Roger Vacovsky

Yesterday at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio, attendees engaged in a session that asked them to reconsider the classic membership model and theory behind membership and subscription programs.

As we are circling around this concept of “the new normal,” we must begin to look at the fact that the changing culture of our work force has different wants and needs. With regards to membership, this new crop of individuals want the tangible, the direct benefit, and the question that will be asked after (or instead of) “Why should I join?” is, “What am I going to get for my money?”

We also know that “we’re doing it this way because this is how we’ve always done it” is OUT. If you’re membership is declining, it’s time you try something different.

Membership, in many cases, is utilized for financial reasons more so than for purposes of engagement. As membership is a revenue strain (and, as we membership folk proclaim, our job depends on that revenue), it is important to consider the ‘why’ when promoting membership.

Deborah Obalil, who moderated the session asked participants to “be honest with yourself about why you are doing it. Memberships can inspire, or fail to inspire loyalty” without a defined goal in sight.

Obalil then asked attendees to think of their own membership program with regards to what they do to inspire loyalty. The loyalty of a member to an organization consists of the following:

  • Belief in the mission
  • Tangible benefits: “what are they getting out of it?”
  • Recognition/validation “wearing membership as a badge of honor”  Read the rest of this entry »

Catherine Brandt & Graham Dunstan are frazzled after trying to keep a lid on the AEP IV story for so long before Convention.

As everyone who reads ARTSblog should know by now, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study (AEP IV) was released yesterday at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio.

With 182 participating communities and more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys, this economic impact study of the arts is the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted. As the study launched before 800 attendees and countless others who saw the announcement live on the web, there was a collective sigh of relief at Americans for Arts.

The story we had held on to for more than six weeks was finally able to fly free.

Embargoed press releases. Pre-written tweets and Facebook updates. Scripted talking points. There were a dozen different ways that the big story of the $135 billion impact of the arts in our country could have been “spoiled” early.

Multiply those communications tools by the number of participating organizations and other partners and members of the press who had this information for the last few weeks and it’s nearly a miracle that barely anyone spilled the beans.

When we released the previous study (AEP III) at the 2007 Annual Convention, social media wasn’t the cultural and communication force it is now. Twitter wasn’t even a year old. And while Facebook was a staple at universities and colleges, its use by nonprofits wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous as today. Very simply: in 2007 it was easier to keep a secret.  Read the rest of this entry »

Luis Ubiñas

Ford Foundation President Luis Ubiñas started his opening keynote at our 2012 Annual Convention talking about about how he came to the arts. It was through free access in New York City. Having grown up with modest means, Ubiñas was only able to attend the finest cultural institutions that the city had to offer via free days.

In fact, he recounted one story when he was 14-years-old and went to The Public Theater to see Macbeth. However, he and has friend had arrived so early that they ran into founder Joe Papp who told them so, but also invited them to look around and explore his theater.

It was that kindness that stuck with him and shaped his appreciation for the arts. He reminded attendees that everyone in the room had similar experiences that shaped our attitudes about arts and culture and to never forget to provide those experiences to other 14-year-olds you stumble across in your work.

Beyond that personal anecdote, Ubiñas also talked about the economy behind the arts. During one passage he reminded the audience how important it is to explain to decision-makers at every level (city, county, state politicians, etc.) the value of the arts. He said all-too-often, it seems that they will fight to hard to bring a new manufacturing facility to their area due to the jobs it brings, but that doesn’t happen for the arts. And, as he said it doesn’t make sense because, “you can’t outsource a museum.”  Read the rest of this entry »

The Annual Breakfast with the Arts & Hospitality Industry, a program of the Arts & Business Council of Miami.

Cultural Tourism is exploding here in a Miami—in a good way according to Bruce Turkel, CEO of TURKEL, a travel and tourism marketing firm in Miami.

“It makes sense that when you have people coming from all around the world there are so many advantages,” says Turkel referring to the increase of cultural tourism here in Miami. “When they come originally, they come specifically for our core offerings which are weather, water, and dolphins. But after a while, they start looking for additional things and then those things are created.”

On Thursday, April 5, Mr. Turkel electrified a group of 120 attendees all representing either the tourism and hospitality industry or the arts at the Annual Breakfast with the Arts & Hospitality Industry, a program of the Arts & Business Council of Miami. The topic: Partnerships between the arts and tourism.

“When you have people from other locales in the community, they start to want to contribute these things [cultural offerings] and all of a sudden, we can take a place in the world economy,” says Turkel.

The conversation is a fairly fresh one here in Miami. We’ve seen overwhelming successes of art shows like Basel Miami and its satellite fairs. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau’s (GMCVB) signature programs spawned by George Neary including Miami Museum Month, Miami Music Month, Miami Attractions Month, and Miami Spa Month have all had a tremendous impact on reinforcing the bond between tourism and the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

Earlier today at the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Rosetta Thurman held the full attention of her audience as she walked them through an exercise to help participants develop their own personal mission statement. This paragraph, page, or even piece of  artwork reminds you who you are and helps you make decisions related to how you spend your time in your life. It’s a concise statement that reminds you of what’s important. Thurman tapes hers to her computer screen for those moments when she needs to be reminded to walk away from it.

From the beginning of the session, she asked the ballroom full of emerging leaders to ask themselves “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” as a guide  in both your professional and personal lives. She also challenged the audience to get away from the paradigm of the “work/life balance” and move closer toward being whole—just include everything that you care about in your life in some way.

Then, taking a lead from author Stewart Friedman, she asked the crowd to think about the four domains of one’s life and determine how much time you spend on them: work, home, community, and your private self.

All of the domains are determined by the individual so work can only include the time you spend at your desk at work or it could include volunteer time, board member time, etc. Home encompasses time spent with family, your spouse/partner, children, chores, shopping, cooking, etc. Community includes whenever you are out “doing good” in your neighborhood. Private self is self-explanatory—taking the time to sleep, exercise, improve your mental health, or getting that mani/pedi as Thurman said.

She asked attendees to then assign a percentage (out of 100) for time spent on each of those four domains. The room fell silent for several minutes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Busby

When you hear the phrase, “the new normal,” do you ever stop and wonder what exactly that means? It certainly has become one of the most often-used phrases that we hear today. Everything has a “new normal.” However, there is something important in these three words. Important enough that it’s the theme for this year’s Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.

Just this past week, the Dow took a dive or a dip (however you want to look at it) because the country isn’t creating enough jobs. Already, analysts are saying that we might be heading toward another recession—just as we are beginning to see daylight from the last one. So what is “the new normal?” Are we in a period of recovery or are things about to look bleak again?

The answer, quite simply, is yes or no—to both or neither. My point being…it doesn’t really matter what the national economy is doing on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days. However, our jobs as nonprofit arts education administrators and providers go on. And we have to find ways to make it all work. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes! So we do it—we move forward for the good of our organizations and the people and communities that we serve.

To me, “the new normal” is a reminder that every day is a new day, full of possibilities. Whatever we did yesterday, it’s done. We can’t change it. We can learn from it, but then we have to look to the future. What can we bring to the table today that will make a difference in our community tomorrow?  Read the rest of this entry »

A nice welcome sign at the San Antonio airport.

Although some of our staff members were delayed due to weather on route to San Antonio, everyone made it from out our New York and D.C. offices yesterday in preparation for the beginning of our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this morning.

Today’s lineup includes the start of our preconferences—Public Art and Emerging Leaders—as well as several meetings of our peer network leadership councils and partners from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study (which will be unveiled live in-person and via webcast on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT).

Registration for the main convention officially opens this evening (5:00 p.m. CDT) at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio before we move into the full slate of peer networking, professional development, innovator, and discussion sessions tomorrow morning.

We look forward to the opportunities that our annual meetings bring for our staff and attendees and we hope you’ll join us even if you aren’t in San Antonio via our webcast on Friday and Convention On-Demand (featuring over 30 hours of recorded sessions) which will be available after we depart Texas.

If you are joining us in person, thank you for making the trip and make sure you share your experience with us via comments on new blog posts throughout the weekend (and into next week), tweets (#AFTA12 is our hashtag), Facebook posts, and photos on Flickr.

Gladstone Payton

Anxiety is already building on what promises to be a historic (for mostly all the wrong reasons) lame duck session of Congress after this year’s 2012 national elections in November. This session could possibly have a dramatic affect on the nonprofit arts sector.

Because all the seats in the U.S. House, and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot November 6, there is very little motivation from either party to find a compromise in advance of election day. With control of the White House hanging in the balance, the political stability that follows an election appears to be the safest time for these issues of substance to be addressed, albeit in a very compressed timeframe.

What is the big deal?

It has many names: “Taxmageddon”; “Legislative Apocalypse” and others; you get the idea. The country is on schedule to see large tax cuts first put in place by President Bush, and then extended by President Obama, expire and huge cuts in government spending basically happen at the end of this year. This means that a tremendous shortfall for the national economy at large. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates are that over $600 billion will be taken out of the still precarious economic recovery by the end of 2013.

How did we get here?

Last summer, President Obama agreed to House Republican demands to cut the burgeoning national deficit in order to increase the national debt limit ceiling to avoid default on our debt obligations. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) put into place a bipartisan “supercommittee.” Charged with finding how to cut $1.2 trillion promised in the BCA, they failed (miserably) to reach agreement which will trigger deep automatic cuts of 8.4 percent (sequestration) to most social and defense programs as agreed to in the BCA starting 2013.

Adding to the anxiety is the status of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” and the payroll tax cut which are set to expire at the end of this year. By letting the tax cuts lapse, the marginal rates for just about every American are scheduled to increase and employees will see less in their paychecks. Combined with the previously mentioned spending cuts, you get a dramatic shortfall. This will spur a lot of talk about reforming the tax code and cutting additional spending, and it could affect the arts sector in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »

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 ArtsIndexUSA.org.

I unpack my suitcase in about 30 cities per year. Every community I visit has its own unique cultural character. You can see it in the landscape of the built environment, the distinctive mix of organizations—old and new, large and small—when walking the cultural districts and among the public art, sampling local culinary delights, and seeing evidence of the artists at work. So, how to capture that character using the numbers? This is one of the primary objectives of the Local Arts Index.

Last time we released an indicator about the number of artist-entrepreneurs that the Department of Commerce counts at the county level. This week, we share county-level findings about the competitive environment for old-and-new and large-and-small nonprofit arts organizations.

The “millennial” share—the old and the new

It is well known that the number of arts nonprofits grew substantially between 2000–2010 (76,249 to 113,188, according to the Urban Institute).

To explore the relative impact of “old vs. new” arts organizations, we created an indicator that measures the share organizations that are “millennial”—that is, established January 2000 or later. A larger or smaller share of new arts organizations is one element of the character of a community, showing the entrepreneurial vigor in the nonprofit sector. Read the rest of this entry »

On late Friday afternoon, it became official—state arts funding has been restored as Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new state budget into law.

The new spending measure allocates $700,000 to the state’s new Creative Arts Industries Commission which includes the arts and film commissions under the Department of Commerce.

Just last year, Brownback vetoed state funding for the arts commission, causing Kansas to become the first state without an arts agency, and resulting in a loss of over $1 million in matching regional and federal arts grants.

We want to congratulate Kansas Citizens for the Arts, the legislature who increased the governor’s original proposed funding by $500,000, the supportive press like the Lawrence Journal-World, and all of the individual arts advocates who helped Gov. Brownback understand the repercussions of his actions last year.

Nancy Kelly

On Friday, June 8, I’ll be presenting my award-winning documentary TRUST: Second Acts in Young Lives during the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in a session titled, “Documenting the Importance of Arts Education.”

The film follows Marlin, an 18-year-old Hondureña, who shares a hidden history about her childhood with a theater company in her Chicago neighborhood, the renowned Albany Park Theater Project.

Marlin’s story is about resilience and empowerment. TRUST captures the amazing response from her fellow actors and the unexpected journey her story takes them on together: they transform Marlin’s story into a daring, original play and Marlin re-claims power over the narrative of her life story.

TRUST is about creativity and the unexpected resources inside teens who may be discounted because of their youth, race, or ethnicity or because they come from under-resourced neighborhoods without access to arts programs.

Woven through TRUST are three main themes: the transformative power of art, the continuing challenges facing immigrants, and the trauma of child sexual abuse. Like the legs of a three-legged stool, these themes are interdependent and not prioritized.

Here is a preview of the film:

Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As an arts education advocate who is leading an effort in San Diego to ensure that arts education is not lost in the midst of budget cuts at San Diego Unified School District, I must confess I am a little lost these days.

In the past, it’s been easy. District administration red lines the visual and performing arts department to save money, we advocate to the school board, and the school board approves funding for another year. It’s been this way for at least the last three years. But this year is different.

This year, the pink slips to more than 1,600 teachers were not rescinded in the final hour as they had been every year before. This year, the May revise shows the state budget gap is not $9 billion but almost $16 billion—definitely not what the governor anticipated. In 2009 they projected that the district budget would turn around by 2013. But that’s nowhere near what’s happening. This year it’s a very different ball game.

As a strategist, I take pride in knowing just what tools to use and what angle to take when going to bat for the arts in San Diego City Schools. But I’m at a loss this year. How do we continue to demand that the arts education budget remains intact when 1 in 5 teachers district-wide will be without a job come June unless the board can work with the teachers union and agree to contract concessions?

How do we continue to have faith that it will all work out when California voters refuse to support the taxes needed to ensure that education budgets aren’t decimated and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature think that the only answer is more cuts. And even if the governor’s tax increase proposal is approved by the voters in November, the result the district projects is a flat budget, not an increase, in school funding. Read the rest of this entry »

After two years of hard work, our research team is pleased to present the findings from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study on June 8 at our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. Even better, you can watch live as we roll out our new study of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and their audiences.

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—supporting jobs, generating government revenue, and securing tourism.

Improving upon our 2005 study, with the help of over 180 research partners, we have collected 150,000 audience intercept surveys from cultural event attendees, as well as detailed budget and attendance information from 8,000 nonprofit arts and culture organizations across the country. This will be the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted!

Tune in to this link on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT to watch Vice President of Research & Policy Randy Cohen present the new findings. (The AEPIV presentation is expected to begin at 1:20 p.m. EDT/12:20 p.m. CDT, so you may see our attendees enjoying their lunch when you first go to the site.)

In addition to Randy, you’ll also hear from panelists Michelle Boone, Julie Muraco, and Michael Spring about how to effectively use this study to make the case for the arts across various sectors.

For more information on Arts & Economic Prosperity IV visit our updated website or contact our research staff.

Suzan E. Jenkins

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!

Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?

Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

CNN’s What’s Next blog recently published a list of current social media outlets/apps that could take over as the “next Facebook” if everything falls into place.

While there has been wild speculation in the past that other products would have replaced the big blue ‘F’ by now, it hasn’t happened; however, I’m pretty sure that I never thought MySpace would be replaced either (p.s. have you checked out what Friendster has become?).

So, here’s a quick rundown that CNN provided with links and my added commentary in bold after each description:

Highlight (number of users unpublished): This “social discovery” app was the buzz at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive, a conference in Austin, TX, that makes or breaks many tech start-ups. Essentially, the app aims to give people real-time information about the people all around them. “San Francisco is a city of 800,000 strangers,” Highlight founder Paul Davison told Time. “You sit on the bus next to each other. You stand in line next to each other. You go to bars and meetups to meet each other. You walk by each other on the street. And you don’t know anything about anyone you see.” This app seems move intrusive than Foursquare, so I’m not sure people will give it a shot.

Path (3 million users) Founded by ex-Facebooker Dave Morin, Path has a couple things going for it that Facebook doesn’t: It’s mobile-first, which is important in a world where people tend to network on their phones more and more than on their desktop computers; and it’s intimate. Path caps users’ friend lists at 50 people, ensuring that you’re actually communicating as the real you with people who you really know in real life. An app redesign won Path a new wave of support from the early-adopting tech public, but a privacy snafu in February, during which it was revealed that Path stored users’ phone contact lists, may have eroded the trust of some people. Morin apologized for that data slip, saying it was accidental and had been remedied. Privacy concerns aside, it seems like it’s what everyone intended Facebook to be—a more limited circle—and that could prove to be a draw for people like me who had to friend his entire high school class for reunion planning purposes. Also, there is an Instagram-like photo feature with Path that adds some value. This might be my pick as the next potential Facebook. 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

Evaluation

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.