Your Post-Election To Do List

Posted by Jay Dick On October - 26 - 2012

Jay Dick

So much attention is paid to the time leading up to Election Day that people often forget about how valuable the time is after the election to the when the winners are sworn in. This is an excellent opportunity to reach out to the newly elected and an excuse to reconnect with incumbents. Here at Americans for the Arts, we encourage our members to adopt the following “schedule” after any election.

November 6, Election Night: Send the winner a congratulatory email, post to their Facebook, etc. If they have a victory party, attend or send someone on your behalf. (It is even better if the person attending was a campaign donor.)

November 7: Have a grasstop supporter contact the winner via phone or personal email on your behalf and congratulate them. This grasstop supporter should be an individual who has a personal friendship with the elected official. It is important that you provide your grasstop supporter with your talking points, but this is primarily a social call, not a hard sell about your issues.

November 7-13: Send a formal congratulatory letter to the winner via the USPS (not an email). The letter should be on your letterhead and tailored to that specific elected official. Overview your organization and what you do in their district. This is also a great time to remind them of any campaign promises that they made. Enclose information about your organization and upcoming events and offer an open invitation for them to visit or call upon you.

November 14-30: Contact the elected official and obtain a meeting. Ask your grasstop supporter to attend along with representative(s) from local organization(s) in that district. The meeting does not have to be at their office – they might not even have one yet – but can be at your office, a coffee shop, etc. The meeting should not be a hard sell, but continue to introduce you to them and talk about what your organization does in their district, show them any economic data you have on how your organization/industry benefits their district and offer to become an auxiliary staffer on your issue. Read the rest of this entry »

Telling Your Story. No, Really.

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On October - 23 - 2012

Deb Vaughn

We get asked to “tell our story” all the time in the arts. Who are you? Why do you value this work? What is it that you hope to accomplish? How will you get there?

Funders demand it from grant applicants. Legislators require it of state agencies, lobbyists, and constituents. Individual artists have to do it to justify their work.

Even as a working professional, being able to concisely “tell the story” of what I do all day is an important skill, especially at family reunions, when Crazy Uncle Dave asks: “Now, what is it you do again?”

But rarely do any of us do it well. We get so wrapped up in the desired outcome of telling our story that we forget: the best way to achieve that outcome is to tell a compelling story. It’s as simple as that.

At a professional development training earlier this month, hosted by SpeakeasyDC, I was reminded of what it actually takes to TELL A STORY.

The facilitators asked us to think of a time when the arts impacted our lives.

We started by telling the story out loud to someone else (writing or typing your story will activate the “mean writing teacher” that sits on your shoulder, bogging you down in grammar and punctuation and sentence structure. Keep it verbal and keep going). This helps you and your listener determine which points are memorable and which are expendable.

Then our partner told the story back to us. See how it is no longer MY story, but THE story? That’s what we’re going for: finding a universal truth that the listener can connect to their own life. That’s the whole point to a good story. And when pitching a project to a funder, isn’t that your goal? Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Classroom: Stepping Outside of Your Bubble

Posted by Jenna Hartzell On October - 9 - 2012

Jenna Hartzell

When the call for applicants went out for the first ever Local Arts Classroom (LAC) program with Americans for the Arts I didn’t hesitate to apply.

I had attended the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in 2011 and returned to work thinking, “I need more.”

I felt the need to stay connected to what’s happening on a national level, but had a desire to learn more about what I should be doing as a Program Director of a local arts agency. I read blogs, followed @Americans4Arts on Twitter, and was connected on a surface level, but missed the sense of camaraderie the convention facilitated.

Enter the LAC and a chance to learn about cultural planning, making space for art, advocacy, board and staff development, fundraising, and making the case for the arts; a chance to learn with arts administrators from all over the country; a chance to absorb different perspectives and experiences of those who know what it’s like to be an arts administrator.

I say “absorb” because that was how I approached the class: to be a sponge, and absorb every concept, idea, and piece of advice I could possibly take in.

One concept that I’ve applied frequently since I graduated from LAC is one about fundraising, planning, and community:

When planning for an event or fundraiser, organizations typically take this approach:

  • Name the activity/goal/event
  • Plan
  • Execute
  • Evaluate
  • Ask: What is a success for the organization?
  • Ask: Was it a success for the community? Read the rest of this entry »

Is Arts Integration Working?

Posted by Ken Busby On September - 28 - 2012

Ken Busby

Earlier this year, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, discussed the importance of the arts to the overall education of our children:

“The arts are an important part of a well-rounded education for all students.  All of the arts—dance, music, theatre, and the visual artsare essential to preparing our nation’s young people for a global economy fueled by innovation and creativity and for a social discourse that demands communication in images and sound as well as in text.” 

He went on to say, “research shows that arts-rich schoolsones that provide opportunities for students to experience the arts in deep and meaningful ways and to make curricular connections with math, science, and the humanitiesare more engaging for students.”

And he referenced research that all of us in the arts education field have used for years saying, “We know that students who attend arts-rich schools are more likely to stay in school and go on to graduate from college.”

At the end of his comments, Duncan issued a challenge: “Now is the time to make the arts a vital part of a complete education for all students.”

Here’s the conundrum…

The U.S. Secretary of Education states what we know to be true. He states it with authority and without equivocation. And yet, we continue to see education budgets slashed year after year. And we continue to see the arts and art opportunities diminished within our schools in favor of more “time on task” for reading and math, and more testing. The disparity among schools is widening, with some really outstanding schools at the top, a few in the middle, and more and more considered “failing.” Typically, the schools with the lowest performing students are also the schools with the least amount of arts opportunities and integration.

What to do? Read the rest of this entry »

Election Time: Gauging School Board Candidate Support of Arts Education

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On September - 21 - 2012

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

In presidential election years we often forget that there are really important races going on in our own communities. Here in San Diego we have a hotly contested mayoral race, the outcome of which could be as critical to locals as Obama v. Romney will be to the nation.

But we also have school board elections getting underway and the California Alliance for Arts Education (CAAE) has geared up for its election year Candidate Survey Project.

I’ve participated in previous years by soliciting responses to survey questions from the school board candidates which are then posted on the CAAE website. The results are promoted through press releases and pushed out through social media so that voters can find out how their candidates stack up with their support of arts education.

What I love about these surveys is that I always find out things about the candidate that I didn’t know—who played instruments in high school, who makes contributions to which arts organizations, etc.

They all seem to want to look good to the voters about the arts. Of course there are those who also talk about budget needs and core subject priorities, but I rarely see a candidate respond completely negatively when asked about their commitment to arts education.

This in itself is important because the survey response means they are on the record. It gives advocates a connection and an opportunity to turn them into allies when they become school board decision makers.

So now that I’ve told you all the great things about the surveys, let me share a resource with you that will help you create your own candidate survey. The CAAE website has all the tips, timelines, and templates to help you develop your own. Read the rest of this entry »

A Busy Summer for the Arts Action Fund

Posted by admin On September - 20 - 2012

The Americans for the Arts Action Fund, in partnership with NAMM: National Association of Music Merchants, The Recording Academy (GRAMMYs), and The United States Conference of Mayors partnered together to sponsor programs at both the Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Convention with the help of the respective local arts agencies in Tampa and Charlotte (Arts Council of Hillsborough County and the Arts & Science Council).

It all began with two events in Tampa for the Republican National Convention.

The first was ArtsSPEAK, a policy forum on the future of the arts and arts education. The second was ArtsJAM, an intimate concert performance featuring national recording artists celebrating the arts.

To kick things off, Arts Action Fund President Bob Lynch welcomed RNC delegates to ArtsSPEAK in Tampa:

Later, he was joined by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who moderated the panel of elected officials, advocates and arts leaders. Featured speakers included: Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert; Mesa (AZ) Mayor Scott Smith; Hillsborough County School Board Member Doretha Edgecomb; Tampa Bay Times Marketing Director Kerry O’Reilly; and Jazz Musician/Former New York Yankee Bernie Williams.

You can listen to the full event via SoundCloud:

Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts: Making a Difference at the DNC

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 7 - 2012

Bob Lynch at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The Convention Halls are creative chaos. The streets are jammed with animated participants holding placards, engaged in heated dialogue and performing all kinds of issue-based street theater. The scent of policy is in the air. And it’s just the way I like it.

Here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the role of the arts is alive and well. What you see on TV is only part of what happens. Inside, actual policy is being discussed—not just broad themes, not just ideas, but approaches that will actually have an impact on lives and on communities.

I am here talking to these very political leaders about the value of the arts and arts education in American society, and I simply have to ask them to look out the window for them to get the point. My US Airways Magazine told the story clearly on my way in, ticking off dozens of cultural destinations awaiting convention delegates.

During our ArtsSpeak panel discussion in Charlotte on the future of arts and arts education in America, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke about cultural diplomacy, a critical foreign policy tool. She also noted how the arts helped shape international political dialogue both formally through U.S.-sponsored jazz and dance and other art forms, and informally by every day actions.

On a personal level, Secretary Albright—famous for her collection of handcrafted brooches—told the story of how she would wear them as subtle symbols of mood or maybe a hint at national policy intent. For example, she wore a serpent pin when meeting with Saddam Hussein. It also turns out that she is a pretty good drummer—and goes by the nickname “Sticks.”

The discussion also showcased how the arts have proven to be so far-reaching. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley discussed the need for continued focus on national education policies that would steer local and state decision-makers to enhance and support expanded art and music education in the local curriculum. The only state-level cabinet member in the country dedicated to arts and culture, Secretary Linda Carlisle of North Carolina, highlighted how cultural tourism is a huge job creator. Read the rest of this entry »

ICYMI: ARTSblog in August

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 31 - 2012

I’ve been trying to take the time at the end of each month to review some posts that you might have missed, and since August is a particularly vacation-filled month, I figured why not start now?

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are some highlights from ARTSblog in August:

  • Arts Education Council member Jessica Wilt honored the memory of fellow council member Alyx Kellington who passed away in late July.
  • I found a video providing a tour of the public art and transportation project taking place in St. Paul, MN.
  • Arts for All’s Laura Zucker shared lessons learned as her Los Angeles-based organization celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Don’t forget to check ARTSblog often for new content, as we try to publish at least one new post each day, and keep an eye out for our second Arts Education Blog Salon the week of September 10!

It Takes a Village in Arts Education (Part 2)

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On August - 29 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

In my previous post, I described an arts education trend called “coordinated delivery,” in which I discuss the roles of some of the key stakeholders in arts education. Over the past year, Americans for the Arts has been refining our thinking about the theme, “It takes a village to educate a child.”

While the term “coordinated delivery” includes all of the major players that make arts education happen in a single community, it falls a bit short in defining all of the stakeholders, including those at the state and national levels, such as funders or legislators.

The field of arts education is a complex network of partners, players, and policymakers—each with a unique role. After the work we did last year in investigating coordinated delivery, Americans for the Arts wanted to create something that demonstrated how all of these players interact, and to help arts education practitioners understand their relationship with other stakeholders in arts education.

So…we created The Arts Education Field Guide.

The Field Guide is a 48-page reference guide that captures information in a one-page format for each arts education stakeholder, from national down to local partners. Each page defines a constituency and highlights its relationship to arts education in several key areas: support, barriers, successes, collaborations, funding, and national connections. The Field Guide is divided into sections based on federal/state/local tiers, and each page provides information that will help readers understand a stakeholder’s motivations and connections in arts education.

The Field Guide utilizes the concepts from biology of a network or an ecosystem. When bringing this concept to life, we wanted a way to graphically illustrate all of the key players in the field of arts education. I used Google Images to find a representation of the word “network” and then worked with a designer to come up with the motif for our ideas. We also utilized the term “field guide” (the kind that a botanist would use when trying to identify a plant or flower), as a play on words of “the field of arts education” to come up with the title.

Let’s take a quick look at the diagrams in The Field Guide: 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!

Why Am I and What Difference Does It Make? (Part II)

Posted by Victoria Ford On August - 15 - 2012

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 »

Lessons Learned: Arts for All Always Adapts

Posted by Laura Zucker On August - 10 - 2012

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 »

Funding Restored for South Carolina Arts Commission!

Posted by Kim Kober On July - 18 - 2012

Kim Kober

State legislators met over the past two days to consider overrides of Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes to the state budget. Two of these vetoes impacted funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission.

Veto #1 completely eliminated funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission, resulting in the agency closing its doors on June 9.

Veto #21 eliminated $500,000 in additional funding for the arts commission to distribute in grants.

To override a Governor’s veto, the item is first considered by the State House of Representatives and if two-thirds of the House vote to override the veto, it will then move on to the Senate where a two-thirds vote is also required.

Yesterday, the House voted to override both of the vetoes with votes of 110–5 to restore funding and 89–25 in favor of the $500,000 for arts grants.

Today the Senate has done the same, voting 29–10 to restore funding for the arts commission and 29–12 to override veto #21.

It’s great to see South Carolina policymakers recognize the value of the arts commission and it was amazing to see how arts advocates in the state stepped up and make noise when Gov. Haley’s vetoes were announced.

If you’ve been reading about the arts online over the past week and a half, there is a good chance you were reading about what was going on in South Carolina. On Twitter, #SaveSCArts has been mentioned hundreds of times and a Change.org petition received more than 7,600 signatures of support.

On Monday, one week after the arts commission closed their doors, advocates held a rally in the state capitol of Columbia where arts supporters gathered to play music, dance, and paint. We know their efforts did not go unnoticed by policymakers. Read the rest of this entry »

SC: Arts Advocates Protest Arts Veto on Eve of Legislative Sessions

Posted by Tim Mikulski On July - 17 - 2012

As the South Carolina House currently debates which of Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes to override (the Senate will do the same tomorrow), I couldn’t help but post the following video of arts advocates outside the State House last night:

Although the weather didn’t cooperate, hundreds of artists and arts supporters came out to protest Gov. Haley’s veto of funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission budget and a video from The State website captures it nicely (too bad they didn’t include embedding code for me to share it here).

Keep your thoughts with your fellow artists, administrators, board members, and advocates in The Palmetto State over the next few days and be sure to follow along on Twitter using the #saveSCarts hashtag as well as via the South Carolina Arts Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

I hope everyone can take a moment to send a tweet or post on the Arts Alliance wall in a display of solidarity with our friends in South Carolina today and tomorrow.

And, although I probably shouldn’t, I’ll have to leave you with a picture of my new favorite arts advocacy bumper sticker:

Bumper sticker created by artist Ellen Fishburne protesting Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of S.C. Arts Commission budget. (From The State via Ellen Fishburne)

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.