The Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Network works to identify and cultivate the next generation of arts leaders in America. It is an ideal way for new leaders to share their interests with others as they continue to develop their skills and their commitment to the arts. The Emerging Leader Network targets professionals who are either new to the field, with up to five years of experience, or are 35 years of age or younger. Visit AmericansForTheArts.org for more information on the Emerging Leader Network.
I just had the most wonderful opportunity to participate in the Executive Leadership Forum with Americans for the Arts. Eighteen executive directors of Local Arts Agencies from Alaska to Florida spent four days at Sundance Resort discussing all manner of topics, including diversity, cultural districts, the art of healing, and navigating change.
We bonded quickly, and shared information that might be difficult for any of us to share aloud in our respective communities. Here, we had the opportunity to discuss issues openly and honestly with a goal toward resolution and developing a way forward.
For me, and I actually think for all my colleagues, probably the most impactful session came near the very beginning of our Forum. David Grant, former President and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, led us on a journey of, “Thinking Past Urgent: Organizational Assessment, Decision Making, and Change.” What David showed us was a number of “mental models” that help diagram how we approach our jobs, work with our boards, engage staff, etc. Read the rest of this entry »
It is a beautiful Saturday morning in April. Students from a local high school are hosting a public art-based bus tour they developed in connection to Milwaukee’s civil rights movement of the 1960s. As with any “optional” program (held on a Saturday morning nonetheless) we are a little nervous about how many students will show up. As the bus pulls up to the meeting spot the lead teacher climbs out with a smile on her face and tells me “every student is here.”
Engagement is often an ambiguous word in community arts education. We talk about “engaging” families, “engaging” students, “engaging” community – but we are rarely exact in our definition. What does engagement look like? How do we do it? The terms “civic engagement” and “youth engagement” emerge in nearly every conversation around community arts, from marketing strategies to program development.
I found a pretty good definition of community engagement in the arts on the National Guild for Arts Education website.
“What is community engagement? Community describes the people and organizations that are related to a community arts education provider’s mission: students, parents, families, artists, partner organizations, schools, government agencies, and so on. Engagement describes an active, two-way process in which one party motivates another to get involved or take action—and both parties experience change. Mutual activity and involvement are the keys to community engagement. Sometimes organizations interpret community engagement as collaboration, marketing to diverse audiences, or developing programs for underserved groups. While those are all worthy and necessary activities, an engaged community arts education provider does more. It promotes consistent community interaction that is a step beyond conventional programmatic partnerships. Consistent community engagement is not program based; it is part of organizational culture” (2013).
I like this definition for two reasons:
1) It describes engagement as a two-way process. I interpret this as an environment in which an organization has a strong enough relationship with a community where the community feels comfortable engaging the organization. This flips the dynamic of what we typically think about when we refer to community engagement.
2) It asks for more than an initiative or program. Community engagement needs to be an inherent part of the culture of the organization. Over time, some organizations and institutions have created cultural barriers through a service-based model; today many of those same entities are asking how to engage with that same community they serve. I think we need to start by reframing the relationship dynamic between “organization” or “artist” and “community.” Community isn’t some vague entity for whom we provide services; community is a group of people who are our active partners in programming. Read the rest of this entry »
Americans for the Arts (AFTA), recently released Local Arts Agencies Salaries, 2013, a survey of 700 national service organizations that serve the cultural sector. While salaries in the nonprofit sector are usually below those in the for profit sector, salaries for leadership arts service positions seem reasonable given the overall environment and the salaries in the entertainment industry as a whole. The average salary for all executive directors in the AFTA survey is $78,394. For comparison, the mean salary for “Top Executive, Civic and Social Organization” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $95,810. Service organization salaries also seem reasonable compared to Performing Arts Executive Directors, $96,85-(BLS), and Top Executive Director, Museum, Historical Site and Similar Institution, $106,000 (BLS)–particularly when you take into account that the BLS figures include both forprofit and nonprofit positions.
The Salary Survey is a comprehensive and insightful survey but, unfortunately, the real news here is not about salaries of local arts agencies executives. The real story lies in the stark lack of diversity amongst leaders of arts service organizations and the sector as a whole. Eighty six percent of respondents identified as white (90% of Executive Directors) and 75% were women. Perhaps even more troubling, only 2% of respondents identified as Black/African American. The Voice of NonProfit Talent has documented that this lack of diversity carries through the full nonprofit sector, with overall nonprofit employment being approximately 82 percent white, 10 percent African-American, and five percent Hispanic/Latino. While I can’t source a definitive survey of just cultural nonprofits, I think it is reasonable to assume that results for culture would be similar, in particular when one looks at the demographic make up of the majority of cultural audiences and the demographics of the many cultural sector conferences for arts professionals annually. Read the rest of this entry »
In reflecting upon the results of the Americans for the Arts salary survey three things arise for me. The first is the issue of wages. The second is the issue of demographics; both of which are immediately addressed in the Executive Summary for the piece. The third issue that derives from the first two is the question of relevance.
When we address the first issue, that of wages, the question that surfaces for me is, relative to what? When we examine our wages in relationship to each other are we perpetuating a construct in which not enough becomes normative? I am completely alert to the fact that I am constrained when contemplating wages and wage increases for my staff, knowing that each worker will add to a cost structure that is difficult to sustain. And, if I am not able to pay reasonably well, I am unlikely to attract and retain the talent that will help to create the mission impact my organization aspires to. Read the rest of this entry »
Local arts agencies are like snow flakes. Each one is unique. Geographic region, cost of living, population size, budget size, staff size, number and type of programs, reporting structures, government entity or 501c3… These factors are all variables in defining the local art agency. In turn, they are also factors affecting the salaries of agency staff members. While each agency is unique, Americans for the Arts’ Research Report: Local Arts Agency Salaries 2013 highlights trends, commonalities and areas requiring a conscientious endeavor to improve.
There are glaring issues highlighted in the report: the ethnic diversity of agency staff, gender diversity and gender equality. As a field, there is clearly more work that needs to be done here. We must be deliberate about identifying opportunities to improve ethnic and gender equality.
Another important issue is age. The data reports that the average age of the full-time employee is 52.5 years. Let’s continue to engage the next generation in the relevance of our work and empower them as leaders. There are many good programs and initiatives looking to move the needle on succession planning in our field. Skill development, networking, mentorship, and hiring of young professionals are areas that all agency leaders should consider part of their responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry »
Artists and their art are as diverse as our communities, but arts administrators are not. After reviewing the Local Arts Agencies Salaries 2013 research report, one thing jumped out at me: The arts administration field has a diversity problem. It’s not shocking to me that the salaries of arts administrators are not commensurate with their skills, education, experience, and responsibility (I have friends working at a utility company as coordinators who make more than Art EDs) but the demographics, although somewhat expected, are disconcerting. Ninety-two percent of the report’s respondents who identified as Executive Directors or CEOs are white. Eighty-six percent of the overall respondents are white.
The American for the Arts national convention gave me a lot to ponder about race and demographics, particularly Manuel Pastor’s presentation and the numerous conversations I had with my fellow Emerging Leaders on the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change.
Growing up in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los Angeles, a working poor Latino neighborhood, I did not know any white people (aside from those on television) until I started college. Even in college, I never felt like a “minority” because there were always plenty of people with backgrounds similar to my own. It wasn’t until I began working in the arts field that the label “minority” seemed appropriate for me. In the subsequent years at many of the arts meetings, conferences, and events, I was the only Latino attending. I found it very strange. In Los Angeles, where whites make up only 27% of the population, they made up the vast majority of the local arts administration field. I came to understand that when the cultural diversity of a community is not reflected in the individuals attempting to serve the community, the very act of communicating becomes a barrier, which limits the knowledge of needs, wants, and opportunities. Read the rest of this entry »
The greatest biodiversity in the world occurs at the fringes between two ecosystems. That’s what I heard last month when hearing a panel discuss the intersection of arts and natural resources. The panel included a nature photographer, an education expert from Zoo Atlanta* and a landscape architect amongst others. It was fascinating to hear about people’s work at the spaces between the arts and other fields. It was a technical and ecologically specific fact, but one that likely resonates with all those working at the fringes of very different worlds.
Planning for Diversity
Last summer, the board of our metropolitan planning organization, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), voted unanimously to add arts, culture and creative industries into their scope of regional planning. Arts and culture were brought into a dialogue with transportation, land use, aging services, natural resources, workforce development and other regional planning priorities. The integration of arts into the functional areas of planning means the incredible resources and tools available at the commission are now being leveraged to help create solutions to the challenges that exist within the cultural community.
The creativity of my colleagues never ceases to astound me. While I thought it might be a challenge to talk about the fringes between the worlds of watershed protection and the arts, my peers who work to protect the Chattahoochee River Corridor, for example, were full of ideas about where these intersections occur. Land use planners, those who work with lifelong communities and transportation experts have all articulated what is unique about bringing arts and culture to the table, and what their field will be able to do with these new tools that they would not be able to accomplish otherwise. Diversity thrives where the fringe between ecosystems overlap.
Biodiversity in the Arts Ecosystem
The biggest challenges exist for our work not when we discuss where the creative industries meet other sectors but where we try to find the common ground within our own sector where areas of the creative industries overlap. Read the rest of this entry »
This is my 149th ARTSblog post as a writer. It’s also my last—at least as a staff member here at Americans for the Arts.
I have been with the organization for almost six years and started blogging four years ago (after becoming ARTSblog editor a little over two years ago).
In those two years, I have tried to write, recruit, or find at least one relevant post per day to publish on the site. Some weeks were easier than others, but it is pretty amazing to see the depth and breadth of the quality of the posts that I have had the pleasure of adding to the site.
And, of course, I can’t help but think of the 20 Blog Salons I have worked on along with the fantastic program staff at the organization who work hard to find the bloggers, gather the posts, pictures, and profiles, and send them along to me for editing, formatting, and social media promotion.
While those weeks are some of the more stressful due to the work that it all entails, I think the fantastic collection of resources in the right side bar speaks for itself.
I’m leaving ARTSblog in the perfectly capable hands of our marketing and communications staff members, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for visiting our little corner of the web to read, comment, and share the amazing work of our bloggers.
Americans for the Arts represents a diverse group of interests—from arts administrators to marketing professionals to advocates to arts-education-supporting parents—and I hope that my work on the site has represented you at one point or another. If it hasn’t, I hope you will consider adding your voice to the mix sometime soon.
Until next time…
We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.
This time I have turned to Valerie Beaman who currently serves as Private Sector Initiatives Coordinator.
1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less:
Program planner, council wrangler, seeker of speakers and bloggers, herder
2. What do the arts mean to you?
In my family it was an anomaly if you weren’t involved in the arts in some way. We are all a bunch of introverts and eccentrics who’ve managed to stay sane by participating in the arts. My first stage experience was as a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Redlands Bowl at age 3 ½. I still get goose bumps when I hear Mendelssohn’s music for the entrance of the fairies! Experiences like that never leave you. It’s very important to me to that children everywhere have an opportunity to connect with the arts. They’re a lifesaver. Read the rest of this entry »
Once again, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University has proven to be a smashing success. The EALS is in its sixth year of existence. The event is an annual meeting of students and young professionals who work in the arts that is held at American University. As national partners with Americans for the Arts, EALS is the official kick off for Arts Advocacy Day, and is held the day before.
It is an opportunity to engage in quality discussion about issues, unique or universal, that affect arts organizations with students, peers, and experienced leaders in the field. Past keynote speakers have included Rachel Goslins, Ben Cameron, Bob Lynch, and Adrian Ellis. All symposium activities and planning is organized and executed by a selected committee of American University Arts Management students.
The framework of EALS 2013 was “Looking to the Horizon.” Each speaker and panel discussed the new and innovative strategies and ideas coming down the road in each of the topics addressed that day. These topics included international arts management, marketing, audience engagement, career advancement, innovative organization models, and fundraising.
As the Executive Chair, I am elated to report that EALS 2013 was by far the largest and most successful Symposium ever. Counting the speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers, 225 people walked through the doors on Sunday, April 7. That proved to be well over double last year’s number, a record growth for the Symposium. Read the rest of this entry »
Having been engaged with the Emerging Leaders Network for several years now, I remain thoroughly impressed with those whom this network connects me to. These individuals represent a group of next generation leaders filled with great capacity, innovative approaches, and a strong vision for how to strengthen their organizations, the arts field, and their communities.
Over the course of the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon these past five days, we had the privilege to meet 22 more of these arts leaders, each filled with insightful and passionate approaches to what they feel would make where they live a better place or bring it to the next level.
In a time where we are both witnesses and participants to massive change on local and global scales—both in the arts & culture field and in the general landscape of our communities—we as arts administrators need to be ready to tackle the challenge of using art as a catalyst for the betterment of the places and the people we belong to.
And after reading through these posts this week, I’d say we’re up for the challenge.
We’ve heard a wide range of ideas, including incentivizing an arts district and cultural planning; the challenge of making an arts and culture identity known when it sits in the shadow of a major city or a large tourism industry; and ideas on how we can create social bridges, claim public space, and enable the ability of a community to tell their own story. Read the rest of this entry »
My headline was intended to be something of an eye-catcher—who can resist a story about crime and scurvy, right?
Best of all, my claim is true. The thinking goes something like this:
- Scurvy, the clinical manifestation of vitamin C deficiency, is on the rise in developed nations. In the United Kingdom, for example, reported cases of childhood scurvy rose 57% between 2005–2008.
- Public health studies indicate that poverty is driving the re-emergence of the disease.
- Access to free, fresh, vitamin-c rich foods will reduce incidents of scurvy.
Ergo: planting fruit trees and vegetables in public spaces will reduce scurvy.
And what about crime, I hear you ask? Well, since 2008, a project in Todmorden, UK, has been growing fruits and vegetables in seventy public beds dotted around the town.
The produce is free to whoever chooses to pick it, and, as Incredible Edible co-founder Pam Warhurst explains: “The police have told us that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since we started.” She continues: “If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it.” Read the rest of this entry »
What would make where I live a better place?
I want Broome Country, upstate New York to value its own commitment to the local arts. Own it! That is, I don’t want to have to have to feel the need to convince my graduate students and other community members—friends and colleagues—that the arts in Broome County, are diverse, vibrant and, yes, cutting edge.
The evidence is out there. In practice, the community—my students included—of Broome County supports and attends arts and cultural experiences and events, but I am finding we don’t always value this commitment we have for the local arts. Let me explain.
I first started noticing this with my students. I teach a nonprofit administration graduate class in a Masters in Public Administration program. In the class we emphasize capacity for community-based practice and discuss various policy areas such as social services, work development and yes, the arts. When I asked my students who had recently (in the last two weeks) attended an arts and cultural event, all—every single one of my students—confirmed they had. Activities and events shouted out were attending a local history museum, participating in the city’s monthly Art Walk, going to a local theatre production, screening an independent film at a local nonprofit organization.
While certainly not a representative, scientific sample, it surprised me. It surprised me because I consistently feel I need to convince my students of the cultural aliveness of our community. As I am trying to convince my students, they brush me off as being just easily excitable. Meanwhile they are actively participating in this cultural aliveness and don’t even realize. They don’t value the arts community that they are creating. Essentially they don’t value what they value. Read the rest of this entry »
It was during my third year as an undergraduate art student (Go Slugs!) that I met Frank, my abstract painting professor.
I’d never been more frustrated with a syllabus or a teacher in my whole life as I’d been with Frank. He gave us rules by having none. “Paint like you mean it,” he would say. “But don’t think about it. And don’t really mean it.”
The careful, thoughtful, planner inside me cringed every day in that studio. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do, so I constantly monitored what everyone else was doing and followed instructed suit.
The bi-product: A six-foot tall canvas spread wildly with a cake frosting texture of Alizarin Crimson and Flake White oils. It took me over a month to create and countless two a.m. sessions to perfect.
I hated it. Truly—I gutturally despised it. It didn’t get better when I squinted my eyes. Or when I turned it upside-down. Frank loved it the moment he laid his eyes on it. “This is the best thing I’ve seen this year,” he gushed, hands literally clasped to his cheeks. Read the rest of this entry »
Imagine, if we saw social media more like an artist’s studio or cafe and less like a marketing channel?
While walking through the exhibit, Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects at the Arts Institute Chicago last November, I felt like I was seeing into the private design space of the architect.
The exhibit was an installation of an architect’s studio with concept drawings, full-scale project mockups, material samples, and photographs of completed work that now form part of the Chicago city skyline. This exhibit was a celebration of the work of the artist behind their city stage.
The work of the artist backstage, however, many don’t experience. The space is unorganized and cluttered; the work in progress, being constructed, deconstructed, is unpredictable and incomplete. This is why many artists and arts managers do not openly bring backstage onstage and into the public eye—because it is messy.
Imagine for a moment, however, if we did? Read the rest of this entry »