The Supreme Court’s Healthcare Decision & The Arts

Posted by Narric Rome On June - 29 - 2012

Narric Rome

In 2007, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund put together a policy agenda for the 15 presidential candidates to consider as they built their policy platforms. Among arts policy items was a call to “encourage initiatives that provide healthcare coverage to arts organizations and individual artists.”

By early 2008, after meeting with campaign staff and putting questions before the candidates themselves in early primary states like New Hampshire and Iowa, the Clinton and Obama campaigns both published policy statements in support of this effort.

The Clinton campaign stated, “Hillary knows that many artists, who are self-employed or work part-time at another job to support their full-time career as artists, do not have access to employer-based coverage.” And the Obama campaign statement said, “Since many artists work independently or have non-traditional employment relations, employer-based coverage is unavailable and individual policies are financially out of reach.”

In 2009, with a new president sworn in, Americans for the Arts, along with 85 other national arts organizations, presented an issue brief for Arts Advocacy Day that called on the new Congress to “ensure that national healthcare insurance reform proposals include artists and other creative occupations currently excluded from employer-based insurance plans.”

At the heart of the matter was the fact that artists were (and are) disproportionately self-employed (about 60 percent work independently), and those who are not often work multiple jobs in volatile, episodic patterns. According to a 2010 study by Leveraging Investments in Creativity, “artists are twice as likely as the general population (11 percent vs. 5 percent) to purchase their own health insurance, and at much higher costs.” Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks in America’s Capital

Posted by Delali Ayivor On June - 19 - 2012

Delali Ayivor

I know this about myself: I am a writer and I am an obruni.

Obruni is a term that comes from the Ghanaian language of Twi and it translates to foreigner or, more archaically “white man.” I was born in Houston, TX. My mother was born in Durham, NC and my father in Lome, Togo. I was raised, primarily, in Accra, Ghana. In my life I have lived in four countries and three states and through it all, I have had trouble identifying myself as an American.

The United States has been a constant symbol of idolatry for me. As an elementary school student, I ordered my father to bring back suitcases full of Oreos and Cheetos from his business trips, simply for the sheer commercial joy of the American name-brand. So when I moved, by myself, from Accra, Ghana to the outskirts of Northwest Michigan at age 15 to attend boarding school, I was, for the first time since the age of 3, ecstatically emerged in America, in my obsession.

Now I am going to say something that doesn’t get said enough; I love the Midwest. Perhaps because it was the first place that I lived in the United States where I was old enough to form an opinion, but I suspect there are others out there like me.

Coming from West Africa with absolutely no background in American history, the Midwest was the America I had always envisioned. This was the America I had gleaned from hours of Lifetime Television for Women made-for-tv movies; a place where my first poetry teacher, a farm girl, actually had her first kiss on a hayride, where soda was referred to as ‘pop’, the forgotten frontier of endless strip malls and moms in department store khakis pulling up to Rotary Club meetings in their Toyota minivans to talk about foreign lands they might never see, the backwards mud people saved by $5 a month set-aside through clever coupon usage down at the Piggly Wiggly. Read the rest of this entry »

Victoria Ford

My name is Victoria Ford. I’m Southern, I’m black, and I’m an artist. Perhaps you’re wondering—and appropriately so—why I would begin this way.

My introduction is inspired by exciting news. With her recent honor as the 19th U.S. Poet Laureate, Natasha Tretheway is the first Southern writer to hold this prestigious title since Robert Penn Warren. She is also the first African-American Poet Laureate since Rita Dove, who held the post in 1993—almost two decades ago.

That year holds a great deal of weight to me being that it was my birth year, an indication that during the course of my young life there have only been two female black poets, two artists I can closely relate to, who’ve held this title.

Shortly before finishing my first year in college and prior to beginning my internship with Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., I’d been invested in answering a particular question: What are the ethnographic implications on my artistic context?

I frame the question this way because I’m not interested in answering the age-old question, “Who am I?”—this I’ve already answered. Rather, “Why am I and what difference does it make?” is a question that I find myself perpetually chasing.

So let’s begin here. Why am I here? Before this internship, before any shatter of a formal arts education, I was 12 and in middle school. It was there that poetry first came alive to me in the form of a friend. I thought of poetry as a sacred language we shared. Something ignited in my relationship with words and images. Writing became less a mandatory school affair and more a site of inexhaustible magic. Read the rest of this entry »

Seems Like Old Times…and New Times

Posted by Theresa Cameron On June - 13 - 2012

Theresa Cameron

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend another amazing Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The theme of this year’s meeting was “The New Normal” which was perfect for these times of change and transition in the arts in America.

Sessions ranged from very practical like New Ways of Doing Business and Arts Education as Social Reform to the innovation sessions like How Changing Demographics are Shifting Your Community. Every session was designed to get folks thinking about ways they need to look ahead and rethink and reimagine ways they are currently dong business.

In many ways it reminded me of an Americans for the Arts Convention I attended as  a young arts administrator in Los Angeles. That convention was another time of change in America and it was an important time for conversations around money, power, and the arts in the community.

Just like those times in L.A., this year’s event helped return us to important discussions around change and where are we going as community.

What will we look like in five to ten years?

Who will be leading us?

What are the new creative funding opportunities and how can we stay relevant? Read the rest of this entry »

Gladstone Payton

Anxiety is already building on what promises to be a historic (for mostly all the wrong reasons) lame duck session of Congress after this year’s 2012 national elections in November. This session could possibly have a dramatic affect on the nonprofit arts sector.

Because all the seats in the U.S. House, and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot November 6, there is very little motivation from either party to find a compromise in advance of election day. With control of the White House hanging in the balance, the political stability that follows an election appears to be the safest time for these issues of substance to be addressed, albeit in a very compressed timeframe.

What is the big deal?

It has many names: “Taxmageddon”; “Legislative Apocalypse” and others; you get the idea. The country is on schedule to see large tax cuts first put in place by President Bush, and then extended by President Obama, expire and huge cuts in government spending basically happen at the end of this year. This means that a tremendous shortfall for the national economy at large. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates are that over $600 billion will be taken out of the still precarious economic recovery by the end of 2013.

How did we get here?

Last summer, President Obama agreed to House Republican demands to cut the burgeoning national deficit in order to increase the national debt limit ceiling to avoid default on our debt obligations. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) put into place a bipartisan “supercommittee.” Charged with finding how to cut $1.2 trillion promised in the BCA, they failed (miserably) to reach agreement which will trigger deep automatic cuts of 8.4 percent (sequestration) to most social and defense programs as agreed to in the BCA starting 2013.

Adding to the anxiety is the status of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” and the payroll tax cut which are set to expire at the end of this year. By letting the tax cuts lapse, the marginal rates for just about every American are scheduled to increase and employees will see less in their paychecks. Combined with the previously mentioned spending cuts, you get a dramatic shortfall. This will spur a lot of talk about reforming the tax code and cutting additional spending, and it could affect the arts sector in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Kansas Arts Funding Restored

Posted by Tim Mikulski On June - 4 - 2012

On late Friday afternoon, it became official—state arts funding has been restored as Gov. Sam Brownback signed the new state budget into law.

The new spending measure allocates $700,000 to the state’s new Creative Arts Industries Commission which includes the arts and film commissions under the Department of Commerce.

Just last year, Brownback vetoed state funding for the arts commission, causing Kansas to become the first state without an arts agency, and resulting in a loss of over $1 million in matching regional and federal arts grants.

We want to congratulate Kansas Citizens for the Arts, the legislature who increased the governor’s original proposed funding by $500,000, the supportive press like the Lawrence Journal-World, and all of the individual arts advocates who helped Gov. Brownback understand the repercussions of his actions last year.

Unveiling Our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study

Posted by Amanda Alef On May - 31 - 2012

After two years of hard work, our research team is pleased to present the findings from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study on June 8 at our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. Even better, you can watch live as we roll out our new study of the economic impact of the nonprofit arts and their audiences.

Arts & Economic Prosperity IV demonstrates that the nonprofit arts and culture industry is an economic driver in communities—supporting jobs, generating government revenue, and securing tourism.

Improving upon our 2005 study, with the help of over 180 research partners, we have collected 150,000 audience intercept surveys from cultural event attendees, as well as detailed budget and attendance information from 8,000 nonprofit arts and culture organizations across the country. This will be the largest and most comprehensive study of its kind ever conducted!

Tune in to this link on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT to watch Vice President of Research & Policy Randy Cohen present the new findings. (The AEPIV presentation is expected to begin at 1:20 p.m. EDT/12:20 p.m. CDT, so you may see our attendees enjoying their lunch when you first go to the site.)

In addition to Randy, you’ll also hear from panelists Michelle Boone, Julie Muraco, and Michael Spring about how to effectively use this study to make the case for the arts across various sectors.

For more information on Arts & Economic Prosperity IV visit our updated website or contact our research staff.

Suzan E. Jenkins

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!

Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?

Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Departments Announce New Tourism Strategy

Posted by Narric Rome On May - 17 - 2012

Narric Rome

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and the U.S. Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar released the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Strategy as developed through the Task Force on Travel & Competitiveness.

The task force had been set up through a Presidential Executive Order in January that called for a strategy within 90 days. President Obama announced the Executive Order at a visit to one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, Main Street USA in Disneyworld.

That same day in Orlando, FL, a new slate of members of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board was sworn in by Secretary Bryson, including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch and Linda Carlisle, the Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources—both critical voices representing the arts and cultural tourism community within the larger tourism sector.

In its first three months of work, The U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) developed a set of recommendations to Secretary Bryson to inform his work, and that of the task force, on the development of the national strategy.

Among the TTAB recommendations that relate to the arts and culture were:

(1) the inclusion of the arts as an objective to attracting tourists to secondary markets throughout the country,

(2) how an “authentic” experience is critical to a quality experience, and

(3) the need to include local tourism partners, such as city agencies and destination marketing organizations as partners with the federal government. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art & Community Attachment

Posted by Penny Balkin Bach On May - 16 - 2012

Penny Balkin Bach

Working in the field of public art automatically puts us in touch with the public, art, and its social context.

In fact, public art may be one of a community’s most overlooked and underappreciated cultural assets; it’s accessible “on the street”, any time, free to all, without a ticket, and diverse in content. It can be enjoyed spontaneously, alone, or in groups, and by culture seekers as well as new audiences.

There is data out there that supports the benefits of public art to the community.

The Knight Foundation and Gallup Corporation’s Soul of the Community study, for example, indicates that community attachment creates an emotional connection to place (which also correlates to local economic growth). They determined that the key drivers of attachment are social offerings, openness, and the aesthetics of place–all potential attributes of public art.

It’s fascinating that these drivers scored higher than education, basic services and safety, and the economy. Also, a local summer visitors survey conducted by the Greater Philadelphia Marketing & Tourism Corporation (GPTMC) found that of the city’s ten most popular outdoor activities, outdoor art ranked second–above hiking, jogging, and biking.

Public art can create community attachment, if we overcome perceived barriers and open pathways for engagement. With this in mind, the Fairmount Park Art Association developed Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO (MWW:AUDIO)—a multi-platform interactive audio experience, available for free on the street by cell phone, audio download, Android and iPhone mobile app, QR code, or online as streaming audio and audio slideshows. Read the rest of this entry »

The Question We Should Be Asking is “Does it Work?”

Posted by Barbara Goldstein On May - 14 - 2012

Barbara Goldstein

In an era dominated by Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and Yelp!, where we are constantly invited to hit the “like” button and share our reviews, it’s tempting to wade into evaluating public art without asking the question “why?” After all, anyone can should have a valid opinion of anything that lives in the public realm, right?

I’ve always felt that anyone who experiences public art or architecture should have the ability to judge its success. The question we should ask is not really “like” or “not like,” though. The question we should ask is “does it work?”

As someone who plans and commissions public art, I feel it’s my responsibility to engage community members in the work we do—before, during and after art has been installed. After all, the difference between public art and art created in the studio is that the end user will live with it for a long time and we can’t easily move it into storage. If we actually involve our communities in the public art process, we will automatically develop the tools for them to evaluate it.

The first question we need to ask is “What are we trying to learn?”

For many years now, policymakers and implementers have asked whether the economic value of public art can be quantified. This is the wrong question.

It would be virtually impossible to measure whether one work of art has an economic impact in a specific place. The questions that can be asked are more subtle—what makes a specific place memorable? Can you describe what you experience there and how it makes you feel? What do you think when you see a particular artwork? Does it improve your experience of this place? Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art Evaluation RFP: Request For (Your) Participation

Posted by Liesel Fenner On May - 14 - 2012

Liesel Fenner

Americans for the Arts programs Blog Salons to focus attention on a particular arts topic to generate discussion through online responses: comments, follow-up posts, Tweets, Facebook comments, etc.

While many of us find it challenging to keep up with daily email, much less blogs and our social media accounts, there are a few questions we repeatedly see posted on the Public Art Network (PAN) listserv:

“Does anyone have a sample public art evaluation report?” or “Are there are any public art and economic impact studies?”

After the question is asked the listserv goes silent, no one replies.

The goal of our Blog Salon this week is to turn up the volume and encourage as many contributions of ideas on how the field (PAN, you, me, we) can approach public art evaluation.

We have invited a variety of public art professionals—both administrators and artists—to participate in the Salon with their ideas on how we measure public art programs, projects, or both.

We will hear from arts leaders who are experimenting with ideas on how to measure an art form that is elusive to traditional measurement tools. Artwork that resides in public space.

How do count audience viewers?

Are they actually viewers when passers-by may or may not even notice the work?

Should we approach the general public and measure their reaction to the work? Read the rest of this entry »

The 99% and the Arts

Posted by Robert Bettmann On May - 11 - 2012

Robert Bettmann

The arts are positively integrated into the Occupy Movement in several ways, but they are also a front on which activists are attacking the economic system.

While the arts field wrestles internally with issues of diversity and aging, attacks by Occupy activists are actually an affirmation of the relevance of the arts in civic life.

One Occupy LA blogger wrote, “if history has taught us anything…it’s that art is among the most honest and lasting of cultural indicators.” Occupy activists believe in the arts enough to fight for it.

The arts are a tool of the Occupy movement, an expression of the movement, a support in the movement, and also a target.

As a target, actions related to the arts are in some cities organized by an Occupy Museums working group. The Occupy Museums manifesto identifies that the group exists to “[call] out corruption and injustice in institutions of arts and culture” and their actions focus in two areas: labor issues and service to the one percent (generally).

The labor concerns relate to abrogation of union contracts and use of non-union labor at galleries and museums, and the broader concern relates to the question: to whom do the benefits of the cultural economy accrue? Read the rest of this entry »

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Culture equals jobs. This was the theme of the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum hosted by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is one of the most enlightened and empowered elected leaders that this nation has ever seen regarding strategically investing in his city’s cultural economy in order to move it forward.

As chief counsel of government and public affairs at Americans for the Arts, I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing it was to be at a two-day conference filled with elected officials and diplomats from around the world, focused exclusively on how these leaders are incorporating public policies to showcase the arts and culture for both its social and economic powers.

Mayor Landrieu did an amazing job of showcasing New Orleans’ investment in arts education to develop the next generation of culture workers; its investment in building local film and recording studios, performance centers, and clubs to attract current culture workers; its investment in tax credits for both film production and post-production editing, marketing, gaming, and software to attract culture businesses; and its investment in tourism marketing and branding initiatives, such as JazzFest, to attract out-of-town visitors, especially from abroad, in order to grower larger audiences for its cultural industries. You can catch up on more news about the forum on Twitter by searching #WCEF.

Below is an excerpt of Mayor Landrieu’s opening address at the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum:

“Recently, the world has seen dramatic changes in political, social, and cultural landscapes. These changes have been fueled not only by political and economic factors, but also by social and cultural issues. Read the rest of this entry »

The Public Kitchen & the Dilemma of Evaluating a Gesture

Posted by Kenneth Bailey On May - 4 - 2012

Public Kitchen participants.

The next intervention the Design Studio is working on is called the Public Kitchen. It’s part of larger project we are developing called “The Public: A Work in Progress.”

As public infrastructures—hospitals, water, schools, transportation, etc.—are privatized, the Public Kitchen takes a stab at going in the reverse direction. It is a “productive fiction”; it’s our experimentation with a new, more vibrant social infrastructure that can:

  • Challenge the public’s own feelings that “public” means poor, broken down, poorly run, and “less than” private
  • Engage communities in claiming public space, the social and food justice
  • Make a new case for public infrastructures through creating ones that don’t exist

The first step of the Public Kitchen occured last fall when we worked with artist and graphic designer Jill Peterson to create what we called a “mobile ideation kit.” This enabled us to have interesting conversations with passers-by in a variety of communities, with an easy, attractive way to ask about what would be important to them in this made-up new form.

Next, we created an indoor Public Kitchen exhibit for Roxbury Open Studios. Over 100 residents, activists and artists came for a bite, took home fresh veggies, imagined new food policies, checked out architectural sketches, and added their ideas for what’s possible for a Public Kitchen.


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

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.