Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

A little over a year ago, National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) announced the launch of Impact Creativity, a three-year, $5 million effort to secure the funding of education programs at our 19 theatres. Together, these theatres serve over 500,000 K-12 children and youth, with the large number of students experiencing the student matinée programs. We were very grateful to Ernst and Young for their contribution in 2012 that got the ball rolling.

Now, we are focusing our efforts on the world of innovation and creativity going on at our theatres. Seattle Rep Theatre is helping teachers better utilize arts techniques to enliven the classroom. Actors Theatre of Louisville is engaging students in classrooms through a Living Newspaper playwriting program. The Goodman Theatre is teaching STEM skills through a study of theatre magic found in their production of A Christmas Carol. Altogether, we identified 19 innovative projects and began asking our funding partners to help theatres sustain this creative burst through what we call our Impact Creativity Innovation Program.

These include programs designed for an array of children with different and sometimes challenging circumstances: Trinity Rep Active Imagination Network (TRAIN) in Providence engages children in the autism spectrum; Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia engages kids with plays that address diversity, civil rights and bullying, among other subjects; and American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Manhattan Theatre Club in New York are working with youth caught up in the criminal justice and school discipline systems. For a complete list of the programs, click here.

Happily, by the close of our fiscal year in June, several individuals, foundations and companies were as impressed with these programs as we were. Individual donors and family foundations joined us in sustaining these innovation programs. And the Hearst Foundations, one of the few national foundations active in the arts, provided a $100,000 grant for these programs. We have not met the full cost – total budgets for these projects in 2013-14 are nearly $1 million – but we are on our way.

As we continue to pursue support for these programs, a few things are becoming more and more clear. First, arts education supporters face unprecedented challenges. We have been around a long time and the field is very competitive. Years of advocacy can create a kind of fatigue around the issue. Schools and families, especially in disadvantaged neighborhoods, are more challenged than ever to engage. And that is not just for financial reasons. Rapidly changing school leadership, family instability and the challenge of sustaining the service to those who would most benefit from it affect arts education as they do all subjects. More problematic, research in the field is needed to document what is virtually universally known on an anecdotal basis: theatre education changes lives. Read the rest of this entry »

Happiness Is The Arts

Posted by Stephanie Milling On August - 14 - 20133 COMMENTS
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

The last couple of weeks, two interesting news stories that shared conflicting perspectives of the arts were reported on the NBC Nightly News. The first report told the story of a failing school in Boston that was turned around when the principal chose to eliminate the funding that customarily subsidized the security force and invest it in the arts. This move that some considered controversial at Orchard Gardens , a school in Roxbury, MA, resulted in one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The other anecdotal evidence that students, teachers, and the principal shared during the report reinforced evidence that arts advocates have always had statistics to support: students who study the arts in school perform better in the classroom and demonstrate more prosocial behavior. As an arts advocate, this feel good story tugged at my heart strings. I was satisfied that this principal’s quest to prove the value of the arts in education proved fruitful. As a former teacher in schools like Orchard Gardens, I was delighted to see a failing school turned around.

The second report featured the retailer, The Children’s Place, and the demands to stop selling a girls t-shirt after complaints that it portrayed a sexist stereotype. The shirt said “my best subjects,” and featured checkboxes next to shopping, music, dance, and math. The boxes next to shopping, music, and dance contained checks while the box next to math was empty. While the controversy surrounding the shirt was motivated by individuals who viewed the shirt as sexist—and I am not denying that it was sexist–I was also bothered by the fact that it trivialized dance and music as core subject areas. By selling such a product, The Children’s Place and the t-shirt designer communicated that young women are intellectually inferior to their male peers and that studying the arts is equivalent to shopping.

While the first news report portrayed the type of story that supports the work arts advocates do in this country, the second illustrates the need for continued dialogue with those who fail to understand the value of the arts in education—even if the faux pas was unintentional. While there are many ways to approach the dialogue of why students benefit from studying the arts with statistics and research to support this perspective, lately I have been thinking of a more straightforward point of entry into the conversation that might resonate with multiple audiences: engagement in the arts can lead to happiness. While approaching a conversation about the value of the arts in education with the idea that it makes us happy might sound facetious, I think it might help develop some common ground between those advocating on behalf of the arts and those who need to be more receptive to the idea that engagement in the arts leads to success in other academic subjects and life. Read the rest of this entry »

For over 30 years as a K-12 English & Theater teacher, I have witnessed how the arts have impacted the lives of so many people, young and old. The stories and research are endless, and yet the arts continue to be cut from school curriculums across the nation.  Despite arts advocacy groups’ efforts to prevent this decline, the budgetary solution remains to be that the arts are perceived as extra-curricular and disposable.

This is nothing farther from the truth: the arts challenge us to not only dare but also explore the myriad of possibilities of WHAT IF…

Upset over the slashing of arts programs in schools I decided to do something about it. I started First Online With Fran to highlight ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make the arts the fabric of our existence. Utilizing testimonials, videos, and interviews First on Line with Fran serves to be the sounding board to let the world know that, “We’re angry as hell and we’re not gonna take it anymore!”

For my most recent episode, I got a bunch of kids from Brooklyn Theatre Arts High School and asked them to respond to the statement:  The Arts are extra-curricular and disposable.

Please take 6 minutes and listen to what they have to say…

vid clip

This is where my passion lies, and this is my way of raising awareness and advocating for the arts included in education. Read the rest of this entry »

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books

Miami native Mitchell Kaplan sits surrounded by books.  In a time when the number of independent booksellers dropped from over 6,000 to just under 2,000, Kaplan has successfully built an arts and business hybrid that is Books & Books. His establishment is a success story, thanks in part to his relationships with the authors that create the books he sells and to the community.  Thirty-two years ago, Kaplan had a vision to create a place to congregate outside of work and the home.  He wanted an environment where people could meet, relax, share knowledge while celebrating the local literary and cultural community.

In 1983 he helped establish the internationally recognized Miami International Book Fair. He and several other community leaders got the call from Miami Dade College President, Eduardo Padron, to create a community-wide book event that would bring a larger audience to the Wolfson campus. From the start it celebrated writers and readers and has grown into one of the top festivals in the country, a week-long celebration of all things literary. The event includes author readings, showcase events, and children’s activities. As co-founder of the fair, Kaplan has served on the board for over 30 years and helped develop the Florida Center for the Literary Arts. Today, Books & Books hosts over 700 literary events each year in Miami. Kaplan’s team is also actively involved in bringing nearly 400 artists to the Miami International Book Fair. In addition, his stores host unique events with dozens of arts groups and artists each year.

We sat down with Mitchell Kaplan to talk about his unique experiences working as both a small business owner and supporter of our local cultural community. Read the rest of this entry »

The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC), which advises Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission on cultural affairs and aesthetic development, has launched a ACAC_symbol_text_RGB_smallnew partnership with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Since its conception two years ago, ACAC has been busy developing new procedures, starting and completing new public art installations, and considering the many opportunities and possibilities for growth and support of the arts. In that time, the work and responsibilities of ACAC have grown rapidly. This growth produced two critical needs: staff assistance and visible, accessible office space.

Thanks to the help of the county government and county commissioners, and to Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Eldridge’s vision to bring an arts component to the chamber family, ACAC now has a place to hang its hat.

We are all aware that developing collegial relationships results in better outcomes. The opportunity has now been created for the organizations housed at the Chamber office to continue sharing, discussing, and collaborating on projects with the added perspectives and contributions of the arts. What makes this new partnership especially exciting is the fact that the arts fit so well with the chamber’s mission to help its members and the community grow and prosper.

I recently attended a public art conference in Pittsburgh as part of the Americans for the Arts National Conference. Americans for the Arts and businesses across the United States came together to create the pARTnership Movement, a resource for educating and connecting businesses and arts organizations. Their purpose is to provide opportunities, information, and resources to achieve the greatest level of benefit for both. Read the rest of this entry »

Full Cmte 4

Full Appropriations Committee Yesterday, July 31

In mid-July, the appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) met to approve a funding bill for fiscal year 2014, which begins on October 1st. Their bill calls for the NEA to receive a 49% cut totaling $71 million, which would bring the agency’s budget down to $75 million, a level not seen since 1974!

Yesterday, the full appropriations committee began their consideration of the bill, expected to take a few hours. However, they faced numerous amendments and rising tempers, and everyone has had an eye on adjourning for August – so they suspended the committee markup until September.

Before they stopped, they did consider an amendment offered by senior appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Rep. David Price (D-NC) to fund the NEA (and the National Endowment for the Humanities) to the president’s request of $154 million. The amendment was defeated along a party-line vote of 19-27.

The 49% budget cut that remains in place is shocking, but not necessarily surprising. Leading up to the committee’s action, the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution which included the sequester cuts of about 5% to agency budgets, and an overall funding plan that reduced the entire bill by 19%. So, arts advocates and those who were closely watching from the environmental and natural resource communities were not surprised to see significant cuts proposed. However, a 49% reduction to an independent federal agency is misguided, counterproductive, and entirely disproportionate.

Final FY 2013
(includes 5% sequester cut)

FY 2014 President’s

FY 2014 House Subcommittee

National Endowment for the Arts


$154.466 million


National Endowment for the Humanities


$154.466 million


The arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources. In fact, funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $29 million over the past three years. These disproportionate cuts recall the dramatic decline of federal funding for the arts in the early 90s, from which the agency has still not recovered. Read the rest of this entry »

Meri Jenkins

Meri Jenkins

Launched in 2011, the Massachusetts Cultural Districts Initiative addresses community revitalization, business development, new income generation, job growth, cultural tourism, the development of space for artists, and the preservation and rehabilitation of the state’s historic landmarks and cultural treasures. Seventeen diverse communities have achieved cultural district designation so far, and we have forty more in the pipeline.

In designing the initiative, we wanted to give cities and towns new tools and resources to strengthen local economies by focusing on their culturally rich downtowns and neighborhoods. We deliberately positioned local government at the center of our approach, and so it is the municipality that is the applicant. Local government has the authority to remove barriers that help foster and promote a cultural economic development agenda by changing or amending regulations, using their convening power to engage stakeholders, and providing capacity and focus.

Before submitting an application for designation, municipalities must pass a public resolution in support of the district and hold public hearings. To date, the majority of the seventeen municipalities that have won designation have passed a unanimous vote, a fascinating result in a state where local debate on myriad issues is often contentious. Even in our most cash strapped districts, some municipalities have also committed funds in support of this agenda.

And the legislation in support of cultural districts is designed to boost their efforts. Perhaps the most far reaching element of the bill is the following language: Executive branch agencies, constitutional offices and quasi-governmental agencies shall identify programs and services that support and enhance the development of cultural districts and ensure that those programs and services are accessible to such districts.

This means that other state agencies are available to discuss cultural district plans and whether their initiatives are appropriate for a district’s plan of action. Some additional programs and services include: strategic community planning, marketing and promotion, historic property stewardship, way finding signage, open space programming, and economic development. Read the rest of this entry »

John McInerney

John McInerney

Americans for the Arts (AFTA), recently released Local Arts Agencies Salaries, 2013, a survey of 700 national service organizations that serve the cultural sector. While salaries in the nonprofit sector are usually below those in the for profit sector, salaries for leadership arts service positions seem reasonable given the overall environment and the salaries in the entertainment industry as a whole. The average salary for all executive directors in the AFTA survey is $78,394. For comparison, the mean salary for “Top Executive, Civic and Social Organization” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $95,810. Service organization salaries also seem reasonable compared to Performing Arts Executive Directors, $96,85-(BLS), and Top Executive Director, Museum, Historical Site and Similar Institution, $106,000 (BLS)–particularly when you take into account that the BLS figures include both forprofit and nonprofit positions.

The Salary Survey is a comprehensive and insightful survey but, unfortunately, the real news here is not about salaries of local arts agencies executives. The real story lies in the stark lack of diversity amongst leaders of arts service organizations and the sector as a whole. Eighty six percent of respondents identified as white (90% of Executive Directors) and 75% were women. Perhaps even more troubling, only 2% of respondents identified as Black/African American. The Voice of NonProfit Talent has documented that this lack of diversity carries through the full nonprofit sector, with overall nonprofit employment being approximately 82 percent white, 10 percent African-American, and five percent Hispanic/Latino. While I can’t source a definitive survey of just cultural nonprofits, I think it is reasonable to assume that results for culture would be similar, in particular when one looks at the demographic make up of the majority of cultural audiences and the demographics of the many cultural sector conferences for arts professionals annually.  Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

What a great week of blogs in our first Blog Salon on Arts, Cultural and Entertainment districts. Thanks to our bloggers and all our commentators, followers on Twitter, and Facebook fans.

As I read each of these blogs I was reminded of how the arts help improve and engage communities, and more specifically, how cultural districts help communities create identity and place.  Several of our bloggers were also presenters at our preconference that was held in Pittsburgh this June, and I found their comments about the preconference to be very thought provoking.  For example, Greg Handberg began to think differently about his work and the difference between informal and formal types of districts. And Adele Fleet Bacow reminded us that it’s not just the wedding or the honeymoon – it’s the ongoing partnerships that count. Special thanks to John Eger for his inspiring words about art and culture districts being vital to ensuring vibrant economic activity in our cities. They are foreshadowing a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation. As President Obama stated, “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” So thanks again to all of our bloggers for their willingness to dig deep into this subject.

Finally, thanks to you – our readers – for participating in this great week of cultural district blogs.  I hope that you will continue to revisit this blog salon in the future for more creative ideas and inspiration.  Fortunately, all of the posts will be archived here. And if you are ever interested in blogging yourself, just send us an e-mail.  Keep in touch.


Pam Atchinson

Shreveport Common is a nine-block “Creative Community,” located in the Louisiana-designated 25-block Cultural District of Shreveport, where residents get Historic Tax sales tax credits for purchasing original art. Shreveport Common is distinguished as a Creative Placemaking project by artists at the helm of revitalizing this historically rich yet blighted community.

Shreveport, Louisiana is the birthplace of music and art that has played a significant role in our national history. There are 11 cultural venues within one block of all sites in Shreveport Common; 12 sites are National Historic Landmarks. Renowned musicians such as Cab Calloway, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Duke Ellington, Huddy Ledbetter got their start here. Municipal Auditorium was home to the famous KWKH Louisana Hayride radio broadcast, heard across 10 states.  The Calanthean Temple, America’s first sky-scraper that was designed, funded, and built by African Americans, boasted a rooftop stage that attracted musicians from all over the country.  The area is so rich in musical heritage that Robert Plant (of the rock band Led Zeppelin) drove 180 miles to Shreveport following a concert in Dallas to walk the streets for inspiration –specifically Sprague Street, once home to the Blue Goose musicians.

The organizational partnership behind Shreveport Common includes public and private investors who are implementing a National Endowment for the Arts MICD 25th Anniversary funded Vision Plan. Teams of artists, developers, municipal department heads, and non-profits are executing a portfolio of 36 strategies based on authenticity, sustainability, creativity, and community.

Only 800 residents currently live in the area, most in transitional housing. However, new affordable artist housing and exciting market-value, mixed-use developments will join current Section-8 housing. The Vision Plan also engages the area’s social service organizations by forming innovative collaborations with artists’ Pay-It-Forward and Workforce programs. A plethora of functional and aesthetic Public Art, both permanent and temporary, will be combined with consistent programming designed to drive and sustain vibrancy in the district. Read the rest of this entry »


Kim Cook

In reflecting upon the results of the Americans for the Arts salary survey three things arise for me.  The first is the issue of wages.  The second is the issue of demographics; both of which are immediately addressed in the Executive Summary for the piece. The third issue that derives from the first two is the question of relevance.

When we address the first issue, that of wages, the question that surfaces for me is, relative to what?  When we examine our wages in relationship to each other are we perpetuating a construct in which not enough becomes normative?  I am completely alert to the fact that I am constrained when contemplating wages and wage increases for my staff, knowing that each worker will add to a cost structure that is difficult to sustain.  And, if I am not able to pay reasonably well, I am unlikely to attract and retain the talent that will help to create the mission impact my organization aspires to. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeffrey Parks

Jeffrey Parks

The threshold question for any use of public and private resources is “Why should we allocate these precious resources to create an arts district when there are so many needs in our community?”

Indeed, an arts district may not be the priority when all of the needs of a community have been analyzed.  There are specific circumstances that merit the consideration of an arts district in communities. The need will set the metrics for the success of a district.

Some of the specific needs which an arts district can support are:

  • Urban revitalization. The major strategy for this need is attracting artists and arts organization to underutilized properties.  If revitalization is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Increase in access to the arts and cultural services for the residents of the district.
    • Increased employment opportunities for residents of the district.
    • Attracting investment, new businesses and residents to the district.
    • Enhancing property values in the district.
  • Economic development of the region by expanding arts and cultural offerings that appeal to the “creative class” in fields ranging from software engineers to medical professionals to graphic designers. If this is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Ability of businesses to attract creative class employees, rather than moving or adding offices in distant communities.
    • Attraction of creative businesses into the community.
    • Increase in new businesses generated by local residents or graduates of local colleges.
  • Adding an arts component to an existing retail district to enhance vitality and competitiveness of an urban center. If this is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Increased revenues for district businesses.
    • New businesses in the district.
    • Making the district a destination, with multiple attractions including shopping, art galleries, arts facilities and events.

In most communities the reason for establishing an arts district will be combination of the reasons above.  It is important to understand that districts and “creative placemaking” are not ends in and of themselves. There is a great deal of conversation about the metrics for success for these endeavors. The best way for a community to measure its success is to set goals and establish the metrics in advance. This important decision will inform everything from the type of organization to drive a district to what resources need to be marshaled to create the desired results.


Lori McKinney-Blankenship

Lori McKinney-Blankenship

I am sitting in The Room Upstairs, our living room style theatre, cross legged on a comfortable couch. To my right, my good friend Tiffany is sculpting an octopus out of polymer clay and giggling with her brilliant musician boyfriend Jordan; he just came off the stage after an intense improvisational jam. On stage now is resident artist Maggie playing folk songs on her guitar. Behind her is a beautiful space scene projected on the screen, mixed with video clips of the ocean. It’s beautiful.

To my left is Bobby, a man from the neighborhood who we first met as he collected cans to recycle. He absolutely loves it here. He has a special chair in the back; it’s a soft cushy seat, and he kicks back, totally engaged from the time the music kicks in until it finishes at the end of the night. We gather that there isn’t much more in life that is available for him; he spends a good bit of time pushing a shopping cart around. Everyone here welcomes him with open arms. In the front row is an autistic lady who rocks hard back and forth to the music and comes with her caretaker, a musician, every week. There are high school kids, college kids, a couple of grandparents, lots of 20- & 30-somethings, and a three-legged black dog. Read the rest of this entry »

Terrie Temkin

Terrie Temkin

I’m an arts buff. I love the theater, live music, dance, and the visual arts. You will often find me attending two or three plays in a weekend, or going to a museum and then on to a performance of jazz or modern dance. The more I dive into the arts, the happier I am personally, but the more fearful I am for the future of the arts. Why? I’m in my 60s, and I’m usually one of the youngest people in attendance, regardless of the genre. (Okay, so I’m not going to the rap concerts, but still….) I constantly worry about the future. Who will occupy the seats in another 20 years, especially in our classical venues?

Yes, there will always be a few young people who love Mozart or Swan Lake. In my own family I have a nephew and niece that are classical musicians. However, while young people will continue to make art, as people have done since the beginning of time, I worry whether there will be anyone who will support their art, who will buy tickets and attend the performances, allowing them to work at what they love.

This is an issue that too few boards seriously grapple with. Yes, you see organizations that create young professionals groups, open up their space after work for networking and wine and cheese, and experiment with “hip” programming, but is that going to convert generations of younger people into dedicated audiences for the future? I think not. After all, it hasn’t yet. And if I’m right, what will? Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

Economist Edward Glaeser once said, “Cities are so fascinating because they play to mankind’s greatest gift, which is our ability to learn from other people.”

They are places also where you raise your children, develop your sense of right and wrong, learn about yourself and your fellow man. Importantly, they are the places where attitudes about life and values and politics converge and where new ideas take root.

Now, perhaps more than ever, cities are places where the crucial incubators of innovation are formed. Now more than ever Art and Culture Clusters are vital to renewal and reinvention.

In the wake of globalization the challenge America faces in the wake of global competition is daunting. Globalization 3.0, first coined by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is here. As Friedman has written, The World is Flat. Outsourcing and offshoring have entered our lexicon of new words and we are suffering what economists are euphemistically calling a “jobless recovery.” We don’t know exactly how many jobs are lost from offshoring. But this shift of high tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century. Read the rest of this entry »