Omaha: The Arts Make Our City a Masterpiece

Posted by Marjorie Maas On July - 10 - 2012

The Mona Lisa’s face in the middle of a dollar bill teased the story, and the headline read, “Arts groups create beautiful economic music together.”

The Omaha World-Herald story was Nebraskans for the Arts’ first one out there regarding the release of Nebraska and City of Omaha Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (AEP IV) data. A success!

Nebraskans for the Arts, the state’s advocacy organization for public arts funding and arts education, is based out of Omaha, the city drawing half of the state’s arts and culture economic impact according to AEP IV. It felt only fitting to make the initial announcement of the study findings here.

The impact of the arts has changed the face of Omaha: from the Holland Center’s masterful concert hall, to the mural projects of Kent Bellows Studio and Center for the Visual Arts and the burgeoning theater scene epitomized by BLUE BARN Theatre and Omaha Community Playhouse—the latter boasting as the largest community theater in the nation. These organizations are some of those who proudly took part in the economic impact survey and are eager to use the findings in their board rooms, grant applications, and business sponsorships.

We’re a community who invests in the arts—and the AEP IV launch spoke to this. Nebraskans for the Arts was honored at the quick acceptance of both Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle and Greater Omaha Chamber President and CEO David Brown to speak at the press conference. We were also bolstered by Todd Simon, senior vice president and family owner of Omaha Steaks, a long time supporter of the arts community, agreeing to share remarks. It showed the civic and business interests of the city can be paired with its philanthropic community—that these entities and individuals value the arts as an industry as well as their fundamental value to individuals. Read the rest of this entry »

Governor Shuts Down South Carolina Arts Commission

Posted by Jay Dick On July - 9 - 2012

Jay Dick

Here we go again…

On Friday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley vetoed the South Carolina Arts Commission’s budget. This is the third year in a row for such a veto, two by Governor Haley and one by former Governor Sanford. It should be noted that prior to Governor Sanford’s veto, he systematically cut the Commission’s budget over the seven years leading up to the veto during his last year in office.

To complicate matters, the legislature failed to submit a budget to the Governor until after the start of the new fiscal year that began on July 1. The Commission, under the veto, has no budget and thus, has had to shut down pending the legislature voting to override the veto on July 17 (House) and 18 (Senate).

Governor Haley issued 81 vetoes totaling $67.5 million for everything from a slight pay raise for teachers to a North Myrtle Beach museum, the preservation of African-American history sites in Charleston, a commuter mass transit service between Camden and Columbia, prescription drugs for AIDS patients, and a nonprofit that serves sexual assault victims.

But, it was only the Arts Commission and the Sea Grant Consortium that were totally eliminated—a move that puts 38 state employee’s jobs in limbo.

House Speaker Bobby Harrell is calling legislators back July 17 to consider overrides. He had planned to wait until mid-September, but Harrell said the two agencies’ predicament, as well as the money for teacher raises, should be addressed sooner. The Senate is coming back on July 18.

Governor Haley’s reasoning for her veto of the Arts Commission is that she would rather let taxpayers decide what charities they want to support. She said it’s not a government function.

The Arts Commission is a charity?! Read the rest of this entry »

Gladstone Payton

Anxiety is already building on what promises to be a historic (for mostly all the wrong reasons) lame duck session of Congress after this year’s 2012 national elections in November. This session could possibly have a dramatic affect on the nonprofit arts sector.

Because all the seats in the U.S. House, and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot November 6, there is very little motivation from either party to find a compromise in advance of election day. With control of the White House hanging in the balance, the political stability that follows an election appears to be the safest time for these issues of substance to be addressed, albeit in a very compressed timeframe.

What is the big deal?

It has many names: “Taxmageddon”; “Legislative Apocalypse” and others; you get the idea. The country is on schedule to see large tax cuts first put in place by President Bush, and then extended by President Obama, expire and huge cuts in government spending basically happen at the end of this year. This means that a tremendous shortfall for the national economy at large. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates are that over $600 billion will be taken out of the still precarious economic recovery by the end of 2013.

How did we get here?

Last summer, President Obama agreed to House Republican demands to cut the burgeoning national deficit in order to increase the national debt limit ceiling to avoid default on our debt obligations. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) put into place a bipartisan “supercommittee.” Charged with finding how to cut $1.2 trillion promised in the BCA, they failed (miserably) to reach agreement which will trigger deep automatic cuts of 8.4 percent (sequestration) to most social and defense programs as agreed to in the BCA starting 2013.

Adding to the anxiety is the status of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” and the payroll tax cut which are set to expire at the end of this year. By letting the tax cuts lapse, the marginal rates for just about every American are scheduled to increase and employees will see less in their paychecks. Combined with the previously mentioned spending cuts, you get a dramatic shortfall. This will spur a lot of talk about reforming the tax code and cutting additional spending, and it could affect the arts sector in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Kansas Arts Funding Restored

Posted by Tim Mikulski On June - 4 - 2012

On late Friday afternoon, it became official—state arts funding has been restored as Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new state budget into law.

The new spending measure allocates $700,000 to the state’s new Creative Arts Industries Commission which includes the arts and film commissions under the Department of Commerce.

Just last year, Brownback vetoed state funding for the arts commission, causing Kansas to become the first state without an arts agency, and resulting in a loss of over $1 million in matching regional and federal arts grants.

We want to congratulate Kansas Citizens for the Arts, the legislature who increased the governor’s original proposed funding by $500,000, the supportive press like the Lawrence Journal-World, and all of the individual arts advocates who helped Gov. Brownback understand the repercussions of his actions last year.

Looking at the People Behind the Scenes for Numbers That Count

Posted by Rebecca Rothman On May - 16 - 2012

Rebecca Rothman

Public art is a tough sell in a bad economy.

When senior centers are closing and library hours have been cut back, convincing city leaders to spend money on art feels like an exercise in futility.

Instead of focusing on how projects boost the economy after their completion or counting positive media reports, we’ve begun to look the people behind the scenes for numbers that count.

Artists create a concept and are given credit for the resulting project but they don’t work alone. There are many others who help make the project a reality. From fabricators to material suppliers, each firm brings expertise to the process to ensure that the project is designed and built to last.

We’ve asked artists and design leads to list each subcontractor they hire under their contract with our program. Then, we ask the contractor to do the same. These people equal JOBS.

We’ve tracked our projects this way for the past five years and found that 85 percent of the work created by our program has been completed by local firms. Each time we present a project or upcoming commission to city leaders, these job numbers are included and guess what? They’re listening. Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

National Arts Advocacy Day is significant because it grants us an opportunity to gather as a community to reflect on the role of contemporary artists in the 21st century. No matter what the chosen art form, the passion to do art and to be art is born out of an insatiable yearning to make beauty, to make sense, and even to make waves.

As artists, we are summoned to bear witness of the truth of the human experience…the human condition and truth is more than simply facts. It is realness of life that is imbued with the psychological, emotional, spiritual elements of living that is not always easily accessible. It is this sense of urgency to communicate that artists find avenues to connect through music, theatre, film, dance, art, and literature.

For example, the powerful play by American playwright Stephen Adly Guigis, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, explores in a witty, provocative, and sometimes-funny manner, questions about love and redemption through the story of a man who is considered the most notorious villain in human history. The genesis of this kind of art is the visceral reality that only comes from self-understanding. It is the quest for self-understanding that gives way to constant questioning, observing, celebrating, and revering the complexity, mystery, and beauty of humanity. Self-understanding fortifies us from self-deception and easy consolations.

We, as artists, are the first beneficiaries of the power of the arts to tell our personal story that mirrors our own realities. Each of us can be an alchemist, taking our ideas and understanding of the world around us along with our imagination and creativity to transform them into precious elements of universal elixir. 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 »

Arts Advocacy Day 2012: The Congressional Arts Kick-Off

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 17 - 2012

Our Arts Advocacy 2012 advocates at the Congressional Arts Kick-Off.

It’s difficult to write an event recap post when you are still energized/exhausted as a staff member often can be following 48 hours of festivities surrounding Arts Advocacy Day, but I will certainly try.

Following last night’s Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy by Alec Baldwin, the Congressional Arts Kickoff brought together our 500+ arts advocates in the Cannon Caucus Room alongside our artist-advocates and friends from Ovation and elected officials stopping by to express their support for the arts.

Armed with my smartphone in one hand and a flip cam in the other (several flip cams actually—batteries drain very quickly in those things), I witnessed an outpouring of support and passion for the arts like I have never seen (including an amazing performance by VSA artist Alicia Ucciferri).

In addition to our own President & CEO Bob Lynch and Ovation Chairman Ken Solomon (and encouraging words from Rep. Jim Moran, Rep. Todd Platts and Rep. Rosa DeLauro) the following artist-advocates took to the podium to give brief remarks:

  • Hill Harper (“I’m an arts advocate and I vote”)
  • Nigel Lythgoe (“I believe you’re losing your musical heritage”)
  • Alec Baldwin (“I’ll be having lunch with Rocco [Landesman] to talk about using the profits from Book of Mormon to settle the national debt”)
  • Pierre DuLaine (“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get the republicans and democrats to dance together?”)
  • Melina Kanakaredes (“If it wasn’t for the NEA in Akron, OH, where I grew up, I never would have gotten my start”)  Read the rest of this entry »

Our friends at Ovation work quickly.

They just posted this video on YouTube covering the early part of Alec Baldwin’s presentation of the 2012 Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy given on April 16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC:

More to come…

Notes from the 2012 Nancy Hanks Lecture: Alec Baldwin

Posted by Silagh White On April - 17 - 2012

A painting now owned by Alec Baldwin (details/reference to come in a future post): Ross Bleckner, "Sea and Mirrors" 1996, oil on linen 84" x 72"

I had a very strict usher shut down the very tool that makes live tweeting possible. Do attendants have issues with Alec Baldwin and wireless devices? Luckily, I was able to take notes in a different fashion without getting booted out of the theatre. I won’t reveal my secrets.

Mr. Baldwin’s speech was an “attempt to distill [his own] relationship to the arts.”

He divided a period of over 50 years into three groups:

1. “Art is all around me but I don’t know what art is.”

2. “Art is all around me so maybe I should introduce myself.”

3. “So much art, so little time.”

Consider the details of your own childhood. Mr. Baldwin’s past is not too unlike our own, if we grew up in a middle class family, in an age of television, movies, and popular radio. What were the moments that triggered a deeper appreciation for art?

What parts of your early awakening made you want to know more about art? What things made you dream of being an artist? What inspired you to envision a path to the improbable?

I remember singing into a hairbrush, and wanting to be Olivia Newton-John. Mr. Baldwin shared as much. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrating Arts Advocacy Day

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 16 - 2012

Advocates begin training for their visits to members of Congress.

Over 500 arts advocates are gathering at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC this morning to begin training for Arts Advocacy Day.

This annual two-day event brings together representatives from nearly every state to meet with their members of Congress to advocate for a number of issues near and dear to those who love the arts.

In addition to a day of training in preparation for those meetings, Americans for the Arts with support from Ovation and other partners, will host our 25th anniversary Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts just across town.

Tonight, we are honored to have arts champion Alec Baldwin as this year’s lecturer and singer-songwriter/composer Ben Folds performing (along with musicians from YoungArts).

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for Arts Advocacy Day information throughout the next two days or follow @Americans4Arts and #AAD12 on Twitter to receive up-to-the-minute reports.

You can also take action wherever you are by visiting our Arts Action Center and sending a message to your members of Congress.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2012 (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Randy Cohen On April - 11 - 2012

Randy Cohen

Almost one year ago, I posted The Top Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in response to a business leader who wanted to make a compelling case for government and corporate contributions to the arts.

Being a busy guy, he didn’t want a lot to read: “Keep it to one page, please.”

With the arts advocacy season once again upon us…(who am I kidding, it’s always upon us!)…here is my updated list for 2012 which now includes new stats from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study.

10 Reasons to Support the Arts

1. True prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socioeconomic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.

3. Arts are an industry. Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating nearly $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants. The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Non-local arts audiences (who live outside the county) spend nearly twice as much as local arts attendees ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Agency Tweetup: A New Approach to Networking

Posted by Megan Pagado On April - 11 - 2012

Megan Pagado

In late February, we at the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County hosted our first-ever #CreativeMoCo Tweetup for creatives in and around Montgomery County, MD.

Why did we, a local arts council, host a tweetup?

  1. Our constituents asked for it. They wanted the opportunity meet others in a casual, laidback, unstructured setting. (We’re fans of speed networking, but had to put those impulses aside for this particular event.)
  2. While we’re active on social media, we‘ve never had the chance to meet most of our followers and fans face to face. And isn’t eventually creating real, genuine interactions the whole point of social media?
  3. We saw this as an amazing opportunity to not only meet and introduce creatives to each other, but to mobilize them and take them to the next step of becoming self-identified arts advocates.

The tweetup was first announced on Facebook and Twitter, which generated over 40 registrations in two days. As I saw the number climb, I was amazed at the number of people registering that we didn’t know.

Since we used the term “creative community” instead of “cultural community” in marketing the tweetup, we had everyone from magazine editors to restaurant owners to DJs in attendance.

Based on our experience hosting our tweetup, here are some tips I can share with you on hosting your own, especially one that is advocacy-based: Read the rest of this entry »

Making Arts Advocacy A Way of Life

Posted by Madeline Orton On April - 6 - 2012
Maddie Orton

Madeline Orton

On a recent visit to a community arts center, I was struck by the effortless inclusion of advocacy in the director’s curtain speech.

Plugs for the city rolled off her tongue like: “Don’t forget to check out our wonderful restaurants,” and my favorite, “If you’re looking for a new place, you should buy here—it’s a great time to buy!”

As someone who works for an arts advocacy organization (ArtPride New Jersey) nothing makes me happier.

Before I get on my soapbox about why you should be permanently stationed on yours, I want to point out two things: 1) neither of these comments is directly about the arts center and 2) the director is in her mid-20s.

When I have conversations about advocacy I receive a small range of reactions. Some people are thankful for the work advocacy groups do on their behalf, but don’t think they have the time to get involved. Others believe in the importance of advocating annually to their elected officials to protect funding.

Finally, some, like this community arts center director, build advocacy into everything they do all year long. Their advocacy efforts do not end at preserving funding, but extend to maintaining close contact with elected officials, the board of education, businesses, and other community organizations to ensure continued investment in their organization’s success.

I know that when this director calls for a visit during budget season, decision makers will not only know who she is, but will also have a clear understanding of the impact her organization has on the community—because she never stops telling them. Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: How We Work (Part Two)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 5 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

Actors like to make plays. I feel most comfortable and alive in rehearsal. All artists presumably feel this way, within their own genre.

You see it in books—the artist as a mysterious neighbor locked away in his workshop for hours or living in an artist colony and never associating with the “outside world.” Perhaps this mystery served us well for a time. But that day has passed.

In my first post, I proposed that if what I see in my peers is any indication, the next generation of arts leaders will be incredibly unique and will have a few common characteristics—who we are, how we work, and why we will do it.

How will we work? Not as mysterious neighbors locked in studios and rehearsal rooms. When not busy with DIY projects, these arts entrepreneurs are engaged, active citizens.

The Nashville songwriter is the best example. Let’s call him Bill.

Bill works in his community garden, teaches a class at his church, watches the Titans down at the local bar with the guys, and hangs out at Dragon Park with his kids. And everywhere he goes Bill shares proudly about songwriting—his publisher, his process, new songs, and upcoming gigs. 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.