MORE THAN A FEELING: What Our Creative Youth Programs Are Really About

Posted by Jennifer Carroll Abssy On September - 16 - 2014
Jennifer Abssy

Jennifer Abssy

Inner-City Arts is now in its 25th year of offering high quality arts experiences to youth. Our programs include  professional development for teachers, schools and university programs, school day arts programming for K-8, and out of school programming for grades 6th grade and above. These Middle and High School Institute programs have grown from offering 5 art forms for 120 students in 2009 to today offering 15 to 22 workshops three times a year, to 600-800 urban youth. Here is what some of our Institute youth say about our programming:

“They don’t judge you here… I can be my own person.”  Angelica G.

“I can count on so many people here.” Sandy A.

“These people can benefit me a lot.” Gabriel U.

“I feel loved…”  Michael M.

Youth in our Institutes engage in high quality arts experiences in multiple forms such as Graphic Design, Visual Arts, Ceramics, Dance and Choreography, Acting, Spoken Word, Stand-up Comedy, Animation, Digital Photography, Guitar and Documentary Film – all located on our state of the art campus in downtown Los Angeles, near Skid Row. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Create the Brave Bureaucrat

Posted by Margie Reese On September - 16 - 2014
Margie Johnson Reese

Margie Johnson Reese

I am a registered card carrying bureaucrat.  I don’t do passion. The job isn’t what you’re excited about; it’s what you accomplish. My staff might disagree with this self-assessment especially after summer 2014.

This past summer, in less time than any organization should be given; Big Thought implemented Dallas City of Learning, an expansion on a connected learning initiative first created in Chicago. To put it simply, the Cities of Learning initiative connects students to learning opportunities based on their burgeoning interests and the peer communities those interests created, with the goal of tying those creative experiences to academic outcomes. Student achievements are codified and recognized through digital badges that contain within their code the granular information about each accomplishment. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art; a means for human development – The Artist as Social Animator

Posted by Alex White-Mazzarella On September - 6 - 2014
Alex White-Mazzarella

Alex White-Mazzarella


It was about six years ago, in 2007, sitting in my small Hong Kong apartment, that I put down ideas for a work practice that would use public art and modern culture as means of developing community and habitat. A practice where the arts would be used not just as an aesthetic to beautify or to activate space, but as productions of communality with the residents of a place and through a process that would open a space for community members to develop and connect. It came from contact with arts in public spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Grassroots Public Art and Political Power

Posted by Cameron Russell On September - 4 - 2014
Cameron Russell

Cameron Russell

It often strikes me that pundits and political scientists are engaged in a very limited discussion about politics. I am bored hearing about the political elite and about the influence of money. I think people that have been considered politically marginalized often illuminate sites of equality and of hope. Their stories of effecting change from the margins are especially relevant as an increasing majority of Americans find themselves marginalized from our political and economic systems.

My first encounter with public art was reading Jack Stewart’s book Graffiti Kings. At its height, during the 1970s, Stewart wrote, “Few urban communities had ever experienced such a rapid and concentrated alteration of their visual environment.” An alteration accomplished largely by 8 to 16 year old Black and Latino boys. Why was the demographic least likely to vote, or engage in organizational work, in control of one of the fastest visual changes of an urban environment? Read the rest of this entry »

The Intersection of Public Art and City Planning

Posted by Meredith Frazier Britt On September - 4 - 2014
Meredith Frazier Britt

Meredith Frazier Britt

I am a city planner who can’t stay away from public art. I just finished my capstone project for my master’s in city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, and true to form, I studied commonalities between public art and planning goals in the Atlanta region.

My interest in public art began with art history in college. I trace it to a flashbulb memory of a beloved professor snapping to a slide of Claes Oldenburg’s imagined (but never constructed) intersection-blocking monument in New York City. I loved that this piece would so fully obstruct the activity of city life, interrupting our regular routes of walking and driving, imposing its message on our thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

Over Heads or Under the Table

Posted by Ashlee Arder On September - 3 - 2014
Ashlee Arder

Ashlee Arder

The way I think through and solve problems is different. Good, but different, apparently. My contribution to boardroom meetings and planning sessions is either over heads or under the table. What does that mean? It really boils down to whether or not I am in a position to work through each element of an idea and illustrate how the idea attempts to solve the problem at hand, or if I propose an idea using general terms that avoid the mechanics of implementation. Maybe the best way to describe this ever-occurring event is through example.

A little over a year ago I sat in the basement of city hall, eagerly awaiting my turn to propose an idea for how the public art commission that I had recently joined could better engage the community. I suggested providing public art updates and information through various social media channels like Twitter and Facebook. I spent the next 15 minutes describing what a “tweet” was and how the “hashtag” or “pound” symbol could be used to virtually catalog and archive content. That suggestion was over many of my fellow commissioners’ heads. Had I simply suggested that we “explore alternative forms of communication to connect with members of the community,” I might have received a few smiles and nods in agreement and the next person would have been able to proceed with their suggestion. That would have been an under the table approach – a stealthy way of gauging support for a Twitter or Instagram account without having to spend time explaining what they are and how they work. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art – An Unexpected Approach to Improving Health

Posted by Sara Ansell On September - 3 - 2014
Sara Ansell

Sara Ansell

My path to becoming an arts administrator is a tad unorthodox. My advanced degree is in social policy analysis and my previous professional experience is that of a public health researcher. In fact, I’m not sure I identify solely as an arts administrator. Or a policy analyst. Or a public health researcher. Instead, the world I inhabit is that of someone passionate about connecting with individuals and communities, in a tangible and meaningful way, to help address the deeply entrenched health-related challenges they face every day. Threaded throughout my winding journey to the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is a core belief that we all live within a layered reality – one defined by our individual traits and behavior, our social relationships to friends, family, and neighbors, our living and working conditions including the physical environment around us, and the economic, political, and social policies and systems that impact us locally, nationally, and globally. The ecosystem in which we all interact and navigate is complex and impacts our health in very real ways. The extent to which each layer of our reality hinders and supports us as we strive for well-being varies for each of us. Read the rest of this entry »

What Are the Organizing Ideas in Public Art Today?

Posted by David Schmitz On September - 2 - 2014
David Schmitz

David Schmitz

What central ideas are today’s emerging public art leaders organizing around? What accomplishments will last, and how are we working collectively to better our field?

Every field has some organizing ideas or principles, and public art is no exception. From the outset of posing these questions, however, it must be said that relative newcomers to the field, like me, have benefitted enormously from the achievements of earlier leaders. Beginning with the widespread adoption of percent for art policies and ordinances at the local, state and national levels; to the fuller integration of artists and art in the design process; and the growth of public art in transit and private development projects, these successes have made dialogues like this possible. Read the rest of this entry »

“Shift Change”: Transitions in Public Art Programs Today

Posted by Kati Stegall On September - 2 - 2014


Nationwide, it is no longer a question of whether or not the field of public art is going to change. It is more appropriate now to ask why the changes are happening and how can we keep up. Many of the changes observed and documented in Norie Sato’s blog from May, Is Public Art Dead?, are happening all over the country, including here in Charlotte. They are happening because we are reaching a point in the development of the field where there are some very specific “shifts” or transitions happening: in leadership, in program priorities, and also in communities themselves.

Leadership shifts are not easy to talk about, but the fact is in some cases the leaders who paved the way for public art for the last 30 – 40 years are retiring or moving on to other opportunities, leaving us with new leadership. This brings both advantages and disadvantages. There will be an experience gap, as new leaders emerging in public art have not experienced first-hand what former leaders have. But they also are approaching the challenges with an innate set of skills in technology and communication that is necessary to keep up in today’s world where information is everywhere. The biggest advantage we have at this point is the impact that these leaders and their work had on legislation, funding, and the general respect of artists and their art. They have laid a foundation that we need respect and take advantage of to move the field forward. Read the rest of this entry »

Barriers to Arts Participation: On Perception, Value, and Luxury

Posted by Kelly Olshan On August - 23 - 2014
Kelly Olshan

Kelly Olshan

In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.

Like other so-called “luxuries,” people go to extreme measures to preserve its integrity. Historically, art is something we risk incarceration for, accept poverty for, or in the case of the quintessential rock star—quit your job, sell your house, and move across the country. Chuck Close said art saved his life. Ai WeiWei has been detained by the Chinese government. Thrice. Clearly, we’re onto a powerful motivating force.

Yet if so many acknowledge the arts’ value, then why do we even have to convince people to participate? Americans for the Arts’ CEO Bob Lynch traces Americans’ view of cultural events to our puritanical roots: “In Europe, arts advocacy organizations don’t exist they way they do in America—simply because they don’t need them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Okay?

Posted by Jessica Wilt On August - 21 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

With all the not so good news happening in the world lately – war along the Gaza Strip, new tensions flaring in Iraq, the aftermath in Afghanistan, and nationally; the racial chaos unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri along with the devastating passing of comedian and actor Robin Williams to depression and suicide – I find myself asking the question, “Are we okay?” The world could use a giant hug right now. I know I could use one.

If we’re not okay, what are some things we can do to make ourselves and our kids feel better? The combination of Arts Education with Social Service or Creative Youth Development are not necessarily partnerships we think of when it comes to the arts, but really, they are critical. We can talk all day until we’re blue in the face about the value of arts education in K-12 and higher education, arts integration, the new arts standards and common core, arts advocacy and many other reasons why we support arts education, but how often do we actually talk about the arts being a critical part of our daily physical, emotional and mental health? Read the rest of this entry »

Bacardi and the Arts

Posted by Laura Bruney On August - 14 - 2014
Laura Bruney

Laura Bruney

This piece by Laura Bruney of the Arts & Business Council of Miami was originally published December 17, 2013 on their blog,

The reception area in the Bacardi headquarters in Coral Gables is impressive. The oak walls are covered with artwork from Latin-American masters from Porto Carrero and Lam to an incredible Antonio Gattorno piece that lives center stage filling one of the main lobby walls. Each piece in the collection has a story, one more interesting than the next. The art owned by the Bacardi family is one of the more impressive private collections of Latin American art in the world. It is here that we met Aura Reinhardt, Vice President of Corporate Relations who shared with us some of Bacardi’s history and their involvement with the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of Community-Based Arts Education

Posted by Matt D'Arrigo On July - 22 - 2014
Matt D'Arrigo

Matt D’Arrigo

Say the words “arts education” and most likely you think of K-12, classroom-based, standards-based arts instruction tied to the school curriculum. (You may also think that there’s an extreme lack of this happening in the current school system, and you would be right.)

When I attended my first National Arts Education Council meeting for Americans for the Arts this past January, the question was posed: “What is arts education”? After some awkward silence and darting eyes, council members began expressing their perspectives on what arts education meant to them. What emerged was a kaleidoscope of approaches and contexts: classroom-based and community based, during school and after school, arts integration and arts education, K-12/higher education/life-long learning, arts as education and arts as social service, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Building a Pipeline to the Arts, World Cup Style

Posted by Nina Simon On July - 11 - 2014

Nina Simon

In light of our upcoming webinar on July 23 at 3pm on sports and arts partnerships, the World Cup final this weekend, and our upcoming blog salon next week on unique arts/business partnerships – we reached out to Nina Simon and asked if we could repost a blog she wrote for Museum 2.0 on learning from the growing popularity of soccer in the United States, and how we might relate and apply it to the arts world.

It’s World Cup time. And for the first time in my adult life as an American, that seems significant. People at work with the games running in the background on their computers. Conversations about the tournament on the street. Constant radio coverage.

If you are reading this outside the United States, this sounds ridiculously basic. Football/soccer is the world’s sport. But in the US, it has only recently become something worth watching. For most of my life in America, pro soccer was considered something risible and vaguely deviant, like picking your nose in public.

But now it’s everywhere. It’s exciting. And it’s got me thinking about how we build energy and audience for the arts in this country.

Read the rest of this entry »

What is the Future of Arts Journalism?

Posted by Robert Bettmann On July - 2 - 2014
Robert Bettmann

Robert Bettmann

Arts journalism is changing rapidly. Newspaper coverage has shifted, and the number of blogs and small magazines covering the arts has grown exponentially. While it’s uncertain what the structural changes in arts journalism will mean for the arts over the next twenty years, changes are happening and affecting audience participation.

As an artist, editor, arts writer and arts advocate, I was right at home moderating the “Future of Arts Journalism” panel at the recent Dance Critics Association (DCA) conference held in downtown Philadelphia at the Gershman Y. The DCA was created in 1973, “when a group of dance critics attending a Philadelphia arts conference saw a need for an organization that represented working dance critics.” The annual DCA conference draws leading arts writers from across the country for a weekend of panels, performances, and trainings. As she has before, critic Elizabeth Zimmer led the “Kamikaze Dance Writing Workshop”, which is a two-day boot camp for young and aspiring dance critics, and as he has before DCA Board Chair Robert Abrams organized the conference volunteers, and panelists. Read the rest of this entry »