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 »

Diana Rivera

Diana Rivera

I hate it when San Franciscans debase Los Angeles for its sprawl and smog. I abhor when New Yorkers belittle L.A. on the basis of its egotism and lack of intellectualism. Here is why none of those comments work for me: Disdain is part of the love here.

Are you someone with a love and hate relationship with Los Angeles? I may understand the quality of your conflicting emotions. It has taken my entire childhood and adult life as a native Angelena to figure out one important insight to LA—our urban evolution rests in the balance between our love and hate for it.

Los Angeles and all her residents know some important truths:

  • We have Hollywood—for better or worse.
  • We are multicultural with a westside, an eastside, the valley, and south central.
  • We have Japantown, Koreatown, Chinatown, downtown, and dogtown.
  • We have all kinds of food trucks here including kimchi burgers and cream cheese sushi.
  • We have racism and segregation, and we have buses and metros that move through those segregated neighborhoods.
  • We have the beach, mountains, desert, a river, and boulevards.
  • We have a ton of independent creative professionals unemployed and looking for work.
  • We have a ton of employed creative professionals trying to stay employed and feed their children.
  • We have world-class schools, and those that can barely afford to pay rent.
  • We have teachers being pink-slipped every year.
  • We have Disney Concert Hall and KCRW.
  • We are major consumers of cars to the point of it being a huge environmental waste.
  • We cater consumerist values.
  • We have smog.
  • We have awesome sunsets as a result of that smog.  Read the rest of this entry »

Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Karina Mangu Ward

Karina Mangu Ward

I live in New York City, a place with seemingly endless cultural opportunities. The problem is that the majority of these cultural experiences are designed to bring me closer to people I showed up with—an activity sociologists call “social bonding.”

That’s all well and good for me, but it’s not going to make my city more livable, more humane, and more just.

Inspired by Nina Simon’s TED Talk, I would argue that what my community needs, and what communities across this divided country need, is more opportunities to connect with people across difference—what sociologists call “social bridging.”

Moreover, I would argue that arts and culture organizations are uniquely poised to become a platform for social bridging in our communities, and that it’s essential that they do so or risk irrelevancy.

Why is social bridging so important? 

Our country is more politically, economically, and generationally divided than ever. Culture has been parsed into endless niches—with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, we’ve all become Creative Directors of our own brand, with our own set of followers.

In this new era of divisiveness and splintered identity, it’s essential that we create spaces where people can connect with others whose experiences are substantially different from our own. Read the rest of this entry »

Chris Audain

Chris Audain

The Chicago nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $2.2 billion industry. You’d be hard-pressed to go more than a couple of blocks without seeing a theater, dance company, museum, art gallery, or some other nonprofit arts organization, small or large.

And yet I still hear about new ones popping up quite frequently. Given that, the community of artists and arts administrators is extensive, and diverse—it’s a bona fide place of convergence for the creative types and transplants from across the country.

So why then, with such a vibrant arts community, is Illinois the 29th ranked state in per capita spending on the arts?

The answer is a problem that plagues not just Illinois, but permeates through the entire creative sector on a national level.

When I first moved to Chicago after graduating from college, I wanted to pursue an acting career. Even equipped with my political science degree, I had very little understanding about the relationship of public funding for the arts, and the importance of advocacy.

It took a graduate course at Goucher College, Principles of Arts Administration, for me to fully comprehend the power and necessity of arts advocacy. Therein lies the problem: an information gap for artists on the importance of advocacy. A possible solution? Giving artists a more easily accessible entry point to advocacy. Read the rest of this entry »

Ruby Harper

Ruby Harper

So when I was asked to write the opening post to “set the tone” for this year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon—I did what any self-respecting, confident, and capable individual would do—I PANICKED!!

What would I write about? What would I say? Why would people care? What if I said something wrong?

Then I took a deep breath…and another…and then I started:

This year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon extended invitations to submit posts responding to “What would make where you live a better place or bring it to the next level?”

We received more than 30 submissions. The depth and breadth of the responses will make you laugh, cry, but most importantly, they will make you THINK, WONDER and they will INSPIRE!

Hopefully—at least, that’s what the Emerging Leaders Council intends.

This year, for me, has been about taking action—I was standing in a line at the BMV (or DMV, depending on where you live) and I turned towards one of the TV screens playing and a message —clear as day, white letters on a black screen—ominous in their intent and direct in their purpose: INACTION IS NOT AN OPTION.  Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Mendenhall

Susan Mendenhall

The terms “triple-win” and “triple bottom line” are tossed around in nonprofit publications fairly regularly, especially when it comes to espousing the benefits of corporate philanthropy and corporate social responsibility.

At times, it can seem like forging triple-win partnerships are like cranking the philanthropic slot machine hoping for a three liner of cherries. A win for the nonprofit? Ding! A win for the corporate donor? Ding! A win for the community? Ding!

But authentic corporate-nonprofit partnerships that have real community impact are no simple gamble. They’re built on a foundation of mutual trust and respect, and a shared commitment to serving real people.

A great example of a successful triple-win partnership is the Nonprofit Arts Internship Initiative. With support from the Lincoln Financial Foundation, Arts United has placed more than 70 paid interns at northeast Indiana’s largest nonprofit arts organizations since 2007. Arts organizations gain assistance and expertise from local college students while providing interns with beneficial career experience in arts administration and nonprofit management. Read the rest of this entry »

Marete Wester

Marete Wester

On November 15, 2012, a group of concerned and dedicated military, government, private sector, and nonprofit leaders gathered at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC for the Arts & Health in the Military National Roundtable.

The Roundtable represented the second step in the ongoing development of the multi-year National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military, a collaborative effort to advance the arts in health, healing, and healthcare for military service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Launched in January 2012, the National Initiative is co-lead by Americans for the Arts and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in partnership with a national steering committee comprised of military, federal agency, nonprofit, and private sector partners.

The Roundtable was charged with advancing the mission of National Initiative by recommending a framework for a “blueprint for action”—one that will ensure the availability of arts interventions for our service men and women and their families, and integrate the arts as part of the “Standard of Care” in military clinical (VA and military hospitals) as well as programs in community settings across the country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.

Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.

Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.

Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.

I’ll wait here while you watch…

Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

This week, hundreds of advocates are gathering in and around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to communicate to our national elected officials the value and impact of the arts on local communities, on families, on individual lives.

This is an important day, not just for the arts community, not just for our Senators and Representatives, but for the people served by us, those who cannot be in Washington having these conversations.

I’ve worked within and outside of advocacy over the course of my career in the arts, so I understand why arts administrators are willing to make the commitment to travel to Washington, or even to their own state legislature, to promote the value of the arts. I know there is confusion about what roles arts nonprofit staff can take in the name of “advocacy” without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

And I know our arts leadership, those most likely to speak with legislators, are also our busiest, most called-upon experts, and often feel that devoting several days to the work of advocacy is the best they can do under their current circumstances.

But, friends, it’s not all. The work happening in Washington this week is the chorus of the song we sing all year long: the arts build communities. The arts turn around lives. The arts stimulate the economy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Julie Hawkins

Julie Hawkins

Why advocate for public funding of the arts?

It’s a question I’ve never really asked myself, because it’s always been valuable to me.

I grew up in North Carolina during the height of the “Culture Wars.” The summer after my junior year of college I interned in the budget office of the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the highlights of the internship program was a meeting with your U.S. Senators.

Thus it was that in 1993, at the ripe old age of 21 and full of piss* and vinegar, I got to meet the Hon. Jesse Helms and his staff to make my case for government support of the arts. I learned a lot about government and the arts that summer, and some of that piss and vinegar still fuels my passion for arts advocacy today.

I know that answering the question of why we should advocate for public funding is not easy, though, because if it were we’d see many more people engaging in it every hour of every day.

And to be perfectly honest, though arts advocacy and public funding are deeply held values of mine, I’ve still encountered moments where I wonder if it’s working and if it’s worth it, particularly in a period of time when we’ve experienced some substantial reductions to public funding for the arts.   Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity.   The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance.  Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!   Read the rest of this entry »

Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

During the Friday, March 29 meeting of the National Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) revealed their new four-point plan for arts education, under the leadership of new Director of Education Ayanna Hudson.

Ayanna is my former boss from when we both lived in Los Angeles and worked on the Arts for All initiative at the LA County Arts Commission. So I wasn’t surprised by this new direction for arts education at the NEA—it is great to see Ayanna have a national platform to spread her expertise on issues like collective impact.

At the beginning of the council meeting, Ayanna stated that the NEA wants to weave arts education into the very fabric of every school so that ALL students have access to the arts. And given the scope of the NEA, they want to focus on the following four key areas to achieve this:

Point 1 – Leverage Investments: The NEA is looking to invest its grant dollars for arts education in a way that can really spur change in the field. Their new investment strategy is what former NEA chairman Rocco Landesman called “doubling down on what works.”

Ayanna mentioned that new guidelines for arts education grants are currently under review and they MIGHT start allowing larger, multiyear grants to models based on best practice and collaboration. She mentioned several examples, such as Arts for All, A+ Schools, Ingenuity Incorporated, etc.  Read the rest of this entry »

Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

It used to be that the success of arts marketers was dependent on how well they could predict the future and then pray for success. But those days are over.

Today, arts marketers can rely on data analysis and market research to make well-thought-out strategic decisions.

I, for one, am glad that marketers no longer have to rely on future telling because marketing is an essential part of the arts experience. As a jazz trombonist, I had to learn how to market myself to land gigs and then market my gigs so that people would come to them. Arts organizations have to do the same. But they must market their organization as well as individual performances.

Several years ago Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) ran an institutional marketing campaign with the theme “BAM and then it hits you.” The message they conveyed was that the experience at BAM lingered long after you left. This campaign excited people about BAM as an entire organization, as opposed to a singular performance.

There are countless other examples of successful marketing campaigns in the arts. As emerging arts leaders I think it is essential we pay attention to trends in marketing. What are the latest trends in arts marketing? How do arts marketers use data analysis and market research to make strategic decisions? What type of programming is becoming most difficult to market? There is an endless amount of questions we can ask.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.