Jessica Johnson

In Iowa’s Creative Corridor, we are fortunate to enjoy an excellent quality of life. That is largely due to the abundance of arts and culture in our community.

Nestled in America’s Heartland, Iowa’s Creative Corridor is the region along I-380 in east central Iowa including Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, and more than two dozen other municipalities. The Corridor is home to hundreds of arts organizations, multiple higher education facilities, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, and more than a dozen international organizations.

Iowa’s Creative Corridor brings innovation to the world through a unique fusion of art, science, and technology. Examples range from artistic endeavors like the world-famous Iowa Writers’ Workshop, which has resulted in 28 Pulitzer Prizes, to Rockwell Collins, a company that supplies the nation with aviation and information technology systems for defense and commercial avionics markets.

We live in a global economy where creativity is a key driver. The ability to attract and retain skilled employees is a central issue for businesses today. An increasing number of people choose where they want to live first and find a job in that area. Quality of life has never been so important to attracting talent, and the arts are significant to creating a quality of life that people seek out. In addition, the arts support inclusion in our communities by bringing people of diverse backgrounds together for shared experiences and by celebrating what makes us each unique and different.

Representing more than 150 arts organizations, the Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance (ICCA) nurtures a sustainable cultural community in Iowa’s Creative Corridor through advocacy, promotion, professional development, and raising awareness of arts and culture opportunities. In a region with a spirit of creative innovation, ICCA works to foster collaboration within the arts community, as well as between arts organizations and the business community. Read the rest of this entry »

Jay Dick

Here we go again…

On Friday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the South Carolina Arts Commission’s budget. This is the third year in a row for such a veto, two by Governor Haley and one by former Governor Sanford. It should be noted that prior to Governor Sanford’s veto, he systematically cut the Commission’s budget over the seven years leading up to the veto during his last year in office.

To complicate matters, the legislature failed to submit a budget to the Governor until after the start of the new fiscal year that began on July 1. The Commission, under the veto, has no budget and thus, has had to shut down pending the legislature voting to override the veto on July 17 (House) and 18 (Senate).

Governor Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million for everything from a slight pay raise for teachers to a North Myrtle Beach museum, the preservation of African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, and a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims.

But, it was only the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium that were totally eliminated—a move that puts 38 state employee’s jobs in limbo.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September, but Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner. The Senate is coming back on July 18.

Governor Haley’s reasoning for her veto of the Arts Commission is that she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

The Arts Commission is a charity?! Read the rest of this entry »

María Muñoz-Blanco

Preparing for a briefing to our (Dallas) City Council’s Art, Culture, & Libraries Committee on the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study, I thought about doing a bit of random testing on the research findings.

I just wanted a few talking points, really, to localize the fantastic data collected, analyzed, and interpreted by the dynamic duo of Randy Cohen and Ben Davidson. I didn’t quite finish my “scientific” research in time for the briefing, but but then Theresa Cameron emailed with an invite for this Blog Salon…and so here it is.

Totally random, not quite scientific, some would say rather biased research. But it does add up.

My first test: event-related spending. To check on the non-local audience spending, I volunteered myself as the test subject and trekked to the lovely city of Fort Worth (38 miles from home, across municipal and county boundaries) to spend the day visiting the Fort Worth Cultural District.

I started at the Amon Carter Museum to view the fantastic exhibition American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning & Their Circle; followed by a personal pilgrimage to see one of my favorite artworks in North Texas; then a quick peek at the construction of the Kimbell’s expansion; then checked out the work of local artists at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center. I still had the Cowgirl Hall of Fame Museum on my to do list, but at 104 degrees, it was time to stop walking around.

So…like a good Texan, when the heat gets to you…a bit of retail therapy always helps. On my way in, I spied the Montgomery Street Antique Mall, so it was only fair to stop by on my way back to Dallas.

The tally for my day-trip as a cultural tourist in Fort Worth: $209.32. Read the rest of this entry »

Ben Davidson

Way back in May of 2009, Americans for the Arts began recruiting local, regional, and statewide partners for the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV national economic impact study. After three years of day-to-day project managing, data collecting, number crunching, and report writing, the study is finally complete and the findings have been released. Trust me, NO ONE is more excited about that than I am!

A research project of this scope and magnitude delivers a myriad of emotional highs and lows. Mistakes are made; then mistakes are fixed. Deadlines are missed; then “extended” deadlines are set. We all know the drill.

I am 100 percent certain that at least once, each of the 182 study partners wished I would just go away and leave them alone. I’m incredibly thankful that each of the partners stuck with the process. Their hard work made this study the largest and most comprehensive of its kind ever conducted. Many people have asked me about the specific challenges and successes of the project, and I’m happy to share my perspectives on a few of each.


1. Providing project oversight for 182 separate partners is a difficult task. It’s a frustrating feeling when you send an e-mail to 182 people, and your inbox immediately starts filling with requests for clarification. I knew immediately when my directions weren’t clear enough.

2. Utilizing multiple sources of data can be confusing. In the states where the Cultural Data Project (CDP) has been implemented, we used CDP data in addition to our AEP IV organizational survey (so that arts organizations submitting a CDP profile didn’t need to complete our survey as well). This tactic definitely reduced the burden on the organizations from which we needed to collect data. Unfortunately, it definitely increased the burden on my team and on our study partners located in those CDP states.

3. The fact that the study partners collected more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys was both a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it is unquestionably the largest sample of audience spending data that has ever been collected. It was a curse because that equates to 32 legal-sized boxes full of surveys that required sorting, coding, and data entry. As my team processed the mountain of surveys, we stacked the boxes in my office. This worked fine until one Monday morning when I arrived at the office and discovered that a stack nine boxes high had collapsed across my desk—spilling neatly bundled surveys out into the hall, crushing my work phone, and staining my office door with blue ink from the boxes. Colleagues said I was lucky that I wasn’t at my desk when it happened, but I thought it might have been a fitting way to meet my demise…  Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

“It’s the Economy, Stupid” was a great start for President Bill Clinton’s first campaign and it’s a great start for this Local Arts Agency Blog Salon.

As we look for permanent and lasting solutions to the nation’s economic woes, we don’t have to look any further than the arts (especially the arts at the local level), the people that make the art, and how it drives the economy.

During this week of blog posts you will have the opportunity to learn about communities and their economic development strategies using the arts. You will also learn how these “rock stars” are using economic impact studies and research to demonstrate the power that the arts have on the local economy.

Speaking of the rock stars, here are this week’s guest bloggers:

  • Ben Davidson, Americans for the Arts
  • Beth Flowers, Beet Street
  • Buddy Palmer, Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham
  • Camille Russell Love, City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs
  • Cathy Malloy, Greater Hartford Arts Council
  • Janet Langsam, ArtsWestchester
  • Jennifer Cover Payne, Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington
  • Jeff Hawthorne, Regional Arts & Culture Council
  • Jennifer Post Tyler, Thrive
  • Jessica Johnson, Iowa Cultural Corridor Alliance
  • Julie Muraco, Praeditis Group LLC
  • Kerry Adams-Hapner, San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs
  • Lydia Black, Lee County Alliance for the Arts
  • Maria Munoz-Blanco, City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs
  • Marjorie Maas, Nebraskans for the Arts
  • Olga Garay, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs
  • Paul Tyler, Arts Council of Metropolitan Kansas City
  • Robert Bush, Arts & Science Council of Charlotte-Mecklenburg
  • Terri Aldrich, Minot Area Council of the Arts
  • Terri Schorzman, City of Boise Department of Arts & History
  • Tom Bensen, Missoula Cultural Council

I hope you enjoy reading these posts and check back throughout the week via this link, which collects all of the posts from the Salon in one place.

Also, please be sure to comment and share them via email and social media!

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at

One approach to the Local Arts Index is through examining groups of indicators that address related subjects, such as museums and collections.

If you look around your community or your region, you’ll probably see that there are various museums to see—museums of art, science, history, and more. And there are other kinds of collections on display, living collections of animals and plants. Perhaps you have visited one of these museums in your community in the past few months. Or a zoo, arboretum, or botanical garden with your family and/friends to enjoy the outdoors but to appreciate how the items are presented and displayed. Perhaps these are some of the places you think of as a routine part of the life in your community or places to go when you are a local guide to family or friends in from out of town.

We think of these collections-based organizations as contributing to a community’s arts in culture in two ways. One is as resources for culture and learning, a second is in their roles as destinations for visitors.

Earlier this year, we released an indicator on the adult population visiting art museums. More recently, we released four additional indicators that measure collections-based organizations where you live. These organizations and institutions that are based on a collection—historical, canonic, living—are deeply rooted in our communities and provide places for reflection, learning, observing, and enjoyment.

Here’s some info on those four: Read the rest of this entry »

I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) last week to see Levitated Mass.

I love Michael Heizer’s work and travel miles to see it. His commissioned projects in Seattle and Reno are my places of cultural tourism. I saw Double Negative in decay in 1980 and City Complex in its early nineties form. I also love rocks. Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic—I find in them extraordinary sculptures of time.

I loved the celebration of the journey of the rock (check out this video of the voyage) as it traveled from the quarry to the art museum at 11 miles per hour.

So the odd thing is that the rock isn’t the star in Heizer’s new commission. It’s the trench.

The trench is the star of “Levitated Mass.”

Levitated Mass is about the channel, the journey through the land. The 456-foot channel offers a tour of construction excellence and fetishistic form work. The concrete is polished to a matte marble finish; the finished edges and surfaces align perfectly over a huge distance. Even the discrete railing is a perfectly formed negative channel worthy of detail photos. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael R. Gagliardo

Michael R. Gagliardo

Every time the Etowah Youth Orchestra gives a performance, it seems, we get a standing ovation. I think that’s great—I mean, what better way to recognize the accomplishments of our young musicians, right? And it’s not that they don’t deserve the ovation—after all, they work their tails off at every rehearsal to prepare and present the best performances possible. And with young artists, we should always recognize and praise their efforts.

But on the professional level, I’ve been to a number of performances lately where the performance itself has been adequate, at best, and the audience has still recognized the performers by rising to its feet and loudly and enthusiastically heaping praise upon those on stage.

That’s fine, I guess—we’re recognizing the effort, perhaps; but, in terms of assessing the performance, is this really doing our art any favors? Don’t get me wrong—I want my young players to get standing ovations, to be recognized for their efforts, their achievements, and their accomplishments. But only when it is deserved.

I look at it this way—if I gave a performance that was just lukewarm, I wouldn’t want this type of accolade. It almost feels like pity, in a way—like the audience is saying, “Well, it wasn’t that good of a performance, but we should recognize the effort anyway—I’m sure he worked very hard to put that performance together.”

When we assess the arts, we have to be fair. I know, I know—we struggle every day, for funding, for acceptance, for a place in education, for a place in our communities. And it’s so easy to justify everything we do, to laud and praise every effort, in our desire to win the fight and solidify our place in society. But at what price? Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

So, an artist walks into an office…

I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But many artists start their careers or support themselves by taking “day jobs.” Andy Warhol worked in advertising. Modest Mussorgsky was a civil servant. Franz Kafka investigated personal injury cases for an insurance company. But is an artist in the office one of life’s small cruelties? Not necessarily.

A recent article featured in The Globe and Mail suggests that businesses looking to become innovators might want to consider hiring artists over those with more traditional business degrees.

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the business landscape. Due to the current economic climate and the rapid advancement of technology, businesses are focused on working smarter through innovation. In fact, according to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, 61 percent of CEOs identify creativity as a key driver of employee success in operating in a more complex, interconnected environment.

Considering the importance of thinking outside the box, bringing artists into the workplace seems like a natural choice. But how well are artists able to translate their artistic skills and sensibility into a corporate environment?

The Globe and Mail article highlights two Canadian businesses:

David Dobson, the director of business development for StarFish Medical, believes that art school gave him a simple business edge: it changed the way he thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

In honor of the holiday, I thought I’d share a few videos of artists singing patriotic songs (p.s. if scrolling messes up the videos or text, just reload the page).

We’ll start with Americans for the Arts Artists Committee member Josh Groban’s three-song performance just down the road from our D.C. office in 2011:

Here is one of my favorite performances of The Star-Spangled Banner to date, as the Dixie Chicks sang prior to the 2003 Super Bowl:  Read the rest of this entry »

2011 Contest Entry: "Finding Solace in Birmingham," Kelly Moore, Sequoyah High School, Grade 12, 16" x 18" charcoal/pastels

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America “where people would be judged by the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin, where little black boys and black girls would be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

Fifty years later, America is no doubt a very different nation than it was in 1963, especially concerning the rights of African-Americans and racial integration. Yet the widening disparity of wealth and deepening social tensions that precipitated the March on Washington are as topical today as they were in the sixties. The underlying conflicts and tensions that erupted in the sixties—conflicts and tensions that had been festering since the founding of our country—remain unresolved.

Inspired by the Declaration of Independence and forged by the Black experience in America, the modern civil rights movement was a philosophy of life designed to address these inconsistencies in American democracy. It was a philosophy of humility and hope, of pragmatism and idealism, and of individualism and the “Beloved Community,” indeed a second American revolution, that aspired to integrate the divided soul of the nation and inaugurate a new era of progress and possibility.

Fifty years later, as the nation and the world face daunting social, political, and environmental challenges that demand a “new” paradigm, a new vision, for how we can relate to each other as human beings, the timing could not be better to revisit “The Dream Speech” and the wisdom of the civil rights movement.

THE DREAM@50 is a tribute series in 2012–13 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Including a student art contest (K–12), a world music/dance festival, and video PSAs, THE DREAM@50 is a celebration of creative collaboration in both the civil rights movement and the arts as the foundation for a new paradigm in how we can live together. The goal of THE DREAM@50 Art Contest is to embrace the arts as a vehicle for bringing this history alive for students today in order to clarify the lessons of the past and to empower our students with the tools to make a difference and make the dream a reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

A couple of weeks ago, Barry Hessenius of Barry’s Blog posted a question and concern that caught my attention. He wondered “whether or not we are isolating [emerging leaders] 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 [meaning the field]—at least in part—a disservice.”

I was pleased to see Barry post this concern, because at least a couple of times a year, arts administrators approach me with the same issues. In my role as leadership development program manager at Americans for the Arts, our Emerging Leaders program and national network is a large part of my work portfolio.

I want to thank Barry for sharing his thoughts on emerging leaders and bringing this issue, which has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time now, to wider attention. Barry also deserves quite a bit of credit for all the great work he has done on behalf of emerging leaders in California. The networks in California—thanks in large part to the James Irvine Foundation’s and the Hewlett Foundation’s leadership—are some of the most robust networks we have nationally and are consistently looked to as model programs.

I appreciate Barry’s concerns regarding sub-sectors of our field, and wanting to create an environment where those new to the field can be seen as fellow leaders by their peers. Transition and succession planning is a large issue that our field needs to address head on in a unified way. As an emerging leader myself, I personally want to avoid the existence of “artificial walls” between emerging and experienced leaders.

In my mind, one of the discerning qualities of the Emerging Leaders Network is that it is an opportunity for those new to the field to practice and workshop their leadership skills, learn fundamentals, and network with peers. Oftentimes, a new arts administrator can feel isolated in their work, and one of the largest benefits of the network to me is that it allows an individual to connect to something larger than themselves and remember that they are a part of a movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Sally Gaskill

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Since 2008, the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) has surveyed graduates of arts training programs—people who received undergraduate and/or graduate arts degrees from colleges and universities as well as diplomas from arts high schools…people who majored in architecture, arts education, creative writing, dance, design, film, fine arts, media arts, music, theater, and more.

To date, SNAAP has collected data from over 50,000 arts graduates of all ages and nationalities. These respondents, as we call them in the survey world, graduated from nearly 250 different educational institutions in the U.S. and Canada.

In a few short years, SNAAP has become what is believed to be the largest database ever assembled about the arts and arts education, as well as the most comprehensive alumni survey conducted in any field.

Recently, we published our latest findings: A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers. The report provides findings from over 33,000 arts graduates who responded to the online survey last fall.

Our report has attracted media coverage from the New York Times, International Herald Tribune, Inside Higher Ed and—we were gawked on! My favorite may be Forbes, which compares getting an arts degree with getting a law degree—and recommends that prospective law students consider an arts career instead.

Here are some of the big questions that SNAAP data begin to answer.

1.      Where do arts graduates go?

  • First, they are largely employed. Only 4% of SNAAP respondents are unemployed and looking for work, as opposed to the national average of 8.9%.

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 »

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.