Robert Bush

Robert Bush

Reading Americans for the Arts’ 2013 study on Local Arts Agency Salaries took me back. Way back to 1981 when I took my first position as executive director, and only employee, of a county arts council in North Carolina at what I thought at the time was an incredible sum of $16,000 per year, plus health benefits. Now my parents thought I was crazy for leaving the classroom with its pay (not much more than then LAA job) and benefits. I was still young enough to see the change as a great new adventure. Nearly 30 years later and a wonderful career, I know I made the right decision.

On the plus side, salaries and benefits have come a long way since the early 1980s. On the whole, salaries and benefits are better across the board. Some highly skilled positions demand a higher level of compensation, and rightfully so, than one might expect.  For example, Senior Public Art professionals are required to be a planner, have a keen aesthetic/artist eye, project manager, legal negotiator, financial wizard, and more importantly are hard to find. It is right that their compensation levels are rising. I know some of my colleagues still struggle with wages that are not commensurate with their education and skill level or the demands of what we all know can be a 24/7 job. So we shouldn’t take the survey results as any more than a snapshot in time and hopefully provide information to help boards and commissions understand how peer agencies are compensating their employees. Read the rest of this entry »

What You’re Worth

Posted by Clayton Lord On July - 11 - 2013No comments yet
Clay Lord

Clay Lord

What is a person worth?  Often, especially in the arts (but I think almost anywhere, whether out of necessity or guile), that doesn’t seem the question, really.  It seems more often to come down to what a person is willing to take.  I first started thinking about this issue back when Rocco Landesman launched his #supplydemand earthquake in that now-infamous conversation with Diane Ragsdale.  Rocco, talking about the ongoing existence of more arts institutions than there were patrons to really fully support them, sparked a lot of different conversations—but for me, at the time and, really, now still, my main question was: if there isn’t sufficient demand, then why is there still an overflow of supply?  And in the context of individuals—if there’s not sufficient money, then why are there people (usually highly educated, often educated to be something else first) to do the work?

Yesterday, Americans for the Arts officially launched a report called Local Arts Agency Salaries 2013, which provides a variety of interesting informational tidbits about the salaries and disparities at local arts agencies around the country.  It has a whole lot of information, which I hope you will read (to make it easier, we’ve broken the report into small downloadable sections based on whether you want a little information or a lot, including a summary, infographics, tables by title, and the full report).  While the report only looks at local arts agencies, it provides an interesting snapshot of wages for a variety of positions at those organizations, as well as some fodder for two important conversations.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tim McClimon

Tim McClimon

Last month, I attended the annual conference of Americans for the Arts in Pittsburgh, which was focused around the question, “Why are the arts the best kept secret when it comes to building healthy, diverse, and engaged communities?” While I was there, I presented the American Express Emerging Leader Award to Abe Flores, who is the advocacy field manager for Arts for LA in Los Angeles, CA (Congratulations, Abe!). I also participated in a panel discussion about the challenging state of private support of the arts.

During my remarks, I suggested that the arts community hasn’t done enough to align itself with the concept of creativity, which is something that is valued by many, if not most, Americans. Granted, the first part of that statement is my opinion, but the second part is based on a recent survey of Americans by Time Magazine, Microsoft, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

According to the study results, which were published in Time on May 20, 2013, 94 percent of Americans value creativity in others – compared to 93 percent who value intelligence, 92 percent compassion, 89 percent humor, 88 percent ambition, and 57 percent who value beauty.

91 percent say creativity is important in their personal lives and 83 percent say creativity is important in their professional lives. 65 percent think that creativity is central to America’s role as a global leader. In fact, 35 percent of Americans think that the U.S. is the current leader in creativity with China at 23 percent, Japan at 19 percent, Germany at 3 percent, India at 1 percent, and the U.K. at 1 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Ecosystems at Risk

Posted by Alex Sarian On July - 9 - 20132 COMMENTS
Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Two very scary, and seemingly unrelated, things happened in 2008:   1) 100,000 nonprofits around the US (many of them arts, education, & culture based) began the slow and painful process of going out of business, and 2) the Holdridge’s toad, one of Costa Rica’s most prevalent species, was declared extinct.

Let’s talk toads first:

There are two schools of thought that explain why a species might become extinct. The first holds the environment responsible, stating that the Holdridge’s toad became extinct because of “chytridiomycosis” (look it up), a disease caused by effects of climate change. In this case, the toads were not able to evolve fast enough to adapt to the fast-changing environment around them. The second option, ironically, holds the species responsible. This popular evolutionary theory called the “Red Queen hypothesis” – named after Lewis Carroll’s character who described her country as a nation in which “it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place” – argues that species biologically increase in numbers until they reach the ‘carrying capacity’ of their environment, by which point the environment is too consumed (deteriorated) to sustain such diversity. Extinction. Scientists predict that by 2050, as a result of one of the two theories mentioned above, a full quarter of the species known to us today will be extinct. Read the rest of this entry »

Wendy Hawkins

Wendy Hawkins

It is hard to imagine a more visceral and impactful medium for connecting to an audience than film.  And if our goal is to bring about social change, what better medium for getting people to step up and take action than a well-made film?

I had the pleasure last week of participating on a panel on the topic of storytelling for social change – particularly around documentary films – at the 2013 CECP Summit.  There Joe Brewster told of the 13 years he and his wife spent filming their own son and his best friend as they embarked with great anticipation on the journey of their elementary and high school education – a journey that took them to some darker places and greater challenges than they had ever anticipated for this much loved son of a middle class African American family in New York City.  American Promise is deeply moving and delivers tough messages about the role of assumptions and biases in defining the world in which these boys grow up – beyond the ability of their parents to shape and control.

Rashid Shabazz of the Open Society Foundations and Program Officer for Black Male Achievement told of the process by which he and his foundation decided that this film had the potential to move audiences in ways that other, more traditional grants might never reach. Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

As corporate giving for the arts turns a corner post-recession, arts organizations like ours, the National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF), view the development with cautious optimism. Every three years, Business Committee for the Arts (BCA), part of Americans for the Arts, publishes a survey of corporate support for the arts. The report – a fascinating quick read, conducted by theatre patron and research guru Mark Shugoll, reports the first positive trends in corporate support for the arts in six years, although giving is still below pre-recession levels.

This year, the survey goes deep into why companies do and do not support the arts, and what could make them give more, or get engaged in the first place. Two observations stand out to me as ah-ha moments: Arts organizations have lost contact with the CEO’s who drive these decisions, and the arts community is not sufficiently connecting and communicating its education and social engagement activity to broader community engagement and development.

A recent experience underscores my first key observation in the report – that only 10 percent of companies surveyed make supporting the arts a top priority in their contributions. While this is higher than three years ago, when it was only 2 percent (I wonder what accounts for the change), this was a bracing reminder of where we are on the corporate priority list. To celebrate the founding of several regional theatres 50 years ago, an NCTF board member connected us to a media consultant to craft profiles of CEOs in various communities talking about why regional theatres are key to their philanthropy and partnership policies. Our consultants found that media outlets wanted proven research, or at least anecdotal experiences, of employee creativity, engagement, business objectives realized through theatre, and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

I’ve been thinking about “scope and sequence” lately. A passionate arts specialist used the phrase repeatedly in a recent conference presentation and I started to worry it was something the education community had a monopoly on, that the arts community got left behind this time. But then I started to second guess myself: Why should only schools and certified teachers provide scope and sequence?

Is scope and sequence possible outside a school setting? Obviously, schools are ideally situated to deliver meaningful scope and sequence with mandatory attendance for (hopefully at least) 170 days a year, (generally) consistent contact with the same group of students for that time and a trained, professional educator leading the charge. But does that preclude community organizations from also offering a scope and sequence, on their own scale?

Having just reviewed state-wide grant applications for arts learning funding, I can tell you that in Oregon, at least 75% of arts organizations offer educational programming that represents significant scope and sequence. In fact, I would say that it is nearly impossible to provide meaningful arts education without scope and sequence. With the exception of a pure field trip model where students are bused in and out of a performance, every arts education activity includes some scope and sequence. Read the rest of this entry »

Kristy Callaway

Kristy Callaway

Sally Gaskill

Sally Gaskill

Happy 100th Birthday to the U.S. Department of Labor! Our rotund and reluctant mid-wife, President Taft, on his last day in office, signed legislation creating and delivering the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), giving workers a direct seat in the President’s Cabinet for the first time.

DOL’s mission: “To foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.”

DOL has created one hundred buckets in which all jobs/industries are categorized. The data presented are obtained from employer or establishment surveys. Performing Arts shares its bucket with Spectator Sports and Related Industries. And Related Industries includes: Promoters of Performing Arts, Agents and Managers of Artists/Entertainers, Independent Artists, Writers and Performers. Another subset includes Musicians, Singers, Producers, Directors, Public Relations, Ushers, Lobby Attendants, and Ticket Takers. You can similarly search job/industry categories for Architecture & Engineering, Arts & Design, and Media and Communication.

One can drill down into occupations to learn job descriptions, functions, work environment, education/training/experience, compensation, number of jobs in nation, and outlook (future growth projections) of said job. Read the rest of this entry »

Cally Vennare

Cally Vennare

How do you utilize the arts to foster civic identity, cultivate tourism, and brand your city, town or neighborhood?

Four arts leaders. Four diverse markets. Four distinct audience segments. While the cities and circumstances may differ, their authentic and creative approach to problem solving, consensus building, and collaboration did not. Here are their key insights and takeaways from last week’s 2013 Americans for the Arts Convention.

Andrew M. Witt, St. Johns Cultural Council (St. Augustine, Florida)
“Be real. Find the asset in the community that is going to be of interest to someone not in your community and sell that in a realistic way. The worst thing that can happen is to not meet (customer) expectations. If you don’t, they’ll tell 10 people; if you exceed expectations, they’ll tell 2 people. So you have to deliver on the promise you made.”
Learn more about the work of the St. Johns Cultural Council here.  

Robert Vodnoy, Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony (Aberdeen, South Dakota)
“The lesson in all the different stories that I told you is: the general impulse of the community is to have civic pride and not want to touch the stories that are problematic. Or to sanitize them. But I think the cultural tourist is more interested in the whole story. So I think the challenge is to get the civic identity to embrace its complete self, and not to walk away from what is actually a rich story just because it’s a little ‘icky.’ It’s a tougher story, but it’s a much more interesting narrative. Embrace the dark side.”
Learn more about the Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony here. Read the rest of this entry »

Narric Rome

Narric Rome

Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) authorization formally ended in 2007, Congress has been trying to reauthorize it, but with very little success. You remember NCLB? It passed Congress with whopping margins of 381-41 in the House and 87-10 in the Senate and President Bush signed it into law with big smiles from education champions like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and House committee leaders John Boehner (R-OH) and George Miller (D-CA). That was then.

Since then, NCLB has been attacked each year by education advocates on all sides and the Obama Administration has gone so far as to grant waivers to 37 states allowing them to opt out of many of the law’s regulations, which will remain in place until the law is reauthorized. It’s been sad as education leaders, in and out of Congress, proclaim the “urgent” need to end the labeling of failing schools, to curb the “unintended consequences” that have been a fundamental problem with NCLB. Years have passed without even a floor vote on replacement legislation.

I’ve known Capitol Hill staff who were hired to work on the reauthorization (now referred to as the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA)) who have given up waiting and moved to jobs off the Hill. Read the rest of this entry »

Doug Israel

Doug Israel

After years of school budget cuts due to the economic downturn, and a decade of No Child Left Behind-inspired education policies, there is a movement afoot in districts across the country to reinvigorate the school day with a rich and engaging curriculum.

Parents, students, and educators have been beating the drum about the narrowed curriculum and are making the case to expand access to arts, music, foreign languages, science, and other core subjects that have been marginalized in schools in recent years. Now candidates to be mayor in the country’s largest school district are weighing in on what arts education would look like under their leadership. Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Shugoll

Mark Shugoll

There is no doubt that the arts have faced, and continue to face, challenging times. Subscription numbers trend downward, putting increased pressure on each show to be a hit and sell lots of individual tickets. Total contributed income has been decreasing at many arts organizations, or at least has not grown fast enough to match increased costs and growing artistic ambitions. Words rarely associated with arts organizations in the past are becoming increasingly common: declaring bankruptcy, downsizing, and even going out of business.

In this challenging new reality, there is at last a ray of hope. In the recently completed triennial BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts conducted by Americans for the Arts, corporate giving is up for the first time in nine years. From 2009 to 2012, arts giving from corporations is up 18 percent. Before we all get too excited at what sounds like a huge number, remember arts giving is up 18 percent over three years, an average of a more modest 6 percent per year. And arts giving has only recovered to 2006 levels (although the survey does not adjust giving for inflation).

But the upward progress cannot be denied on almost any measure in the survey: the percent of businesses contributing to any philanthropic cause is up from 52 percent in 2009 to 64 percent today; the percent of all businesses giving to the arts is up from 28 percent in 2009 to 41 percent today; the percent the arts receive of total philanthropic contributions is up from 15 percent to 19 percent; the median contribution to the arts is the largest it has been in 6 years, up from $750 in 2009 to $1,000 today. And there is hope that these trends will continue as slightly more businesses today say they expect their total philanthropic giving, as well as their arts giving, to increase rather than decrease in 2013. Read the rest of this entry »

8619_10151402651177805_379340572_nNot everyone can join us here in Pittsburgh at the 2013 Annual Convention and preconferences, but we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to follow all the action online. The best place to take part “virtually” is the Convention Homepage.

You’ll find links to the three livestreamed general sessions, our Flickr photo feed, ARTSblog posts written about the Convention, and the Twitter feed. You can also follow everything on Twitter directly by searching with the #afta13 hashtag.

Check back often for new photos and content!

Nadine Wasserman

Nadine Wasserman

As part of the Annual 2013 Americans for the Arts National Conference, the Public Art Network (PAN) Preconference, presents the opportunity for public art professionals to explore all aspects of their field from invigorating communities to behind-the-scenes negotiations such as planning, fund raising, and working collaboratively with artists, architects, engineers, fabricators, city planners, and so on.

Like any worthwhile artistic production, good public art requires delicate negotiations, collaborations, and most importantly flexibility and adaptability. One of the many panels at PAN this year took a look at how the end result can often be very different from the initial prospectus. The panel, titled “Between the Lip and the Cup: How Projects Change from Initial Process to Final Installation,” was made up of four different professionals: Cath Brunner, Director, Public Art 4Culture, Seattle, WA; Stacy Levy, artist, Sere, Ltd., Spring Mills, PA; Natalie Plecity, Landscape Architect, Pittsburgh, PA; and Janet Zweig, artist, Brooklyn, NY.

The panel used examples to demonstrate how changes and unpredictable circumstances are inevitable at all phases of a project but they can be successfully managed in order to create the “best” outcomes for all stakeholders.
Ms. Zweig talked about two of her projects. One was for Maplewood, a neighborhood in St. Louis.  Her first proposal to create a digital sign proved cost prohibitive so she revised her plan. In the end her signs were made of recycled materials taken from bungalows that were scheduled for demolition in the neighborhood. One of the signs was intentionally installed backwards so that drivers passing by could read it in their rearview mirrors. Serendipitously, it was this aspect of the project that created a buzz and got the neighborhood the recognition it was seeking. Read the rest of this entry »

Nadine Wasserman

Nadine Wasserman

Each year as a highlight of the Public Art Network’s preconference, a panel of jurors presents its selection of exemplary public art projects from the previous year. The 2013 Year in Review jurors were Justine Topfer, Curator, Out of the Box Projects & Project Manager, San Francisco Arts Commission, CA; Norie Sato, Artist, Seattle, WA; and John Carson, Artist and Head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.From 350 submissions they selected 50 that were completed in 2012.

Since 2000, PAN’s Year in Review uses an open call submission process from which the panel selects up to 50 projects that represent the most compelling works from across the country. This year’s jury prefaced their presentation by explaining that although they had different points of view they agreed on all of the choices and were careful to recuse themselves during the deliberations from those projects where there had conflicts of interest.

In their introduction, the panel explained that this year they noticed an increased number of projects using light and technology, an interesting trend towards multiple or groups of artists working on one project, and the use of different funding sources with an increase in the number of projects initiated and funded by private developers. They also noted that there were fewer land-based projects and that in general it seems that the field is getting broader. Read the rest of this entry »