Laura Norman

Laura Norman

Erika Boardman Kraft

Erika Boardman Kraft

Can the work teaching artists do in school districts impact a district’s long-term arts programming?  Absolutely!, as illustrated by the Twin Rivers Unified School District in northern Sacramento, California.

Founded in 2008 when four districts merged, Twin Rivers Unified School District saw more than $100 million in state cuts during its first three years of existence. This exacerbated an already difficult situation for arts education in the district composed of primarily Title I schools.  Most elementary schools had no credentialed arts specialists in any of the disciplines. Middle schools had a few arts education offerings, often available only as electives, and the arts programming in the high schools varied by school, but did not come close to matching what more affluent districts in the region could offer or what the state mandates.

In spite of this, the district’s arts education leadership was determined to provide what arts education programming they could, using resources from the local arts community. They brought in programming from the region’s arts organizations, found grants to take students to arts events, and contracted with regional teaching artists for residencies and workshops. Read the rest of this entry »

Gemma Irish

Gemma Irish

The following is an article originally posted on Minnesota Playlist, written by playwright Gemma Irish, in which she describes how her daily work in marketing at a Fortune 500 company has made her a better artist.

Writers are notorious procrastinators. We would rather do the dishes, read the entire internet, eat a sandwich, or meet friends at the bar than sit down and write. When we finally get down to work (probably because we have a deadline looming, and/or we’re disgusted with ourselves) we drink sherry, we write while reclined, or standing up, or at a café, or in absolute silence. We need just the right conditions, the right pen, the right atmosphere in which to write.

I have to be honest with you: I am guilty of cleaning my entire kitchen instead of re-writing a play, and furthermore I am guilty of getting caught up in the mystique of Being A Writer. “This is how I’m supposed to act! I’m supposed to be a total weirdo and drink too much coffee and put off revising this draft by cleaning my apartment and researching serial killers! It proves that I am a Real Writer!” Read the rest of this entry »

Cara Scharf

Cara Scharf

The following is an interview with Americans for the Arts’ Senior Director of Arts Policy Marete Wester. Conducted by Cara Scharf, it was originally published in ArtsLine, the Drexel Arts Administration quarterly newsletter focusing on the program, the arts and culture sector, and the students’ perspective.

Marete Wester’s professional journey started in the mid-80s with a Masters in Arts Administration from Drexel University and landed her at national arts service organization Americans for the Arts in 2006. As Senior Director of Arts Policy, Wester brings the voice of the arts field to policy discussions nationwide. This means cultivating partnerships and convening meetings with a diverse group of organizations to show how the arts play a role in quality-of-life issues such as the environment and education. One recent example of her work is the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military, which works to expand access to and research on the arts as effective tools in the care of service members. I spoke with Marete about her work and experience in Drexel’s program.

Read the rest of this entry »

Kristy Callaway

Kristy Callaway

We are currently notifying the 2014 ASN Exemplary School applicants of their designation status. During our process, we conduct a peer review of the schools’ self-evaluations based on “A Guide to Assessing Your Arts School.” Here, we share some interesting information on our criteria as well as what these applicants considered critical success factors for an exemplary school.

We define an “arts school” as any school for children and youth with a mission that includes intensive education and training in the arts. These may include precollegiate PreK–12 arts schools, or the arts component of a program that meets elementary/secondary education or high school diploma requirements of the states or other governing entities, arts magnet or charter schools, or other organizations. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Hedges

Kim Hedges

The day we planned to launch the new AmericansForTheArts.org website, everyone on staff was ready for a party-a pizza party to be exact–to celebrate all our hard work and the debut of our beautiful new site.

While the web team was humbled by staff’s faith in us and their palpable joy about the new site they helped create, we were a little less ready to celebrate.

Yes, technically, we just needed to make one DNS update on that day to point traffic from our old site to the new one and viola, a new site is launched.

But, it’s actually not that simple.

Yes, we had spent weeks testing the site and getting everything in order, but the traffic of 10 people testing a site just doesn’t match the traffic of your daily visitors. When you open your site to that increased traffic, they stretch it in different ways, interact with it differently, and a new level of testing begins.

And that’s the testing that really matters-whether you acknowledge it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

Earlier in this blog salon, we discussed the ten ways you could improve the website you already have, as well as the ways you could  create engaging content for your website.

In both of those posts, we briefly highlighted the use of multimedia – graphics, video, animation, audio – as a way to make your content more interactive.

But, what is multimedia? And what is the best way to use it to tell your organization’s story? Read the rest of this entry »

Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Working on a website redesign or refresh can become easily overwhelming, especially if you don’t consider yourself well-versed in the lingo, countless acronyms, and big concepts that get tossed around throughout the process.

Learning a few of these more “techy” concepts, how they function, and why they are important will make navigating through the design and development process a lot easier.

Here’s a rundown of some important concepts to grasp:

Information Architecture

When you are setting out to redesign your website, the concept of information architecture is paramount and one to consider in the early stages. The Information Architecture (IA) structures your website’s content in the way you’d like the user to experience it. Read the rest of this entry »

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Stop. Before you start thinking about the pretty wrapping paper you’re going to use for this awesome new website you’re about to give your audience, make sure you’ve done your research, organization, and started working with staff on content.

Why do you have to do that first?

Because to get good design you have to answer the hard questions; you have to know WHO you’re designing it for and WHAT message you want your design to send to your audience.

As Manager of Publications and Communication at Americans for the Arts, part of my job is to manage the design process for many of our printed and online materials. I work with a variety of vendors on a regular basis, and I was part of the team that decided on the design direction for our new website. Read the rest of this entry »

Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

The time has come. You’ve done your research to find out your audiences, figured out how to create great content to meet their needs, and you’ve convinced your organization’s staff and leadership that it’s time to build a new website.

Now it’s time to involve your staff in the process – since they are the issue experts that should work with you to create or revise your website’s content. At Americans for the Arts, though everyone on staff has an interest in the success of the website, only some of the people on our 70-person staff are what we call “content creators” – the ones who write the content. Read the rest of this entry »

Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

We’ve already talked about how important it is to do your due diligence when taking on a website redesign – figuring out your audiences, securing buy-in from your leadership, selecting good partners and vendors, the importance of quality content for your website – and we’ll be diving in deeper later in this blog salon about working with staff to create and revise quality content.

As you continue to bring together all these great resources, it will be helpful to compile them in a format that will be useful to your team and your vendors. During our website redesign, we ended up creating a number of documents that helped us fully scrutinize and contemplate all of our options. No stone was left unturned, which helped our stakeholders feel more comfortable with some of the drastic changes we were suggesting. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

So, you’ve heard about the new National Core Arts Standards, right?

On Wednesday, June 4, 2014, the Coalition for Core Arts Standards held a virtual event celebrating the launch of new standards. Whether you participated or not, you may have some questions about them. Here is your key to understanding what’s going on. Read the rest of this entry »

Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Now that you’ve decided that you need a new website, figured out your audiences, and garnered support from your leadership and staff, you should be ready to select a team of professionals to help you with the website overhaul process. There are very few organizations who can completely handle a web redesign in-house, so it’s important to have great partners who can help you through this project.

At Americans for the Arts, our Marketing, Communications and Technology Department includes a Vice President, a 5-person Marketing and Communications team, a 3-person Web team, and a 5-person Database and internal IT team. Though our entire 70-person staff played part in this project (as we detail later in this blog salon!), our Web team and VP were primary, working with our external vendors and with a good deal of content help from Marketing and Communications. Read the rest of this entry »

Kimberly Hedges

Most projects start with the need to address a deficit, and redesigning a website is no exception.

Your current website may not be serving your visitor’s needs, the content might read like a brochure or look dated, the layout of the site may make it hard to find the best content you have to offer, or maybe the design looks like it was built back when we still used DOS. (Well, maybe not that bad, but you know the feeling.) There is just no denying that your website could be doing more.

When addressing a known deficit, you would think that getting buy-in and support for your project to address that deficit would be a breeze. (Everyone agrees on the problem, so everyone should agree on the solution, right?)

However, big deficits come with big needs. Read the rest of this entry »

Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Who doesn’t love a good list?

I’m Joshua Jenkins, Americans for the Arts’ Website Coordinator, here to drop some hints and tips on website improvement. I started at Americans for the Arts in the summer of 2013, and played a large role in the final push toward the website launch in December.

In a perfect world, you’d snap your fingers and a shiny, new website would appear live on the internet. However, as you’ve read already and will continue to read during this blog salon, there are a lot of important resources you need on-hand when redesigning your website.

Sometimes, a complete website redesign may not be in your organization’s budget, or you may have recently redesigned your website and can’t commit to a full design update just yet. Good news: these circumstances don’t have to stifle your ability to improve your users’ experiences while visiting your organization’s website.

Take a look at these simple, effective best practices that you can implement to offer your users the best experience – whether you’re fixing the site you have, or just starting the redesign process. Read the rest of this entry »