Arts and Culture: Essential for Transition in the Kentucky Coalfields

Posted by Mark Kidd On February - 21 - 2014
Mark Kidd

Mark Kidd

Ada Smith

Ada Smith

January marked the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, President Johnson’s initiative that charged America’s institutions to create “maximum feasible participation” for those most affected by lack of opportunity. This focused effort made a lasting difference on living standards in Appalachia – but poverty, high unemployment, and shortened lifespans outlasted the war. During the last 18 months, Eastern Kentucky lost 6,000 coal mining jobs, often the highest paying career available in our region, leaving coal employment at its lowest levels since record keeping began in the 1920s.

Eastern Kentucky has 20 counties which are federally-designated as distressed, more than twice the number of any other state in Appalachia. Distressed counties have a three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate that fall within the bottom ten percent of the nation. On a recent winter weekday in Pikeville, Kentucky, almost 1,700 people traveled from mountain counties throughout Eastern Kentucky to participate in a day-long summit named “SOAR” — Shaping Our Appalachian Region. State and federal political leaders solicited ideas for a new regional planning process, which produced 600 written ideas about how to make positive change. We could not ask for a more encouraging sign that the local will exists to sustain our communities regardless of persistent, grinding economic distress.

Our region’s arts and culture sector is poised to make contributions to the civic, social, and economic transitions that are necessary for the future. Local partnerships that incorporate artists, arts organizations, social services, civic organizations, and the public have proven themselves a potent way to help a broad cross-section of community members take on complex projects here, including economic development. With this kind of infrastructure in place, communities can identify local issues and develop creative, ongoing solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

Retaining and Building Your Community by Working the Margins

Posted by Steven Roth On October - 11 - 2013
Steven Roth

Steven Roth

Here’s the data* – we all know it:

  • Somewhere between 60% and 80% of single ticket buyers never return.
  • Multi-buyers (including subscribers) can account for over 50% of all ticket income and more than 80% of all donation income, yet comprise around 25% of all patrons
  •  Churn numbers can exceed 80% for single ticket buyers, 20+% for subscribers, and around 50% overall

These numbers cause marketing directors to age prematurely.   Says one:  “I’ve been a marketing director for a dozen years.  There must be something I can do to increase the number of attenders.  I hate standing still. There must be something we can do to slowly increase the numbers.   Growth is very slow.  We have a high renewal rate for some packages, but I’d like it to be higher. The biggest challenge lies in one-time single ticket buyers.   There are so many each season.  Surely there is something we can do with them.  How can we identify/entice move more single ticket buyers into more frequent attendance and towards subscription?” Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Integral to Community Success (from The Partnership Movement)

Posted by Marilyn Wolf Ragatz On August - 1 - 2013

The Athens Cultural Affairs Commission (ACAC), which advises Athens-Clarke County’s mayor and commission on cultural affairs and aesthetic development, has launched a ACAC_symbol_text_RGB_smallnew partnership with the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce.

Since its conception two years ago, ACAC has been busy developing new procedures, starting and completing new public art installations, and considering the many opportunities and possibilities for growth and support of the arts. In that time, the work and responsibilities of ACAC have grown rapidly. This growth produced two critical needs: staff assistance and visible, accessible office space.

Thanks to the help of the county government and county commissioners, and to Athens Area Chamber of Commerce President Doc Eldridge’s vision to bring an arts component to the chamber family, ACAC now has a place to hang its hat.

We are all aware that developing collegial relationships results in better outcomes. The opportunity has now been created for the organizations housed at the Chamber office to continue sharing, discussing, and collaborating on projects with the added perspectives and contributions of the arts. What makes this new partnership especially exciting is the fact that the arts fit so well with the chamber’s mission to help its members and the community grow and prosper.

I recently attended a public art conference in Pittsburgh as part of the Americans for the Arts National Conference. Americans for the Arts and businesses across the United States came together to create the pARTnership Movement, a resource for educating and connecting businesses and arts organizations. Their purpose is to provide opportunities, information, and resources to achieve the greatest level of benefit for both. Read the rest of this entry »

At the Crossroads of the Rustbelt and the Artist Belt

Posted by Roseann Weiss On April - 24 - 2012

Roseann Weiss

In the second week of April, when St. Louis was blooming with an early spring, 292 people came for Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads—an arts-based community development convening—to be part of the discussion about the arts and social change.

This conference combined the three Rustbelt to Artist Belt meetings that took place in Cleveland and Detroit with the At the Crossroads convening that took place in St. Louis in 2010.

I proposed this combination when attending the conference in Detroit and the idea stuck with Seth Beattie from Cleveland’s Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), the organizer of Rustbelt. With phone calls and emails back and forth and with a grant from the Kresge Foundation, we did it!

I wondered whether our gamble—combining the people who talk about creative regeneration of neighborhoods in the Rustbelt with people who practice community arts and social engagement—would pay off.

Would we all be able to significantly connect these threads that make up the fabric of positive social change? Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Ideas: Mobilizing Your Community through Innovation

Posted by Gabriela Jirasek On November - 22 - 2011

Gabriela Jirasek

This post is part of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council.

It’s not just the Angelina Jolies and Brad Pitts of the world who fall victim to the ruthless 24-hour news cycle. The public’s hunger for uncomplicated, easily digestible news can slander celebrities and entire cities alike.

On January 11, 2011, Newsweek magazine published a now infamous article titled “America’s Dying Cities.” It crunched U..S census data to list the top-10 cities with 100,000 residents or more that experienced the steepest population decline in the country.

Number 10 on that list was Grand Rapids, MI. But the residents of Grand Rapids were about to prove that the reports of their city’s death were greatly exaggerated.

In answer to the article, lifelong Grand Rapids residents and filmmakers Rob Bliss and Scott Erickson created perhaps the greatest letter to the editor of all time,  a 10-minute lip dub music video of Don McClean’s “American Pie” featuring a cast of thousands and a full tour of downtown Grand Rapids.

Responding to the city’s premature death knell, director and executive producer explained, “We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean’s ‘American Pie,’ a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fort Wayne: Integrating the Arts Through Practice

Posted by Jim Sparrow On November - 18 - 2011

Jim Sparrow

In Fort Wayne, IN, the arts are an active part of the downtown redevelopment. One of the anchors to this involvement is the new Auer Center for Arts and Culture, which is aligned with our vision of integrated partnerships.

These partnerships are both traditional, such as the ballet, an arts gallery (Artlink), and the administrative offices for Arts United, as well as non-traditional, including a small business partnership with Pembroke Bakery and offices for Fort Wayne Trails.

We have also formed a Cultural District Consortium with our organization, the city, our CVB, and our Downtown Development Group that has a presence in the building. Its focus includes development of business, activities, and public art within the downtown core.

The center’s concept includes fully-integrated business services; financial, insurance, IT, phones as well as shared common space and business service staff and operational space. It is also structured with the objective of changing the operation and relationship of the arts with the community and its development.

The Auer is a community center with activity focused less on events and more on active arts and cultural space. Our model defines arts in a very broad manner, but has high-quality traditional arts at the center. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Our First Animating Democracy Blog Salon

Posted by Joanna Chin On November - 7 - 2011

Joanna Chin

Community connections are being eroded on multiple sides. There are growing divisions amongst Americans on how to deal with our social, economic, and political problems. Technology is making it possible to never physically interact with another human being and warping the way we relate to one another. Small towns and cities alike are losing their sense of identity and facing crises involving lack of affordable housing and declining social services.

Perhaps in reaction to this erosion of community ties, there’s been an increased interest in cultivating civic engagement, placemaking, and change at a local level.

There is a growing body of evidence and examples of how communities have utilized local assets in order to begin to address this problem. We assert that the arts and culture have always had a place in this work of creating a sense of place, strengthening civic participation, and bolstering positive social change.

For this Blog Salon, we’ve dared our bloggers to answer big questions, like:

  1. Where do you see breakthrough work at the intersection of art and community, civic, or social change? What makes it effective?
  2. Looking to the future, what will it take to move and sustain arts and culture into its most potent role in community development, civic engagement, and social change?
  3. What are the principles we have to hold onto and what are the shifts that need to occur? Read the rest of this entry »

The BCA 10: Recognizing Business Leaders in the Arts

Posted by Mathew Leonard On November - 2 - 2011

(l to r) Joseph C. Dilg, Managing Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP and Chairman of the BCA Executive Board; Herbert V. Kohler, Jr., Chairman and CEO of Kohler Co.; Bob Lynch, President & CEO, Americans for the Arts

Last month, Americans for the Arts recognized several outstanding businesses that support the arts during the annual BCA 10: Best Companies Supporting the Arts in America.

Set in the elegant Central Park Boathouse in New York City, the Awards Ceremony fell somewhere between formal banquet and lighthearted celebration.

The evening began at 6:00, when the honorees and their guests arrived. The excitement in the room was almost palpable as CEOs, vice presidents, and managers, representing businesses small and large from all across America mingled, brought together by their common passion for supporting the arts.

It was during the acceptance speeches that it became clear how, for these companies, supporting the arts is far more than a philanthropic duty. 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 »

Stop (Over) Using Social Media. Start Being Social.

Posted by Brian Reich On October - 5 - 2011

Brian Reich

Everyone talks about the transformational power of digital and social media, the contribution that technology and the Internet are having on our society – but for all the changes and advancements, most of the important things about our society seem to be largely operating as they have for a long time.

The promise of new technology is scale, reach, and efficiency. Just because we can move faster doesn’t mean that work should take priority over developing relationships and providing value to our audiences.

We have prioritized telling a quick story that suggests progress over investing in long-term impact that changes the world and drives people towards deeper commitments to organizations. We have become too accustomed to measuring success based on the size or popularity of an organization and not the value that a community of supporters places on the work that groups are doing.

As long as groups continue to focus on the wrong opportunities, our efforts to address serious issues will continue to stumble. Read the rest of this entry »

With October right around the corner, we all have the opportunity to commemorate the arts in a big way by participating in National Arts and Humanities Month (NAHM) – the largest annual celebration for the arts and humanities in the nation.

Designed to encourage all Americans to explore new facets of the arts and humanities in their lives, and to begin a lifelong habit of active participation in the arts and humanities, National Arts and Humanities Month is a coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America.

Once again this year, Americans for the Arts is hosting its annual Creative Conversations program in conjunction with NAHM.

The program, started in 2004 in response to feedback from the Emerging Leaders Council, has grown to serve over 50 communities and more than 2,000 individuals each year. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting In Tune with Educational Purpose

Posted by Billie Jean Knight On September - 15 - 2011

Billie Jean Knight

I hold steadfastly to the perspective that students pursue an education, of which schooling is only a part, to discover their own inspired gifts and talents.

In the process, they develop a passion and commitment to achieve excellence as they master the communication, problem-solving, and technical skills to allow for a high-quality personal and work life.

However, too often our most inspired, creative, and visionary young people are derailed in their quest to discover and express their exceptional gifts in the context of life’s work because of the systemic discouragement at every stage of educational development.

The sad truth is that routinely governmental entities, communities, educators, and parents hold constrained paradigms that teach our young artists to fear, doubt, and worry about a choice to become a professional artist. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Create Extraordinary Shared Experiences

Posted by Margy Waller On June - 7 - 2011

Margy Waller

We love the stuff that brings people together to experience special and fun things that can only happen here.

On Tuesday, May 3, legendary cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed with the Cincinnati Symphony for almost 3,500 people, filling every seat in our beautiful, historic Music Hall.

The performance was so highly-anticipated that it was sold-out for months in advance, leaving hundreds of fans without tickets.

So, our community leaders came together to fashion a creative response to this dilemma — making sure that people all around could share the music. Read the rest of this entry »

Business + Arts = Places We Want to Be

Posted by Margy Waller On May - 31 - 2011

Visitors enjoy "the party on the painting."

One night in mid-May, the coolest place in Cincinnati was a party on top of a painting.

It was Cincinnati Fashion Week and we were all smack in the intersection of art and business. We went to parties celebrating Andy Warhol in the former Contemporary Arts Center, talks about fashion art at the Cincinnati Art Museum, and more.

Thursday night, on a beautiful summer evening, Landor Associates (a global branding and design firm with offices in London, Paris, Tokyo, New York, Cincinnati and more) hosted a party celebrating graphic fashion.

Landor Cincinnati is perfectly positioned to host a fashion party because it’s located in one of our city’s iconic department store buildings. Built in 1878, the Shillito’s Department Store location was a premiere shopping destination for the local business that became Macy’s (also headquartered here in Cincinnati).  Read the rest of this entry »

What is Your Community Benefit?

Posted by Rebecca Novick On May - 19 - 2011

Rebecca Novick

The reason for the tax break for nonprofits is that nonprofits are meant to provide a “community benefit.”

When you apply for nonprofit status, the forms you have to fill out include making a case that the benefit you will provide (often expressed in your mission statement) is worth the state letting go of your potential tax revenue.

If you’re starting a homeless shelter, it’s pretty obvious that it is (“lessening the burden of government” is explicitly listed in the IRS guidelines for exempt purposes). But what about your small theater company? Your chamber ensemble? Your single-choreographer dance company? What are you explicitly doing to (more from the IRS language) relieve the poor and distressed, advance education, and combat community deterioration?

Does art in general help achieve these aims?  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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices


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.