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 »

Eugene O’Neill’s Grant Writer Walks Into A Bar….

Posted by Bill O'Brien On December - 7 - 2012

Bill O’Brien

…and spots the dramatist hunched over in a corner booth, scribbling in his notebook. He walks over to the playwright, drops the first draft of Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the table and says, “That’s great, Eugene—but how am I supposed to prove economic growth or improved health and well-being with this?”

Obviously, this never happened. But if it did, it would be a great example of the conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in when we try to “scale up” societal benefits via the power of the arts. Identifying positive outcomes we’d like to pursue on policy levels at 20,000 feet can sometimes feel far removed from the missions being pursued by artists on the ground.

Trying to harness the power of the arts to provide broad public benefit in a strategized way is a good idea. The idea that our greatest American playwright should bend his art-making towards these aims is not. So if we’re trying to organize a way to share specific impacts of the arts so more people can benefit, how should we proceed?

In an art-science post called “The Imagine Engine!” on the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art Works blog this spring, I stated that it may be possible for artists and scientists to “borrow freely from each other’s methods and practices and share insights with each other that they might be unable to find on their own.” This fall, through a program we’ve established via a partnership with the Department of Defense, we’re beginning to see evidence suggesting this hypothesis may be true. Read the rest of this entry »

In This Body – Dreaming Awake

Posted by John R. Killacky On November - 9 - 2012

John R. Killacky in “Dreaming Awake” (Photo by Laurie Toby Edison)

Sixteen years ago, I had surgery to remove a tumor from inside my spinal cord. Although the tumor was benign, the surgery paralyzed me from the neck down. I spent six weeks in a hospital and months learning to walk again.

I called upon my artist-self during those darkest hours. My fingers were the first part of my body to experience any functional return. While others at the rehab hospital were wheeled off to occupational therapy, I asked to go to the computer lab to tap out sentences with the one finger up to the task.

I felt an overwhelming urge to put on paper the thoughts crowding my brain, make some sense of the experience, and reassert authority over my body. Some of this writing was later featured in the Lambda Award-winning anthology I co-edited entitled “Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories.”

As the weeks progressed, standard physical rehab provided little success. I realized when being transferred from bed to wheelchair my body could hold itself up (although briefly and with assistance). While the kinesthetic connections were lost, I thought I might be able to learn to stand up visually. So I asked to work in front of the mirrors. Therapists were skeptical and reminded me everything is backward in a mirror. “Yes,” I countered, “but as a young man I was a dancer and learned to dance with mirrors”

It took some days with leg braces and a walker, but eventually I stood in front of that mirror. What I could not do kinesthetically, I accomplished visually. Over the next weeks, I began to walk between two parallel bars in front of the mirror. Tentative steps grew ever more confident. The dancer in me taught my mis-circuited body to walk again. Sixteen years later, I continue dancing through life, albeit slowly and with the assistance of a cane. Read the rest of this entry »

Five Ways the Arts Can Combat Flat Corporate Giving

Posted by Marisa Muller On September - 5 - 2012

Marisa Muller

Fighting for corporate funding is always an uphill battle and, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any easier. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy’s recent report, charitable giving by America’s biggest businesses rose slowly last year (approximately four percent) and corporate leaders anticipate their philanthropy budgets to remain the same for 2012.

In addition to being monetarily conservative, many of these companies are also winnowing the causes they support in favor of bigger, high-profile gifts to fewer organizations. This is in part due to a continuing trend of companies focusing on social issues that threaten bottom lines.

So what does this mean for the arts?

For some companies, this means the arts support has decreased. The Chronicle provides UnitedHealth Group as an example of a company who has reduced its support of the arts in favor of programs that improve Americans’ health. Over the past three years, UnitedHealth Group has given nearly $2 million to help the American Heart Association establish safe and accessible walking paths around the country.

While endeavors such as this are undoubtedly necessary and beneficial, many seem to forget that the arts are important and provide value. The arts bring communities together, provide economic prosperity, and have been proven to increase health and wellness (just to name a few).

Despite these trends, several companies are getting creative and staying true to their commitments to support the arts.

Aetna, a healthcare company based out of Hartford Connecticut, has incorporated the arts into its healthcare initiatives. As part of its efforts to reduce obesity rates, Aetna and the Aetna Foundation have awarded grants to the Dance Theatre of Harlem in New York, The Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, and the Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford to offer dance-oriented health and fitness programs for children and families who live in underserved areas.

These types of programs demonstrate that even though charitable giving shows little sign of growth in 2012, the arts don’t have to throw in the towel. Read the rest of this entry »

A Healthy Mix of “Arts And…” & Collaboration

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On June - 14 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

Last year at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, I remember two comments specifically from the town hall session. The first comment was from an emerging leader who thought that it was time for established leaders to move out of the way. It was, at best, nonsense.

Intrinsic Impact?

The second comment, the one that actually bothered me more throughout the full year, was a comment that the person was tired of hearing about the economic impact of arts and culture. They wanted a return to a focus on the intrinsic impact of arts and culture. I didn’t see that person this year, though with the focus of the conference being the release of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report, that person may have chosen to skip a year. I myself am data hungry and the report will give me much to chew on.

This year, more than most, the thing I noted was a pleasant drift from intrinsic impact. The subtle drift in a direction I am happy to paddle towards is into the territory of collaboration and a healthy mix of “arts and.” When we listen closely to the needs of our community the arts can help provide answers to many issues. It does require a willingness to be flexible that a focus on intrinsic impact does not necessarily provide.

Arts and…healthcare

Two of the most interesting sessions to me this year explore the intersections of arts and health. Both the intersection of the arts and healing (Art of Healing) and what the arts can do to ease the transition home for our veterans (Boots to Brushes: The Arts Serving Veterans’ Needs) are ways that the arts are meeting at the cross sections of arts and healthcare. Read the rest of this entry »

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 Agencies Are Like Snow Flakes

Posted by Marc Folk On December - 8 - 2011

Marc Folk

No two are exactly alike. Each has its own strengths and challenges. Some are well funded Departments of Cultural Affairs. Some are small organizations with a shoe string budget. The rest fall somewhere in between.

We land into the category of being created in our city’s charter but stand as a separate 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

What this means is we have to fundraise to deliver our programs and services and partner as often as possible. Both require patience, flexibility, and an innovative mindset to extend our reach into the community and get the arts to the people.

Partnership is often talked about like a simple and obvious solution; however, those that have taken it on know just what may lie in the details.

Partnerships in fundraising, especially cross sector, can prove even more challenging. But they CAN work.

As we enter into 2012, The Arts Commission will be heading into its second year fundraising partnership with ProMedica, a locally-owned nonprofit healthcare organization, and its subset the Toledo Children’s Hospital Foundation. This joint effort combines the agency’s efforts with the Autism Collaborative to centralize services for children with autism and their families and the Arts Commission’s mission. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 2)

Posted by Pam Korza On October - 25 - 2011

Pam Korza

“Sing the song so you can stick here with gravity.” ~ L. Frank Manriquez

The marriage of two now staple Grantmakers in the Arts preconferences—Individual Artists and Art & Social Justice—was a perfect energizing union of kindred artist-activists, field movers, and supporters as well as a highlight of the Bay Area as a perpetual vanguard of arts and social change.

Starting with the grey bay morning right, we shared breakfast in the funky garden alleyway alongside SOMArts—comforting, hot, fruity oatmeal and other treats from Nick’s Wheely Good Breakfast truck!

Rhodessa Jones, our creative through line for the day, embodied arts for change. With opening creative verse and video, Jones conjured the power of her enduring Medea Project which engages incarcerated women and women with HIV and AIDS.

Jones’ partner at the University of California, San Francisco HIV/AIDS clinic, Dr. Eddie Machtinger, underscored the unique role that her work plays in the evolution toward wellness of these women. Most striking was his deep and declared commitment to the project and to proving “with scientific evidence” the role of arts in their transformation. A model of sustained and effective cross-sector partnership! Read the rest of this entry »

Partnerships Between Arts and Business Have Pasta-bility

Posted by Timarie Harrigan On August - 26 - 2011

The 'cast' of "The Adventures of Little Noodle."

Collectively, we know the arts accomplish more than what meets the eye (or the ear), but sometimes there are partnerships which are attention grabbing for their creative approach.

The collaboration between Aetna and the Center for Puppetry Arts is one of those partnerships.

Well…whose attention wouldn’t be pulled towards a puppet called ‘Little Noodle’?

‘Little Noodle’ is a new puppet created by Atlanta-based Center for Puppetry Arts in collaboration with Aetna. The Adventures of Little Noodle is one of the Center’s plays addressing health and wellness, as part of their Healthy Children/Prevent Childhood Obesity Initiative.

Aetna has been committed to being at the forefront of this issue in the healthcare field and sees a strong tie to the effectiveness of messaging through the arts.

The arts can be a strong vehicle for a business’s message and the strength of programs like Aetna’s, is built on the power and reach of the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Best Use of What We Have

Posted by June Rogers On July - 25 - 2011

June Rogers

I was born in Fairbanks, AK, at St. Joseph’s Hospital, now Denali State Bank. Our town has gone through many changes, but we remain the same spirited people that I remember as I was growing up. People from all walks of life choose to live here and there’s a special thread that weaves us all together, creating a rich and wonderful tapestry.

For those of us who make our home in Fairbanks, the arts scene provides challenging and rewarding paths. With nothing more than a desire to participate, I’ve danced and sung in light opera productions, coordinated operations for a professional theatre company, enjoyed a career in singing, and currently direct the operations of Fairbanks Arts Association (FAA).

Living in Alaska requires innovation. My innovative ties go back generations, to my grandparents who made do with whatever was at hand and always managed to make it look and feel or taste quite grand.

Innovating, or making change through new ideas, doesn’t necessarily require a totally new direction, only that the direction be new to the moment. Working with what you have is coming full circle as a concept, now that people are returning to the idea of supporting local farms and industries. Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Case for the Arts Session - #AFTA11

It is now more important than ever to defend funding and preservation of the arts. This was the subject of “Making the Case for the Arts,” a session at this year’s Americans for the Arts convention.

While many reasons for supporting the arts were addressed, Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research and Policy at Americans for the Arts, presented research mostly on the significance of the arts with regard to education, the economy, personal development, and healthcare.

Education. Studies show that, regardless of income level, students who are highly active in the arts are less likely to drop out of school by 10th grade (1.4 percent vs. 4.8 percent). Read the rest of this entry »

Of Karaoke, Older People, and Possibilities (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon On May - 25 - 2011

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

It was karaoke night when I visited my Dad at the Soldier’s Home last week.

During the thirty minutes it took for staff and volunteers to round up and assist about 35 elderly and infirm veterans into the canteen, the excitement was building.

“Where’s Joe? He usually does a song.”

Finally, with everyone assembled, Helen was invited to lead off the program. It was her birthday and 87-year-old Helen offered a pretty sweet rendition of “Harbour Lights,” originally sung by The Platters. Tom, 90, followed with a raucous interpretation of Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs’ “Lil’ Red Riding Hood” – complete with the best howl I have ever heard.  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.