The Beauty of Change: Re-imagining Small Town America

Posted by John Davis On November - 20 - 2014
John Davis

John Davis

I am the Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts, a multidisciplinary arts organization founded in 1980. Lanesboro Arts fulfills its mission to serve as a regional catalyst for artistic excellence and educational development in providing diverse art experiences for people of all ages through visual art galleries, the performing arts, an artist residency program, public art, and educational outreach. Last year, Lanesboro Arts programming involved more than 180 volunteers, 300 artists, and 30,000 audience members.  In 2013, Lanesboro (pop 754) was named one of the Top 12 Small Town ArtPlaces in America, a recognition determined by the number of arts opportunities per capita. Read the rest of this entry »

Calling Out to the Old Radical Herbert Marcuse

Posted by Bob Leonard On November - 19 - 2014
Bob Leonard

Bob Leonard

The definition of aesthetics drafted for 2014 ROOTS Week seems to have stood up usefully: “aesthetics are means by which art and art-making respond to and stimulate sensory and emotional experience, and how such sensory and emotional experiences contribute to meaning. Understood this way, we believe the term can be applied affirmatively and effectively to community-based arts practice for social justice.”

This statement was crafted as a positive strategy to counter the common assumption that aesthetics is way of thinking devoted to the establishment of standards of excellence or criteria of evaluation, all too often predicated on the dominant culture. The strategy seemed to work at ROOTS, where the conversation has advanced past defensive posturing to a pretty vital engagement with learning how to talk about the actual sensory and emotional experience of conceiving, making, and receiving art, especially in the context of ROOTS’s artistic commitment to working for social, economic, and environmental justice. Read the rest of this entry »

The Aesthetics of Politics, Art, and Communications

Posted by Nato Thompson On November - 18 - 2014
Nato Thompson

Nato Thompson

When we begin to wrap our heads around the fact that culture-making surrounds us on a daily basis, and that everyday people are now both consumers and producers of symbolic production, we can then more accurately approach the question of aesthetics and politics, and begin to see how it operates around us daily.

The question of aesthetics and politics is certainly not new. It has been both a productive and destructive line of inquiry throughout much of the 20th century, much debated between Bertolt Brecht and Theodore Adorno, and the Constructivists and social realists of the Russian Revolution. It sat at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, was rife throughout 2nd wave feminism, was a central concern of the Zapatistas revolution, and was prominent in so many other social movements. It is a question that is as clumsy as it is urgent. It is neither new nor resolved.

This is all to say: if the topic of aesthetics and politics gives you a headache, find odd comfort knowing that you are not historically alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Pam Korza

Pam Korza

Flashback: 2002. Aesthetics and related questions of criticism, evaluation, and meaning in community-based arts are grist for a session at Alternate ROOTS’s 25th anniversary Focus on Community Arts South gathering. Participants applauded the assertion that “theory and thinking are not just academic concerns.” They advocated notions of “critical generosity” and “critical intimacy” that fostered more dialogue and border crossing between artists and critical writers in order to capture the intention, complexity, and richness of community-based practices. To prevent aesthetic clichés, stereotypes, and inaccuracies, hip hop dance artist Rennie Harris added that sharing dialogue may require both artists and critics to code switch, and to understand how language intersects with power. Read the rest of this entry »

Finding Beauty In Another Reality

Posted by Denise Brown On November - 18 - 2014
Denise Brown

Denise Brown

A decade ago, when the Leeway Foundation decided to support artists and cultural producers interested in community transformation and working at the intersection of art, culture and social change, there were a lot of questions raised about the aesthetics of such work. The general presumption of the majority of our critics was that our interest and appreciation for the aesthetic value (aka artistic excellence) of the work would be lost and, as a result, the nature of the work we supported would take on a more didactic form. This was a nice way of saying it would be bad art, because there seemed to be a belief that both things – beauty and social change intent – could not exist in a work of art or cultural act that would satisfy an aesthetic ideal. Read the rest of this entry »

Living Into The Questions

Posted by Arlene Goldbard On November - 17 - 2014
Arlene Goldbard

Arlene Goldbard

The purpose of art is to lay bare the questions which have been hidden by the answers. – James Baldwin

Baldwin’s epigram reminds us that to thrive, we must be able to see through imposed realities and prefab solutions. We may be tempted to seek definitive answers, but what we really need now is to live into the questions.

To inhabit questions means to first unpack their assumptions and implications.

What’s the context for an inquiry into aesthetics and social justice? When I speak on this topic, someone from the “establishment” arts world always asks me this: “What about standards? What about excellence? A lot of this work isn’t very good.” Read the rest of this entry »

Why Is It So Hard? Seriously.

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

Matt D’Arrigo

I write this as an arts leader but, more importantly, I also write this as a dad. My wife and I have two amazing children, ages 5 and 8, who are lucky to have both parents who are artists and work in the arts. They receive daily

artistic and creative encouragement at home. We want our children to be creative in their approach to everything in life, to learn and grow with a sense of wonderment, curiosity, and discovery. We want them to express themselves in authentic ways and to respect and understand the immense role the arts and humanities play in shaping all of our lives to be more meaningful, fulfilling, and enjoyable.

They attend a fantastic public school, one of the best in San Diego (I know, I’m biased). They receive arts programming once a week, but only through the generosity of parents and families donating to a foundation that pays for it and volunteers who help support in the classroom. We’re lucky they attend a school in a more “well off” area of town whose families have the means to fund the arts programs. If they attended a lower income school, and we didn’t hold the arts as a highest priority in our home, they would receive very little to no arts exposure or engagement. I don’t think that’s fair.

Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Haggman

Matt Haggman

Laura Bruney

Laura Bruney

This interview by Laura Bruney of the Arts & Business Council of Miami was originally published August 11, 2014 on their blog, www.artsbizmiami.org/ArtsBizBlog. Laura interviewed Matt Haggman, Miami Program Director at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

 

 

When talking entrepreneurialism, innovation, and Miami, all roads lead to Matt Haggman. As Miami Program Director for Knight Foundation, he is a visionary that is facilitating the growth of a technology and start-up boom in our community. His change-making leadership can be seen in the success of programs, collaborations, mentorships and shared workspaces flourishing in the past year. This power player shares a bit of his creative insight with us in the below interview. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »