A Shared Endeavor

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 24 - 20141 COMMENT
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.

In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:

  • Development of policies and resources for arts education.
  • Access to arts education for all students.
  • Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
  • Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.

In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Dockery

Stephanie Dockery

According to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, 66% of businesses who do not currently support the arts report that they have never been asked to do so.

ProjectArt, an organization aiming to close the “access” gap in youth arts education, has taken that lesson to heart – and is now celebrating an innovative and successful partnership with Jacques Torres Chocolate for holiday and Valentine’s Day promotions that grew out of an exploratory phone call: ProjectArt asked.

Children and candy are a natural link, and the giving season is the perfect time to advocate for ProjectArt’s programs, which include art instruction, promoting art access through public libraries, and gallery exhibitions for their pupils, largely from low-income areas. Stickers attached to containers of the Jacques Torres malt balls promote that “one box of chocolate covered malt balls = one free art class for a child.”

Affectionately known as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres founded his company in New York City in the year 2000. In 1988, he emigrated from France and became the corporate pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton, then served as executive pastry chef at Le Cirque from 1989-2000. Jacques Torres Chocolate is headquartered in New York, and the chocolate in manufactured in Brooklyn, establishing him as the quintessential American dream. A supporter of New York nonprofits, Jacques Torres has a personal passion for supporting youth initiatives, making ProjectArt’s proposal a perfect fit. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Matters, Darn It!

Posted by Ken Busby On January - 22 - 20145 COMMENTS
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.

The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst.  And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded.  As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular.   And that’s the job of a CEO.  I’m not complaining.

What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding.  I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Statement made at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Awards Conference on January 14, where I was honored with the Sidney R. Yates Award:

My very first National Arts management training came from Association for Performing Arts Presenters conferences in the mid-seventies. I needed that because my presenting passions were not usually very lucrative: prisons, senior centers, inner-city and rural communities, large, all-embracing community festivals.

At about the same time, I became passionate about advocacy. I learned in Massachusetts that if we could harness the energy and clout of artists, arts managers, and arts lovers, we could indeed increase state government funding tenfold. We, all working together, could get voted in huge new state and local money streams nurturing emerging avenues of support for arts involvement and vision like city planning, social problem solving, and economic development. These avenues would provide opportunities for artistic focus and employment in unexpected areas, resulting in new support for fields like public art, art in transportation projects, and expanded revenue streams for all the arts.

In the eighties and nineties in Washington, DC at NALAA and then Americans for the Arts, I learned the necessity and challenges of ongoing collaboration; of the need for constant clarification against unfair, unfounded political attacks; of the need for case making for something as precious as the arts, which should need no defense. Undertaking advocacy efforts with Mr. Sidney Yates for some thirteen years taught me the value of a compelling story and a signature performance in shaping an arts appropriation increase.

I also continued to look to APAP as a source of information and sheer joy about the breadth of the performing arts and as a reminder about why my advocacy was important. At home I got to hear about APAP’s good works from my partner, Dianne Brace, who produced and directed the APAP Annual Conference over a five year period.

In the 21st century, I see more than ever the value of and need for the arts at every table, the value of bringing an arts voice to every national endeavor and national forum, whether for the business community, elected leadership, philanthropy, or social change.

Now in 2014, I am honored to be receiving the Sidney R. Yates Advocacy Award. It is especially meaningful coming from the organization that first mentored me. America needs the arts, although sometimes it doesn’t know it. The arts need advocacy, and the arts and I need APAP.

Lane Harwell

Lane Harwell

It is not coincidental that New York is a business and cultural capital; business and the arts are one. Arts and culture improve livability, drive tourism and economic development, and make the city desirable for businesses and their employees. Robust and strategic corporate giving is critical to realizing these and more deliverables.

To better understand and to advocate for corporate giving, the organization I run, Dance/NYC, has produced its first-ever corporate giving snapshot, which is based on the New York State Cultural Data Project (CDP) and an extension of our recent State of NYC Dance (2013).

The snapshot is, in part, a response to the Wall Street Journal headline “Corporate Support for Dance Wanes,” sparked by our first CDP report released in 2011. It is also a response to more recent studies by the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA) and by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, which suggest the opposite; in fact, based on their sources, corporate giving may be up.

Dance/NYC’s new CDP findings reveal an uneven patchwork of growth and decline in corporate giving to dance makers in the five boroughs at the core of our analysis. The amount received “in donations from corporations, including grants, funds and matching gifts” (source: CDP) grew 7.7 percent in the aggregate from 2009 to 2011. Corporate donations benefit dance makers of all budget sizes, and equal 5.1 percent of their total private contributions. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

It’s the start of a New Year and technology will continue to be a hot arts education topic in 2014.  Since launching my own ArtsEdTechNYC venture last spring, I’ve immersed myself in many conversations exploring ways in which technology – I admit, a super generalized term – is being utilized within the scope of arts education. In meaningful, effective ways including K-12, higher education, distance learning and special needs populations, I remain continuously inspired by so many people doing amazing work.

Here are a few things I’ve discovered where technology will continue to change the way we teach, educate and inform our arts education field this year and beyond.

RESEARCH

The Wallace Foundation released two critical pieces of research late last year. As access to technology for learning, communication and art making grow among our youth, self-directed, connected, and digital learning opportunities are expanding as well.New-Opportunities-for-Interest-Driven-Arts-Learning-in-a-Digital-Age_COVER

These reports are a must-read:

ONLINE LEARNING & PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

The EdTech movement is the driving force behind development of so many new online learning platforms, apps, and software being created at lighting speed.  Here are a few arts, creativity, and innovation sites that I think are great:

  • Susan Riley’s STEM to STEAM focused Education Closet provides a wonderful platform for art integration ideas and professional development, while also offering a unique annual virtual conference. The STEM to STEAM conversation will continue to be an extensive one. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Excellence

Posted by John R. Killacky On January - 7 - 20145 COMMENTS
John R. Kilacky

John R. Kilacky

Recently, I participated on two funding panels: the National Endowment for the Arts for theater projects and a California foundation for commissioning new music. Artistic excellence was a key criterion on both panels.

Defining quality used to be easy, although taste was always a mitigating factor. Now in our multicultural society, it is more complex. No longer can we calibrate merit solely through a Euro-centric framework.

Experts on my theater panel reviewed applications from ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands to those with budgets in the tens of millions. Projects included amateurs learning to tell their own stories , alongside avant-garde works, free Shakespeare, revivals of classics, puppet tales, new scripts, site specific and culturally specific productions. Communities served included Latino, African American, LGBT, elderly, children, the incarcerated, and homeless in urban, inner city, and rural locations.

Music panelists judged choral, electronic, jazz, and orchestral proposals against Balinese Gamelan and East Indian vocal projects. String quartets competed with a Tibetan music master, Ghanaian drummer, Turkish singer, and Beijing Opera performer. Projects ranged from minimalist to the operatic, traditional proscenium-based concerts to multidisciplinary extravaganzas.

There were limited dollars to grant, so competition was steep in both panels. Excellence mattered, and there was no lack of artistic excellence, but quality had to be judged through multiple worldviews and experiences. Panelists came from varied aesthetics, ethnicities, generations and geographies to allow for a fair review of the proposals. Equity and parity, as well as cultural competency factored into our decision-making.

Liking an artist or project was not sufficient. Listening and learning from one another’s comments were vital as we navigated beyond personal taste. Context matters, traditions are essential, and community is crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

All of us at Americans for the Arts wish you a very happy New Year, and congratulate all of you on your valuable work creating, enhancing, and advancing the arts in America last year!


We can’t wait to see what innovative and creative work will be done in the arts in 2014!

Donna Sapolin

Donna Sapolin

I love the fall/winter season in New York. Everything seems to come back to life once September rolls around and the arts kick into high gear, igniting the city with blasts of creative energy. People begin flocking to music, theater and dance performances.

A few weeks ago, I went to see the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater during its first visit to New York in five years. The SFB is America’s oldest professional company and has achieved great acclaim for its overall excellence and emphasis on new ballet choreography.

The thrilling three-part program I saw – a mixed bill of two classically oriented dances (“Trio” and “Suite en Blanc”) and a contemporary one (“Ghosts”) – was utterly captivating.

Ballet Is a Microcosm of Successful Approaches to Work

Are you familiar with the famed song “At the Ballet” from the award-winning Broadway musical, A Chorus Line? It depicts ballet (and ballet lessons) as an antidote to a problem-riddled childhood because, as the chorus says, “Everything was beautiful at the ballet.”

Well, everything is beautiful at the ballet. But that exquisite perfection is the result of a great deal of creative intelligence, effort, and teamwork.

As I watched and admired SFB’s virtuosic performances complete with lush costumes, sets, and music, it struck me that the total package encapsulated all the values and steps I believe make for career success. Here they are:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score’s rhythm and emotion and the choreographer’s instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.

We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others’ concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly “present” to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They’re also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many steps. Top ballet dancers don’t think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage. The SFB website explains: “Dancers’ lives are full of daily ballet technique classes and rehearsals. A typical workday can start with an hour-long class, followed by four to six hours of rehearsal, often concluding with a two-hour evening performance. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

UK Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, used the occasion of the country’s “Trustees Week” to issue a call for more businesses to encourage their employees to join the ranks of nonprofit board members. Noting that there already are a million volunteer leaders in the UK, he cited a significant number of vacant board seats in the charity sector. This challenge is also prevalent among US nonprofits—and no doubt in other parts of the world, too. And as anyone who has served on a nonprofit board knows, even when there is a full complement of board members, there is always a need to consider who will come next, and how the board will renew itself over time.

Hurd notes how much expertise businesspeople have to offer to nonprofits. Importantly, he also makes the case for how business professionals—and their employers—benefit from board experience. Research done by the City of London demonstrated increased skills among volunteer leaders in categories including team building, negotiating, problem solving, and financial knowledge.

Boards require collaboration, and “leadership moments” may present themselves to charity trustees at earlier stages in their careers than they might in the corporate setting, allowing business professionals to gain confidence and try out new skills in a different environment. And there are, of course, often business benefits to be gained from networking with other board members. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreaming Big To Focus

Posted by Nick Dragga On December - 18 - 2013No comments yet
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

Our production manager had an iron-clad rule, “Do NOT let the artistic director see other Nutcrackers within three weeks of our own.” Don’t get me wrong, we all LOVE the creative process, but when you’ve been working on a production for six months with 150 performers, 30 crew, and hundreds of calls, making drastic changes the last week gets difficult.

Our artistic director, in all her excitement would sometimes say, “I have some great ideas! So, let’s go a whole other direction with those costumes.” Those were the 12 costumes that took 30 hours each to make…

Can anyone relate?

Again, we love the creative process, because as we all know it is through the process that great discoveries happen. We certainly do not want to minimize or squelch the excitement of our artistic director, but want to create an environment that rewards and fosters daring, creative thinking. We firmly believe that if you don’t fail every now and then, you’re not doing it right. Failure is noble. But, poor execution, laziness, or lacking of planning is not.

Creativity is not an excuse for chaos. Creativity is a discipline.

Epiphanies are a myth, or as Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.”

So what do you do? How do you keep the excitement and freedom necessary for creativity – or simply work with artistic director, who is in fact the boss – but still be practical and give your production team the time and structure to thrive…or survive?

We get more creative. We dream bigger. We dream big, huge – almost impossibly big…to focus the artistic directors. Read the rest of this entry »

The Many Themes of STEAM

Posted by Talia Gibas On December - 18 - 20136 COMMENTS
Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Back in May, I shared my reservations about efforts to “turn STEM to STEAM.” I didn’t question “whether the arts and sciences are connected. What was missing for me 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 disciplines together in a thoughtful and authentic way is something entirely different.”

Since then, I’ve had the privilege of spending several days with other members of the Arts and STEM Collaborative for 21st Century Learning, a cohort of arts and science education leaders from across Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties. We’ve met three times since the summer, and despite our thoughtful conversations, I had a nagging question: is STEM-to-STEAM simply about the integration of the arts and STEM subjects? If so, can we take an existing definition of arts integration (I’m a fan of the one developed by The Kennedy Center), declare the S, T, E, and/or M the “other subject area,” and call it a day? If not, why not? How is STEAM different? Read the rest of this entry »

Mara Walker

Mara Walker

I recently returned from Hong Kong where I participated in the International Arts Leadership Roundtable organized by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. As with many countries around the world, the arts and culture organizations in Hong Kong are often funded 70, 80, or 90% by the government. They need to diversify their funding pool and are looking to the United States as a model. I was the only American among other arts representatives from Australia, Canada, England, Singapore, Japan, Korea, and many others from Hong Kong itself – all envious of our perceived high degree of private sector resources going to the arts, our ongoing ROI on public sector support, and the existence of Americans for the Arts to advance all of the arts for all the people in this country.

While there is money on the ground in Hong Kong, evidenced by the beautiful Hong Kong skyline and downtown light show I witnessed nightly, there isn’t a culture of giving. Leaders from the arts, academia, business, media, and government were brought together to discuss how to create change and foster giving to the arts and it was great to be a part of the conversation.  Americans for the Arts staff are often asked to travel around the world to talk about the U.S. funding model for the arts in order to provide a roadmap for such change. There is a sense that we’ve figured it out. It’s true that we have a long tradition of giving in this country, but private sector support could – and should – be larger. It currently accounts for roughly 30% of an arts organization’s budget, with individual giving accounting for a majority and corporate and foundation support behind. IMG_5626

On a positive note, we are seeing increases in businesses giving to the arts (2012 saw a return to 2006 levels of support) but only 4.6% of total corporate giving goes to the arts, as those dollars are always competing with social and health causes for attention. Businesses focus their arts giving on impacting the communities in which their employees live and work, and we are working to build the awareness about how partnering with the arts can help them reach their business goals. I spoke about our pARTnership Movement campaign when I was in Hong Kong and how we are demonstrating that connection by changing the dialogue to less be about an ask for money and more about building strong and lasting arts and business relationships that are mutually beneficial – financial support often follows.

That isn’t to say that “the ask” isn’t important. “The ask,” whether for funding or partnering, is everything. Positioning the arts as a solution provider that builds employee creativity and retention and strengthens the community is key. We have seen the power of collaboration time and time again, which is why we feature success stories on our website, recognize where partnerships have been effective through our BCA 10 awards and communication vehicles, and share ideas for creative partnerships at conferences and gatherings.

Our meeting space in Hong Kong was in the new Asia Society complex which beautifully stands as a testament to partnerships, constructed with funding from both government and private sources. The venue now has not only a meeting space but also features a theatre and gallery, where they were showing the daring “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” exhibit, jointly presented by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation New York as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

What is the purpose of theatre education at the K-12 level? What underlying objectives are shared by diverse programs in diverse communities? How do we reconcile a theatre’s objectives in engaging future audiences with the educational objectives of schools and parents? The practical reality is that a climate of education budget cuts, standardized testing and stiff competition for budget dollars makes providing young people, especially in underserved communities, with meaningful arts education opportunities a challenging question.

This surfaced recently when I was sitting in a donor’s office laying out our plans for Impact Creativity, an ambitious undertaking to raise $5 million over three years to bridge the budget gaps of our 19 member theaters and their education programs. American creativity is at stake, and so is our sense of equal opportunity — 40 percent of underserved youth risk losing their access to arts education.

“But what are you setting out to do, actually?” the donor asked. “Raise $5 million,” I answered. She paused. “And then…?”

Ah ha. We needed to connect the dots, in other words define theater education and its impact in more tangible ways, so that we can have a national conversation about something that currently differs from state to state, school to school, and theatre to theatre.

The network of 19 National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) member theaters then set out to define clear objectives for the national Impact Creativity program while communicating how the individual theatre education programs address the larger questions facing our education systems: equity, resource scarcity and increasing demand for a high-functioning workforce. Read the rest of this entry »