Jim Clark

Jim Clark

I always look forward to Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention for two very specific reasons: one is to be provoked by the audacity of others; the second is to be reminded of basic truths about our field.

The provocations usually generate one of two possible self-reflections: “Why didn’t I think of that?” or, “We did something similar, but why doesn’t anyone know about it?” Regardless of how I am provoked, these moments during the conference become the “drivers” that propel me to rethink our work at home. The provocations challenge, inspire, and create a sense of professional restlessness that keeps things fresh.  Case in point, Penny Balkin Bach’s presentation on how the Association for Public Art in Philadelphia uses social media. It was challenging and inspiring because I realized my organization was not using the tools (most of which are free) that are at our finger tips to not only communicate to a larger audience but also to harness the tools of measurement that are embedded within them. Read the rest of this entry »

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Malissa Feruzzi Shriver

Nashville is not for the faint of heart, and neither is an Americans for the Arts’ conference. There were scheduled sessions that ran until midnight, where some of the panelists broke into song, and early bird specials—eight AM, lights, camera, action.  Nashville has nothing on Americans for the Arts, and Americans for the Arts has something for everyone.  More than one thousand arts advocates enjoyed networking, performances, and fascinating panels, myself included.  Convention themes ran from arts and community to building core skills (does being on your feet for fourteen hours build core strength too?), embracing diversity, reinvention and sustainability, and supply and demand. This conference was definitely not short on supply, and judging from the attendance, demand was high.

I was impressed on so many levels. Four jam-packed days of sessions, exhibitors, meet and greets, and all the big organizations, big names and big ideas. I learned about public art and placemaking, leadership skill development, and how art can translate data, and was fascinated by topics like engaging the biases, values and privileges underneath your work. I am grateful that AFTA organizes these conferences to invest in our field, inform leaders, and stimulate dialogue about relevance and sustainability. Read the rest of this entry »

Casey Gill Summar

Casey Gill Summar

An Americans for the Arts’ colleague recently shared this interesting article claiming that social activism is the “new religion” of the millennial workforce and asked if I felt this was true in my experience building partnerships between arts and business. In full disclosure, I think I’m just outside the millennial generation, but I will say there is something core to this concept of passion and commitment for your cause that drives me and my younger colleagues. We all share the desire to not just donate to a cause, but to contribute time and expertise as well, to bring along all friends, and in short, tell everyone we know how important this cause is to our hearts. I’m definitely guilty of this. You don’t have to spend much time around me to learn that I’m an ardent advocate for the arts, that I love my little transitional neighborhood so much I joined the board of the association, or that I’m a fan of living local right down to my front-yard garden. As the Executive Director of the Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville since 2012, I have worked to incorporate some of these concepts of volunteerism, meaningful partnership, and first-hand experiences which I desire into our program offerings. Read the rest of this entry »

Reunion

Posted by Robert Bush On June - 18 - 20142 COMMENTS
Robert Bush

Robert Bush

My first Americans for the Arts (AFTA) conference—at the time, the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (NALAA)—was in 1984, in Charleston, S.C., and in the middle of Spoleto.  Selena Roberts Ottum was the chair of the NALAA Board.  I was in awe.

Being the executive director of a small county arts council in North Carolina seemed like a different world from all the arts leaders I heard speak over those few days.  But what I took home was inspiration to take our modest efforts to new levels of community engagement and excellence.  And I made it a priority to attend NALAA—and later AFTA—conventions and advocacy days and to get involved in the work of its interest areas and leadership groups as well.  It wasn’t always easy due to small budgets, but over the last 30 years, I’ve made it to most.  Why, you might ask? It’s because what I found in Charleston so many years ago was not just professional peers but family. Read the rest of this entry »

A winning school is picked by vote, based on a set of four uniquely designed VANS shoes.

Editors Note: Americans for the Arts has partnered with VANS for the past two years on their Custom Culture program. Last night in New York City was the final event, where the winning shoe design was picked. Below are remarks that our Arts Education Program Manager made during the event:

Hello, my name is Kristen, and I’m the Arts Education Program Manager at Americans for the Arts. Whether you like to sing in the shower, dance like no one is watching, or design the next great VANS shoe, we want to support that. Our motto is “All the Arts for All the People.”

We firmly believe that the arts have the power to transform lives. In fact, last year we had the privilege of featuring an artist at our annual convention named Inocente. Her story is nothing short of incredible. As a teenager, Inocente was homeless, the victim of abuse, and the daughter to undocumented immigrants. Her life had hit rock bottom until one day she walked into an arts center in San Diego called A Reason to Survive. She began painting, and indeed, it gave her a reason to survive. She graduated from high school and selling her art kept her from living on the streets. Her powerful transformation was featured in the Oscar winning documentary, Inocente.

Inocente designed these as an ambassador for Custom Culture.

Inocente designed these as an ambassador for Custom Culture.

Americans for the Arts knows that learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to not only survive but thrive in today’s ever-changing world. And so when VANS approached us a few years ago about partnering on Custom Culture, we could see that they too value the arts as an integral part of all students’ education. Together we hope to encourage high school students to embrace their creativity and inspire a new generation of youth culture. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

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.