Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

Regardless of the organizations mission, values, programs, etc., what is the ONE common factor that is needed to execute an organization’s purpose?

Money!

As much as we dislike connecting our important work to the dollar, the simple fact is that without it, we cannot pay our staffs, purchase materials, and pay the electric bills…and thus provide our services.

So there we have it, we must have funds to fulfill our missions. However, unless you are the lucky few, earned income doesn’t even come close to covering your budget. So to take the statement even further; we must have CONTRIBUTED funds to fulfill our missions.

Now with the sequestration set to go into effect, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget will be cut by 5%, or $7.3 million, and grants will decrease. (But let’s be honest, NEA funds have really just become a stamp of approval…and important stamp, that is…rather than actual difference-making funds).

Foundations are changing the focus of how and what they fund. And corporate philanthropy, while rebounding, will not cover the balance. So, lets take that earlier statement even deeper. We must have INDIVIDUAL contributed funds to fulfill our missions.

This can be a problem, though, because this all important aspect of nonprofit management is most likely the most uncomfortable aspect of nonprofit management. It is just human nature to avoid asking for money, even from people you know.  Read the rest of this entry »

Hannah Sawhney

Hannah Sawhney

Every organization needs a brand—it’s your core identity—the nucleus of the cell. Everything revolves and functions around it. But there’s more to it than just a design-savvy logo, and as arts marketers, we need to keep this in mind when thinking about branding.

In the National Arts Marketing Project’s most recent e-book, Turn Branding OOPS into Branding WHOOP WHOOPS, we look to the different aspects that make up a brand; focusing on ones that are have been successful with their branding efforts and others, well, that have lacked the “whoop whoop” factor when trying to reach the top.

Although we may think that we have what it takes when it comes to knowing our arts patrons, when it comes to brand management there are some key pitfalls that if overlooked can be harmful or even detrimental in the long run.

So how does one know what is behind that well-designed logo? Or, when undergoing a major re-branding effort or even starting from scratch, how can we ensure that we are taking the right steps to success?

Here are 6 points to make sure your brand doesn’t fall into the OOPS category:

1)      Switching Gears. Re-branding can make for a sticky situation. Why? Because when you’re making a major change to something that your long-time fans care about, your consumers are quick to notice (especially in the digital age). Make sure to have a strategy that stays true to not only your brand, but your audience as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Kathleen Chaves

Kathleen Chaves

In 2002, jobs were scarce in rural, isolated Baker City, OR, population 10,000. My husband and I decided to dedicate ourselves to growing our 20-year-old company, Chaves Consulting, Inc. from providing two jobs to creating 100 with a complete package of benefits.

At about the same time, another vision was being created by the Crossroads Arts board to have someone raise the almost two million dollars it would take to renovate Baker City’s historic 1909 Carnegie Library building to become their new home after spending much of its history without a permanent one. The Crossroads board asked if I would be the grant writer to raise the funding and manage the renovation project.

My husband, Richard, and my motivation for leading the project was based on the vision of how the arts could grow and make a huge difference in the lives of Baker’s children and families, as it had altered mine. I strongly believed that this project would provide children an avenue to express themselves and uplift them as it had done for me during my teenage years when I felt very disconnected and lost.

We believed that the arts could give children a voice who otherwise felt lonely and isolated. The arts saved my life and made me feel a part of something. I believed it could do the same in Baker. In addition, the renovated Carnegie building would give hundreds of adult Eastern Oregon artists an incredible space to share their gift. Read the rest of this entry »

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call "Ten Questions with...", in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us. Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and  this week I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch. 1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less. Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting 2. What do the arts mean to you? There has been no time where I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures. I feel a real personal connection to the arts even though my stick figure drawings didn’t lead to a fashion career or visual arts (success?). I was in my first play at 7, playing a dwarf in “The Hobbit” and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college.  This includes “Barnum,” which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals.  Yes, I still make them. In college I started singing. Thinking back on the trajectory, I never thought of the arts as a career path until college, but the arts were always everywhere and inevitable in my life (maybe I owe something to my extreme lack of athletic ability). At summer camp, I picked the two art courses (Art, Politics, & Society and Philosophy of Art) to take as part of the academic program. My AP History paper was on the culture wars with the National Endowment for the Arts, but it never occurred to me that it would lead me somewhere. It was in my first art history class in college that I realized it all led up to that point and career path. The arts contextualized me in a lot of ways. I can reach back to arts experiences to make sense of where I was at that specific point in my life. I think a prevailing assumption is that acting helps you explore yourself through becoming someone else, and I think that’s true, but I used to walk alone into the dark theatre and sit on stage looking at the empty seats and it felt just as deeply personal—the arts were a safe space for me, but they were also a sacred space. Sitting on the dark stage was different in an elemental way than any other place. It wasn’t just the performances, it was the essence of the space and allowing myself to live in that place, even if for just a moment.  The arts have always provided an access point for me, guiding me to accept and appreciate the moment and the state in which I find myself—good, bad, or anything in between, the arts have always helped me to see the vibrancy of the world and gain a true sense of being present. 3. If you could have any career you wanted (talent, education not required), what would it be and why? I would own a bakery. 100%. I realize in the age of food blogging that suddenly this is hugely en vogue, and I have read MULTIPLE times that bakers say that it’s no fun, but I am going to pretend I don’t know that and stick with the fact that I love baking.  That’s what I would do. 4. How many places have you lived? Where? Six. I was born in Santa Monica, CA and moved to Los Angeles at two. We then moved to Ann Arbor, MI, but not before my brother and I ran around the dining room for hours screaming. I asked if I could bring Chinatown, the ocean, and our lemon tree with us. I moved to New Haven, CT for college, spent most summers at home in Michigan with the exception of one in D.C,. and a semester abroad in London before returning to live in D.C. 5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? My a cappella group was singing at Mory’s, a Yale dinner club, and after finishing my solo (“You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt), one patron said, “When they were giving out personalities, they gave you two!” I took that to mean I had a lot of personality (and I’m sticking with that interpretation!). He also said I had “come one to a box.” His compliments were delightfully odd and shockingly insightful. 6. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to sit down to dinner. I’m going to have to have two dinner parties. For a philosophical, somber wine and cheese gathering I would like to speak with Roland Barthes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Viktor Frankl. Barthes’ Camera Lucida is one of the most influential books I read during college in terms of my academic interests and the way I learned to think about and interpret visual art, Hurston’s autobiography is a spectacularly exuberant study of a life lived in full color, and Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is staggeringly beautiful, universally meaningful, and beyond all else, powerfully human…and it has not left me since I first picked it up at age sixteen. For a fun, outdoor picnic (preferably hosted by F.Scott Fitzgerald, but I’m flexible), I would love to spend time with Claude Monet (I have loved him since the age of three, when I encountered him in Linnea in Monet’s Garden), Ruth Reichl (her memoirs are fantastic), and Ben Franklin (I’m a colonial history dork and 1776 is my favorite movie).  If I can include fictional characters, I would invite Eloise in a heartbeat.  My idol. 7. Would others say that you can dance? Explain. People call my dancing style “the Hannah” (Editor’s Note: Which I would describe as a little Peanuts’ Sally Brown meets Hair). I was also known as Boppity Short Girl in my a cappella group (see video). 8. What is the earliest memory you have of being an audience member for a live arts event? I think my first memory was at 2 or 3 years-old at a Sharon, Lois, & Bram concert. I can remember twirling in the aisles incessantly. The most meaningful performance I can remember was “Kiss Me Kate” on Broadway. The show inspired me beyond measure. It made me see what’s possible as a performer and how engaging a live performance can be. 9. What would the title of your autobiography be? “Always Looking Up: Life from the Five Foot (and a Quarter Inch) Line” 10. Finally, if you could paint a picture or take more photos of a place you have been in your life what would you paint or photograph? First of all, I wish I could paint!! This is a tough question because, like Tim (link), I take a lot of pictures, so it’s rare that I need MORE pictures—in fact, it would probably be more helpful if I were a little better at editing. That said, I wish I had taken more pictures of places—my dorms and that part of my life—during college in addition to pictures of other people, each other, etc. When I travel I feel that I capture most of the experience, but those times when I was just hanging out—I tried to appreciate them, but I’m not sure I could have known how really special those were at the time. So I wish I had more pictures of “Flower Couch” (see photo, as we were leaving it behind at school, tears!) that we got from a hotel liquidation sale my first week of freshman year…and the other accoutrements of collegiate life! Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at the 2012 National Arts Policy Round Table (Photo by Fred Hayes)

Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at our 2012 National Arts Policy Roundtable (Photo by Fred Hayes)

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and this time I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.

Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting

2. What do the arts mean to you?

There has been no time when I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures.

I was in my first play at seven, playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college. This includes Barnum, which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals. Yes, I still make them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review program is the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects. Up to 50 projects are selected annually through an open-call application process and selected by two to three jurors. The projects are available on CD-Rom in our bookstore and include a PowerPoint, data and project list, and hundreds of project photos. With our 2013 Public Art Year in Review nomination process slated to open later this month, we will be spotlighting a few former winners on ARTSblog.

Today’s project is From Here to There: High Trestle Trail Bridge which was honored in 2012.

Photo by Kun Zhang

Photo by Kun Zhang

Read the rest of this entry »

First Lady Michelle Obama presented the nominees for Best Picture and announced "Argo" as the winning film via satellite.

First Lady Michelle Obama presented the nominees for Best Picture and announced “Argo” as the winning film via satellite.

The big winner at Sunday night’s Academy Awards was arts education. In two key moments, a spotlight was shone on the important role the arts play in children’s lives.

At the end of the broadcast, there was the wonderful statement of support by First Lady Michelle Obama. She said, “They are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive every day to reach those dreams.”

But before the First Lady’s surprise appearance, there was another big moment for arts education during the Best Documentary Short category. The winning film, Inocente, is the story of a 15-year-old girl who refuses to let her dream of becoming an artist be stifled by her life as an undocumented immigrant forced to live homeless for the last nine years.

Inocente was introduced to the arts through a program in San Diego called ARTS | A Reason To Survive, which uses therapeutic arts programming, arts education, and college & career preparation to create pathways to success for youth facing adversity. Founder Matt D’Arrigo is a member of Americans for the Arts and we featured his programs in our December 2012 edition of the Monthly Wire, our member newsletter.

The following video from San Diego’s ABC affiliate shows the arc of events for Inocente—starting homeless, then participating in ARTS’ programs, all the way up to production of the documentary and standing onstage at the Oscars after Americans for the Arts Artists Committee member Kerry Washington revealed her story as the winning documentary:  Read the rest of this entry »

Ron Jones

Ron Jones

In a few weeks, many of us will descend upon Washington, D.C. as part of Arts Advocacy Day.

The agenda is simple and powerful; first, everyone learns the talking points, the compelling arguments, and statistics, and then practices on legislators and/or their staff. We return home knowing we’ve made a positive impression upon those who make decisions that can have significant and long-lasting impact upon the arts in America.

For some of us, that’s it! That’s our contribution to the future of the arts. We return home and pick up our work where we left off, seeing little connection to our day-to-day activities, managing our budgets, developing programs, expanding audiences, and raising money.

Realistically, I suspect most of us would say that we think of our national effort and our local effort as mutually exclusive events with the consequence of each seeing little, if any, relevance to the other.

The fact is that “advocacy” in its broadest sense, is the same as branding. Through whatever efforts and means we select, the goals are the same—to cause others to hold views and find values that are in line with our views and values.

Arts Advocacy Day is only one point along a continuum of efforts that will culminate in moving others toward our view of the world, and the strategies recommended should serve as a blueprint for what we do locally. Read the rest of this entry »

Catherine Starek

Catherine Starek

I have always thought of symphony orchestras, or any large musical ensemble, to function somewhat like clockwork.

As a musician, one quickly realizes that the success of the symphony (e.g. high-quality performance, beautiful tone, expressive phrasing, etc.) is dependent on the sum of its parts. The performance of every individual must be sensitively adjusted to compliment the rest of the ensemble in order to produce one cohesive musical story.

The internal intricacies, typically unseen by its admirers, must be functioning properly and working together in order for the larger system to operate properly.

In the case of a clock, even the grandest, most impressive-looking ones may cease to operate with broken or damaged parts. Similarly, symphony orchestra management can be most effective when all of its departments are working well and moving forward together.

What if we, as nonprofit leaders in the arts, took a systemic approach to orchestra management?

Rather than focusing on issues separately and only when we are forced to deal with them, one might adopt the mindset of always doing what is best to maintain the overall health of the organization in the long runRead the rest of this entry »

What Are “The Arts” Anyway?

Posted by Howard Sherman On February - 22 - 20132 COMMENTS
Howard Sherman

Howard Sherman

Art. The arts. Fine arts. Performing arts. Visual arts. The lively arts. Arts & entertainment. Arts & culture. Culture. High culture. Pop culture.

The preceding phrases are all, on a very macro basis, variations on a theme. However, were you in a research study, and I showed you each of them, one at a time, I daresay they would provoke very distinct associations, very clear delineations of what each encompasses in your mind. Those responses would also likely change depending upon the order in which I showed these to you.

I could also take any two and combine them in a Venn diagram and the overlapping segment would be quite clear. But incorporate a third or fourth and you might find one of these categories the odd man out.

Why do I bring this up?

Because as the “arts community” fights its valiant, essential, and never-ending battle to convince the public at large of the value of “the arts,” I cannot help but wonder whether those on the receiving end of such messaging each hear very different things when these words are presented to them.

I’m prompted to these thoughts by a variety of “real world” examples and experiences, some quite personal. I’m hoping that perhaps someone will want to test my assumptions.

Visit the websites of a few newspapers. The New York Times “Arts” section is a big tent, where theatre, dance, and opera fit in alongside movies, TV, books, and pop music; only on Fridays in the New York edition do they distinguish between performing arts and fine arts, by dividing them into two printed sections.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

“We have a euphoria inhibitor in Stage 2 trials,” explained the drug company executive to the bio-tech venture capitalist.

I paused. I told him that we in theatre seek euphoria wherever we can find it. He laughed and explained that euphoria inhibitors help keep strong pain medication from becoming addictive. The venture capitalist leaned in to hear more and I went to the buffet for another sandwich.

I was attending the Long Wharf Theatre’s 2013 Global Health and the Arts symposium, “Obesity and its Public Health Consequences.”

Driven by the combination of Yale Medical School and other Yale University researchers, the proximity to the Boston research corridor, the Tri-state pharmaceutical industry, and the catalytic qualities of Long Wharf trustee David Scheer, the conference capitalizes on Long Wharf’s unique location in New Haven, CT.

The idea came from David’s desire to do more for Long Wharf Theatre. It played to his strengths, and as I’ll explain later, those of Long Wharf as well.

In past years, the conference has focused on cancer, addiction, mental health, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a serious medical conference that is convened in and uses theatre to enliven and engage researchers and businesspeople alike.  Read the rest of this entry »

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 »