On January 20, Americans for the Arts released the National Arts Index—a new framework to measure the vitality of the U.S. cultural sector based on 76 national indicators grouped by 4 overarching themes: Financial Flows, Organizational Capacity, Arts Participation and Competitiveness.  In a field where obtaining data can be like pulling teeth, assembling the breadth of this information is an accomplishment in itself.  For me, the real value is that we finally have in place an annual, national reflection of a creative sector that embraces a range of activity inclusive of both nonprofit and commercial cultural delivery models.

Reflections aren’t always pretty though. The National Arts Index shows us definitively over an 11-year period that the rules of engagement have changed. Buffeted by changing demographics, the economic business cycle, technology and increasing diverse cultural choices, traditional art forms that have been historic cornerstones of American public life and cultural identity are struggling to compete successfully to obtain the sources of financial support and the audience numbers they need to survive. By revealing long term trends and a key annual measurement of the vitality of the sector, the Index provides an additional incentive to seriously rethink how we support the development of creative expressions and access to the creative process through new models of engaging individuals and communities in the arts.   Read the rest of this entry »

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The Art of Facilitation

Posted by Bill Keens On January - 21 - 2010No comments yet

I’m pleased to be joining all of you on ARTSblog to discuss planning – and surviving – the next important meeting while mastering the art of facilitation.

As someone who has designed and run hundreds of meetings of all descriptions over the years, I am often asked what sort of training is best to become an accomplished facilitator. I don’t think it’s the diet of ginseng or soy beans or other brain food urged on me from time to time. Maybe the real skill is in the listening, and in knowing when to chime in. As the oldest son in a large, chaotic family, I was often called upon to mediate differences in ways that, in retrospect, set the stage for my professional career.

Whatever the skill or its source, it has served me well enough to know that every staff member and trustee should be given the opportunity to learn the art of facilitation.  The tips, insights and counsel that I have sought to impart add up to a lifetime’s work, with something to offer staff and trustees at all levels.  Of course there will be challenges.  But this guide is my way of going ahead, sending back intelligence from the field, and doing whatever I can to help you succeed.

Now let’s have some fun!

Order Herding Cats and Cougars:  How to Survive the Meeting You Are Running While Mastering the Art of Facilitation from the Americans for the Arts online store!

Do you have a question for William Keens or need some meeting-related advice?  If so, comment below!

Today, Americans for the Arts released our new National Arts Index at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.  This report represents a major milestone for arts in America. Never before has there been a single and annually produced measure of the health and vitality of the arts in America. 

While new for the arts, we interact with indicators daily. If you want to know about the stock market, you check the Dow-Jones Index.  Are we optimistic about the economy? Track the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index. Indicators are broad measures that compress a lot of data into a single indicator. 

The National Arts Index is an annual measure that uses 76 equal-weighted, national-level indicators of arts activity-making it one of the largest data sets about the arts industries ever assembled.  This new report covers an 11-year period, from 1998 to 2008. 

The 2008 National Arts Index score is 98.4-down 4.2 points from its 2007 score of 102.6 (2003=100). A score of 105.5 would return the Index to its highest point, measured in 1999. While the arts industries in the U.S. have become increasingly creative and the number of working artists and arts organizations is growing, audience demand has failed to keep pace-causing the National Arts Index to drop to its lowest level in the 11 years we’ve tracked. 

The overall Index score is only one of the big stories in this report.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Randy CohenRandy Cohen, Vice President of Local Arts Advancement for Americans for the Arts, discusses the new National Arts Index in this audio podcast. He talks about how the Index was created and how it can be a boon to local arts agencies and to the arts field as a whole.

Read more about the National Arts Index here.

Derrick Ashong – or DNA as he is sometimes known – will give the keynote presentation to the Arts Education Preconference on Thursday, June 24. His presentation will discuss the impact of arts education and the value of the arts in creating social change.

Want to learn more about Derrick?  He spoke with Americans for the Arts staff recently about his arts background and the need for increased arts education in our schools. Take a listen. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ah, conventions. You know the drill. You arrive, check in to your hotel, head to the opening reception, and stand around sipping bad chardonnay and wait desperately for someone to come talk to you. Maybe you’re lucky; you came with a friend or professional acquaintance from your city, so you stand with that person as you nibble dubious shrimp cocktail. But everyone else just looks like they somehow belong; you can just tell they’ve been coming to the conference for a decade or more and are meeting old friends. And so, after another woeful canape, you head back to your hotel room for some shut-eye before the sessions begin. You’re just hopeful that you’ll glean something from the next three days of drudgery; something that you can add to your resume under the “Professional Development” category. But let’s be honest–aren’t there a million other things you could be doing right now.

That is not at all what Americans for the Arts does at their Annual Convention. As an attendee of many national conventions, I was, quite frankly, blown away by my first Americans for the Arts convention. Read the rest of this entry »

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Happy New Year!

The start of a new year is a time not only of celebration, but also reflection. This year, Americans for the Arts is celebrating its 50th Anniversary, so we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how the arts in America have been shaped during the last half century, as well as how the arts have shaped ourselves.

We invite you to celebrate with us by sharing a formative or inspirational arts moment from your own life.

Together, we can create a powerful reminder that, no matter what the future holds, the arts are an essential part of all our lives and deserving of our collective hard work and investment.

We wish you the very best in 2010!

Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts

Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO, Americans for the Arts
I work to advance the arts in people’s lives because I know that it makes their lives and the life of our towns and nation better. I know that, because a teacher in the eighth grade gave me the gift of believing that I could make poetry, because my parents gave me the gift of music making which still sustains me every day, and a single moment in a movie taught me that I was a part of a universe and not its center. I thank all the people who pass these gifts on to others.

Steve Spiess, Executive Director, Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
Chairman of the Americans for the Arts Board of Directors
It seems like the arts have always been a part of my life. Since childhood, I have been blessed with wonderful memories of music and theatre and dance and the visual arts. And I have been able to travel to other parts of the world to experience many different cultures. But, my most memorable arts experience is one of my most recent, and is easy to name. It is seeing the joy in my 17-month old son Joshua’s eyes as he dances to, and sings along with, the music that we have played for him since before he was born. Or the way that he runs to show me the crayon masterpiece that he created while I was at work. These special moments make everything right in my world, give me hope that he will be a bright light in his future world and demonstrate the power of the arts to make our lives whole.

Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) President & CEO Paula Kerger told a Los Angeles audience that following years of decline, arts and culture will once again have a home on PBS stations throughout the country.

The new endeavors for PBS include an online arts portal (starting in April) and a plan to devote one night of programming each week to the arts (starting in the fall or winter). The network is also looking to serve communities that have lost arts educators, by providing new arts inclusion material on the PBS Teachers website.

“To be candid, over the last years, we haven’t done as good a job (with cultural programming) as we could,” Kerger said. “I think we can do more. We’re looking to increase the investment we’re making in the arts. The budget (for such programs) has been flat or slightly down. I want to ramp it up.” Read the rest of this entry »

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I was a Jacques Cousteau fanatic starting in my preschool years. I flummoxed my family early on as a precocious three-year old, running around demanding “Jockootoe! Jockootoe!” until someone turned on the TV. When he appeared, I was transfixed.

Since then and until the show went off the air, when The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was on, I was lost in the wonders of the ocean, its mysteries and dangers, and general awesomeness. It was cool—and it stoked an already healthy imagination in a little girl growing up in rural Mountaintop, PA.

I was recently fortunate to have the opportunity to reconnect with my inner science/nature geek by communing with 80 professional artists and scientists, along with arts, university, and nonprofit administrators on a surprisingly snowy weekend in December at the first U.S. convening of the British organization TippingPoint. Read the rest of this entry »

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Hope is a pathway.  One such path is made possible through the arts. I feel pretty lucky in that I’ve pretty much seen myself as hopeful in my life.  I’ve also had a life filled with arts, as well as a family for whom arts remains central.  I am often reminded that this is not the experience of many of the students I teach.

The semester just ended and my college students handed in their final projects and write-ups.  I teach a class called “Learning Through the Arts” at California State University San Marcos, in southern California.  The final for this class, rather than a test or research paper,  is a 3D sculpture that the students create to demonstrate an understanding of how they view the role of arts in education.

The students in this class are preparing to become elementary school teachers.  Most students who attend my university commute, many live at home, and the majority work to put themselves through college.  We are located in northern San Diego County where nearly every public school qualifies as having 35% or more students on free or reduced school lunch.  Many of the students who come to the university campus grew up in Spanish speaking or bilingual homes, and as an institution we have the distinction of being named a “Hispanic-Serving” institution.  There are also quite a number of Asian-Pacific students, thus bottom line, a truly wonderful mix of students on campus.

Read the rest of this entry »

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written by Ron Evans

At the recent NAMP Conference in Providence, a lot of focus was put onto Twitter, and what use it could be to connect with patrons and have them join in on the conversation. Those of you who use Twitter already know how quickly life flies by tweet by tweet (if you’re new to the idea of Twitter, read up on an excellent article on what Twitter is at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twitter). A few days ago, a female blogger who goes by the name “Broadway Girl NYC” wrote a post called “The BroadwayGirlNYC Dating Service: Let Love Shine on Broadway.” Her blog and her original post can be found here and her twitter page is: http://twitter.com/broadwaygirlnyc

On a whim, she designed a contest of sorts — she challenged her single Twitter followers to write a tweet and add the hashtag “#SingleOnBway” (a hashtag is a way for Twitter people using the same term in their post to find other people who want to talk about the same topic) as a way for single folks to find each other and potentially make a connection via public messages on Twitter. If there was a spark, they were told to send a tweet back to BroadwayGirlNYC, and she would choose two winners to give two free tickets to MCC Theater’s “The Pride” for a “blind date.”

The response has been amazing. Read the rest of this entry »

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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.