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 »

Jordan Lohf

Jordan Lohf

The powerful impact the arts can have on social change and business objectives was showcased for corporate giving officers from around the country last week thanks to a deepening partnership between Americans for the Arts and the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP). Held in New York City, the annual CECP Summit brought together over 250 of the senior-most giving officers from 130 of the world’s largest companies to hear exciting new research, discuss successes and challenges, and gain fresh perspectives and insights on how they can better impact workplaces, communities, and society while also advancing business.

With similar interests in data and research, and a shared belief that the arts can not only raise the quality of life, but also advance corporate strategies, CECP, with the help of Americans for the Arts, infused the annual summit for the second year with memorable arts performances, which I heard brought up in conversation again and again by summit attendees. This year, music, theatre, dance, and film provided an artistic beat to the summit, providing great examples of how art can be used to solve problems across sectors and industries.

Ahead, Together, this year’s conference theme, was a perfect metaphor for how the arts can advance society, build community, and drive economies.  President and CEO of Americans for the Arts Robert L. Lynch spoke to this idea at the opening reception when he said, “Business and arts partnerships show the powerful intersection among creativity, economic success, and community health,” a statement well-supported by the fact that 26 previous honorees of the BCA 10: Best Businesses Partnering with the Arts in America were represented at the conference. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Just a few weeks ago, President Obama nominated two talented and accomplished individuals to lead the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Transportation Department. Penny Pritzker of Chicago and Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte were nominated to serve as Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation, respectively. I’m pleased to say that both have impressive connections to the arts and arts policy and this is encouraging because their agencies have been important to supporting the non-profit arts sector.

Americans for the Arts is working with both agencies to further an arts agenda. For example, I serve on the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board, which reports to the Commerce Secretary, on strategies to further our national, and international, travel and tourism sectors. The arts and culture are a major reason for tourists to visit the United States and through the Board’s advocacy subcommittee, which I lead, we are working on recommendations to strengthen the ease of travel; the security of our visa system; the support for our institutions, venues, and events; and the visitor experience. From a business sector perspective, our Arts & Economic Impact IV study shows that the nonprofit arts have a $135 billion a year economic impact, support 4.1 million jobs, and return almost $10 billion a year in revenue to the federal Treasury. The Commerce Department has many programs that our arts leaders and creative industries are pursuing and utilizing to support their businesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Gregory Burbidge

Gregory Burbidge

The greatest biodiversity in the world occurs at the fringes between two ecosystems. That’s what I heard last month when hearing a panel discuss the intersection of arts and natural resources. The panel included a nature photographer, an education expert from Zoo Atlanta* and a landscape architect amongst others. It was fascinating to hear about people’s work at the spaces between the arts and other fields. It was a technical and ecologically specific fact, but one that likely resonates with all those working at the fringes of very different worlds.

Planning for Diversity
Last summer, the board of our metropolitan planning organization, the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), voted unanimously to add arts, culture and creative industries into their scope of regional planning. Arts and culture were brought into a dialogue with transportation, land use, aging services, natural resources, workforce development and other regional planning priorities. The integration of arts into the functional areas of planning means the incredible resources and tools available at the commission are now being leveraged to help create solutions to the challenges that exist within the cultural community.

The creativity of my colleagues never ceases to astound me. While I thought it might be a challenge to talk about the fringes between the worlds of watershed protection and the arts, my peers who work to protect the Chattahoochee River Corridor, for example, were full of ideas about where these intersections occur. Land use planners, those who work with lifelong communities and transportation experts have all articulated what is unique about bringing arts and culture to the table, and what their field will be able to do with these new tools that they would not be able to accomplish otherwise. Diversity thrives where the fringe between ecosystems overlap.

Biodiversity in the Arts Ecosystem
The biggest challenges exist for our work not when we discuss where the creative industries meet other sectors but where we try to find the common ground within our own sector where areas of the creative industries overlap. Read the rest of this entry »

Claudia Jacobs

Claudia Jacobs

When I was a college student in the 60s we thought ourselves intellectual, political and even somewhat evolved. A widely acknowledged putdown of college athletes oft heard was that their course load included Basket Weaving 101. That statement was not only insensitive to athletes; it also inadvertently reflected an additional put down of the arts. And that attitude remains and is reflected in how the arts are viewed today. “In the public schools, arts are all too often the first programs to be cut and the last to be reinstated,” says James Grace, executive director of the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston.

Today we need to update that thinking. If we are to actively enrich our communities, arts should not be a stepchild of science, technology, engineering or math (STEM). In New England alone, over 53,000 people are employed in the “creative economy” and that sector, if it were considered in the North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), which it is not, would rank just below the data and information sector and just ahead of the truck transportation sector, according to 2009 statistics compiled by the New England Foundation for the Arts. The 18,026 New England arts organizations supply the economy with nearly $3.7 billion–so why does STEM, an acronym that excludes the arts, seem to be on the tip of everyone’s tongue? Yes, there are major reasons why the U.S. needs to be focused on producing adults with skills in these areas, but why not include the arts and go from STEM to STEAM?

Philanthropies are more and more focused on impact, grantee accountability, metrics and getting results. Sound good? Not so fast. While these evaluation measures have importance, danger could be lurking. For the metric-merry this can have the potential of giving stepchild status to the arts as the less easily measured are most vulnerable to being cut from the roster. Some argue that the increased frenzy with metrics may indeed play a role in stifling innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Squeezed

Posted by Ron Jones On June - 6 - 20131 COMMENT
Ron Jones

Ron Jones

In the late Eighteen Hundreds Harvard decided to add an “art appreciation” course to its offerings and thus began a recognition by higher education that knowing about and, later to come, engaging in the arts was a good thing for students in American colleges and universities. Centuries before, the University of Paris had established music as one of the major subjects of study but that effort, of course, was driven by the University’s interest in mathematics, not aesthetic sensibilities.

By the 1940’s and 1950’s American higher education was steeped in both required arts courses as well as the blossoming of full-fledged programs of study in the arts. By the end of the Twentieth Century music, theatre(er), visual arts, and dance were acknowledged members of the academy. In most places, respected; in some, only tolerated.

From this admittedly brief and over-generalized history it is clear that the arts were increasingly enjoying a place of acceptance, even respect, within the academy. Those good days seem to be passing as the nation tightens its fiscal belt and increasingly questions the value of higher education, gravitating now toward a valuing system that focuses on careers and income potential (e.g., check out this naïve post to Yahoo! Education, Don’t Let your Kids Study These Majors. Business practices are dictating the course of higher education and the arts are being forced into a box lined with expectations that tend to minimize the “real” values of the arts and ignoring the “real” contribution the arts have and continue to make to our system of higher education. Squeezed into submission, American colleges and universities are scrambling to parasitically survive by attaching themselves to STEM or giving lip service to career development or just giving up and eliminating arts programs. Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Busby

Ken Busby

We’ve just completed our legislative session in Oklahoma. Two efforts to provide state funding for an Oklahoma popular culture museum and an Oklahoma Native American cultural center were deferred for consideration because of the recent devastating tornados and their aftermath. An effort to move the Oklahoma Arts Council under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism was fortunately averted.

However, these initiatives point to a much larger issue – a general misunderstanding of the power of the arts as an agent of economic development and a disregard for the importance of the arts in education.

And Oklahoma is not alone. Most states have seen budgets for state arts agencies reduced significantly or in some cases eliminated. And I’m not really blaming legislators for this apparent lack of understanding about the importance of the arts and public funding for them. Many of our state legislators didn’t grow up with arts experiences and field trips to museums and visits to the symphony. We’ve lost almost two generations of adults who received regular arts experiences from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Read the rest of this entry »

Kyle Bostian

Kyle Bostian

Pittsburgh is widely – and deservedly – touted for its transformation from declining industrial center to post-industrial success story, with much attention devoted to the role played by the arts in that (ongoing) process. The site of the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, downtown’s Cultural District, represents a shining example of how artistic activity can help drive an economic recovery.

But in many neighborhoods the transition isn’t quite as far along; in some, it’s barely begun. And, for me and plenty of other Pittsburgh residents, that raises questions about how artists – often among the “avant-garde” (regardless of the style of their work) in terms of moving into and restoring “blighted” areas – might strive to make the most of the opportunities presented to them there. In my case (and I’m by no means alone in this respect), these questions go beyond the relationship between artistic activity and economic revitalization to encompass broader aspects of community building, accessibility, and social justice.

As a citizen-artist-activist, I appreciate the feeling of community that the arts often generate among participants. I’m particularly interested in and devote some of my own creative energy to projects that address issues (social, economic, political) with direct relevance to local populations. I’m passionate about the work I do along those lines. At the same time, I wonder if there are ways I could use my creativity to engage more deeply with my communities and have a greater impact. That’s why I was struck so powerfully by the words of one panelist at a recent Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network forum on “Arts as Urban Renewal.” Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

Business in America knows well that we have entered the Age of Innovation. This became evident to attendees putting together a California “Blueprint for Creative Schools” meeting in Fresno California recently.

Business knows too, that creativity leads to innovation and that, understandably, we need to find a way to nurture creativity and attract the creative worker–across town, across the nation or using H1B visas for young people in other countries. As Randy Cohen of the Americans for the Arts has argued–and The Conference Board, and studies by IBM have found–”the arts build the 21st Century workforce.”

What is still not yet clear is whether the role of the arts and art integration is perceived by the business sector as the most legitimate method to foster creativity. Yes, business says, the arts are nice but are they really necessary?

Business isn’t stupid or shortsighted…it’s just that they don’t always see the connections. Or maybe they do but don’t have the time to hear all the rhetoric about how important the arts are. Or maybe, because of the quarter-to-quarter pressures, are not yet willing to invest in programs that will deliver a more sophisticated workforce with the new thinking skills in the decade that follows. Maybe it’s all too long range.

More to the point, maybe artists and educators are not yet talking the talk.

They are not saying what business needs to hear to get them fully engaged in the struggle to put arts back into the formula; and to push for STEAM not just STEM education. Read the rest of this entry »

Carol Bogash

Carol Bogash

In 2006, the U.S. National Academies, expressing their concern about the state of education in our country, recommended improving K-12 math and science education. In 2007, Congress passed the America COMPETES Act, which authorized funding for STEM initiatives, kindergarten through graduate school. I think most everyone would agree that we are not where we had hoped we would be. 2012 National Assessment of Education Progress tests results showed only a tiny increase in 8th grade science scores over 2009. This same test showed that 4th, 8th, and 12th graders performed poorly when asked to use problem solving and critical-thinking skills in laboratory settings.  So why aren’t these initiatives working?

Now, President Obama has announced a major initiative to create a national Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps. This is to underscore that STEM education is a top priority for the Obama administration. “A world-class STEM workforce is essential to virtually every goal we have as a nation – whether it’s broadly shared economic prosperity, international competitiveness, a strong national defense, a clean energy future, and longer, healthier, lives for all Americans.”

Of course, this is important for the future of the United States. But, I believe it is equally vital that “longer, healthier, lives for all Americans” include reference to productive, creative, fulfilled, happier, inspired lives as well. We truly need to focus on developing creativity in order to help achieve these lofty goals – otherwise , I believe , all these initiatives are doomed to continue to fail. Read the rest of this entry »

The One Not to Miss

Posted by Mara Walker On May - 28 - 2013No comments yet
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

June seems like convention season in the arts world. There are lots of national arts organizations developing educational and networking programs for their constituents.  If you are an arts discipline organization like a theatre or chorus or a service organization like a local arts agency there is a gathering for you next month.

Why choose the Americans for the Arts convention? Sure, it has workshops like other conferences and we cover topics like finding creative funding sources for your work, getting arts supportive local ballots passed, mapping your cultural ecosystem, serving diverse audiences, working toward equitable funding for the arts and much more. Naturally, it has receptions at amazing venues like The Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Yes, it has amazing award winning, game-changing speakers like Jim Messina, Manuel Pastor, Bill Strickland, Paula Kerger, Gary Knell, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Adam Goldman, Matt Arrigo, Tim McClimon and Edgar Smith. And there will be plenty of opportunity to hear from peers, colleagues and decision makers about how they are ensuring the arts are sustained and seen as core to building better communities.

We’ve picked an amazing city, Pittsburgh, for the convention where you can literally see the arts making a difference as you walk down Liberty Avenue. In return, Pittsburgh has the Three River Arts Festival, Gay Pride and baseball games taking place while we are there, June 14-16, so you can have the best of times. Read the rest of this entry »