Shaking Up Employee Volunteer Programs

Posted by Maura Koehler-Hanlon On April - 24 - 2014
Maura Koehler-Hanlon

Maura Koehler-Hanlon

The following is an article originally posted on VolunteerMatch, written by vice president of Client Services Maura Koehler-Hanlon, in which she describes how she recently challenged the existing system of employee volunteer programs, and argued for an overhaul of the field. Visit VolunteerMatch for more articles about volunteering and corporate social responsibility.

Earlier this month I hit the road with Vicky Hush, VolunteerMatch’s VP of Engagement & Strategic Partnerships. We headed up to Portland to present to Hands On Greater Portland’s Corporate Volunteer Council to share our expertise with employee volunteer managers about how to keep your employee volunteer program (EVP) fresh and exciting. Leading up to the presentation, we had a tough internal conversation which amounted to this: how controversial did we want to be? What would happen if we just came out and said that we think EVPs should be doing more? We decided to go for it – those Portlanders are a tough bunch with all that fresh air! And it worked: when we asked the room of EVP managers “how many of you feel like your employee volunteer program is as strong as it can be?” we (not surprisingly) didn’t see a single hand. Read the rest of this entry »

Take the Lead: Musing of a Professional Development Junkie

Posted by Whitney Roux On April - 16 - 2014
Whitney Roux

Whitney Roux

Professional development takes many forms, from hands-on workshops to panel discussions. Important opportunities for leadership and building relationships with mentors provide a robust calendar of growth options. An Emerging Leader’s plan for success needs to explore how to best combine education tracks to improve at their current job while simultaneously growing into their dream career.

As a Steering Committee member of the Rising Arts Leaders of San Diego (RALSD), I work with my committee to develop programs that fit the needs of emerging leaders in arts and culture. We build workshops, facility tours, and discussions around issues that affect our arts community, meanwhile crossing departmental bridges with networking events and social gatherings. But personally, I have found that the best professional development happens when you get your hands dirty. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2014

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 20 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Four Tips From a Teaching Artist to Make You a Better Arts Administrator

Posted by Lori Sokolowski On March - 13 - 2014
Lori Sokolowski

Lori Sokolowski

Being a teaching artist is hard work. There are the sticky, dirty germs and the immune system that can’t keep up at every new school site. Then there’s those Friday afternoons with a hyper class of third graders. Sometimes, there’s the not so great classroom teacher who sits disengaged in the back of the room grading papers, eating, or even worse, napping. Yes, I said napping. But it’s not always like that. The teacher napping incident was a one-time thing. Most of the time being a teaching artist in a school setting is an inspiring and invigorating experience. I learn from my students and their classroom teachers as much as I hope they learn from me.

At San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts I split my responsibilities as a teaching artist for CARE (Collaborative Arts Resources for Education) with other administrative responsibilities. The pedagogy of teaching artistry has made me a better administrator and I would like to share these four tips with you. Read the rest of this entry »

Sandy Seufert

Sandy Seufert

The concept of “practice” has always been a word attached to my own personal art form of music. But the very verb-ness of that word has taken on a completely different dimension as a noun of serious proportions in my current work with visual artists to develop curriculum to support the new Next Generation Science Standards.

At my work at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California, I have the incredible opportunity to work with a brilliant faculty of highly trained and creative teaching artists in a program called, “Children Investigate the Environment.” While this program has existed in a variety of forms since 1986, it was the release of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in April of 2013 that prompted an idea to increase the rigor of the science content of the program.

Working in grade level teams with the teaching artists to create the curriculum, it took a while for us to wrap our heads around each of the aspects of the NGSS – Performance Expectations, Disciplinary Core Ideas, Cross Cutting Concepts, etc. However, the first thing that resonated with all of us was the focus on Scientific and Engineering Practices. In reflecting on our own various practices as artists, we realized that we had found an important connection. It was there that we started. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good News about Arts Education in Los Angeles County

Posted by Laura Zucker On February - 28 - 2014
Laura Zucker

Laura Zucker

Recently the 2013 Otis Report on the Creative Economy for California and the Los Angeles Region was released. As in previous years, the presentation of the data generated anticipation and buzz in the arts community.  There is a lot of good news for the creative sector, including the fact that one out of every seven jobs is in the creative economy. The report emphasizes the critical role arts education plays in preparing students for these jobs, and we at the Los Angeles County Arts Commission are particularly interested in how we can make these opportunities a reality for all the 1.6 million students in our public schools.

The Otis Report consolidates data from across all 81 school districts in Los Angeles County. These districts range in size from large (over 600,000 students) to small (under 1,500 students) and utilize arts specialists, generalist teachers and teaching artists in different ways to achieve their educational goals.

The data draws from the 2011-12 academic year, which was a challenging time for schools. Districts were struggling with recession era budgets, forced to make difficult budgetary choices and like the rest of the country, much of their public accountability was based on test scores in math and language arts.

Despite these challenges, there are positive indicators:

  • Arts course enrollment regained what was lost during the recession, and was only 10 fewer students in 2011-12 compared to 2005-06 (317,000 students).
  • The total number of arts education classes offered increased by 20.8% since 2005-06.
  • Enrollment in arts courses as a percentage of all courses rose slightly to 7.6% in 2011-12 from 7.0% in 2005-06.

We know there is public will around arts education from superintendents, assistant superintendents and teachers across LA County. Arts for All, the county’s arts education initiative dedicated to making the arts core in K-12 public education, saw will transformed into action through the creation and adoption of 50 arts strategic plans since 2002, twelve school districts implementing robust teacher professional development plans, and countywide interest in the inclusion of the arts as a strategy for helping students achieve Common Core State Standards (every workshop we offer on the topic is filled to capacity).

And the landscape for education in the state is changing once again with significantly more resources flowing into LA County schools. We’re looking forward to greater gains in the next few years and plan to partner with Otis College and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation to provide a more in-depth snapshot of the state of arts education in 2014.

A New Era for Arts in New York City Schools?

Posted by Doug Israel On February - 26 - 2014
Doug Israel

Doug Israel

Over the course of the past several years, big cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle have been advancing ambitious plans to expand access to arts education and creative learning for public school students. Here in New York City – home of the nation’s largest school district – with a new mayor and schools chancellor, and a growing chorus of parents calling for the inclusion of arts in the school day, there is momentum gathering that could lead to a much-overdue expansion of arts and music in city schools.

This December, at the close of his 12 years in office, New York City’s former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law a City Council bill that would require the Department of Education to provide annual data on arts instruction that advocates believe will help identify gaps in the delivery of arts education and drive improvements in what is being offered at schools across the city.

While strides were made in expanding access to arts instruction at many schools across the city over the past decade, large gaps persist in the provision of music, dance, theater and visual arts in the over 1,800 New York City public schools.

That is why on the heels of the successful effort to pass the arts reporting legislation, advocates and leaders from a diverse cross section of New York, released a statement calling on the city to ensure that every child, in every part of the city, receives arts instruction as part of their K-12 education.

The statement – entitled “Every Child in Every School: A Vision for Arts and Creativity in New York City Public Schools” –notes that New York City – with its rich and diverse array of arts and cultural experiences and organizations – is uniquely positioned to be the leader in arts and creative education. Read the rest of this entry »

For the Poor, the Arts Are a Path to Opportunity

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 12 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

Robert L. Lynch and Arts Advocate/Actor Robert Redford at our National Arts Policy Roundtable. Oct. 2012

This Letter to the Editor was co-authored by Robert L. Lynch and Robert Redford and originally published in the New York Times on February 11, 2014. The New York Times version incorrectly mentions the city of Los Angeles. This version correctly states the city as San Diego.

To the Editor:

Re “N.E.A. Funds Benefit Both Rich and Poor, Study Finds” (Arts pages, Feb. 5):

A few years ago, a homeless girl in Los Angeles walked into a community arts center. Her name is Inocente. An Oscar-winning documentary by the same name told the story of how the arts turned her life around. Her success story illustrates the benefit of the arts to thousands of poor children and lower-income people all across our country.

The assertion by the House Budget Committee that the arts are the domain of the wealthy has proved to be a myth. A Southern Methodist University study reaffirms what nearly 100,000 nonprofit arts organizations already know. Public funding allows access to the arts for millions of Americans who otherwise couldn’t afford the benefit of the arts in their lives.

Arts are a path to opportunity. Businesses benefit from the creativity, perseverance and problem-solving skills that Americans develop through the arts. The arts drive private-sector investment and job creation. Every dollar of N.E.A. funding generates $9 of non-federal money to the arts, and the nonprofit arts industry generates 4.1 million jobs.

This new study can help educate our elected leaders from both sides of the aisle about the true value of the arts for all our children, our communities and our country.

Read this Letter to the Editor in The New York Times.

“The Holy Fool” as a Tool

Posted by Ed Holmes On December - 6 - 2013
EHolmes_headshot

Ed Holmes

Is there too much humor in religion?  Can comic analysis of the last great taboo help save Humanity? Does this parade make me look old?

I’d answer….no, maybe, and yes.

I fell into the professional Fool business forty years ago, by accident. Too much education, seven years of college, and living in one of the wackiest areas in the world–San Francisco Bay–led me to instigate a gathering of like-minded extroverts to take to the streets for the purpose of sacrilege. A show of comedic, historically correct  insubordination in the face of the dominate religion of America…free market capitalism.

There is a movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (the Charles Laughton version) in which he is crowned King of Fools. He is paraded past the cathedral in raucus style till the fun is stopped by a church official and he is sent back to the bell tower. A classic movie from a classic book. The street party, the Feast of Fools, was a safety valve for the populace. In medieval European times the peasant worked for the crown or the cross. A little springtime paganism was allowed to let off steam for those whose life was grim and short. Today, the true temples and cathedrals of modern times are the towers of finance. The dollar is King. The canyons of the financial district of San Francisco became the focus of my/our frustration with the ‘way things are’. The first Saint Stupid’s Day Parade took place April 1, 1979. Read the rest of this entry »

From the Seats of Power in Brisbane City Hall

Posted by Beth Grossman On December - 6 - 2013
Beth Grossman

Beth Grossman

In the small town of Brisbane, California, just outside of San Francisco, I was invited to create a special art exhibit in honor of the opening of our new City Hall. This provided an important opportunity to welcome Brisbane citizens into City Hall, to engage the public in a dialog about social commitment and encourage their involvement in local politics. After years of building relationships with Brisbane City officials as a local community environmental activist and arts champion, I wondered how far Brisbane City officials would go to support the arts and encourage public participation.

“The chairs have heard it all,” I thought as I endured interminable meetings at City Hall. In keeping with my artistic practice of creating site-specific work, I wondered what the view might be like from the City Hall conference room chairs’ perspective. It is in this very conference room that we speak our minds, fight for what we are passionate about, work together and laugh together. I decided to convince our Mayor and the entire City Council, Police Commander, Fire Chief and Harbormaster to immortalize their derrieres as “Seats of Power,” all in the name of Art.

In order to photographically capture the impression of City officials’ pants sitting on their chairs, I asked them hold a piece of plexi-glass firmly against their derrières. “Bend over, this won’t hurt a bit.” And from that position I chatted with them about their passions for being involved in City affairs.

I came to appreciate Brisbane officials from a perspective different from that of the Council Chambers or City Hall offices. The posterior photo images were later woven into textiles and upholstered onto chair seats. Read the rest of this entry »

Humor is Hope

Posted by Ellen Callas On December - 4 - 2013
Ellen Callas

Ellen Callas

At the San Francisco Mime Troupe, we have been using humor as a method of presenting serious socio/political topics to our audiences for over 54 years. Our intent is to engage and activate them and offer a sense of solidarity with their fellow viewers. It’s not a new concept.

Broadly drawn, easily recognizable characters are the basis of all forms of Popular Theater from Ancient Greece to the Commedia dell’arte of Renaissance Italy to American Melodrama. Be it Kabuki or Jatra, the basic archetypes are present onstage, demonstrating the commonality of humanity’s struggle with itself. The lines are easily drawn; heroes and villains, bosses and workers, landlords and tenants all evidence of the ongoing class struggle that is our collective history. It was (and is) humor that allowed the servants to laugh publicly at their masters as they were often portrayed onstage as vain and idiotic. It was a liberation of their spirit as audiences delighted in the undoing of the patricians at the hands of a clever underling.

Whether we are tackling GMO’s, corporate personhood, workers rights, C.I.A. backed wars or oil companies, our methodology is the same. Like Mary Poppins’ “spoonful of sugar,” we have found that facts and evidence stick with folks if the information is delivered through physical comedy and witty songs. People who might routinely disagree with our point of view are more receptive to alternative ideas when laughing. Often the humor acts as a time release pill of realization when an audience member sees in real life what we illustrated onstage.

Our call for activism is usually manifested onstage by our “every person” character, who is typically called upon to make a conscious choice between their own self interest and the common good. Often that character’s sense of disempowerment mirrors that of the audience. In “Social Work”, Sharon Lockwood played Phoebe, an overworked social worker whose ability to help her clients was hamstrung by budget cuts.  Driven by frustration, she dons a disguise and as The Lady in Red,   and in a comic Grand Guignol eliminates her foils in elaborate murders. Clearly we were not advocating murder, but the over-the-top style provided a catharsis for the audience as they cheered Phoebe on.  Often audience members recognize themselves onstage in a way that might affect their choices in the future, as in the portrayal of the disillusioned and disengaged activist. Humor can provide a wake-up call. Read the rest of this entry »

The Trifecta of Standards, Accountability, and Assessment

Posted by Talia Gibas On September - 11 - 2013
Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Last February, when my fellow Arts Education Council members and I agreed on “the trifecta of standards, accountability and assessment” as the topic of AFTA’s September arts education blog salon, I noticed how ominous those words sound. Sitting in the council meeting, I pictured a pitchfork stuck in the ground, with the three prongs of standards, accountability and assessment serving a dark warning to any arts educators who dare get close to it.

I happen to think that standards and assessment systems can be good things, so the fact these thoughts crossed my mind is testament to how much baggage the words carry, particularly in the arts. They are also, for better or worse, here to stay. Recognizing they are tools that can be applied well or applied poorly, how does an arts education community begin incorporating those tools into practice in a meaningful way?

Last year, in Los Angeles County, we decided to try and start a broad conversation about arts assessment. We invited the research firm WestEd, which a few years earlier had conducted a comprehensive study of the state of arts assessment across the United States, to deliver a full-day seminar on assessment strategies, open to as many people as we could comfortably cram in a large meeting room.

We also asked WestEd to deliver smaller, more hands-on workshop sessions focused on rubrics. Why rubrics? We conducted an informal poll of school districts applying to us for matching funds for artist residencies, asking in which areas of assessment they felt they needed the most support. Rubrics were by far and away the most popular answer.

This was the first time that Arts for All had ever offered broad-scale professional development on arts assessment, and the first time in a long while that we had offered professional development to arts organizations and school districts simultaneously. How did we do in helping our constituents sort through all that baggage? Read the rest of this entry »

KRIS Wine: “Art of Education” 2012 Winners

Posted by Masha Raj On September - 6 - 2013
Masha Raj

Masha Raj

September is the beginning of a new academic year for students, parents, and teachers – and also when we announce our new season of arts education initiatives and competitions!

This fall we are partnering again with KRIS Wine for the fourth annual Art of Education programKRIS, a brand of Winebow, Inc., will award 16 schools in the United States a total of $25,000 in grants to improve academic achievement through quality arts education.  As more than half of the states continue to cut arts education budgets, every extra dollar towards arts education from our corporate partners like KRIS Wine helps.

Last fall, consumers and arts advocates also selected 16 schools during KRIS Wine’s Art of Education contest.  $25,000 was traditionally disseminated to winning schools in various states, ranging from California to New York and all over the country.  KRIS Wine’s investment has made all the difference for the following top winners:

Brunswick Acres; Brunswick, NJ

Brunswick Acres was the top awarded school in the KRIS wine Art of Education program.  The Art of Education experience has helped to bring the entire school together while they competed for the winning prize, inspiring a sense of community that endured throughout the school year.  “I am blessed to be able to work with amazing students, parents, and colleagues who were so dedicated to helping us win this grant,” said art teacher Suzanne Tiedemann. “This donation from KRIS Wine will go a long way in helping supplement our significantly cut art budget for years to come.

With the $5,000 award, the school purchased four brand new iPads for the arts program, which students now utilize to experiment with art in digital space.  The iPads help Brunswick Acres to meet and successfully exceed their 21st century learning requirements from their district.  Additionally the school purchased a color printer for the school community to use as well as supplementary art supplies that otherwise could not have been afforded. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM to STEAM Reflections (v. 2)

Posted by Talia Gibas On May - 14 - 2013
Talia Gibas

Talia Gibas

Four years ago, when I first heard the phrase “turn STEM to STEAM” – i.e. add the arts to the federally-recognized acronym for science, technology, engineering and math — I was skeptical.

As a theater geek born to a physician and biologist, I understood that the artistic process and scientific process have a lot in common, and that participants in each arena can learn a lot from one another.

My skepticism was not rooted in whether the arts and sciences are connected. What was missing for me as the “STEM to STEAM” mantra started to pick up more and more (ahem) steam was an articulation of how they are connected. Sure, there are elements of geometry in visual art, and yes, you need to understand basic math in order to read music or follow rhythms in dance. But arranging letters on a page is one thing; bringing different disciplines together in a thoughtful and authentic way is something entirely different.

In my mind, the ability to articulate and explore the authentic relationships between the S, T, E, A and M is crucial.  The arts and the STEM subjects have similar processes, but provide different means of understanding what currently exist, as well as imagining what does not yet exist. If we want the STEM to STEAM movement to have longevity, we need to get specific about what those relationships are. Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Know Our Staff: Ten Questions with…Valerie Beaman

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 26 - 2013
Valerie as a fairy in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at age 3 1/2.

Valerie as a fairy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at age 3 1/2.

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

This time I have turned to Valerie Beaman who currently serves as Private Sector Initiatives Coordinator.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less:

Program planner, council wrangler, seeker of speakers and bloggers, herder

2. What do the arts mean to you?

In my family it was an anomaly if you weren’t involved in the arts in some way. We are all a bunch of introverts and eccentrics who’ve managed to stay sane by participating in the arts. My first stage experience was as a fairy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Redlands Bowl at age 3 ½. I still get goose bumps when I hear Mendelssohn’s music for the entrance of the fairies! Experiences like that never leave you. It’s very important to me to that children everywhere have an opportunity to connect with the arts. They’re a lifesaver. 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.