Arnold Aprill

Arnold Aprill

ArtEdArt education in schools exists, to the extent that it exists at all, within the contexts of wider school cultures. School cultures are currently in the thrall of high stakes—undifferentiated, system-wide models of measurement and accountability. How does art education function in such an environment? Not so well.

Because models for assessing arts learning are underdeveloped, the arts come to represent for many students a safe haven from relentless testing. At the same time, the arts are broadly discounted by policy makers as not being serious enough disciplines worthy of time, attention, or funding, because they are untested.

How might we find our way through the labyrinth of this double-bind? One approach is to look at the metaphors that undergird approaches to assessment at the policy level.

Bush Era “No Child Left Behind”: Known colloquially as “NCLB”, and sometimes as “Nickleby” (I’m thinking of the cruel Uncle Ralph Nickleby, not the sweet and brave hero in Dickens’ novel Nicholas Nickleby). NCLB in a nutshell is schools and individual teachers that do not demonstrate Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) on standardized test scores risk losing their funding or their jobs. The problem that I have always had with NCLB is implicit in the name itself. The policy is not named something like EPIC (Enhancing the Powers in Children). The policy is named “No Child Left Behind” – conjuring up an image of abandoned loser children and of winner children schlepped along to the potatoesgoalposts of achievement. This is not a metaphor representing child agency, child capacity, child initiative, or child power. Learning in this model is not something that children do, but rather is something done to them. The core metaphor here is a “potato race”–a game in which competitors (teachers) carry inert potatoes (lumpy and lumpen children) precariously balanced on spoons as they rush back and forth across a finish line, dropping some potatoes and depositing others in a heap to win.

climbing

Obama Era “Race to the Top”, or R2T: A contest between states and local districts for big bucks, with points given for evidence of such things as intervening in low achieving schools, demonstrating significant progress in raising achievement and in closing gaps, developing charter schools, privatization of public services, and computerization. The metaphor for R2T is as the name says, a race, but while NCLB was a horizontal race, Race to the Top is a vertical race; a climbing wall. Again, we have a metaphor built around winners and losers, but this time among states and districts rather than schools and teachers. A level up in the policy food supply chain and a quantum leap away from children, parents, and teachers.

RhizomeRhizomes: There is another metaphor, developed by Félix Guattari and Gilles Deleuze, which is emerging as a useful tool for rethinking social systems like school districts. This is the “rhizome” – networks of biological roots that expand out, grow up, and draw sustenance from and in many directions. This metaphor opposes linear, dualist thinking (dubbed “arborescent” by Guattari and Deleuze based on the image of a tree with a siloed root system and one trunk.) Read the rest of this entry »

Janet Brown

Janet Brown

I’ve been a community arts developer for over 26 years. Most of that time was spent working in rural communities in South Dakota and the Great Plains. Moving back to South Dakota after a stint in New York City and San Francisco, I became increasingly aware of how people passionate about the arts impact rural and small communities making certain that art is a part of the lives of their children and their neighbors. Community arts councils, community theatres, visual art galleries, community choruses and bands…all defined the word “community” for me.

In South Dakota, many amazing professional artists draw inspiration from the rural countryside where they were raised. Others have escaped from the city and now feel at home on the prairie. There was no mistaking that these artists live and work in rural settings because it inspires their art. These professional artists, as well as the community artists who would not think of themselves as professionals, became my inspiration. This is where I learned that the arts do not need to be taught, that they are instinctive. Formalized learning can expand and inform art making, but the practice of music, dance, theatre, literature and visual art comes from the soul, from everyone’s soul. I’m still not sure what the terms “placemaking” and “rural arts” mean but I know what it means to be inspired by your home, your neighbors, your land and its people—and to express that inspiration through the arts that envelops an entire community. I know the sorrow of losing an elementary school and the pride of turning that school into a local center for the arts. I know the joy of combined church choirs singing Handel in December and of music and arts festivals in the parks in the summer.

We had our state centennial while I was director of South Dakotans for the Arts. For that event, I was honored to be part of an amazing team of artists and arts administrators who helped to write the following Declaration of Dakota Cultural Identity. (We wrote it with North Dakotans since we have the same state birthday.) I love this language but mostly I love the memories of people and places that come back to me, of ordinary people singing, dancing and celebrating through the arts in the place they call home. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Lange

Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome – the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts – is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3

Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program. Read the rest of this entry »

Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

Welcome to our first ever rural arts blog salon. We have gathered together some of the best thinkers, practitioners, and artists to blog about art, placemaking, and economic development in rural communities. This blog salon will be in conjunction with our new rural webinars on these topics which will occur Feb. 26,27, and 28!

This blog salon will explore ways that small and rural communities are using the arts to help economic stability and growth in their communities. It will give you the opportunity to hear from these communities about some of the successful economic development strategies they have used like artists relocation, cultural districts, historic tax credits, etc.

Do you find yourself looking for resources for your organization? Where do you look? Placemaking is one way that rural communities are using the arts to animate spaces, create more economic opportunities, and bring diverse people together. Learn about ways communities are using placemaking tools and resources for their community. If you’re looking for resources for your organization or community, this blog salon and our upcoming webinar series are great places to start.

Check back every day this week for some new thoughts and information from our bloggers. You will see that a lot is happening in rural America through the arts.

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

I am pleased that President Obama has put forward a strong nominee for Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. Dr. Jane Chu brings the valuable perspectives of multi arts understanding, top management skills, and deep philanthropic knowledge to the position. She is trained as an artist but has also worked successfully as manager of complex business enterprises. This is a valuable mix, important to our nation’s key public sector arts position. She has spoken publicly about the importance of bringing the broadest array of America’s arts riches to the broadest spectrum of the American people and has done so in her work in Kansas City. She understands the value of art at the community level and how the arts are transformative to individuals as well as places. Americans for the Arts is pleased to see the critical leadership position at the NEA being filled. We applaud The President’s choice of Dr Jane Chu.

Read more about Dr. Jane Chu from the White House press release in our newsroom.

Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

This Letter to the Editor was co-authored by Robert L. Lynch and Robert Redford and originally published in the New York Times on February 11, 2014. The New York Times version incorrectly mentions the city of Los Angeles. This version correctly states the city as San Diego.

To the Editor:

Re “N.E.A. Funds Benefit Both Rich and Poor, Study Finds” (Arts pages, Feb. 5):

A few years ago, a homeless girl in Los Angeles walked into a community arts center. Her name is Inocente. An Oscar-winning documentary by the same name told the story of how the arts turned her life around. Her success story illustrates the benefit of the arts to thousands of poor children and lower-income people all across our country.

The assertion by the House Budget Committee that the arts are the domain of the wealthy has proved to be a myth. A Southern Methodist University study reaffirms what nearly 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations already know. Public funding allows access to the arts for millions of Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford the benefit of the arts in their lives.

Arts are a path to opportunity. Businesses benefit from the creativity, perseverance and problem-solving skills that Americans develop through the arts. The arts drive private-sector investment and job creation. Every dollar of N.E.A. funding generates $9 of non-federal money to the arts, and the nonprofit arts industry generates 4.1 million jobs.

This new study can help educate our elected leaders from both sides of the aisle about the true value of the arts for all our children, our communities and our country.

Read this Letter to the Editor in The New York Times.

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

I know the nation’s arts community joins me in mourning the loss of one of our country’s staunchest arts advocates, Joan Mondale.  As the wife of Walter Mondale, vice president to President Jimmy Carter, she used her public position to place a bright spotlight on the vital role that artists and arts organizations play in strengthening American communities.

Mrs. Mondale intersected with Americans for the Arts on a number of notable occasions, beginning with her service on our board in the mid-1970’s, when we were known by one of our predecessor names, the American Council for the Arts.  In 1977, she was the guest speaker at the tenth annual meeting of the Business Committee for the Arts (now a division of Americans for the Arts).

I first met her at the Americans for the Arts annual convention in 1987 in Portland, Oregon, where she was a fervent keynote speaker and great motivational figure for hundreds of local arts agency leaders.  I later had the privilege of serving with her on the national advisory board of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), where we shared a passion for fine craft—she as a potter and me as a woodcarver.  And in 2008, Americans for the Arts was pleased to honor her with the Public Art Network Award, in recognition of her lifelong nurturing of art in public places.

She was a long-time museum guide who, while her husband was in office, ensured that the home of the vice president, and later, the ambassador to Japan’s residence, were infused with art.  A frequent board member for arts organizations and an avid speaker for their gatherings, Mrs. Mondale was particularly effective in her most visible role as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.

On behalf of those of us who work in the arts who had the pleasure of knowing her and admiring the important work she did in promoting the public value of the arts, we salute “Joan of Art.”  Her voice will be deeply missed.

Ciara McKeown

Ciara McKeown

Many municipal public art programs in North America are creating permanent public artworks in response to policy, funding structures, and a variety of other reasons. And yet, there is a recognizable shift towards durational works that focus on experience and process over object-based work. It also seems many of us are reaching capacity—more works entering into the collection and less funds to take care of them all; more time dealing with the vast unknown of conserving new media works; and  overloaded staff capacities to manage all parts of the process. Are we at the tipping point where change has to happen before we see implosion? I would argue that we are. I would argue that we need to develop the conversation in our field, nationally and internationally, to have municipal policies, funding, and programs that reflect the need and desire for both shorter and longer-term public art.

And, in tandem, we need to not shy away from why public artworks do not need to, and cannot always, last forever. Discussion is imperative—deaccession is not a bad word.

Temporary: Why it Matters and Why it Works

An excerpt I recently read from the publication Locating the Producers: An End to the Beginning, the Beginning of the End by Paul O’Neill & Claire Doherty [1], explored the established notion of place-based practice and stated that the book’s aim was to show, through research and case studies, “…that a fundamental shift in thinking about ‘time’ rather than simply the ‘space’ of public art commissioning is required to affect change at the level of policy.”[1] This may be the crux of where our conceptual thinking around public art can be refocused, adjusted, and rethought. Site response and notions of place are important, but we need to also break down words and terms. In my current public art world, we are hearing a lot about community engagement, but what does that mean? What are the real questions being asked; what is the desired outcome; and what are we asking the artist for and why? I think the desire for engagement is about experience and memory. It is about bringing together people and inciting conversation. In many of my favorite temporary projects, the strengths lie in the artist’s freedom to explore risk; unravel issues; and create a platform for meaningful public interaction, participation, and collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick O'Herron

Patrick O’Herron

Banks, industrial manufacturers, energy and technology giants—these often become the “usual suspects” when arts organizations seek to build partnerships with businesses. But for some arts organizations, a major opportunity may lie the unlikeliest of industries—professional sports.

According to a recent Forbes article, professional sports, as a North American industry, generated a whopping $53.6 billion in 2012 and is expected to rise to $67.7 billion by 2017. This provides terrific potential for arts organizations to look within their own backyards at their local professional sports teams as possible strategic partners. In the spirit of the upcoming Super Bowl XLVIII, let’s examine this idea through the lens of the National Football League (NFL) and rival Super Bowl rival teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos, who have each integrated the arts into the investments they are making within their respective communities.

The mission of the NFL Foundation is to support the health and safety of today’s youth and improvement of the communities in which its players and fans live. The arts play a key role. The Foundation recently announced a $1 million grant to the New York-New Jersey Super Bowl Host Committee’s Snowflake Youth Foundation, which funds charitable projects throughout New York and New Jersey, many of which provide visual art, dance and drama programs for youth. Additionally, for nearly 20 years, the NFL has supported the Youth Education Town (YET) program. Similar to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, YET Centers provide after-school activities for school-age children, many of which are heavily arts-focused. YET Centers are launched with a $1 million Super Bowl Legacy Grant from NFL Charities that is matched by the Super Bowl Host community. Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

BEA is a Big Deal

In December 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) added to the canon of research on the economic impact of the arts with the new Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account—a measure of arts and culture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Economic impact of the arts is not a new story.  What’s new is that an agency of BEA’s stature has undertaken the research.  The BEA is choosy about the satellite accounts it establishes and wouldn’t measure arts and culture unless it recognized the sector as important to the nation’s economic well-being and global competitiveness.

What did BEA find?  That arts and culture activity produce $504 billion dollars in goods and services annually in the U.S.—representing 3.25 percent of the nation’s economy—numbers larger than transportation ($448 billion) and agriculture ($174 billion), and only slightly behind construction ($530 billion).  The arts numbers were much larger than expected and turned enough heads at BEA headquarters to get the attention of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who provided a quote in the NEA’s release about the value of arts and culture (not an insignificant recognition). Read the rest of this entry »

A Shared Endeavor

Posted by Robert Lynch On January - 24 - 20141 COMMENT
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

It is widely accepted across the country that the arts are a significant part of a quality education. As part of the core, they provide America’s students with essential skills and knowledge needed to be productive college and career ready citizens.

In May 2013, I attended a summit with leaders from 12 other arts and education advocacy organizations to define what quality arts education looks like at the local level, encourage partnerships, and call on organizations and individuals to actively support and promote the following points of intersection in our field. We came up with some basic agreements:

  • Development of policies and resources for arts education.
  • Access to arts education for all students.
  • Collaboration between school-based arts educators, other subject area teachers, and community-based artists and arts educators.
  • Long-term advocacy partnership between all providers of arts education.

In a time when education reform is at the helm of change and current practices are being revised, we felt that it was important to articulate the purpose and value of arts education in the balanced curriculum of all students. We assert its place as a core academic subject area and detail how sequential arts learning can be supported by rigorous national standards and assessments. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Dockery

Stephanie Dockery

According to the 2013 BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, 66% of businesses who do not currently support the arts report that they have never been asked to do so.

ProjectArt, an organization aiming to close the “access” gap in youth arts education, has taken that lesson to heart – and is now celebrating an innovative and successful partnership with Jacques Torres Chocolate for holiday and Valentine’s Day promotions that grew out of an exploratory phone call: ProjectArt asked.

Children and candy are a natural link, and the giving season is the perfect time to advocate for ProjectArt’s programs, which include art instruction, promoting art access through public libraries, and gallery exhibitions for their pupils, largely from low-income areas. Stickers attached to containers of the Jacques Torres malt balls promote that “one box of chocolate covered malt balls = one free art class for a child.”

Affectionately known as “Mr. Chocolate,” Jacques Torres founded his company in New York City in the year 2000. In 1988, he emigrated from France and became the corporate pastry chef for the Ritz-Carlton, then served as executive pastry chef at Le Cirque from 1989-2000. Jacques Torres Chocolate is headquartered in New York, and the chocolate in manufactured in Brooklyn, establishing him as the quintessential American dream. A supporter of New York nonprofits, Jacques Torres has a personal passion for supporting youth initiatives, making ProjectArt’s proposal a perfect fit. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education Matters, Darn It!

Posted by Ken Busby On January - 22 - 20145 COMMENTS
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

Each day we witness the power of the arts to transform lives – whether it’s a child learning to draw, a teenager taking a class on glassblowing or an adult returning to a favorite hobby like photography.

The arts heal, the arts transform, the arts engage, the arts serve as an economic catalyst.  And yet the arts, especially arts education, are consistently underfunded.  As CEO of one of the 50 largest arts council’s in the United States, I spend the majority of my time raising money for and raising awareness of the importance of the arts, and arts education in particular.   And that’s the job of a CEO.  I’m not complaining.

What frustrates all of us in this line of work is that no matter how much we share research and data that demonstrates the value of arts education to keep kids, especially those at-risk and underserved, in school, performing better on standardized tests, demonstrating fewer aberrant behaviors, doing more volunteering in the community, reading for pleasure, and attending college, there are those who dismiss all this as mere conjecture – and therefore not in real need of funding.  I’m focusing here on public funding for the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Statement made at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters’ Awards Conference on January 14, where I was honored with the Sidney R. Yates Award:

My very first National Arts management training came from Association for Performing Arts Presenters conferences in the mid-seventies. I needed that because my presenting passions were not usually very lucrative: prisons, senior centers, inner-city and rural communities, large, all-embracing community festivals.

At about the same time, I became passionate about advocacy. I learned in Massachusetts that if we could harness the energy and clout of artists, arts managers, and arts lovers, we could indeed increase state government funding tenfold. We, all working together, could get voted in huge new state and local money streams nurturing emerging avenues of support for arts involvement and vision like city planning, social problem solving, and economic development. These avenues would provide opportunities for artistic focus and employment in unexpected areas, resulting in new support for fields like public art, art in transportation projects, and expanded revenue streams for all the arts.

In the eighties and nineties in Washington, DC at NALAA and then Americans for the Arts, I learned the necessity and challenges of ongoing collaboration; of the need for constant clarification against unfair, unfounded political attacks; of the need for case making for something as precious as the arts, which should need no defense. Undertaking advocacy efforts with Mr. Sidney Yates for some thirteen years taught me the value of a compelling story and a signature performance in shaping an arts appropriation increase.

I also continued to look to APAP as a source of information and sheer joy about the breadth of the performing arts and as a reminder about why my advocacy was important. At home I got to hear about APAP’s good works from my partner, Dianne Brace, who produced and directed the APAP Annual Conference over a five year period.

In the 21st century, I see more than ever the value of and need for the arts at every table, the value of bringing an arts voice to every national endeavor and national forum, whether for the business community, elected leadership, philanthropy, or social change.

Now in 2014, I am honored to be receiving the Sidney R. Yates Advocacy Award. It is especially meaningful coming from the organization that first mentored me. America needs the arts, although sometimes it doesn’t know it. The arts need advocacy, and the arts and I need APAP.

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.