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 »

My Name is Rachel Grossman & I Am a Measurement Junkie

Posted by Rachel Grossman On May - 1 - 2012

Rachel Grossman

I developed my deep fondness for assessment over 12 years in theatre education and community programming and I bring that affinity into my work as an artistic leader for dog & pony dc, the administrative leader for Washington Improv Theater, and a “chief experience officer” focused on community building and civic discourse through arts participation.

Why am I fond of measurement?

As a box-checker, it provides a tremendous sense of accomplishment. As a lifelong learner, it allows reflection on choices I make and their effect…in order to make stronger/more interesting or daring choices in the future. As a manager, it supports the creation and execution of successful programming and initiatives.

I grew up as an arts educator early in the assessment and evaluation movement in regional theatre education.

I learned some valuable lessons:

  • be realistic (you can only accomplish so much in 45 minutes with 30 third graders);
  • plans can be adjusted (and improved) when you know the endgame;
  • assessment is linked to impact and change;
  • if you can observe it, you can measure it.

It was no surprise when I fell head-over-heels for Theatre Bay Area and Wolf Brown’s Intrinsic Impact study, which reaches beyond measuring success by ticket revenue and surveys that only ask if audience liked/not a show. Read the rest of this entry »

TACLing Collaboration

Posted by Marc Folk On December - 7 - 2011

Marc Folk

“There was nothing to do here.” That was Toledo’s myth.

Sure, if you bought it as it is often packaged, you would see Toledo, OH as a barren, struggling post-industrial city with a bleak future and little cultural vitality. Toledo is near bull’s eye center in the “rust belt” region, frequently discounted on a whim and cast with a left-for-dead mentality too often projected on to mid-size Midwestern cities.

Yes, it is true that our community faces stern economic challenges, scant resources, and is faced with its own reinvention. But too, we are graced with profound, rich, and growing artistic heritage and cultural identity.

And let’s not forget, Toledo is a labor town, a little hard work has never scared us.

Scratch just below the soot of our “rust belt” stereotypes, and you’ll see a burgeoning artist community and growing public participation in the arts. Scratch a little deeper and discover that the Toledo Museum of Art was voted America’s favorite museum (it’s true) and that its halls hold the bulk of your art history book.

A little past that and you’ll see the world class Toledo Symphony Orchestra recently performed, by invitation, at Carnegie Hall. Read the rest of this entry »

Incubators – Not Just for Chickens

Posted by Valerie Beaman On May - 18 - 2011

Valerie Beaman

Arts incubators are not a new model, but it seems to me that recently some of them have taken on a new joie de vivre. I attribute this to the fact that they are no longer necessarily focused on developing artists into new 501(c)(3) organizations, but empowering ordinary mortals to try their hand at creating something for their own imagination and amusement.

The success of organizations like Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward is confirming research which finds that the younger generation wants to participate in art, not passively observe it. 3rd Ward is a for-profit membership organization which provides space, back office services, food, galleries, a supportive community, and top-of-the-line creative resources, including photo studios, media lab, jewelry studio, wood & metal shops, along with a huge education program. You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the classes, but membership gets you access to the studios.  Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Education, Arts Participation, and the Larger Issues at Stake

Posted by Allen Bell On March - 15 - 2011

Allen Bell

A recent study released by National Endowment for the Arts proves what many arts researchers and advocates have been suggesting for a long time – that the greatest predictor for arts participation is arts education.

The report, “Arts Education in America: What the Decline Means for Participation,” also provides a couple of twists that may or may not have been expected.

The implications are crucial to our understanding of arts participation and arts education.

First, the study shows that both children and adults who have experienced or are engaging in arts classes are much more likely to participate in the arts. Therefore, arts education is an issue that affects all arts organizations, whether those organizations provide arts education opportunities or not.

For arts participation, the cultivation of adult audiences through arts education is just as crucial as providing arts education for children. The nurturing of both populations is necessary to ensure sustained arts participation in the near and distant future.

Second, the researchers demonstrate that while arts education among whites has remained relatively flat, arts education among Hispanic Americans and African Americans has declined significantly.

Cuts in arts education are primarily affecting schools that serve low-income minority students.   Read the rest of this entry »