Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

How to Pick the Best Partners for Your Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Now that you’ve decided that you need a new website, figured out your audiences, and garnered support from your leadership and staff, you should be ready to select a team of professionals to help you with the website overhaul process. There are very few organizations who can completely handle a web redesign in-house, so it’s important to have great partners who can help you through this project.

At Americans for the Arts, our Marketing, Communications and Technology Department includes a Vice President, a 5-person Marketing and Communications team, a 3-person Web team, and a 5-person Database and internal IT team. Though our entire 70-person staff played part in this project (as we detail later in this blog salon!), our Web team and VP were primary, working with our external vendors and with a good deal of content help from Marketing and Communications. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting Buy-In for Your Website Redesign

Posted by Kimberly Hedges On June - 3 - 2014

Kimberly Hedges

Most projects start with the need to address a deficit, and redesigning a website is no exception.

Your current website may not be serving your visitor’s needs, the content might read like a brochure or look dated, the layout of the site may make it hard to find the best content you have to offer, or maybe the design looks like it was built back when we still used DOS. (Well, maybe not that bad, but you know the feeling.) There is just no denying that your website could be doing more.

When addressing a known deficit, you would think that getting buy-in and support for your project to address that deficit would be a breeze. (Everyone agrees on the problem, so everyone should agree on the solution, right?)

However, big deficits come with big needs. Read the rest of this entry »

10 Ways to Improve The Website You Already Have

Posted by Joshua Jenkins On June - 3 - 2014
Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Who doesn’t love a good list?

I’m Joshua Jenkins, Americans for the Arts’ Website Coordinator, here to drop some hints and tips on website improvement. I started at Americans for the Arts in the summer of 2013, and played a large role in the final push toward the website launch in December.

In a perfect world, you’d snap your fingers and a shiny, new website would appear live on the internet. However, as you’ve read already and will continue to read during this blog salon, there are a lot of important resources you need on-hand when redesigning your website.

Sometimes, a complete website redesign may not be in your organization’s budget, or you may have recently redesigned your website and can’t commit to a full design update just yet. Good news: these circumstances don’t have to stifle your ability to improve your users’ experiences while visiting your organization’s website.

Take a look at these simple, effective best practices that you can implement to offer your users the best experience – whether you’re fixing the site you have, or just starting the redesign process. Read the rest of this entry »

Content is King

Posted by Caitlin Holland On June - 3 - 2014
Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

As Bill Gates famously said in 1996 at the dawn of the internet revolution, “content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.”

Almost two decades later, his predication rings true. Winning websites have quality content that is compelling enough to grab and hold readers’ attention.

As the Communications & Content Manager for Americans for the Arts, my role is to do just that – I identify, create, and distribute valuable messaging and stories from each of our programs to attract, acquire, and engage Americans for the Arts’ constituents.

Content improvement is a constant job – as soon as you make it through one section of the website, it’s time to tackle the next. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for creating quality website content – or the sometimes-more-difficult process of working with others to create quality web content – but here are some tips and general rules that worked well for our staff. Read the rest of this entry »

The First 3 Steps to Your New Website

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

Danielle Williams

So, you’ve figured out that you need a new website, eh?

Whether you came to that conclusion on your own, or with the help of our quiz, you’ve now realized that it’s time to give your website a little TLC.

But, where do you start? Do you call a vendor immediately? Do you start on a new design? Do you just delete everything you dislike as fast as you can, in the hopes that no one notices?

And what if you have yet to find the all-important funding in your budget for the aforementioned TLC?

Well, I have good news: the first few things you should do when you’re ready to overhaul your website are absolutely free. They take some time, but they’re important and they’re free

1. Take a look at your stats.

Hopefully you already have Google Analytics set up on your website. (If you don’t, get on that ASAP! There are great tutorials online, and once you install the tracking code, you can view reports within 24 hours.) Read the rest of this entry »

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!