Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Taking the Arts to Rural Counties

Posted by Jay Dick On November - 26 - 2013
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

I recently found myself in Santa Fe, NM for a meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Rural Action Caucus (RAC). While Americans for the Arts has partnered with NACo for over two decades, this was the first time that we have taken the arts out of the NACo Arts Commission and into one of the two the larger caucuses of the association (the other being the Large Urban Caucus).

While working with the NACo Arts Commission has proven to be beneficial in promoting the arts on the county level, it has been limited in scope. Many of NACo’s members didn’t even know there was an Arts Committee. Moving the conversation to the RAC exposes the benefits of the arts on a much larger scale.  There are 3,069 counties in America. Of this number, 70% are considered rural with populations under 50,000.  As we know, in every county there is always some form of arts and culture already in existence, but people often take them for granted. For example, at the beginning of my talk, I asked the attendees who had cultural resources, most, but not all raised their hand. After my talk, one County Commissioner approached me to say she didn’t raise her hand, but as I talked, she realized that in fact she did have cultural assets. She just took them for granted and didn’t see them as economic engines.   Read the rest of this entry »

In Tribute to Their Service

Posted by Bill O'Brien On November - 18 - 2013
Bill O'Brien

Bill O’Brien

Every November, Veterans Day comes and goes as a reminder for us to thank our American military men and women for their sacrifice and service. As our most recent conflict has transitioned into the longest war in American history, the burden of their service has become harder and harder to ignore. More and more, we are compelled to find meaningful ways to show respect.

Over the past few years, a number of  initiatives have emerged to help rally the arts in support of our troops and their families. These efforts have received a significant boost from The National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military. A broad coalition of military, government and non-profit leaders initiated by the Walter Reed National Medical Military Center and Americans for the Arts, the Initiative has staged two national summits, a national Roundtable, and has published a white paper framing an action plan to advance research, practice, and policy around the arts and the military.

As previously mentioned on this blog, the NEA has also been working with Walter Reed and the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) to improve our understanding of the impact the arts can bring in efforts to heal our troops. This partnership, which initially focused support on therapeutic writing, has now expanded into a broader Creative Arts Therapy program that also includes support for research and activities related to music and visual arts-based therapies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Artists in the Wounded Warrior Unit at Walter Reed Hospital

Posted by Shanti Norris On November - 17 - 2013
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Shanti Norris

When Smith Center for Healing and the Arts first brought professional artists into the Wounded Warrior Unit at Walter Reed to work directly with patients, the clinical staff said “we don’t know who you are, but please stay out of our way.” They told the artists to avoid patients that they considered difficult or depressed.  Within a few months, they were giving the artists referral lists of patients that they wanted them to visit with – and asked them to please be sure to visit the difficult and depressed patients.  The staff have come to see the artists as part of their healing team and even request lunchtime sessions for themselves to reduce their own stress.

Four years ago we were invited to bring our successful hospital based artist-in-residence program into what is now the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to work with Wounded Warriors in the surgical unit.  Our artists had been working with adult cancer patients at area hospitals for many years. They came to Walter Reed where we trained them in military culture and the specifics of Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other injuries of modern day warfare.  They learned hospital protocol, were trained in HIPPA regulations and went through medical and background screening requirements.  They were educated in the surprisingly extensive history of the arts in the military.  Then they went to work knocking on patients’ doors and offering sessions for family members in the family lounge. Read the rest of this entry »

November 2013 Elections Recap

Posted by Jay Dick On November - 8 - 2013
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

Depending on where you live, the past several months might have inundated you with campaign ads (Virginia), or left you wondering – what election?   Off year elections are like that, with some people hardly even noticing there was an election.  While not as dramatic as even year elections, there were a fair amount of changes that should positively impact the arts overall.

In 2013, there were two governors up for election (New Jersey and Virginia) along with the New Jersey legislature and the Virginia House of Delegates and a smattering of special elections to fill vacant legislative seats.  Further, and probably most surprisingly, there were 433 cities with a population of over 30,000 that held mayoral elections this year.  Of this number, 74 were in cities with a population of over 100,000.  Lastly, six states—Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington—voted on a total of 31 statewide ballot measures.

I won’t go into the details of each race, as there are many online sources to get this information, but rather I will focus on each of the winners as they relate to the arts.  As I can’t overview every race, I will also focus on newly elected officials, not incumbents who won re-election.  But, I will say this, I am very happy to see so many pro-arts winners! Read the rest of this entry »

Art’s Creative Healing Connections for Members of the Military

Posted by Naj Wikoff On November - 1 - 2013
Naj Wikoff

Naj Wikoff

The arts help bring home those who have put and continue to put their lives in harm’s way to protect and promote the values and way of life we cherish.

Tom Smith should not be alive. In Vietnam he was a helicopter scout pilot for the 1st Cavalry Division. In Vietnam, helicopter pilots flew through the heaviest concentrations of enemy fire and an attrition rate twenty times that of U.S. Air Force pilots, and of them, the Cavalry pilots were hit hardest having a forty to fifty percent survival rate and a life expectancy of three weeks. His job was to fly at treetop level, often at 30 mph or less to locate the enemy usually by drawing their fire.

Smith describes the cause of his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) not as a result of such horrific experiences of being shot down, the rotors being snapped off by the trees, or looking at the gunman bellow whose bullets are ripping through the fuselage, but by living with the daily grind of fear.

For me PTSD comes from living in an environment of fear more than the events that precipitated it,” said Smith. “When I got shot down and was on fire that was really scary. There was no place to put the helicopter down. I had to fly a burning helicopter for an inordinately long time to crash it and that was terrifying. When I got shot down through 150 feet of trees and had the rotor blades ripped off it was quite terrifying and painful as my jaw and back were broken. I went in knowing what I was getting into, but it’s the daily living in an environment of fear – the fight or flight fear that doesn’t go away, that stays with you after you leave the hospital and into civilian life – it changes you as much if not more than the combat situation itself.

For Smith, it was writing, taken up decades later, that helped him come to terms with and finally be able to speak openly about what it means to living with PTSD and its impact on himself and on his family. Smith’s experience is one that many veterans across the country are increasingly coming to realize; the arts can help them connect with themselves, with others who have shared similar experiences, with their family, and with their community. Read the rest of this entry »

Ajaz Ahmed

Ajaz Ahmed

Successful collaborations between brands and artists are possible, once outdated preconceptions are overcome.

Where art and business overlap: Burberry's collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

Where art and business overlap: Burberry’s collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

The poetry of ancient Persia is full of bridges. In the works of Rumi and others, metaphors are the bridges of art, in the sense that they unite two seemingly irreconcilable things. They give people a route to make sense of an alien world or concept by relating it to something familiar. They illuminate by association: here is how this world connects directly to that other, seemingly isolated world. Bridges also represent journeys between states of being, rather than just a means of get from A to B. For example, the Persian belief that people in the west are perhaps too far over on the prose side of the bridge, while the east is too drawn to the poetry side. If only we could meet in the middle, we might find a perfect balance of mind and body, of calculation and creativity.

That idea of two cultures stuck at either ends of the same bridges could be applied to art and business today. They need each other, despite their apparent differences; they are concerned with many of the same things, but that is obscured by their mutual suspicion. Perhaps a bit more metaphor and magic would be a start in changing this state of affairs. If arts practitioners and brands had the same big, captivating idea to focus on, cultural differences would be pushed to the side and more worthwhile collaborations would surely result. Read the rest of this entry »

Serving on the Arts Education Council at Americans for the Arts

Posted by Alex Sarian On October - 30 - 2013
Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Arts Education, by the very nature of our work, is a hybrid profession.  As such, I’m sure many an arts education administrator or fundraiser can share tales of woe about having to explain to board members or funders how our work is both artistic and educational – a task which only a few people, in my opinion, have managed to accomplish in our field.  But where some people see confusion as a result of not being able to label, others see collaboration… the overlap of a Venn diagram.  What fascinates me about our work is that we are the combination of two ecosystems and a place where community takes on a whole new meaning.

While all that sounds lovely, there are (too) few concrete places where one can achieve a professional sense of community – a space where folks can come together from different cities, organizations and professions to share, discuss and dream about what arts education can achieve.  For me, one of these places is American for the Arts – specifically, the Arts Education Network.

In 2011, a year in which many of us and our organizations were dealing with the ripple effects of a massive economic meltdown, I very quickly became overwhelmed by the sense of isolation and surprised by how most in our community quickly reverted into a survival mode that prevented us from seeing beyond the walls of our institutions.  We became so focused on making sure our organizations could make it through the crisis, we inadvertently turned our back on the solution: us.  I, along with everyone else, was starving for perspective.  Read the rest of this entry »

Aaron Landsman

Aaron Landsman

This is a repost from Creative Capital’s Blog, The Lab, featuring tips straight from their Professional Development Program’s Artist’s Tools Handbook, a 200+ page resource, written by PDP Core Leaders Jackie Battenfield and Aaron Landsman. The book covers everything from writing to budgeting, websites to fundraising, elevator pitches to work samples.  Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counseling, and career development services.

Getting Started: Almost all of your fundraising will be done through partnerships: with venues and presenters, advisory boards, and directly with funders and donors. Creative Capital advocates thorough and clear communications about money between funders, venues and artists. The better you articulate what you want, what you do and how much it costs, the better off the entire field will be. Thinking of your funders and donors as partners will help you find more opportunities and will make you easier to work with. You will be ready when a venue says, “We found a commission to apply for your project. We need 250 words and a few images. TODAY!” Conversely, if you find a funding source your partners haven’t reached out to yet, you’ll know how to help them through the necessary steps to bring more funding to your project. Partners will want to work with you again and again because you help them help you.

Sources of Support: Your methods for supporting your work will change as your career evolves, as your rate of production changes, and as your needs and priorities change. It may be that each project has several income streams, including sales, teaching, grants, and donations of goods and services. As with investments in the stock market, diversity is good: it helps build a strong portfolio. Take a look at the ten descriptions below; see if there are any new sources that you might consider using now, or as new projects arise. Read the rest of this entry »

A Conversation with Community Advocate John Davis

Posted by Lindsay Sheridan On October - 23 - 2013
Lindsay Sheridan

Lindsay Sheridan

John Davis

John Davis

Note: an abridged version of “Teaching Moments” from this interview, conducted by our former intern Lindsay Sheridan, was published in Arts Link, the quarterly membership publication of Americans for the Arts. John Davis is the Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts Center.

LINDSAY SHERIDAN: What is your personal arts history and educational background?

JOHN DAVIS: From a very early age, my mom was supportive of my interest in the arts. We lived in Minneapolis, and I grew up with her taking me to all the museums there. I went to college at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, so my background is in fine art and design. I studied graphic design and industrial design, but ended up taking classes in painting and sculpture. I pretty much love all aspects of the arts.

SHERIDAN: Is there an arts leader or community advocate who helped you hone your interests at a young age and develop your own career? 

DAVIS: In college I took a class on creative problem solving, and my professor was a man named Jerry Allen. I began using the principles he taught us as an approach to community development and arts administration years later in my career. I think that class and that professor were really pivotal for me. He taught us that anything was possible, and that mindset, especially when working in a rural area, is extremely valuable.  Professor Allen is definitely the first person that comes to mind when I think of people who have helped me develop a leadership philosophy.

SHERIDAN: What drove you to want to become community advocate?

DAVIS: Living in a small town, one tends to be more aware of the need for advocacy. After 25 years of living in rural communities, it’s not really a choice–one has to be an advocate. I think what that means is speaking out for others in the community and giving them a voice. It means advocating for accessibility, advocating for innovation, and advocating for the recognition that there’s value in your community, no matter what size it is. And I believe that really translates from rural small towns to metropolitan big cities.

Read the rest of this entry »

Think Local! An Interview with Randy Cohen and Michael Killoren

Posted by Randy Cohen On October - 22 - 2013
Michael Killoren

Michael Killoren

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

When it comes to supporting the arts in America, we know that there are as many different strategies as there are communities.  At the core of all of them, however, is the local arts agency (LAA).  Broadly defined as an organization or program that works to foster and support the entire arts industry within a community, LAAs can take many forms—public or private, full time staff or all-volunteer operations, standalone or functioning under the umbrella of a different agency, and beyond.  No matter what shape they take, LAAs seek to support all of the arts for all of the people within a community—a key component of our mission at Americans for the Arts.  That is why we have, in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, chosen to undertake the 2013-14 Census of Local Arts Agencies.  This comprehensive survey is designed to benchmark the financial health and programmatic trends of the richly varied, highly diverse, and extremely important work of the nation’s 5,000 LAAs and the communities that they serve.  The data collection will commence in early 2014, so make sure you keep an eye out for our dedicated LAA Census webpage, coming soon!

Here to answer some of our burning questions about the survey—why it is so important, what we hope to learn, and how we plan on using the data—are two of the driving forces behind its conception: Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research & Policy at Americans for the Arts, and Michael Killoren, Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Director at the National Endowment for the Arts. (Note: an abridged version of this interview was published in Arts Link, the quarterly membership publication of Americans for the Arts.)

Americans for the Arts Research Dept (AFTA Research): The NEA has made a significant investment in this research. Why is this work important to the agency?

Michael Killoren: A thorough understanding of America’s support system for the arts is incomplete without knowledge of the role of Local Arts Agencies, nationwide.  We have current, comprehensive data on federal and state investment in the arts – this study will complete that picture, and help the American people better understand the role of LAAs in the nation’s arts infrastructure, as well as their contributions to the cultural vibrancy of the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Jody Ulich

Jody Ulich

Here’s the truth about cities: we are all competitive.  How many top-ten lists do you see every year—Most Livable, Most “Green,” Best for Families?  We all want to be on that list, and no one wants to end up falling short.  That’s why data can be so impactful for the decision-makers in a city, and it is precisely why economic impact studies are not new to the Fort Worth-area arts community.  Yet despite our long history of participating in different regional economic impact studies, we—like so many others across the country—saw our arts funding at risk and decreasing every year.  It became clear that in order for the numbers to be truly valid to our city leaders, we needed a study that reflected solely information from Fort Worth.  Those past reports—as robust as they might have seemed—never quite belonged to us, and never gained the traction we hoped that they would with decision-makers.

That is when Americans for the Arts came in with the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV ™ report, and we started to see an important shift in the thinking.  We stepped out to ask for the economic impact of Fort Worth, and only Fort Worth.  Americans for the Arts delivered and the Fort Worth community listened. We presented those findings throughout the community to business leaders and citizens – then finally to the City Council.    The Americans for the Arts data release was perfectly timed, coming out a month before our city budget was set in 2012.  Yet even then, the council still reduced the budget.

Fortunately, during that council meeting, our mayor stood up and said, “We have to stop this; we have to figure this out.”  She made a pledge to put together a task force of citizens to solve our shrinking budget, and true to her word, she put a very even-minded task force together.  Some were arts-supporters; some were business leaders who were not so sure city money should go to the arts.  Over the subsequent five months, the group went over our economic impact findings with a fine-toothed comb.  During that time they studied and talked to people in our community.  And they looked, too, at the graph showing how Forth Worth stacked up against other cities for arts funding: it didn’t look impressive.

So after months of studying the numbers presented in the Economic Impact Study, analyzing support in other cities, and listening to citizens, arts supporters, and arts organizations, our city council listened and responded—to the tune of $1.1 million, doubling our funding from last year.  It goes to show: personalizing your numbers makes a difference, and it never hurts to get the competitive fires burning, either. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts and Health in the Military: An Introduction

Posted by Marete Wester On October - 2 - 2013
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

The purpose was to get control of my problems, medical, personal, at home, family…basically trying to fight and conquer my demons. The angel has the authority, the power over this demon. That’s where I want to be. I want to have control over my problems, to have resiliency. It’s a struggle all the time but I’m slowly learning to control these issues I had before. Pinning down the demon, pinning down my problems…” SM, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune

“St. Michael Conquers the Demon,” photo courtesy of The Art Therapy Program at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (NHCL)

“St. Michael Conquers the Demon,” photo courtesy of The Art Therapy Program at Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune (NHCL)

Since 2001, more than two million U.S. troops have been deployed in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF, War in Afghanistan), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND). The nature of these conflicts is unprecedented in the history of America’s all-volunteer force: over the course of more than a decade of war, America’s military service men and women have endured extended and multiple deployments, exposure to nontraditional combat (e.g., use of improvised explosive devices) and shortened time at home between deployments. The number of service members returning home who suffer from both physical and psychological traumas, including post-traumatic stress, loss of a limb, brain injuries and depression, has increased.

With the conflicts winding down and more troops returning home, there is a growing awareness among the public and private sectors, and the military itself, that the challenges facing service members, veterans, and their families require more than medical treatment to resolve.

Is there a role for the arts to play in addressing these challenges? Over the past two years, that question has been posed to more than 500 thought leaders, practitioners, and decision-makers from the military, government, corporations, foundations, and nonprofits  through a series of national convenings under the auspices of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military. The results have been released this week in the new report, Arts, Health and Well-Being across the Military Continuum—White Paper and Framing a National Plan for Action.

Co-chaired by Americans for the Arts and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the National Initiative represents the first time the military has come together with a coalition of civilian public and private sector partners to ensure quality access to the arts for the health and well-being of service members, veterans, and their families in communities across the country. The White Paper chronicles the more than 2-year investigation and national conversation on how the arts help mitigate the challenges our military and veterans communities face. It provides a framework for how various stakeholders can work together to remove barriers and engage in greater cooperation and partnerships. It summarizes the extent of what we know about the National Initiative’s three critical areas of interest—research, practice, and policy—and provides an introduction to the kinds of programs and services currently taking place in the realm of arts and health in the military. The recommendations it contains are bold and inspirational. They are intended to stimulate further conversation and inspire action among all stakeholders, military and civilian. Read the rest of this entry »

Who’s The Best? Bias Answers the Question

Posted by Ron Jones On October - 2 - 2013
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

There’s been so much written about the value of higher education and most of it, especially when it is positive, I agree with.   Lately, however, I have begun to question my own thinking, admitting to myself that I may be so biased and gullible that I will buy into anything that is said about higher education if it positively reflects upon my domain.

For years I have agreed with the argument that a broad, liberal education combined with arts training is the right balance, i.e., the best balance for graduating someone in the arts.  I also accepted hook, line, and sinker the notion that to be fully prepared, to have the full enchilada, so to speak, would require a student to major in a more professional degree such as the BFA.  Notice how I said, the “more professional,” with emphasis upon the “more.”

Why did I, and, for that matter, most, if not all of my world of colleagues buy into this notion of how to shape a curriculum intended to prepare an artist?  For others, it may be different but for me the answer is embarrassingly clear: the argument made sense because I was always in a comprehensive university and, therefore, what made sense was justifying the value of the institution in which I worked. Read the rest of this entry »

Déjà vu: The Federal Government Standstill’s Implications on the Arts

Posted by Kate Ostrander On September - 27 - 2013
Kate Ostrander

Kate Ostrander

Déjà vu: The Federal Government Standstill’s Implications on the Arts

It seems inevitable.  When U.S. Senators take to the Senate floor and immediately follow their words insisting they don’t support a federal government shutdown with, “but if it were to occur,” it conveys a sense of forecasted inevitability.

When Members of Congress note their shutdown “fatigue” but can’t seem to find any rest, and when a White House memorandum planning for a shutdown states that the “Administration does not want a lapse in appropriations to occur,” you know it is coming.  All the while, a real sadness and profound loss surrounds the work of our federal government that is idled, stalled, and delayed—with real implications, especially the longer it lasts without resolution.

The first “shutdown day” may prove similar to a “snow day” – an inconvenience, a loss of productivity, and maybe a respite.  But as it continues, here is how the social and economic impact through arts and cultural policy might be felt throughout the nation and in our local towns.

Photo Credit: Associated Press, 1995

Photo Credit: Associated Press, 1995

  • During the federal shutdown in 1995, the vast majority of the staff members at the National Endowment for the Arts were sent home, leaving six staff on duty. This means that grants aren’t processed, programs and events are halted and NEA partners, including the 50 state arts agencies, are cut off from their primary federal cultural agency.
  • Head Start, a federal program that promotes the school readiness of children ages birth to 5 from low-income families, is reliant on federal dollars.  Look for these programs to shut their doors on critical work incorporating arts education into early childhood development programs.
  • The facilities of the Smithsonian Institution, including museums, and zoos will be closed every day the shutdown is in effect, inhibiting tourism, school trips, creative and innovativelearning opportunities, and ongoing preservation of arts and culture. According to a Congressional Research Service (CRS) study of the last federal shutdown in 1995, closure of national museums and monuments resulted in a loss of 2 million visitors.
  • All national parks will close, including the more than 40 Artist-in-Residence programs throughout the National Park Service system.  The world-renowned Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, although also supported through a private foundation, would likely need to shutter its federally-supported operations. In 1995 there were closures of 368 National Park Service sites—a loss of 7 million visitors and local communities near national parks lost an estimated $14.2 million per day in tourism revenues.
  • Tourism and its associated economic driver and tax revenue generator will suffer. One measure of the loss to tourism is to expect visa processing delays. In 1995, 20,000-30,000 applications by foreigners for visas to come to this country went unprocessed each day and 200,000 U.S. applications for passports went unprocessed. Cultural centers receiving federal funds such as Wolf Trap and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (the nation’s busiest arts facility) could face partial closure.

This is just a brief outline of the consequences a federal government shutdown will have on the arts:  Another self-created crisis that unfortunately seems inevitable.

Please add your feedback and perspective regarding the impact to the arts and cultural community, should a shutdown occur.

Update: The White House has posted federal agency contingency plans here, including those for cultural agencies such as the NEA.

Learning to Reside in Quadrant II

Posted by Ken Busby On September - 27 - 2013

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 »

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.