An Artist Reflects on Growth through the Eyes of His Community

Posted by Regin Igloria On December - 6 - 2012

Regin Igloria

Staying small sounds a bit counter-intuitive to creative types, especially artists.

Take into consideration the many years of art school where teachers keep telling students to “work bigger” so that they can “see that piece done on a much larger scale.” Sometimes it speaks beyond the formal issues of a piece: understanding that the effectiveness of its meaning and concept can be directly related to the size of the audience it has reached.

I’ve been thinking about this topic of scale my entire career, not just as a studio artist, but as a teacher and arts administrator who constantly has to create opportunities for others in the field while maintaining some sense of respect for my own creative ambitions.

My full-time paying gig is serving as the Director of Artists-In-Residence at The Ragdale Foundation, where artists, writers, and composers are offered time and space to get important work done.

As administrators, we are constantly balancing the working conditions of the artists, especially when it comes time to “gather round the dinner table.” Yes, sometimes the space where we consume our food is more important than the size of the studio where we make work.

We’ve kept the number of residents to about a dozen residents per session, so everyone can sit family-style at one large table rather than in separate clique-y style cafeteria tables. This is just one example of how to keep the residents engaged with appropriate peers (Author’s Note: You can read about the various types of programs through the Alliance of Artist Communities.) Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Placemaking As Continuous Exchange

Posted by Laura Ng On November - 12 - 2012

Laura Ng

Arts administrators, emerging philanthropists, cultural patrons, and arts practitioners converged at the Atwater Village Theater on October 20 for Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles‘ full-day Creative Conversation, asking again, what is “creative placemaking”? Or, in the long-form title, to explore “Sparking Inclusive Dialogue Through Creative Placemaking.”

Dan Kwong, project leader for Great Leap’s COLLABORATORY, may have put it best when he compared broaching the question to the ambivalence and trepidation felt when one is asked to measure the impact of arts on social building.

With disciplines as divergent as Anne Bray’s work in media arts, Dan Kwong in performance, and Brian Janeczko in architecture and industrial design/fabrication, one unifying outlook voiced by the panelists was that creative placemaking must happen organically with a collaborative conscientiousness responsive to a specific community.

Keynote speaker John Malpede framed the particularity of elements needed to come together by sharing his own experience at the Los Angeles Poverty Department, which he founded almost serendipitously.

The performance artist volunteered with a group of lawyers offering their services pro-bono to the residents of L.A.’s Skid Row until he became a de facto paralegal, who so galvanized the community that those same clients involved themselves into launching self-produced dramatic performances.

With no permanent headquarters, their activities attracted the attention of screenwriters from other parts of the city and instigating conversations with numerous neighborhood organizations, such as LAMP and the Skid Row Players’ drummers, materializing improvement amenities such as the “funky trash cans” provided by OG Man that would not be readily perceived as an urgent need to those outside in what they termed Normalville. Read the rest of this entry »

Ken Busby

When you hear the phrase, “the new normal,” do you ever stop and wonder what exactly that means? It certainly has become one of the most often-used phrases that we hear today. Everything has a “new normal.” However, there is something important in these three words. Important enough that it’s the theme for this year’s Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.

Just this past week, the Dow took a dive or a dip (however you want to look at it) because the country isn’t creating enough jobs. Already, analysts are saying that we might be heading toward another recession—just as we are beginning to see daylight from the last one. So what is “the new normal?” Are we in a period of recovery or are things about to look bleak again?

The answer, quite simply, is yes or no—to both or neither. My point being…it doesn’t really matter what the national economy is doing on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days. However, our jobs as nonprofit arts education administrators and providers go on. And we have to find ways to make it all work. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes! So we do it—we move forward for the good of our organizations and the people and communities that we serve.

To me, “the new normal” is a reminder that every day is a new day, full of possibilities. Whatever we did yesterday, it’s done. We can’t change it. We can learn from it, but then we have to look to the future. What can we bring to the table today that will make a difference in our community tomorrow?  Read the rest of this entry »

Overcommitment: Taking the ‘I Shoulds’ Out of Your Life?

Posted by Jessica Wilt On May - 22 - 2012

Jessica Wilt

Another school year draws to a close and I feel like I’m out of control spinning all over the boroughs of New York City from one commitment to the other with “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” playing in my head. Is anyone else out there spinning round like a record, baby? Okay, that makes me sound old.

Next month I’ll be leading a Career360 Roundtable session at the 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The topic: Community Involvement: Taking the “I Shoulds” Out of Your Life.

I chuckled upon my realization at how perfect the topic of overcommitment is for me; hence, the spinning-out-of-control vertigo I’m now experiencing.

Many arts administrators are expected to serve on panels, boards, and committees in addition to joining advocacy-related campaigns and other volunteer activities outside of the day-to-day full time job.

I’d like to explore this “I should or I shouldn’t” conversation a bit. Are arts administrators volunteer-driven because of their love for the field? Because there seems to be unspoken expectations? Out of necessity? Or a combination of all three?

I volunteer my time and energy mainly because I am passionate about arts education. I enjoy being connected to networks outside of my job, learning new things, traveling, and meeting some really interesting people…but sometimes it can feel overwhelming. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art Evaluation: An Ongoing Process

Posted by Alison Spain On May - 17 - 2012

"Wave Arbor" by Doug Hollis at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA.

(Author’s Note: This post builds upon prior pieces by Dr. Elizabeth Morton and Angela Adams.)

I enrolled in Dr. Morton’s Exploring Evaluation for Public Art studio as a way to complement my experience as a working artist-art educator with a limited sense of the planning and evaluation process for public art. Over the course of the studio I came to see evaluation not as a zero sum game meant to occur after installation, but rather as an ongoing series of assessments conducted by and for major stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the intended audience.

While public art evaluation clearly includes examining the perceptions of the general public, it must also examine the processes and decisions that influence, direct, and ultimately, commission, new works.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this studio was the opportunity for cross-disciplinary dialogue created by the intentional interface of urban planners, designers (in this case, architecture & landscape architecture students), artists, and arts administrators.

Each of these roles fulfills an important and different function in the life cycle of the public art project; yet all too often we work in isolation from one another and/or use language that is particular to one discipline and foreign to another. The studio proved to me that we have a great deal to learn from one another and that increased cross-disciplinary collaboration will continue to yield exciting new contributions to the field of public art evaluation.

For example, as a predominantly 2D artist moving into the more design-based role of the landscape architect, the concept of site analysis took on an expanded meaning. From a conventional fine arts perspective, a site is a location where an artwork is placed, not necessarily a place that an artwork might inhabit over time. Artists would clearly benefit from the designer’s perspective of understanding site as an ongoing process, with multiple actors; yet this is a concept that is rarely discussed in undergraduate or graduate level art programs. Read the rest of this entry »

Artists Evaluating Our Own Public Art

Posted by Lajos Heder On May - 17 - 2012

Lajos Heder

Evaluation is a different issue for artists creating commissioned work than for administrators running a public art program.

In my view, the administrator needs positive public feedback to politically (and financially) support the program. As artists we need feedback that help us become better artists.

It is much easier to imagine an evaluation of a whole program than to measure the value of a single artwork.

As artists we are all somewhat eccentric in our art making process. We combine research and rational thought with personal intuitions and observations in our own unique ways. We invent things that have not existed before.

Members of the public, who have not seen anything exactly like it before may love it or hate it at first sight. They may adapt to love it, or get bored over time. People who say they love the art, may never pay much attention after the first look. Others who are uncomfortable may eventually come around and gain something important.

My experience is that a large percentage of people pay very little attention to public art. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking the Art World Approach: Evaluating Public Art as an Investment

Posted by Brandi Reddick On May - 16 - 2012

Brandi Reddick

The idea of art as an investment is by no means a new concept. Art collectors jet set to major fairs in Hong Kong, Basel, and Sao Paulo hoping to secure their next big investment purchase; gallery owners and curators are constantly on the scout to discover the “next big artist”; and auction houses are drawing in record sales for artworks.

As administrators of public art, it is vital that we take some clues from the art world and evaluate public art as an investment for our community and start scouting for that “next big artist” who lives and works in our community.

The unique nature of public art inherently makes it one of the most valuable and exponentially increasing public assets for a community. I have the great fortune of working for Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places (MDAPP), which boasts a collection of nearly 700 works of public art.

Throughout its 40-year history, the program has commissioned some of the most significant contemporary artists in the world to create one of a kind, site-specific works of art. As with most works of public art, the commissioning cost of these works only reflects a percentage of their current value.

For example, in 1985 artist Edward Ruscha was commissioned by the Miami-Dade County Art in Public Places Trust to create “Words Without Thoughts Never to Heaven Go”, a site-specific installation for the Main Library consisting of eight 16-foot-long panels mounted around the lobby’s rotunda. The work was commissioned for approximately $300,000. Read the rest of this entry »

Ursula Kuhar

I love yoga. It’s all the rage—even Nancy Hanks Lecturer Alec Baldwin is a fan. Yoga practice is a great fitness activity that has physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. A thirty minute workout comprised of sun salutation, downward facing dog, and accompanied by a little “om” action provides the energy and balance needed to chug through the day.

What about arts wellness? I propose this: advocacy is the new yoga.

I promise, I’m going somewhere with this. Just hear me out.

Every year in April, hundreds of arts advocates arrive in Washington, DC for Arts Advocacy Day.

The two-day summit covers advocacy training, break out sessions regarding current arts issues, the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and a day on Capitol Hill—meeting with legislators to discuss the state of the arts and future objectives.

It’s an empowering and inspiring experience. Even as a seasoned veteran, I discover new information, meet and discuss issues with colleagues from all over the country, and leave Washington knowing that somehow, in some way, I planted a seed by educating and encouraging my elected officials regarding the positive power of the arts and their support and continued funding benefits the country in countless ways.

But what happens when we leave our nation’s capital? It is all too easy to “fall off the wagon”: to put our Congressional Arts Handbook and other resources on a bookcase in the office, only to be revisited the following April.

Here’s where yoga comes in. Read the rest of this entry »

The Brunch Conversation (or 2030 Vision in Arts Leadership)

Posted by Jonathan Elliott On April - 2 - 2012

Jonathan Elliott

This post began as a series of thoughts on the future of human resources in the arts, and opened up into a personal conversation gone global.

Also, it involves something I am deeply passionate about: brunch.

Once a year, my friend and I—let’s call her Kay—get together for brunch. It’s important for us to check in with one another, to swap ideas about careers, arts management dilemmas, and our Netflix queues.

Kay and I have been friends for twelve years; we’ve both just turned thirty, we both hold MAs in Arts Management, and we both work in jobs we love, for arts organizations on opposite coasts.

Kay took a big bite out of her bagel and lox and said to me, “I’m leaving the industry.”

I blinked three times, as she took a deep breath and told me that, while she loved working in arts marketing, and while it was a fulfilling and affirming line of work, she had desires in life that she and her husband couldn’t reconcile against the current job offerings and future of the industry. I leaned back in my chair, which is the universal sign between the two of us for “game on.”

What happened next was a long debate about what we have in our lives and what we want, and our accomplishments and what’s going to happen next. Read the rest of this entry »

So Many Resources, So Little Time

Posted by Jessica Wilt On January - 20 - 2012

Jessica Wilt

As an arts administrator, I’m constantly bombarded with information coming from all directions every minute of every day.

With endless emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds, I sometimes feel a little overwhelmed.

Having the “let’s get organized!” attitude that a New Year brings, I thought it might be nice to highlight some of the good work our colleagues are doing in the field with a condensed resource guide.

Which makes me wonder: Has anyone designed an app for this yet?

Arts Education Listservs: Two of my favorites are Kristen Engrebretson’s Arts Education Roundup from Americans for the Arts (an exclusive benefit of membership – join here or ask to be added to the arts education listserv if you are a member), and Arts Education Partnership’s ArtsEd Digest. The Center for Arts Education, Education Week, and Public Education Network’s weekly NewsBlast are also great sources of information.

Blogs:  It seems everyone is writing a blog these days! Who should we be reading? Americans for the Arts’ ARTSBlog and Artsjournal.com are terrific resources. Richard Kessler’s Dewey21C and Art Education 2.0 are good ones too. Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Collaboration

Posted by Maggie Guggenheimer On December - 6 - 2011

Maggie Guggenheimer

At Piedmont Council for the Arts (PCA), we often find ourselves in conversations about collaboration.

The Charlottesville (VA) area has a high number of arts and cultural organizations for its relatively small size.

Don’t let the quaint college town aesthetic fool you – with organizations like Monticello, The Paramount Theater, Live Arts, The Pavilion, Kluge-Ruhe Aboriginal Art Collection, and three amazing festivals, we’re busting at the seams with high-quality cultural experiences. It’s exciting, but it’s also competitive. For many of the smaller nonprofit arts organizations in the area, collaboration is necessary for getting big projects done with a small staff and budget.

PCA participates in collaborative projects and gathers arts representatives together for networking events and roundtable discussions to address collaboration strategies. I’m amazed at how much even the busiest directors seem to appreciate the opportunity to connect face-to-face and think “big picture.” In today’s funding environment, no one doubts the importance of effective partnerships, and we all need to unplug and brainstorm together every now and then.

But beyond this necessity, lately I’ve been thinking about collaboration in a new way. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Spring

Prof(?) Michael Spring

1)    The acronym “ATFAA” stands for:

a)    Do I need to answer this in the form of a question?

b)    I do not need to know what an acronym is to work is this field.

c)    I know what OMG stands for.

d)    Americans the for AArts or Aptitude Test for Arts Administrators.

2)    A nonprofit arts organization asks for an extension to a grant submittal deadline…

a)    I tell them that the very asking of this question makes them ineligible to apply forever.

b)    I check the date and time to see if I am on vacation.

c)    I explain that while it is our policy not to do this, case law is on their side.

d)    Probably none of the above.

3)    A dancer, musician and playwright walk into a bar… 

a)    They better not be using fellowship money.

b)    The bartender says, “Okay, I’ll serve you a beer, if you can finish this joke.”

c)    This has something to do with the economic impact of the arts.

d)    Is “bar” misspelled? Read the rest of this entry »

What Arts Managers Can Learn from Steve Jobs

Posted by Jeff Scott On November - 4 - 2011

Jeff Scott

With the recent release of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and several other bios scheduled to come out in the near future, there’s a lot of discussion on what kind of a manager Jobs was.

While the management of a publicly-traded tech company and that of a nonprofit arts organization may seem worlds apart, there are some basic kernels that arts leaders can take from Steve Jobs’ career.

We’ve heard a lot about Jobs’ so-called “reality distortion field.” He pushed his employees to the max, believing that work that normally would take a month could be done in a few days. While the pressure was too much for many employees, others said it caused them to do some of the best work of their careers.

For arts managers working with limited resources in terms of people, time, and money, the notion of a reality distortion field is probably a familiar one. So many times we find ourselves making something out of almost nothing and hopefully that something is a brilliant work of art. But what is perhaps more significant is how Jobs handled his employees. Not only did he believe that a particular task could get done a certain way in a certain time frame, he believed that his people would be able to accomplish it. Read the rest of this entry »

Sara Bateman

On October 21, the Emerging Leaders in the Arts Network (ELAN) hosted our third annual Creative Conversation. Over the past three years, this event has enabled our Emerging Leaders chapter to make connections within our local Oregon community and address topics that provoke conversation around the state of the arts in this region.

As the only current university-based chapter of the Emerging Leaders Network, the Creative Conversations program has created a vital link between university students and the community at large.

Based out of the University of Oregon in Eugene, finding ways to break down the student/community divide is a high priority for our chapter. We strive to find ways to bridge the gap between students and professionals, and to take the opportunity while we are in graduate school to connect with artists, administrators, and educators so that we can inform our role as the current generation of emerging leaders.

For this year’s event, titled “Make a Scene: Activating Local Arts & Culture Media,” ELAN sought to address how our community can work together to elevate local arts and culture media coverage, providing both print- and web-based opportunities and platforms for participation, dialogue, and critical engagement.

The event started with a panel comprised of local writers, critics, and media managers, including Rebecca Black and Karen Rainsong from Eugene A Go-Go; Jonathan Boys-Hkd, founder and editor-in-chief of Emerging Artist Magazine; Suzi Steffen, independent arts critic and blogger; Dante Zuniga-West, music/visual arts editor at the Eugene Weekly; and Joshua Finch of the zine Exiled in Eugene. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Continue a Career in the Arts? (Part 2)

Posted by Jessica Wilt On September - 26 - 2011

Jessica Wilt

In part 1 of my blog post, I started to talk about how the economy is affecting arts administrators. Specifically, how the financial and jobs crisis is weighing heavier on midcareer level individuals. Now, what we can do about it?

Here are three things I see happening today, mainly due to the economy:

#1 – Unpaid internships have now replaced what used to be the entry level job. Anyone can be an intern, no matter what age, and companies get by with more unpaid labor. Ultimately this helps with their bottom line, but in turn is destroying the pay scale. What used to be respectable manager/director pay is often times now entry level salary.

CBS Sunday Morning recently did a great story highlighting the new trend employers are quickly taking advantage of. Just get an intern! They can fix and solve all your problems…for FREE! I’ve watched job posting sites like NYFA.org and Idealist.org shift from a plethora of full-time job listings to include more internship posts.

#2 – Due to budget cuts and downsizing, full-time jobs are being given part-time titles with no benefits. Or, full-time employees are asked to take on even more responsibility with less staff, give up percentages of their pay, watch benefits disappear, and participate in work furloughs. Read the rest of this entry »

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.