Although federal transportation funding has recently moved away from including public art projects, there is still state and local funding available to help bring the arts to more people in your community via murals and roadside/town square-type public art work.

In this video from, the presenter walks viewers through the city of St. Paul as murals are playing a large role in the installation of a new light rail system. Americans for the Arts member Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, also appears to help explain the project:

Are there similar marriages between public art and transportation in your community?

Tell (or show us via web links) us about them in the comments below!

Marisa Muller

The old saying goes, “The only thing constant in life is change.” And with the current pace of change in the workplace, there is a demand for businesses to be ready for anything and everything. In order for business leaders to thrive in today’s market, they must be receptive, responsive, and adaptive. But how can business leaders prepare themselves for the unexpected?

Frank J. Barrett, professor of management and global public policy at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, suggests that business leaders take a cue from jazz musicians and practice improvisation.

In his article featured in Fast Company, Barrett explains how the skills jazz musicians develop while improvising can also be helpful working in the office. Through improvisation, one nurtures spontaneity, cultivates creativity, encourages experimentation, and facilitates dynamic synchronization—all traits that are becoming increasingly necessary to succeed in business. By harnessing these qualities, businesses will be better equipped to tackle challenges that come their way.

Barrett proposes the following practices to help business leaders replicate the environment of a jazz band jam session:

Treat each task as an experiment

Every time a jazz musician improvises with a band, he/she tries different combinations of notes and rhythms over the chord changes of a song. As the musician performs, he or she is aware of his or her actions, listens to what works musically, and is receptive to others’ responses. Each spontaneous composition, therefore, becomes a learning process.

By adopting this experimental approach for the office, Barrett believes you will obtain a mindset focused on discovery. Because you are constantly proposing new ideas and testing new hypotheses, you are more receptive to different ways of thinking and encourage breaking the routine. By consistently approaching projects through this process of trial and error, you become more aware of yourself and your own experiences, and you consequently learn more. Read the rest of this entry »

Rob Schultz

One of the more disturbing trends in our local public schools is the reduction of classroom time devoted to non-tested subjects. Despite the arts being labeled as “core,” tested areas of the curriculum are among the few things receiving adequate time and resources from strapped school districts.

Going the way of the horse-drawn carriage are things like music, chorus, theater, and visual arts, as well as formerly routine components of a well-rounded education such as recess, and field trips.

For those of us who work outside of public school systems but are determined to provide children with quality arts opportunities, one answer lies in building effective partnerships with our schools.

For many years (decades, actually) the Mesa Arts Center has worked with our local public school system as a partner in delivering accessible programs. For several years, grant funding allowed us to bring fifth graders from a 100 percent at-risk school to our arts center for targeted, afterschool activities in both visual and performing arts, taught by our full-time arts instructors. While the school didn’t have resources for transportation, our grant provided it—from school to the arts center, and we took them home.

More recently, for the last six years the arts center has used funding from our own Foundation to present our “Basic Arts” program at another elementary school. This program focuses on literature, with the school hosting our teaching artists and kids learning about a literary story. As a finale, the students are brought to the arts center to see the story performed live on the stage of one of our theaters, followed by talk-back and Q&A with the actors and director.

As we saw the results of these two programs and the benefits they bring to underserved children, we committed to hiring a full-time Arts Education Outreach Coordinator to really move things into high gear and create other partnerships.

Under her direction, we began a Creative Aging Program that brings a visual artist and a dance artist to assisted living facilities to work with ambulatory seniors, as well as a group of seniors afflicted with dementia; the Culture Connect Program, which provides free theater tickets to area schools so their students can attend performances, participatory activities, workshops, literature, and live artist demonstrations; and a comprehensive Jazz A to Z Program that uses the National Endowment for the Arts’s Jazz Curriculum as a guide to provide students opportunities to improvise, analyze, synthesize, engage in group collaborations, develop an individual voice, and broaden cultural perspectives—all through the uniquely American medium of jazz. Read the rest of this entry »

The August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble
(photo courtesy of Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council)

Join us June 14–16, 2013 in Pittsburgh, PA to continue the national conversation on the “new normal” as the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention draws attention to how the arts are meeting the needs of communities as demographic shifts continue to take place

The Annual Convention program will explore community strategies to adapt, transform, and revitalize in a changing landscape to build the 21st century American community.

We are seeking proposals for two types of presentations:

  1. Convention Sessions: sessions are 90 minutes and should be complete learning experiences with specific outcomes and learning objectives. Sessions can include multiple speakers, but are limited to no more than four speakers per session.
  2. Roundtable Discussions for Career, Organization, and Community 360. Roundtable Discussions are a great networking and issue-based discussion opportunity. Roundtables offer a variety of topics related to promoting sustainable careers in the arts and tackling difficult capacity-building issues in arts organizations and your greater community. Roundtables should only include one discussion leader per table.

Proposals should focus on innovative strategies, tested tools, and best practices that relate to the frames of the Annual Convention, including diversity, equity, and access; placemaking; education; social impact; technology; demographic shifts; and building business partnerships and new business models.

Beyond these frames, we welcome sessions addressing fundamental concepts in fundraising, advocacy, marketing, and board development and engagement.

Americans for the Arts is also accepting sessions for the Emerging Leaders Preconference and the Public Art Network Preconference. Both will take place June 13–14 and end by the start of the Annual Convention. The opportunity to designate your session proposal for one of these two preconferences can be found on the Convention Session proposal form.

Submissions are only accepted online at, but hurry and submit as our deadline is September 19!

We look forward to hearing from you!

Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Are you interested in learning what our business-focused affiliates have been paying attention to this year?

Respondents of the annual Private Sector Survey were asked to answer questions regarding their programs and initiatives fostering collaboration between arts and business. The survey requested detailed information regarding specific programs that support arts and business relationships.

Programs like board training are often components of local arts agencies, but many programs designed to engage the business world may be new to the wider field. We invite you to explore the survey and learn more about how your organization can expand its partnerships with the business world.

The 2011 Report surveyed eight Arts & Business Council (ABC) affiliates, 11 Business Committees for the Arts (BCA), 13 Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) affiliates, and 56 United Arts Funds (UAF), making up a universe of 83 organizations that focus on collaboration between arts and business. Of these 83 organizations, 52 completed survey responses. (To learn more about all of our private sector affiliates, visit our Private Sector Network page.)

Here are some of the most relevant statistics collected in this year’s survey:

  • Nearly three-quarters of the responding organizations (71 percent) served multiple county regions or combined city and county regions. The average population size of the geographic area served by all responding organizations was more than 7.1 million.
  • Responding organizations provided a total of $70.2 million in the form of grants or contracts to support arts organizations and/or individual artists during fiscal year 2011. A total of 3,028 arts organizations and individual artists were supported by this funding.
  • Responding United Arts Funds raised a total of $80.9 Million in 2011.
  • Total arts organizations served through responding UAF, ABC, BVA, and BCA arts and business partnership programs: 3,920.
  • Total businesses served through responding UAF, ABC, BVA, and BCA arts and business partnership programs: 3,791.
  • The most common programs that served arts organizations were seminar and/or workshops, advocacy resources, technical assistance, arts management training, and publicity & promotion services.
  • The most common programs that served businesses were networking opportunities, board training and/or placement, ticket discounts, and seminars, forums, and workshops.
  • 67 percent of the Private Sector Network affiliates hold recognition events that honor business support for the arts.
  • 35 percent of responding organizations operated some type of board development programs during their fiscal year 2011. These programs made a total of 216 board placements, served approximately 702 people, and were predominantly funded by a combination of grants, fees, and sponsorships. Read the rest of this entry »

You may have read that the Arts Council of Fort Worth is facing a 25 percent budget cut (from $716,000 annually to $450,000) in the proposed city budget that the city council will take up for a vote next month.

It just so happens that Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, was slated to be in town promoting the local results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study as this news came out.

As you can see from this local news report, the arts council is doing all the right things and already changing minds as they advocate for alternatives to the proposed funding changes:

When it comes to local arts advocacy, you want to have a utility belt full of reasons to make your case, and the Arts Council of Fort Worth is doing the right thing by using our excellent local research (Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, Local Arts Index) as well as their own outreach to rally community arts leaders, elected officials, and the local media to get their message out in the month before the city council vote.

Although it is too soon to tell if this intense advocacy campaign will pay off when it comes to the city council on September 18, the fact that council members are willing to listen to the proposed use of hotel tax funding (a model that several other cities use to fund the arts) or another source so that funding will be dedicated rather than just another line item in the general fund, is a very encouraging sign.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for updates on this story!

Stephanie Riven

The findings in the recent 2012 National Arts Index describing the state of the arts are profoundly disturbing.

The Index reported a long list of measures that trend down for arts, music, and cultural organizations, among them: waning program budgets, attendance, funding, expenditures, and a decrease in the overall number of arts organizations themselves.

As arts professionals we have heard all of this before. It’s not time to bemoan our fate but it is time to refocus our energy to reverse these trends. Consider these three core strategies to begin the process:

1.  Setting and communicating a vision: We clearly need to seek out innovative leaders that can communicate big and bold ideas broadly, consistently, and in a wider context. Can we discard our identity as an “underdog” and provide a platform for people to speak about radical new suggestions for the future? By extending the context to include the pressing need for social change in this country, we will attract visibility, excitement, and extend our influence. In addition, we must be willing to listen when new ideas are proposed, give support and participate in implementation.

2.  Developing Collective Impact as a core strategy: Despite our diverse agendas, it’s time that we look past our differences and speak with a more cohesive, unified voice. In the process, we can learn important lessons from our colleagues in the social service and education sectors about collective impact. A commitment to collective impact would encourage us to abandon our individual agendas in favor of a collective approach to policy, practice, and the delivery of the arts and arts education.

3.  Establishing a commitment to community: Can we engage substantively with our communities and cultural partners, not just to sell tickets or extend the reach of our organizations but to improve the lives of all people in our communities? As Doug Borwick says on his Engaging Matters blog, “It is the creation and support of healthy, vital communities that provide the ultimate justification for the allocation of financial and human resources that the arts require. Communities do not exist to serve the arts; the arts exist to serve communities.” Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Ford

My summer internship with Americans for the Arts has regrettably come to an end. If I knew an inch about marriage, I’d say this feels a lot like the ride back from the honeymoon. Which I mention only to suggest how uneasy I feel saying farewell to ten weeks worth of swimming through everything art. With people who love it so tremendously, they fight for it each day.

It’s times like this when every instruction kneaded into my writing toolbox knocks on my door and offers itself to me—mostly to make sure each emotional simile this blog post doesn’t need can be prevented, like overlooked leaks beneath the kitchen sink (they persist, nonetheless).

At any rate, the advice knocking today is this: “Kiss the beginning.” And I think it’s only right to revisit the very first question I posed this summer (presented to you in the title), to see what many experiences I’m able to offer at its side.

As I mull everything over now, though, I’ll present just a couple. These two ideas, I hope, should suffice.

So to begin with a lesson I’ve learned on this journey, which is less about art and more about being human: I am small. This is not a commentary on my physical stature, but more on my existence and each of our lives. We are unfathomably small.

It’s hard for me to grapple with this truth, because since conception we’ve been taught and treated otherwise. The idea of our singular importance persists by way of talent shows, academic ceremonies, sporting and artistic competitions, promotions, and so on. And it’s not my wish to attack the way our societies reward this measure of our own greatness. If anything, with the Olympics as a perfect example, a single person’s achievements help to heal and unite an entire nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Janet Langsam

This year’s summer Olympics has raised sports to an art form. Gymnast Gabby Douglas might have been a ballerina for all her grace and flexibility. Swimmer Michael Phelps might have been a sculptor for all his power and focus. Glued as I was to the TV, watching what to me, was performance art at its finest, I wondered why we don’t have an Olympics of the arts.

That line of thought led me to bemoan once again the absence of the arts at the “real” Olympics. The Olympics after all elevates the value of competition. It celebrates diversity and ambition, and it engages everyone…participants and audiences alike throughout the world. That kind of broad, worldwide visibility is just what we need in the arts.

Imagine if the arts were as fundamental to the Olympics as sports. That fact alone would make the arts more important than they currently are. Let’s perhaps focus on Brazil in 2016. Think about how a four-year outreach for nominations from all corners of the globe would hype the arts and at the same time uncover nascent talent throughout the world. There must be thousands of young people in art and music college programs whose careers could benefit from the exposure. Perhaps Americans for the Arts could take the leadership in this effort?

Years ago, (naturally, way before my time) painting, drawing, sculpture, music, literature, and architecture were all a part of the Olympics, and all categories in which competitors could take home a medal. The idea—the brainchild of International Olympic Committee founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin—was to bind together athletics and aesthetics, body and soul, action and ideas, like in the old days in ancient Greece.

A major flaw in the rules was that artists’ work had to be inspired by sports, thus limiting the quality and quantity of participants. Then too, they simply couldn’t figure out how to maintain the Olympics as a competition for amateurs while at the same time extending eligibility to artists who were also professionals. So, by the time the fifties rolled around, the arts were out of the Olympic games. Read the rest of this entry »

Alyx Kellington

In loving memory of Alyx Kellington (1964-2012)

Two weeks ago the Arts Education Council at Americans for the Arts and the arts education community at-large lost a tremendously talented artist, educator, and advocate in Alyx Kellington. She passed away on July 29, 2012 near Palm Beach, FL, leaving behind an incredible career in the arts and many friends.

As the news of her death begins to settle in for so many of us, I’ve been reflecting on my last experience being in Alyx’s presence and have been asked by the Arts Education Council to share this story with you as our lasting tribute.

A few of us were fortunate to have spent 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio with Alyx—she and I were hotel roommates. That first evening together we hung out at a restaurant where an amazing Dixie Land style band was playing. She spoke of her rich and diverse experience with music growing up in Austin, TX and was quite fortunate to have been exposed to such an array of musical talent at an early age.

At the Convention opening reception, I’ll never forget how happy Alyx seemed as we watched musician after musician take the outdoor stage. She grew up listening to many of theses famous acts as a child, and now here they were all together on one stage under the canopy of a beautiful Texas night.

Alyx was like a walking Texas arts and culture history lesson where I, along with several other arts education council members, learned so much from her that week.

Only knowing her as an arts educator, many of us were surprised to learn of her amazing photojournalism career that took Alyx literally all over the world. She really lit up when she talked about photography, the people she met along the way and the places where she lived. Her beautiful and captivating photojournalism work can be found archived on her website. Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Zucker

Arts for All staff can attest to the fact that the capacity to be adaptable, the knack to be nimble, is a key to continued success.

Following the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, arts education in Los Angeles County’s 81 school districts began to deteriorate to varying degrees. In the late 1990s a coalition of L.A. county arts leaders and advocates met to discuss problems, such as arts education, that could be addressed only by organizations working together. One result was Arts for All, formed as a public-private partnership in 2002 to empower school districts to build infrastructures for arts education and integrate arts into the core curriculum.

Now Arts for All is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a network of more than 100 partners including school districts, artists, arts and education organizations, corporations and foundations.

There is a shared belief in laying a strong foundation for arts education in the school districts and building their capacity to deliver arts education. The approach, which is now being adopted by others across the country, is to create a plan for the long term, collaboratively and systemically across Los Angeles County.

In the world of arts education, one size does not fit all. There is a tremendous variation in the level and quality of arts education within schools and districts across the county. The Arts for All   staff  has learned to customize programs to meet the needs at hand within distinct districts.

Sofia Klatzker, who directs grants programs for the LA County Arts Commission, is a ten-year veteran of Arts for All. She says that even though no two districts are alike, staff discovered that most district leaders believe that the arts are important to the core curriculum. “We do not have to sell the idea of arts ed per se,” says Klatzker. “We have to promote implementation.”

Throughout the decade, school district realities have shifted. For example, having a district-level arts coordinator seemed both imperative and realistic at one time. Now it is understood that someone within the district dedicated to coordinating the arts education plan implementation is important, but it can no longer be expected that the person is dedicated to the arts full-time. District level administrators now often wear many hats due to budgetary constraints. Read the rest of this entry »

Chad Barger

Just like most small to medium-sized metro areas around the country, Harrisburg, PA has not always fully capitalized on the power of its local arts scene. About eighteen months ago the Cultural Enrichment Fund (CEF), the region’s united arts fund, sought to change this.

When looking for a community partner, the organization first thought of the local chamber of commerce. As its name states, the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and Capital Region Economic Development Corporation is a blended organization—part chamber of commerce and part economic development corporation. Knowing this fact, CEF had high hopes that they would understand the power of the arts—especially regarding its workforce development benefits.

After an initial meeting it was clear that the chamber leadership did understand the value of the arts, but it was not from local advocacy efforts. They knew about the value of the arts from national conferences where topics such as Richard Florida’s book, The Rise of the Creative Class, had been discussed. From these sessions they fully understood that attracting and retaining high-quality talent, versus a singular focus on infrastructure projects such as sports stadiums, iconic buildings, and shopping centers, is a better use of a city’s resources to spur long-term prosperity.

From this starting point it was easy for the Cultural Enrichment Fund staff to explain how the arts fit into that picture. Showing how the arts make Central Pennsylvania a better place in which to live, work, and play and explaining that a strong arts community is a key workforce development tool is something that they do every day.

The chamber executives were on board, but it was pretty clear that there was a disconnect. While it seemed that most business executives knew about the region’s thriving arts scene, it was not always being used as a tool for employee recruitment and retention by corporate human resources directors. So, CEF proposed partnering with the chamber to co-sponsor an Arts Impact Committee aimed at addressing this disconnect and the chamber quickly signed on. Read the rest of this entry »

Kim Kober

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a ballot measure to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Two of the counties, Oakland and Wayne, passed it by more than 60 percent, while the third county, Macomb, came down to the wire at 51 percent.

The museum was founded over 125 years ago, but began to suffer financially when public funding dried up in the nineties, followed by the Great Recession over the past several years. The measure was included on the ballot for the primary elections held in Michigan yesterday and its passage adds a property tax, also known as a millage, that will cost homeowners an average of $15–$20 annually.

The resulting funds will provide approximately $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years, covering their annual operations. During that time, the museum will focus on building their endowment to ensure the museum’s sustainability after the ten years have passed.

Detroit arts advocates employed some creative tactics in the weeks leading up to the primaries.

Free Art Friday, led by Skidmore Studio, invites artists and arts supporters to create art and leave it around the city with a note, for others to find and keep. Last Friday, the event began with a rally at the DIA in support of the museum. Just days before that, Art is for Everyone sponsored a rally in a nearby park. Between the two events, hundreds showed up in support of the museum, and the visibility made a difference.

Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan. Yes, it is only one organization out of hundreds, but voters representing counties totaling 40 percent of the state’s population just said yes to funding the arts.”  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

Nearly 50 percent (!) of the indicators in the Local Arts Index are now available for viewing. Haven’t stopped by lately? Take a moment to check out the “Where I Live” page to see what is new, and take a few minutes to see how where you live compares to other communities.

We’ve been releasing indicators in a series of groupings of related subjects, museums and collections-based organizations for instance, and most recently the performing arts.

Newly released this week is a group of arts education measures. And soon we’ll be releasing the ability to generate mini-reports, grouping specific indicators that you may find valuable.

But first the performing arts…There are two windows into the performing arts in these recently released indicators: popular entertainment and the lively arts. How do they describe your community, and how do they compare and contrast to other communities like yours?

Do some members of your community spend their dollars on attending popular entertainment (the national average is $20.43 per capita) and do others also attend the live performing arts? These two do not necessarily conflict and they may well complement each other, so the answer to both questions is very probably “yes.”

There is a long-held practice of associating “active arts participation” with the traditional live arts—ballet, symphony, opera, theater—which are normally produced and presented by nonprofit entities. But we can also gain a sense of local engagement through attendance and expenditures on popular entertainment that includes rock, hip-hop, and country as well as comedy and other forms of stage entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Stern

I’m not going to lie, I really don’t know much about visual art. It’s embarrassing as an “arts” administrator because my brother is an accomplished artist, my mother is a wildly creative interior designer, and my father fashions some of the most impressive urban development project management documents around.

Now, I could tell you all about Romantic-era composers, and go on about West African beats and argue why their current grooves are an aural history lesson of the slave-trade and post-colonialism, but when it comes to visual art, I just really don’t know a lot.

What I do know is, 1) generally speaking, I like visual art a lot and 2) I love seeing art by people who don’t consider themselves professional artists.

Enter reason #17 or so why I love my job: The ongoing charge to recognize businesses that make a special effort to unleash the inner artist in their accountants, actuaries, techies, and administrators.

So, naturally I was overjoyed to receive an invite last month to attend the opening of The Standard’s 2nd Annual ARTS (Artists in Residence at The Standard) Show.

The Standard, a financial services company, is one of Portland’s largest private employers, with approximately 2,200 individuals working in the state. This 106-year-old Oregon-born company was founded originally as a life insurance company with a goal to “champion the needs of the local community.” That value of being a community champion still rings true and The Standard is continually recognized for its charitable work, in addition to being a great supporter of arts and culture.

Always on Business for Culture & the Arts’ (BCA) list of the Top Business Donors to the Arts, The Standard ranked as the #1 Business Donor to the Arts in 2010 in the Portland Metro Area and #2 in the state of Oregon. Last year, in BCA’s cumulative study of 10 years of data, The Standard ranked #6 in the state of Oregon (having contributed over $1.8 million to arts and culture in 10 years).

Whether it’s through volunteerism, employee team scavenger hunts or direct giving, in addition to insurance, this company does something exquisitely: they honor their employees.

But back to ARTS…I’m familiar with programs that other Business Committees for the Arts run in other cities like On My Own Time (Denver) and art@work (Kansas City), but I hadn’t realized that some companies take it upon themselves to highlight the artistic talents of their staff. Read the rest of this entry »