Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts Institute for Community Development and the Arts, fosters arts and cultural activity that encourages and enhances civic engagement and dialogue. It is based on the premise that democracy is animated when an informed public is engaged in the issues affecting people's daily lives. The arts and humanities can contribute unique programs, settings, and creative approaches that reach new and diverse participants, stimulate public dialogue about civic issues, and inspire action to make change.
Alex Parkinson, researcher for The Conference Board, urges in his blog post that arts and culture leaders need to become adept at demonstrating the social impact of the arts in terms that speak to corporate leaders. I agree! But, it’s not just about arts leaders building evaluation capacity. Social responsibility and impact starts with both cultural and corporate leaders defining clear intention and acknowledging that some shifts may be needed in defining the metrics that matter when assessing arts and corporate social responsibility investments. Read the rest of this entry »
In our 21st century digital world, the power of storytelling has become platinum currency that many corporations use to address intractable and large scale issues. Recent findings from the Animating Democracy program of Americans for the Arts suggest that arts organizations now have a chance to reinvent corporate partnerships and engage new audiences by fully engaging corporate marketing, communication, and evaluation resources.
Corporate layoffs, limited cash resources, and employees eager to volunteer are changing the models and metrics for support of the arts. This quest for greater social impact is leading to innovative, nontraditional arts programming everywhere. At the same time, the complex, cross-cutting challenges facing local and global communities are generating more interaction between disparate cultural, economic, and social groups. Read the rest of this entry »
It is a beautiful and often overlooked truth that most corporations—like arts organizations —are the result of someone’s imagination and desire to serve people. An individual or a few people dedicate their efforts to inventing something that can make people’s lives easier or create opportunities.
A man concocts a syrup recipe that can alleviate headaches and stomach pains. This becomes Coca-Cola. The enterprising Wright brothers dream of a flying machine that can take people anywhere. Their innovation leads to the creation of the airline industry. An immigrant from Italy uses his own money to provide loans to Italians in San Francisco turned down by other banks. This becomes the Bank of America. Read the rest of this entry »
The following two blogs by Helen Goulden and Caroline Mason were originally published on the Arts Impact Fund blog, and are great posts for this week’s Blog Salon on Corporate Social Responsibility.
Advancing the Art of Finance Helen Goulden, Executive Director, Innovation Lab, Nesta
The Arts Impact Fund is a new £7million fund that brings together public, private, and charitable investment to support arts organizations in England and the first of its kind to focus on their social, artistic, and financial return. The fund was created and funded by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and Nesta, supported by Arts Council England and with additional funding from Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. It was convened with the help of the Cabinet Office, to demonstrate the significant social value created by arts organizations and support their work through loan finance. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s a Weeksville?
Established in 1838, Weeksville became the second largest known independent African American community in pre-Civil War America, the only such community whose residents were distinctive for their urban rather than rural occupations, and the only one that merged into a neighborhood of a major American city after the Civil War. Therefore, Weeksville Heritage Center (WHC) is a nationally significant American historic site and a documented example of an intentional, independent African American community.
Amazed and Appalled!
I first arrived to WHC as a candidate for the position of Executive Director on a wet and chilly February evening in 2014. I had no idea that my ancestral memory was about to be awakened by a soul-stirring experience with the Historic Hunterfly Road Houses, the sole remaining domestic structures of the historic Weeksville Community. Read the rest of this entry »
Some people are numbers focused, others are creatives. In business, it is often the metrics and the people behind them that pull the strings and the corporate philanthropy field is following the same path. Social impact is increasingly measured by data and used by corporate funders as the basis for grant-making decisions. This trend has not necessarily been kind to the arts sector, as corporate giving budgets have reshuffled to target organizations and initiatives that can quantify their impact.
Giving in Numbers: 2014 Edition found that total giving to Culture and Arts fell by 20 percent between 2010 and 2013, a result that suggests organizations operating in the field have struggled to successfully capture the metrics and information necessary to demonstrate impact in a way companies can understand. Americans for the Arts is responding to the decline, however, with a shrewd assessment of the place arts has in the corporate philanthropy world—it’s not just about impact that can be supported by data, but about using creativity to broaden conversations and generate support. Read the rest of this entry »
When most people think about a convention center, they think of a stark gray, open exhibit hall. It’s true, most meetings facilities are purposefully very empty and plain, allowing for greater flexibility and customization depending on the meeting planners needs and set up. But when we built the BCEC 15 years ago, I wanted to change the perception of the “ugly convention center,” not just by enlisting a world class architect in Raphael Vinoly to create a distinctive exterior design, but by also rethinking the interior, creating warm, bright, and vibrant spaces that were more inviting than the convention center’s meeting planners were used to visiting in the past.
I also knew that I wanted the kind of environment that allowed our guests walking through the doors of our meetings facilities to feel not like they were in any-center-USA, but to know that they were meeting in Massachusetts. I’ve found that the best way to do this, in addition to hiring a diverse staff that is reflective of the communities surrounding our centers, is to tap into the local and prolific arts scene in Massachusetts. Read the rest of this entry »
Our story culminates with beautiful music, healing, and hope. However, the origins of the Angel Band Project sprung from the depths of horror the night my best friend, Teresa Butz, was raped and murdered.
Just after midnight, on July 18, 2009, Teresa and her partner, Jennifer Hopper, were attacked at knifepoint in their Seattle home. The intensity of grief and pain was magnified by the fact that it happened suddenly and with such violence. Her death left an indescribable void for all who loved her–a virtual canyon of despair that summoned more than just making a casserole and telling her family we were sorry. But what act of kindness or charity was worthy of honoring her memory? Read the rest of this entry »
At Neuberger Berman, passion for art is embedded in our culture and we believe that art is a critical and inspiring form of expression. Roy Neuberger, our co-founder, had a deep appreciation for both art and artists. Supporting living artists brought him great joy.
Roy also felt that art should be accessible to everyone and donated much of his personal collection, creating the Neuberger Museum of Art. The Museum is located on the Purchase College campus and is open to all. We continue to honor Roy’s legacy by maintaining a vibrant collection of contemporary art in our offices, much of which was purchased under his direction, adding character, color, and richness to our workplace. Read the rest of this entry »
“Our Board often asks why we aren’t giving more money to education, but they never ask why we aren’t giving more to the arts.”
Arts organizations face a unique challenge, as they are often viewed as an extra or nice initiative to fund, though not essential in comparison to other charitable causes. Corporate Social Responsibility & the Arts demonstrates that this is not actually the case. Arts organizations can—and do— help businesses address key goals. Read the rest of this entry »
Free Arts NYC provides underserved children and families in New York City with a unique combination of arts education and mentoring that helps them to develop self confidence and resiliency needed to realize their fullest potential. While most Free Arts programs provide long term mentoring opportunities, our Free Arts Days are one-time “pop up art festivals” in which corporate volunteers are paired 1-on-1 with a child.
Long term mentoring has many proven benefits: increased confidence & self esteem, children more likely to attend college and grow up to give back to their communities, and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors such as skipping school or abusing drugs, just to name a few. However, Free Arts see that even one-time pairings have positive effects on both corporate volunteers and children. Read the rest of this entry »
Welcome to Americans for the Arts blog salon on Corporate Social Responsibility!
This week, you’ll hear insights from corporate leaders who are using arts and culture as a tool to advance their corporate social responsibility goals—as well as for community and social good—and the artists, administrators, and cultural workers who partner with them to advance social good through the arts. Read the rest of this entry »
“Our experience of the beautiful in the recognition of models that make world and community is restricted to the moment when these worlds and communities present themselves explicitly as the plural” – Gianni Vattimo
“We is not the plural of I” – Emmanuel Levinas
Beauty and the We. Beauty as an articulation of the plural, announced in engagement practices, is the experience I know and have been lucky to support in my career. Most recently, as the Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Our team has supported 66 projects since 2010 that advance civic well-being, civic engagement, and community building of the We through the arts. Most prominently, this happens through the PLACE (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, our placemaking/civic engagement platform. These projects create art experiences that shape the identity of place, present visions and manifestations of social cohesion, and activate democracy so as to build and animate the commons. And where is Beauty in PLACE? Read the rest of this entry »
I received an invitation to participate in this blog salon on the relationship between aesthetics and arts in community development and social change work by way of my work as an artist and organizer around socially engaged art, however my response is most informed by my work as an educator.
From 2007-2014 I served as the co-director of an MFA program focused on art and social practice. The mantra of the program could have easily been that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The students did not receive studio spaces and instead created their work out in the world through collaborations and partnerships, embedded in communities. The program sought to educate and activate students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of education that created engaged citizens. But perhaps the most important aspect of the curriculum was that it asked artists to consider their relationship to and placement in society. So the core questions of this invitation, “But what happens when we assess art not just for art’s sake, but also for its civic purpose?” was a familiar one. Read the rest of this entry »
A year ago, New York City voted in its first new mayor in 12 years. The city council election resulted in new members in almost half of the 51 seat council. It was an exciting time for the progressive communities—for all those that have fought for social change through the fields of education, immigration reform, fair wages, affordable housing or, of course, the arts. While the Mayor’s new platform addressed many of these items, it did not include an arts agenda or integrate a strategy to use arts and culture to support a more just and equitable city for all. Over the past few months, I have seen NYC—its new administration and city council—struggle with finding new frameworks. I have been thinking about how the aesthetics of language and framing influence how we understand our communities, their challenges, opportunities, the role of arts, and how policies may be considered. One example of this is how NYC is grappling with the broken windows theory and its legacy. Read the rest of this entry »