We could all learn a lot from the people of Costa Rica.

I’m a little biased now, having just come back from the greatest tour ever with the students of the Etowah Youth Orchestras.  I spent nine days touring Costa Rica with 37 members of the EYO.  It was an incredible experience.  The food was fantastic.  The wildlife was remarkable.  The scenery took your breath away.

We learned much about the country and its people.  Our guide was first-rate – she knew everything there is to know about the culture and the ecosystem of this beautiful country. 

But our biggest lesson was one we took directly from the people we came in contact with over the course of our journey.  We learned about community. Read the rest of this entry »

What has been realized?…What has been dreamt and yet still a reality in the eye of the artist? In a true honouring of the precedent of the original Paris – Salon, 133 artists have been accepted into the Salon des Refuses – Sights Unseen, from 4 continents, 11 countries, ranging from well established artists; Janet Echleman, Mierle Laderman Ukeles to Vito Acconi and Buster Simpson  -  to emerging artists and newly minted unknowns engaging the sphere of public art with strong aesthetics of performance, process and thinking that represents a new dynamic in to address art in public space.

After reviewing ALL of the submissions and reading the narratives provided, my only question is this: What is the future of public art when great ideas are not realized? Can temporary site interventions now take a forefront to spur change and build a dialogue about art with communities? How can artists and vision be supported in new ways that might catapult the aesthetics of art in public space and help the jury process/curatorial choices become about amazing art? What about video and new media…not so new – yet, we are all new to the experience, and the viewers in all communities and neighborhoods value the same thing, to be thought of with a meaningful dialogue.  Read the rest of this entry »

According to the Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers, giving circles are a growing trend in philanthropy that is rooted in tradition and here to stay. Also called donor circles, they are a relatively simple way for everyday people to pool their money and decide together where to give it away.  They have emerged over the last decade as a significant philanthropic trend among donors of all wealth levels and backgrounds. The Forum has identified more than 400 circles across the country engaging more than 12,000 donors, and giving close to $100 million over the course of their existence.

Giving circles, like the individuals who form them, are wide ranging—from a group of neighbors meeting around a kitchen table to loose networks to formal organizations.  A circle develops its resource by pooling funds from any combination of members’ own donations, fundraising events they produce, and/or solicitation of other individuals, businesses, or resources.

Animating Democracy has been learning about giving circles through research for our Arts & Social Change Mapping Initiative which has set out to identify and learn about who is funding work that employs art to advance social and civic change. Amidst traditional foundations and public sources where movement to fund this work is slowed by competing interests and a dire economy, giving circles offer a fresh alternative to consider. Read the rest of this entry »

Each year as we head to our respective State Capitol’s and Congressional office’s to advocate for funding we tend to forget about what’s happening in our own communities. While it is important to advocate at both the federal and state levels, we sometimes miss important opportunities in our own backyards.

There are a number of reasons for this…one reason is that many organizations are statewide and find it hard to collect information and reach out to a significant number of advocates on a community-by-community basis. Another is that it is challenging to navigate through the different political dynamics in each area. Then there’s the reason that is always prevalent in a majority of nonprofit organizations…they don’t have the capacity to cover everything.

Well, it appears from reading through The Future of the Public Voice in Arts Advocacy Green Paper that, “…plans are in place to develop a local capacity in the Capwiz on-line tool which is currently used at the state and federal levels.” I am pleased to read this and find that the Capwiz system will, at some point in the near future, be updated to include local elected officials. Read the rest of this entry »

The other week I attended the Arts Education in Maryland Schools Alliance (AEMS) annual Café. The topic at hand was integrating the arts into the core academic curriculum – i.e. using arts to teach math, history, etc.  While I support an integrated curriculum, I was struck by the focus on bringing the arts as a SUBJECT or tool for learning into the academic classroom, not necessarily bringing the arts TEACHERS, as the integrated arts model stressed teaching the academic teachers to incorporate arts projects and teaching into their teaching plans.

While I strongly encourage all teachers to take advantage of the wonderful skills arts can provide in learning, I am concerned that the integration model may lead to the further evaporation of qualified arts teachers in our schools. This particular fear was furthered by a discussion of integration as a timely choice in tight economic times –instead of a social studies teacher and a studio art teacher, how about a social studies teacher who can incorporate studio arts? In my opinion, the integration needs to occur across the board – the arts into math classes, AS WELL AS math into the arts classes, not merely the combining of them into one class.

 In NDEO’s green paper on the Future of Dance Education, the fourth threat keeping dance education at risk in American schools is the issue of: “What is dance education? Who teaches it? Read the rest of this entry »

I recently created a survey through Survey Monkey and sent it to my Facebook friends who are not involved in the arts and do not live in my town.  The purpose was to get a sense of how connected people who don’t work in the arts are with the arts in their communities. 

One question that I struggle with is how do artists who don’t teach but aren’t at a professional stage of their career – make it in the real world?  Residencies are a fantastic place for them to go to focus on their work but what happens when the residency is over? Read the rest of this entry »

In terms of relationships and the ability to bridge at least two terrains, I personally like Hermes as a possible mascot for art therapy.  All humor aside, Hermes was most commonly described as a Greek Olympian god of boundaries and travelers who cross them.  He was a translator and messenger from the gods (the spiritual realm) to the humans (an earthly realm). He was a psychopomp, meaning he was a conductor of the soul, on of his responsibilities included bringing newly dead souls (akin to those struck by symbolic illnesses in response to personal conflict or cultural affliction) from the Underworld or Hades (metaphorically – a dark underworld, a shadow world) and was attributed to bringing dreams to the living. Hermes gives us our word hermeneutics, the art of interpreting hidden meaning. 

Art therapy is very much about creating meaning, although too often meaning making is confused with interpretation. Art therapy involves both the creative emergence of meaning and the revealing of existing but veiled meanings. At its best, art therapy is a co-created experience, one in which mutual admiration and respect is given to the art making process and to the symbolic material of the individual, family or group.  It is a therapeutic experience in which art materials are used to facilitate insight, process and integrate experiences. It need not be a set of coveted techniques although they are spoken of frequently as interventions but instead covers an orientation and attitude towards everything that is creative in life. For it is the nature of imagery and creativity, like Hermes, to transcend boundaries, to dissolve them, recreate, and redefine them. Hence art therapy shares this distinctive quality of defying easy definition. Read the rest of this entry »

Video conferencing.
Smart phones.

How has technology affected the way we interact with one another?
The proponents would say that it has opened up new doors, expanded possibilities. On the other hand, critics would claim that new technology and interconnectivity is negatively distorting the way people socialize.  On occasion, I’ve stopped and wondered whether we make relationships less significant when our primary means of interactivity is a collection of Facebook messages.

Thus, if technology is mutating our relationships, how has it affected our definitions of community?
Already, we see the expansion of communities online that are defined, not by geographic proximity or traditional social groupings, but by participation in chat rooms, tweeting, and wall posts.  The definition of community is morphing from neighborhood gatherings to encompass these web exchanges and, consequently, poses interesting challenges and opportunities for those using art in community development.

John Ewing’s 24/7 Interaction: Brookline – Roxbury, which opened this past Friday, demonstrates that, while technology is changing the way we interact, an inspired artist can harness new methods of communication to not only build community, but build community between geographically defined neighborhoods.

Read the rest of this entry »

I have been giving much thought to the sustainability of small and midsize community-based, culturally specific arts organizations over the years, both as a former executive director of one such organization and also as a funder. Recently, I’ve been thinking that much of what we can learn about how to serve these kinds of organization lies in their past. The history of many of these organizations go back to the days of CETA. While I have heard here and there the impact CETA had on community based organizations, I wonder if some folks out there might be able to share with us the impact that CETA had on your organization and then most importantly what we can learn from the program and how it applies to community-based organizations today. Read the rest of this entry »

The quote “Hardening of the categories leads to art disease” is attributed to Kenneth Snelson, and his defiance to define his work as science or art. He described his work, a cross between aesthetic vision and the scientific inspiration behind the engineering of his sculptures, which defy the neat categorization of art or science. Art therapists too grapple with the continuum of the artistic and scientific but it is evident that hardening of any category related to a creative function can lead to a malady and stagnation.

Art, psychology and religion share a fluid symbolic nature. Thus it is the symbol, which is the lens that we may see the world.  It both consolidates and expands. And all symbols are relational, meaning when taken out of context they often lose their significance. Although some have their misconceptions about art and psychology, or should I say stigmas about either as a profession, they are often equally dumb-founded at the mention of combining the two into the profession of art therapy. Most of this is due to unfamiliarity with the concepts. So for clarity sake, let’s start with some of the basics. Read the rest of this entry »

There have been numerous leadership studies in the last ten years. There is an abundance of writing on leadership in the field.  Across seemingly all fields, the topic of leadership succession and development has been discussed at great length.  As new classes join the ranks, more voices are joining the dialogue.  Is the conversation changing?   How?  Who is actually reading and reacting to this bounty of information?  Are we merely talking to ourselves?  So many individual voices, but organizationally and systemically, are we really stopping to question, evaluate and change?  What is the tangible progress?  Is it enough?  Will the issue of leadership development and succession continue to be so significant for Gen X and Y ten years from now? Twenty?  Will it be a different conversation?  What about for the generations rising behind X and Y?  Do we need more radical movement or just more engagement in the discussion?   Is this truly a never ending conversation? Should it be?

 As I leave the National Arts Marketing Project family, I feel that a look back at what makes the program so special is in order:

  1. Amazing people!
    I really can’t say enough that the NAMP family rocks. Honestly, our conference is like a big party where you learn a lot of useful stuff. I’ve made friends at Arts & Business Council workshops, at our Advanced Trainings in San Francisco and Minneapolis, and at dessert breaks at Conference. Maybe it’s corny to say that marketers are extra-friendly, but all of my colleagues across the country seem to bear that out.
  2. A willingness to learn!
    I hate to admit it, but I’m not perfect. Some of the things we’ve done haven’t been perfect! Especially when it comes to developing curriculum, there have been some misfires. But I think NAMP has been pretty flexible in learning from our mistakes, and growing from them. And all of our stakeholders are pretty vocal, so feedback is really not a problem. Making that feedback count is the important thing, and we seem to be okay with that.
  3. Fun!
    A dedication to fun is pretty crucial. And we definitely have that in our office. A short list of NAMP fun I have personally experienced: a hat party during conference in Houston, a giant cupcake in New York, ice cream break in Oakland, best dance party ever at the RISD Museum in Providence, and a backstage tour of the Guthrie in Minneapolis. (And yes most of my fun is food-based.)

I would encourage everyone to find the NAMP resource or event nearest you and take part in the fun and learning!

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By Heather Noonan, Vice President for Advocacy for the League of American Orchestras and Co-Chair of the ad-hoc National Arts Education Policy Working Group

How will the next version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) support access to the arts as part of a well-rounded education for every child? This month the Administration, Congress, and arts education advocates have advanced the conversation. Now is a critical time for arts advocates to engage in the real heart of the debate.

Speaking before the national Arts Education Partnership forum on April 9, US. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan delivered his view, declaring that the arts “can no longer be treated as a frill,” and reported that, during his national listening tour, “almost everywhere I went, I heard people express concern that the curriculum has narrowed, especially in schools that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students.”

The March 13 Obama Administration blueprint for re-writing ESEA lays out the Department’s view on federal education policy. Three areas of the blueprint emerged in Duncan’s remarks:

  • Proposals would allow states to incorporate assessments of subjects beyond English, language arts and math in their accountability systems.
  • The current Arts in Education funding program would be merged with other funding areas so that districts, states, and non-profits would apply for competitive grants to support the arts among other eligible non-tested core academic subjects of learning.
  • New resources for afterschool and extended day learning could open the door for support for arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

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First of all, I want to take this time to remind everyone to please pass the word along of how important it is to continue the discussion about the future of the arts in healthcare.  This is an opportunity for us to potential shape the outcome of our field into its most ideal format.  So, please, don’t miss the chance to make an impact! Thank you to those who have already posted, and I hope that those who have not will start now!

Now, for the discussion topic of the week.  Continuing the theme from my previous post – looking at the importance of our current and future leaders being able to recognize how to equally relate the arts (and artists) with the healthcare (and healthcare providers) – I found a sentence from the Green Paper that I thought a discussion could build from: Read the rest of this entry »

Collecting short lists of memorable public art projects from a range of colleagues has been revealing about the ways that public art functions in our life and memories. Here’s what Lili Ott, the Director of the Concord Art Association has to say:

Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” in Millenium Park in Chicago just blew me away.  I’d seen lots of images of it, so I didn’t expect such a gut reaction to it, but no picture had prepared me for the way it reflected not only the clouds and skyscrapers, but also all the people under it, around it, beside it. It was like the vitality of Chicago and all the Carl Sandburg poetry I ever read and all the history of Chicago was summed up in sitting and watching that sculpture reflect all the natural and man-made life around it. Very powerful

The Gateway Arch in St, Louis designed by Eoro Saarinen, which could be classed either as architecture or giant sculpture I think, was also amazing. I loved the way it reminded people that St. Louis was the gateway to the West, all the Lewis and Clark history, all the hopes for a shining future, and then its bold clean design. And it looks so modern but it’s older than I am and the little tram seats can’t hold as many of us big fat Americans as Saarinen designed it for in the 40′s.  That really brings home how much we’ve changed.

In Minneapolis, Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claus Oldenberg and Coosje Van Bruggen, made me realize that playful public art can be just as effective and iconic as “serious” art. Made me look at the art I show in a whole new way.

Fun to think about — and I’m interested myself that the three that came into my head at first were all from trips I’ve taken in the last decade– not from all the art I see every day at work or up and down the East Coast where I’ve lived. Hmmm.  I bet you’ll get an interesting selection of answers.

Share your three personally pivotal public art project with me, either here, or via email at jjmcgregor@verizon.net.

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


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.