Ken Busby

Ken Busby

We’ve just completed our legislative session in Oklahoma. Two efforts to provide state funding for an Oklahoma popular culture museum and an Oklahoma Native American cultural center were deferred for consideration because of the recent devastating tornados and their aftermath. An effort to move the Oklahoma Arts Council under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism was fortunately averted.

However, these initiatives point to a much larger issue – a general misunderstanding of the power of the arts as an agent of economic development and a disregard for the importance of the arts in education.

And Oklahoma is not alone. Most states have seen budgets for state arts agencies reduced significantly or in some cases eliminated. And I’m not really blaming legislators for this apparent lack of understanding about the importance of the arts and public funding for them. Many of our state legislators didn’t grow up with arts experiences and field trips to museums and visits to the symphony. We’ve lost almost two generations of adults who received regular arts experiences from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Read the rest of this entry »

Kyle Bostian

Kyle Bostian

Pittsburgh is widely – and deservedly – touted for its transformation from declining industrial center to post-industrial success story, with much attention devoted to the role played by the arts in that (ongoing) process. The site of the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, downtown’s Cultural District, represents a shining example of how artistic activity can help drive an economic recovery.

But in many neighborhoods the transition isn’t quite as far along; in some, it’s barely begun. And, for me and plenty of other Pittsburgh residents, that raises questions about how artists – often among the “avant-garde” (regardless of the style of their work) in terms of moving into and restoring “blighted” areas – might strive to make the most of the opportunities presented to them there. In my case (and I’m by no means alone in this respect), these questions go beyond the relationship between artistic activity and economic revitalization to encompass broader aspects of community building, accessibility, and social justice.

As a citizen-artist-activist, I appreciate the feeling of community that the arts often generate among participants. I’m particularly interested in and devote some of my own creative energy to projects that address issues (social, economic, political) with direct relevance to local populations. I’m passionate about the work I do along those lines. At the same time, I wonder if there are ways I could use my creativity to engage more deeply with my communities and have a greater impact. That’s why I was struck so powerfully by the words of one panelist at a recent Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network forum on “Arts as Urban Renewal.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

Business in America knows well that we have entered the Age of Innovation. This became evident to attendees putting together a California “Blueprint for Creative Schools” meeting in Fresno California recently.

Business knows too, that creativity leads to innovation and that, understandably, we need to find a way to nurture creativity and attract the creative worker–across town, across the nation or using H1B visas for young people in other countries. As Randy Cohen of the Americans for the Arts has argued–and The Conference Board, and studies by IBM have found–”the arts build the 21st Century workforce.”

What is still not yet clear is whether the role of the arts and art integration is perceived by the business sector as the most legitimate method to foster creativity. Yes, business says, the arts are nice but are they really necessary?

Business isn’t stupid or shortsighted…it’s just that they don’t always see the connections. Or maybe they do but don’t have the time to hear all the rhetoric about how important the arts are. Or maybe, because of the quarter-to-quarter pressures, are not yet willing to invest in programs that will deliver a more sophisticated workforce with the new thinking skills in the decade that follows. Maybe it’s all too long range.

More to the point, maybe artists and educators are not yet talking the talk.

They are not saying what business needs to hear to get them fully engaged in the struggle to put arts back into the formula; and to push for STEAM not just STEM education. Read the rest of this entry »

Carol Bogash

Carol Bogash

In 2006, the U.S. National Academies, expressing their concern about the state of education in our country, recommended improving K-12 math and science education. In 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act, which authorized funding for STEM initiatives, kindergarten through graduate school. I think most everyone would agree that we are not where we had hoped we would be. 2012 National Assessment of Education Progress tests results showed only a tiny increase in 8th grade science scores over 2009. This same test showed that 4th, 8th, and 12th graders performed poorly when asked to use problem solving and critical-thinking skills in laboratory settings.  So why aren’t these initiatives working?

Now, President Obama has announced a major initiative to create a national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps. This is to underscore that STEM education is a top priority for the Obama administration. “A world-class STEM workforce is essential to virtually every goal we have as a nation – whether it’s broadly shared economic prosperity, international competitiveness, a strong national defense, a clean energy future, and longer, healthier, lives for all Americans.”

Of course, this is important for the future of the United States. But, I believe it is equally vital that “longer, healthier, lives for all Americans” include reference to productive, creative, fulfilled, happier, inspired lives as well. We truly need to focus on developing creativity in order to help achieve these lofty goals – otherwise , I believe , all these initiatives are doomed to continue to fail. Read the rest of this entry »

The One Not to Miss

Posted by Mara Walker On May - 28 - 2013No comments yet
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

June seems like convention season in the arts world. There are lots of national arts organizations developing educational and networking programs for their constituents.  If you are an arts discipline organization like a theatre or chorus or a service organization like a local arts agency there is a gathering for you next month.

Why choose the Americans for the Arts convention? Sure, it has workshops like other conferences and we cover topics like finding creative funding sources for your work, getting arts supportive local ballots passed, mapping your cultural ecosystem, serving diverse audiences, working toward equitable funding for the arts and much more. Naturally, it has receptions at amazing venues like The Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Yes, it has amazing award winning, game-changing speakers like Jim Messina, Manuel Pastor, Bill Strickland, Paula Kerger, Gary Knell, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Adam Goldman, Matt Arrigo, Tim McClimon and Edgar Smith. And there will be plenty of opportunity to hear from peers, colleagues and decision makers about how they are ensuring the arts are sustained and seen as core to building better communities.

We’ve picked an amazing city, Pittsburgh, for the convention where you can literally see the arts making a difference as you walk down Liberty Avenue. In return, Pittsburgh has the Three River Arts Festival, Gay Pride and baseball games taking place while we are there, June 14-16, so you can have the best of times. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

In January 2012 I started the New Year with an ARTSblog entitled So Many Resources, So Little Time. I wrote, “With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.” For the most part, that statement was true – except for one thing. I wasn’t using Twitter!

Of course after mentioning Twitter in the resources ARTSblog someone would reach out to me in an email requesting my Twitter handle. Uh oh. Once upon a time I had set up an account, but when I tried to remember what the original handle was and how to login? Forget about it. I had been caught red-handed!

Just what I needed, one more thing to add to what already felt like an overflowing plate. I couldn’t respond back with, “sorry, I don’t do Twitter” after mentioning it in my blog so I decided it was time to officially throw myself into the #Twitterverse. Hence, @JessicaLWilt was born.

Over the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to navigate and speak the language that is Twitter while building a truly authentic and genuine community. I don’t have thousands of followers – yet – but I do regularly interact and connect with a diverse group of people. Never could I have imagined how vast the information, people, ideas and life-changing events I’ve experienced through Twitter would enhance my personal and professional circles. Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick O'Herron

Patrick O’Herron

You’ve done it. You’ve decided as a business or arts professional that you are fully ready to take the plunge and immerse yourself in The pARTnership Movement. Kudos—we welcome you into our pool of resources! (No splashing, please.)

At the same time, you’re wondering, “But how do I pARTner…?” It’s ok. Don’t get overstressed like this guy:

Take a deep breath and count to 10. The pARTnership Movement is here to help!

The first question to ask yourself is, “Arts and business? Huh? But why? Whyyyyy?!”  It’s true. Arts to business seems as unlikely as jelly to burgers, as knives to soup, as ketchup to ice cream. That’s why our clever pack of pARTnership Movement ninjas have created the 8 Reasons to Partner with the Arts—a veritable credo to live by. Print them off and carry them in your purse or wallet. Hug them. Kiss them. Love them. They are here to enlighten you. Read the rest of this entry »

Melissa LuVisi and Christine Smith of Treading Art

Melissa LuVisi and Christine Smith of Treading Art

Pittsburgh has vastly changed from what once was known as the “smoky city,” covered in smoke and grit, to a city that is open, architecturally diverse, young, and thriving. Pittsburgh has become a leader in the technology, energy and medical fields which has attracted transplants from across the country to work in and live in Western Pennsylvania. It has managed to diversify its economy away from an over reliance on manufacturing while preserving its industrial heritage.

As Pittsburgh continues to implement programs like the Propel Pittsburgh Commission, an initiative developed by the city to give a voice to young careerists living and working in the city, we can expect to see more population growth spurts in the region. Furthering this commitment to growth, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl put forth several efforts to retain college graduates by asking them to ‘pick’ Pittsburgh in 2012. For the last three years the city has been showing a strong number of increases in population. In terms of the arts and culture fields, it cannot be denied that the liveability of the city has more artists moving and settling in Pittsburgh to pursue their craft. Nationally speaking, here at Treading Art, we believe Pittsburgh is a city for America to keep its eye on while it continues to make broad strokes towards the top. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Dear friends and colleagues,

As we continue to hear more news about the devastating tornado that passed through the town of Moore on the outskirts of Oklahoma City yesterday, we at Americans for the Arts send our thoughts and prayers to the artists, administrators, and all those affected.  When natural disasters strike, there is no way to fully comprehend or process the pain they inflict.  They are arbitrary, and yesterday’s horrific storm makes us feel powerless.  As we try to contact friends and colleagues in the area, and know that many of you are doing the same, we realize that while we can’t stop these tragedies from happening, we can join together to help others pick up the pieces.  Moore and Oklahoma City are resilient, creative communities, and we are here to support them as best we can.  Americans for the Arts staff have been in touch with many of our partners and colleagues in the area, including the immediate-past Chair of our Board of Directors, Ken Fergeson of Altus, OK, and continue to monitor the situation.  We hope to be able to share more information soon, and in the meantime, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us directly.

Oklahoma, you are in our thoughts today. I have included below some emergency resources to help you start on the long road to recovery, and know that we are always here to answer questions, to help, and to send you our hopes for a brighter tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

Throughout this week the overriding question has been: why do we use the arts in this complex space where individual and community health, veterans, and the military intersect?

On day 1, the resounding answer was that the arts promote the health and wellness of our veterans and active duty members. Two experts in the creative arts therapy field, NICoE Healing Arts Program Coordinator Melissa Walker and Semper Sound Military Program Director Rebecca Vaudreuil, made science-based arguments for the place of art-making and music in opening up channels of communication and guiding service members down the path towards healing. Susan Rockefeller’s experience documenting Nell Bryden’s band as they played for troops serving in Iraq gave anecdotal evidence of the impact that music can have on those thousands of miles from home.

As part of a natural progression from individual health to community wellbeing, on day 2, bloggers spoke to the power of the arts to aid in community reintegration. Punctuated by beautiful writing from the Veterans Writing Project, blog posts by Combat Paper Project founder Drew Cameron and Executive Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts John Schratwieser asserted the need for everyone and particularly, artists/arts administrators as bedrocks of their community, to engage in the work of re-connecting veterans to home.

Looking at the intersection of the arts and the military from a global perspective, day 3 explored how culture plays a significant role in the success of missions and military communities abroad. From David Diamond’s observations of theater on military bases to two posts by General Nolen Bivens and American University Professor Dr. Robert Albro, we saw a shared acknowledgment of art and culture’s importance to the military (both in protecting cultural assets and, also, as a tool for creating and maintaining social and political stability), as well as diverse viewpoints on the challenges associated with this work. Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Mitchell

Matt Mitchell

Since the spring of 2005 I have been working on a project entitled “100 Faces of War Experience: Portraits and Words of Americans Who Served in Iraq and Afghanistan”. In some ways this work can be seen as a memorial, yet it differs from a traditional memorial in a key aspect. Most, if not all, American war memorials are built around an official representation of the American experience of war or a vision of that experience decided upon beforehand by an artist. The 100 Faces project is, instead, an experiment in self representation by people who gone from America into the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When complete the 100 Faces project will consist of one hundred painted portraits of, and statements by, Americans who have gone to the theaters of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The paintings are done in a traditional portrait style and show the person’s head and shoulders at life size. Each painting is started from life in a meeting between the artist and the person pictured.

The statements that accompany each portrait are the place where self representation enters the picture. These statements are chosen by the person pictured and are not edited or censored. Every effort is made to make sure that the participants in the project know they have complete freedom of speech. The only restrictions on these statements are that they be no more than 250 words and that each person must make their statement in some way different from all of those that have come before them.  In this way the project becomes more than a series of individual accounts, it becomes a complex collective narrative of the American experience of these wars. Even though all of the portraits and statements look independent when hanging on the wall, the entire group is meant to be kept together as a single unit in order to preserve this narrative.

You can see the on line exhibition by clicking here. Read the rest of this entry »

Ann Wykell

Ann Wykell

As art consultant to The Patterson Foundation (TPF) in Sarasota, FL, I manage the commissions of public art for the assembly space in Sarasota National Cemetery.  The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), National Cemetery Administration, builds and administers 131 national cemeteries in the US. TPF an endowed charitable foundation and is fully funding the design and construction of the ceremonial amphitheater called Patriot Plaza, as a gift to the VA to honor the military ties of the family whose fortune endowed the Foundation. The theme of Patriot Plaza is Honor Veterans, Inspire Patriotism, and Embrace Freedom.

To select artists we followed best-practices for public art process, as defined by the Public Art Network of Americans for the Arts. However working within a military space has implications that are not typically encountered when placing art in public spaces. It is impossible to make meaningful art about the military without encountering the historical, political, art-historical and personal context. Typical questions for a public art project took on nuances and complexities: Who is our audience? What is this space used for? A national cemetery is a place where active duty military killed in the line of duty are buried, and where men and women whose honorable service took place decades earlier choose to be interred. It also provides burial space for eligible family members of veterans. Read the rest of this entry »

Liz Sevcenko

Liz Sevcenko

“I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantánamo before it is too late,” wrote hunger striker Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel in his 11th year of detention. Our eyes have looked away before:  twenty years ago this month, another group staged a hunger strike to bring attention to their indefinite detention at GTMO. They were Haitian refugees seeking asylum in the United States, first rescued at sea and then held in makeshift tent cities behind barbed wire while their cases were considered. In 1993, the hunger strike drew international attention.  After an intense legal battle supported by a strong social movement, in June a US district court judge “closed Guantánamo.” So why is it still open?

GTMO has over a century of history before 9-11. It’s been used and reused to contain a whole variety of perceived threats, from communism to communicable disease. While the Haitian camps were closed in 1993, the government’s right to hold people at GTMO indefinitely was ultimately upheld – allowing “Gitmo” as we know it to open just a few years later.

But for many military families, GTMO has never been forgotten. “My most vivid memories of Guantánamo was everything just being free down there,” says Anita Lewis Isom, whose father was stationed there in the early 1960s. “I would give anything to be able to go back.”

How can Guantánamo represent both freedom and confinement? What can we learn from this contradiction? Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

In the past half-century, the mechanisms for remembering and honoring service members have been evolving: from statues of proud figures gazing off into the distance to approaches that are more multi-faceted, process-oriented, and democratic.

A natural continuation of yesterday’s look at artists working to enrich the public narrative around the military and war, today we dive a little deeper into the question of how the arts are contributing to and changing the way that we memorialize and commemorate those that have served. As evidenced by today’s bloggers, the public art and museums of today are placing less emphasis on permanent structures and the values that the military as an institution lives by and aspires to (e.g., valor, loyalty, discipline) and focusing on enabling multiple voices to form a collective, realistic narrative of their experience. Check back later on today for posts from Ann Wykell, the art consultant managing commission of public art for the assembly space in Sarasota National Cemetery; artist Matt Mitchell; and Director of the Guantánamo Memory Project, Liz Ševčenko as we bring the Arts & the Military Blog Salon to a close.

Tammy Ryan

Tammy Ryan

“Every artist worth a damn in this country was terribly opposed to that war….We formed sort of a laser beam of protest.  Every painter, every writer, every stand-up comedian, every composer, every novelist, every poet aimed in the same direction. Afterwards, the power of this incredible new weapon dissipated. Now it’s like a banana cream pie three feet in diameter dropped from a stepladder four feet high…”     

-  Kurt Vonnegut http://progressive.org/mag_intv0603

It’s been over forty years since the Vietnam War, the time of protests in the streets underscored by the visceral antiwar response that erupted from artists in the 60s and 70s. Now at the end of a decade of war, critics have complained about the dearth of new American plays about Iraq and Afghanistan, but it isn’t because they aren’t being written. Many American playwrights have been taking this subject on since the first Gulf War and while war stories still feel very much part of the male mythology grab bag, women playwrights, such as Naomi Wallace, Karen Malpede, Arlene Hutton, E. M. Lewis,  Andrea Stolowitz, Jami Brandli, Caridad Svich, and many others are writing plays that dig into this grab bag in personal and political ways.

Given the climate for politically minded plays in this country, I asked myself as I was about to write a play about rape in the military: why would I do it? Plays take a long time to research, write and get produced.  I was looking at a commitment of three to five years maybe longer and I had a number of roadblocks, not the least of which was the fact that I knew next to nothing about what it was like to be a woman in the military. What do I have to say – and maybe more importantly what good does it do? Given the coterie nature of the theater in this country, we often feel like we’re preaching to the choir.  Read the rest of this entry »

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

Evaluation

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.