Johnny Kolasinski

Johnny Kolasinski

Full disclosure here: when I relocated to Silicon Valley in 2009, I told my friends and family in Ohio that I was “moving to San Francisco.”

At that point in time, the two were basically synonymous in my mind—Palo Alto was, to me, a “San Francisco suburb” that happened to be the home of Facebook, and most of what I knew of San Jose came from the Dionne Warwick song.

San Francisco’s cultural reputation is what brought me to California, and because of that city’s reputation, it took me more than a year to really connect with the artistic community in my own back yard.

Silicon Valley has an interesting dynamic. We’re known worldwide for innovation, creativity, and our DIY atmosphere. The technologies being created here are changing world culture in new and revolutionary ways.

Silicon Valley has a population of 3 million to San Francisco’s 800,000. Why is it, then, that so many of our residents feel that they need to travel north to “The City” for an artistic or cultural experience?

What can we, as an artistic community, do to build a reputation that holds up to the high bar our tech industry has set? Are we destined to be known San Francisco’s cultural suburb? Read the rest of this entry »

Jenifer Thomas

Jenifer Thomas

I am a fairly recent transplant to a city with a vibrant arts scene chock-full of healthy arts organizations, beautiful parks and architecture, wonderful public art, a squadron of young professionals getting involved, and our very own culinary smorgasbord: a signature chili (you either love it or you hate it), mouthwatering ice cream, and questionable breakfast meat.

Where is this cultural mecca, you might ask? It’s Cincinnati, OH.

Cincinnati’s varied offerings come with an equally diverse community of people. But like many cities, Cincinnati could get to the next level by seeing art and artistic involvement that connects all of us, not just the arts-prone.

The Cincinnati ethos is evolving, and many organizations are doing great things to get engagement that is more reflective of our community and encourages we locals to put our personal stamp on the Queen City.

Recently, after two years of living in Cincinnati, I fell in love. With Cincinnati.

It happened in the most unlikely of places: the concert hall. Read the rest of this entry »

The Space Race

Posted by Chase Maggiano On April - 18 - 20131 COMMENT
Chase Maggiano

Chase Maggiano

There are a few things I have come to believe are true: Justin Bieber’s monkey is more famous than I will ever be; there are more self-proclaimed artists in the world than at any time in history; and the arts are the next big export—both here in Washington, D.C., and abroad.

All three of these truths lead to a problem we have in our cultural communities. We need more space.

With YouTube, an iPad, and Kickstarter, anyone can create and distribute art while sitting in front of the computer in their underwear (no…not THAT kind of art). Some artists can even launch careers from the keyboard. But it is not enough to think of art as an activity performed in isolation, behind the curtain of technology.

I have learned that many people in my community feel the same way. Sure, it’s easy to rehearse and perform a play in your living room, read chamber music in a basement, and labor over paintings in the garage for hours—but if no one sees your art, does it have any real impact?

While finding performance space is often the key stumbling block, locating adequate rehearsal (or studio) space is an equally important challenge. Without an appropriate place to cultivate art, there is no true quality control of the product. Don’t believe me? Ask a dancer. Read the rest of this entry »

Sarah Lawson

Sarah Lawson

You’ve probably never visited an art gallery or a classical music concert in Charlottesville, VA.

Though the area is known for its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, historical landmarks, and local food culture, many people don’t consider it an arts destination. At Piedmont Council for the Arts (PCA), we see this every day.

Residents might know everything that’s happening in one area of arts interest, but nothing broader. Visitors tour Monticello or the University of Virginia, but rarely stay the extra day to explore our museums or see a play performed by one of our many community theater groups.

Very few people ever see the full breadth of the Charlottesville area arts community.

However, data from Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study in the Greater Charlottesville area showed that our arts and culture industry generates $114.4 million in annual economic activity, supporting 1,921 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $9.2 million in government revenue.

As the Charlottesville community continues to grow this arts and culture sector, we see a greater need to address this issue of coordinated cultural tourism.  Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 20133 COMMENTS
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

Michelle Clesse

Michelle Clesse

An installation art museum, a nationally renowned glass studio, and a cartoon museum walk into a bar. Just kidding. Museums and studios do not have legs, and therefore, cannot walk anywhere.

Plenty of cities have great art resources for artists and art enthusiasts alike. When I stumbled into Pittsburgh in 2009, I was amazed by the combination of major arts institutions, niche arts organizations, and scrappy little start-up arts groups; but even more so by how approachable and accessible the Pittsburgh arts community was.

I had a hotbed of arts at my fingertips. By the time I’d been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’d taken two glass blowing classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, dragged every out-of-town visitor to the Society for Contemporary Craft, and learned about Gertie the Dinosaur at the ToonSeum.

Now, I certainly didn’t limit myself to the visual arts scene. During my first year I also saw the Pittsburgh Ballet perform twice, checked out the Pittsburgh Symphony, and saw The Mikado performed by CMU’s School of Drama.

As I’ve settled into the city and put down more roots, I still frequent some of my favorite art spots fairly regularly. I have also continued to explore both large and small performance art groups, while keeping my hands busy (and dirty) at many of the public access and cooperative art studios. Read the rest of this entry »

Ronda Billerbeck

Ronda Billerbeck

On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.

Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.

Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.

When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched.  Read the rest of this entry »

A New “Garden State”

Posted by Kacy O'Brien On April - 17 - 20131 COMMENT
Kacy O'Brien

Kacy O’Brien

“The Garden State” is a schema that conjures certain images: the beautiful Jersey shore, Atlantic City, traffic on I-95, traffic on the Parkway, traffic on I-287…the Jersey Devil.

Wouldn’t it be great if Jersey could rejuvenate “The Garden State” motto to conjure a thriving ecology where industry, culture, and community exist in support of each other, like vines twining to reach the sun?

There are three things happening in New Jersey that excite me. All have to do with cross-sector partnerships, creativity, and innovation; all are bettering New Jersey’s communities and positioning our state to take a step forward in redefining itself.

ONE: The Gandhi Garden

Nine months ago, East Hanover Street in Trenton was equal parts boarded up buildings, vacant lots, low-income housing…and artist office/work space.

We’ve all heard that story; many of us, including me, are living it. The story we may not all know is the rapid transformation and strategic development that a cross-sector partnership can bring about, like the one forged between the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), a destination marketing/economic development organization and the SAGE Coalition, an urban beautification NFP made up of a diverse group of Trenton-based visual and performing artists, musicians, teachers, and fabricators.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sarah Rucker

Sarah Rucker

What city carries the nickname “the Violet Crown?” What about “Live Music Capital of the World?”

Now it may be ringing bells…or strumming guitars, I should say. Austin, TX, is my home and has been for 12 years. It’s true that I’m one of the University of Texas alums who remained after graduating, despised by those born or have lived here for over 25 years and have seen the population double. However, my roots were growing here before I was born.

My parents moved here in 1969 and my brother was born in Austin in the summer of ‘71. My father worked at the Vulcan Gas Company nightclub, and consequently I grew up listening to 50s blues, 60s soul, and 70s rock. Though raised on the Gulf Coast, I knew I wanted to live in Austin before my sixth birthday. Enough about me, let’s flash-forward.

Austin has experienced a diverse history of politics, social change, and a lot of music. But where are we now, in this amazing century #21?

With hundreds of thousands of visitors coming each year for events such as Austin City Limits Music Festival and SXSW Music, Film & Interactive Festival, we need to find the balance of celebrating the history, promoting the local talent and embracing the changes this city has undergone.

Incorporating the past, present, and future into one’s work is often key in the arts and community life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kate Preston Keeney

Kate Preston Keeney

Like many of my high school classmates, I never had plans to stay in my hometown of Roanoke, located in southwestern Virginia.

Among other reasons, it seemed to lack that something special in terms of arts and culture. The local theater had reduced its performance season; a much-anticipated visual art museum was struggling to stay open; and the independent bookstore closed to become just another bar.

And so, as is common, I left my hometown in pursuit of graduate school and a job in a metropolitan area. I was perfectly situated within walking distance to public transit, yoga studios, cafes, and world-class performance centers.

But now, I’m starting to look back.

Roanoke and its surrounding areas have begun to capitalize on its rich cultural history. Let me be specific, this culture is not new, yet it has just been unearthed with contemporary knowledge of cultural vitality, opportunities for partnerships and economic development, and community leadership and buy-in.

Roanoke has taken steps to put itself on the list of desirable places to live and has done so by elevating its distinct heritage.  Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

The tragedy in Boston yesterday was horrific and inexplicable and all of us at Americans for the Arts send our deepest sympathy and thoughts to those injured and to their families.

As we saw and heard things unfold from our offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, the Americans for the Arts staff began calling family and friends and members in the Boston area to see if those closest to us were okay. Some of us had loved ones right there at the site watching or running. Thankfully, all were uninjured.

But it made us think how connected, how close, how much a part of a community we all are even if scattered all across our country. In some ways that makes this tragedy all the more hurtful because it was aimed at community and fellowship itself, the very kind of coming together that marathons, and festivals, and arts events try to create. It takes aim at those who live in a community as well as tourists and visitors from across the world, that broader community created by an event like the Boston Marathon.

For me, as someone who grew up in the Boston area and spent my high school years blissfully wandering the city, this happened on sacred ground. Boylston Street was the place of high school proms, or visits to one of our nation’s great libraries, the site of New Year’s Eve First Night Celebrations, and the Lennox Hotel lounge right there was where my parents would go for end of week celebrations and pop up opera performances.

Sadly, terrible events trying to create hard and horrible memories are now all too common. But in some ways our best defense is to keep investing in the community-building arts activities that, individually and together, form the hallmark of our collective work.

Our hope is the hope itself generated by bringing people together through the arts. My hope is that what we all do in our small way in our many arts organizations across America will make the writing of notes like this one someday unnecessary.

Matty Wilder

Matty Wilder

As someone engaged in local arts philanthropy, as well as with a group of diverse leaders trying to change communities through organizing, I ask myself often what would make where I live a better place. But to think about this question in earnest means actually trying to define where exactly I live.

As a resident of Southern California for almost 13 years, I’ve pretty much bounced around to all corners of Los Angeles, though my current zip code has me in the “small town” of Santa Monica.

I do business all over the county, crossing city and municipality lines as often as I turn right on red, and the foundation where I work as program officer serves communities ranging from those just around the corner from our Santa Monica office to the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the neighborhoods around LAX to East and South Los Angeles. (For those of you not from the area, Los Angeles County is about 4,700 square miles, with 81 school districts, 88 cities, and accounts for 27% of California’s population).

So while the massive redevelopment of our downtown area over the last decade may not directly affect my quiet residential neighborhood on the west side, I still want to participate in understanding how it’s going to shape a community and the local economy; though I may not be able to vote for the next mayor of Los Angeles, which frustrates me endlessly—but that’s for another blog post—I still care about and can have a voice in the outcome by learning about the candidates and engaging them on issues I care about.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Storhoff

Tim Storhoff

For this Blog Salon, I really had to stop and think about what would make Tallahassee a better place in general and for the arts.

While Tallahassee has been the butt of many jokes in films and television, it’s actually a very vibrant place with a lot going on. In addition to being the state capital, it is the home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University, both of which have accomplished performing and visual arts programs, and annual events like the Seven Days of Opening Nights Festival regularly bring in world-class artists that otherwise would not be found in cities of this size.

After talking with a coworker and comparing Tallahassee to similarly sized cities, however, it all made sense. We’re missing a river.

A natural landmark like a river or a lake near the center of a city creates an important focus point for developers and provides key elements to that city’s sense of place. Tallahassee is very spread out with a few different pockets of activity, but it lacks a centralized, pedestrian-friendly area to define it.

I’ve previously lived in Fargo and Iowa City. While smaller than Tallahassee, they both have pedestrian-friendly downtown areas near a river where businesses, restaurants, and the arts are thriving. Digging a river in Tallahassee would probably be a poor choice. Thankfully efforts are already underway to create a centralized destination district that can bring together the city’s various communities through arts and culture.  Read the rest of this entry »

Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson

What is the one issue in your community that causes the most uncertainty, disagreement, or fear? The one thing that turns everyday citizens into mad-genius poets in their desire to cut through the noise and be heard?

Chances are that this issue might also be the very thing that could bring your community to the next level. But only if some time is taken right now for all community members to be invited to step back, interact, and express themselves about the issue.

Oh, and somehow, to have fun doing it. That’s important.

This is not the job of your city council, or your newspaper’s online forum. This work of imagining the possibilities, making the hard questions beautiful (and even fun), looking at the story from a distance, and then examining it in microscopic detail, is the work of artists. And the good news is that every community has them if you look for them.

For the last two years of managing Springboard for the Arts’ first satellite office in Fergus Falls, MN, I have been increasingly interested in the unique role that our region’s artists can offer to the important process of framing key issues in their communities.

While the rural communities in West Central Minnesota are grappling with many challenges, none have embodied the potential role of transformative leadership from artists more than the controversial fate of the Fergus Falls State Hospital, or “The Kirkbride Building.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Jimmy Castillo

Jimmy Castillo

I live in the Near Northside of Houston, TX. That’s where my wife and I were born and raised.

Our families saw the first transformation of the neighborhood from a community of predominantly German and Italian immigrants that worked at the nearby rail yards in the early 1900’s into the one that emerged during and after World War II. It was then that residents fled to the outlying suburbs and the working poor Mexican-Americans from the rented shacks in Frostown began to occupy the wood-frame cottages and rail yard jobs that the previous residents left behind.

By the time I was born, the neighborhood was Mexican-American, working-class, and a little rough. Although we both spent some time away, the Near Northside is where my wife and I have decided to settle and raise our family.

The area was originally developed in the 1890’s as a Neartown neighborhood around all of the railroad and warehouse jobs in North Downtown near Allen’s Landing. The older streets are still laid out in a grid with commercial structures facing the major thoroughfares and rows of old one-story houses behind.

There wasn’t very much development in the area in the last half of the 20th century; with the exception of the construction of I-45, Highway 59, and the Elysian Viaduct; all of which have cut through the neighborhood creating new boundaries and changing the flow of community life.

Fortunately, we have everything that we need all centralized within a five-block stretch of Quitman St. Davis High School, Marshal Middle School, and Carnegie Neighborhood Library (not a real Carnegie Library) all meet at the same intersection which is across the street from the local supermarket, Fiesta.  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.