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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bca10_2009Bob Lynch, President & CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the recent BCA TEN Awards which were held in New York City in November. He focuses on how these awardees–both large and small–all support the arts in unique ways in their own communities. While the economy in the United States has proven financially challenging for the arts, many partners across the country in the private sector are continuing, and stepping up, their support of the arts and arts education.

Find more information on The BCA TEN.

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Since it feels like Halloween just passed, it came as a bit of a shock to me that it’s already December. With Thanksgiving now also behind us, the celebration of the holiday giving season can begin. I know that I do not have to remind you that it is a great time to give last-minute donations to your favorite arts organizations, but it is also a perfect time to support your local artists.

As I have been catching up on my Google News searches from the past week, I noticed a number of articles in both major and local newspapers encouraging people to buy their holiday gifts at local craft fairs, galleries, and the like. While the members of the arts community might think of this as a no brainer, a simple letter to the editor from a local arts council chair or statewide arts organization director encouraging the rest of the public to do the same could do wonders for the individual artists who have scraped by through this interminable recession. Read the rest of this entry »

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Doing Our pART

Posted by Tim Mikulski On November - 30 - 2009No comments yet

For the second year, the Vermont Arts Council is holding an online auction called Doing Our pART for the Vermont Foodbank. Last year, the arts council raised $10,254 for the foodbank, providing over 27,000 meals to those in need – and this year the need is even greater.

Although it has been said that recession is fading, this commendable initiative comes at a time when families, and the donating artists, are still reeling from these difficult economic circumstances.

Over 100 items are up for bid on the auction website through December 4, 2009. Included are original pieces of art, dance lessons, tickets to shows, jewelry, and at least two private concerts.

This auction is an excellent example of our community coming together to help others, but I’m sure there are other philanthropic endeavors of which we are unaware.

Have any arts organizations or artists in your area teamed up to help the less fortunate? Do you have an alternative idea that has or could work for others?

How are funders—public and private sector alike—thinking about and supporting arts and culture as a strategy for civic engagement and social change? That’s what some funders and Animating Democracy want to find out as we launch a survey of local, state, and regional arts agencies, private and corporate foundations, and other funders as part of our Arts & Social Change Mapping Initiative. The survey for funders will be available online from December 1–18, 2009.

Some of our recent inquiries suggest a shift within the funding community to more support for the arts as a strategy to meet community change goals:

  • The arts funding program officer within a community foundation is asked by trustees to make the case for sustaining an arts and civic engagement funding initiative only two years old. To help make her case, she wants to find out what peers have learned about impact of comparable grantmaking.
  • A social justice funder is looking for examples of projects that employ arts and culture to address issues related to immigration. Learning about the role the arts can play will inform how to integrate arts and culture into grantmaking strategies.
  • In line with a recent cultural plan, a local arts agency is revising guidelines and grant review criteria to encourage civic engagement through the arts. The agency wants to identify funders whose guidelines can inform their own. Read the rest of this entry »

waterfireIn this audio podcast, Bob Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the recent National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Providence, Rhode Island. He argues that because most arts organizations rely heavily on earned income, innovative marketing techniques are even more critical in today’s tough economic climate.

Five hundred arts professionals, artists, and others attended CollaborAction: Arts Marketing, Sponsorship and Fundraising Strategies that Work to gain crucial training for their organizations. You can find tweets, videos, and pictures from NAMP Conference on our website.

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Emerging Leader Survey

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On November - 23 - 20092 COMMENTS

The Emerging Leader Council and Americans for the Arts needs YOUR help!   As we celebrate the last few months of the Emerging Leader Network’s 10th Anniversary, we are launching a survey to identify the current professional development needs and trends of emerging arts leaders. 

This survey has a few objectives:

  • To strengthen the connection between Americans for the Arts and the Emerging Leaders Council and Networks, as well as to connect with new emerging leaders
  • To help shape future emerging leader professional development offerings
  • To help form and prioritize Emerging Leaders Council goals
  • To provide insight to Americans for the Arts on how to better assist emerging leaders in their career development

Click Here to access the survey.

And use this link to share the survey with your community and colleagues: 

We hope to reach as many Emerging Leaders as possible, and we encourage you to invite others to participate. The survey should take you about 15 minutes of your time to complete. 

Individual survey responses will be anonymous, but combined results will be shared with the field. 

Email Stephanie Evans, Local Arts Agency Services Coordinator, at with any questions.

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Listen to Part 2 of this podcast interview with Edward Clapp, Editor and Project Director for 20UNDER40. This conversation is a follow-up on the great discussions we had about emerging leaders in the arts during the 20UNDER40 Blog Salon on ARTSBlog, October 19-23. Edward discusses the initial actions that sparked the idea of 20UNDER40, and recounts some other discussions and debates that took place after he launched the project.

With more than 70 blog posts and 150 reader comments, the Salon offerings can still be found using the tag Salon_Oct_09.

Listen to Part 1.

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Jeanne-ClaudeI am personally saddened to learn that Jeanne-Claude, collaborator and wife of Christo, died late Wednesday at age 74. It is widely-known Jeanne-Claude was the passionate proponent and advocate behind the artist team’s spectacular works of art in public space. My life’s work has been dedicated to publicly-sited work in the environment after witnessing Jeanne-Claude and Christo’s Running Fence at the age of 10. The image of the white billowing fence stretching across the California hills was an experience that impacted me profoundly – a parallel experience of the many audiences that have witnessed the duo’s great works. The arts field will not forget Jeanne-Claude’s tireless advocacy, so many art leaders diligently trod, in pursuit of grand-scale creative works, realized in unique spaces for moments in time.  May Jeanne-Claude’s next gate of transition billow in spectacular saffron.

photo credit: Liesel  Fenner

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The NEA is inviting the public to watch a live webcast on Friday, November 20, 2009, about America’s artists and other cultural workers who are part of this country’s real economy.  Some of the topics the panelists will speak about include Artist Labor Markets, Artists and the Economic Recession, Artists in the Greater Economy, and a number of other important arts research and information topics.  For more information click here, and to watch this live webcast tomorrow from 9:00 am-4:00 pm, visit

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Earlier this week, I was able to attend the fall Cool Culture fair. Cool Culture is an organization that works with Head Start families to increase access to the arts. Founded by two dynamic educators, the organization has welcomed 50,000 underserved families in the New York City area to various cultural institutions. The organization uses a network of community liaisons to break down visitation barriers and provide free visits to New York’s cultural gems. This week’s fair was a chance for the Cool Culture stakeholders—child educators, community liaisons, and cultural organizations—to share best practices and highlights.

One of the highlights of the gathering was a panel describing partnerships between museums and early childhood programs throughout the city. A partnership between the Highbridge Nursery School in the Bronx and The Guggenheim Museum brought up some tactics that really reflect smart arts marketing. All of the panelists spoke wisely to the idea that entry barriers aren’t just for underserved children, they apply to all of us (and limit audience development for all of us). Read the rest of this entry »