Dan Bowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marisa Muller

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final FY 2012 Enacted

FY 2013 President’s

FY 2013 House Subcommittee

National Endowment for the Arts

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

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

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

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

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

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

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

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

Delali Ayivor

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Jensen

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ryan Hurley

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria Ford

My name is Victoria Ford. I’m Southern, I’m black, and I’m an artist. Perhaps you’re wondering—and appropriately so—why I would begin this way.

My introduction is inspired by exciting news. With her recent honor as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway is the first Southern writer to hold this prestigious title since Robert Penn Warren. She is also the first African-American Poet Laureate since Rita Dove, who held the post in 1993—almost two decades ago.

That year holds a great deal of weight to me being that it was my birth year, an indication that during the course of my young life there have only been two female black poets, two artists I can closely relate to, who’ve held this title.

Shortly before finishing my first year in college and prior to beginning my internship with Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., I’d been invested in answering a particular question: What are the ethnographic implications on my artistic context?

I frame the question this way because I’m not interested in answering the age-old question, “Who am I?”—this I’ve already answered. Rather, “Why am I and what difference does it make?” is a question that I find myself perpetually chasing.

So let’s begin here. Why am I here? Before this internship, before any shatter of a formal arts education, I was 12 and in middle school. It was there that poetry first came alive to me in the form of a friend. I thought of poetry as a sacred language we shared. Something ignited in my relationship with words and images. Writing became less a mandatory school affair and more a site of inexhaustible magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Johnny Kolasinski (Photo: Daniel Garcia)

I’m sitting in my hotel room at the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention and Emerging Leaders Preconference in San Antonio, and I’m a little overwhelmed by the whole thing. This is not only my first time at this Convention, it’s my first multiple day conference, period.

I’ve gotten an incredible amount of amazing information and met so many people in such a short period of time. Here’s some of what I’ve learned in my few days here, and some of the best advice I’ve been given.

Bring more business cards than you think you’ll need

Never in my life have I received so many business cards. I could wallpaper my living room with the new cards in my case, and still have some left over. I’m trading cards at almost every interaction. I’ve met some folks, though, that have run out of cards, or didn’t have them with them. I’d say I’ve already forgotten about 80 percent of those people. Be memorable. Carry your cards, and bring enough.

Bring snacks

You’re going to be hungry. It’s a given. “But Johnny,” you say, “my opening session has a breakfast, they’re providing lunch, and there’s a reception tonight. I don’t need to pig out.” It says they’re providing breakfast—it might just be a bagel and coffee. The lunch might be delicious and Texas-sized, but the speaker might be so enthralling that you only get to half of it.

By the time you get to the reception, your fellow arts admins might have descended on the poor, unsuspecting waitstaff like hyenas, leaving you with nothing but a quesadilla slice and three glasses of merlot.

You’ll be much happier if you’ve got an apple, some jerky, or a bag of Cheezits squirreled away. Read the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

2012 marks my tenth Americans for the Arts Public Art Preconference, six of which I have planned and orchestrated over the years with the help of Public Art Network (PAN) Council members and local hosts.

This year proved to be another shining star, aptly-hosted in the Lone Star state of Texas and San Antonio, a sparkling gem of creative community that rolled out the red carpet for us.

Held at Pearl, Preconference attendees were greeted to hearty breakfast tacos (localvore favorite) and iced coffee, in preparation for the 90 degree-plus predicted temperatures. Newcomers were welcomed to an orientation in Pearl’s Center for Architecture, the American Institute of Architects local chapter office with crisp-geometric interiors offering flexible meeting space (everything on casters) for PAN’s breakout sessions throughout the day.

Attendees trekked across the Pearl campus to the nearby historic Stable, an oval-shaped plan once housing up to 70 horses, today hosting 270 Preconference attendees! Texas hosts, Martha Peters of the Ft. Worth Public Art Program and PAN Council member and Jimmy LeFlore of Public Art San Antonio, led everyone in a rousing welcome.

Representatives of the PAN Council presented a state-of-the-field report highlighting critical issues the Council is addressing including: public art and quality of life, evaluation, and social practices and community engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Gregory Burbidge

Last year at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, I remember two comments specifically from the town hall session. The first comment was from an emerging leader who thought that it was time for established leaders to move out of the way. It was, at best, nonsense.

Intrinsic Impact?

The second comment, the one that actually bothered me more throughout the full year, was a comment that the person was tired of hearing about the economic impact of arts and culture. They wanted a return to a focus on the intrinsic impact of arts and culture. I didn’t see that person this year, though with the focus of the conference being the release of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report, that person may have chosen to skip a year. I myself am data hungry and the report will give me much to chew on.

This year, more than most, the thing I noted was a pleasant drift from intrinsic impact. The subtle drift in a direction I am happy to paddle towards is into the territory of collaboration and a healthy mix of “arts and.” When we listen closely to the needs of our community the arts can help provide answers to many issues. It does require a willingness to be flexible that a focus on intrinsic impact does not necessarily provide.

Arts and…healthcare

Two of the most interesting sessions to me this year explore the intersections of arts and health. Both the intersection of the arts and healing (Art of Healing) and what the arts can do to ease the transition home for our veterans (Boots to Brushes: The Arts Serving Veterans’ Needs) are ways that the arts are meeting at the cross sections of arts and healthcare. Read the rest of this entry »

Susan Pontious

This session was billed as one that would explore the “new normal” for public art by considering programs, events, partnerships, and policies required for sustaining vital, culturally rich communities.

Valerie Vadala Homer from Scottsdale, AZ, began by presenting the premise that traditional percent-for-art programs enabled by legislation passed by cities, counties, and states across the country in the 1960s and 80s may have become obsolete as cities approach “build out.” She presented alternatives of replacing permanent work affixed to construction with a model that focused on art events like “Glow” in Santa Monica and temporary installations that attracted audiences and enlivened the urban landscape.

Janet Echelman, best known for her ethereal “net sculptures,” showed an overview of her work, which has been funded by a variety of sources in many different kinds of locations. She spoke from an artist’s perspective about how she was adapting her work so that her dramatic installations could travel and be installed into pre-existing architectural settings.

Edward Uhlir, from Millennium Park in Chicago, showed us what can be accomplished when a city can summon astounding sums in private patronage to commission bold, daring art and architecture on a scale unprecedented in this country.

Finally, Janet Kagen gave us a tale of two cities; one was a successful project in Clinton, NC, the other was a project for the city of Durham that was aborted when it ran into opposition by other city powerbrokers. Durham then proceeded to legislate a public art ordinance so bureaucratically Byzantine that its failure was all but guaranteed. This experience caused Kagen to conclude that communities that don’t have ordinances should “stay that way.” Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend another amazing Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The theme of this year’s meeting was “The New Normal” which was perfect for these times of change and transition in the arts in America.

Sessions ranged from very practical like New Ways of Doing Business and Arts Education as Social Reform to the innovation sessions like How Changing Demographics are Shifting Your Community. Every session was designed to get folks thinking about ways they need to look ahead and rethink and reimagine ways they are currently dong business.

In many ways it reminded me of an Americans for the Arts Convention I attended as  a young arts administrator in Los Angeles. That convention was another time of change in America and it was an important time for conversations around money, power, and the arts in the community.

Just like those times in L.A., this year’s event helped return us to important discussions around change and where are we going as community.

What will we look like in five to ten years?

Who will be leading us?

What are the new creative funding opportunities and how can we stay relevant? Read the rest of this entry »

Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, moderated a convention panel on creative methods for growing new funding born out of the experiences of the recession. The rise of online funding campaigns, emphasis on creating partnerships with businesses and, more radically, treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding and don’t rely on it for core operating income were some of the ideas explored. The consensus was to, remain flexible but, above all, stay true to your mission.

Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, used the Community Foundation Challenge in Detroit as an example of the challenges and best practices for online giving/day of arts giving campaigns. A major goal of the Challenge was to raise awareness for the arts and culture sector.

Referencing it as “Glitches to Riches,”  Maud said the Challenge program raised $4,992,000 million for 75 organizations in one day. While the larger organizations raised higher dollar amounts, smaller organizations raised a higher proportion of their budget size. Existing donors were the mainstay of the Challenge (59 percent), but the Challenge brought in a significant number of new donors as well (28 percent).

Lessons learned by the arts community include: the importance of being prepared with technology and social networking in order to be able to respond quickly to challenge opportunities; the future of online giving is with younger donors; and, convenience, ease, flexibility and lack of pressure are the appeals of online commerce.

Maud emphasized the necessity of a good donor database and an excellent donor stewardship program. She personally donated to twelve different organizations during the Challenge, received very few thank you letters, and only three of the twelve followed up the following year for new donations. Lost opportunities! Read the rest of this entry »

Anette Shirinian

After attending Salvador Acevedo’s session, The New Mainstream: How Changing Demographics Are Shifting Your Community, at our Annual Convention in San Antonio this past weekend I learned that there are already five minority majority states in the U.S., and they’re not little.

California, Texas, New Mexico, District of Columbia, and Hawaii all currently have less than a 50 percent White population. This is a huge shift considering that America’s population was about 90 percent White up to the 1970s. It has since declined to 60 percent and continues to follow this pattern. The Hispanic population on the other hand is growing rapidly with an estimated 167 percent growth by 2050 (142 percent Asian, 56 percent Black, 1 percent White).

How does this affect the arts?

Well it proses a huge problem when less than 50 percent of our nation’s population is White, yet your audience is 70–90 percent White. As Salvador said, “we must diversify our audiences, otherwise we will become irrelevant.”

As “prime vehicles for intercultural understanding” (my favorite quote from the session), arts and culture will not survive if it does not reflect our population as a whole. So how do we prevent ourselves from becoming irrelevant?

You must practice what you preach. The change must start internally within your organization before you can start to diversify your audience. Salvador calls this the “intercultural strategy.” 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.