Ursula Kuhar

Local. Public. Value. Arts.

Try creating a cohesive, comprehensive sentence that reflects our field using these four words.

These simple words that occupy so much complexity within our industry, and an entire day of dialogue at the first Americans for the Arts Executive Directors & Board Member Symposium held on April 15.

It was an exhilarating experience to participate in a peer exchange with diverse leaders from organizations around the country including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch, Jonathan Katz of the National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), and Mary McCullogh-Hudson of ArtsWave.

In order to frame our work as arts leaders forging into a “new normal” in the industry, Bob shared the history and context of the local arts movement in America, rooted in the discovery of the Americas to the first established arts council in 1947 by George Irwin in Illinois, to the evolution of today’s local arts enabling organization that provide cultural programming, funding, community cultural planning, and of course, advocacy activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Arts Advocacy 2012 advocates at the Congressional Arts Kick-Off.

It’s difficult to write an event recap post when you are still energized/exhausted as a staff member often can be following 48 hours of festivities surrounding Arts Advocacy Day, but I will certainly try.

Following last night’s Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy by Alec Baldwin, the Congressional Arts Kickoff brought together our 500+ arts advocates in the Cannon Caucus Room alongside our artist-advocates and friends from Ovation and elected officials stopping by to express their support for the arts.

Armed with my smartphone in one hand and a flip cam in the other (several flip cams actually—batteries drain very quickly in those things), I witnessed an outpouring of support and passion for the arts like I have never seen (including an amazing performance by VSA artist Alicia Ucciferri).

In addition to our own President & CEO Bob Lynch and Ovation Chairman Ken Solomon (and encouraging words from Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Todd Platts and Rep. Rosa DeLauro) the following artist-advocates took to the podium to give brief remarks:

  • Hill Harper (“I’m an arts advocate and I vote”)
  • Nigel Lythgoe (“I believe you’re losing your musical heritage”)
  • Alec Baldwin (“I’ll be having lunch with Rocco [Landesman] to talk about using the profits from Book of Mormon to settle the national debt”)
  • Pierre DuLaine (“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the republicans and democrats to dance together?”)
  • Melina Kanakaredes (“If it wasn’t for the NEA in Akron, OH, where I grew up, I never would have gotten my start”)  Read the rest of this entry »

Our friends at Ovation work quickly.

They just posted this video on YouTube covering the early part of Alec Baldwin’s presentation of the 2012 Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy given on April 16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC:

More to come…

A painting now owned by Alec Baldwin (details/reference to come in a future post): Ross Bleckner, "Sea and Mirrors" 1996, oil on linen 84" x 72"

I had a very strict usher shut down the very tool that makes live tweeting possible. Do attendants have issues with Alec Baldwin and wireless devices? Luckily, I was able to take notes in a different fashion without getting booted out of the theatre. I won’t reveal my secrets.

Mr. Baldwin’s speech was an “attempt to distill [his own] relationship to the arts.”

He divided a period of over 50 years into three groups:

1. “Art is all around me but I don’t know what art is.”

2. “Art is all around me so maybe I should introduce myself.”

3. “So much art, so little time.”

Consider the details of your own childhood. Mr. Baldwin’s past is not too unlike our own, if we grew up in a middle class family, in an age of television, movies, and popular radio. What were the moments that triggered a deeper appreciation for art?

What parts of your early awakening made you want to know more about art? What things made you dream of being an artist? What inspired you to envision a path to the improbable?

I remember singing into a hairbrush, and wanting to be Olivia Newton-John. Mr. Baldwin shared as much. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Arts Advocacy Day

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 16 - 20121 COMMENT

Advocates begin training for their visits to members of Congress.

Over 500 arts advocates are gathering at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC this morning to begin training for Arts Advocacy Day.

This annual two-day event brings together representatives from nearly every state to meet with their members of Congress to advocate for a number of issues near and dear to those who love the arts.

In addition to a day of training in preparation for those meetings, Americans for the Arts with support from Ovation and other partners, will host our 25th anniversary Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts just across town.

Tonight, we are honored to have arts champion Alec Baldwin as this year’s lecturer and singer-songwriter/composer Ben Folds performing (along with musicians from YoungArts).

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for Arts Advocacy Day information throughout the next two days or follow @Americans4Arts and #AAD12 on Twitter to receive up-to-the-minute reports.

You can also take action wherever you are by visiting our Arts Action Center and sending a message to your members of Congress.

Margaret Coady

Though it may seem counterintuitive the first time you hear it, grantmakers and philanthropists will tell you the same thing: giving money away is hard work. Or more precisely, the hard work is allocating funds thoughtfully and with seriousness about making a real difference.

My role as director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) puts me in close contact with the corporate giving officers who oversee the philanthropic budgets of the largest companies in the country and world, and in my seven years here I’ve come to understand some of their core challenges.

While many of the hurdles are tactical—giving officers typically work on small teams responsible for coordinating hundreds of grants across multiple countries—often the harder part of the job is more fundamental: setting and maintaining a coherent corporate giving strategy.

Who and what will the company fund? Why those causes and not others? Why those grantees and not others?

The rationale for the funding decisions must be rock-solid. After all, it can be difficult to explain to employees, shareholders, and others why a company can continue grantmaking in an economic climate in which they are simultaneously laying off workers and shutting down regional offices. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us…(who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!)…here is my updated list for 2012 which now includes new stats from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Megan Pagado

In late February, we at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County hosted our first-ever #CreativeMoCo Tweetup for creatives in and around Montgomery County, MD.

Why did we, a local arts council, host a tweetup?

  1. Our constituents asked for it. They wanted the opportunity meet others in a casual, laidback, unstructured setting. (We’re fans of speed networking, but had to put those impulses aside for this particular event.)
  2. While we’re active on social media, we‘ve never had the chance to meet most of our followers and fans face to face. And isn’t eventually creating real, genuine interactions the whole point of social media?
  3. We saw this as an amazing opportunity to not only meet and introduce creatives to each other, but to mobilize them and take them to the next step of becoming self-identified arts advocates.

The tweetup was first announced on Facebook and Twitter, which generated over 40 registrations in two days. As I saw the number climb, I was amazed at the number of people registering that we didn’t know.

Since we used the term “creative community” instead of “cultural community” in marketing the tweetup, we had everyone from magazine editors to restaurant owners to DJs in attendance.

Based on our experience hosting our tweetup, here are some tips I can share with you on hosting your own, especially one that is advocacy-based: Read the rest of this entry »

Three years before writing Future Shock in 1970, futurist Alvin Toffler first wrote The Art of Measuring the Arts, and noted, “A cultural data system is needed to provide information for rational policy-making in the cultural field and to assist those outside the field in understanding their impact on it.”

This week, Americans for the Arts released the 2012 National Arts Index report, which delivers a 2010 score of the health and vitality of the arts in the U.S.

From its low point in 2009, the Index rose slightly from 96.3 to 96.7 in 2010.

This year’s report bears witness to how the arts sector fared during the Great Recession—and the losses were swift and measurable.

In 2010, half of the 83 indicators measured increased, which is equivalent to pre-recession, 2007 levels. In comparison, only one-third of the indicators were up in 2008 and in 2009, just one-quarter increased.

Here are just a few top-level findings from the 2012 National Arts Index:

1. There has been significant growth in the number of nonprofit arts organizations: In the past decade, the number of nonprofit arts organizations grew 49 percent (76,000 to 113,000), a greater rate than all nonprofit organizations (32 percent). Or to look at it another way, from 2003-2010, a new nonprofit arts organization was created every three hours in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

Rachel Engh

The first time I saw site-specific dance was in a park in New York City’s Chinatown. While dancers climbed on tables and scaled fences, older local men who looked to spend much of the day in the park continued to read newspapers, staying still while the dancers moved around them.

I remember wondering, how do these men feel as we, the audience members and the dancers, share their space? Did they see us as intruders? Did the choreographer want the audience members to think about the relationships between the local men and the dancers?

It is hard to know unless a choreographer facilitates dialogue, and thankfully, Heidi Duckler does just that.

By bringing dance into public spaces, site-specific choreographer Duckler also succeeds in bringing social issues out into the open. Duckler is based in Los Angeles and leads the Heidi Duckler Dance Theater (DHHT), a company she has fostered since 1985.

In her work, Duckler inserts dancers into public spaces from washing machines in a laundromat to Los Angeles City Hall. The audience is a critical part of the experiences and Duckler works to engage audience members in dialogues about art, civic engagement, and social issues.

In one of her most recent pieces, Expulsion, Duckler brought together ideas of migration and displacement to examine the theme of “home” (you can check out the Project Profile dedicated to the performance on Animating Democracy.org for more information).

As part of the A LOT series, sponsored by the Arts Council for Long Beach, Duckler looked for material for Expulsion by soliciting stories from community members. Each piece is performed in a vacant lot in Southern California. Read the rest of this entry »

Sahar Javedani

If you’re reading this now, chances are that you’re in a place of contemplative or active transition—and I commend you!

Many of you know that after seven years of working as a choreographer with parallel work in nonprofit arts administration and education in New York City, I recently moved to Philadelphia to start the next chapter of my life which included re-evaluating my commitment to a career in nonprofit administration.

In my last two years in New York City I had aligned myself with an organization that channeled some of my greatest strengths (dance education, career/professional development, nonprofit administration) into one role. After years working at least three simultaneous jobs, I convinced myself that I had “arrived.”

What followed was one of the greatest learning periods of my life.

Holding the reigns of running my own program within a larger organization confirmed that I was indeed entrepreneurial, self-driven, motivated, an excellent networker, etc. These talents were coupled with equal frustrations in communications, core values, and logistics within the organization.

I will refrain from going into detail, but I do feel compelled to share some valuable books that encouraged me along the way. Read the rest of this entry »

Two major arts education studies were released this past week, the FRSS 10-year comparison and the Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth, a 12-year longitudinal study. When these studies are married, their effectiveness as a tool for advocacy becomes undeniably clear.

While the FRSS will get much of the press because U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan presented it, the study is of little consequence to the progression of arts education other then outright stating of significant declines in the amount of offerings across the board.

On the other hand, move over Charlie Bucket, the longitudinal study is the golden ticket arts education advocators have been praying for.

The longitudinal study gives the data for students of Low Socioeconomic Status (low SES) with both high and low arts exposure, and their counterparts in the High Socioeconomic Status (high SES).

The matrixes measured for each of the four categories include high school graduation rates, civic involvement, recorded grade point average, college graduation rates, average test scores, volunteer rates, other extracurricular activities, and labor market outcomes.

The results are startling, not because they affirm what advocates have said for years, but because of the achievement gap between low SES/low arts and low SES/high arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

I am consistently inspired by the innovation that comes out of the Emerging Leaders Network, and this week’s blog salon was no exception.

We heard from representatives of 11 Emerging Leaders Networks, and gained some insight into what was happening in their communities. This week, bloggers have questioned and affirmed why they continue to dedicate their careers to the arts; wrote about examples of artists and arts organizations leading authentic community engagement; questioned the social inequity of unpaid interns; and shared a list of Things We Wish Someone Had Told Us at 25.

We gave ourselves permission to fail, permission to have multiple interests outside of the arts that may or may not intersect with the field, and reminded ourselves not to get stuck in a structure that no longer works for us as individuals or organizations.

It’s clear that emerging arts leaders are looking at their careers, organizations, and neighborhoods in a different way than arts administrators who have come before them. I believe it’s important that we honor the hard work of those who started in the field before us. Without them, we wouldn’t have the National Endowment for the Arts, the structure of public funding support, or the diversity of arts, cultural, and community engagement organizations that exist today.

There are four generations currently working and leading in the workforce, and we must find ways to work with one another, share our strengths, and support each other’s weaknesses at all levels of the generation spectrum.

To me, this blog salon demonstrated how many mini ripple effects of change are taking place in communities across the country at the same time. This is change at a very fundamental level that has the potential to reform our field in the way that Diane Ragsdale envisions in her post (and is our muse for this salon). Read the rest of this entry »

Molly O'Connor

Working part time at a bookstore to pay for college, it was in 2001 when I first learned about the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. I was shelving books when I came across a copy of Up from the Ashes by Hannibal B. Johnson.

I recall flipping through the pages, stunned that such massive atrocity that had taken place in my home state. And how was I just learning about this? The riot was certainly not included in Oklahoma History class.

Since that day, I’ve discovered I’m not the only Oklahoman who has been oblivious to the Tulsa Race Riot, the most horrifying act of racial violence in American history.

While this incident made national news, local history books and classes were devoid of information about this violent attack on the community of Greenwood. Even today, researching the event often leads to more questions.

There are discrepancies in the numbers of fatalities, and, as always, history has been written and controlled by those who have committed genocide. The mysteries of what really happened on May 31, 1921 are perhaps lost in the ashes.

For Oklahomans, how do we collectively reconcile this deep scar in our history and take steps to heal the wounds that still hurt and divide us? How do we ensure that we learn from the Tulsa Race Riot so that history does not repeat itself? Read the rest of this entry »

Tara Aesquivel

Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.

Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”

Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.

The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.

This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.

The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.

The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:

I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts. 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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

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.