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 »

Making a Difference Online and Off

Posted by Marc Vogl On May - 4 - 2012

Marc Vogl

There are several particularly interesting things about The Awesome Foundation.

First, it’s not a Foundation. It’s 30+ self-organized chapters around the world of individuals kicking in $100/month to get behind ideas they think are cool.

Second, the grants that Awesome Foundation recipients get are $1000.

And for all the variety to be found in the funded  projects a common denominator is that $1000 made a difference.  In other words, a principle of the Awesome Foundation’s philanthropy (as decentralized and informal as it is) is that proposals are ‘right-sized’ if they can make the case that $1000 will tip the project into being successful.

As a former arts program officer at a major foundation I think that’s beautiful and also a simple concept to hang on to as one contemplates increasingly complex (and confusing) methodologies for understanding the impact the arts make.

The topic is definitely hot, and there has been really interesting work from those seeking to measure arts’ intrinsic impact  This includes the work from Theatre Bay Area  and others adding to the catalog of studies on arts’ instrumental impact. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Beertown’ — Making a Show That Builds Community

Posted by Rachel Grossman On May - 3 - 2012

The official "Beertown" time capsule.

In September 2010, dog & pony dc (d&pdc) began developing a new show starting with nothing but two books and a question. Our goal was to create an original work as a collective from start to finish; the only thing we knew about the end product was that it would be fully produced 14 months later. Well: we also knew that in this production we wanted to push the boundaries of “audience integration.”

d&pdc is an ensemble-based devised theatre company that creates new ways for audiences to experience theatre. We carry a self-described “healthy obsession” with defining the performer-audience relationship for each show.

“Audience integration” is a foundation of d&pdc’s devising process; the audience’s role in performance is discussed from each project’s birth to its fully-realized production. The approach is highly elastic. On one end of the spectrum: the role of the audience is as witness. At the opposite end: the event doesn’t move forward without audience propulsion.

In 2010, we wanted to explore the more risky end. We wanted to create a show in which the audience members were active, vocal participants who ultimately determined the outcome every night. To do that, the audience had to feel compelled to act; they had to become invested and take ownership. In other words: they had to care.

What makes us care? “A crisis” was our initial answer. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts, Culture, & Social Well-Being

Posted by Mark Stern On May - 3 - 2012
Mark Stern

Mark Stern

As part of its collaboration with The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) and the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy (OACCE), Penn’s Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) is leading an effort to develop an index of livability/social inclusion for the city.

Our goal is to create a series of maps that identify several dimensions of social well-being across the city and to locate the arts and culture within the broader idea of social well-being. This semester, Ira Goldstein of TRF and I have co-taught an Urban Studies seminar focused of clarifying the conceptualization of social well-being and gathering the data necessary to create the index.

The project was inspired by the federal government’s—including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)—recent interest in promoting livability. As we looked at the question, we realized that our measure needed to move beyond livability to include more comprehensive measures of social justice, inclusion, and well-being. Rather than start from scratch, we used the 2009 report of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress as our starting point.

The commission proposed an eight-dimension framework for social well-being that included material standard of living, health, education, personal activities (including work and leisure), political voice and governance, social connections and relationships, environment, and economic and physical insecurity. Our first adaptation of the framework was to add housing as a separate dimension, giving us nine potential sub-indexes.

During the seminar, Ira, the students, and I have been able to develop preliminary version of seven of the nine indexes. Some of them were easier than others. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebecca Yenawine

I have been a community arts practitioner in Baltimore City for the last 15 years.

After years of being asked by funders how my program evaluates its outcomes and answering with anecdotal stories and satisfaction survey results, I decided to try to find more meaningful ways tell the story of this work so that its potential for impact could be better understood and attract investment and resources. To this end, I began some small research projects.

In 2010, Zoe Reznick Gewanter and I conducted a study of 14 community arts practitioners. Practitioners were interviewed and asked how they define community arts, what their methods are and what outcomes they see as a result of the work. Here’s a video of that work:

After transcribing and coding their interviews, several clusters of outcomes emerged: Read the rest of this entry »

Time-Tested Tools for Evaluation

Posted by Chris Dwyer On May - 2 - 2012

Chris Dwyer

I’ve had the good fortune to live in the same community for the past 27 years and the double good fortune to have participated over time in a wide range of arts-based initiatives in that community:

  • site-based work related to immigration
  • explorations of the history of a working class neighborhood now gentrified
  • rediscovery and recognition of the paved-over African Burying ground in our white New England city
  • perspectives on the challenges faced by seniors
  • and the most widely known, The Shipyard Project, which was a two-year exploration through dance of the intertwined histories of a large naval military installation and a port city that have co-existed side-by-side for over two hundred plus years.

So, I’ve had an advantage that most project evaluators never experience, that is, a really longitudinal view of unfolding impacts.

Long after initiatives have concluded, I have seen relationships that began in a community arts project rekindle to tackle a new issue or witnessed policies that were the object of arts-informed debate finally take hold after several failed attempts. I have seen young people who were inspired by the arts planning of my generation decide to settle in the community and become the next generation of arts and community leaders.

The real impacts become visible many years after the evaluator has delivered the final report to the funders. Read the rest of this entry »

Marty Pottenger

Art At Work

Recently, I found myself sitting in a circle in Portland, ME, leading a group that includes the city manager, police chief, a leader in the Occupy Maine movement, one of the founders of Portland’s NAACP, leaders from the Sudanese and Congolese refugee communities, the president of a city union (CEBA), and a doctor active in public health, among others. The members of this group are impressive and diverse, but what we are sharing is more so.

In only seven minutes, 20 city and community leaders composed poems that draw upon their personal histories, the history of Portland, and those things they have witnessed in this place we all call home.

Increasing the Odds

All of Art At Work’s projects are designed to increase the odds that Portland and their partner cities (Holyoke, Northampton, and Providence in 2012), launch their own Art At Work will be better able to turn anticipated social and economic crises into opportunities by integrating creative engagement in their ‘way of doing business.’

This workshop was a part of Portland Works, another one of our experiments in figuring out how to harness the transformative power of art to achieve concrete community-based outcomes. These workshops bring together community and city leaders to create a dialogue and increase understanding between individuals and groups that often see one another as obstacles as opposed to allies. “It’s just brilliant,” says Mike Miles, the City of Portland’s director of human resources, “using art to break conceptions about who people are and what people do.”

Art At Work, of which Portland Works is just one part, is designed to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects involving city employees, elected officials, community leaders, and local artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Raymond Tymas Jones

National Arts Advocacy Day is significant because it grants us an opportunity to gather as a community to reflect on the role of contemporary artists in the 21st century. No matter what the chosen art form, the passion to do art and to be art is born out of an insatiable yearning to make beauty, to make sense, and even to make waves.

As artists, we are summoned to bear witness of the truth of the human experience…the human condition and truth is more than simply facts. It is realness of life that is imbued with the psychological, emotional, spiritual elements of living that is not always easily accessible. It is this sense of urgency to communicate that artists find avenues to connect through music, theatre, film, dance, art, and literature.

For example, the powerful play by American playwright Stephen Adly Guigis, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, explores in a witty, provocative, and sometimes-funny manner, questions about love and redemption through the story of a man who is considered the most notorious villain in human history. The genesis of this kind of art is the visceral reality that only comes from self-understanding. It is the quest for self-understanding that gives way to constant questioning, observing, celebrating, and revering the complexity, mystery, and beauty of humanity. Self-understanding fortifies us from self-deception and easy consolations.

We, as artists, are the first beneficiaries of the power of the arts to tell our personal story that mirrors our own realities. Each of us can be an alchemist, taking our ideas and understanding of the world around us along with our imagination and creativity to transform them into precious elements of universal elixir. Read the rest of this entry »

John Bare

Let’s start with two assertions:

  • First, every meaningful social change movement for the last 1,000 years, at least, has been driven, in large or small part, by the arts.
  • Second, many arts-based civic works contribute little or nothing to individuals, communities, or societies.

It boils down to this: You can’t produce great social change without the arts. But there’s no guarantee that every arts-based program accomplishes something.

As with all interventions, whether arts or education or agriculture, much ends up on life’s cutting-room floor—or, if not tossed, left as a relic. If great art alone would suffice, Woody Guthrie’s Plane Wreck at Los Gatos would have changed the American experience for immigrant farm workers.

Let’s circle back to the first assertion.

  • Imagine what would have come of spiritual life in the last 2,000 years without the contribution of literature (pick a version of the Bible and say thanks to Gutenberg).
  • Imagine the LGBT movement without the contribution of theater (see Charlotte circa 1996).
  • Imagine the Civil Rights movement without Guy Carawan teaching We Shall Overcome to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at its founding in Raleigh in 1960.

Back in 2008, Guy’s wife, Candi, explained to me that Myles Horton had embedded music in every undertaking at the Highlander Folk School.

“Myles, before he founded Highlander, had been over to visit the Scandinavian folk schools. He had observed in Denmark that when people came together to work on problems, they did a lot of group singing. He kind of brought that idea back to Highlander. He was not a musician himself. But he was really supportive of anything that would help grassroots people feel stronger.” Read the rest of this entry »

Stories Have Impact, But How Do We Know?

Posted by Jen Gilomen On April - 30 - 2012

Jen Gilomen

We’ve all had the experience of sitting in a dark theater and being moved by a compelling documentary story. And as documentary mediamakers, many of us have felt that power materialize during animated discussions that occur with and among audience members when the lights come up for the Q&A.

But how do we really know if our films are having an impact beyond the walls of the theater, and how do we know that our film is causing something besides “clicks” and “likes” online?

At Bay Area Video Coalition, we’ve come a long way in our understanding of impact evaluation and its purpose. It used to be that evaluation was another box to check off in order to satisfy the requirements of our funders. We collected surveys at the end of each training or program, and when funding allowed, we began to track our program participants and projects over a longer period of time.

Our thinking about the purpose of evaluation began to shift, however, when we received a multi-year grant from the National Science Foundation that included a funded, dedicated evaluator to help us design and implement an evaluation not just for reporting purposes, but to create feedback loops that would shape future programming throughout the program’s lifecycle.

Participating in the design of this evaluation freed us to shift our focus from one of conducting surveys and basic reporting (for others, usually as an afterthought) to one of viewing evaluation as an opportunity to better understand the real and long-term impact of our work—for ourselves, so we could become more effective. Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Salon: Evaluating the Social Impact of the Arts

Posted by Joanna Chin On April - 30 - 2012

Joanna Chin

Growing interest in capturing impact of many types of programs has resulted in escalating discourse and developing practice-based theory about the social impacts of the arts. This current focus on understanding what difference we make builds on, and goes beyond Robert Putnam’s theory, which connected the power of arts and culture in creating social capital.

Across the board, researchers are exercising leadership in this area. For example:

  • Alan Brown, in An Architecture of Value, has drawn out and interpreted key concepts from the RAND Corporation’s Gifts of the Muse report to advance a framework of public value centered in and building from the arts experience.
  • Clayton Lord and Alan Brown, working with theater partners across the country, have devised indicators and scales to measure the intrinsic impact of experiencing theater.
  • In the media arts, American University’s Center for Social Media has reviewed state of the art methodologies for the strategic design and evaluation of social issue documentary films in its Designing for Impact.
  • Mark Stern and Susan Seifert at the Social Impact of the Arts Project (SIAP) have developed cultural clustering as both a methodology and a concept. The method involves integrating data on cultural assets into a geographic information system to produce a Cultural Asset Index that can be used to identify census block groups with the highest density of these assets. SIAP is developing a Creative Assets Mapping Database as a community and economic development tool.
  • The Knight Foundation and Artplace are working to create vibrancy measures for communities, while the National Endowment for the Arts is looking for indicators to assess the impact of Our Town and other grant programs.

Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, has been working to bring together these strands of thinking in the Impact section of our website; particularly, when artists are intentional and art is integrated with practices of civic engagement and social activism as catalysts, conveners, forums, and forms for change. Read the rest of this entry »

A Week of Arts Education in Washington (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Robert Lynch On April - 25 - 2012
Robert Lynch and Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin and Robert Lynch speak during the Arts Advocacy Day Congressional Arts Kick-Off.

This week I’m in Los Angeles attending a meeting of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board and hosting an Arts Action Fund event with Los Angeles arts leaders. As I flew out here, I was thinking about the incredible events of last week that impacted arts education.

It all began with the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) Spring Forum April 12-13, followed by a combined meeting of the Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and our Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network on April 15. The week concluded with our 25th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy and Arts Advocacy Day on April 16-17.

For those that weren’t able to attend these events, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.

The AEP forum began with an exciting announcement—the National Endowment for the Arts named Ayanna Hudson, currently with Arts for All in Los Angeles, as their new director of arts education. Ayanna has been a program partner with, and a congressional witness for, Americans for the Arts during her time at Arts for All, and I’m really pleased she’s moving into this national role.

PBS NewsHour education correspondent John Merrow was the closing keynote at the forum, reminding us to let the 80 percent (the percentage of Americans that do not have school-aged children) know the good work that we are doing and how they can support us. In his words: “Don’t plead, lead.”

The next morning, I had the pleasure of speaking to forum attendees, reminding them that their voice is important in supporting arts education and that they are not alone. Read the rest of this entry »

The two clips below capture more of Alec Baldwin’s Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy given as part of Arts Advocacy Day on April 16 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.

During this clip, Baldwin makes the case for the the support of arts funding:

And for the coda of his lecture, Baldwin summarizes the main points of his journey through the arts during his life and utters the most memorable quote of the speech (besides the gang dancing line much earlier…): Read the rest of this entry »

Margaret Coady

Though it may seem counterintuitive the first time you hear it, grantmakers and philanthropists will tell you the same thing: giving money away is hard work. Or more precisely, the hard work is allocating funds thoughtfully and with seriousness about making a real difference.

My role as director of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) puts me in close contact with the corporate giving officers who oversee the philanthropic budgets of the largest companies in the country and world, and in my seven years here I’ve come to understand some of their core challenges.

While many of the hurdles are tactical—giving officers typically work on small teams responsible for coordinating hundreds of grants across multiple countries—often the harder part of the job is more fundamental: setting and maintaining a coherent corporate giving strategy.

Who and what will the company fund? Why those causes and not others? Why those grantees and not others?

The rationale for the funding decisions must be rock-solid. After all, it can be difficult to explain to employees, shareholders, and others why a company can continue grantmaking in an economic climate in which they are simultaneously laying off workers and shutting down regional offices. Read the rest of this entry »