Michael Hickey

ARTSBlog recently hosted a [Blog Salon] called: “Scaling Up: Does Size Matter?” The short answer is hell yes it does, but I disagree with a few of the writers about why.

I found the best piece in the series was penned by the whip-smart Ian David Moss (“Economies and Diseconomies of Scale in the Arts – Take Two”), and it was his post that inspired both me to both write an initial comment, and then to take on the subject more fully below.

You see, dear reader, like many of my fellow funders and financiers I’ve often touted the benefits of moving toward greater scale: improved operational efficiencies, greater programmatic reach, increased access to resources, heavier political punch. But I’ve also struggled with the oft recognized but seldom addressed reality that scale is not an answer in and of itself, and that sometimes scaled solutions leave even larger problems in their wake. Thanks to Ian, I think I got the mental kick in the epiphany I needed.

I hope you’ll enjoy this two-part miniseries on why I think scale sometimes, well, stinks up the joint.

The Mechanics of Moving Capital

I don’t care how you’re doing it, when it comes to getting money out the door it’s always easier to do it in big chunks. Whether you’re making a grant, extending a loan, or placing private equity, cost per transaction is lower if you make fewer, larger transactions. This is axiomatic. Read the rest of this entry »

Steven Dawson

Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) is an annual meeting for young professionals who work in the arts—organized, executed, and run by American University (Washington, DC) Arts Management students. It is an opportunity to discuss the issues, unique or universal, that affect all arts organizations.

One of the goals of the 6th Annual Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium is to address what is on the horizon for arts organizations and arts professionals.

And one of the recurring themes lately in the “future of the arts” discussion is diversity in the arts, both diversity in art forms and diversity in artists. So as I began searching for a keynote speaker for EALS 2013, I wanted to find someone who could address this theme for our emerging professionals.

Therefore, we at EALS are very proud to announce that the keynote speaker for the event is Aaron Dworkin, an arts leader widely known for his expertise and work in cultural and artistic diversity.

Named a 2005 MacArthur Fellow, a former member of the Obama National Arts Policy Committee, and President Obama’s first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Aaron P. Dworkin is the founder and president of the Sphinx Organization, the leading national arts organization that focuses on youth development and diversity in classical music. An author, social entrepreneur, artist-citizen, and an avid youth education advocate, he has received extensive national recognition for his vast accomplishments. Read the rest of this entry »

Allison Skeete

Throughout my life there have been people I admired and looked up to. I realized the value and impact of having mentors in my life when I spent a summer working for a charitable group as a camp counselor for challenged teens. I learned as much from them as they did me and what I felt and shared that summer left me with a lasting impression.

From that point forward, I decided that I’d have to support and or mentor someone in the future. It has now been more than 20 years that I’ve been a mentor in some way in many programs to young women and men within the communities where I’ve worked, played, and lived. Seven years ago, when I was asked to be a mentor in the multicultural summer program hosted by the Arts & Business Council of NY, I didn’t hesitate to respond ‘yes!’

I believe as a mentor I have an important role in assisting the mentee to learn how to manage priorities and perspectives. I firmly believe everyone has natural gift they can share with others. To share knowledge, wisdom, and understanding is a gift. Helping others to achieve their goals and dreams can impact not only the lives of those who are being mentored, but the lives of everyone they touch. For me, helping others reach their potential is fulfilling in ways I can’t begin to explain.

The Multicultural Arts Management Internship program (sponsored by my employer conEdison) promotes diversity in administrative staffing, introducing undergraduates to career options with a business focus in the arts. Each year, a select group of students (the program places emphasis on students of African-American, Asian-American, and Latino backgrounds), who are matched with New York City arts organizations to complete summer-long, project-based internships in a variety of disciplines. Read the rest of this entry »

Learning in the arts enables every individual to develop the critical thinking, collaborative, and creative skills necessary to succeed in today’s ever-changing world. Vans and its national charity partner Americans for the Arts envision a country where every child has access to—and takes part in–high quality learning experiences in the arts, both in school and in the community.

Americans for the Arts is pleased to announce, as a component of its ongoing partnership with Vans, the winners of the inaugural year of the Vans Custom Culture Grant Program. This new grant program seeks to increase both visibility for and resources available to schools across the country who are engaged in working to sustain the arts as a vital part of education.

The grant program is supported by funds from Vans Custom Culture—an art competition whose winners design a shoe that is produced and sold by Vans. (Make sure your school registers to enter the shoe design competition to win up to $50,000 for its art education program!)

Vans Custom Culture Grants are available to public high schools (grades 9-12) that have allowed arts education to thrive in their school community. The grants are intended to encourage the inclusion of the arts as an integral component of an excellent education, and to support activities that are consistent with local and national learning standards for arts education. Read the rest of this entry »

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa speaks at The National Press Club.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the keynote speaker yesterday at the National Press Club here in Washington, DC.

As he completes his final term as mayor this year, and as the immediate past president of The United States Conference of Mayors, Mayor Villaraigosa delivered his vision on the main issue that he plans to continue working on going forward—urging Congress to pass immigration reform and create pathways to citizenship, leaving immigration enforcement agents to focus on violent criminals and give those who have not been through the criminal justice system an opportunity to become citizens.

While a direct connection to the arts isn’t obvious, immigration reform is an issue that also impacts artists and nonprofit arts and cultural organizations. For instance, foreign guest artists continue to have problems entering the United States in order to attend their exhibitions and performing events.

Americans for the Arts has been working to amend immigration reform legislation to include streamlining this provision for several years. Here is part of our “Statement of Concern” utilized as part of our Arts Advocacy Day efforts last year: Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Phillips with Steve Wozniak

There seems to be a major disconnect between how creativity is valued in society and the career advice we give our children. We all know that the arts are a valuable means of expression, a means to share stories across cultures and an uplifting and moving source of entertainment.

We revere our cultural icons, whether they are movie stars, literary authors or artists, but we seem to limit the possibility of careers in the arts to only a talented few.

How many of us arts professionals have heard from family and friends, “When are you going to get a real job?”

So, why do we put our cultural icons on a pedestal but undervalue arts education? I think one of the reasons is that as a society we are preoccupied with the idea that the arts are reserved only for those with talent. However, in the reality of today’s job market, we need to change this idea.

There is a significant gap between what children are told is important for their future career success and what business leaders actually want from the emerging workforce. Creative individuals are actually in demand. Not just for arts careers, but for careers in business as well.

For example, Disney and Apple are two of the most successful companies of our time, largely because of the creativity, innovation, and the leadership they have demonstrated in their respective industries.

In an era when businesses are constantly struggling to find creative ways to stay at the top of their market, arts education can be a powerful tool to nurture the creative abilities of our young people, ensuring they are ready for the skills that are in demand. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Soroko

Probably the best part of producing BizSmART for Arlington (Virginia)’s supported arts organizations was the pleasant surprise of unintended outcomes. Nothing salacious (sorry!), no misbehaving, but something that was an indirect benefit of having thought provoking speakers, interactive sessions, and opportunities to step outside daily challenges all in the same space at the same time.

As simple as it sounds, there was little way to plan, direct, or script a day that helped build our arts community.

On November 13, 2012, Arlington’s first BizSmART conference at Artisphere surpassed ‘symposium’ in both content and connectivity and drew on smart growth strategies for the arts. With the Arlington Commission for the Arts sponsorship of BizSmART, which began as a suggestion to create a symposium for arts organizations and Arlington Cultural Affairs’ recent move to Arlington Economic Development, a new direction in meeting the challenges facing arts organizations took root. The arts in our area may be extensive, but as public and private funding dwindle, organizations still struggle.

Arlington is no stranger to breaking new ground on many fronts and the arts are no exception. In 1996, Arlington Cultural Affairs was the winner of the Ford Foundation and Harvard University’s Innovations In American Government Award, the first time the award was given to an arts program in a local government. Leveraging resources, materials and facilities of the county government and applying them to the arts made way for an incubator program that was soon to be replicated throughout the country. Read the rest of this entry »

On the steps of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall earlier today, I joined Academy Award nominated actress Rosie Perez and New York City Councilman Robert Jackson for a rally to call attention to the fact that Time Warner Cable eliminated Ovation from their cable television line-up on December 31.

While speaking at the podium during the Bring Back Ovation Rally in New York today, I was joined by actress Rosie Perez (pictured on the far left) and New York City Councilman Robert Jackson (over my left shoulder).

As a national organization representing more than 250,000 arts advocates and local and state arts agencies in every city and state across the country, we’re very concerned about this action since Ovation is currently the only dedicated arts channel in the United States.

The mission of Americans for the Arts is to increase the American public’s access to high-quality arts in our communities, schools, and homes. Ovation has been an incredible partner in helping us advance our mission thus far, but we also need Ovation to remain strong and accessible on the television airwaves. There’s nothing that will fill the void created by Time Warner Cable’s decision.

Today, we encourage our arts advocates to sign the online petition demanding the network be reinstated on Time Warner Cable at www.BringBackOvation.com!   Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

In the last decade alone, any business without a web presence—without an online, interactive website—was simply, not in business. Or wouldn’t be for long. The government and nonprofit sector soon learned their way around the internet too.

Now the Pew Charitable Trusts, specifically the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a major survey covering 2007–2011 and involving 1,256 arts organizations, reported that: “The internet and social media are integral to the arts in America.”

The survey found:

  • 81 percent of the organizations in this survey say the internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts.
  • 78 percent say these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement.
  • 65 percent say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising.

There seemed no question that web presence was “important” or “very important” although not everyone is persuaded—yet—that an internet strategy is a priority. Those reporting also felt that such technologies “disrupted much of the traditional art world” by changing “audience expectations, put[ting] more pressure on the arts groups to participate actively in social media and in some circumstances, undercut[ting] organizations’ mission and revenue streams.” In fact, 40 percent believe that “attention spans for live performances” are being negatively impacted. Read the rest of this entry »

Artist Charlavail designed this amazing pair of Vans.

As a Vans Custom Culture national charity partner in 2013, Americans for the Arts is proud to work closely with Vans to reinforce the importance of arts education in schools across the country.

With the launch of the Vans Custom Culture art competition on January 2, budding artists and designers are racing to have their teachers fill registration slots open to the first 1,500 U.S.-based public or private high schools (more than 650 have already entered!).

The program, in its fourth iteration, pushes students to compete and create a work of art from a blank pair of Vans shoes. Each blank shoe must be designed by using the following themes: Art, Music, Action Sports, and Local Flavor.

Students will have until April 5 to complete the shoes and submit their images online. The Custom Culture competition will generate $50,000 for the winning school’s art program at the final judging in New York this summer while simultaneously drawing attention to the importance of art as an integral part of a well-rounded education.

Artists, fashion designers, athletes, and local news anchors are all being tapped to create their own custom shoes as Ambassadors of the program. Eager to provide inspiration wherever possible, Ambassadors are tweeting images (#VansCustomCulture) of their own custom designs. Some of our favorites can be found below and also on the Vans Custom Culture siteRead the rest of this entry »

Cathlyn Melvin

“I was in a play once!”

I’m standing in line at a bookstore in my neighborhood, and the woman behind me is telling me her story. She recognized me from a show I did last spring, see, and her eyes light up as she tells me about her high school musical—how she almost didn’t audition, but in the end, it turned out to be the best eight weeks she had that year.

As an actor, I get that all the time. Not the being-recognized-on-the-street thing. That’s unusual. But when people find out I do theatre, so often I see their eyes brighten just like that lady’s, and they tell me about their third grade play, or an annual Christmas pageant, or being in the kids’ chorus of Joseph at their community theatre.

I love these stories.

I help run a children’s theatre called Compass Creative Dramatics, in Chicago, where I live, and we work with kids to create those kinds memories.

My co-founder, Cassandra Quinn, and I don’t focus on readying kids for careers in theatre, and we won’t “Make Your Child a Star.” We concentrate on stretching kids creativity and bravery muscles—so they can be bold enough to raise their hands in class, or imaginative enough to problem-solve in real life. And over the course of a week-long program, we see those skills develop, and we witness those memories taking shape, so that some day, they’ll want to tell someone “I was in a play once!”

Earlier this fall, our company decided to start a campaign to collect people’s memories about participation in theatre, and how it affected them. We posted on YouTube asking for video responses, and watched the stories begin to trickle in, both through responses to our YouTube channel and through essays submitted through our email: Read the rest of this entry »

Pam Rubert

When Alexander Gottman’s co-workers peer into his cubicle, they don’t see family or vacation photos. They see original art.

Gottman works in the information technology department of Guaranty Bank, accessing potential risk for electronic bank transfers for business clients and monitoring the safety of their accounts.

Locally owned Guaranty Bank is committed to encouraging employee personal development and community involvement. The bank sponsored a Creamery Arts Center exhibition in June, and Guaranty Bank Marketing Director Carlye Wannenmacher suggested Gottman enter the show.

It’s not uncommon for Springfield businesses such as Guaranty Bank to employ working artists. Our community offers many outlets for creative expression, if not as many opportunities to make a full-time living in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

As your first week of 2013 gets closer to an end, Americans for the Arts wants to be sure to wish you a Happy New Year! Cue music, lights, photos!

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

The following are some quick highlights of the Fiscal Cliff Tax Legislation that was enacted into law Monday night. The legislation only addresses major tax issues, while raising the debt ceiling limits and preventing the automatic sequestration spending cuts from beginning will be dealt with over the next two months:

Charitable Deductions: Good news is that the charitable tax giving incentives were not specifically capped and no changes were made to the exempt status or classification of charities, such as nonprofit arts organizations. While no changes have been made in this first round of fiscal cliff negotiations, tax reform revenue raisers are still on the table as Congress and the White House negotiate staving off deep sequestration cuts in the next two months. Americans for the Arts will continue advocating the importance of this issue on behalf of the nonprofit arts sector.
Personal Exemptions and Itemized Deductions: Unfortunately, the new tax law does reinstate both the Personal Exemption limitation and the “Pease limitation,” (named after former Congressman Donald Pease (D-OH)), which will reduce the overall amount of itemized deductions (including home mortgage, charitable, local and state taxes, etc) by three percent of only that amount that exceeds the threshold (but not to exceed 80% of total itemized deductions that would have been taken). These deduction limitations are not a cap and they only kick-in for married couples earning more than $300,000 and singles earning more than $250,000 annually.

Here’s how it works: If married taxpayers earn $1 million and have total itemized deductions of $190,000 (home mortgage interest, charity donations, state/local taxes combined) in 2013, they will not be able to deduct the full $190,000 from their income. They will only be able to deduct $169,000 ($190,000 – $21,000) because the PEASE limitation rule reduces the deduction by the equivalent of 3% of the amount of their income above the $300,000 threshold ($1 million – $300,000 = $700,000 is the amount above the threshold). The reduction would then be $21,000 ($700,000 x 3% = $21,000). These rules were in effect in the 1990’s, but had been temporarily phased out during the Bush-era tax cuts in the previous decade.
IRA Rollover: extends for two years, retroactive to 2012, allowing donors age 70½ or older to donate to charities tax-free from their IRAs. Important note: donation deadlines have been extended by a month so that donors can designate their IRA distributions to a charity in January 2013, but still have the deduction apply to tax year 2012. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Riley

These days, integration in any area, be it STEM or the arts, seems to be the buzzword to curriculum designers everywhere. There are so many resources floating around out there with the claim of integrating content areas. Yet, true integration is often difficult to find. Indeed, integration is a rare yet seemingly “magical” approach that has the capacity to turn learning into meaningful practice.

Which of course, as any teacher will tell you, is anything but magic.

Integration requires collaboration, research, intentional alignment, and practical application on behalf of the teachers who take on this challenge. From the students, integration demands creativity, problem-solving, perseverance, collaboration, and the ability to work through the rigorous demands of multiple ideas and concepts woven together to create a final product.

Integration is not simply combining two or more contents together. It is an approach to teaching which includes intentional identification of naturally aligned standards, taught authentically alongside meaningful assessments which take both content areas to a whole new level. Put together, these components set the foundation for how we will be able to facilitate the Common Core State Standards. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.