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Successful collaborations between brands and artists are possible, once outdated preconceptions are overcome.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

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 »

Alexandra Malik

Alexandra Malik

I remember when I applied to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). My high school experience was not ideal, and I had always dreamed of pursuing something in the arts. Sophmore year of high school I tried out for the fall drama production, and there was no going back from there. I worked hard to keep my grades up and fill my resume with impressive extracurriculars; I applied to nine different schools, really only wanting to attend NYU. The day I was accepted was probably the most memorable day of my life. It signified a turning point: I was about to embark on the journey of my dreams.

Looking back, I don’t doubt that it was the most worthwhile choice I’ve ever made (which is lucky, because I, as most high schoolers are, was pressured to make that decision when I was only seventeen years old). I learned so much about myself as a performer and a human being, and became an instrument through which characters could live, breathe, and have their stories told. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience which I will never forget. That being said, during my time at NYU, I wasn’t completely honest with myself about the realities that lay ahead of me once I graduated. It was hard to keep questions about the future clear in my head because things were so uncertain post-graduation. Still I wondered, was pursuing a degree in the arts worth it? 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 »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

It’s no secret within the nonprofit sector that volunteers are often the difference between “make” and “break,” the special sauce that keeps an organization moving forward, delivering against its mission, serving its constituents. From hands-on volunteers to skills-based volunteers to the volunteer leaders who serve on boards, it’s almost impossible to calculate the value that those who give back add to the sector. So it’s nice to know that those who volunteer benefit from the experience as well.

A national survey of 3,351 adults conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of UnitedHealth Group demonstrates that volunteering is good for your health. Here are some of the takeaways from this research:

  • Volunteers say they feel better—physically, mentally and emotionally—than non-volunteers
  • Volunteering helps people manage and lower stress levels
  • Volunteers feel a deeper connection to communities and others
  • Volunteers are more informed healthcare consumers and are more engaged and involved in taking care of their own health

If you work with volunteers—or if you are one yourself—those first three points are probably not very surprising. The fourth is perhaps a bit unexpected, but the report includes some interesting data around this topic, including people who report that volunteering helps them cope with a chronic illness and/or helps them take their minds off their own problems. Survey respondents who volunteer scored better than those that don’t on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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 »

Halley Shefler

Halley Shefler

The school year is still new, so it’s a great time to look ahead and plan ahead. Remember that your academic and performing or visual arts choices in high school should serve your longer-term goals as you prepare for college and beyond. Keep in mind that no matter what decisions you’ve made, or are about to make, you may want to refine your selections as you develop and grow. Stay focused, and at the same time, stay open to exploring new areas at all times!

Senior Arts Students — Get guidance, plan auditions, prep portfolios. Stay on track with admissions requirements by working with your guidance counselor. Let your counselor know where you want transcripts, score reports, and letters sent, and provide any necessary forms much earlier than the actual deadlines so your counselor will have time to send in the forms. Now you can finalize your audition material or portfolio pieces to best reflect your skills.

Senior Parents — Decide on early decision. Review options for early decision and early action to determine if this is the path you and your student want to pursue. Help your child complete the college list by adding application and financial aid due dates. Take a road trip. Identify the top colleges on the final list, and visit those schools. Schedule any interviews that can be completed on campus or with college alumni. Also remember to attend college fairs, and gather as much information as possible.

Junior Arts Students — Build your list of potential colleges. Start by identifying the criteria that is most important to you about college such as academic majors, size, location, cost, and/or special programs. Weigh each of the factors according to their importance to you. Then list the schools that fit your criteria, and develop a preliminary ranking of those schools. You should attend college fairs and college nights and speak with college representatives who visit your high school. Search your top college options online, and based on your findings, either expand or narrow your list. Also, if you’re in the performing arts, it’s a good time to assemble your resume with a headshot. See how the college consultants at ArtsBridge approach arts specialization.

Junior Parents — Stay on schedule. If your child is taking the PSAT, make sure the date is marked on your student’s calendar as well as yours. Remind him/her to prepare for the test and to try some practice questions. At the same time, you can help keep this from being a high-pressure situation by planning for a fun treat after the test. Step on campus. Schedule a day trip to visit nearby colleges even if it’s not where your child will apply. The idea is to explore different types of schools. Start a discussion by asking about which characteristics your student either likes or dislikes about those schools.

Sophomore Arts Students — Practice with the PSAT. Taking the PSAT as a sophomore will help prepare you for the real thing next year. It also allows you to release your name to colleges so you can start receiving information from them. Also review your courses with your guidance counselor to make sure you’re enrolled in the classes you need to prepare you for college.

Sophomore Parents — Take your kid to the fair. It’s a good time to start checking out college fairs and possibly meeting with school representatives that come to your area. Encourage your child to get a feel for the college search by attending one fair, and if ready, a session or two with representatives at school. It may also be a good time to start a preliminary list of potential colleges.

Freshman Arts Students — Plan for the next 4 years. Prepare to lay the foundation for your high school career. This is the time to establish your academic and extracurricular credentials and begin to explore options for further education and a career. Your guidance counselor is there to help you make sense of your college and career options. As soon as you can, set up a meeting to talk about your plans for high school and the future. Your counselor can help to make sure you’re enrolled in the appropriate college-prep classes.

Freshman Parents — Plant the seeds now. Encourage your child to start exploring career goals so that courses can be chosen to complement those goals and serve as good prerequisites for college. Sit down with your teen and the course listings to agree on an academic plan for the classes your child should take in high school. Lay out preliminary plans for extracurricular activities as well, allowing flexibility for new interests to develop. Naturally, you’ll want to consult with the school guidance counselor to help with all of the planning.

Students of the arts get a head start on college consulting. Learn all about ArtsBridge college counseling and see how former college deans of admissions are able to offer specialized guidance to bring out the best in every high school student of the arts.

The monthly planning guide for visual & performing arts students and can be viewed at http://artsbridge.com/artblog/

 

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 »

Katy Rubin

Katy Rubin

Today I’m writing from my desk in Brooklyn, as the founder and artistic director of Theatre of the Oppressed NYC (TONYC). TONYC, 2+ years old and growing, partners with local communities including homeless adults, immigrants and LGBTQ homeless youth to create and tour original plays inspired by real‐life struggles. Our interactive performances engage audiences in creative problem‐solving and transformative action.

Back in the summer of 2010, I was working as a freelance teaching artist. One of my employers, a girls leadership initiative, was funded in part by Eileen Fisher, the women’s clothing company. All I knew then about EF was that zen-looking women wore flowy clothes in the NY Times ads that my mother and I had always admired. Then I got a call asking if I’d come up to Westchester, where EF’s headquarters are located. The EF Community Foundation had heard that the Theatre of the Oppressed course was very popular down in the city, and invited me to teach in their pilot Leadership Institute, modeled after the same program they funded in NYC. I immediately noticed a special vibe; the first day I walked into the EF headquarters, the janitor whispered to me: “I love working here: shhh, don’t tell anyone.”

I was excited about the work Eileen was doing around girls’ and women’s leadership (being an emerging leader myself, as well as a young woman). The company was similarly excited by the Theatre of the Oppressed methodology I brought, and how it connected the young women to each other and to their communities, through identifying and transforming collective challenges. At the performance I facilitated that summer, Eileen spoke about the importance of investing in the confidence and creativity of young women, sparked by the challenges she faced when starting the company 30 years before. I didn’t know yet that I’d soon be running a growing arts-and-social-justice nonprofit, and that I would sometimes struggle to find my own confidence as a young, female leader. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

I have a love/hate relationship with collaborations. On the one hand, I think they are the greatest thing- the key to our future. They offer opportunities to further Ballet Lubbock’s mission through unique and hopefully unexpected projects to diverse audiences, act as a gateway to more arts participation on all levels, and ideally, bring in some much needed cash. When everything aligns properly, we can create something that truly is greater than the sum of our parts- something that neither we nor our collaborator could ever do alone.

On the other hand, I often wonder, “is this worth it?” This “collaboration” is a LOT of time and energy. I have to jump through so many hoops for this corporate “partner,” compromise my product, and take the time of my dancers, artists, and staff to ultimately help this business sell their products…and all for $500…or maybe even $5,000.  Ugh.

If money is what I’m after, then spending time with individual donors would be more fruitful. If engagement is what I’m after, than bringing OUR uncompromised product to the community would be easier, and often times, more meaningful. Sometimes I think these “new faces” brought in by our business collaborator see us as the hired entertainment – which may possibly do more harm than good in building our brand.

But, the flaw in my logic seems obvious. There is a distinct disconnect between my objectives and my strategies and outcomes. I was not collaborating; I was doing business with people. Of course doing business with people is a great and wonderful thing, but different than collaborating. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students.  But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.

The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning.  The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:

  1. Educators consider arts classes to be a core feature of their comprehensive educational program.
  2. Educators organize their school day and staffing to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice.
  3. Educators value how the arts can leverage engagement and achievement in school.

In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield.  This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry.  A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year.  You can see their sample schedule online. Read the rest of this entry »

Masha Raj

Masha Raj

We are half way through the “Art of Education” contest, and right now two schools from Washington State are neck and neck for the lead position: Cascade K-8 Community School (Shoreline, WA) and Kenmore Elementary (Kenmore, WA) each have over 2,800 votes so far!

It’s not too late for your favorite school to jump into the top 16 schools by using these following tips…

  1. Set a daily reminder. Remind yourself to vote – and encourage your friends and family to do the same. You can set an alarm on your phone, calendar, or clock – just be sure to set it for a time of day you won’t distract others – and when you’ll be near a computer to vote!
  2. Break out in song! Last year’s winner, Brunswick Acres, used a combination of video, dance, and music to urge the public to “Vote B.A. Daily.” Collaborate with your students, teachers, parents, and administration in your community – and let your musical talents shine!
  3. Go digital. If your artistic talents lie in the visual arts or in creative writing, consider working with your peers to create a blog or website about the contest. Be sure to include reasons why you need their vote!
  4. Get the press involved.  Write a persuasive letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Or invite a journalist to your school to showcase the financial need, meet the principal and art teachers, and see first-hand the energy of the students.
  5. Share, share, share! Be sure to send an invitation to all your Facebook friends to “like” the KRIS Wine Facebook page. Remind them often to vote – and do so creatively! If your son is in the school orchestra, snap a photo of him practicing, and email it to your out-of-state family members.  Please always be sure to thank your friends and family for their help!

The 2013 Art of Education contest runs until October 31, 2013. Vote now for the chance for your school to win. Remember – anything can happen in the next two weeks. Good luck!

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

Two recent articles make the case for strategic corporate philanthropy. And while the authors come at the topic from different angles, they agree that when corporate foundation or corporate social responsibility leaders align programs with causes that matter to their businesses, the investments yield many types of dividends.

Christine Park, president of the New York Life Foundation, offers the example of the impact her organization has had in addressing childhood bereavement. She notes that while as many as one in seven Americans loses a parent or sibling before age 20, grieving children are a surprisingly overlooked group. Since New York Life deals with families in times of grief, this cause resonates with people throughout the organization. As she explains, “…we practice advocacy with a lower-case ‘a’—with a focus on raising awareness, education, and public concern for issues where there is a clear and compelling need and little rational dispute as to the merits of the issue.”

Since adopting the “under-attended-to issue” of grieving children, the foundation has been able not only to invest resources (more than $13 million since 2007) in supporting grieving children, they’ve also been able to shine a bright spotlight on the topic and shape the national conversation about the needs of these children. They’ve forged strong partnerships with a number of leading nonprofits in the field, such as the Moyer Foundation and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, and fostered alliances across nonprofits in this category. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Delotch Davis

Alex Delotch Davis

Social media marketing seems to run the gamut of potential impact — from exponential success, a la Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, to screaming in the dark and bargaining for likes.  It’s tricky business.  Social media “gurus” make it sound like a science that you’re not analytical enough to understand or don’t have the time to keep up with, both of which are probably true.  Whatever your experience has been with social media marketing, here’s what I know for sure: it’s valuable, it’s not going away, and it’s time-consuming.

Allocating the right mix of platforms and the right amount of time to maximize social media can be difficult to manage for arts organizations with already stretched budgets.  However, engaging people that are not only savvy, but popular on social media presents a wonderful opportunity to expand your audience and check off social media on your marketing to-do list.

Adly, a startup that matches celebrities willing to post with consumer brands, calls this “amplifying” your content.  Rather than working your poor intern to death trying to get your twitter followers up, retweeting, posting, and sharing your little heart out – identify and engage the socially savvy in your community.  There are most certainly people in your immediate reach, who have a huge following on twitter, Instagram, and Vine (Facebook is so 2 hours ago) that can push your content out to the audience you want to reach. 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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

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.