The four national winners of this year's The Art Institutes/Americans for the Arts Poster Contest.

I had the distinct opportunity to witness how the youth of today interpret the theme, “You Can Create Tomorrow.”

Held in the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., The 9th Annual Art Institutes and Americans for the Arts Poster Design Competition National Awards ceremony was a chance to see a showcase of high school creative talent, and how the arts leaders of tomorrow envision the future of the creative process.

One would immediately assume (as did I) that I would be immersed in a sea of digital graphics; but this was far from the case. Most of the art submitted by students for this competition was hand-drawn, painted, photographed, and oftentimes students blended multiple visual mediums to convey the message that creative expression needn’t consist of just one style of expression. This is a true testament to the future of the arts; we use multitudes of resources to create that robust final product.

Andrea Knapp, a high school senior from Atwater, OH addressed the new ways we are using technology in everyday life to grab third place in the High School Senior Category. She will be utilizing her innovative thinking to work towards a B.S. in Visual Effects & Motion Graphics at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Megan Avery, the second place winner in the High School Senior Category from Clayton, NC took a very mature and considerate approach to her poster design submission—using a photograph she had taken of an Art Institute travel coffee mug with origami flora and fauna bursting from the top. Avery will take her multilayered method of creative expression to The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham with her awarded scholarship. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Ford

“Great art comes from great pain.”

A fully loaded and explosive statement if ever there was one, this is the primary proposition in Christopher Zara’s recent book Tortured Artists, a collection of forty-eight profiles on some of the most celebrated artists of the millennium—from Mozart to Woolf, Garland to Disney.

What exactly, though, is Mr. Zara suggesting?

According to the managing editor of Show Business himself, “I never claimed that art cannot be produced without suffering, only that art produced without suffering is not likely to be very good.”

Zara is not the first to remark on behalf of this haunting stock character. In fact, the tortured artist mythology is one that has sustained a life of its own for centuries, overflowing with the same torment associated with the artists in Zara’s collection—full of devout self-hatred, extreme cases of introverted or extroverted tendencies, sexual frustrations, personality disorders, tremendous amounts of substance abuse, and high rates of suicide.

And still beyond any shadow of a doubt, in these ashes were some of the greatest artistic achievements born.

By looking at the profiles and history alone, one might be quick to say art is more formulaic than we ever perceived. True art can be reduced to a mere mathematical equation where anguish stands idly left of the equality sign and magnificence resides on the other (do what you will with the variables).

Of course, my aim is not to present art as a formula. It is also not my desire to debunk the tortured-artist concept entirely. It’s a fascinating one and I want to investigate it more critically. Read the rest of this entry »

Narric Rome

In 2007, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund put together a policy agenda for the 15 presidential candidates to consider as they built their policy platforms. Among arts policy items was a call to “encourage initiatives that provide healthcare coverage to arts organizations and individual artists.”

By early 2008, after meeting with campaign staff and putting questions before the candidates themselves in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa, the Clinton and Obama campaigns both published policy statements in support of this effort.

The Clinton campaign stated, “Hillary knows that many artists, who are self-employed or work part-time at another job to support their full-time career as artists, do not have access to employer-based coverage.” And the Obama campaign statement said, “Since many artists work independently or have non-traditional employment relations, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach.”

In 2009, with a new president sworn in, Americans for the Arts, along with 85 other national arts organizations, presented an issue brief for Arts Advocacy Day that called on the new Congress to “ensure that national healthcare insurance reform proposals include artists and other creative occupations currently excluded from employer-based insurance plans.”

At the heart of the matter was the fact that artists were (and are) disproportionately self-employed (about 60 percent work independently), and those who are not often work multiple jobs in volatile, episodic patterns. According to a 2010 study by Leveraging Investments in Creativity, “artists are twice as likely as the general population (11 percent vs. 5 percent) to purchase their own health insurance, and at much higher costs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Deanne Gertner

I hate construction sites.

I know, I know: it means architects drafting blueprints; it means a plumber buying his daughter a new tutu; it means an accountant sweating the costs of nuts and bolts; it means a toy manufacturer making more plastic tool sets; it means realtors and workman’s comp insurers and educators and marketing people all get to work and in turn buy things like groceries and clothes and gasoline, pay taxes and rent, and go to the museum or the zoo or the theatre or the gallery.

Construction equals jobs and homes and a buzzing economy.

Intellectually, I get it. I really do. As the granddaughter and niece of electricians, I really should have a better attitude about it, because, arguably, without construction, I wouldn’t even be here.

Maybe it’s that I’ve been hollered, hooted, and whistled at one too many times, albeit less and less as I’ve gotten older. Or maybe it’s the noise and the ugly mess of it coupled with the possibility of a nail puncturing my car tires that makes my left eye twitch. But lucky for my delicate aesthetic, Denver businesses are finally catching on and are turning their construction sites into canvases, so to speak.

Case study numero uno: Children’s Hospital Colorado, Phipps/McCarthy, and UMB Bank, joint finalists for Colorado Business Committee for the Arts’ (CBCA’s) 2012 Business for the Arts Awards in the Impact category for the Many Hands Create Art project.

Faced with increased patient demand and limited space, Children’s Hospital broke ground on a 10-story, 124-bed tower in 2010. The Phipps/McCarthy team, in an effort to minimize the construction’s impact on the patients in the existing hospital, suggested hanging murals from the fence lining surrounding the site. Nearly 100 mural panels were created to camouflage the construction fences. More than 40 hospital groups comprised of patients, families, nurses, physicians and staff, 25 professional artists and local art students, and seven local community groups including schools and visual arts nonprofits came together to create the panels. That’s a whole lot of art making, folks! Read the rest of this entry »

Delali Ayivor

At age fifteen, I made the decision, completely of my own accord, to move halfway across the world from my home in Accra, Ghana to Interlochen, Michigan so that I could attend boarding school and learn to be a writer.

Yet, still, three years down the line, I had to be told that I was a poet. Sure, I knew that I wrote poems, I even knew that some of them were pretty good, but to me, a poet was something larger than that, something otherworldly and infinitely wise that I could only ever hope to become after years of turmoil, some kind of Southeast Asian religious epiphany, at least one mutually-abusive romantic relationship, and lots of hard drinking.

But when I was named a YoungArts finalist in poetry and then, later that same year, a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts in poetry, reality intruded, and I was forced to give up my romanticism in favor of convenience.

Recently, after a performance with YoungArts in Los Angeles, in which I performed one of a series of poems that revolved around black women and the complex relationship we have with our hair, I was introduced to someone as a spoken word poet.

While they enthused about the authenticity of my poem and my presence on stage, I was struck completely dumb. “Hold on,” I thought. “I just barely reconciled myself with being a Jr. Deputy Poet in Training. How did I become a spoken word artist? Can you even become a spoken word artist without trying?” And then of course, came the perennial paranoid knee-jerk reaction familiar to many “Is this only happening to me because I’m Black?” Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts Vice President of Research & Policy Randy Cohen is in the middle of a cross-country tour unveiling the results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study alongside many of our local partners.

Yesterday, he spent time in San Diego and had the pleasure of joining Seema Sueko, artistic director of the city’s Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, on KPBS-TV’s Evening Edition Culture Desk:

Find out more about AEP IV and local study results for a county near you by visiting our comprehensive website.

Taking a convention break to enjoy a puppy webcam.

“I kept looking around and wondering: Do I belong here? Do I want to belong here? I mean…What if I don’t want to be a nonprofit rockstar?”

The question hit me hard. I was leading an informal roundtable on work/life balance at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, and a young mother was talking to me about her experience at the Emerging Leaders Preconference.

She was referencing the second of two mind-blowingly awesome sessions by Rosetta Thurman, a 29-year-old writer and career coach who co-authored How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career with Trista Harris, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

In the session, Rosetta led us through the seven tenets of the book, including Developing Expertise and Practicing Authentic Leadership. You’ll have to buy it to find out the other five. I did buy it, marking the first time I’ve purchased a speaker’s book immediately after leaving a session.

There’s something weird about being in a room filled with really, really motivated young people. This was a room with the future head of the National Endowment for the Arts, the next Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, the budding arts manager who will re-envision the museum-going experience for the 21st century.

And then there’s me.

At least, that’s always where my brain goes. Not in a good way—more of a “Why am I here and why am I in a suit?” way. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Since I started my job 4 ½ years ago, I have been looking for a way to quantify arts education. There are an overwhelming number of models circulating:

Washington State did an invited, online, school principal survey, leveraging the partnership of their Arts Education Research Initiative to elicit responses.

Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming worked with the Western States Arts Federation (WESTAF) to develop a shared survey instrument, administered in collaboration with the four state offices of education and public instruction.

Communities involved in The Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child initiative have created extensive school-based survey instruments, drawing on the expertise of locally-formed partnerships to create the best instrument and guarantee response rates.

I could go on, but you get the picture.

With over 1,300 public schools in the state, the cost to hire a research firm to design and administer a survey instrument was prohibitive, and every existing survey instrument we looked at needed substantial adaptation to satisfy our stakeholders.

Luckily, two years ago, a graduate student in public policy at University of Oregon, Sarah K. Collins, mentioned to me that her thesis project involved pulling data from the Department of Education to examine access to arts education. The Oregon Arts Commission hired Sarah to produce a state-level summary report of her thesis, which we then published.

While the summary data was useful in tracking overall trends, it wasn’t applicable to most citizens, who wanted to know what the numbers meant for their local school. This demand evolved into what is now the Oregon Arts Commission’s newly launched online arts education databaseRead the rest of this entry »

Dan Bowers

I would characterize our relationship with our local business community as “maturing” and “promising.”

As a united arts fund agency, Allied Arts of Greater Chattanooga has received significant support from our businesses over our 43-year history. Thanks to an influx of significant new businesses and a fresh look at our cultural resources, our future relationships with corporations are even more promising.

Despite our nation’s economic challenges, Chattanooga is experiencing a renaissance thanks to the impact of major new industries locating in our community, most notably Volkswagen (Did I mention that the Passat is a GREAT car?).

Fortunately for our arts community, when Volkswagen announced their decision to build their new Passat production plant they chose to do so at our fantastic Hunter Museum of American Art.

In their announcement, Volkswagen noted that in making their decision “the intangibles became tangible.” We, of course, have been touting to everyone that they were referring to the arts and the role they play in making Chattanooga a great place to live and work.

In addition to our Volkswagen boost, during the past two years, Allied Arts has facilitated a community cultural planning process that we named Imagine Chattanooga 20/20 (IC 20/20). Through this process we have deepened our connection with the community and have increased the perceived value for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

During the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV)launch at the Annual Convention, Randy Cohen announced the findings of American’s for the Arts fourth economic impact study of the nonprofit arts and culture organizations and their audiences.

As the most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted, AEP IV documents the quantifiable economic impact of 9,721 nonprofit arts and culture organizations and 151,802 of their attendees in 182 study regions, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In revealing the results of this extremely thorough study, Randy stated, “The arts mean business,” and he could not have been more on target.

According to the study, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $135.2 billion of economic activity, which breaks down to $61.1 billion in spending by nonprofit arts and culture organizations, plus an additional $74.1 billion in event related spending. In addition to generating economic activity, the arts and culture industry also supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue.

AEP IV also showed that arts audience members spent on average $24.60 per person, per event (beyond the cost of admission) in 2010. Additionally, the data revealed that arts tourists stay longer and spend more than the average traveler. Among those audience members surveyed, 32 percent live outside the county in which the art event took place and their event-related spending is more than twice that of their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42).

Even in the face of the recession, the arts have remained resilient. The 2010 expenditures by arts organizations were just three percent behind their 2005 levels ($61.1 billion vs. $63.1 billion). Although there was an 11 percent drop in spending by the typical arts patron from 2005–2010, it is still evident that communities that draw cultural tourists experience an additional boost of economic activity that continues to fuel local economic engines. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed its initial Fiscal Year 2013 funding legislation, proposing a $14 million cut for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

While the arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, this budget proposal is disappointing as funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $20 million over the past two years. This additional reduction is counter intuitive to the national call to help increase jobs and fuel the country’s recovery.

Americans for the Arts recently released the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study, which provides overwhelming proof that the nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year and supports 4.13 million full-time equivalent jobs annually.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed an increase of $8 million over the current NEA appropriation to $154.3 million for FY 2013 in contrast with the House Subcommittee mark of $132 million.

As the House proposal advances, it is our hope that you will not only call on your U.S. Representative to reject the funding cuts, but also help us build support for the president’s higher level request by contacting your U.S. Senator. A comparison breakdown of the appropriations status follows:

Final FY 2012 Enacted

FY 2013 President’s

FY 2013 House Subcommittee

National Endowment for the Arts

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

This is just the first step in the process. In the coming weeks, it is expected that the larger House Appropriations Committee will consider this legislation followed by the full House of Representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

There are currently four different generations existing in the workplace and living within our communities. Each generation has unique characteristics, and preferred ways that they interact with technology, each other, and their relationship between work, life, and family.

During our Annual Convention last week, presenters for the Shift Happens in the Generation Gap session led attendees in a conversation around new approaches and strategies to promote intergenerational collaboration within the workplace. They also discussed new practices to connect with ethnically diverse audiences.

Rosetta Thurman, owner and principal of Thurman Consulting and author of the book How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar began the session by leading us through the characteristics, similarities, and differences of the four different generations:

  • Matures were born between the years 1925–1945. They are best characterized as wanting to continue contributing and providing mentorship.
  • Boomers are the largest generation with 80 million of them in the workforce today. Born between 1946–1964, they have a strong sense of optimism and tend to operate under the assumption that they will be around forever.
  • Generation X is best known as the Slacker Generation. Born between 1965–1979, they tend to be very individualistic, but are also not interested in the corporate world. They are half the size of Boomers, and often considered the “forgotten generation” in that can be passed over for leadership opportunities simply because there aren’t as many of them.
  • Millennials  were born between 1980–2000, and are growing up as the most educated generation to date, but also carry the largest amount of student debt. Once they enter the working world, they expect to be paid well not always out of entitlement but out of necessity. This generation is very technology centered and thrives in a constantly connected world.

After taking session participants through that overview, Rosetta invited us to think about our own experiences, and to highlight similarities and differences that people are seeing amongst generations in their own work. After 10 minutes of discussion, everyone came back together, and reported out from our conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

Delali Ayivor

I know this about myself: I am a writer and I am an obruni.

Obruni is a term that comes from the Ghanaian language of Twi and it translates to foreigner or, more archaically “white man.” I was born in Houston, TX. My mother was born in Durham, NC and my father in Lome, Togo. I was raised, primarily, in Accra, Ghana. In my life I have lived in four countries and three states and through it all, I have had trouble identifying myself as an American.

The United States has been a constant symbol of idolatry for me. As an elementary school student, I ordered my father to bring back suitcases full of Oreos and Cheetos from his business trips, simply for the sheer commercial joy of the American name-brand. So when I moved, by myself, from Accra, Ghana to the outskirts of Northwest Michigan at age 15 to attend boarding school, I was, for the first time since the age of 3, ecstatically emerged in America, in my obsession.

Now I am going to say something that doesn’t get said enough; I love the Midwest. Perhaps because it was the first place that I lived in the United States where I was old enough to form an opinion, but I suspect there are others out there like me.

Coming from West Africa with absolutely no background in American history, the Midwest was the America I had always envisioned. This was the America I had gleaned from hours of Lifetime Television for Women made-for-tv movies; a place where my first poetry teacher, a farm girl, actually had her first kiss on a hayride, where soda was referred to as ‘pop’, the forgotten frontier of endless strip malls and moms in department store khakis pulling up to Rotary Club meetings in their Toyota minivans to talk about foreign lands they might never see, the backwards mud people saved by $5 a month set-aside through clever coupon usage down at the Piggly Wiggly. Read the rest of this entry »

Charles Jensen

One of the most important sessions I attended at this year’s Annual Convention was Salvador Acevedo’s talk on “How Changing Demographics Are Shifting Your Community.”

One of Salvador’s main points asked us to change our thinking from embracing “multiculturalism”—discrete ethnic identities that fit into neat census boxes—to “interculturalism,” a more broadly defined approach that invites people to define their identities contextually—and, to some degree, interchangeably.

Salvador cited research indicating the demographic landscape in America is rapidly changing. California is poised to become the first “minority majority” state, while several others already have collective non-white populations that outnumber the white population. Since half of all current births are non-white (or perhaps non-solely white), it’s clear a sea change is inevitable.

Salvador asked the audience in his “reverse Q&A” at the end of the session to talk about a time when we realized diversity was important to our organization. I talked about my participation on the Emerging Leaders Council (ELC) and how, just a few years ago, we released a slate of nominees for ELC election only to be criticized by our arts colleagues for releasing a slate of exclusively white candidates.

It wasn’t like we didn’t realize “diversity is important.” Of course we do. But the criticism pointed out a valid flaw in both our process of choosing nominees and the process inherent in populating the ELC.

Since then, the ELC has engaged in difficult, uncomfortable, and oftentimes unresolveable conversations about how we ensure our elected body is representative of the future of the field. Salvador’s talk provided a helpful context for thinking about the challenges we face in doing this. Read the rest of this entry »

Ryan Hurley

During our Americans for the Arts Annual Convention ARTventure to San Antonio’s culturally rich Westside neighborhood, we spent the afternoon with San Anto Cultural Arts, a local organization that builds community through the process of creating murals. Outside of their small office there is a large religious mural featuring a profile of Jesus surrounded by two angels. One of the organization’s co-founders, who was kind of hanging in the background of our tour, was encouraged by the tour guide to tell this story.

When heading back to the office one day he noticed a woman, whom he later found out was a prostitute, hanging out on the border of their property near the mural. As soon as she saw him approaching she apologized for loitering and promised to leave right away. He told her not to worry and began talking with her. She told him that the church down the street wouldn’t allow her to enter, so she would often come to this outdoor mural to pray.

The storyteller wasn’t trying to commodify this story or use it as a sales pitch. He shared this experience so we could understand the human element of their work. Those moments that we experience everyday and assume that others can summon when we talk about that abstract “power of the arts,” need to be shared, built upon, and married to supportive data.

During the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Bob Lynch said something to the effect of “…for a group of artists, we need to become better storytellers.” I think this was said in the context of arts advocacy but I believe it is interrelated to growing as a community.

It was probably because of our own personal narratives or the persuasive narratives of others that convinced us to spend our lives in a financially (and emotionally) unstable field taking up the banner for the arts. This is not to underestimate the power of studies such as the new Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (4.1 million jobs are supported nationally by the nonprofit arts sector, nice!). These studies are invaluable to a diverse field that hosts a diverse audience, but these two quantitative and qualitative narratives could benefit from becoming more intertwined. 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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


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.