Marete Wester

Marete Wester

I don’t have a Twitter account. I’m not morally opposed to it, or taking an anti-technology political stance—I’m merely a social media “slow adapter.” Since it’s one of those things I know it will take me a while to learn, it’s not high on my priority “to do’s”—at least for now.

Which is why I’m always amazed when a colleague emailed me that I’ve been quoted on Twitter, as I was recently speaking on a panel at the Face to Face conference hosted by the Arts in Education Roundtable in New York City (Feb 22 & 23).

The Face to Face conference had several hundred attendees, with a significant number of first-timers. While many of the panels were thoughtfully focused on building skills and improving practice in delivering solid learning in the arts, others were targeted towards advocacy and making the case.

The comment that made the tweet was something I said as a member of the Arts Education Advocacy panel moderated by Doug Israel of the Center for Arts Education, featuring NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and NYS State Alliance for Arts Education Executive Director Jeremy Johannesen.

In response to a question about how we would describe the current environment for arts education from our respective vantage points at the local, state, and national level, I apparently said something tweet-able. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Although Congress quickly avoided a government shutdown this week, arts education funding somehow managed to get caught up in the two-week continuing resolution Band-Aid that was passed by both the House and Senate yesterday.

While the Continuing Resolution (CR) keeps the government running for another two weeks, it also makes a $4 billion cut in domestic spending, including a number of federal education programs.

Among the programs designated for cuts is the total elimination of funding for the Department of Education’s $40 million Arts in Education program. This program funds a large number of arts education activities across in the country, including the Kennedy Center’s arts education efforts and VSA, the international organization on arts and disability. Read the rest of this entry »

Catherine Brandt

Catherine Brandt

The good people at Hyundai have generously offered to help Americans for the Arts in curing our nation’s Crampomitosis problem. Never heard of it?

Here’s how Hyundai describes the condition:

“Millions of compact car drivers are fighting against leg-buckling Crampomitosis, caused by a chronic lack of leg room. These choice-starved people have knees riddled with teeth marks, toes pointing in impossible directions, and seemingly no choice when it comes to a comfortable car to drive.”

Still wondering what in the world Crampomitosis has to do with Americans for the Arts? Let me explain. Clearly, Crampomitosis isn’t really a medical condition. It’s actually Hyundai’s way of giving back. Read the rest of this entry »

Apologizing for the Arts

Posted by Ken Busby On March - 1 - 201113 COMMENTS

Ken Busby

We in the arts spend a lot of time apologizing…at least I do. I find, however, that when I apologize for something, I usually can gain some empathy for my position. Let me illustrate.

If you are speaking to a congressman or senator that isn’t especially receptive to public funding of the arts or arts education, I often ask if he or she were able to participate in the arts when they were in elementary school and middle school. Invariably, in one way or another, these “adults” had some form of quality arts experiences growing up–going to the theater, attending a ballet performance, a field trip to the museum, etc. And so I ask them what that experience meant to them.

Usually, the response is something like, “It was great. I really enjoyed it!” At that point, I generally offer my apology–saying something like, “I’m sorry that your children or grandchildren won’t be able to have that same experience.” Read the rest of this entry »

Less than a week ago, something happened in Chicago that hadn’t happened in more than 20 years — we had a race for mayor … without Richard M. Daley on the ballot!

I know many cities and towns elect a new mayor — or at least seriously consider it — every four years. But the last time we voted for a mayor who wasn’t “Da Mare” was in the 1980s.

Whether the election was actually “competitive,” well, that’s debatable. With Rahm Emanuel, one of six candidates, capturing 55 percent of the vote, the Chicago Sun-Times called the election a “rahmp!” (Get it?!) Emanuel needed “50 percent plus one” to avoid a run-off with the next highest vote-getter.

What will the election of Rahm Emanuel mean for the arts and arts education in Chicago? Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

It’s hard to believe, but six months has passed since we celebrated the first National Arts in Education Week (as declared by Congress). As we all know, legislative bodies don’t often operate on a timeline that is convenient for the rest of us (i.e. the fact that our federal government runs out of money in just a few days).

Because of that, a group of us on Twitter that gets together for arts education chats on Thursdays (search #artsed) came up with the idea of using that week to start projects that could be celebrated later in the year, or more specifically, a half a year later during what is known as Arts Education/Youth Arts/Music in Our Schools Month – March.

During that time, we have also been collecting signatures of advocates who promised to testify on behalf of arts education at their local school board meetings throughout the month of March. We just asked for regular people who support arts education in their local schools to show up to the meeting and say something positive about the arts during the public comment section, or even better, get on the agenda ahead of time. Read the rest of this entry »

Leadership. As someone who loves to lecture (sorry, students), even my own eyes glaze over at the word. Go to any business section of any bookstore and you can find hundreds of tomes that boil down to one extended metaphor in the form of a book length advice column:  “The fiction writer’s way of leadership,” The housewife’s way of leadership,” “Leadership:  the Mad Men Method,” “How Would Jesus Lead (HWJL)?”

Okay, I made those up, but among this blizzard of works on leadership, what actually helps? We’ll try to find some answers at the symposium. My views are too complex to reduce to sound bites or slick metaphors, probably because I believe leadership is not solely about the leader as much as it is his or her interaction with co-workers, or followers.

We make too many assumptions that the CEO is The Leader. But one can lead from the middle (director of marketing) or even below (program associate). The weird irony of organizations seems to be that those who hold leadership positions are not necessarily any good at leading. Yet spectacular feats of leadership can occur at any level. Followers influence leaders with their ideas and their ways of working, and more importantly, they influence each other.  Read the rest of this entry »

Alison Wade

Alison Wade

Back in January, while riding the subway, Philadelphia artist Amy Scheidegger overheard a conversation between two teenagers about the worthlessness of a degree in the arts. But instead of just stewing, Scheidegger sprang into action to create the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project—a collection of visually rendered statements about the importance of the arts, submitted by artists and advocates from all over the country.

Rebuttals run the gamut, expressing what we can quantify about the power of the arts (economic and social impacts) and what we can’t (“The music that gives you chills? An artist did that”). Viewed as a whole, the project is moving, funny, and a work of art in itself.

As of now, Scheidegger has 229 people confirmed to contribute from 53 American and Canadian cities; she plans to present an abridged version of the book to her representatives at National Arts Advocacy day in April and have the finished product find a home in galleries, arts councils, tourist departments and libraries across the country. She is also currently working with art and creative writing teachers and their students in several states to create a children’s edition of the Artistic Rebuttal Book Project. Read the rest of this entry »

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Accidental Arts Volunteerism

Posted by Catherine Brandt On February - 24 - 20111 COMMENT
Catherine Brandt

Catherine Brandt

My mother and I were recently discussing the uptick in arts volunteerism reported in Americans for the Arts’ latest National Arts Index. During our conversation, she lamented that she did not volunteer in the arts and made a resolution to get involved.

While I applauded her initiative and soon after sent her a link to her local art council’s volunteer page, I also reminded her that she was, in fact, an arts volunteer. She sings in her church choir.

Needless to say, she was shocked that singing hymns in front of a congregation was considered volunteerism.

It dawned on me at that moment that, like my mother, many Americans may not realize they are arts volunteers. To many, arts volunteerism is restricted to being a docent at local museums and ushering at theaters. It actually extends far beyond that! Nursing homes, hospitals, religious institutions, child mentoring programs—all promote arts-based volunteerism. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

Many of our loyal Arts Watch readers are familiar with Americans for the Arts’ national arts advocacy efforts, but in light of recent state-level budgetary threats, we wanted to make sure that all of our members and non-members were kept up to date on the latest information in your individual states and regions.

The State Arts Action Network (SAAN), a network of over 70 arts advocacy, services, and education organizations, has been active within Americans for the Arts since 2004, when two previously independent national arts organizations (the State Arts Advocacy League of America and the National Community Arts Network) ratified an agreement to become part of our organization. Over the past few years, SAAN has also grown to include the members of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network.

However, the SAAN isn’t left to its own devices, as two staff members from the Government and Public Affairs Department, Jay Dick and Justin Knabb, provide professional development, networking, and technical assistance to the organizations. Jay and Justin also monitor news and events in all 50 states, providing advocacy help to the SAAN member organizations when needed.

All of this background leads me to a brand new area of our website. Read the rest of this entry »

Tearing Down Higher Education Towers

Posted by Ron Jones On February - 22 - 20112 COMMENTS

Ron Jones

The phrase, “Town and Gown,” is a shorthand way to saying there is a tension or disconnect between institutions of higher learning and the communities in which they reside. Some of us know this to be extreme; others only experience this disconnect in minor ways. It is real.

We all know that and it’s real for good reason since the purposes and aspirations of community and institution are rarely compatible and aligned. For those of us in the arts, this disconnect has and continues to be even more amplified with communities sometimes, perhaps often, seeing university arts programs, arts conservatories, and art schools as isolated towers that stand aloof to and indifferent to the needs and sensibilities of the very community in which they reside.

Those days, in my opinion, must come to an end if the arts are to survive and realize a healthier existence in the tomorrows to come!
Read the rest of this entry »

You know those surreal professional moments where you’re overwhelmed with the coolness of the situation but have to act like you travel to Washington, DC, for conferences all the time? You have to focus extra hard to avoid doing a happy dance, and say things like “I love your city’s public art policy” instead of “THIS. IS. AWESOME.”

I had one of those moments on January 13. After being elected to the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) in December, I’d traveled to Americans for the Arts’ offices for my first council meeting.

The Emerging Leaders Council Overview

The Council represents emerging leaders (ELs) in the field of arts management nationwide. The term “emerging arts leader” gained popularity in the 1990s, as the field identified a need to foster the next generation of high-level arts leadership. Americans for the Arts defines ELs as arts administrators under the age of 35 or with fewer than five years of experience. Many ELs also facilitate the creation and guidance of local Emerging Leader Networks.

Since 1999, the Emerging Leader Council has served as a bridge between Americans for the Arts and emerging leaders throughout the country, using local networks to disseminate information and resources.  Although the missions of the 30+ networks nationwide vary, most focus on professional development and networking activities. Read the rest of this entry »

The second panel of the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium at American University will discuss the issues arts managers face in a globalized world. For example, what do foreign arts organizations/arts managers seek to learn from the U.S. arts manager’s experience?

When I first read this topic, I was struck by how one-sided it appears to be. What can foreign arts organizations learn from the United States? Why not the other way around? The strategies of arts organizations in the United States are in need of reevaluation and conversations that have surfaced of late only make that fact more clear. But we won’t develop new strategies without first taking a good look at the methods we  currently use. So, by evaluating our practices from the perspective of our counterparts abroad we can develop a better picture of how arts organizations function in this country, and how they differ from others.

For better or worse, we live in a globalized world (I, for one, lean towards the side of better) and the arts continue to be an indicator of this. For centuries the art of civilizations have traveled the world (sometimes in a less than ideal manner) but a constant reminder that it’s not just us, our society is not the only one; there are others in the world, with different views, ideas, customs, ways of living. Art does that for us; it allows us to see humanity in variety of different lights. The arts travel across boundaries, linking communities that might never have come together otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

By a mere 8 votes in the House of Representatives, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) FY2011 budget was cut down to $124.5 million yesterday-the same level of funding as FY2007.

Rep. Tim Walberg’s (R-MI) amendment passed 217-209, but it wasn’t a case of party line politics as 23 Republicans voted against the measure and 3 Democrats voted in favor of it.

The good news is that the two amendments to eliminate the NEA altogether were introduced, but never offered up for a vote by the sponsors on Thursday. That is a testament to the advocacy efforts  of the arts community and the strong supporters for the arts in the Congress, including Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who gamely handed our Creative Industries maps out to House members on the floor before the vote. Read the rest of this entry »

Nora Koerner MacDonald

Nora Koerner MacDonald

As manager of Americans for the Arts Job Bank, I often receive interesting tidbits and articles for employers and for job seekers.  Here are 5 Lessons for Employers to Write Effective Job Descriptions that I just received from our Job Bank’s provider that I think you’ll find helpful.

The devil is in the details. Things to include:

  • Job title
  • Department
  • Location of the position (if there are multiple locations)
  • Title of supervisor
  • Pay grade or level (if your company has this)
  • Type of employment, such as full-time versus part-time
  • FLSA status (exempt versus non-exempt) Read the rest of this entry »