Camille Schenkkan

Camille Schenkkan

Rambling ten-page resumes. Headshots submitted for management positions. Cover letters written in one big, messy paragraph in the body of an email. And one resume that was somehow, inexplicably, saved as a series of stream-of-consciousness bullet points in an .RTF file.

I coordinate the internship program at Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest—and most prestigious—theatres in the country. These are just a few of the bizarre, sad, and shockingly common application faux pas I saw in our last application cycle.

Most undergraduates aren’t introduced to career options in arts administration within an academic context. An internship can provide an excellent introduction to the field. Many of the applicants I see are undergraduate theatre or acting majors, curious about career options in the discipline they love.

And many of them are woefully unequipped to apply for any job.

It’s tempting to fault schools for this lack of preparation. However, nearly every two-year and four-year college or university has a career center with free services. I’m also a big fan of personal responsibility.

So hey, arts major. Here are five tips for applying to internships or entry-level jobs in arts management.  Read the rest of this entry »

As stated in the introductory remarks, “philanthropist, activist, and style maven” Kerry Washington is the first African-American woman to serve in a leading role on a network t.v. drama in more than 35 years; however, it’s her tireless advocacy work that garnered our respect and admiration.

An Americans for the Arts Artists Committee member, Washington has been a vocal supporter of the arts and arts education. She has testified before Congress, was presented with our 2009 Leadership in the Arts Award for Artist-Citizen, served as co-chair of Arts Advocacy Day in 2011, and even helped us sell cupcakes in partnership with Sprinkles. But, that’s not all. She has also worked closely with V-Day to prevent violence against women and girls in addition to several other causes.

As she stated while accepting the award, “I consider it an honor to be an advocate for the arts and to serve on President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities because just as we must ensure that ‘we the people’ includes all Americans regardless of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation, we must also work to insure that the stories we tell, the movies we make, the television we produce, the theater we stage, the novels we publish…are inclusive in all those same ways.” Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Last week we celebrated Mardi Gras and Valentine’s Day. Two weeks ago, the Arts Education Council of Americans for the Arts met in Mesa, AZ to determine how we can best serve local arts agencies that are providing arts education programs.

How are these seemingly disparate events related you might ask? Let me tell you!

Arts education needs all the love you can give! And you can’t just let the good times roll without there being a few consequences. If we don’t work together to keep the importance of arts education at the forefront of people’s minds, they will fall by the wayside.

There was much discussion at our meeting in Mesa about arts integration, how to help local communities be stronger advocates for the arts, ways to highlight effective programs as models for other communities, and trends in the field and where we need to be heading if we are to keep the arts at the core of learning.

One thing that is clear in 2013—for arts education to be a real focus for educators and politicians at all levels, we as local arts agencies, we as arts teachers, and we as arts advocates are going to have to continue to work collaboratively and stay ahead of the curve in terms of research and best practices, and continue to demonstrate the value of the arts in developing a 21st century workforce. Read the rest of this entry »

John Legend speaks while receiving a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also picture are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

John Legend speaks while receiving a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also picture are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

Musician John Legend said it best while accepting his award last month for Citizen Artist: “Being a mayor is one of the toughest jobs in the country, and one of the most important ones as well. Mayors understand how important the arts are to our cities.”

Last month, I had the honor of presenting awards to Mayors David Coss of Santa Fe and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, as well as Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, for their outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts.

Each has demonstrated immense dedication to the development of arts programming, and their extraordinary leadership and commitment to cultural initiatives and advancement of the arts showcases the key role the arts play in spurring economic growth while simultaneously enhancing quality of life. These awards are in partnership with the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), with whom I have had the honor of collaborating for more than 20 years.

While these leaders are among the hundreds, if not thousands, of mayors and scores of governors who understand the economic and emotional value the arts bring to their communities, there are still those elected officials out there who do not understand what a crucial role the arts play in defining and sustaining the health and wealth of local and state economies. As such, we at Americans for the Arts continually work to educate elected officials at all levels as to why the arts matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

Networking. It’s a word that excites some, but if you’re anything like me, then it’s a word that ignites nervous butterflies. Throughout my young career I have heard countless times phrases like “It’s all about who you know” or “You should really be doing more networking.”

Last fall, I had the opportunity to attend the Thelonious Monk Competition at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, D.C. There were tons of people from the jazz community (both musicians and presenters). As a jazz trombonist and an aspiring jazz presenter it was amazing to be there.

After the competition and concert, I received a ticket to the an “exclusive” after party. The person who gave me the ticket said, “Now you should really go to this; there will be lots of important people there for you to meet.”

Immediately I heard networking and the butterflies started. “How do I meet ‘important people’ who I’ve never met before with no introduction? What do I say?”

I still do not really know the answer to my questions and I still get nervous in networking situations, but what I learned so far is to:  Read the rest of this entry »

My Sweet Tooth for Public Art

Posted by Liesel Fenner On February - 15 - 20131 COMMENT
Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

We had a variety of best practices covered during our annual Public Art Network (PAN) Blog Salon this week.

Let’s wrap it all up with a major thanks to our ‘lucky’ 13 bloggers who shared their experience and lessons-learned of best practices from across the country.

According to Jimmy LeFlore’s post, we can have cake and eat it, too. If only public art were so easy to produce: mix ingredients, stir, set timer for one hour, ding, it’s done!

And cake baking requires partners as Jessica Cusick espoused, for the creation of all public art ‘Takes a Village!’ However, as Jimmy also said, we can’t eat our cake if we don’t if we go to the (best practices) gym.

Other lessons covered this week included:

Stacy Levy

Stacy Levy

When a public artwork is unveiled, we assume it was planned to look that way from the inception of the project: a straight arrow from proposal to completion. However, this is usually not the case.

Typically, there are a myriad of changes, alterations, trimming, and edits that take place at anytime during design as well as construction phases as a project progresses towards completion. The flexibility to revise the project and respond to proposed changes is the most valuable skill an artist can acquire when seeking to create public art. Changing situations and the resulting alterations are the common currency of public art and artists must accept and expect alterations when agreeing to a public art commission.

I have a solid foundation of built projects that underwent revision and will discuss various lessons-learned from my perspective as an artist at the Public Art Preconference prior to the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Pittsburgh this June.

At the session, I will be joined by other public art professionals who have worked on teams including: Natalie Plecity, a landscape architect from Pittsburgh, and Cath Brunner, public art director of 4Culture in Seattle. Read the rest of this entry »

Elysian McNiff

Elysian McNiff

After reading nuts and bolts ideas for marketing your public art in Part One yesterday, here are some innovative ways New England-based (and one Mid-Atlantic) public art programs get the word out:

8. Mapping public art & walking tours. State and municipal programs in New England use Google to create public art maps. You too can create a map by clicking on “My Places” in Google Maps and pinning locations. Public art walks are also effective. They can be in the form of downloadable maps, printed maps, and audio guides. The Boston Arts Commission taps into family audiences with its Family Walk called Public Art QUESTions—a guide for talking about public art with kids in Boston.

The Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium utilizes the draw of Maine tourism. Its website proclaims “enjoy public art and Maine’s scenic vistas while you and your family visit the magnificent sculptures on the Symposium Sculpture Tour. Culture NOW is an online website that allow public art programs to upload and map their public art collections. The website features self-guided tours, podcasts, maps and smartphone apps.

9. Audio/Videotape it. Video narratives are effective ways to increase awareness of and access to public art. The Vermont Arts Council hired a filmmaker to create a documentary about the process and product of the Danville Project. The Middlebury College Museum of Art hired a student to create video versions of its downloadable audio walking tour. The Museum uploaded the videos to YouTube and visitors play audio/video on their smartphones while viewing the works. The Museum also added QR codes to the stone markers so that visitors can scan their way quickly to the content. Philadelphia’s Association of Public Art is leading the pack with its Museum Without Walls audio tours—a great model for all. Read the rest of this entry »

A dramatic impression greets Conference Board visitors at reception with the bold and expressive colors of Yuko Ueda’s “The Trees #14.”

A dramatic impression greets Conference Board visitors at reception with the bold and expressive colors of Yuko Ueda’s “The Trees #14.”

When I was asked—strike that—begged, to sit on our in-house committee to renovate our offices, it was explained that someone was needed to bring my department’s voice to the designing table. And knowing to play to my vanity, I was told, “Your artistic eye is sorely needed.” Yet even so, I reluctantly agreed. “Besides,” it was confidentially promised, “the weekly meetings would only last for about six months.” That was 19 months ago…

Once on the committee, I was assigned to the subcommittee affectionately called, “Look & Feel.”  Then, while on this subcommittee, I was volunteered to a yet smaller sub-subcommittee called simply, “Artwork.” Including myself, this sub-subcommittee numbered one! So I in turn volunteered two others to help me out.

We were asked to, “Put some art on the walls…” The request was later improved upon: “Some original art work…Not too expensive.”

I knew enough to ask the obvious question, “What’s the budget?” The answer: “Present us with some figures.” Okay, I could do that.

In fact, I was surprised with how many artists and gallery owners I knew. Pieces started in the low hundreds and went into the six figures. I felt pleased my work was completed so early and speedily. Little would I realize that when I turned these figures over to the larger committee, you would hear crickets in the room. I was thanked for my efforts and invited to try again.  Read the rest of this entry »

Elysian McNiff

Elysian McNiff

It is a challenge to produce effective marketing strategies for our public art projects and programs.

Public art administrators and artists are faced with limited resources; we all wish we had more time, money, and capacity.

How do we go beyond our websites and Facebook pages and get the word out about our public art projects?

This two-part post (check out part two tomorrow) is a compilation of methods from New England-based public art administrators. One fail proof marketing formula does not exist; public art projects and budgets, locations, and audiences can be vastly different.

Consider these suggestions a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story and use what works for you.

1. Post on your website. The Boston Arts Commission features projects with interviews and community photographs on its website. Connecticut Office of the Arts Art in Public Spaces Program Manager Tamara Dimitri wants to “build an army of supporters” and help protect her program, so she plans to provide information about the importance of collecting art on the Office of the Arts’ website.

2. Spread the word in press releases and newsletters. Vermont Arts Council Program Director Michele Bailey uses press releases to get community input on a project and announce unveilings; however, she laments that press releases only touch a small audience. This brings up an important question: how do we communicate to those outside of our circle and engage the general public? Check out some of the innovative methods in the next post. Read the rest of this entry »

Lajos Heder

Lajos Heder

As part of the effort to reinvigorate our public art conversations and bring more artists into the discussions, I agreed to enter the fray on best practices in the public art field.

I will bring up some instances when as artists we felt badly-used during project development and see if this can lead to a thoughtful conversation rather than just a bitching session.

I want to preface by saying that in 85% of the more than 40 built projects my partner Mags Harries and I have completed, we have had fair treatment and dedicated support from our project managers and client agencies for which we are very grateful. This is a very good batting average.

I should write a much longer entry singing the praises of our many project manager heroes. My apologies to all the good guys (actually mostly ladies) but hey, conflict makes for better stories and more blog comments. So this is about that other 15%.

What were the factors that caused these projects to go off the rails?

  1. There was confusion about what the client really wanted that did not jive with what the artist proposed to do—a fact revealed late in the process.
  2. The design team was not in agreement. There were personality conflicts within the team before the artist arrived and the other team members did not understand or agree on the artists’ role.  Read the rest of this entry »

"Flight Stop" at Eaton Centre.

“Flight Stop” at Eaton Centre.

A landmark decision stemming from altering a public artwork in Canada in 1982 changed the way the work of artists is respected and entrenched clauses of the Canadian Copyright Act for the betterment of all artists.

Michael Snow, an internationally acclaimed artist, was commissioned by the Eaton Centre in Toronto to create an artwork for this popular downtown shopping mall. Flight Stop, consisting of 60 fiberglass Canada geese, was installed in the atrium in 1979.

Soaring up six stories overhead, the work is both arresting and strangely calming as it juxtaposes an image of grand freedom with the frenetic business of commerce below.

During the Christmas season of 1981, the mall owners thought it would be festive to tie red ribbons around the necks of the geese. Michael Snow was not amused.

Snow brought legal action against the Eaton Centre, getting an injunction to have the ribbons removed. He argued that the decorations violated the intent of his work, infringed upon his moral rights, and damaged his reputation as an artist.

The court agreed and said “the plaintiff is adamant in his belief that his naturalistic composition has been made to look ridiculous by the addition of ribbons and suggests it is not unlike dangling earrings from the Venus de Milo. While the matter is not undisputed, the plaintiff’s opinion is shared by a number of other well-respected artists and people knowledgeable in his field.” Read the rest of this entry »

Michele Cohen

Michele Cohen

I have thought long and hard about ways to approach the conservation and maintenance of public art, particularly the thorny question of de-accessioning a piece.

What are the criteria? How do we make an informed decision? What is in the best interest of the public?

Historically, government entities have removed public artworks because they have deteriorated to the point where they pose a public safety hazard or they are so degraded they have become an eyesore, and the cost of repair exceeds 50% of their value (another hard thing to determine). The decision to remove an artwork in those cases is easier to make.

The more complex reasons to de-accession a public artwork stem from negative reactions to the content. What sort of process do we embark on if the public objects to the subject or style of an artwork?  I think many folks, both arts professionals and the general public, are gun-shy about removing artworks because of subject or style after the precedents of Tilted Arc and John Ahearn’s installation, which remained for a brief five days on a plaza in front of a Bronx police station.

For the purposes of this discussion, I will focus on de-accessioning public artworks because of conservation issues. Read the rest of this entry »

Lester Burg

Lester Burg

One of our most enjoyable tasks as public art administrators is telling an artist they have been chosen for a commission. Getting to that point is a long process, which differs across the country, but our goal is the same—select the best artist for the site and have those involved feel good about the process.

In New York, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) oversees commuter rail and subways. MTA Arts for Transit (AFT) commissions permanent public art when stations are rehabilitated or constructed. Our selection process has worked well over the past 26 years, with 243 completed projects and 50 in process. With hundreds of stations in diverse communities, we have deep experience in the selection process for projects large and small. The process is the same for all.

Artist selection is different from buying widgets and we are fortunate to have internal colleagues who sanction and understand our need for arts professionals to participate in artist selection (MTA is a state agency). Over the years, we have learned to leave little to chance and to tightly organize the panel meetings, so that everyone feels satisfied the process was thorough and fair.

Artists respond to a “Call for Artists” that describes the project and submittal requirements which include digital selections from their portfolio of existing work and their credentials. These are posted at www.mta.info/art and promoted through arts organizations, or in publications for major projects. Most agencies use a similar approach. Read the rest of this entry »

Eric Fiss

Eric Fiss

It was late 2008, and I had recently taken up the position as Public Art Planner for the City of Richmond, British Columbia, when I was invited to two meetings in early 2009, discussing regional collaborative projects. These discussions took place during the run up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games when international media attention would be focussed on our region.

The first meeting was for the Necklace Project, ten communities surrounding the City of Vancouver, working together to develop best practices and creating a series of public art projects on a unified theme. The ten participating communities were Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Richmond, and Surrey.

The goal of the Necklace Project was to commission public art installations in all ten host municipalities and connect them through the theme of Illuminations, as well as encourage visitors to visit and experience each of the project sites.

For several of the communities this was their first public art project, and the support of more experienced communities, including administrative support from the Alliance for Arts and Culture and cultural planner, Oksana Dexter, were vital in realization of the projects.

As mutual support and best practices were crucial to the success of the Necklace Project (be sure to check out the Necklace Project website for a final report and critical essay coming soon!), one of the more experienced public art coordinators, Lori Phillips, serving both the City and District of North Vancouver, suggested we might want to formalize our collaboration to extend after the Necklace projects were complete and to and welcome other municipalities into our public art networking group. Read the rest of this entry »