Creative Excellence

Posted by John R. Killacky On January - 7 - 2014
John R. Kilacky

John R. Kilacky

Recently, I participated on two funding panels: the National Endowment for the Arts for theater projects and a California foundation for commissioning new music. Artistic excellence was a key criterion on both panels.

Defining quality used to be easy, although taste was always a mitigating factor. Now in our multicultural society, it is more complex. No longer can we calibrate merit solely through a Euro-centric framework.

Experts on my theater panel reviewed applications from ensembles with budgets in the tens of thousands to those with budgets in the tens of millions. Projects included amateurs learning to tell their own stories , alongside avant-garde works, free Shakespeare, revivals of classics, puppet tales, new scripts, site specific and culturally specific productions. Communities served included Latino, African American, LGBT, elderly, children, the incarcerated, and homeless in urban, inner city, and rural locations.

Music panelists judged choral, electronic, jazz, and orchestral proposals against Balinese Gamelan and East Indian vocal projects. String quartets competed with a Tibetan music master, Ghanaian drummer, Turkish singer, and Beijing Opera performer. Projects ranged from minimalist to the operatic, traditional proscenium-based concerts to multidisciplinary extravaganzas.

There were limited dollars to grant, so competition was steep in both panels. Excellence mattered, and there was no lack of artistic excellence, but quality had to be judged through multiple worldviews and experiences. Panelists came from varied aesthetics, ethnicities, generations and geographies to allow for a fair review of the proposals. Equity and parity, as well as cultural competency factored into our decision-making.

Liking an artist or project was not sufficient. Listening and learning from one another’s comments were vital as we navigated beyond personal taste. Context matters, traditions are essential, and community is crucial. Read the rest of this entry »

A Community That Values Its Own Commitment to the Local Arts!

Posted by Susan Appe, PhD On April - 19 - 2013
Susan Appe, PhD

Susan Appe, PhD

What would make where I live a better place?

I want Broome Country, upstate New York to value its own commitment to the local arts. Own it! That is, I don’t want to have to have to feel the need to convince my graduate students and other community members—friends and colleagues—that the arts in Broome County, are diverse, vibrant and, yes, cutting edge.

The evidence is out there. In practice, the community—my students included—of Broome County supports and attends arts and cultural experiences and events, but I am finding we don’t always value this commitment we have for the local arts. Let me explain.

I first started noticing this with my students. I teach a nonprofit administration graduate class in a Masters in Public Administration program. In the class we emphasize capacity for community-based practice and discuss various policy areas such as social services, work development and yes, the arts. When I asked my students who had recently (in the last two weeks) attended an arts and cultural event, all—every single one of my students—confirmed they had. Activities and events shouted out were attending a local history museum, participating in the city’s monthly Art Walk, going to a local theatre production, screening an independent film at a local nonprofit organization.

While certainly not a representative, scientific sample, it surprised me. It surprised me because I consistently feel I need to convince my students of the cultural aliveness of our community. As I am trying to convince my students, they brush me off as being just easily excitable. Meanwhile they are actively participating in this cultural aliveness and don’t even realize. They don’t value the arts community that they are creating. Essentially they don’t value what they value. Read the rest of this entry »

Harnessing the Spirit of a Cockroach

Posted by Chris Audain On April - 15 - 2013
Chris Audain

Chris Audain

The Chicago nonprofit arts and culture sector is a $2.2 billion industry. You’d be hard-pressed to go more than a couple of blocks without seeing a theater, dance company, museum, art gallery, or some other nonprofit arts organization, small or large.

And yet I still hear about new ones popping up quite frequently. Given that, the community of artists and arts administrators is extensive, and diverse—it’s a bona fide place of convergence for the creative types and transplants from across the country.

So why then, with such a vibrant arts community, is Illinois the 29th ranked state in per capita spending on the arts?

The answer is a problem that plagues not just Illinois, but permeates through the entire creative sector on a national level.

When I first moved to Chicago after graduating from college, I wanted to pursue an acting career. Even equipped with my political science degree, I had very little understanding about the relationship of public funding for the arts, and the importance of advocacy.

It took a graduate course at Goucher College, Principles of Arts Administration, for me to fully comprehend the power and necessity of arts advocacy. Therein lies the problem: an information gap for artists on the importance of advocacy. A possible solution? Giving artists a more easily accessible entry point to advocacy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Aren’t Red or Blue

Posted by Robert Lynch On November - 7 - 2012

Robert L. Lynch

Every four years America gets another chance to make its voice heard. And every four years the American arts community, in a way, gets a bit of a fiscal makeover.

How is that? Well, it has to do with how the nonprofit arts in America are funded and how policy affects those funding sources. And every four years, no matter who wins elections across our country, there are new policymakers in town.

Roughly 10 percent of the $61 billion aggregate budgets of the nonprofit arts in America comes from government—mostly local and then state government and finally federal sources. Yes, this is a tiny portion of the whole, and it is actually a lot smaller than many people, including many politicians, think. This 10 percent is indeed a small amount compared to the 30 percent the private sector—(mostly) individuals—chips in and the 60 percent that comes from earned and investment income.

But that 10 percent is critical in what is a very conservative funding model for arts in our country. I call this model conservative because a very modest government investment leverages more than 60 times as much private and earned revenue to create a whole industry and support millions of jobs. How?

A $146 million investment from the federal government directly leverages close to $5 billion more in local and state government investment, which in turn helps leverage another $50 billion to create the $61 billion nonprofit arts industry in America.

This model has helped grow an industry from a handful of organizations in 1965—when the federal cultural funding agencies like National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) came into being—to more than 110,000 arts businesses today. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts: Making a Difference at the DNC

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 7 - 2012

Bob Lynch at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

The Convention Halls are creative chaos. The streets are jammed with animated participants holding placards, engaged in heated dialogue and performing all kinds of issue-based street theater. The scent of policy is in the air. And it’s just the way I like it.

Here at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, the role of the arts is alive and well. What you see on TV is only part of what happens. Inside, actual policy is being discussed—not just broad themes, not just ideas, but approaches that will actually have an impact on lives and on communities.

I am here talking to these very political leaders about the value of the arts and arts education in American society, and I simply have to ask them to look out the window for them to get the point. My US Airways Magazine told the story clearly on my way in, ticking off dozens of cultural destinations awaiting convention delegates.

During our ArtsSpeak panel discussion in Charlotte on the future of arts and arts education in America, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright spoke about cultural diplomacy, a critical foreign policy tool. She also noted how the arts helped shape international political dialogue both formally through U.S.-sponsored jazz and dance and other art forms, and informally by every day actions.

On a personal level, Secretary Albright—famous for her collection of handcrafted brooches—told the story of how she would wear them as subtle symbols of mood or maybe a hint at national policy intent. For example, she wore a serpent pin when meeting with Saddam Hussein. It also turns out that she is a pretty good drummer—and goes by the nickname “Sticks.”

The discussion also showcased how the arts have proven to be so far-reaching. Former Secretary of Education Richard Riley discussed the need for continued focus on national education policies that would steer local and state decision-makers to enhance and support expanded art and music education in the local curriculum. The only state-level cabinet member in the country dedicated to arts and culture, Secretary Linda Carlisle of North Carolina, highlighted how cultural tourism is a huge job creator. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art and Transportation Partnership Adds to St. Paul Culture

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 24 - 2012

Although federal transportation funding has recently moved away from including public art projects, there is still state and local funding available to help bring the arts to more people in your community via murals and roadside/town square-type public art work.

In this video from MinnPost.com, the presenter walks viewers through the city of St. Paul as murals are playing a large role in the installation of a new light rail system. Americans for the Arts member Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, also appears to help explain the project:

Are there similar marriages between public art and transportation in your community?

Tell (or show us via web links) us about them in the comments below!

You may have read that the Arts Council of Fort Worth is facing a 25 percent budget cut (from $716,000 annually to $450,000) in the proposed city budget that the city council will take up for a vote next month.

It just so happens that Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy at Americans for the Arts, was slated to be in town promoting the local results of our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study as this news came out.

As you can see from this local news report, the arts council is doing all the right things and already changing minds as they advocate for alternatives to the proposed funding changes:

When it comes to local arts advocacy, you want to have a utility belt full of reasons to make your case, and the Arts Council of Fort Worth is doing the right thing by using our excellent local research (Arts & Economic Prosperity IV, Local Arts Index) as well as their own outreach to rally community arts leaders, elected officials, and the local media to get their message out in the month before the city council vote.

Although it is too soon to tell if this intense advocacy campaign will pay off when it comes to the city council on September 18, the fact that council members are willing to listen to the proposed use of hotel tax funding (a model that several other cities use to fund the arts) or another source so that funding will be dedicated rather than just another line item in the general fund, is a very encouraging sign.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for updates on this story!

SC: Arts Advocates Protest Arts Veto on Eve of Legislative Sessions

Posted by Tim Mikulski On July - 17 - 2012

As the South Carolina House currently debates which of Gov. Nikki Haley’s vetoes to override (the Senate will do the same tomorrow), I couldn’t help but post the following video of arts advocates outside the State House last night:

Although the weather didn’t cooperate, hundreds of artists and arts supporters came out to protest Gov. Haley’s veto of funding for the South Carolina Arts Commission budget and a video from The State website captures it nicely (too bad they didn’t include embedding code for me to share it here).

Keep your thoughts with your fellow artists, administrators, board members, and advocates in The Palmetto State over the next few days and be sure to follow along on Twitter using the #saveSCarts hashtag as well as via the South Carolina Arts Alliance on Facebook and Twitter.

I hope everyone can take a moment to send a tweet or post on the Arts Alliance wall in a display of solidarity with our friends in South Carolina today and tomorrow.

And, although I probably shouldn’t, I’ll have to leave you with a picture of my new favorite arts advocacy bumper sticker:

Bumper sticker created by artist Ellen Fishburne protesting Gov. Nikki Haley’s veto of S.C. Arts Commission budget. (From The State via Ellen Fishburne)

OR: Building a Case as Portland Prepares to Vote on Arts Funding

Posted by Jeff Hawthorne On July - 13 - 2012

Jeff Hawthorne

The Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report comes at an interesting time for Portland as we prepare to launch a campaign for a transformational arts funding measure that’s headed for the November ballot.

If approved by voters in November, a new income tax capped at $35 per person will raise $12 million per year to support arts organizations and arts education in the City of Portland. Specifically, the measure would restore 65 arts specialists in elementary schools and allow our local arts agency to provide general operating support for about 50 leading arts organizations at a rate of at least five percent of their operating budgets. (Our largest organizations currently receive about one percent of their budgets from local public support).

The measure would also help our Regional Arts & Culture Council set up a fund to increase access to arts and culture, specifically within communities of color and underserved neighborhoods.

The Creative Advocacy Network (CAN) is leading this initiative, and even the most recent polls have been strong, earning 75 percent approval of the actual ballot language among likely voters; we are cautiously optimistic about our chances for success.

However, inexplicably, our local newspaper recently published an appallingly ignorant editorial that dismisses the notion of public funding for the arts, and value of arts education in particular. We’re not quite sure what rock they’ve been living under, but we know they don’t represent the opinion of the vast majority of Portland residents. The letter writing campaign to enlighten them has begun! (Thank you, Bob Lynch, for your letter.)

We’ve also done polling to make sure we understand which messages are most likely to resonate with the voters, and we found that economic impact was not very high on the list. The fact that our local arts organizations constitute a $253 million industry, supporting 8,529 full-time equivalent jobs and generating $21 million in state and local government revenue was deemed “persuasive” by slightly less than half of the likely voters we surveyed. Read the rest of this entry »

U.S. House Subcommittee Proposes Reduced Federal Arts Funding

Posted by Natalie Shoop On June - 21 - 2012

Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Interior Subcommittee passed its initial Fiscal Year 2013 funding legislation, proposing a $14 million cut for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

While the arts community recognizes the challenges our elected leaders face in prioritizing federal resources, this budget proposal is disappointing as funding for the NEA has already been cut by more than $20 million over the past two years. This additional reduction is counter intuitive to the national call to help increase jobs and fuel the country’s recovery.

Americans for the Arts recently released the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study, which provides overwhelming proof that the nonprofit arts industry generates $135.2 billion in economic activity every year and supports 4.13 million full-time equivalent jobs annually.

Earlier this year, President Obama proposed an increase of $8 million over the current NEA appropriation to $154.3 million for FY 2013 in contrast with the House Subcommittee mark of $132 million.

As the House proposal advances, it is our hope that you will not only call on your U.S. Representative to reject the funding cuts, but also help us build support for the president’s higher level request by contacting your U.S. Senator. A comparison breakdown of the appropriations status follows:

Final FY 2012 Enacted

FY 2013 President’s
Request

FY 2013 House Subcommittee
Proposal

National Endowment for the Arts

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

National Endowment for the Humanities

$146.3 million

$154.3 million

$132 million

This is just the first step in the process. In the coming weeks, it is expected that the larger House Appropriations Committee will consider this legislation followed by the full House of Representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Local Arts Index: NEA & State Arts Agency Grants in Your County

Posted by Randy Cohen On May - 4 - 2012
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at ArtsIndexUSA.org.

Today we release Local Arts Index indicators #4 and #5 (out of 50).

The arts are supported by public funds from municipal, regional, state, and federal governments. A telling measure of the competitiveness of the arts organizations in your county is how well they are competing for public dollars compared to other counties.

Two indicators show arts county funding over multiple years to grantees by (1) the National Endowment for the Arts and (2) your state arts agency.

Total NEA grants per 10,000 population, 2005–2009

This indicator is a measure of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grants dollars per capita in the county. It is calculated by summing NEA funding to grantees in each county over the years 2005-2009 and dividing by the 2010 population.

For ease of comparison, it is presented as a figure for every 10,000 residents. The benefit of aggregating over five years is that it avoids single-year spikes and dips, and gives a better sense of how NEA funds serve the county over time rather than at just one moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Creative Financial Approaches Support the Creative Economy

Posted by Max Donner On March - 6 - 2012

Max Donner

Government budget deficits and budget limits of charitable foundations have made alternatives for financing arts projects more important.

Five programs in Los Angeles this February showed that many other approaches to funding the arts can work well—and help arts organizations boost participation at the same time. Each program has taken a different approach to raising funds from private sources, demonstrating that there are many different choices that match the needs of different communities.

The Princess Grace Foundation USA celebrated its 30th anniversary with a reception for past grant winners in Beverly Hills and a gala for patrons in Orange County.  Generous contributions from patrons of the arts and several corporate sponsors have raised much of the $8.5 million in grants that the organization has awarded to promising artists and arts administrators.

But a significant source of funding for these grants comes from licensing projects and exclusive commemorative “Princess Grace” limited editions. The licensing program is highly selective and this has furthered traditional fundraising by prestigious associations with licensors, including Estée Lauder Cosmetics and Mikimoto Pearls.

Seven private companies and two nonprofit film festival organizations joined the Italian Trade Commission and public cinematic arts academy to present a weeklong festival of Italian art, fashion and cinema called “Los Angeles Italia.” Read the rest of this entry »

State Arts Funding: Good News! There Isn’t That Much Bad News

Posted by Justin Knabb On February - 16 - 2012

Justin Knabb

While state legislative sessions are just getting underway in the new year, perpetual campaigning for the election is no doubt leaving everyone already feeling cranky and cynical (or is that just me?).

But take heart, advocates! Despite the cornucopia of GOP candidate positions on public arts funding—ranging anywhere from mild tolerance to total abhorrence—President Obama just proposed an increase in NEA funding!

And on the state level, while some familiar faces are making waves, several states are receiving some great surprises and proposals for steady funding:

Connecticut
Last month, Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) announced the launch of a $3.1 million local-level creative placemaking initiative in July. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s FY13 budget recommends eliminating all direct art support and redirecting those funds to a statewide marketing campaign that would include tourism. The state’s budget office indicates that arts organizations will be able to compete for $14 million in funding with other programs in the DECD.

Florida
The state legislature is proposing an increase to Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Cultural and Museum Grants. These grants were appropriated $2 million for the current fiscal year, and for FY13 the House and Senate are currently recommending $3,025,000 and $5,050,000, respectively.

Kansas
After zeroing out the state arts commission last year, Governor Sam Brownback reversed his decision and proposed $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. However, these funds would be for a new Kansas Creative Industries Commission, a merger of the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission, housed under the Department of Commerce. Read the rest of this entry »

Full U.S. House Considering Amendment to Further Cut NEA

Posted by Narric Rome On July - 28 - 2011

For an update on the Walberg amendment to H.R. 2584, click here!

Last night, during consideration of H.R. 2584, the House Interior Appropriations bill, debate was completed on an amendment by Rep. Tim Walberg’s (MI) to cut $10.6 million more from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (ID) gave strong support for the agency and the $135 million appropriation, urging defeat of this amendment. Thanks to coordination by the Congressional Arts Caucus, Reps. Jim Moran (VA), Louise Slaughter (NY), David Cicilline (RI), Lynn Woolsey (CA), John Yarmuth (KY), Rush Holt (NJ), Bobby Scott (VA), and Betty McCollum (MN) all gave effective and passionate speeches of support in opposing this amendment.

Today, the House will vote on the Walberg amendment. The exact timing of the vote has not yet been decided since it will part of a bloc of votes held over from yesterday’s debate.

Americans for the Arts is coordinating with Congressional Arts Caucus staff to defeat the Walberg amendment and we will update you when further action takes place.

There is still time to contact your House member in support of NEA funding.

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.