VADA/Artist Collab to hit the streets of the Funk Zone

Posted by Calico Brown On July - 28 - 2014
Calico Brown

Calico Brown

VADA, the Visual Arts & Design Academy at Santa Barbara High School, is thrilled to announce a very special mural collaboration project with artists Joe Shea and Yoskay Yamamato. The artists will work with VADA students on a series of mural paintings, which will then be installed on the Anacapa Project building in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.

Visual Arts & Design Academy

Visual Arts & Design Academy

VADA is a “school‐within‐a‐school” that integrates rigorous academic coursework with project‐based, career‐focused, and art & design instruction in a supportive and creative environment. VADA serves 175 students in grades 10 through 12 at a culturally and economically diverse urban high school in downtown Santa Barbara. VADA teachers collaborate to create a thematically and conceptually integrated curriculum. Field trips to major Southern California museums and design firms, artist residencies, guest speakers, mentorships, and internships give students exposure to and experience in the creative sector. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s About Time; It’s About Place

Posted by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas On February - 21 - 2014
Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Some are born rural, some achieve rural, and some have rural thrust upon them. I am somewhere between the second two and have been immersed in rural life in Wisconsin for 20 years now. Though I was formed by urban and suburban places, none would claim me.

I used to call it portable roots and came by them honestly. Ours was a military family who moved every 3-4 years. There was once a time when my peripatetic life was unusual, but now even people like myself, who are most passionate about the places we live, once lived somewhere else and may likely relocate again. I live as I believe we all do—with varying degrees of awareness, along a rural/urban continuum.

This continuum is especially vivid to me today as I write from Mexico City, which has a population of 25 million.  Here among ancient and contemporary ruins, throngs of people, and centuries of visible history on nearly every corner, is live music or bizarre performances; every wall is either a reminder of Spanish conquest or crowded with murals and graffiti. The stream of romantic couples, the well behaved children, the ornate churches, the incense, the roaming vendors, and the incredible street food all goes through my senses into my brain and winds up comingled with Fermentation Fest or Roadside Culture Stands. Experiences here in Mexico for a couple weeks (during a polar vortex back home) can’t help but shape ideas to enliven and transform our very small, very different agricultural community. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Excellence

Posted by John R. Killacky On January - 7 - 2014
John R. Kilacky

John R. Kilacky

Recently, I participated on two funding panels: the National Endowment for the Arts for theater projects and a California foundation for commissioning new music. Artistic excellence was a key criterion on both panels.

Defining quality used to be easy, although taste was always a mitigating factor. Now in our multicultural society, it is more complex. No longer can we calibrate merit solely through a Euro-centric framework.

Experts on my theater panel reviewed applications from ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands to those with budgets in the tens of millions. Projects included amateurs learning to tell their own stories , alongside avant-garde works, free Shakespeare, revivals of classics, puppet tales, new scripts, site specific and culturally specific productions. Communities served included Latino, African American, LGBT, elderly, children, the incarcerated, and homeless in urban, inner city, and rural locations.

Music panelists judged choral, electronic, jazz, and orchestral proposals against Balinese Gamelan and East Indian vocal projects. String quartets competed with a Tibetan music master, Ghanaian drummer, Turkish singer, and Beijing Opera performer. Projects ranged from minimalist to the operatic, traditional proscenium-based concerts to multidisciplinary extravaganzas.

There were limited dollars to grant, so competition was steep in both panels. Excellence mattered, and there was no lack of artistic excellence, but quality had to be judged through multiple worldviews and experiences. Panelists came from varied aesthetics, ethnicities, generations and geographies to allow for a fair review of the proposals. Equity and parity, as well as cultural competency factored into our decision-making.

Liking an artist or project was not sufficient. Listening and learning from one another’s comments were vital as we navigated beyond personal taste. Context matters, traditions are essential, and community is crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

7 Things The Ballet Can Teach Us About Work

Posted by Donna Sapolin On December - 26 - 2013
Donna Sapolin

Donna Sapolin

I love the fall/winter season in New York. Everything seems to come back to life once September rolls around and the arts kick into high gear, igniting the city with blasts of creative energy. People begin flocking to music, theater and dance performances.

A few weeks ago, I went to see the San Francisco Ballet (SFB) at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater during its first visit to New York in five years. The SFB is America’s oldest professional company and has achieved great acclaim for its overall excellence and emphasis on new ballet choreography.

The thrilling three-part program I saw – a mixed bill of two classically oriented dances (“Trio” and “Suite en Blanc”) and a contemporary one (“Ghosts”) – was utterly captivating.

Ballet Is a Microcosm of Successful Approaches to Work

Are you familiar with the famed song “At the Ballet” from the award-winning Broadway musical, A Chorus Line? It depicts ballet (and ballet lessons) as an antidote to a problem-riddled childhood because, as the chorus says, “Everything was beautiful at the ballet.”

Well, everything is beautiful at the ballet. But that exquisite perfection is the result of a great deal of creative intelligence, effort, and teamwork.

As I watched and admired SFB’s virtuosic performances complete with lush costumes, sets, and music, it struck me that the total package encapsulated all the values and steps I believe make for career success. Here they are:

1. Listen intently. Ballet dancers hinge every move and gesture on the musical score’s rhythm and emotion and the choreographer’s instruction. To do otherwise would result in failure.

We tend to forget how much we can learn by simply paying attention to others’ concepts and expert guidance, particularly in these tech-driven times when so much is competing for our attention. Lending an ear and being truly “present” to what others are saying are vital for learning new skills and absorbing valuable ideas at work. They’re also great ways to make your colleagues feel respected and spur their productive cooperation. So, lean in, make eye contact, speak less and listen conscientiously.

2. Take many steps. Top ballet dancers don’t think in terms of reducing the number of steps in the dances they perform nor do they believe they can cut back on their practice and rehearsal sessions and still manage to excel on stage. The SFB website explains: “Dancers’ lives are full of daily ballet technique classes and rehearsals. A typical workday can start with an hour-long class, followed by four to six hours of rehearsal, often concluding with a two-hour evening performance. Read the rest of this entry »

What Jazz Can Teach Business About Innovation

Posted by Greg Satell On November - 21 - 2013
Greg Satell

Greg Satell

In a recent episode of Boardwalk Empire, Chalky White’s wife was angry because he took his son to play with Jazz musicians at his nightclub.  She feared that it would upset the order of his classical training. Traditionally, business executives have felt the same way. They would bring in bright young prospects and make them “organization men”—and later women as well—who would work their way up through the system and then indoctrinate the next generation.

Yet the past few decades have altered things considerably. The LBO craze in the 80’s, the PC revolution in the 90’s and the digital disruptions of the 21st century have radically changed how we need to approach business problems. Strategic planning has become less tenable and we need to adopt more adaptive approach. Jazz holds important answers.

A Struggling Artist In New York

Coming from a meager background, Carl Størmer was determined not to be a starving artist, but after graduating with two graduate degrees—a Masters degree in Music and another in Arts Administration—that’s just what he was becoming. He spent most of his time playing in clubs and improving the mastery of his craft, but making very little money.

So he started learning computer code, got a job as a database consultant at a Wall Street law firm and then started a career at IBM.  Later, he founded a startup and became Marketing Director at a Norwegian airline. Størmer had, in every conventional sense, become a successful business executive.

Yet he still continued to play and the more he did, the more he became dissatisfied with corporate life. As he thought about it, he realized that business organizations operated a lot like classical music, with structure dictating action rather than the other way around.

The thoughts turned to writing; the writing turned to consulting and even led to a Harvard Case Study. Today, his organization, Jazzcode, works with executives at some of the world’s largest corporations, such as IBM, Siemens and Novartis. Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiring Creativity, Supporting Art Education

Posted by Masha Raj On November - 5 - 2013
Vans Custom Culture Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Vans Custom Culture 2013 Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Americans for the Arts is excited to be partnering again with VANS in 2014 for the Vans Custom Culture competition, a national shoe customization contest where high schools from all over the United States compete for a chance to win money for their art programs.

Since 2010, youth-targeted brand Vans has been encouraging high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity.  The Vans Custom Culture competition offers students a fresh perspective on art and offers an outlet for self expression through art, fashion, and design through this unique contest and multimedia exhibit.  During this contest, high school students from participating schools design shoes that fit within a particular theme representing Vans lifestyle.  The $50,000 award is granted to the winning school to support its art program.

The 2013 Vans Customs Culture winner of the $50,000 grand prize was Lakeridge High School of Lake Oswego, Oregon.  This winning school was chosen on June 11, 2013 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The top 5 finalist school’s shoe designs were on display at the museum for the panel of judges, which included actress Emma Roberts, designer Timo Weiland, reality star-turned-designer Whitney Port, artist Christian Jacobs and skateboarder Steve Caballero.  In addition to the grand prize, $20,000 was donated by Vans and Americans for the Arts to ten more schools across country to advance their art education programs. Read the rest of this entry »

Ajaz Ahmed

Ajaz Ahmed

Successful collaborations between brands and artists are possible, once outdated preconceptions are overcome.

Where art and business overlap: Burberry's collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

Where art and business overlap: Burberry’s collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

The poetry of ancient Persia is full of bridges. In the works of Rumi and others, metaphors are the bridges of art, in the sense that they unite two seemingly irreconcilable things. They give people a route to make sense of an alien world or concept by relating it to something familiar. They illuminate by association: here is how this world connects directly to that other, seemingly isolated world. Bridges also represent journeys between states of being, rather than just a means of get from A to B. For example, the Persian belief that people in the west are perhaps too far over on the prose side of the bridge, while the east is too drawn to the poetry side. If only we could meet in the middle, we might find a perfect balance of mind and body, of calculation and creativity.

That idea of two cultures stuck at either ends of the same bridges could be applied to art and business today. They need each other, despite their apparent differences; they are concerned with many of the same things, but that is obscured by their mutual suspicion. Perhaps a bit more metaphor and magic would be a start in changing this state of affairs. If arts practitioners and brands had the same big, captivating idea to focus on, cultural differences would be pushed to the side and more worthwhile collaborations would surely result. Read the rest of this entry »

A Degree in the Arts: Perspectives from Postgraduates

Posted by Alexandra Milak On October - 30 - 2013
Alexandra Malik

Alexandra Malik

I remember when I applied to the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University (NYU). My high school experience was not ideal, and I had always dreamed of pursuing something in the arts. Sophmore year of high school I tried out for the fall drama production, and there was no going back from there. I worked hard to keep my grades up and fill my resume with impressive extracurriculars; I applied to nine different schools, really only wanting to attend NYU. The day I was accepted was probably the most memorable day of my life. It signified a turning point: I was about to embark on the journey of my dreams.

Looking back, I don’t doubt that it was the most worthwhile choice I’ve ever made (which is lucky, because I, as most high schoolers are, was pressured to make that decision when I was only seventeen years old). I learned so much about myself as a performer and a human being, and became an instrument through which characters could live, breathe, and have their stories told. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and an experience which I will never forget. That being said, during my time at NYU, I wasn’t completely honest with myself about the realities that lay ahead of me once I graduated. It was hard to keep questions about the future clear in my head because things were so uncertain post-graduation. Still I wondered, was pursuing a degree in the arts worth it? Read the rest of this entry »

Aaron Landsman

Aaron Landsman

This is a repost from Creative Capital’s Blog, The Lab, featuring tips straight from their Professional Development Program’s Artist’s Tools Handbook, a 200+ page resource, written by PDP Core Leaders Jackie Battenfield and Aaron Landsman. The book covers everything from writing to budgeting, websites to fundraising, elevator pitches to work samples.  Creative Capital supports innovative and adventurous artists across the country through funding, counseling, and career development services.

Getting Started: Almost all of your fundraising will be done through partnerships: with venues and presenters, advisory boards, and directly with funders and donors. Creative Capital advocates thorough and clear communications about money between funders, venues and artists. The better you articulate what you want, what you do and how much it costs, the better off the entire field will be. Thinking of your funders and donors as partners will help you find more opportunities and will make you easier to work with. You will be ready when a venue says, “We found a commission to apply for your project. We need 250 words and a few images. TODAY!” Conversely, if you find a funding source your partners haven’t reached out to yet, you’ll know how to help them through the necessary steps to bring more funding to your project. Partners will want to work with you again and again because you help them help you.

Sources of Support: Your methods for supporting your work will change as your career evolves, as your rate of production changes, and as your needs and priorities change. It may be that each project has several income streams, including sales, teaching, grants, and donations of goods and services. As with investments in the stock market, diversity is good: it helps build a strong portfolio. Take a look at the ten descriptions below; see if there are any new sources that you might consider using now, or as new projects arise. Read the rest of this entry »

The Advantages and Strategies of Marketing Arts Products Online

Posted by Michael Marchetta On October - 11 - 2013
Michael Marchetta

Michael Marchetta

If you want to show customers service that surpasses their arts-related wants and needs, you need to go beyond just the standard “bricks and mortar” museum or store and create an established online presence.

Today, this means not only having an interactive website but also utilizing social media – Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and more – to their fullest potential. Tech-savvy customers can easily search and find artwork and supplies that interest them, complete with product reviews. The more venues you provide for them to discover your offerings, the better your chances for a sale or inquiry about your collection. Additionally, your online accessibility will help interested customers learn more about all of your artwork and related products and services, and it will encourage them to retain your business for future transactions.

With a good interactive website and strong social media presence, you can interact instantly with your followers to understand what artwork they want and how to assist them. Marketing online with tools like Google Analytics provides the data you need to create personalized service strategies that help you deliver relevant artwork and cultivate a high level of engagement with clients who know you understand and respect their desires. You can use the data you collect to design customized recommendations and other content for your followers, and to develop a long-term strategy for including artwork in your collection that meets your customers’ needs. Read the rest of this entry »

jonspayde

Jon Spayde

I like to call them “pop-up think tanks” – informal gatherings to discuss serious topics in innovative ways and from unstodgy new perspectives.  They’re all over the Twin Cities, from the lively gatherings organized by our friends at Works Progress and the Ignite Minneapolis talks to Tane Danger’s Theater of Public Policy and the new Twin Cities branch of the international House of Genius project.  They’re inspired, I think, by a widespread sense that meeting and talking in the same old ways to the same old folks is getting us nowhere in an era of proliferating problems and sclerotic institutions.

I had the pleasure of taking part in a new one just last week.

A year and a half ago I wrote a short piece for The Line about my visit to a remarkable institution in Omaha, Nebraska, called KANEKO. Named for its founder, Japanese-born and Omaha-based sculptor and international art-star Jun Kaneko, it’s a space where artists, creativity consultants, businesspeople, performers, and scientists come together to explore creativity across the boundaries of disciplines via talks, performances, and free-form discussions.

After the piece ran, I got a call out of the blue from a dynamic woman named Katy Gaynor, a fundraiser, development consultant, and arts advocate here in the Twin Cities who had read the piece. Among the many things Katy and I discovered we had in common was an interest in fostering creativity and helping artists bring their skill-sets to bear on other areas of life, like business. Katy told me that she wished the Twin Cities had its own version of KANEKO.

Plans for a Dialogue

In the months since that conversation, Katy has been busy making her hopes real by putting together a team of sharp colleagues to organize what the group dubbed the “Art and Business Dialogue X-Change,” a large invited gathering of some of our community’s most prominent artists, business people, and artist-businesspeople to talk about how the arts and business could break down barriers that separate them.

It took place last Thursday, July 25, in the beautiful conference room of the McKnight Foundation, and it attracted local A-listers like Gülgün Kayim, Director of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy for the City of Minneapolis; public artist Ta-Coumba Aiken; and actor and Jeune Lune alumnus Steve Epp, to name just three of the fifty or so distinguished attendees. Read the rest of this entry »

Happiness Is The Arts

Posted by Stephanie Milling On August - 14 - 2013
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

The last couple of weeks, two interesting news stories that shared conflicting perspectives of the arts were reported on the NBC Nightly News. The first report told the story of a failing school in Boston that was turned around when the principal chose to eliminate the funding that customarily subsidized the security force and invest it in the arts. This move that some considered controversial at Orchard Gardens , a school in Roxbury, MA, resulted in one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The other anecdotal evidence that students, teachers, and the principal shared during the report reinforced evidence that arts advocates have always had statistics to support: students who study the arts in school perform better in the classroom and demonstrate more prosocial behavior. As an arts advocate, this feel good story tugged at my heart strings. I was satisfied that this principal’s quest to prove the value of the arts in education proved fruitful. As a former teacher in schools like Orchard Gardens, I was delighted to see a failing school turned around.

The second report featured the retailer, The Children’s Place, and the demands to stop selling a girls t-shirt after complaints that it portrayed a sexist stereotype. The shirt said “my best subjects,” and featured checkboxes next to shopping, music, dance, and math. The boxes next to shopping, music, and dance contained checks while the box next to math was empty. While the controversy surrounding the shirt was motivated by individuals who viewed the shirt as sexist—and I am not denying that it was sexist–I was also bothered by the fact that it trivialized dance and music as core subject areas. By selling such a product, The Children’s Place and the t-shirt designer communicated that young women are intellectually inferior to their male peers and that studying the arts is equivalent to shopping.

While the first news report portrayed the type of story that supports the work arts advocates do in this country, the second illustrates the need for continued dialogue with those who fail to understand the value of the arts in education—even if the faux pas was unintentional. While there are many ways to approach the dialogue of why students benefit from studying the arts with statistics and research to support this perspective, lately I have been thinking of a more straightforward point of entry into the conversation that might resonate with multiple audiences: engagement in the arts can lead to happiness. While approaching a conversation about the value of the arts in education with the idea that it makes us happy might sound facetious, I think it might help develop some common ground between those advocating on behalf of the arts and those who need to be more receptive to the idea that engagement in the arts leads to success in other academic subjects and life. Read the rest of this entry »

Artists of Change

Posted by James LeFlore On July - 23 - 2013
James LeFlore

James LeFlore

The types of cultural district that I like best are those that are the hardest to define. They’re not the type that is bolstered by a fine arts institution or even have organized events that you can rely upon for your evening and weekend pleasure.  I’ve always been drawn to the artist-made hot spots that evolve over time and transform areas of town known as a “dud” into a “hub”.

Why is it that artists are so good at being able to do that? What do artists know that is so potently effective at revitalizing old buildings and empty neighborhoods where others coming beforehand have failed, given up, and left ruins to slowly fade into darkness? The answer to artists’ effectiveness at environmental change is not a secret, but it does involve magic. First, the power they wield comes directly from their ability to harness the power of unbridled creativity. The illusion they achieve is due to their capacity to suspend reality just long enough for cool things to start happening – as if they can animate the dead. Artists are the best-trained professional I can think of in the art of improvisation; and when the chips are down we all must know how to improvise, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Envisioning a City of Artists with “Soulful Stakes”

Posted by Kyle Bostian On May - 31 - 2013
Kyle Bostian

Kyle Bostian

Pittsburgh is widely – and deservedly – touted for its transformation from declining industrial center to post-industrial success story, with much attention devoted to the role played by the arts in that (ongoing) process. The site of the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, downtown’s Cultural District, represents a shining example of how artistic activity can help drive an economic recovery.

But in many neighborhoods the transition isn’t quite as far along; in some, it’s barely begun. And, for me and plenty of other Pittsburgh residents, that raises questions about how artists – often among the “avant-garde” (regardless of the style of their work) in terms of moving into and restoring “blighted” areas – might strive to make the most of the opportunities presented to them there. In my case (and I’m by no means alone in this respect), these questions go beyond the relationship between artistic activity and economic revitalization to encompass broader aspects of community building, accessibility, and social justice.

As a citizen-artist-activist, I appreciate the feeling of community that the arts often generate among participants. I’m particularly interested in and devote some of my own creative energy to projects that address issues (social, economic, political) with direct relevance to local populations. I’m passionate about the work I do along those lines. At the same time, I wonder if there are ways I could use my creativity to engage more deeply with my communities and have a greater impact. That’s why I was struck so powerfully by the words of one panelist at a recent Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network forum on “Arts as Urban Renewal.” Read the rest of this entry »

Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

In January 2012 I started the New Year with an ARTSblog entitled So Many Resources, So Little Time. I wrote, “With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.” For the most part, that statement was true – except for one thing. I wasn’t using Twitter!

Of course after mentioning Twitter in the resources ARTSblog someone would reach out to me in an email requesting my Twitter handle. Uh oh. Once upon a time I had set up an account, but when I tried to remember what the original handle was and how to login? Forget about it. I had been caught red-handed!

Just what I needed, one more thing to add to what already felt like an overflowing plate. I couldn’t respond back with, “sorry, I don’t do Twitter” after mentioning it in my blog so I decided it was time to officially throw myself into the #Twitterverse. Hence, @JessicaLWilt was born.

Over the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to navigate and speak the language that is Twitter while building a truly authentic and genuine community. I don’t have thousands of followers – yet – but I do regularly interact and connect with a diverse group of people. Never could I have imagined how vast the information, people, ideas and life-changing events I’ve experienced through Twitter would enhance my personal and professional circles. Read the rest of this entry »