The Emerging Leader Vision of Moving Communities to the Next Level

Posted by Sara Bateman On April - 19 - 2013
Sara Bateman

Sara Bateman

Having been engaged with the Emerging Leaders Network for several years now, I remain thoroughly impressed with those whom this network connects me to. These individuals represent a group of next generation leaders filled with great capacity, innovative approaches, and a strong vision for how to strengthen their organizations, the arts field, and their communities.

Over the course of the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon these past five days, we had the privilege to meet 22 more of these arts leaders, each filled with insightful and passionate approaches to what they feel would make where they live a better place or bring it to the next level.

In a time where we are both witnesses and participants to massive change on local and global scales—both in the arts & culture field and in the general landscape of our communities—we as arts administrators need to be ready to tackle the challenge of using art as a catalyst for the betterment of the places and the people we belong to.

And after reading through these posts this week, I’d say we’re up for the challenge.

We’ve heard a wide range of ideas, including incentivizing an arts district and cultural planning; the challenge of making an arts and culture identity known when it sits in the shadow of a major city or a large tourism industry; and ideas on how we can create social bridges, claim public space, and enable the ability of a community to tell their own story. Read the rest of this entry »

Reduce Crime & SCURVY in Your Town – Grow Public Fruit!

Posted by Janet Owen Driggs On April - 19 - 2013
Janet Owen Driggs

Janet Owen Driggs

My headline was intended to be something of an eye-catcher—who can resist a story about crime and scurvy, right?

Best of all, my claim is true. The thinking goes something like this:

  • Scurvy, the clinical manifestation of vitamin C deficiency, is on the rise in developed nations. In the United Kingdom, for example, reported cases of childhood scurvy rose 57% between 2005–2008.
  • Public health studies indicate that poverty is driving the re-emergence of the disease.
  • Access to free, fresh, vitamin-c rich foods will reduce incidents of scurvy.

Ergo: planting fruit trees and vegetables in public spaces will reduce scurvy.

And what about crime, I hear you ask? Well, since 2008, a project in Todmorden, UK, has been growing fruits and vegetables in seventy public beds dotted around the town.

The produce is free to whoever chooses to pick it, and, as Incredible Edible co-founder Pam Warhurst explains: “The police have told us that, year on year, there has been a reduction in vandalism since we started.” She continues: “If you take a grass verge that was used as a litter bin and a dog toilet and turn it into a place full of herbs and fruit trees, people won’t vandalise it.” Read the rest of this entry »

A Community That Values Its Own Commitment to the Local Arts!

Posted by Susan Appe, PhD On April - 19 - 2013
Susan Appe, PhD

Susan Appe, PhD

What would make where I live a better place?

I want Broome Country, upstate New York to value its own commitment to the local arts. Own it! That is, I don’t want to have to have to feel the need to convince my graduate students and other community members—friends and colleagues—that the arts in Broome County, are diverse, vibrant and, yes, cutting edge.

The evidence is out there. In practice, the community—my students included—of Broome County supports and attends arts and cultural experiences and events, but I am finding we don’t always value this commitment we have for the local arts. Let me explain.

I first started noticing this with my students. I teach a nonprofit administration graduate class in a Masters in Public Administration program. In the class we emphasize capacity for community-based practice and discuss various policy areas such as social services, work development and yes, the arts. When I asked my students who had recently (in the last two weeks) attended an arts and cultural event, all—every single one of my students—confirmed they had. Activities and events shouted out were attending a local history museum, participating in the city’s monthly Art Walk, going to a local theatre production, screening an independent film at a local nonprofit organization.

While certainly not a representative, scientific sample, it surprised me. It surprised me because I consistently feel I need to convince my students of the cultural aliveness of our community. As I am trying to convince my students, they brush me off as being just easily excitable. Meanwhile they are actively participating in this cultural aliveness and don’t even realize. They don’t value the arts community that they are creating. Essentially they don’t value what they value. Read the rest of this entry »

A City, and an Artist, Finding Their Authentic Creative Voice

Posted by Christy Bors On April - 19 - 2013
Christy Bors

Christy Bors

It was during my third year as an undergraduate art student (Go Slugs!) that I met Frank, my abstract painting professor.

I’d never been more frustrated with a syllabus or a teacher in my whole life as I’d been with Frank. He gave us rules by having none. “Paint like you mean it,” he would say. “But don’t think about it. And don’t really mean it.”

The careful, thoughtful, planner inside me cringed every day in that studio. I didn’t understand what I was supposed to do, so I constantly monitored what everyone else was doing and followed instructed suit.

The bi-product: A six-foot tall canvas spread wildly with a cake frosting texture of Alizarin Crimson and Flake White oils. It took me over a month to create and countless two a.m. sessions to perfect.

I hated it. Truly—I gutturally despised it. It didn’t get better when I squinted my eyes. Or when I turned it upside-down. Frank loved it the moment he laid his eyes on it. “This is the best thing I’ve seen this year,” he gushed, hands literally clasped to his cheeks.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bringing Backstage Onstage with Social Media

Posted by Kelly Page On April - 18 - 2013
Kelly Page

Kelly Page

Imagine, if we saw social media more like an artist’s studio or cafe and less like a marketing channel?

While walking through the exhibit, Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects at the Arts Institute Chicago last November, I felt like I was seeing into the private design space of the architect.

The exhibit was an installation of an architect’s studio with concept drawings, full-scale project mockups, material samples, and photographs of completed work that now form part of the Chicago city skyline. This exhibit was a celebration of the work of the artist behind their city stage.

The work of the artist backstage, however, many don’t experience. The space is unorganized and cluttered; the work in progress, being constructed, deconstructed, is unpredictable and incomplete. This is why many artists and arts managers do not openly bring backstage onstage and into the public eye—because it is messy.

Imagine for a moment, however, if we did?  Read the rest of this entry »

Are You Living in an Arts Suburb?

Posted by Johnny Kolasinski On April - 18 - 2013
Johnny Kolasinski

Johnny Kolasinski

Full disclosure here: when I relocated to Silicon Valley in 2009, I told my friends and family in Ohio that I was “moving to San Francisco.”

At that point in time, the two were basically synonymous in my mind—Palo Alto was, to me, a “San Francisco suburb” that happened to be the home of Facebook, and most of what I knew of San Jose came from the Dionne Warwick song.

San Francisco’s cultural reputation is what brought me to California, and because of that city’s reputation, it took me more than a year to really connect with the artistic community in my own back yard.

Silicon Valley has an interesting dynamic. We’re known worldwide for innovation, creativity, and our DIY atmosphere. The technologies being created here are changing world culture in new and revolutionary ways.

Silicon Valley has a population of 3 million to San Francisco’s 800,000. Why is it, then, that so many of our residents feel that they need to travel north to “The City” for an artistic or cultural experience?

What can we, as an artistic community, do to build a reputation that holds up to the high bar our tech industry has set? Are we destined to be known San Francisco’s cultural suburb? Read the rest of this entry »

New to the Community: A Love Story Set to Beethoven

Posted by Jenifer Thomas On April - 18 - 2013
Jenifer Thomas

Jenifer Thomas

I am a fairly recent transplant to a city with a vibrant arts scene chock-full of healthy arts organizations, beautiful parks and architecture, wonderful public art, a squadron of young professionals getting involved, and our very own culinary smorgasbord: a signature chili (you either love it or you hate it), mouthwatering ice cream, and questionable breakfast meat.

Where is this cultural mecca, you might ask? It’s Cincinnati, OH.

Cincinnati’s varied offerings come with an equally diverse community of people. But like many cities, Cincinnati could get to the next level by seeing art and artistic involvement that connects all of us, not just the arts-prone.

The Cincinnati ethos is evolving, and many organizations are doing great things to get engagement that is more reflective of our community and encourages we locals to put our personal stamp on the Queen City.

Recently, after two years of living in Cincinnati, I fell in love. With Cincinnati.

It happened in the most unlikely of places: the concert hall. Read the rest of this entry »

The Space Race

Posted by Chase Maggiano On April - 18 - 2013
Chase Maggiano

Chase Maggiano

There are a few things I have come to believe are true: Justin Bieber’s monkey is more famous than I will ever be; there are more self-proclaimed artists in the world than at any time in history; and the arts are the next big export—both here in Washington, D.C., and abroad.

All three of these truths lead to a problem we have in our cultural communities. We need more space.

With YouTube, an iPad, and Kickstarter, anyone can create and distribute art while sitting in front of the computer in their underwear (no…not THAT kind of art). Some artists can even launch careers from the keyboard. But it is not enough to think of art as an activity performed in isolation, behind the curtain of technology.

I have learned that many people in my community feel the same way. Sure, it’s easy to rehearse and perform a play in your living room, read chamber music in a basement, and labor over paintings in the garage for hours—but if no one sees your art, does it have any real impact?

While finding performance space is often the key stumbling block, locating adequate rehearsal (or studio) space is an equally important challenge. Without an appropriate place to cultivate art, there is no true quality control of the product. Don’t believe me? Ask a dancer. Read the rest of this entry »

8 Tips to Survive a Cultural Planning Process

Posted by Sarah Lawson On April - 18 - 2013
Sarah Lawson

Sarah Lawson

You’ve probably never visited an art gallery or a classical music concert in Charlottesville, VA.

Though the area is known for its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, historical landmarks, and local food culture, many people don’t consider it an arts destination. At Piedmont Council for the Arts (PCA), we see this every day.

Residents might know everything that’s happening in one area of arts interest, but nothing broader. Visitors tour Monticello or the University of Virginia, but rarely stay the extra day to explore our museums or see a play performed by one of our many community theater groups.

Very few people ever see the full breadth of the Charlottesville area arts community.

However, data from Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study in the Greater Charlottesville area showed that our arts and culture industry generates $114.4 million in annual economic activity, supporting 1,921 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $9.2 million in government revenue.

As the Charlottesville community continues to grow this arts and culture sector, we see a greater need to address this issue of coordinated cultural tourism.  Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 2013
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of an Afternoon with an Artist

Posted by Ronda Billerbeck On April - 17 - 2013
Ronda Billerbeck

Ronda Billerbeck

On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.

Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.

Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.

When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched.  Read the rest of this entry »

A New “Garden State”

Posted by Kacy O'Brien On April - 17 - 2013
Kacy O'Brien

Kacy O’Brien

“The Garden State” is a schema that conjures certain images: the beautiful Jersey shore, Atlantic City, traffic on I-95, traffic on the Parkway, traffic on I-287…the Jersey Devil.

Wouldn’t it be great if Jersey could rejuvenate “The Garden State” motto to conjure a thriving ecology where industry, culture, and community exist in support of each other, like vines twining to reach the sun?

There are three things happening in New Jersey that excite me. All have to do with cross-sector partnerships, creativity, and innovation; all are bettering New Jersey’s communities and positioning our state to take a step forward in redefining itself.

ONE: The Gandhi Garden

Nine months ago, East Hanover Street in Trenton was equal parts boarded up buildings, vacant lots, low-income housing…and artist office/work space.

We’ve all heard that story; many of us, including me, are living it. The story we may not all know is the rapid transformation and strategic development that a cross-sector partnership can bring about, like the one forged between the Trenton Downtown Association (TDA), a destination marketing/economic development organization and the SAGE Coalition, an urban beautification NFP made up of a diverse group of Trenton-based visual and performing artists, musicians, teachers, and fabricators.  Read the rest of this entry »

Evaluating Our Arts Footprint in a Growing City

Posted by Sarah Rucker On April - 17 - 2013
Sarah Rucker

Sarah Rucker

What city carries the nickname “the Violet Crown?” What about “Live Music Capital of the World?”

Now it may be ringing bells…or strumming guitars, I should say. Austin, TX, is my home and has been for 12 years. It’s true that I’m one of the University of Texas alums who remained after graduating, despised by those born or have lived here for over 25 years and have seen the population double. However, my roots were growing here before I was born.

My parents moved here in 1969 and my brother was born in Austin in the summer of ‘71. My father worked at the Vulcan Gas Company nightclub, and consequently I grew up listening to 50s blues, 60s soul, and 70s rock. Though raised on the Gulf Coast, I knew I wanted to live in Austin before my sixth birthday. Enough about me, let’s flash-forward.

Austin has experienced a diverse history of politics, social change, and a lot of music. But where are we now, in this amazing century #21?

With hundreds of thousands of visitors coming each year for events such as Austin City Limits Music Festival and SXSW Music, Film & Interactive Festival, we need to find the balance of celebrating the history, promoting the local talent and embracing the changes this city has undergone.

Incorporating the past, present, and future into one’s work is often key in the arts and community life.  Read the rest of this entry »

From the Big Lick to Big Ideas: Capitalizing on Culture in Roanoke

Posted by Kate Preston Keeney On April - 17 - 2013
Kate Preston Keeney

Kate Preston Keeney

Like many of my high school classmates, I never had plans to stay in my hometown of Roanoke, located in southwestern Virginia.

Among other reasons, it seemed to lack that something special in terms of arts and culture. The local theater had reduced its performance season; a much-anticipated visual art museum was struggling to stay open; and the independent bookstore closed to become just another bar.

And so, as is common, I left my hometown in pursuit of graduate school and a job in a metropolitan area. I was perfectly situated within walking distance to public transit, yoga studios, cafes, and world-class performance centers.

But now, I’m starting to look back.

Roanoke and its surrounding areas have begun to capitalize on its rich cultural history. Let me be specific, this culture is not new, yet it has just been unearthed with contemporary knowledge of cultural vitality, opportunities for partnerships and economic development, and community leadership and buy-in.

Roanoke has taken steps to put itself on the list of desirable places to live and has done so by elevating its distinct heritage.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Falcon Cannot Hear the Falconer…

Posted by Matty Wilder On April - 16 - 2013
Matty Wilder

Matty Wilder

As someone engaged in local arts philanthropy, as well as with a group of diverse leaders trying to change communities through organizing, I ask myself often what would make where I live a better place. But to think about this question in earnest means actually trying to define where exactly I live.

As a resident of Southern California for almost 13 years, I’ve pretty much bounced around to all corners of Los Angeles, though my current zip code has me in the “small town” of Santa Monica.

I do business all over the county, crossing city and municipality lines as often as I turn right on red, and the foundation where I work as program officer serves communities ranging from those just around the corner from our Santa Monica office to the Foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains to the neighborhoods around LAX to East and South Los Angeles. (For those of you not from the area, Los Angeles County is about 4,700 square miles, with 81 school districts, 88 cities, and accounts for 27% of California’s population).

So while the massive redevelopment of our downtown area over the last decade may not directly affect my quiet residential neighborhood on the west side, I still want to participate in understanding how it’s going to shape a community and the local economy; though I may not be able to vote for the next mayor of Los Angeles, which frustrates me endlessly—but that’s for another blog post—I still care about and can have a voice in the outcome by learning about the candidates and engaging them on issues I care about.  Read the rest of this entry »