USE US

Posted by George Patrick McLeer On April - 18 - 2014
George Patrick McLeer

George Patrick McLeer

As we sat down with our Congressmen this past March during National Arts Advocacy Day, one message kept coming out of my mouth, “In my community, we don’t just ‘fund’ the arts, we use the arts.” I didn’t arrive in Washington with that phrase in my mind. I didn’t even think about it until after our “advocacy sessions,” the day before we visited Capitol Hill.

What alarms me the most about our annual trek to Capitol Hill is that our ask never seems to change— “We would like our Representative/Senator to support funding the NEA/Arts Education at this specific level.” We mention the ability to leverage the arts for economic impact, improve education, and make our lives more fulfilling, but at the end of the day we ask for money—either from the federal government or private citizens via tax policy shifts.

We need to stop asking for money and instead ask for a new vantage point. Read the rest of this entry »

Cutting Arts Education is a Form of Identity Theft

Posted by Matt D'Arrigo On March - 21 - 2014
Matt D'Arrigo

Matt D’Arrigo

The arts are powerful because they provide us with, and help us to create, our identities – who we truly are. The two ultimate questions we have in life are: who am I and why am I here? If you find the answer to the first, it will help lead you to the answer to the second. Identity provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose.

It was in art that I found my own identity. I was in sixth grade and had always really struggled in school. I was lost and confused and thought I was a failure; my self-esteem and confidence were extremely low. Back then there weren’t a lot of diagnosis like ADD, ADHD, or learning disabilities. I was diagnosed as being lazy and a troublemaker…and they probably had a pretty good case against me. Then my 6th grade teacher, Mrs. Ferguson, said four words that changed my life. We were doing an art lesson and she came up behind me, looked at my picture and said “Wow, that’s really great”! The other students gathered around and shared her enthusiasm. All of a sudden I wasn’t a failure anymore…I was an artist. I had an identity! I’ve carried that identity and confidence with me to this very day, it’s made me who I am. Read the rest of this entry »

A New Era for Arts in New York City Schools?

Posted by Doug Israel On February - 26 - 2014
Doug Israel

Doug Israel

Over the course of the past several years, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have been advancing ambitious plans to expand access to arts education and creative learning for public school students. Here in New York City – home of the nation’s largest school district – with a new mayor and schools chancellor, and a growing chorus of parents calling for the inclusion of arts in the school day, there is momentum gathering that could lead to a much-overdue expansion of arts and music in city schools.

This December, at the close of his 12 years in office, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a City Council bill that would require the Department of Education to provide annual data on arts instruction that advocates believe will help identify gaps in the delivery of arts education and drive improvements in what is being offered at schools across the city.

While strides were made in expanding access to arts instruction at many schools across the city over the past decade, large gaps persist in the provision of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the over 1,800 New York City public schools.

That is why on the heels of the successful effort to pass the arts reporting legislation, advocates and leaders from a diverse cross section of New York, released a statement calling on the city to ensure that every child, in every part of the city, receives arts instruction as part of their K-12 education.

The statement – entitled “Every Child in Every School: A Vision for Arts and Creativity in New York City Public Schools” –notes that New York City – with its rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and organizations – is uniquely positioned to be the leader in arts and creative education. Read the rest of this entry »

Erin Gough

Erin Gough

It has been an exciting few weeks for arts and arts education professionals and advocates in the nation’s capital.

After a week of activities hosted by the Arts Education Partnership, Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Emerging Arts Leaders at American University and Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, training for Arts Advocacy Day began on April 8 and we were off to the races to meet with our congressmen and women all day on April 9.

Quite honestly, by the time I headed home, I expected to be totally wiped out—overloaded with information and overwhelmed by the situation at hand. Instead, it felt like the more time I was able to spend with such passionate people, the more energized and inspired I became.

People do not work with students, schools, community organizations, or become advocates because they are passive. They do it because they see a need to ensure arts opportunities for all of America’s students, but they know that the annual Arts Advocacy Day activities are only a small part of the work that needs to be done.

Coming down to Washington to learn about and discuss federal issues is a change of pace for me, and for most of us who work at the state and local levels.

It is absolutely important to learn about, and try to influence, federal education issues that impact the arts such as the reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Delayed. Again. Still.), Race to the Top requirements (which require teacher effectiveness evaluations for all subjects, including the arts), and No Child Left Behind waivers (which allow for more flexibility at the state level to pursue changes in graduation requirements and assessments). Read the rest of this entry »

Largest Symposium Ever Proves Successful (an EALS Post)

Posted by Steven Dawson On April - 22 - 2013
Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

Once again, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University has proven to be a smashing success. The EALS is in its sixth year of existence. The event is an annual meeting of students and young professionals who work in the arts that is held at American University. As national partners with Americans for the Arts, EALS is the official kick off for Arts Advocacy Day, and is held the day before.

It is an opportunity to engage in quality discussion about issues, unique or universal, that affect arts organizations with students, peers, and experienced leaders in the field. Past keynote speakers have included Rachel Goslins, Ben Cameron, Bob Lynch, and Adrian Ellis. All symposium activities and planning is organized and executed by a selected committee of American University Arts Management students.

The framework of EALS 2013 was “Looking to the Horizon.” Each speaker and panel discussed the new and innovative strategies and ideas coming down the road in each of the topics addressed that day. These topics included international arts management, marketing, audience engagement, career advancement, innovative organization models, and fundraising.

As the Executive Chair, I am elated to report that EALS 2013 was by far the largest and most successful Symposium ever. Counting the speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers, 225 people walked through the doors on Sunday, April 7. That proved to be well over double last year’s number, a record growth for the Symposium. Read the rest of this entry »

Yo-Yo Ma Spins an Emotional Tale of “Art for Life’s Sake”

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 9 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.

Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.

Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.

Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.

I’ll wait here while you watch…

Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Discount the Back-Up Singers

Posted by Charles Jensen On April - 9 - 2013
Charles Jensen

Charles Jensen

This week, hundreds of advocates are gathering in and around Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, to communicate to our national elected officials the value and impact of the arts on local communities, on families, on individual lives.

This is an important day, not just for the arts community, not just for our Senators and Representatives, but for the people served by us, those who cannot be in Washington having these conversations.

I’ve worked within and outside of advocacy over the course of my career in the arts, so I understand why arts administrators are willing to make the commitment to travel to Washington, or even to their own state legislature, to promote the value of the arts. I know there is confusion about what roles arts nonprofit staff can take in the name of “advocacy” without jeopardizing their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

And I know our arts leadership, those most likely to speak with legislators, are also our busiest, most called-upon experts, and often feel that devoting several days to the work of advocacy is the best they can do under their current circumstances.

But, friends, it’s not all. The work happening in Washington this week is the chorus of the song we sing all year long: the arts build communities. The arts turn around lives. The arts stimulate the economy.  Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Advocacy: It’s Worth More Than Dollars & Cents

Posted by Julie Hawkins On April - 8 - 2013
Julie Hawkins

Julie Hawkins

Why advocate for public funding of the arts?

It’s a question I’ve never really asked myself, because it’s always been valuable to me.

I grew up in North Carolina during the height of the “Culture Wars.” The summer after my junior year of college I interned in the budget office of the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the highlights of the internship program was a meeting with your U.S. Senators.

Thus it was that in 1993, at the ripe old age of 21 and full of piss* and vinegar, I got to meet the Hon. Jesse Helms and his staff to make my case for government support of the arts. I learned a lot about government and the arts that summer, and some of that piss and vinegar still fuels my passion for arts advocacy today.

I know that answering the question of why we should advocate for public funding is not easy, though, because if it were we’d see many more people engaging in it every hour of every day.

And to be perfectly honest, though arts advocacy and public funding are deeply held values of mine, I’ve still encountered moments where I wonder if it’s working and if it’s worth it, particularly in a period of time when we’ve experienced some substantial reductions to public funding for the arts.   Read the rest of this entry »

Join Arts Advocacy Day from Your Desk (or Couch)

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 8 - 2013
Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!   Read the rest of this entry »

Marketing…Not All About the Ticket (an EALS Post)

Posted by Raynel Frazier On April - 5 - 2013
Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

It used to be that the success of arts marketers was dependent on how well they could predict the future and then pray for success. But those days are over.

Today, arts marketers can rely on data analysis and market research to make well-thought-out strategic decisions.

I, for one, am glad that marketers no longer have to rely on future telling because marketing is an essential part of the arts experience. As a jazz trombonist, I had to learn how to market myself to land gigs and then market my gigs so that people would come to them. Arts organizations have to do the same. But they must market their organization as well as individual performances.

Several years ago Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) ran an institutional marketing campaign with the theme “BAM and then it hits you.” The message they conveyed was that the experience at BAM lingered long after you left. This campaign excited people about BAM as an entire organization, as opposed to a singular performance.

There are countless other examples of successful marketing campaigns in the arts. As emerging arts leaders I think it is essential we pay attention to trends in marketing. What are the latest trends in arts marketing? How do arts marketers use data analysis and market research to make strategic decisions? What type of programming is becoming most difficult to market? There is an endless amount of questions we can ask.  Read the rest of this entry »

Ask Yo-Yo Ma About Arts Education

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On April - 3 - 2013
Yo-Yo Ma (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Yo-Yo Ma (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Have you ever chatted with someone about the importance of the arts in our schools? Would you like the chance to discuss it with Yo-Yo Ma?

Yo-Yo Ma will deliver the 26th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy on April 8 at 6:30 p.m. EDT and, for the first time, Americans for the Arts will stream the event live from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (courtesy of Google), so you can watch regardless of whether or not you made it to National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC.

Drawing on his training as a musician and what he has learned traveling the world for more than 30 years as a touring performer, Ma will discuss where in nature, society, and human interactions we can find the greatest creativity, and what we can all do to help students grow up to be contributing and committed citizens.

And, if you have a burning question that arises during the lecture, you can ask Yo-Yo the next day. On April 9, Yo-Yo will take a break from his Arts Advocacy Day visits with members of Congress to participate in a Google Hangout video chat about arts education with Matt Sorum (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for Guns N’ Roses and Velvet Revolver, Co-Founder of Adopt the Arts in California); Damian Woetzel (Former Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet and the director of the Aspen Institute Arts Program); Lisa Phillips (Author of The Artistic Edge and CEO of Canada’s Academy of Stage and Studio Arts); and, Bob Lynch (President & CEO of Americans for the Arts).

We’ll be collecting questions before the Hangout via Twitter and email. You can either tweet using #AskYoYo or send an email to artseducation@artsusa.org with #AskYoYo in the subject line and your question in the body. We’ll take questions anytime from now until the Hangout.  Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Just Sit There, Get Involved (an EALS Post)

Posted by Raynel Frazier On March - 29 - 2013
Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

We all love to go to our favorite theatre and watch a production, sit and listen to our favorite orchestra, or visit our favorite museum.

Traditionally, a person interacted with arts organizations by sitting in the audience of a theater and viewing a performance; but is that enough? I say no way! Like me, many audience members want to get involved and interact with arts organizations in a new way.

Today we live in a world with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms. These platforms give us a space to share our views and interact with people from around the world.

As a person in my early twenties, interaction and participation is crucial. Arts organizations are beginning to realize the importance of audience engagement and are finding new and innovative ways to engage their audiences.

Audience engagement includes a range of activities from open rehearsals and online forums to interactive shows. Here in Washington, DC, Dog & Pony DC produced a production of The Killing Game that whole-heartedly embraced the idea of audience engagement.  Read the rest of this entry »

Career Beginnings, Advancement, & Ramen Noodles (an EALS Post)

Posted by Shannon Musgrave On March - 26 - 2013
Shannon Musgrave

Shannon Musgrave

Washington, DC is full of young, ambitious, up and coming leaders—politicos, entrepreneurs, engineers, and of course, those of us in the arts. We live in an exciting time and as we prepare to dive into the working world, we are faced with some unique challenges. But we are young and energetic and up to the task.

One universal challenge emerging leaders face in every field is the evolution of the ever expanding “work day.” Gone are the days of a typical 9 to 5. (Though, did they ever really exist in the arts?)

In this iPhone, iPad, Blackberry world, we are continually and constantly connected. Emails are sent and expected to be read at any and all hours. Tweets and Facebook comments don’t take the night off. We are embarking on a career world that never stops and rarely sleeps.

And how does one break into this world?

Ah yes. The internship.

Internships have the potential to be great career launchers. They also have the potential to become traps. All work and no pay makes Jane a tired intern.

The New York Times recently published an article detailing the struggles of many 20-somethings—“a population historically exploitable as cheap labor”—as they learn that “long hours and low pay go hand in hand with the creative class.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Budget Update: Never a Better Time for Arts Advocacy Day

Posted by Gladstone Payton On March - 25 - 2013
Gladstone Payton

Gladstone Payton

The House and Senate finally passed the FY 2013 Continuing Resolution which incorporated most of the sequester cuts ordered on March 1.

Only a few programs were amended to restore some of their original funding with a large majority of the across-the-board reductions being maintained. As detailed in my previous post, funding decreases to the National Endowment for the Arts remain at $7 million shaved off the $146 million annual budget.

The funding measure officially closes the books on the last fiscal year as Congress advanced separate budget resolutions for FY 2014. These resolutions are non-binding and do not require the signature of the president to pass, but they do provide instructions that will guide the appropriations process and inform the upcoming tax debates. They are to be taken seriously as the bills represent each party’s “vision” for fiscal policy.

The House version proposes deep cuts to discretionary spending, major changes to entitlements and tax reform that would dramatically lower marginal and corporate tax rates while balancing the budget in 10 years. Also, the House budget contains language for the third year in a row that takes aim at federal cultural funding:  Read the rest of this entry »

Art…and the Stagnant Business of Art (an EALS Post)

Posted by Steven Dawson On March - 15 - 2013
Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

What happens when an arts organization’s business model no longer works?

Well, as with the metaphor of the shark, it must continue to move forward or it will die.

For decades, the arts organization model has remained largely unchallenged, because there was no reason to challenge it. It almost served as a microcosm of “The American Dream.”

Everyone wanted to start their own organization, and the great entrepreneurial spirit in the United States created a thriving environment for this mindset. Margo Jones, one of the regional theatre pioneers in the 1950s, supported the idea, saying “What our country needs today, theatrically speaking, is a resident professional theatre in every city with a population over one hundred thousand.”

However, as Rocco Landesman so famously said, audiences have begun to dwindle while the number of organizations continues to rise, and there should be fewer arts organizations. I am in no way saying that some organizations should just close up shop so that another can benefit. But this is definitely something to think about.

There are only so many contributed dollars out there for the arts. This trend of continued marketplace crowding will eventually lead to organizations relying quite heavily on earned income to meet budget. And as I mentioned a few weeks ago, many organizations must keep prices low (affordable) in order to fulfill their missions. Put those two factors together, and it doesn’t add up to success.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.