How to Get a Seat at the Table

Posted by Linda Langston On May - 30 - 2014
Linda Langston

Linda Langston

I recently spoke in an Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network webinar entitled, “How to Get a Seat at the Table” on May 7.  As president of the National Association of Counties, I presented from a political perspective.  As a former museum director though, I am attuned to the unique challenges and opportunities in making sure your voice is heard as an arts organization.  Your first priority in getting a seat at the table is to make sure that your organization’s business plan and vision are in line.  You need to define what your organization is and also you need to determine your organization’s place is in the community.  You must be the story-teller of your organization. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of an Afternoon with an Artist

Posted by Ronda Billerbeck On April - 17 - 2013
Ronda Billerbeck

Ronda Billerbeck

On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.

Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.

Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.

When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched.  Read the rest of this entry »

Tossing Small Stones to Change an Entire Landscape

Posted by Kacy O'Brien On April - 3 - 2012

Kacy O'Brien

Change starts small, right?

We have seen time and again that small pockets of people, when seized with an idea, can come together and with the right leadership, momentum, and tools can affect change.

Change often starts with one person and a vision. If we want to be part of the “cultural zeitgeist, actively addressing the social inequities in our country” and reach “exponentially greater numbers of people,” as Diane Ragsdale suggests, then we need to do it in our backyards.

That may sound counter-intuitive—“to reach more people stay close to home”—but in my experience thus far as an early-career theatre producer, it seems to be the only way we’ll stay relevant to our respective communities.

In addition, cultural institutions need to have the room to try out ideas that are related to our missions, but not bound by them. That is not a new idea, by any stretch, but I think if we’re able to consider programming—not funding (though we could use that, too!)—in terms of venture capitalism, we may see large equity returns by way of audience growth, community partnerships and social relevance.

We talk a lot about relevance to our communities in the arts sector, particularly in regional institutions, and I think that the future of arts institutions and artists would benefit greatly from pursuing high-potential, high-risk programmatic change—what I’ll dub “venture capital projects.” Read the rest of this entry »

How Can Local Arts Agencies Engage Their Communities?

Posted by Maya Kumazawa On August - 29 - 2011

Maya Kumazawa

It seems that “community engagement” and “community arts” are paving the way to a new paradigm in the local arts sector.

By browsing through some local arts agency (LAA) websites, I got the sense that most organizations were somehow relating to their local communities already. But what exactly IS community engagement and how do you do it?

Of course, by sponsoring a public art installation or creating a cultural district, the community benefits. There’s no clear line between community outreach and actually engaging citizens in conversations.

An article in the New York Times describes the shift towards community engagement in MFA programs as, “[capturing] the evolving contemporary art world, one in which awareness of the social, cultural, economic and political context in which art exists has become increasingly important. “

However, even this description doesn’t clearly distinguish how the arts world is changing – the arts have always reflected an awareness of social and cultural contexts. By defining the paradigm more specifically, LAAs will be able to plan more efficiently. Read the rest of this entry »