Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch discusses a recent trip to Art Basel Miami Beach in this audio podcast. While the huge arts fair is a boon for visual art collectors and art lovers, it has also provided a great opportunity for Americans for the Arts to find new, influential voices who will advocate for the arts. Take a listen to Bob discuss new partnerships and key meetings with South Florida members.

Last night, PBS NewsHour aired an interview of National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman. The interview provides some good insight into his background and some important questions and answers about his role as NEA Chairman. Click below to watch the video.

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Since everyone else is talking about Avatar, we may as well continue the conversation in Arts Watch and on ARTSblog.

I saw the movie in IMAX 3-D on New Year’s Day, along with what seemed like the entire Washington, DC metro area. 

We bought our tickets two days ahead of time, and arrived at the theater two hours early to get in line for our seats. When we arrived at the theater, flashing signs indicated that the movie was sold out for the next three days. It’s been a long time since I’ve ever seen this much hype around a movie. The hype, in my opinion, is well-deserved.

I woke up Monday morning to the news that after the weekend, Avatar had already exceeded over $1 billion in box office sales.  Talk about economic impact.

The movie was made using the digital 3-D Fusion Camera System, co-developed by Director James Cameron. All of this new filming technology got me wondering:  If we didn’t have art in schools, communities, or non-profit arts organizations, could this movie have been made? Read the rest of this entry »

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Robert Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, takes this ArtCast as an opportunity to thank all the tireless partners who helped make 2009 such a big year for Americans from the Arts. He reviews some of the key successes of 2009 and then discusses the 50th anniversary of Americans for the Arts, which begins in January 2010. He also focuses on this year’s Annual Convention, which will be a Half-Century Summit in Baltimore, Maryland from June 25 – 27. For more information on the Summit, visit our website.

Each January, statehouses across the country suddenly go from empty hearing rooms and corridors to packed committee sessions and protests on the front steps as new legislative sessions begin.

Having worked as a legislative staffer in a former life, I fondly remember December as a few weeks spent regrouping from the hectic crunch of the end of one session, followed by the preparation of new bills and resolutions for the next one. Which got me thinking…this might be one of the best times of year to reach out to your state legislators to discuss arts and arts education policy.

Through our national state legislature monitoring service at Americans for the Arts, I have already seen a number of new bills prefiled for the next legislative session that could substantially help the arts community.

For example, Florida H-461 would revise the state’s school report card system to allow the rate of student participation in fine arts classes as criteria alongside math and reading test scores. New Hampshire H-1589 would require that a portion of funds from state university system building projects be allocated to the state arts fund. And, Missouri H-1274 would require the state to provide a fine arts education consultant to each of its regional education professional development center.

I know that it sounds cliché to say that it only takes on person to get a new law made, but I saw it happen too many times not to believe it.

As arts advocates, I’m challenging you to think of something (preferably a project or initiative that wouldn’t require funding) that would help improve the arts for you personally, your community, a local theater group, etc.

In between the eggnog and mistletoe, set up a January meeting with your (hopefully arts-friendly) legislator and pitch them. You never know what idea stick and become law.

What ideas do you have that state officials could implement to help the arts in your state in the new year?

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Bravo has been running a lot of this show lately, and since I’ve been laid up (or, more accurately, laid out, like a cadaver) with a wrenched back, I’ve watched a bunch of episodes. And I’m kind of hooked. I was initially sort of reproachful about the show’s premise–über-wench Tabatha Coffey (formerly of the first round of Shear Genius) goes into a failing/miserable/grody hair salon, knocks everyone around, makes a lot of noise, and teaches them but good. But you know what? The arts manager in me really likes this show a lot.

Last year I spent some time reading Michael Kaiser’s The Art of the Turnaround, which is basically a series of vignettes in which Michael, like Tabitha, goes into a failing/miserable/grody arts organization, makes a lot of important observations, puts forward a new agenda, and re-enlivens the staff and community.

Tabatha does go into salons that are basically on their last curling iron, and yes, she does brusquely put people in their place, and she can be a little terse. But she’s also encouraging, fair, professional, and, in the end, she turns the salons into high-functioning team environments focused on customer service.  Arts organizations might be able to find some inspiration for fostering change within themselves by considering what Tabitha does—which, in a lot of ways, is similar to Michael does in his book, but with the added dimension of hairdresser insanity.

Organizational dysfunction sometimes seems so common it has become “function.” Workplace environments are chock full of people with issues, people dodging responsibility, people viciously guarding their little fiefdoms, and people hating each other. Even the best teams I’ve worked on have had these elements to them in some proportion; at worst, that’s all there’s been. This is why the workplace is such a common setting for sitcoms. (And why The Office is funnier if, you know, you work in an office. See also Dilbert.) Read the rest of this entry »

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Bob Lynch, President & CEO of Americans, discusses the recent arts advocacy work of the artists from the movie “Me and Orson Welles.” The stars and director not only participated in a panel discussion on arts education for the movie’s premiere in Georgetown, but also spent a day on Capitol Hill talking to legislators about the importance of the arts and arts education.

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fantasticARTlg3Recently, Maryo Gard Ewell was visiting our Washington, DC offices speaking with the Americans for the Arts staff about the early history of the community arts movement in this country. Maryo shared a quote that I really connected to as I’ve been thinking about the upcoming 50th anniversary of the arts infrastructure in America and Americans for the Arts 50th Anniversary, both being celebrated in 2010. The quote is from singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, who was the keynote speaker at the first National Assembly of Community Arts Agencies (a previous iteration of Americans for the Arts) convention in 1979, and it went something like this,

“You (arts people) can’t be the dance band on the Titanic…you must climb to the crow’s nest and gaze out into the waters ahead. As the eyes and ears of America, we artists and arts activists and arts organizers must help steer the ship of America through the icebergs… so that all of us journey safely to the future.”

The Americans for the Arts Half-Century Summit, our 50th Anniversary Convention, will take place from June 25-27, 2010 in Baltimore, MD. Registration has just opened for this unique convening that will both celebrate past success and envision the future of the arts, while also delivering the training, tools, and professional development that you need and expect from our Annual Convention. Eclectic, fun, and funky, Baltimore is the perfect setting for this distinctive convening that will celebrate the past, engage in the present and strategize for the future. Read the rest of this entry »

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Americans for the Arts announces the election of three new members to its Arts Education Council. They include: Ron Jones, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL; Stephanie Riven, Center of Creative Arts, St. Louis, MO; and Victoria J. Saunders, San Diego, CA. Donna Collins of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education and Steven Tennen of ArtsConnection in New York City were also re-elected to the council.  They are joined by current council members Thomas Cahill, School in a School, New York, NY; Rob Davidson, VH1 Save the Music, New York, NY; Gary DeVault, Tri-County Educational Service Center, Wooster, OH; David Flatley, Center for Community Arts Partnerships, Chicago, IL; Sandra Jackson-Dumont, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA; Laura Reeder, Partners for Arts Education, Syracuse, NY; Lynn Tuttle, Arizona Department of Education, Phoenix, AZ; and Miriam C. Flaherty Willis, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Vienna, VA.

The Arts Education Council represents the Arts Education Network—a segment of the professional members of Americans for the Arts, who work to improve access to and quality of arts education. The 13-member council provides guidance on the development and execution of programs and services that meet the needs of the Arts Education Network.  Learn more about the Arts Education Council and Network at: http://www.artsusa.org/networks/arts_education/default.asp.

“It is critical that America’s children get an opportunity to have a quality arts education. Those who serve on the Arts Education Council are leaders who bring expertise, skills, and passion to ensure that arts education excels in our nation’s schools and communities,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.

Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce the election of seven new members to the Emerging Leaders Council.  The Emerging Leaders Council represents the Emerging Leaders Network, a group of 29 local networks across the U.S. that provide professional development and networking opportunities to young arts professionals in their area.

New Members are:

  • Michelle Grove, Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, Silver Spring, MD
  • Letitia Ivins, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Los Angeles, CA
  • Charles Jensen, The Writer’s Center, Bethesda, MD
  • Gabriela Jirasek, Chicago Humanities Festival, Chicago, IL
  • Ian David Moss, Createquity.com, Providence, RI
  • Scarlett Swerdlow, Arts Alliance Illinois, Chicago, IL
  • Bettina Swigger, Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, Colorado Springs, CO

Each of these new members will begin their term on January 1, 2010 and serve through December 31, 2012.  Click here to review the names and bios of current council members. 

“The Emerging Leader Council serves an important role in helping Americans for the Arts carry out one of its primary goals of strengthening an informed leadership. These seven new council members have each excelled at leadership within their own communities, and we are thrilled to welcome these bright and accomplished individuals to the national council,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.

Trying to explain to some family and friends about what I do in the arts is a challenge.  In my last role at the Arizona Commission on the Arts I had friends say, “Oh, I have driven past your building. What do you do in there, paint?” I finally had to create a statement and definition about my work that would help convey what I did at the state arts agency. When I accepted my current position at Americans for the Arts the question shifted to “what is a local arts agency?” Surprisingly, I have even been asked by both artists and other arts managers.

So, what is a local arts agency?

Technically, a local arts agency (LAA) is a private community organization or local government agency that supports cultural organizations, provides services to artists or arts organizations, and/or presents arts programming to the public. LAAs endeavor to make the arts part of the daily fabric of community living. Each LAA is unique to the community that it serves and each change as fast as its community changes. However, all seek to serve the diverse art forms in their community and make them accessible to every community member. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts and Human Rights

Posted by Ben Burdick On December - 15 - 2009No comments yet

For many years, the State Department has viewed cultural exchanges as an important tool for sharing America’s values, ideas, and creativity with the world.  Programs such as Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad have helped audiences abroad gain an understanding of our society and presented our country in a positive light.  On Monday, December 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of the arts and artists in her remarks at Georgetown University on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century.  During a question and answer session, Secretary of State Clinton was asked about the importance of the arts and artists in helping to promote human rights.  In her reply, Clinton stated:

“I remember some years ago seeing a play about women in Bosnia during the conflict there. It was so gripping. I still see the faces of those women who were pulled from their homes, separated from their husbands, often raped and left just as garbage on the side of the road. So I think that artists both individually and through their works can illustrate better than any speech I can give or any government policy we can promulgate that the spirit that lives within each of us, the right to think and dream and expand our boundaries, is not confined, no matter how hard they try, by any regime anywhere in the world. There is no way that you can deprive people from feeling those stirrings inside their soul. And artists can give voice to that. They can give shape and movement to it. And it is so important in places where people feel forgotten and marginalized and depressed and hopeless to have that glimmer that there is a better future, that there is a better way that they just have to hold onto.”

Clinton also noted that she would be trying to increase the number of these types of artistic exchanges.  To read her remarks in their entirety, please click here.

Bob Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses his recent participation in a symposium at Princeton University entitled “The Arts and the Economic Crisis.”  The symposium hosted a number of well-known names like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Peter Sellers, and Toni Morrison among many others.  In this ArtCast, he focuses on the discussion of how different arts organizations, from nonprofit arts to for-profit arts organizations, are dealing with the downturn in the economy.

A few weeks ago, business leaders gathered in New York City to celebrate the companies named to THE BCA TEN: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America.

I was encouraged and inspired by the passion that CEOs from across the country had for supporting the arts and arts education even in a time of economic uncertainty. These CEOs truly value the role the arts could play in recruiting and retaining employees, building communities, stimulating the economy, and inspiring creativity.

The tremendous support for the arts from the business leaders resonated with all of the people in the room, and reaffirmed the role these companies play in the arts in their communities and nationally. A recent Harris Poll reported that 37 percent of U.S. adults find business leaders to be the most persuasive endorsers of products, beating athletes (21 percent), television or movie stars (18 percent), singers or musicians (14 percent), and former political figures (10 percent). Listening to these CEOs, I could see how this is true. Read the rest of this entry »

On Sunday, December 6, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted Kennedy Center Honors recipients Dave Brubeck, Bruce Springsteen, Mel Brooks, Robert De Niro, and Grace Bumbry at a White House celebration prior to the awards show at the Kennedy Center.  President Obama described how at age 10 seeing his first jazz concert starring Brubeck had made him a life-long jazz fan, saying, “The world that he opened up for a 10-year-old boy was spectacular.” 

Obama went on to describe the importance of the arts and artists such as these in America:

“These performers are indeed the best. They are also living reminders of a single truth – and I’m going to steal a line from Michelle here – the arts are not somehow apart from our national life, the arts are the heart of our national life.”

To read more about this story and the Kennedy Center Honors recipients, click here.

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