two conditions: you had to apply with a "network" of similar organizations and, you agreed that, if selected, you would attend a three-day training program at Apple headquarters in Cupertino.  During the training, Apple trainers and software engineers hovered over us, watching how we adapted to the new equipment.


We'd recruited four sister art/law organizations for this adventure, and they willingly came -- from Georgia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in Atlanta, Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, Washington (DC) Area Lawyers for the Arts, and Lawyers for the Creative Arts in Chicago. The computers were a great boost to our productivity and the training gave us an unparalled opportunity to work closely with like-minded colleagues, sharing our challenges and goals.


Back in our office at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, it was a joy to replace our sewing-machine style Osborne with its tiny gray-scale screen! We were now on our way to the future with new Lotus Jazz software provided by Apple and new proficiency in word processing and spread sheet software using our new Macintosh.  


The Apple Computer community grant program, sadly, is no more. But the gift that kept giving was the opportunity to collaborate. Through the network grant, we learned how to work with other organizations towards common goals. Soon after our success with Apple, we worked closely with the San Francisco Arts Commission to establish a joint project that provided technical assistance to artists needing studio space.

"Double Click"

Meanwhile, we collaborated with the San Francisco Unified School District to create arts internships for high school students from disadvantaged communities--this program is still going strong and has served more than 600 students. We also launched Arts Resolution Services, a national mediation program funded by the NEA and the Hewlett Foundation, with other art/law organizations around the country. Through a collaboration with the Arts Administration Program at Golden Gate University and the San Francisco Department of Human Services, we provided job training services for persons receiving public assistance.  Even California Lawyers for the Arts was born of a collaboration--between BALA and Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts-LA--that resulted in a statewide footprint for our services. 

"Click Shift"

Steve Jobs was, of course, the master collaborator, whose vision and imagination drove him to work with the movie, music and telecommunications industries to develop incredible consumer products.  No doubt he'd understood, when Apple's community contributions program was conceived, that we'd get more "bang for the buck" working in collaboration with other organizations.  

Thank you, Steve, for opening the door for us to learn how to collaborate across geographic and sector lines, in ways that stretched our vision and enlarged our role and impact significantly. We see the through line.

Alma Robinson, Executive Director                 
California Lawyers for the Arts



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