Branding Your Neighborhood, Town, or City

Posted by Cally Vennare On June - 24 - 2013

Cally Vennare

Cally Vennare

How do you utilize the arts to foster civic identity, cultivate tourism, and brand your city, town or neighborhood?

Four arts leaders. Four diverse markets. Four distinct audience segments. While the cities and circumstances may differ, their authentic and creative approach to problem solving, consensus building, and collaboration did not. Here are their key insights and takeaways from last week’s 2013 Americans for the Arts Convention.

Andrew M. Witt, St. Johns Cultural Council (St. Augustine, Florida)
“Be real. Find the asset in the community that is going to be of interest to someone not in your community and sell that in a realistic way. The worst thing that can happen is to not meet (customer) expectations. If you don’t, they’ll tell 10 people; if you exceed expectations, they’ll tell 2 people. So you have to deliver on the promise you made.”
Learn more about the work of the St. Johns Cultural Council here.  

Robert Vodnoy, Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony (Aberdeen, South Dakota)
“The lesson in all the different stories that I told you is: the general impulse of the community is to have civic pride and not want to touch the stories that are problematic. Or to sanitize them. But I think the cultural tourist is more interested in the whole story. So I think the challenge is to get the civic identity to embrace its complete self, and not to walk away from what is actually a rich story just because it’s a little ‘icky.’ It’s a tougher story, but it’s a much more interesting narrative. Embrace the dark side.”
Learn more about the Aberdeen University/Civic Symphony here. Read the rest of this entry »

Follow Along at the 2013 Annual Convention

Posted by admin On June - 15 - 2013

8619_10151402651177805_379340572_nNot everyone can join us here in Pittsburgh at the 2013 Annual Convention and preconferences, but we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to follow all the action online. The best place to take part “virtually” is the Convention Homepage.

You’ll find links to the three livestreamed general sessions, our Flickr photo feed, ARTSblog posts written about the Convention, and the Twitter feed. You can also follow everything on Twitter directly by searching with the #afta13 hashtag.

Check back often for new photos and content!

Public Art Projects from Concecption to Installation

Posted by Nadine Wasserman On June - 15 - 2013
Nadine Wasserman

Nadine Wasserman

As part of the Annual 2013 Americans for the Arts National Conference, the Public Art Network (PAN) Preconference, presents the opportunity for public art professionals to explore all aspects of their field from invigorating communities to behind-the-scenes negotiations such as planning, fund raising, and working collaboratively with artists, architects, engineers, fabricators, city planners, and so on.

Like any worthwhile artistic production, good public art requires delicate negotiations, collaborations, and most importantly flexibility and adaptability. One of the many panels at PAN this year took a look at how the end result can often be very different from the initial prospectus. The panel, titled “Between the Lip and the Cup: How Projects Change from Initial Process to Final Installation,” was made up of four different professionals: Cath Brunner, Director, Public Art 4Culture, Seattle, WA; Stacy Levy, artist, Sere, Ltd., Spring Mills, PA; Natalie Plecity, Landscape Architect, Pittsburgh, PA; and Janet Zweig, artist, Brooklyn, NY.

The panel used examples to demonstrate how changes and unpredictable circumstances are inevitable at all phases of a project but they can be successfully managed in order to create the “best” outcomes for all stakeholders.
Ms. Zweig talked about two of her projects. One was for Maplewood, a neighborhood in St. Louis.  Her first proposal to create a digital sign proved cost prohibitive so she revised her plan. In the end her signs were made of recycled materials taken from bungalows that were scheduled for demolition in the neighborhood. One of the signs was intentionally installed backwards so that drivers passing by could read it in their rearview mirrors. Serendipitously, it was this aspect of the project that created a buzz and got the neighborhood the recognition it was seeking. Read the rest of this entry »

Year in Review, Public Art Network preconference

Posted by Nadine Wasserman On June - 14 - 2013

Nadine Wasserman

Nadine Wasserman

Each year as a highlight of the Public Art Network’s preconference, a panel of jurors presents its selection of exemplary public art projects from the previous year. The 2013 Year in Review jurors were Justine Topfer, Curator, Out of the Box Projects & Project Manager, San Francisco Arts Commission, CA; Norie Sato, Artist, Seattle, WA; and John Carson, Artist and Head of the School of Art, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA.From 350 submissions they selected 50 that were completed in 2012.

Since 2000, PAN’s Year in Review uses an open call submission process from which the panel selects up to 50 projects that represent the most compelling works from across the country. This year’s jury prefaced their presentation by explaining that although they had different points of view they agreed on all of the choices and were careful to recuse themselves during the deliberations from those projects where there had conflicts of interest.

In their introduction, the panel explained that this year they noticed an increased number of projects using light and technology, an interesting trend towards multiple or groups of artists working on one project, and the use of different funding sources with an increase in the number of projects initiated and funded by private developers. They also noted that there were fewer land-based projects and that in general it seems that the field is getting broader. Read the rest of this entry »

Envisioning a City of Artists with “Soulful Stakes”

Posted by Kyle Bostian On May - 31 - 2013
Kyle Bostian

Kyle Bostian

Pittsburgh is widely – and deservedly – touted for its transformation from declining industrial center to post-industrial success story, with much attention devoted to the role played by the arts in that (ongoing) process. The site of the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, downtown’s Cultural District, represents a shining example of how artistic activity can help drive an economic recovery.

But in many neighborhoods the transition isn’t quite as far along; in some, it’s barely begun. And, for me and plenty of other Pittsburgh residents, that raises questions about how artists – often among the “avant-garde” (regardless of the style of their work) in terms of moving into and restoring “blighted” areas – might strive to make the most of the opportunities presented to them there. In my case (and I’m by no means alone in this respect), these questions go beyond the relationship between artistic activity and economic revitalization to encompass broader aspects of community building, accessibility, and social justice.

As a citizen-artist-activist, I appreciate the feeling of community that the arts often generate among participants. I’m particularly interested in and devote some of my own creative energy to projects that address issues (social, economic, political) with direct relevance to local populations. I’m passionate about the work I do along those lines. At the same time, I wonder if there are ways I could use my creativity to engage more deeply with my communities and have a greater impact. That’s why I was struck so powerfully by the words of one panelist at a recent Pittsburgh Emerging Arts Leaders Network forum on “Arts as Urban Renewal.” Read the rest of this entry »

The One Not to Miss

Posted by Mara Walker On May - 28 - 2013
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

June seems like convention season in the arts world. There are lots of national arts organizations developing educational and networking programs for their constituents.  If you are an arts discipline organization like a theatre or chorus or a service organization like a local arts agency there is a gathering for you next month.

Why choose the Americans for the Arts convention? Sure, it has workshops like other conferences and we cover topics like finding creative funding sources for your work, getting arts supportive local ballots passed, mapping your cultural ecosystem, serving diverse audiences, working toward equitable funding for the arts and much more. Naturally, it has receptions at amazing venues like The Andy Warhol Museum and the Mattress Factory. Yes, it has amazing award winning, game-changing speakers like Jim Messina, Manuel Pastor, Bill Strickland, Paula Kerger, Gary Knell, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Adam Goldman, Matt Arrigo, Tim McClimon and Edgar Smith. And there will be plenty of opportunity to hear from peers, colleagues and decision makers about how they are ensuring the arts are sustained and seen as core to building better communities.

We’ve picked an amazing city, Pittsburgh, for the convention where you can literally see the arts making a difference as you walk down Liberty Avenue. In return, Pittsburgh has the Three River Arts Festival, Gay Pride and baseball games taking place while we are there, June 14-16, so you can have the best of times. Read the rest of this entry »

Treading Art Team Suggests You Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh

Posted by Christine Smith On May - 22 - 2013
Melissa LuVisi and Christine Smith of Treading Art

Melissa LuVisi and Christine Smith of Treading Art

Pittsburgh has vastly changed from what once was known as the “smoky city,” covered in smoke and grit, to a city that is open, architecturally diverse, young, and thriving. Pittsburgh has become a leader in the technology, energy and medical fields which has attracted transplants from across the country to work in and live in Western Pennsylvania. It has managed to diversify its economy away from an over reliance on manufacturing while preserving its industrial heritage.

As Pittsburgh continues to implement programs like the Propel Pittsburgh Commission, an initiative developed by the city to give a voice to young careerists living and working in the city, we can expect to see more population growth spurts in the region. Furthering this commitment to growth, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl put forth several efforts to retain college graduates by asking them to ‘pick’ Pittsburgh in 2012. For the last three years the city has been showing a strong number of increases in population. In terms of the arts and culture fields, it cannot be denied that the liveability of the city has more artists moving and settling in Pittsburgh to pursue their craft. Nationally speaking, here at Treading Art, we believe Pittsburgh is a city for America to keep its eye on while it continues to make broad strokes towards the top. 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 »

Sam Laffey

Sam Laffey

I love Pittsburgh. I mean it; I am a full on Pittsburgh-loving evangelist.

I have a full-time job that I love here. I co-own a small business here. I own a house here. I wasn’t born here. I’m a transplant. And unlike my friend Michelle, it took me longer than a year to get on board with Pittsburgh.

“Why did you come here?” The emphasis on ‘here’ was always more dramatic when the person asking knew I came from Los Angeles. I grew up in L.A. for 18 years and couldn’t wait to leave when it came time to apply to college. It’s not that I didn’t like L.A., but I was hungry for something new and different. I mean, how much sunshine can a person take? I kid, but in truth I did want to experience seasons.

I originally came to feed my hunger for seasons and independence and to study art at Carnegie Mellon University. After about two months, I felt my hunger had been satiated and I announced to my family that after I completed my four-year degree, I was coming home as fast as that plane could carry me.

When I tell this story now it makes me laugh, because it truly was a rough beginning to my courtship with Pittsburgh. My apartment and school and the four square blocks in between were all I knew. It got really small really quick. The public transportation system was pretty good back then and my school ID got me on for free, but I didn’t know where to go, so I felt trapped. Read the rest of this entry »

Can Art and Culture Districts Shape the Cities of the Future?

Posted by John Eger On April - 23 - 2013
John Eger

John Eger

Welcome to the global economy and society.

U.S. astronauts reflecting on their experiences in space all seemed to see the earth as one “big blue marble.”

As NASA writes: “For the first time in history, humankind looked at Earth and saw not a jigsaw puzzle of states and countries on an uninspiring flat map—but rather a whole planet uninterrupted by boundaries, a fragile sphere of dazzling beauty floating alone in a dangerous void.”

Thanks to the pervasive worldwide spread of internet technology, the “big blue marble age” is here, the global economy has arrived, and in a sense, the world’s map is being redrawn in a way never envisioned.

While interviewing Nandan Nilekani, the C.E.O. of Infosys, Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times and author of The World is Flat, observed:

“There (has been) a massive investment in technology, especially in the bubble era, when hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in putting broadband connectivity around the world, undersea cables, (and) those things…created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again.” Read the rest of this entry »

A local host committee has been working for months to organize tours and special events to show off public art in Pittsburgh during the 2013 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention to the most discerning public art audience: Public Art Network (PAN) Preconference attendees. No pressure!

The photo for our album cover –  Public Art n’At  by the Office of Public Art and Morton Brown Live From Agnes Katz Plaza

The photo for our album cover – Public Art n’At by the Office of Public Art and Morton Brown: Live From Agnes Katz Plaza

On Wednesday, June 12, all of the preconference attendees are invited to our Welcome to Pittsburgh event. Meet up in the lobby of the Westin to get your registration and Dine-Around location organized.

A guide will walk with you a few blocks down to Agnes Katz Plaza in the heart of the Cultural District. The photo was taken at the end of March. We promise you won’t need a winter coat in June! But you might need an umbrella, so please pack one.  Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Inspiration in the New Normal

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On June - 1 - 2012

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As an arts education advocate who is leading an effort in San Diego to ensure that arts education is not lost in the midst of budget cuts at San Diego Unified School District, I must confess I am a little lost these days.

In the past, it’s been easy. District administration red lines the visual and performing arts department to save money, we advocate to the school board, and the school board approves funding for another year. It’s been this way for at least the last three years. But this year is different.

This year, the pink slips to more than 1,600 teachers were not rescinded in the final hour as they had been every year before. This year, the May revise shows the state budget gap is not $9 billion but almost $16 billion—definitely not what the governor anticipated. In 2009 they projected that the district budget would turn around by 2013. But that’s nowhere near what’s happening. This year it’s a very different ball game.

As a strategist, I take pride in knowing just what tools to use and what angle to take when going to bat for the arts in San Diego City Schools. But I’m at a loss this year. How do we continue to demand that the arts education budget remains intact when 1 in 5 teachers district-wide will be without a job come June unless the board can work with the teachers union and agree to contract concessions?

How do we continue to have faith that it will all work out when California voters refuse to support the taxes needed to ensure that education budgets aren’t decimated and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature think that the only answer is more cuts. And even if the governor’s tax increase proposal is approved by the voters in November, the result the district projects is a flat budget, not an increase, in school funding. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

It Only Takes One: How an Emerging Arts Leader Can Impact a Community

Posted by Angela Harris On March - 27 - 2012

Angela Harris

When I received the call from Americans for the Arts saying that I had been selected to receive the 2011 American Express Emerging Leaders Award, I had so many emotions.

I was thrilled that the panel appreciated the impact that I was making in the community. I was proud that all of the hard work and countless hours that I had invested into starting a nonprofit and growing from the ground up were being recognized; and I was nervous about the future and committed to making sure that I lived up to the honor of the award.

2012 has been a wonderful season of accomplishments for both me and my organization, Dance Canvas. Since June, when I received the award, I have cultivated a new choreographic partnership with Kennesaw State University, which will be developed into a new track and choreographic options for the students of the dance department.

I also began a new partnership with Career Transition for Dancers, and worked in conjunction with the Los Angeles-based organization to provide career training to dancers and choreographers in Atlanta.

Artistically, Dance Canvas partnered with the Rialto Center for the Arts to provide creative connections to involve the community in educational outreach and residencies. These community connections allowed Dance Canvas to work with The Trey McIntyre Project, and with the French Consulate of Atlanta to present a master class by Pierre Rigal’s production, Asphalte. Read the rest of this entry »

A Compelling Defense

Posted by Krista Lang Blackwood On November - 16 - 2011
Krista Lang Blackwood

Krista Lang Blackwood

This past summer I sat in a room at the Americans for Arts Annual Convention on a beautiful afternoon and listened to folks from Memphis talk about how art and business have created a partnership that works (you can find a longer blog post about it here).

The conversation wasn’t what I expected to hear.

I expected to hear the tired old platitudes about the ROI arts can provide; pie graphs, bar graphs, numbers galore. Bottom line revenue creation. Profit points. Cost projections. Economic development. Blah, blah, blah…

But as I stiffened my spine to sit through another pile of accounting  buzzwords, the corporate guy got up and said, “When we’re trying to hire quality people, the town’s cultural footprint is important in attracting the right kind of people.” In short, “I don’t really care about the arts themselves or the money the arts can make;  I only use them as a tool to make sure we get quality employees.”

There was a palpable, audible, unified grumble that cascaded across the room. However, I leaned forward in my chair, newly in love with this guy who cut through the bull and told it like it is. 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.