Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to Build a Winning Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 2 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Welcome to the “How to Build a Winning Website” blog salon – the first blog salon written entirely by Americans for the Arts staff!

I’m Danielle Williams, the Website & New Media Manager at Americans for the Arts.

You may not know this, but Americans for the Arts has quite a few websites. Aside from our “main website” (AmericansfortheArts.org), we also manage:

This week we’re talking about AmericansForTheArts.org – which re-launched “in beta” this past December. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

If a Local Arts Agency (LAA) doesn’t produce plays or present concerts or mount exhibitions or offer classes, why does a community need an LAA? Why does your LAA need your support?

A fundamental part of an LAA’s role in the community is to increase public access to the arts and work to ensure that everyone in their community or service area enjoys the cultural, civic, economic, and educational benefits of a thriving cultural sector. In 1999, when the LAA community and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the local arts agency movement, access was the theme that ran through our collective vision plan for American communities through 2025, which included the following:

  • Fostering a lifelong continuum of arts creation, arts experiences, participation and education;
  • Bringing cultural equity and equality into existence;
  • Helping the arts bring diverse people together and bridging differences;
  • Enabling people to value the arts by participating at both amateur and professional levels;
  • Ensuring arts diversity is valued and celebrated as an expression of our humanity.

Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Soul Got To Do With It?

Posted by Donna Collins On May - 28 - 2014
Donna Collins

Donna Collins

For many individuals outside the circle of arts advocacy and arts policy there seems to be a recurring question: What is the role of the arts in job creation, economic sustainability, and the quality of life of our citizenry? The dollar, and not the soul, seems to be at the core of the discussion. I dare say you can’t have one without the other.

My knee jerk response to such queries is to shout from the rafters that by investing in the arts and incorporating arts and culture into every economic development plan, the yield will be abundant benefits to our economic, social, civic, and cultural vibrancy. The significance of the arts allows a community to generate an increasingly stable and creative workforce, new and increased tourism, fiscal infusion, and more sustainable neighborhoods. Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh Consumer and Business Data on the Local Arts Index Site

Posted by Roland Kushner On May - 28 - 2014
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

In 2010, Americans for the Arts launched the National Arts Index; this was followed in 2012 by its community-level sibling, the Local Arts Index.  The Local Arts Index (LAI) is the largest publicly accessible source of data on arts and culture at the county level.  It offers a free and easy-to-use web tool that displays information about the arts in every U.S. county in the form of 75 indicators, with data since 2009.  The site makes it easy for you to learn about your county (or the one next door, or where you’re thinking of moving) as an arts community.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts are not “only” the NEA…

Posted by Kate McClanahan On May - 9 - 2014
Kate McClanahan

Kate McClanahan

Above all, artists must not be only in art galleries or museums — they must be present in all possible activities.” — Michelangelo Pistoletto

What is art? Art is a means for social change. Art is relaxing. Art is inspiring. Art is culture. Art is pretty.

What can art really do? At Americans for the Arts we know; the arts are more than just around us or a part of us—they are also an application. Like an amoeba, they can live on their own, but when “discovered,” they suddenly are ever-present and malleable in ways you might not know, and perhaps, they are limited only by “un-thought thoughts,” or put differently, imagination. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts in City Strategic Planning: Las Vegas

Posted by Jay Dick On April - 28 - 2014
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

In another example of arts and culture growing clout nationally, Americans for the Arts was invited to speak before the Las Vegas City Council’s Strategic Planning Session, which is used to help determine the future programs and priories of the city.  I had the pleasure of being one of 12 speakers and the only one whose topic was not on transportation or from the traditional business sector.

Attending this session was Mayor Carolyn Goodman, the six City Council Members, and all the department heads of Las Vegas City Government – including Nancy Deaner, the Director of the Las Vegas City Arts Commission.

I began my talk by stating that it was my goal to make them think about the arts and culture in a new way. I began with a quick over-view of the economic impact of the arts and culture. Specifically, I distributed our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV calculator and profiled the Neon Museum.  I am certain the attendees had no idea that the museum has an economic footprint of over $4 million, supported over 150 jobs, and returned over $200,000 in local tax dollars.  Once I had their attention with that, I moved onto how the arts could be transformational. How a child’s education that included the arts could help them to be a more productive member of the local community.  How the arts can be used to help make people, especially minority populations, feel at home in Las Vegas. How the arts provide a sense of place and belonging. I believe I was successful in what I set out to do – shed new light on the value of arts and culture to a city and the people who live there. Read the rest of this entry »

Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon On April - 24 - 2014
Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Maura Koehler-Hanlon

The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

In March 2014, the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) published its annual State of the Nonprofit Sector.  While there are several reports published annually about the nonprofit arts sector—such as our own National Arts Index—this report offers the added appeal of showing how the arts stack-up to the rest of the nonprofit sector.  With a smidge over 5,000 survey responses, the arts made its presence felt with 919 responses. (Nationally, there are about 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, 95,000 of which are arts organizations.) It’s good to see arts leaders contributing to knowledge of the field by participating in such sector-wide research.

Financial Performance Indicators 

While I wasn’t one of those kids who read the last chapter of an adventure novel first, I will confess to jumping right to certain financial performance indicators in these reports. I am always curious about whether organizations are finishing the year with a deficit or surplus, or if they are breaking even. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Era for Arts in New York City Schools?

Posted by Doug Israel On February - 26 - 2014
Doug Israel

Doug Israel

Over the course of the past several years, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have been advancing ambitious plans to expand access to arts education and creative learning for public school students. Here in New York City – home of the nation’s largest school district – with a new mayor and schools chancellor, and a growing chorus of parents calling for the inclusion of arts in the school day, there is momentum gathering that could lead to a much-overdue expansion of arts and music in city schools.

This December, at the close of his 12 years in office, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a City Council bill that would require the Department of Education to provide annual data on arts instruction that advocates believe will help identify gaps in the delivery of arts education and drive improvements in what is being offered at schools across the city.

While strides were made in expanding access to arts instruction at many schools across the city over the past decade, large gaps persist in the provision of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the over 1,800 New York City public schools.

That is why on the heels of the successful effort to pass the arts reporting legislation, advocates and leaders from a diverse cross section of New York, released a statement calling on the city to ensure that every child, in every part of the city, receives arts instruction as part of their K-12 education.

The statement – entitled “Every Child in Every School: A Vision for Arts and Creativity in New York City Public Schools” –notes that New York City – with its rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and organizations – is uniquely positioned to be the leader in arts and creative education. Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

Wow!  What a great week of blogs in our first Blog Salon on Rural Arts. Thanks to our bloggers and all our commentators, followers on Twitter, and Facebook fans.

As I read each of these blogs, I was inspired and encouraged about ways the arts are helping the economy, improving place, and creating change for rural America. I am from Wyoming and was an arts administrator on the frontier there for several years, so I especially loved Michael Lange’s blogs about how the arts are playing a leading role in revitalization efforts. This is especially challenging since Wyoming enjoys “the smallest population of any state, with 575,000 people and of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations are over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000”.

Did you know that 2014 is the centennial of the Smith-Lever Act? And that the Cooperative Extension Service is celebrating through a partnership with Imagining America called Extension Reconsidered? Thanks to Savannah Barrett for her wonderful post on how important Cooperative Extension Service has been to rural arts and economic development.

Other highlights: Michele Anderson’s blog about Fergus Falls and the steps the community is taking to save the former state mental hospital-the Kirkbride Building was inspiring. I loved how this project has helped Fergus Falls re-invent itself using this magnificent building and the arts. Gorgeous photos accompanied many of our posts, including Anderson’s and Michael Lange’s (which can also be viewed on our Instagram) and I loved watching videos from the Higher Ground project in Mark Kidd and Ada Smith’s piece on the Kentucky coalfields. Janet Brown’s blogs informed by her 26 years of work in rural arts – and how she is still impacted by the Declaration of Dakota Cultural Identity – amazed me because it still resonates today and it obviously had an impact on Janet.

Finally, thanks to you – our readers – for participating in this great week of rural arts. I hope that you will continue to revisit this blog salon in the future for more creative ideas and inspiration. Fortunately, all of the posts will be archived here. If you are interested in learning more about this topic, we’re holding a webinar series on Rural and Small Communities THIS week, Wednesday-Thursday-Friday – sign up today! Also, there will be Annual Convention sessions dedicated to rural arts, so consider joining us in Nashville in June.

And if you are ever interested in blogging yourself, just send us an e-mail. Keep in touch!

The Power of Partnerships in Placemaking

Posted by Eric Rogers On February - 24 - 2014
Eric Rogers

Eric Rogers

Small places typically have small financial resources. That certainly describes the environment for Jay County (population 21,253), where Arts Place started in 1967. Small also often translates into limited audiences if an organization cannot reach beyond its traditional boundaries.

One way Arts Place has found to hurdle these obstacles has been to partner with our neighboring rural communities to create economies of scale. This approach also breaks some of the isolation natural to making the arts happen in places outside the urban mainstream.

Partnerships and collaborations have become second nature to Arts Place. While survival may have stimulated our early efforts, the benefits of such an approach have made reaching out to other communities and organizations our preferred way of making the arts happen.

Partnerships can be as simple as offering the same program in multiple communities. For example, Arts in the Parks, a series of summer workshops and community projects for children, requires significant overhead for planning, fund raising, and management during the program. But, by spreading the overhead amongst more than a dozen communities in five counties we created a more cost effective program.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern New Hampshire

Posted by Jamie Feinberg On February - 24 - 2014
Jamie Feinberg

Jamie Feinberg

Growing up in New Hampshire, my favorite days of the year — a few major holidays excepted — were Old Home Days. I loved the crafts, the animals, the special parades, performances and fireworks – it was part of what made our town so special. Cultural traditions still play a large role in defining local community identity in northern New Hampshire towns. While it can be tempting to focus exclusively on new art forms when we look for ways to use the arts as a driver of 21st century rural economic development, we’ve found that the key is often in discovering, acknowledging, appreciating, nurturing — and then marketing and building upon — what we already have.

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts defines traditional arts as “artistic activities that are passed down from one generation to the next within families and communities and are regarded by the community as part of their heritage”. Whether we’re attending contra dances, purchasing locally woven ash baskets or fishing with a hand-tied fly, traditional arts feature prominently in both our daily life and in our celebrations.

Old Home Days were created in New Hampshire in the late nineteenth century to encourage sons and daughters who’d moved west after the Civil War to come home – for a visit or to stay – and to support their hometowns. This same need – to attract young people and to reconnect with one another — exists in our rural communities today. Traditional arts have always been showcased at these celebrations, but it isn’t just the locals who appreciate them. These events have become popular with both tourists and new residents, people who are looking for authentic experiences and a glimpse of a unique community and culture. People from eight to eighty-eight can be seen both observing and participating in these community celebrations, which reflect past traditions while showcasing the best the town currently has to offer. (Oh, and did I mention they’re fun?!) Read the rest of this entry »

Rural/Urban Exchange and the Rural Model

Posted by Matthew Glassman On February - 24 - 2014
Matthew Glassman

Matthew Glassman

For many of us working in the rural arts and culture movement, years have been spent incubating and developing our model. This April marks Double Edge Theatre’s 20th year of its Farm Center in Ashfield, MA—once a thriving dairy farm community that lost almost all of its nearly thirty farms over the course of the 80s. Double Edge previously was based in Boston and had established itself as an international company both in make-up and its touring/ research activities. The company first inhabited the Farm as a part time theatrical laboratory in April 1994 and eventually moved its full-time operations here by 1997 to create an international center for performance, collaboration, and training in the heart of rural Western Mass.

The Farm Center, a vision of Double Edge Founder and Artistic Director Stacy Klein, is this singular sort of place where creative research thrives and creativity and sustainability are deeply intertwined. The mutuality and duality between ‘W’ Work and ‘w’ work is fluid and holistic in the best and most earthbound sense. Performance, farming, administration, education, and deep individual and group research flow harmoniously on this fertile landscape in cyclical evolutions.

A slow, steady, and organic development has taken place in the past twenty years that includes renovations of barns, animal stalls, and buildings – but also a focused honing of our artistic practice and methodology and a continuous elevation of collaboration with our local community.

After recent touring to major cities in transition such as Baltimore and Hartford, as well as to more developed and gentrified places like Chicago and Washington D.C. (not to mention Moscow), it has become clear to our company through these interactions with these urban communities that now is the time for more highly developed inter-local exchange and cross pollination between these rural models and urban contexts as well as cross-pollination through rural to rural exchanges. Read the rest of this entry »

Young Artists in Small Towns: Contexts of Creativity

Posted by Michele Anderson On February - 23 - 2014
Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson

I live in a small town, I am an artist, and I am young.

In my work helping other artists with their careers, I spend a lot of time thinking about the types of resources younger artists need in rural communities.  For the most part, this means just what you would expect: developing or identifying ways to help them find funding, sell their work, or learn new skills. But I also want to think more deeply than that: What kind of unique resources might actually motivate young artists to create art in the first place, be connected to their community and stick around to provide the strong, innovative leadership that small towns need right now?

In other words, what are the conditions of creativity and talent development in a small town, and how does this affect the $100 million-dollar question of rural America: Why do our young people stay or go?

Here at Springboard for the Arts’ rural office, working with and encouraging younger artists has become a priority. Last Saturday, we led a day-long creative placemaking workshop on the role of art in historic preservation and economic development as part of our Imagine Fergus Falls initiative. Much to our surprise and delight, this workshop attracted a powerhouse of young artists from the region, most of whom had never met one another before. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Arts Resources Hunting Guide: Finding your inner soup stone

Posted by Pat Boyd On February - 23 - 2014
Pat Boyd

Pat Boyd

Rural arts organizations like us are always hunting for resources. Sometimes it’s a treasure hunt.  Sometimes it’s a scavenger hunt. Sounds like fun. That must be why we just can’t stop searching out ways to support ourselves!  (Trumpets sound.) 

Resourceful is near the top of the list of most admirable traits of rural Americans, followed unfortunately but necessarily by self-reliant and thrifty.  We have to use as much imagination and skill to support arts opportunities as we do to create them.

You have license to go resource hunting within the territory defined by this circle of support and creation. Your carefully crafted mission and its resulting programs and projects come from there. They make your map, but there are no x’s to show where the hidden treasures lie.

Stray too far in your hunt for support and you risk losing your way in the real work of art.  Your role as an arts organization in your rural community is complicated in ways that belie the apparent simplicity of size and setting. Best be clear in your purpose.

As hunters and gatherers for the arts, we have to stand in that clearing and think about that purpose. If you are having trouble finding support, it is good to figure out what is the matter. So start with what really matters:

            What good does it do?                                                        

                        Who cares?

                                    What does it take to do it?

                                                What do you have now?

                                                            What are you looking for?

                                                                        How much do you need and when?

If you know the answers without thinking, you are probably wrong.  Take the time to explore the answers in full. If you go off half-cocked by making assumptions, you might hunt up some help and simultaneously create some problems you don’t need.

Getting and understanding the answers can lead to your best resources. You may be looking for support for general operations, a major program or a small project — starting up, sustaining, or starting over, you make your case successfully if you know.  Read the rest of this entry »