STEM + A ≠ STEAM

Posted by Raymond Tymas-Jones On July - 16 - 2014
Raymond Tymas-Jones

Raymond Tymas-Jones

Each day the need for continuous engagement in higher learning is evident.  All sectors of society depend on the advanced new knowledge and full development of all human talent.  To that end, every citizen’s capacity to expand and acquire increased global learning for the express purpose of addressing the world’s urgent challenges and problems—economic, ethical, political, intercultural, and environmental—becomes more and more paramount.  Recently, there has been enormous emphasis placed on the need for greater exploration in areas such as the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). While the need for advanced new knowledge in the STEM fields is unquestionable, the development of all human talent requires equal emphasis in the arts and humanities.  Nevertheless, the key is not found in a silo approach but in an integrative or collaborative model. Read the rest of this entry »

Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Funders are increasingly skeptical of the impact that a short-term interaction with an artist has on students, especially those who may count those four hours as their only arts experience for the year.

But despair not! There are ways to make the most of those limited contact hours. A recent best practices sharing session of The Right Brain Initiative illuminated several ways to make the artist-student time really count. Read the rest of this entry »

What’s Soul Got To Do With It?

Posted by Donna Collins On May - 28 - 2014
Donna Collins

Donna Collins

For many individuals outside the circle of arts advocacy and arts policy there seems to be a recurring question: What is the role of the arts in job creation, economic sustainability, and the quality of life of our citizenry? The dollar, and not the soul, seems to be at the core of the discussion. I dare say you can’t have one without the other.

My knee jerk response to such queries is to shout from the rafters that by investing in the arts and incorporating arts and culture into every economic development plan, the yield will be abundant benefits to our economic, social, civic, and cultural vibrancy. The significance of the arts allows a community to generate an increasingly stable and creative workforce, new and increased tourism, fiscal infusion, and more sustainable neighborhoods. Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Artists: The Need to Reach Wider Audiences

Posted by Rosalind Flynn On March - 13 - 2014
Rosalind Flynn

Rosalind Flynn

Everyone I know who works as a teaching artist has amazing success stories of student learning experiences with, through, and in the arts. There are stories about reaching the “unreachable” student, motivating whole groups of resistant learners, creating breathtaking products, deepening understandings about curriculum subjects, and engaging the minds, bodies, and imaginations of young people in extraordinary ways.

This is great stuff. This is the kind of information that should be shared.

  • How do effective Teaching Artists get the results we get?
  • What are our methods?
  • What precisely do we do in a class session or series?

We know that what we do works and we know why it works. But are we sharing this information with a wide enough audience? I don’t think so. Read the rest of this entry »

Ajaz Ahmed

Ajaz Ahmed

Successful collaborations between brands and artists are possible, once outdated preconceptions are overcome.

Where art and business overlap: Burberry's collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

Where art and business overlap: Burberry’s collaboration with artists adds to the credibility of the brand. Photo Credit: Felix Clay

The poetry of ancient Persia is full of bridges. In the works of Rumi and others, metaphors are the bridges of art, in the sense that they unite two seemingly irreconcilable things. They give people a route to make sense of an alien world or concept by relating it to something familiar. They illuminate by association: here is how this world connects directly to that other, seemingly isolated world. Bridges also represent journeys between states of being, rather than just a means of get from A to B. For example, the Persian belief that people in the west are perhaps too far over on the prose side of the bridge, while the east is too drawn to the poetry side. If only we could meet in the middle, we might find a perfect balance of mind and body, of calculation and creativity.

That idea of two cultures stuck at either ends of the same bridges could be applied to art and business today. They need each other, despite their apparent differences; they are concerned with many of the same things, but that is obscured by their mutual suspicion. Perhaps a bit more metaphor and magic would be a start in changing this state of affairs. If arts practitioners and brands had the same big, captivating idea to focus on, cultural differences would be pushed to the side and more worthwhile collaborations would surely result. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaborations with Local Businesses, or Doing Business with…?

Posted by Nick Dragga On October - 16 - 2013
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

I have a love/hate relationship with collaborations. On the one hand, I think they are the greatest thing- the key to our future. They offer opportunities to further Ballet Lubbock’s mission through unique and hopefully unexpected projects to diverse audiences, act as a gateway to more arts participation on all levels, and ideally, bring in some much needed cash. When everything aligns properly, we can create something that truly is greater than the sum of our parts- something that neither we nor our collaborator could ever do alone.

On the other hand, I often wonder, “is this worth it?” This “collaboration” is a LOT of time and energy. I have to jump through so many hoops for this corporate “partner,” compromise my product, and take the time of my dancers, artists, and staff to ultimately help this business sell their products…and all for $500…or maybe even $5,000.  Ugh.

If money is what I’m after, then spending time with individual donors would be more fruitful. If engagement is what I’m after, than bringing OUR uncompromised product to the community would be easier, and often times, more meaningful. Sometimes I think these “new faces” brought in by our business collaborator see us as the hired entertainment – which may possibly do more harm than good in building our brand.

But, the flaw in my logic seems obvious. There is a distinct disconnect between my objectives and my strategies and outcomes. I was not collaborating; I was doing business with people. Of course doing business with people is a great and wonderful thing, but different than collaborating. Read the rest of this entry »

More Than Pro Bono: Meaningful Cross-Sector Partnerships Build Community

Posted by Rebecca Burrell On October - 9 - 2013
Rebecca Burrell

Rebecca Burrell

At The Right Brain Initiative, an equity-based arts-in-schools program in the Portland area, we’re committed to marrying marketing and community engagement in the organic sort of way they were meant to be. As I advocate for arts education throughout the community, I’m really excited about developing sincere relationships and substantial partnerships. In fact, this month we’re finally reaching the apex of a really fruitful long-term collaboration with Design for Good committee of AIGA Portland, the professional association for design.

Early on, we identified our dynamic creative business community as a key outreach target. Whether they become Facebook fans, volunteers, friends, or maybe donors someday, it is a natural affinity group for us. These folks have personally benefited from the kind of education we promote.

Fortunately, our friends at AIGA wanted to do something to make a genuine impact on both our organization and arts education at large, but arriving at a collaborative model for this partnership wasn’t easy. While the global design sector has expressed great interest in addressing arts education, real partnerships between the design and non-profit communities are really hard to find. Socially focused designers are used to donating services to non-profits (Thank you! Please keep it up!), but those relationships can create an uneven power dynamic that prevent true collaboration. Designers are also fond of gathering to generate ideas to address social problems, but there is often no plan to bring those solutions to life. We had look for a new standard. Read the rest of this entry »

Act, Don’t Just React: A Holistic Approach to Communications

Posted by Megan Wendell On October - 8 - 2013
Megan Wendell

Megan Wendell

Today’s media landscape of shrinking newsrooms, thinner newspapers and less in-depth arts coverage poses challenges for cultural organizations. It also offers new opportunities — as long as you’re ready to act by anticipating the needs of the press and public.

Today’s journalists are doing more with less, often providing photography, video and/or audio to go along with their written stories. Many of the reporters I talk with are under tighter deadlines to publish content to the web and under pressure to attract more clicks on their articles. As both the media and arts organizations navigate the demands of the 24-hour news cycle with fewer resources, a proactive and collaborative approach to communications can benefit everyone.

Cultural organizations hoping to land media coverage today must anticipate the needs of the press and be a valuable resource to reporters and editors. This includes offering multimedia content, which can include b-roll footage of a performance or event, behind-the-scenes preparations and Q&As with artists and organizational leaders — anything that offers an intriguing and relevant audio/visual component. The more “packaged” your pitch is with resources you can provide to a reporter or editor, the more likely you are to secure coverage in a variety of outlets.

Much of this multimedia content can then be taken to your own web and social media platforms, giving you opportunities to directly tell the story of your organization and create deeper understanding and engagement with audiences.

Almost anyone in your organization can be a source of compelling content if you collaborate across departments — and not all of this content needs to be created from scratch. For example, an exhibition’s curatorial essay can become a blog post of excerpted material, which can be shared in your email newsletter, while an interesting essay quote or related question can be posted to Facebook and Twitter. Perhaps that curator can also give a 2-minute video “tour” of the exhibition that gets posted on YouTube, with a still photo or video clip on Instagram. All of these pieces come from the same source material but are then interpreted for how audiences communicate and engage through each of these media platforms.

Just remember that, as any good publicist knows that pitches need to be tailored to individual journalists and outlets, organizations must understand how content translates across different direct-to-audience platforms. Don’t try to communicate an overly complex idea in a tweet or Facebook post, and watch your analytics to evaluate what content is actually creating engagement.

As you plan the media relations calendar for your year or season, consider how your story pitches and the content you’ll need to provide to the press can work for your other audience communications. Programming, artistic, and educational staff should be part of this planning process — and those departments should be discussing ideas with the PR team as their programming is being developed, not as an afterthought.

This is a holistic approach to communications that requires time, effort and cross-departmental collaboration, but it is a method that pays off over the long term — ultimately cutting down on the duplication of efforts among staff, producing consistent and proactive communications and putting you one step ahead.

 

Ecosystems at Risk

Posted by Alex Sarian On July - 9 - 2013
Alex Sarian

Alex Sarian

Two very scary, and seemingly unrelated, things happened in 2008:   1) 100,000 nonprofits around the US (many of them arts, education, & culture based) began the slow and painful process of going out of business, and 2) the Holdridge’s toad, one of Costa Rica’s most prevalent species, was declared extinct.

Let’s talk toads first:

There are two schools of thought that explain why a species might become extinct. The first holds the environment responsible, stating that the Holdridge’s toad became extinct because of “chytridiomycosis” (look it up), a disease caused by effects of climate change. In this case, the toads were not able to evolve fast enough to adapt to the fast-changing environment around them. The second option, ironically, holds the species responsible. This popular evolutionary theory called the “Red Queen hypothesis” – named after Lewis Carroll’s character who described her country as a nation in which “it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place” – argues that species biologically increase in numbers until they reach the ‘carrying capacity’ of their environment, by which point the environment is too consumed (deteriorated) to sustain such diversity. Extinction. Scientists predict that by 2050, as a result of one of the two theories mentioned above, a full quarter of the species known to us today will be extinct. Read the rest of this entry »

Jamie Kasper

Jamie Kasper

Imagine a fast-growing, increasingly diverse school district with approximately 2,700 students in grades K–12, located 12 miles from the downtown area of a city. The district currently consists of three buildings: an elementary school (grades K–4), a middle school (grades 6–8), and a high school (grades 9–12). Also imagine the following:

  • Because of the growing population, the district is building a new facility for grades 3-5 that will open in the 2013–2014 school year. This building will have a STEAM focus.
  • In addition to visual arts and music, students in the elementary school also participate in an Arts Alive class. Arts Alive is a performing arts class that focuses on storytelling; students employ dance, music, and theatre to tell and create stories. Students often comment that they wish Arts Alive would continue into the middle school because they learn so much in elementary school.
  • The administrative team—including the superintendent and other central office staff; building leadership; heads of transportation, food service, and grounds; and other leaders—has spent its last three summer leadership retreats at local arts and cultural facilities, engaged in creative arts-based learning with staff from those facilities.
  • The middle school visual arts teacher took it upon herself a few years ago to attend a robotics workshop at a local university. With the help of staff from a special robotics program at the university, she now engages her middle school students in designing, creating, and programming kinetic sculptures that use the elements and principles of design. Read the rest of this entry »

The Emerging Leader Vision of Moving Communities to the Next Level

Posted by Sara Bateman On April - 19 - 2013
Sara Bateman

Sara Bateman

Having been engaged with the Emerging Leaders Network for several years now, I remain thoroughly impressed with those whom this network connects me to. These individuals represent a group of next generation leaders filled with great capacity, innovative approaches, and a strong vision for how to strengthen their organizations, the arts field, and their communities.

Over the course of the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon these past five days, we had the privilege to meet 22 more of these arts leaders, each filled with insightful and passionate approaches to what they feel would make where they live a better place or bring it to the next level.

In a time where we are both witnesses and participants to massive change on local and global scales—both in the arts & culture field and in the general landscape of our communities—we as arts administrators need to be ready to tackle the challenge of using art as a catalyst for the betterment of the places and the people we belong to.

And after reading through these posts this week, I’d say we’re up for the challenge.

We’ve heard a wide range of ideas, including incentivizing an arts district and cultural planning; the challenge of making an arts and culture identity known when it sits in the shadow of a major city or a large tourism industry; and ideas on how we can create social bridges, claim public space, and enable the ability of a community to tell their own story. Read the rest of this entry »

The Space Race

Posted by Chase Maggiano On April - 18 - 2013
Chase Maggiano

Chase Maggiano

There are a few things I have come to believe are true: Justin Bieber’s monkey is more famous than I will ever be; there are more self-proclaimed artists in the world than at any time in history; and the arts are the next big export—both here in Washington, D.C., and abroad.

All three of these truths lead to a problem we have in our cultural communities. We need more space.

With YouTube, an iPad, and Kickstarter, anyone can create and distribute art while sitting in front of the computer in their underwear (no…not THAT kind of art). Some artists can even launch careers from the keyboard. But it is not enough to think of art as an activity performed in isolation, behind the curtain of technology.

I have learned that many people in my community feel the same way. Sure, it’s easy to rehearse and perform a play in your living room, read chamber music in a basement, and labor over paintings in the garage for hours—but if no one sees your art, does it have any real impact?

While finding performance space is often the key stumbling block, locating adequate rehearsal (or studio) space is an equally important challenge. Without an appropriate place to cultivate art, there is no true quality control of the product. Don’t believe me? Ask a dancer. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 2013
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

Evaluating Our Arts Footprint in a Growing City

Posted by Sarah Rucker On April - 17 - 2013
Sarah Rucker

Sarah Rucker

What city carries the nickname “the Violet Crown?” What about “Live Music Capital of the World?”

Now it may be ringing bells…or strumming guitars, I should say. Austin, TX, is my home and has been for 12 years. It’s true that I’m one of the University of Texas alums who remained after graduating, despised by those born or have lived here for over 25 years and have seen the population double. However, my roots were growing here before I was born.

My parents moved here in 1969 and my brother was born in Austin in the summer of ‘71. My father worked at the Vulcan Gas Company nightclub, and consequently I grew up listening to 50s blues, 60s soul, and 70s rock. Though raised on the Gulf Coast, I knew I wanted to live in Austin before my sixth birthday. Enough about me, let’s flash-forward.

Austin has experienced a diverse history of politics, social change, and a lot of music. But where are we now, in this amazing century #21?

With hundreds of thousands of visitors coming each year for events such as Austin City Limits Music Festival and SXSW Music, Film & Interactive Festival, we need to find the balance of celebrating the history, promoting the local talent and embracing the changes this city has undergone.

Incorporating the past, present, and future into one’s work is often key in the arts and community life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Doubling Down on What Works

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On April - 5 - 2013
Kristen Engebretsen

Kristen Engebretsen

During the Friday, March 29 meeting of the National Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) revealed their new four-point plan for arts education, under the leadership of new Director of Education Ayanna Hudson.

Ayanna is my former boss from when we both lived in Los Angeles and worked on the Arts for All initiative at the LA County Arts Commission. So I wasn’t surprised by this new direction for arts education at the NEA—it is great to see Ayanna have a national platform to spread her expertise on issues like collective impact.

At the beginning of the council meeting, Ayanna stated that the NEA wants to weave arts education into the very fabric of every school so that ALL students have access to the arts. And given the scope of the NEA, they want to focus on the following four key areas to achieve this:

Point 1 – Leverage Investments: The NEA is looking to invest its grant dollars for arts education in a way that can really spur change in the field. Their new investment strategy is what former NEA chairman Rocco Landesman called “doubling down on what works.”

Ayanna mentioned that new guidelines for arts education grants are currently under review and they MIGHT start allowing larger, multiyear grants to models based on best practice and collaboration. She mentioned several examples, such as Arts for All, A+ Schools, Ingenuity Incorporated, etc.  Read the rest of this entry »

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.