…And now, just now, there is something about the way the light hits the glass or the smell of the dust in the air or the shudder of the helicopter as it turns, something, and I know that this is my last field mission. I’m done. I’ve seen enough.

So the French Lieutenant and I sit side by side in the aircraft flying back to Abeche, both settling into the recesses of our iPods. I choose “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones; he chooses “Civil War” by Guns ‘N Roses. I’m sure this means something, but I’ll have to wait to think about it. This place is complex enough without trying to draw some great metaphorical significance out of the music two westerners choose to listen to while we fly away from the problem.

-excerpt from Ron Capps’ “The French Lieutenant’s iPod”

Walking Wounded

Posted by admin On May - 14 - 2013No comments yet

Walking Wounded
By Maritza Rivera

I used to dance
and carry your weight
effortlessly across
the floor.

I used to walk
the distance of your gaze
keep cadence when you marched
kick a soccer ball past the goalie
score winning runs
dash to the finish line.

A bullet whispered your name
before you heard the shot
before you felt the sting of it.
When you regain consciousness
I will be a ghost of searing pain
reminding you of how I felt
before the lights dimmed. Read the rest of this entry »

Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Four years ago, when I first heard the phrase “turn STEM to STEAM” – i.e. add the arts to the federally-recognized acronym for science, technology, engineering and math — I was skeptical.

As a theater geek born to a physician and biologist, I understood that the artistic process and scientific process have a lot in common, and that participants in each arena can learn a lot from one another.

My skepticism was not rooted in whether the arts and sciences are connected. What was missing for me as the “STEM to STEAM” mantra started to pick up more and more (ahem) steam was an articulation of how they are connected. Sure, there are elements of geometry in visual art, and yes, you need to understand basic math in order to read music or follow rhythms in dance. But arranging letters on a page is one thing; bringing different disciplines together in a thoughtful and authentic way is something entirely different.

In my mind, the ability to articulate and explore the authentic relationships between the S, T, E, A and M is crucial.  The arts and the STEM subjects have similar processes, but provide different means of understanding what currently exist, as well as imagining what does not yet exist. If we want the STEM to STEAM movement to have longevity, we need to get specific about what those relationships are. Read the rest of this entry »

Drew Cameron, photo by

Drew Cameron, photo by Kari Ovik

Like many recently separated veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan era of wars, I enrolled into community college as soon as I left active duty. The war I had been a part of was just two years old and I remained uncertain about identifying as having been in the military. I was a diligent student and kept to myself but enjoyed the classroom dialogue. Occasionally related material about the wars would surface and I would share my perspective with the class. There was always a sudden quiet when I chose to speak about the war as a veteran, as if I had a just trumped the other’s ability to have a contribution any further in fear of offending or denigrating mine. “I can’t imagine what it was like over there,” was the collective sentiment much to my dismay.

Workshop in progress, photo courtesy of Combat Paper

Workshop in progress, photo courtesy of Combat Paper

Fast-forward a few more years of deployments, a growing population of young veterans filtering back into towns across America, the demanding fervor of war fighting and the inevitable growth of arts groups, workshops and collections of activists seeking to illuminate the complexity of it all. Yet still, our common greeting of the day for those who have returned from war is, “Thank you, welcome home, I don’t know if I have the framework to understand your experience.” There it is, but if you honestly asked yourself, don’t you want to know?

Since beginning to facilitate workshops with veteran and civilian communities in 2006 with the group Warrior Writers and then Combat Paper Project, I have noticed a growing trend in others seeking to do the same thing. Historically there is a strong tradition of individuals, groups, and organizations turning to the arts to investigate and connect affected communities in warfare. Today, whether it intuition or mandate, I am encouraged at how the arts are once again connecting not only the veteran population but civilians as well through a massive growth in workshop based practice.

Read the rest of this entry »

John Schratwieser

John Schratwieser

Something very special happened at the 2013 Maryland Arts Day in Annapolis. It was a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd of nearly 400 arts professionals from all over the state. The ovation was not for a Hollywood star, nor a seasoned lawmaker, nor a favorite professional athlete. No, on that day, the ovation was for four men and one woman. These were regular people, people who in fact studied art and voice and film in college, and the in the wake of September 11, 2001, a fierce sense of duty clicked in. They put their art on hold and served their country.  Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines were all represented in this unassuming group of heroes.  These five individuals are founding members of the Veteran Artist Program (VAP), a nonprofit organization based in Baltimore, whose mission is simply “to foster, encourage and promote Veteran artists.” VAP reconnects the artist in the warrior to the mainstream arts community through mentorship, networking, collaborations with professional artists and arts organizations, and through original productions.

My first introduction to VAP was at one of these original productions. “The Telling Project” directed by VAP Founder BR McDonald, was performed all over Maryland in 2011 and the first part of 2012.  Put simply, this work was a collection of stories from service members, woven together into a script, and then rehearsed and performed by the same service members. There was no sugar coating. This was an opportunity for the citizens of Maryland to hear firsthand about the experiences of our men and women in uniform (and, in this case, from their families too.) VAP is also currently engaged in a juried exhibition process for a major show of veteran artwork which will hang in the Pentagon in Arlington, VA. Using all artistic disciplines, VAP is one of many organizations springing up around the country whose primary purpose is to use the arts to help veterans “re-enter”.  Helping our veterans re-connect to home is work we should all be engaged in.

It was Maryland Citizens for the Arts’ (MCA) Board Chair, Doug Mann, who first suggested we should find a way for the arts sector to honor our veterans at the 2013 Maryland Arts Day. When I mentioned my experience with VAP it was obvious that we would involve them. With VAP, we had an opportunity not just to honor, but to engage, promote and collaborate with veterans through our everyday work. It was the perfect partnership.  VAP is just three years old and although they have had many large scale successes already, Maryland Arts Day was the ideal venue to connect them to the creative and diverse organizations from every corner of our state.  Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

Everyone writes one. At least, everyone who fights in a war does. Some of us seal it in an envelope and tape it on the door of our wall locker so our buddies can easily find it. When the First Sergeant, the senior enlisted man in the company, packs a dead soldier’s shit, he makes sure to weed out all the porn and anything else that the wives or parents might not want to see. The folks back home receive a sanitized version of a man’s wartime possessions. They also receive the death letter.
–except from “Death Letter,” by David W. Peters, published in 0-Dark-Thirty (Fall 2012)

As evidenced by yesterday’s posts by Rebecca Vaudreuil and Melissa Walker, it is nearly impossible to talk about the role of the arts in promoting healing and wellness for military personnel on an individual level without beginning to tackle the question of what happens to those individuals once they are discharged and return to civilian life. In the second day of the salon, we will explore the ways that the arts are aiding service members reintegrating into their home communities. We’ll focus on two programs that are helping to bridge the gap in understanding between service members and their families and communities and, even contributing to employment and workforce development. The first post, by Drew Cameron will explore his experience initiating the Combat Paper Project while Executive Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) Jonathan Schratwieser’s post will consider how recent efforts have not only benefitted veterans and the community, but also enriched MCA’s core arts and arts advocacy work.

Throughout the day, we’ll also give you a deeper look into the creative power of those trained and given a platform for expression through the Veterans Writing Project (VWP) by interspersing posts with excerpts from essays and poems like David’s piece above. Founded and directed by Ron Capps, VWP provides no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, active and reserve service members, and military family members. Embodying the theme for the day, VWP has three main goals: to provide a platform for healing; to foster understanding between the less than 1% of the American population who have served and the more than 99% that have not; and to produce great literature. VWP has a sister site, O-Dark-Thirty and a literary journal under the same name.

There is so much potential in this space. To explore further examples of how the arts help build resilience and foster understanding between service members and their families and communities, take a look at Animating Democracy’s newest trend paper, Art in Service: Supporting the Military Community and Changing the Public Narrative, by Maranatha Bivens.

Susan Rockefeller

Susan Rockefeller

It was through a fluke really that I learned how much the arts-––in this case music––can help military service men and women heal, even those struggling with issues as complex and embedded as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My son, Henry, was taking drum lessons from a musician who’d recently toured Iraq playing for the troops as a part of Nell Bryden’s band. They were headed back for a second tour in a month. He described to Henry and me what it felt like to see these men and women start the evening often withdrawn, sullen and exhausted, then, with the first chord of the guitar, to watch smiles blossom across their faces and their shoulders relax, many of them even jumping out of their chairs to dance. After the show the troops would line up to express their deep gratitude to the band for having volunteered their time to bring them a moment of joy.

Something about this story captured my heart. And while I knew very little at that point about the high rates of suicide amongst our returning service members or about how prevalent PTSD was or even about the true healing powers of music, by the very next day I was already making arrangements to document Nell Bryden’ upcoming tour.

I’m glad my instincts lead me in this direction. Eventually I learned that music could supply more than a moment of joy. It could kickstart a lifetime of profound healing. As Concetta Tomaino from the Institute for Music & Neurologic Function notes “Music reaches the depths of our being – and when our connection to self has been damaged by trauma and loss – music can be a powerful tool to revive us.”

I couldn’t agree more. As I began editing my film I was struck by how music opened up these troops’ hearts and minds. Especially the live performances. The music seemed to act as a conduit between the service members and those around them. This felt profound to me. So often when we are experiencing any sort of suffering, we think we’re alone in that experience and that sense of isolation then heightens the baseline suffering. In other words, our own perceptions of our situation can make us suffer more, albeit unintentionally. Watching these young men and women come together, I could see some of the protective walls they’d build crumbling, even if it was only for the duration of the song. But the fact that it could happen at all was a very promising sign. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebecca Vaudreuil

Rebecca Vaudreuil

Military service members are returning home in mass quantities nation-wide, some locations more prevalently populated and therefore more noticeable than others, such as in San Diego where Resounding Joy’s Semper Sound Military Music Therapy Program is based. 13% of all active duty military service members are stationed in California and San Diego has one of the largest military populations and is home to thousands of service members and their families. The need for service is ubiquitous and it is our calling to serve those who protect our freedoms as Americans.

The ever-compelling questions of, “WHY music?” and more commonly , “HOW can music therapy help returning veterans?” is answered  in the complete music therapy  definition as released by the American Music Therapy Association stating,Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”  Music therapy was founded after WWII when psychologists at the VA in Topeka, Kansas saw the advantageous affects that music created by volunteer musicians had on the veterans. Psychologists began to train these volunteer musicians in the realm of behavioral psychology and hence the commencement of the music   therapy degree, which can be earned on the bachelors, masters, and PhD levels from accredited universities.

In addition to this concise yet comprehensive definition, music therapy is used to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication, promote physical rehabilitation and very importantly with the military, provide reintegration opportunities.

Table 1:1  Pre/Post Music Therapy Pain and Anxiety Scales ; Observation Length- 8 weeks; n= 15New Picture (5)

Read the rest of this entry »

Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker

A fit, uniformed Marine sat before me, focusing intently on the task at hand. He had been working on creating a mask now for almost two hours. He had never in his life engaged in anything like this before.

This Marine had recently arrived anxious, confused and angry. After 23 years of service to his country, he felt broken and hopeless. Multiple blast injuries had upset his cognitive abilities and caused daily headaches. Traumatic memories were constantly clouding his thoughts. He worried for the safety of his family. He was overwhelmed.

Suddenly, the Marine looked up at me. “I’m finished,” he declared. He stared at the mask, which was covered in symbolism only he could understand. I wouldn’t even begin to try and interpret his intentions, but I wouldn’t have to. He hesitated, then began pointing out each area of the mask and explaining its significance.

Afterwards, the Marine stared at me, shocked. “I can’t believe I just told you all of that. I’ve never been able to explain what was bothering me before. And now here it is… all in one place.”

A Marine who felt broken had for the first time found a way to put all of the pieces together. He would later describe the art therapy process as the key to his healing. “It released the block,” he explained, “and then my treatment just soared. For the first time in 23 years I could actually talk openly to anyone, because it unlocked it.”

Art Therapy at the NICoE
Art therapy is a psychotherapeutic process during which a trained therapist utilizes art-making as a symbolic vehicle for communication with the patient (click here to read a lengthier definition of art therapy as well as view practice requirements via the American Art Therapy Association). At the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE), service members coping with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) and psychological health concerns are assessed and treated over a four-week integrated care program. According to the National Center for PTSD, Mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) is often referred to as the “signature injury” of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and service members who have experienced mTBI are at increased risk of depression and underlying psychological health (PH) conditions to include post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Summerall, 2007). Read the rest of this entry »

Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

Memorial Day is coming. Back in elementary school, I remember this (and Veterans Day) as the only time(s) we talked about war in a contemporary sense or what it meant to serve your country. Now the politics of war, service, military culture, and their effects on military personnel are ever present in all corners of the U.S. These issues pervade our conversations, float across newsfeeds, fill our TV screens, and sometimes touch even closer to home.

Among organizations that serve veterans, their families and communities, the arts are becoming an increasingly essential means and end to understanding, reckoning, and moving forward. Nowhere has this movement been so clearly evidenced than the  April 10th announcement by Americans for the Arts and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) of a nationwide “Blueprint for Action” designed to make arts programming widely available to service members, veterans, and their families throughout their lifespan, including the continuum of military service. The announcement took place at the second “National Summit: Arts, Health and Wellness across the Military Continuum” at Walter Reed Bethesda, and represents an unprecedented coming together of military, veteran, health, arts and federal agencies to work together to find arts solutions to some of the military’s most pressing problems.

While the national momentum is building to act, the challenges our military servicemen and women and their families face are felt most deeply at home and in their communities. As writer and “former military kid,” Maranatha Bivens, stated in her Animating Democracy trend paper, Art in Service: Supporting the Military Community and Changing the Public Narrative:  “…the military is now far from a niche community. Today’s all-volunteer force has 1.4 million active duty service members and nearly 400,000 members of National Guard and Reserve components.” As combat operations come to a close, an unprecedented number of returning service members are joining an estimated 23 million citizens already classified as veterans.  The wave of returning service members includes many suffering from physical and emotional traumas, as well as families, communities, and a society in need of ways to understand, adjust, and heal. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

While corporate philanthropy has long ago shifted from community charity to strategic, carefully designed programs, a fundamental question of authenticity can undermine the soundest strategies.

If the association between a company and a cause, or the social impact of the company’s action does not resonate with consumers and other stakeholders, what is the point of the best-laid plans?

This question was examined at a recent panel convened by Barron’s and the Luxury Marketing Council, a collaborative organization of leading brands. Discussion was led by journalist and author Richard C. Morais, editor of Barron’s Penta, a quarterly magazine and website serving wealthy families. In this context, Morais addressed the inherent contradiction facing luxury brands and philanthropy — high end products are often marketed as expressions and rewards for one’s self, and this can create dissonance for philanthropic projects focused on others. Customers of these brands are also often philanthropists themselves and they are attuned to these inconsistencies.

As Page Snow, Chief Philanthropic Officer at Foundation Source, illustrated, “Individuals of wealth are approached constantly for various causes, and their BS detector becomes very finely tuned, especially at higher levels of wealth.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Wonky In Pittsburgh

Posted by David Pankratz On May - 8 - 20132 COMMENTS
David Pankratz

David Pankratz

I am new to Pittsburgh, having arrived here from Los Angeles on New Year’s Day 2013 to join the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) as its Research & Policy Director. It’s one of the few such positions in a local arts agency in the U.S., reflecting GPAC’s ongoing commitment to strategically integrating research, policy, and advocacy.

Overall, even though, alas, Pittsburgh’s signature dish (pierogies) is no replacement for Southern California’s fish tacos–sorry!–and Burghers’ sense of direction seems to rely more on landmarks long gone than concepts like east, west, north, and south, I’ve had a very happy landing here, in part, because it’s a dream locale for an arts policy wonk like me.

Pittsburgh is a policy wonk’s paradise for several reasons–its many assets and accomplishments, challenges, and policy windows.

Assets and Accomplishments
–Our state (Pennsylvania) is the birthplace of the Cultural Data Project, thanks in part to Pittsburgh-based foundations, while GPAC is a standing member of the PA CDP task force, which helps give direction to the use of CDP data by arts & culture organizations (and researchers).

–GPAC participates in national arts research initiatives on a regular basis, for example, TRG Arts’ Community Database Network, the Local Arts Index, and AEP IV, for which GPAC created its own customized reportArts, Culture & Economic Prosperity in Allegheny County. The “Prosperity” report found, among other things, that our county’s arts & culture industry generates $410 million in household income annually which, in turn could be used in many ways–for house payments for 44,000 families or  to buy 505,849,383 pierogies. Read the rest of this entry »

Rob Schultz

Rob Schultz

For those of us who’ve been involved with arts education for any length of time, we’ve seen many theories and practices arrive on the scene. All are well grounded, express a philosophy of teaching, and hopefully build upon the education foundations already laid since the late 19th Century and the rise of the Picture Study Movement. Today, over one hundred years later, Common Core’s focus on national standards is receiving much attention from educators, commentators, think tanks, and politicians.

What seems overlooked in this evolution is the tectonic change that’s occurred inside the classroom. Specifically, inside the arts classroom–or on the mobile cart that carries the arts into the “regular” classroom.

Much time, it seems, is spent studying arts education practices at the macro level. We in the field read, listen, talk, debate, and write consistently on how theory and practice impacts students. In my household, alternatively, we generally eschew theory and instead talk a lot about reality. Why is that? Because my wife is a visual arts teacher in a K-8th grade public school.

In her 27 years in the classroom, things have changed. Kids haven’t really changed all that much, but the atmosphere surrounding public education certainly has.

The challenges she faces in her job on the front lines of education have evolved significantly. At one time, she felt supported by her principals and school administrators, especially in areas like discipline. Today, the kids rule. Principals now consider the child’s side of a dispute more than the teacher who brought it to their attention. School board members bend sideways with any angry parental breeze. Imagine an eight-year-old lying through their teeth after being caught doing something wrong, in spite of plain evidence to the contrary, and having the principal castigate the teacher for not “truly understanding” the child’s behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

Moving On…

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 3 - 20138 COMMENTS
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

This is my 149th ARTSblog post as a writer. It’s also my last—at least as a staff member here at Americans for the Arts.

I have been with the organization for almost six years and started blogging four years ago (after becoming ARTSblog editor a little over two years ago).

In those two years, I have tried to write, recruit, or find at least one relevant post per day to publish on the site. Some weeks were easier than others, but it is pretty amazing to see the depth and breadth of the quality of the posts that I have had the pleasure of adding to the site.

And, of course, I can’t help but think of the 20 Blog Salons I have worked on along with the fantastic program staff at the organization who work hard to find the bloggers, gather the posts, pictures, and profiles, and send them along to me for editing, formatting, and social media promotion.

While those weeks are some of the more stressful due to the work that it all entails, I think the fantastic collection of resources in the right side bar speaks for itself.

I’m leaving ARTSblog in the perfectly capable hands of our marketing and communications staff members, but I wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for visiting our little corner of the web to read, comment, and share the amazing work of our bloggers.

Americans for the Arts represents a diverse group of interests—from arts administrators to marketing professionals to advocates to arts-education-supporting parents—and I hope that my work on the site has represented you at one point or another. If it hasn’t, I hope you will consider adding your voice to the mix sometime soon.

Until next time…

Tim

Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

As a university administrator and associate professor, I frequently interact with parents who visit our campus with respective students. The one question that is always interesting to field is, “What will my child be able to do with a degree in (fill in your respective arts area here)?”

From a financial standpoint the question is a valid one: parents want to know that their investment in their child’s future is going to lead to gainful employment and prevent him/her from returning home and living on their couch after graduation. However, the assumption that any college degree, regardless the area of study, will lead to a specific job is a misconception.

While a degree does set one on a career path with a specific skill set, it does not guarantee employment in any specific field. The question is also valid because in my experience, the knowledge that a majority of students and their parents have of the opportunities in the arts is limited to practical involvement in their respective art area of study: singing, painting, dancing, acting, etc.

In higher education, I have witnessed practicing an art form as the point of entry that many students take into their respective fields. However, that initial exposure leads them to a variety of careers within and outside of the arts. Therefore, I try to quell the notion that a degree in the arts leads to being a starving artist. Instead, I point them to resources that will help them expand their perspective of the possible career options for those with arts backgrounds and discuss the transferable skills that students learn within the arts. 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.