Laura Belcher

Does it ever feel like you are constantly having to start from scratch? New marketing campaigns—new collateral materials—new social media strategies—new community engagement ideas—the list could go on and on…How do we get off the hamster wheel?

One way to reduce the repetitive efforts is by sharing and scaling ideas that can translate to multiple constituencies and communities.

One of the realities of the arts field is that we are extremely fragmented across the country. It is not hard to picture the director of development in Milwaukee having the same conversation with their board about diversifying revenue as the director of development in Kansas City or San Jose or Tampa.

power2give.org is one example of an successful means to reduce duplication of efforts. Launched in Charlotte by the Arts & Science Council (ASC) in August 2011, power2give.org is a nonprofit cultural sector crowdfunding site now operating in nine other communities.

Picture a network of like-minded arts administrators from multiple communities sharing ideas, materials, proposals and challenges to the benefit of each participating organization. Also envision national arts funders being able to leverage investments across a common platform to increase scope and breadth of reach. These were the goals of scaling an idea (power2give.org) from pilot to sustainable operations.

In the new economy that we are working in, it is important for every organization to leverage all the resources available to it to increase audience involvement, to increase donor engagement and community relevance. This is important work and is what ensures the relevance of arts organizations whether they are united arts funds, local arts agencies, or cultural programming institutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Jensen

In a recent edition of Thomas Cott’s “You’ve Cott Mail,” readers encountered a series of blogs and articles exploring the utility—and, in one case, the aftermath—of embracing a term like “emerging” in its application to artists.

It was earlier this year when Barry Hessenius, too, addressed in his blog the importance of identifying emerging leaders. “I wonder whether or not we are isolating these people by relegating them to their own niche as ‘emerging,’ and whether or not by confining them to their own ‘silo’, we might be doing them, and ourselves – at least in part – a disservice,” he wrote.

By identifying emerging leaders, the early impulse was to provide support and resources. But it was the majority group who defined this difference. The term does not apply to them, only to a separate group. A discrete category. Others.

Or, to put it another way, by creating “emerging leaders,” the term separated the field into two groups: “emerging leaders” and “leaders.”

Before continuing, three illustrations:

1. The term “hipster,” like its predecessor “yuppie” in the 1980s, has become inextricably linked to this cultural moment. Yet, who is a hipster? Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Zabel

I believe deeply that the best solutions are local.

The work I admire most is deeply rooted in the community it serves. And it often takes years and years to know a community well enough to provide what it needs, to have the right network to make the work accessible to the people who want it and the cultural intuition to make the work resonate.

And I also believe you can always go deeper and always have more impact.

Springboard for the Arts has been in Minnesota for over 21 years and there is still so much more to do here—more ways we can reach new communities, more partners to work with, more issues to understand.

When it comes to cultural experiences I can’t think of an arts organization that should be worried about market saturation (said another way, I think we’ve got a long way to go before we’re reaching everyone, even in our own backyards). Not to mention the great benefit to remaining organizationally small, nimble, and responsive.

And yet. And yet…I also believe deeply in sharing. I know that by collaborating and sharing models that work, or ideas that inspire, we have the capacity to do much more together than we could ever do each toiling away in our own silos. And so, at Springboard we’ve decided we want both. We are both deepening our local presence AND scaling nationally.

We’ve spent the last two years talking, strategizing, experimenting, and piloting. And we’ve decided it’s not replication we’re after—it’s movement building. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Rohd

In 1991, I founded a theater-based civic dialogue program in Washington, DC called Hope Is Vital. It brought a group of local teens and a group of HIV+ men who were receiving services at a center called Health Care for the Homeless into meaningful, productive collaboration with each other.

For 18 months, we created and conducted performance workshops all over the metro D.C. area for hundreds of young people focused on HIV/AIDS prevention and sexuality education. We worked at schools, youth shelters, correctional facilities, hospital drop-in clinics, churches, and afterschool programs.

After a period of challenging but immensely rewarding work, we felt that our approach—our model—could be useful in other places. The group gave me a mission: take our product, which was in fact a process, and try, at the age of 25, to head out into the world and spread the word.

Pre-email and pre-cellphone, I accepted the recklessly ambitious and well-meaning, impact-based, artistic necessity of scaling up. Community by community, program by program. I spent almost seven years doing that. I learned some things.

First, do the thing

In 1993, one of the first things I did was write Madonna a letter. I asked her to help fund our idea for a national network of programs like ours. Instant scalability via pop star. She was a big funder of HIV/AIDS prevention work back in the day, so it was only a half crazy gesture. Madonna did not write me back. Read the rest of this entry »

Betsy Theobald Richards

In the arts & social justice world, a plan for expanding impact is more than good business, it’s our roadmap for changing the world.

Infrastructure and funding for arts-for-change projects may be nascent, but as Jeff Chang and Brian Komar remind us in Culture Before Politics, creativity is the “most renewable, sustainable, and boundless of resources” with which we can capture the American imagination and plant seeds of social transformation.

Artists and cultural producers are the stewards of that renewable resource and we need to look out for and nurture their development as we plan for growth and impact.

On one level, growth can imply physical and financial increase for projects over time (bigger! more money!) but many of our leaders find themselves sleeping on couches, wearing multiple hats, under valuing their worth and staying up all night (you know who you are…) and thus, facing burn out while scaling up.

The other side of scaling up means that we can find ourselves prioritizing meetings, chasing operating support, and losing track of the nimbleness and creativity that is needed in the face of an election, a disaster, or an injustice. Read the rest of this entry »

Examples of scaling.

The notion of scaling up has gained currency as arts organizations, artists, and funders seek greater impact from their efforts and investments. The idea of sharing something that is effective so that the benefits can be experienced by more people is attractive, especially when something is producing good results.

One Story of Successful Scaling

A significant example of scaling up for the public good came to us just last week through a news update from one of Animating Democracy’s early grantees. Since its PBS broadcast in June 2008, Katrina Brown’s film, Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North has spawned a nonprofit, the Tracing Center on Histories and Legacies of Slavery, which has engaged thousands of people from all backgrounds in honest, productive dialogues about race, privilege, and the history of slavery, based on the story of Katrina’s ancestors’ role in the slave trade in New England.

The news update cites a breathtaking array of ways the organization is reaching people—from a workshop for members of the Connecticut General Assembly and its staff to sharing the film and related work with thousands of attendees at the 77th Episcopal General Convention. Using the film’s narrative, the Center has reached across education, government, faith, and cultural sectors to make a difference on pervasive and persistent issues of race and class in America. Read the rest of this entry »

Luis Martínez-Fernández

We need more engineers and scientists. That has become the mantra of promoters of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in education. There is nothing wrong with such a rallying cry, except that investment in STEM education usually comes at the expense of HAS (humanities, arts, and social sciences).

There is no arguing that inadequate science and mathematics education threatens the economic competitiveness of the United States.

It is no less true, however, that the neglect and systematic defunding of education in fields such as history, sociology and art history can have even more damaging repercussions. Damages include the creation of an uninformed citizenry and a concomitant erosion of democracy, and of a workforce unable to understand, communicate, and collaborate with people of different cultures in an increasingly diverse America and globalized world.

This, too, threatens America’s economic competitiveness.

The investment in science and technology, the desire for higher mathematical proficiency among school children, and implementation of programs to increase the number of graduating engineers are important goals but they are not a panacea.

Botanists and geneticists have succeeded at developing pest-resistant, high-yielding food crops but they have not been able to eradicate famine — world hunger is actually on the rise. Read the rest of this entry »

Dallas-based AT&T is putting its business acumen to work for five financially challenged arts organizations. The corporation will provide free oversight to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Opera, AT&T Performing Arts Center, Dallas Theater Center, and Dallas Summer Musicals.

The goal of the partnership is to stanch the financial bleeding that has plagued the organizations since the 2008 recession.

“The old economic business models are not working,” DSO chairman Blaine Nelson said. “Revenues are falling far short of costs and expenses.”

Financial woes have besieged the DSO, Dallas Opera, and Dallas Summer Musicals, which recently asked the city for money.

The partnership is designed to help the companies streamline operations and share numerous endeavors, while preserving their independence. It’s also aimed at quelling the fierce competition that has existed at times between the performing arts center and Dallas Summer Musicals, both of which present Broadway shows.

Nelson says that “donor heroics” are no longer a winning strategy. Donors are, he said, increasingly younger givers who have tired of “a bottomless pit” and the absence of a “sustainable business model.” They prefer to be seen, he said, as investors, not donors.

Nelson helped conceive the new model, called the Performing Arts Collaboration, which was first broached six months ago. Read the rest of this entry »

So, What Do You Do?

Posted by Sharon Reid-Kane On November - 27 - 201223 COMMENTS

Oriental Poppies (1928) by Georgia O’Keefe

“Fill a space in a beautiful way.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe.

I’ve always loved this quote and this artist. I’ve always admired her use of gorgeous colors and these powerful words. I am the proud Associate Director of Education at Ruth Eckerd Hall’s Marcia P. Hoffman Performing Arts Institute. [cue reflective music here]

In 1968, the Garden State Arts Center (now the PNC Bank Arts Center) opened in Holmdel, NJ—a beautiful venue consistently ranked in the top five amphitheaters in the country and top two outdoor arenas within the New York Metropolitan area and, more importantly, a place that will forever be magical in my memory.

Judy Garland performed here weeks after it opened. Symphonies and ballet companies from around the world have graced its stage and portions of Jackson Browne‘s landmark 1977 live album, Running on Empty, were recorded here. Trust me, it is a special place.

I was blessed with parents who took my brother, sister and I here often and I always left thinking how amazing it must be to work there. And now, several years later (you do the math—my date and artist references have given me away, I’m afraid) I have the privilege of working at a performing arts center—in the education department, no less. It is a gift.

I learned early on in my career that I needed more than a job, I needed to feel that I was making a difference and was fortunate to have been led to the nonprofit sector. I served for several years as a director for a worldwide, fundraising organization and following that worked with my local school system developing volunteer initiatives and community relations programs. My background, essentially, is in the “traditional” nonprofit field—volunteer management, fundraising, public relations. Read the rest of this entry »

Lisa Phillips

1. Creativity – Being able to think on your feet, approach tasks from different perspectives and think ‘outside of the box’ will distinguish your child from others. In an arts program, your child will be asked to recite a monologue in 6 different ways, create a painting that represents a memory, or compose a new rhythm to enhance a piece of music. If children have practice thinking creatively, it will come naturally to them now and in their future career.

2. Confidence – The skills developed through theater, not only train you how to convincingly deliver a message, but also build the confidence you need to take command of the stage. Theater training gives children practice stepping out of their comfort zone and allows them to make mistakes and learn from them in rehearsal. This process gives children the confidence to perform in front of large audiences.

3. Problem Solving – Artistic creations are born through the solving of problems. How do I turn this clay into a sculpture? How do I portray a particular emotion through dance? How will my character react in this situation? Without even realizing it kids that participate in the arts are consistently being challenged to solve problems. All this practice problem solving develops children’s skills in reasoning and understanding. This will help develop important problem-solving skills necessary for success in any career.

4. Perseverance – When a child picks up a violin for the first time, she/he knows that playing Bach right away is not an option; however, when that child practices, learns the skills and techniques and doesn’t give up, that Bach concerto is that much closer. In an increasingly competitive world, where people are being asked to continually develop new skills, perseverance is essential to achieving success.

5. Focus – The ability to focus is a key skill developed through ensemble work. Keeping a balance between listening and contributing involves a great deal of concentration and focus. It requires each participant to not only think about their role, but how their role contributes to the big picture of what is being created. Recent research has shown that participation in the arts improves children’s abilities to concentrate and focus in other aspects of their lives. Read the rest of this entry »

I won’t bury the lead: Josh Groban was the recipient of the Bell Family Foundation Young Artist Award at our 2012 National Arts Awards and he was tickled pink at the honor. Here’s the video profile that was shown before he received the award:

Beyond Groban, the star-studded night this past October also honored Broadway leading man Brian Stokes Mitchell, renowned painter James Rosenquist, arts education leader Lin Arison, Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, and AXA Art Insurance Corporation.

Support from artists, philanthropists, and corporations alike is what makes the annual National Arts Awards so special—leaders from all sectors come together to honor the individuals and companies whose dedication to the promotion of arts and culture has had a profound impact on American life. This year more than 400 people were in attendance at Cipriani in New York City.

Event Chair Maria Bell has said that this varied group of artists and leaders has left an indelible mark “on the cultural fabric of our nation.” Read the rest of this entry »

Our offices will be closed on Thursday and Friday so our dedicated staff can enjoy the holiday. We’ll be back to work on Monday! Have a safe and happy holiday!

Jon rocks out with students.

By day I am an elementary school teacher; by night I’m a wannabe blues musician. For years I kept these two callings separate, but with the Kids Like Blues Band, I found a way to combine my love for the blues and teaching.

By using blues music to engage kids in academic core subjects and the visual and performing arts, my students and I have discovered an innovative program that has brought endless creativity and excitement to thematic, standards-based teaching.

The gig hasn’t ended there though—we’ve taken our act on the road and performed at a street fair, a local college, and live on television. My students and I approach school with a sense of excitement and eagerness, motivated by the blues and rocking out each day!

In addition to having tons of fun, we’ve received recognition from the academic community. The U.S. Department of Education recently featured our work in their “Teaching Matters” newsletter, KPBS-TV did a feature on us, and several professors of education are using our videos to teach their students how to integrate the visual and performing arts into academic instruction.

Using Blues as a Thematic Teaching Tool

Wondering how this creative approach to learning works? Check out this video: Read the rest of this entry »

Eloise Damrosch

On November 6, Portland voters passed ballot measure 26-146 to restore arts and music programs in Portland schools and fund arts access citywide.

Needless to say, we are thrilled with the results—the measure passed with 62% approval! Measure 26-126 creates a new income tax of $35 per income-earning resident (above the federal poverty level), which will generate an estimated $12.5 million every year starting in 2013.

Approximately $6.8 million will pay for 68.5 certified arts education teachers in Portland’s school districts (Centennial, David Douglas, Parkrose, Portland Public, Reynolds, and Riverdale) —that’s one arts specialist for every 500 students. Districts receiving these funds will be required to maintain weekly arts instruction in grades K–5.

In addition, the new tax will generate about $5.7 million per year for our local arts agency:

  • $3.8 million will fund arts organizations that provide arts programming and access for every Portland resident through RACC’s general support grants program
  • $1.6 million will fund project grants to schools and arts organizations that provide arts programming for K-12 students and underserved residents
  • $366,000 is being set aside to coordinate arts education programs across Portland’s six school districts. Our partnership with the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program will be our foundation for this work.

In the months ahead, we will be having lots of conversations with local arts organizations to help them build plans that leverage these resources. Our ultimate goal is to improve arts access in the City of Portland and build new audiences. Read the rest of this entry »

Megan Pagado

One of my favorite sessions at this year’s National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Charlotte, NC was the very first session I attended: Stereotypes, Exoticism and Cultural Competency.

Moderated by Jerry Yoshitomi of MeaningMatters LLC with panelists Rosetta Thurman, Mayumi Tsutakawa, and Michelle Witt, it addressed the use of stereotypes and other “shorthand” in marketing.

In short, stereotypes are the boxes in which our brains sort information to simplify the world around us. Because they’re the easiest, quickest way for storytellers to create a character in our heads, they’re everywhere—from sitcoms to, of course, marketing messages.

I had one overwhelming takeaway from the session: Marketers are creators of public perception and need to take that responsibility seriously.

At the beginning of the session, we were asked to think about a time that a stereotype had bothered us. After sharing that experience with a person nearby, we were invited to share our frustration with the rest of the room.

It fascinated (but didn’t surprise) me how many of us were just downright frustrated by assumptions that have plagued us or our art. From exoticism and heteronormativity to common perceptions of art forms like opera, we were all frustrated about something. (The term “HULK SMASH!” was even used to describe one person’s feelings!)  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.