Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 15 - 2010

Happy New Year!

The start of a new year is a time not only of celebration, but also reflection. This year, Americans for the Arts is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, so we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how the arts in America have been shaped during the last half century, as well as how the arts have shaped ourselves.

We invite you to celebrate with us by sharing a formative or inspirational arts moment from your own life.

Together, we can create a powerful reminder that, no matter what the future holds, the arts are an essential part of all our lives and deserving of our collective hard work and investment.

We wish you the very best in 2010!

Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts

Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
I work to advance the arts in people’s lives because I know that it makes their lives and the life of our towns and nation better. I know that, because a teacher in the eighth grade gave me the gift of believing that I could make poetry, because my parents gave me the gift of music making which still sustains me every day, and a single moment in a movie taught me that I was a part of a universe and not its center. I thank all the people who pass these gifts on to others.

Steve Spiess, Executive Director, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Chairman of the Americans for the Arts Board of Directors
It seems like the arts have always been a part of my life. Since childhood, I have been blessed with wonderful memories of music and theatre and dance and the visual arts. And I have been able to travel to other parts of the world to experience many different cultures. But, my most memorable arts experience is one of my most recent, and is easy to name. It is seeing the joy in my 17-month old son Joshua’s eyes as he dances to, and sings along with, the music that we have played for him since before he was born. Or the way that he runs to show me the crayon masterpiece that he created while I was at work. These special moments make everything right in my world, give me hope that he will be a bright light in his future world and demonstrate the power of the arts to make our lives whole.

Chuck Close, artist
Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
Arts saved my life from the very beginning of my life. Learning disabled, couldn’t add or subtract, couldn’t learn to multiply or divide. If it hadn’t been for art, where would I be? If I hadn’t had art and music as a guaranteed right from kindergarten through high school, every day of the week, I would’ve never found myself, I would never have done anything. And I worry so about how art and music are the first things to be cut, the first thing to go when there’s a budget cut in education. Because without it, I always say if I hadn’t gone to Yale, I would’ve gone to jail. You don’t get where you get without interacting with people who’ve changed your life. Amazing, amazing people. I came from a mill town. Nobody ever went anywhere or accomplished anything. I had people who believed in me from the beginning to the end.

Donna Collins, Executive Director, Ohio Alliance for Arts Education
Arts Education Council Chair
In first grade I was chosen to be Little Yellow in the school play adapted from Leo Lionni’s book Little Blue Little Yellow. I learned that I was a good reader and loved colors. I learned about the boy who played Little Blue and figured out that we could be actors in the play but I didn’t have to like him. I learned about how to take direction and when to offer direction. I learned that it was my job to know my lines, study, and have fun. I also realized how wonderful it was to hear the applause of the audience and see the pride in my parents’ faces. Today I realize that this opportunity provided to me by my first grade teacher started my interest in the arts.

Ken Ferguson, Chairman, NBC Oklahoma
Americans for the Arts Board of Directors Treasurer
I’m a banker in Oklahoma and have come to realize the importance of arts in terms of economic development and what it means to my town and my state and even nationally. And so my favorite art form is public art. Our bank has sponsored six or seven pieces of public art and I just love it when people will stop and park their car and all the little kids get out and run around the piece of art and take a snapshot of it. You don’t have to pay a dollar, you don’t have to put a coat and tie on, you just get to go and enjoy the art.

Janet Kagan, Principal, Percent for Art Collaborative, Chapel Hill, NC
Public Art Network Council Chair
One of my first art making experiences was spending the entire year of second grade working with glass, clay, and wire. I recall consciously abandoning reading and writing for the sensuous pleasure of feeling these materials in my hands and pressing my eyes and body into the service of creating color and form. Although much later I would learn the beauty of producing a poem, I suspect that this time in the art room served as a prelude to my inherent interest in attending to art and its complexities.

Peter Yarrow, singer/songwriter of Peter, Paul & Mary
Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
What I’m thinking about as I stand here in the moment of recalling Mary’s passing, Mary Travers, I think about how much she epitomized exactly what Americans for the Arts advocates, what its commitment is all about. The signature of a civilization is told through its arts, but even more so, the humanity of a people, the soundtrack of their hopes and dreams, and the images of their aspirations.

Bruce Davis, Executive Director of Arts Council Silicon Valley, San Jose, CA
NAMP Conference Attendee
It was around the campfire and it was folksingers and people singing songs around the campfire. One of whom turns out to have been Pete Seeger. I grew up in New York, we were up in the Catskill Mountains at a bungalow colony for the summer and Pete also used to go to that bungalow colony. I became a folk singer. I went on the artist roster as a singer/songwriter in Brooklyn in 1975 and then I migrated out to California where I’ve been for more than 30 years and now I run the arts council in Silicon Valley and it all goes back to those songs when I was 3 or 4 around the campfire.

51 Responses to “Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts”

  1. Salman Rushdie, author says:

    Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
    Well you know, I grew up in Bombay in India, and that’s a huge movie city, so I guess I grew up educated by the movies. If you grew up in Bombay, it’s like growing up in a mixture of Hollywood and New York. One of the movies that really impressed me and I’ve written about it was the Wizard of Oz. I saw it, I must’ve been 11 in India, I’d never been to the West. I’d never been to America or anywhere outside India and the movie felt completely local to me. It was like I understood all its ideas, I responded to the fantasy in it. I thought, “I want to do something like that.” And I went home and I wrote a short story called “Over the Rainbow,” and that was my first short story. So the Wizard of Oz started it all off.

  2. Barnaby Evans says:

    Barnaby Evans, Artistic Director and creator of WaterFire, signature multi-disciplinary art installation in Providence, RI
    I just find art speaks to me in a deep, deep way and I wouldn’t know how I’d live without it. I remember discovering it as a kid in school and with my parents and in museums and it’s really what makes our lives rich. Theater, going to the symphony as a kind, looking at photographs of ancient architecture in third grade. I still remember that with great affection—I can remember just being wondered by the intent these civilizations had to make life special. And that’s what art brings to us.

  3. Graham Lusting says:

    Graham Lusting, Artistic Director, American Repertory Ballet and ARB’s Princeton Ballet School
    Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
    My first experience with dance was when I was dancing to the radio at home. When I was five years old, there was this thing called dancing school, ballet school, and I nagged my poor parents for six months and at five-and-a-half, I went to ballet school. I remember performing when I was six years old, and now as the Artistic Director of American Repertory Ballet, I have the great privilege of bringing other people forward in their own careers and dancing dreams. We just celebrated the 25th year of Dance Power. For 25 years, my organization has been teaching every single 3rd grader in the New Brunswick public schools to dance. That’s about 650 children every year—special needs, ESL—learn to dance through this program. We have 68 scholars at Princeton Ballet School with full time dance tuition, realizing their dancing dreams. It’s my great privilege to help others do what is so important—to continue dancing in their hearts and souls.

  4. Emily Spruill says:

    Emily Spruill, Director of Cultural Affairs, City of Virginia Beach, Virginia Beach, VA
    USUAF and Emerging Leaders Council Member
    My most memorable arts experience was going to see Les Miserables growing up and being so moved by the power of the music and the talents of the actors and actresses. The story grabs at your heartstrings and pulls at your every emotion. It has stuck with me all these years. There’s nothing like live theatre.

  5. Rich Mintz says:

    Rich Mintz, Vice President of Strategy, Blue State Digital
    NAMP Conference plenary speaker
    My favorite art form I think is bluegrass music of Appalachia. It’s something that I came acquainted with because my father was also a connoisseur of American music and my parents had a large record collection which they would play when I was a very young child. And my father also played the banjo when I was young, which was pretty uncommon for a psychiatrist living in Los Angeles in the 70s, but he was pretty good and he got me accustomed to the music. I bought myself a bluegrass fiddle but I‘ve never learned to play. And I recently discovered—I live in New York City—that there’s a music studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that teaches bluegrass in 12-week courses and I am planning to sign up right after the New Year.

  6. The first performance I remember attending that truly touched me and made me think, “I want to touch people like that,” was First Stage Children’s Theater’s production of YELLOW BOAT, circa 1988. It’s the first time I remember learning about HIV and AIDS. It made me so sad but I loved that these people were able to portray this story and share this information with us through a staged performance. I can picture the set and looking around the theatre to see the other students’ reactions. It was a wonderful experience.

  7. L. Goodness says:

    While I have had many memorable art experiences, sharing these experiences can be some of the most rewarding. Last year I took my 15 year old daughter to see Wicked the musical. She was so taken by the story, the music, the elaborate scenery by the entire experience she would not respond to the slightest of comments and frankly was annoyed if I tried. She didn’t even want a friend along so she would not be interrupted with her complete immersion in the experience. What a joy to watch someone so enraptured by the arts!

  8. My first and most memorable experience was when I was about 8 years old. A neighbor was taking her daughter to The National Theatre to see a play. I don’t remember what the play was about, but I know it gave me a love for theatre. I was fortunate enough afterwards to attend an elementary school that further introduced me to the arts, and, allowed me to participate in plays, poetry recitations, glee club performances, and social dancing.

    These experiences have remained a part of me since then. Music actually saved my life; and, I am forever grateful.

  9. Nicole Beck says:

    I will never forget the transformative experience of moving around finger paint on slippery paper in Kindergarten….also memorable that year was dressing in a French beret and a green velvet vest & crossing a small custom-made wooden bridge while singing “Frere Jacque!” Later, in Fourth grade I became the “go-to” artist for my teacher and her bulletin-board projects. In high school I was blown away by an art teacher that took me to his supply room and allocated special art supplies to me for my independent projects (he also let us listen to albums like Dark Side of the Moon and American Beauty and Deja Vu on the record player all class period long!) These were the seeds for cultivating a life-long passion for art making and music!

  10. I was six when my father took me to see The Awakening on one of his frequent trips to DC. Even at that early age, I was attentive to ideas of personal freedom, democracy, law, and leadership. I remember a specific thought that reading is useful, but that this huge (to me) sculpture more clearly expressed a feeling I had about my place in the world.

  11. Lori Robishaw says:

    A seminal arts experience for me was seeing a matinee of August Wilson’s “Fences” on Broadway back when I was in graduate school at the Yale School of Drama. Even though I had the pleasure of knowing August and how talented he was and how much acclaim the play had received, I still was completely unprepared for my reaction. I’m not really much of a crier, and although I might have shed a few tears at the conclusion of an occasional play or film, never had one ended with me sitting there actually sobbing. The embarrassing, shoulder-heaving kind of sobs—it took me so much time to collect myself that I ended up being the last person to leave the theatre that afternoon. As a young white woman on good terms with my parents, I clearly hadn’t experienced anything like the effects of entrenched racism nor the anguish of a family’s thwarted dreams and expectations. Yet somehow that play moved me more than anything I’d ever seen before and made me truly realize, in a very visceral way, how great art transcends all boundaries.

  12. Terri Lloyd says:

    My first arts experience, real arts experience was in first grade. An artist came into our class via some sort of public arts program. She compiled some of our paintings creating a children’s art show at the DeYoung Museum in San Francisco. I remember the name of the painting, “My Friend Lisa.” I didn’t have a friend named Lisa at the time. Just a simple painting of a blonde girl on a swing. Funny what we remember and how it affects us. I’m now 50 years old and have been an artist all my life.

  13. At age 9 I became an Anglican Church choirboy. It was my first experience with the music of Gabriel Faure, Handel, Brahams and Gregorian music. I was also the page turner for the organist and I learned to sight read by watching him play and anticpating the next page turn. I went on to become a Senior Staff Producer/Engineer at Elektra Records and establish labels for artists I managed after I left Elektra. I can truly say that music not only changed my life–it saved it.

  14. Renée M. Martínez says:

    I remember doing a torn-paper art in ~1967, about the book (and in the style of) A Snowy Day by Erza Jack Keats. The protagonist is an African American boy. I lived in an almost all-white rural area and my family was among the only Mexican Americans on the mountain. Only one other person (who had recently moved to our community from a more diverse setting), showed the boy as being Black. This was during the height of Civil Rights struggles across the nation, which were routinely shown on the nightly news. The teacher tried through the art, to help these sheltered children “see” the issue of race. In doing so, I learned a painful lesson about the insidious nature of racism, invisibility and white-washing. She had me explain the differences in our artwork, which I did with reluctance and embarrassment; I remember being incredulous that the couldn’t see it, but knew on some core level why they didn’t. (I have to admit thinking, “These stupid white people…”). Art laid out very clearly the notion of perspective-taking, and also tension between public and private. While in some ways culturally affirming, the experience made me feel exposed and vulnerable. Perhaps the latter is something that is part of being an artist, regardless of the topic.

  15. Sally Peters says:

    I had an experience in my undergrad art history class that really was life changing. As cliché as that sounds, I honestly count it as one of my great learning experiences.

    The class was looking at a slide of a Cézanne painting and my professor was talking about the composition, color and line. I thought that I understood those concepts and then something shifted. Suddenly I saw it – the lines, the fields of color, the structure – I saw something that I had never seen before. I saw beyond the surface, the image fell away and it was as if I were looking into the painting, rather than just at the painting. I felt like I was seeing things for the first time. I remember leaving class that day and looking at everything, just really looking at everything. It was as if I had new eyes and honestly, the world had never looked so beautiful.

    Ok, I know that sounds a bit hokey. I am sorry for that but I do not know how else to express what that experience was like for me. It really did open the world up to me.

    I have carried that experience with me and believe that it has strongly influenced the way in which I relate to others and the world. I try as often as I can to look beyond what is easily visible, what is on the surface, and to look for the structure that lies beneath. I believe this insight has helped me to become more patient, more thoughtful and more open to seeing beauty. I am especially appreciative of this perspective in my work with people. I feel as if this has given me a way to move beyond the outside layers that people display, to look past the facade and to try to connect with the foundation of a person.

  16. I had the good fortune of teaching at the New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, NY for 19 years as a dance and performing arts instructor. One of my students, Shauna, an African-American,was both Deaf and legally blind. She loved to dance. In class I would play the music loud and with alot of bass and Shauna would just take off dancing. She joined the after school dance club. She had such amazing rhythm and was a good dancer. When my husband took a job in Washington D.C. I resigned my position at NYSSD. When Shauna realized I was leaving, she came to me in the dance room on one of my last days and signed to me,”Why you go?” I explained my husband was taking a new job in a different area. She signed, “You tell husband, ‘He go’ and You stay”. I said I couldn’t do that. She signed, “Who’s going to teach Shauna dance?” I said to her Shauna you are a good dancer, you don’t need anyone to teach you how to dance, you already know how to dance.” A big smile came across her face and she signed, “You’re right. Shauna’s a good dancer.” So I suggested we have one last dance together. I played some loud jazz music and we danced. She got very close to the dance mirrors and with a huge grin said to me, “Shauna’s good dancer!” And we shared a last dance together. I think that will always stay in my mind and heart and exemplified the joy I received teaching Deaf students dance and how to be actresses and actors. It was a special time in my professional career.

  17. I have had many, many wonderful arts experiences in my life, but the story I often tell involves my first visit to Florence. When I first saw Michelangelo’s David, I had already studied Renaissance art, but the experience of seeing him “in the flesh” was overwhelming. I remember thinking that here was a work made by a young Italian man, 500 years ago, who did not have much if anything in common with the life I live, but…I GET IT. Art was able to speak to me through the ages and across cultures. And I still believe that art has the ability to heal our world in a way that nothing else can.

  18. CYNTHIA LANGSTON says:

    The most phenomenal first experience with art I had was seeing Robert Joffrey’s ASTARTE at age 10. “Blown away” doesn’t even come close to describing my reaction.

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  20. The oddest thought… when I was in Kindergarten at Laurelhurst ~1964… I was given “my turn” at the easel when another rambunctious classmate sprang in and put a swirl of red-orange tempera in the upper center of my paper. I was surprised, laughed & was amazed at the flow of the paint. On that, I brought it to the teachers attention – - to get a lesson from a completely different angle. She BLEW, called the classmate over & gave her a “what for” lecture about respect for other people, their art and other work. I received a grand apology from both and a new sheet of paper… but being the second of six children in my own family.. it didn’t seem to be such an unexpected problem to me… … But, I still find myself spreading the word of respect among artists and classmates. We all have to stick together – being the most familiar with what we all have to deal with.

  21. Tyler York says:

    Tyler York, Audience Services Associate at Boston Lyric Opera
    NAMP Conference Attendee
    I view every new performance, every new play I read, every new play or musical I go to see as trying to recapture that brilliance of that first moment and again that magic that can happen when you see something being created before your very eyes and know that you’re a part of that, as much as the characters on stage.

  22. General Manager, The Paramount Theater, Charlottesville, VA.
    As a 5th grader in Washington, DC I remember vividly my mother dragging my sister and I (kicking and sulking and screaming) to see a “grown up” concert at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC. The only thing I remember her saying was “you have to go and you will like it or else”. The moment that the lights went off and Miss Ella Fitzgerald floated on-stage with the US Army “Airmen of Note” Big Band…I sat mesmerized and glued to my seat with my jaw hung open. I knew in an instant that I wanted to work for the arts when I grew up. So determined was I that from that moment on I told everyone “I’m going to work to bring music to people”. Every job held since graduating from college has been in the arts…from Tour Managing Grammy Award winning artists, to fundraising, to working for a non-profit arts institution bringing compelling art to my community.

  23. I had aspirations of being a musician, specifically a rock singer, since I was seven years of age. But the first time I actually believed that I might actually have a future in music was in 1967, at the age of eleven, when Mrs. Bromberg, my fifth-grade teacher, noticed that my voice stood out from the rest of the class and she strongly recommended that I try out for the district chorus program Musical Horizons. I followed Mrs. Bromberg’s suggestion and had a great experience singing with the chorus, which gave me more confidence in my potential as a musician. While she and I did not always agree about everything, I will always be grateful to Mrs. Bromberg for encouraging me to develop my musical talent and do something constructive with it.

    Then on New Year’s Eve 2004, my rock band GALLEON performed a show at a local club in Atlanta. Afterwards, someone who attended the show and had only seen me as an “acoustic” performer previously, came up to me and congratulated me. He said two words, “You rock!” I felt so good and so proud of my band.

    That’s the kind of thing that keeps me going on as a musician, even though it has not been as profitable as I had hoped it would be. There’s a certain kind of feeling I get from doing a good show that’s more valuable to me than money. When I get that feeling I feel like a real superstar, even though I’m just another local musician singing in a local band and playing at a local club. So I say to all you aspiring and struggling artists out there, keep doing what makes you feel good, and do your best at it. In many cases, that is its own reward!

  24. Mary Foshee says:

    As I child I loved music, and we had hootnannies with the neighbors around a fire on the beach every two weeks or so…would hunt to find new songs, started with a ukelele, then a bass ukelele, graduated to a guitar, (keeping up with the Jones’). Then in college we would have pass-arounds..stand up bass, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, play for awhile, pass it around. Probably sounded a little rough, but it sure was fun.
    Then after all that I became a dancer…mostly because I can’t sit still, and I love to play!

  25. The most memorable arts experience – the day in October, 2002 when I discovered that there were no Classical orchestras in our public schools, anywhere in central Connecticut.

    So, I built one. Today the Central Connecticut Civic Youth Orchestras have two ensembles and we are seeking funding for a Young Musicians Concert Series and Composer/Artist-in-Residence program. Inquiries are very welcome: meridenartstrust@yahoo.com
    and our website:
    http://teacherweb.com/CT/CCCYO/Online/ap1.stm

    Now, seven years later, we teach, we lead, we offer performance opportunities where there were none.

    We beat the horrible system, and I am very proud of all of us! Let’s hear it for Civic Engagement! Happy New Year!!!!! Support your local Youth Orchestra!!!

  26. Michael Robertson, Lark Play Development Center, NYC
    I WAS SEDUCED! I grew up in Bunkie, Louisiana, town of 4,000 people where was a lovely old legit house probably 100 years old in which the “Bunkie Little Theatre” would perform. I remember ever so fondly being seduced literally and figuratively by my first experience. I played the delivery boy–a bit part–in STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE who Blanche flirts with. That was it! She flirted! I blushed! I was smitten with the theater for the rest of my life.

    Community theater, I feel, is completely underrated and one of the key factors, I think, to making our art form more resonate and relevant and even considered valuable to the average American. You don’t support the arts if you don’t DO the arts.

    Every town should have some type of theater where every little boy and girl can be seduced!

  27. Myndee Washington, Executive Director, Hernando County Fine Arts Council
    As a child, my mother took me to see “Swan Lake”. I had never seen anything so beautiful. The music, the costumes, the dancers…I wanted to enter that world and never leave. The production was by the Flint Ballet in Flint, Mi. I did go on to dance with the FBT children’s company. Now, it is hard to find regional ballet companies. It is time to fund regional theaters, regional orchestras, regional ballets, regional operas….arts locally as well as nationally. Other children deserve to be dazzled and fall inlove with the arts.

  28. Lex Leifheit says:

    Lex Leifheit, Executive Director, SOMArts, San Francisco, CA
    Emerging Leaders Council Member
    Seeing LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman at Pillsbury House in Minneapolis changed my life. The play was unsettling, and the post-show talk was uncomfortable. It was the first time I can remember being in a room where people with different experience, knowledge and opinions were making themselves vulnerable in an effort to understand and appreciate each other … through art, of course. Pursuit of that experience has defined my most significant personal and professional choices for ten years.

  29. Lynn Tuttle says:

    Lynn Tuttle, Director of Arts Education and Comprehensive Curriculum, Arizona Department of Education
    Arts Education Council Vice Chair
    I remember caroling in our small, Upstate New York town (people – 100; dairy cows – 500) when I was about 6. I remember the frustration of getting on my snowsuit, boots, mittens and hat before being allowed out of my grandmother’s house to join the carolers (an additional reason to now live in Phoenix, AZ!). I remember walking between my dad and sister, holding hands (mittens) and traipsing in my overstuffed snowsuit, arms out wide, from house to house singing carols. I remember the cold, crisp air, the excitement of performing and the joy of making music with family and friends.

  30. Jennifer Armstrong says:

    Jennifer Armstrong, Director of Community Arts Development, Illinois Arts Council
    Former Chair, Emerging Leaders Council
    A lifetime of memorable, from grand to intimate. The first is what brought me to the rest. My mother asked if I would like to try ballet lessons. I don’t recall what went through my third grade brain, but I ultimately said yes. I recognized my language. I found my place. I began my journey. Everything changed.

  31. Brian Stokes Mitchell says:

    Brian Stokes Mitchell, Broadway singer/actor
    Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
    Music was such a part of my life on my dad’s stereo. We always had Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Sarah Vaughn playing and my mom would sneak in the Harry Bellefonte and Marion McCabe records and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and my brother would sneak in musical theater, so as long as I can remember music has been part of my life and I’ve been singing for that long. I remember having an epiphanal moment listening to the stereo, when I was maybe about seven years old, I remember listening to it and there was something classical playing and I remember it struck me very suddenly that what I was hearing was not a wall of sound, a mass of sound. It was the sum of all of these individual parts and all of a sudden I could hear what the violins were doing, what the bassoon player was doing, and what the horns were playing, and I realized what an incredibly collaborative effort most arts are, but particularly music. And that struck me and that stayed with me and I really remember that as a huge epiphanal experience of my life.

  32. Pierre Dulaine says:

    Pierre Dulaine, Co-Artistic Director and Founder, American Ballroom Theatre Company
    Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
    My name is Pierre Dulaine and I’m the director of Dancing Classrooms. My favorite art form is ballroom dancing. I started it when I was 14 years old. I used to be very shy, very timid, spoke English with an accent. And children made fun of me at school, but I took up ballroom dancing and it made me stand up straight, I became very confident, and it really changed my life. I became a world champion…Now we take with the children in the public schools of New York City and around the country but what’s great about it is, it teaches children, it gives them a choice, a choice of what they could do other than just stay in their doldrum days especially in the challenging schools, in the poor areas where they don’t have much chance of success. And this somehow, they get to shake what their mamma gave them, they get to dance, and somehow their personality changes. And for me, that’s the best joy I can see in myself, seeing them, what I used to be, and seeing them laugh and have fun in their lives. And I know for a fact that 30 years down the road, this will have made a big, big difference in their own lives.

  33. Deborah Bunting says:

    Deborah Bunting, Heritage Arts Manager, Nebraska Arts Council
    Preserving Diverse Cultures Planning Member
    My first arts experience was as a youngster standing in line with my Grandmother to go inside this beautiful pink marble building near downtown Omaha. I didn’t know why we were there but knew it was special because I had my Sunday coat on. Well, the building was Joslyn Art Museum and we were in line with hundreds of others to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. That day, over 50 years ago, the museum became “mine” and I still have that sense of awe and wonder when I hang out there today.

  34. Mara Walker says:

    Mara Walker, Chief Planning Officer, Americans for the Arts
    Why fight the fight? Why is it important for our nation’s government, corporations, foundations and people to appreciate and support the arts? Because when disaster strikes, it is not just food and shelter that save people, they turn to storytelling, singing and pink houses. When an epidemic occurs, we turn to quilting to draw attention to its broad impact. When there is injustice, we turn to concerts to unite us. When we commemorate, we turn to the painter, sculptor or poet. And when we hope to learn from our history, we turn to books and literature. Art defines us and therefore is a necessity. That’s why I fight the fight.

  35. Elisa Kane says:

    Elisa Kane, Assistant Director of Development, Eastern State Penitentiary Historical Site
    NAMP Conference Attendee
    I love sitting in the theater and looking over [at my children] and seeing their fascinated faces and they’re laughing. And I’m thinking, yeah, this is the next generation.

  36. Ben Fyffe says:

    Ben Fyffe, Arts Education Program Coordinator, City of El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department
    Emerging Leaders Council Member
    A first or favorite art memory is hard to distill! So here is a stream of some of my favorites: Christmas morning, 1985—I was 8 years old and after much lobbying Santa left me 1,500 pages of famous paintings. Volunteering at my local art museum in high school and learning that art is best when people work together to understand it. Raising my hand in my first college art history course. Experiencing Yoko Ono’s work for the first time and understanding that sometimes simplicity speaks loudest. Working in a space where art made people really happy or really, really mad. Making sure Ed Ruscha’s glass was always full of ice at an artist talk. Learning the hard way, that arts spaces are about more than artists, they need to involve the community and funders! Teaching my nephews how to use oil pastels. Hearing a veteran teaching artist exclaim that she couldn’t believe for the first time in 30 years she was being paid for the work she did.

  37. Socorro Q. Diamondstein says:

    My creativity was encouraged by my mother who was a pianist and when she practiced the piano, sometimes I did not like it, because the piano would take her attention away from me. What she did,was to tell me to listen to the piece very carefully and either write the images that came to my mind, make a story, or paint the colors of the music. She would place a comforter on the floor by the piano. It worked!
    Since that moment my life has been so interesting.. I hear music, I see colors and develop images. And all of this gets intertwined with every moment of my life. I strongly believe that in order to develop any human being, to its full potential, one has to develop the creative side within.

  38. Kim Hastings says:

    Director, Jackson School of the Arts, MI
    It wasn’t until I moved to NYC after college that I found I couldn’t get enough of the arts… the museums, the theater, the dance. I now consider myself lucky to work with an organization whose mission it is to make the arts accessible to all children regardless of their socio-economic status. Every day I get to see children discover dance, theater and art. The arts are a gift worth giving.

  39. Michele Rabkin says:

    Perhaps the first time in my life that I felt truly independent was when I left California and traveled to London for a semester abroad when I was about 21. For the first time, I was discovering things for myself instead of following others or doing as I was told. It was a transformational time for me and the arts were at the core of it. Stumbling upon a Basquiat show at the ICA, returning there to sit through a five-hour performance piece, “discovering” Kurt Schwitters, going off on my own to see whatever bands sounded interesting–figuring out my own tastes, interests, and aesthetics were so intertwined with finding my own identity, even now I can’t separate the two.

    • Susan Greene says:

      Writer/Editor/Curriculum Developer
      Formerly Senior Editor – Music & Art Department, Pearson Education
      I am the daughter and granddaughter of refugees who came to this country with little but the clothes on their backs and a great love of the arts. Thus, I saw from an early age that true wealth was an intangible quality that was enriched by experiences with the arts. When, at age 6, I was taken to my first performance at the Metropolitan Opera House, I felt a depth of excitement that has never left me. In the years ahead, a felicitous series of fine teachers helped me better appreciate how each of the arts could be expressive. This, in turn, only deepened my love of opera, musical theater, and film—all multimedia forms of expression. I relished all the ways that one could be expressive… This joy was so great that I simply had to share it. Thus, in choosing my vocation, arts education was inevitable. As writer, editor, and curriculum developer, I have been able to create educational materials and public programs that help others discover their expressive potential through the arts. That gift is ever renewing.

  40. Albert Chao says:

    Albert Chao, President, CEO, and Director, Westlake Chemical Corporation
    BCA Executive Board Member
    I discovered my passion for the arts early in life through the influence of my parents, Ting Tsung and Wei Fong Chao…The arts provide enjoyment through sights, sounds, and senses. This has been the case for not only my family but to many others as well. The arts have been influential for me in my approach to life, and my involvement provides Westlake an avenue to be the good corporate citizen it is.

  41. Nina Ozlu Tunceli says:

    Nina Ozlu Tunceli, Chief Counsel for Government and Public Affairs, Americans for the Arts
    There is no doubt in my mind that when the collective voices of the arts mount an advocacy campaign, whether it’s setting new precedence or preventing bad public policy from being enacted, our unwavering passion and growing political smarts will prevail. In the last year alone, I saw how Minnesota arts advocates passed the first constitutional state amendment in the country to dramatically increase public funding for the arts and I witnessed how Pennsylvania arts advocates beat every odd in the book to defeat a sales tax on the arts and recapture most its public arts funding during a national recession. And here in the nation’s capital, we successfully convinced Congress that the arts = jobs and that we are part and parcel of this country’s economic workforce and recovery.

  42. Kulapat Yantrasast says:

    Kulapat Yantrasast, architect
    Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member
    For me, it’s about travel. And the first time I saw architecture that touched me, it felt like, “Oh God, you could really touch someone so deeply like that.” There’s a famous quote by Louis Kahn, who’s a famous American architect, that said, “You build the city so that a child who walked in the city knows exactly what he wants to do for the rest of his life.” And I think in a way, art is like that, it’s to inspire other people. And I think that for me, at least it happened for me, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do but when something like that happens to you, you feel, “That’s it.” And I think there’s a lot of things that arts could do, but people really put art in a different category, and it shouldn’t be. It should be accessible like food, you eat it every day, it’s part of a life, it nourishes your soul and your body. At least it happened for me.

  43. Scott Provancher says:

    Scott Provancher, President, Arts & Science Council, Charlotte, NC
    Classical music is my favorite art form and it was at the Albany symphony when I was 8 years old my father took me to see a live orchestra concert and it changed my life. It was Kate Tamarkin conducing Scheherazade. I worked in the orchestra world for awhile and being able to see the youth go to those performances was very inspiring to me and it felt great to kind of pass that on to the next generation.

  44. Glen Howard says:

    Glen Howard, President, Strategic Philanthropy Advisors
    Americans for the Arts Board of Directors Member
    My first memory of the arts is when I was four years old and I was asked to sing “God Bless America” for a Women’s Club meeting and I did and found that when they applauded at the end, “Boy, I like this. I think I’d like to do this more.” And so through the years, beginning with that, I began to sing more and more and now singing is something I do as an avocation because God knows I couldn’t do it and live on it. I sing with a symphonic choir, I’m the only white boy in a 200-voice black gospel choir, and an a cappella group. I love choral music because it’s a chance for people who are amateurs to come together and have the whole be greater than the sum of the parts and everybody subordinates themselves to that person who’s on that podium and is leading us and we make music.

  45. In May of 2009 I had the fortune to take part in a production of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Daytona Beach International Festival. Having the opportunity to sing with one of the best orchestras in the world, and performing such a powerful work, enriched my life and made me feel like I was part of some larger community of artists, each one of us striving towards excellence together.

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ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.

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