First, the bad news…

Posted by Jeff Hawthorne On June - 18 - 2009

Reporting from Seattle! Wednesday was a pre-conference workshop for local arts agency administrators who are also engaged in private sector initiatives (like my organization, the Regional Arts & Culture Council in Portland, Oregon is doing with its United Arts Fund, Work for Art). Americans for the Arts datahead and amateur comic Randy Cohen presented an overview of arts giving in America, supported by three recently released reports that are, I’ll just say it, discouraging.

A study conducted every 4 years by the National Endowment for the Arts tells us that the percentage of Americans attending live arts events decreased in 2008. It had been fairly steady at 40% in the 80s, 90s, and earlier part of this decade, but now stands at 35%. Now because the study tracks “benchmark” activities – theater, opera, professional dance, classical music, jazz, and art museums – it’s possible that some of the decline is simply attributable to the fact that many Americans are consuming art in different ways — poetry slams, participatory arts, contemporary music festivals and the like. We also discussed our theories on the extent to which technology is playing a role. Randy pointed out that record and CD stores have declined by 50% during the same period, but that certainly doesn’t mean we’re listening to less music, we’re just downloading it.

The annual Giving USA report, released just last week, shows that overall giving to arts, culture and humanities is down, from $13.67 million in 2007 to $12.79 billion in 2008. Yes overall giving was down during this period, but even more distressing is the fact that the arts are losing ever-more market share of all philanthropic contributions. In 2001, 4.9% of every philanthropic dollar went to the arts; in 2008 the arts’ share was 4.1%. That might sound like only a small gap, but the trend is concerning (when does it end?), and it represents a very significant sum: $2.3 billion (which is how much more American businesses, foundations and individuals would be giving today if they were still giving 4.9% to the arts).

Meanwhile, the national BCA (now merging with Americans for the Arts) has a new report that focuses on business support for the arts. Between 2003 and 2006, the percentage of businesses that contribute to the arts increased from 36% to 42%, but total cash support decreased 5%, from $3.32 billion to $3.16 billion. That was during a period of economic growth; obviously, this number is going to worsen over the next couple of years. I’ve read many reports that a majority of corporations plan to hold their contributions flat in 2009, but I’m thinking, yeah right.

Which brings us to the convention proper, which begins today (Thursday). I’ll be following the Private Sector track throughout the conference, with some dabbling in the advocacy and civic engagement tracks, to see if we can’t uncover some best practices and other forms of inspiration to combat these conditions and reverse these trends in the Portland area, if not nationally.

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Six Awarded for Excellence in Arts Leadership

Posted by Liz Bartolomeo On June - 18 - 2009

During the opening general session at the 2009 annual convention in Seattle today, Americans for the Arts honored five individuals and one organization for their outstanding leadership in the arts and arts education. Congratulations to this year’s award recipients:

Bruce W. Davis, Michael Newton Award for United Arts Funds Leadership
Randy Engstrom, Emerging Leader Award
Victoria Hamilton, Selina Roberts Ottum Award for Arts Leadership
Buster Simpson, Public Art Network Award
Sheila Smith, Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award
Big Thought, Arts Education Award

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Twitter Alert

Posted by Lex Leifheit On June - 17 - 2009

We’re here! Many of us, anyway. And we’re tweeting. Several of you pointed out that the hashtag #aftaconvention09 is awfully long, given the 140-character limit. So many people are using the hash tag #afta09, which was given AftA’s official blessing earlier today.

For Twitter newbies: a “hashtag” is a way of adding community context to your tweets–they are similar to the tags used on other community sites such as Flickr, but included within the text a post.

I must admit I don’t know how to set up an automatic search for hashtags … I just searched for people posting about the Annual Convention and added them to my follow list. Does anyone out there know a better way?

Hope to meet many of you soon … in person!

@artagenda (Lex Leifheit)

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Send your questions now to our Innovators

Posted by Liz Bartolomeo On June - 15 - 2009

A few days ago, we asked if you had questions for the general session speakers—Bill Ivey, Dr. Peter M. Senge, and Terre Jones—at the upcoming Americans for the Arts annual convention. Now we want some good ones to ask our Innovators. These are some of most pioneering people working in and around the arts, so it’s OK to do a little prep work before leaving your question in the comments below.

  • Arts Education Innovator: Daniel Windham and Robert L. Lynch
  • Civic Engagement Innovator: Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Maria Bauman
  • Diverse Cultures Innovator: Luis J. Rodriguez
  • Economic Development Innovator: Jon Hawkes
  • Private Sector Innovator: Akhtar Badshah
  • Public Advocacy Innovator: Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA)
  • Public Art Innovator: Edgar Heap of Birds

You can also send us your questions on Twitter @americans4arts and be sure to tag it #aftaconvention09. Your question may be asked during an Innovator session or be included in exclusive video Q&As that we will be posting online.

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Have questions for convention speakers? Let us know.

Posted by Liz Bartolomeo On June - 10 - 2009

By now, I’m sure you have read the previews here about the 2009 Annual Convention, but now we want to hear from you. Whether you are joining us in Seattle next week or not, we are collecting questions for our speakers.

Today we are looking for what you would like to ask our plenary session presenters Bill Ivey and Terre Jones and keynote speaker Dr. Peter M. Senge. I want to ask Terre Jones how arts groups that don’t have green spaces like Wolf Trap can excel in environmental sustainability?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or send us a message on Twitter @americans4arts and be sure to tag it #aftaconvention09. Your question may be asked during a session or be included in exclusive video Q&As that we will be posting online.

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Mitch Menchaca, Senior Director of Programs at the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and Chair of the Emerging Leader Council, and Teniqua Broughton, Program Director at Free Arts Arizona, and Vice-Chair of the Emerging Leader Council both discuss the past ten years of the Emerging Leader Council, their own personal career trajectories, and offer advice to Emerging Leaders navigating this tough economy.

Take a listen, and please comment!  What advice do you have for young arts leaders working in this economy?

Listen to part 1 of the interview.

The Wing Luke Asian Museum at the 2009 Americans for the Arts Convention

Posted by Michael del Vecchio On May - 27 - 2009

Photo by John Pai.  Courtesy of Wing Luke Asian Museum.The Wing Luke Asian Museum is recognized within the field as a model of community arts programming and engagement for their long-term commitment to exploring issues related to the culture, art, and history of Asian-Pacific Americans. In this conversation with Cassie Chinn, Deputy Executive Director at The Wing Luke Asian Museum, get a taste of the story that staff from the museum, community members, and artists will share at the session in June. Cassie offers listeners perspective on the museum’s programming in June (definitely stop by and check out their new space if you’re able!), and gives listeners a good idea of the museum’s innovative model for partnership and programming through work with communities. Further, she offers listeners interested in replicating this work on the local level a few pointers on how to begin to think through philosophy and mind-set.

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Cultural Arts and Community Development

Posted by Randy Engstrom On May - 1 - 2009

I’ve been seriously delinquent in my Americans for the Arts blogging resoponsiblilities, so I’m going to try to get moving…One big theme that I think people will hear a lot about at the conference in Seattle this summer is our collaborative work around Cultural Overlay Districts.

Affordable space is not a new issue to artists and arts organizations, but in Seattle we experienced a sort of tippng point early in 2008 with the sale of the Oddfellows building which displaced dozens of arts groups that had defined the character of their neighborhood.  This prompted a massive turnout to a community meeting in city hall designed to explore what could be done to prevent such occurrences in the future; how can we preserve and develop long term affordable space in our city?

The city council (and Councilmember Nick Licata in particular) convened  the Cultural Overlay Distric Advisory Commitee (or CODAC) to explore different incentive zoning and code tools, and make a series of recommendations to the council to try to adress the issue of affordable space.  The commitee represented developers, artists, administrators, and staff form all levels of city and county governemnet.  Our recommendations went to the council yesterday.  More than a static set of code changes, we proposed a concept of leveraging the arts as a means of developing neighborhoods from the ground up; more of an economic development strategy for a city than a band aid for affordable space.  Talk about sustainability…stay tuned.

Calling all convention session proposals!

Posted by admin On July - 14 - 2008

We are really excited to be heading to Seattle for the 2009 Annual Convention. Although Americans for the Arts hosts the convention, it is really YOUR convention. You are the presenters, participants, and consumers of this event. You are the ones who make it successful. We just set the stage for you to connect, listen, and learn from one another. 

We are currently accepting proposals to present. DEADLINE: AUGUST 1.

Below are some suggestions for what separates a good proposal from a weak proposal.

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Convention Graduation

Posted by admin On July - 3 - 2008

There are moments where you sense things so intensely they have a texture and vibration all their own. One experiences joy and humility in the same breath and it brings a lump to your throat even though you are smiling broadly. I had many grateful moments like these over the course of Convention. To me, our Convention is a graduation experience of sorts (true confessions from a former high school teacher). It happens in June. It’s a culmination of a year’s worth of work. And, when it happens, you forget all the hard times in between and fall back in love with your work all over again. If we did a yearbook, this text would be on my senior page.

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8,537 ARTSblog hits during the 2008 Convention

Posted by admin On June - 30 - 2008

Americans for the Arts Convention Blog Stats (pdf, 288KB)

We know that not everyone can attend our Annual Convention. We asked several participants to blog their convention experience through the ARTSblog. Each track was covered. Some sessions or events were profiled more than once. The posts started flowing in before Convention began.

Here are some stats about American Evolution as it happened online. Our Google Analytics looks like an earthquake hit or something.

  • 8,537 page views over the course of convention
  • 1,122 unique visitors
  • 2:42 average time on site

What was the experience like on your end?

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Countdown to Seattle…or we've only got 4 minutes to save the world

Posted by Terence McFarland On June - 23 - 2008

For reasons I’m too embarrassed, exhausted or simply unwilling to discuss, I’m seated at the Phoenix Airport at 7:00 a.m. on my way home to LA. I’m not a fan of overnight flights, and I’m extremely un-fond of three hour airline delays – especially when I could have stayed at the airport hotel and swam in the pool or worked out. Oh well. Time for a recap.

This conference rocked. For those that have been reading my posts, I can be a bit of a tough love kind-of-guy. Read the rest of this entry »

Warm (and Arty) Fuzzies

Posted by John Arroyo On June - 23 - 2008

Time flies! It feels like the first session just started, but now its time to wrap-up. Unfortunately, I had to leave a bit early on Saturday afternoon. So sorry to have missed the Emerging Leaders Reception at World Cafe Live – such a cool space! In honor of my absence, I loaded my iPod with cool new music to listen to on the flight back to LA.

As I reflect upon the last couple of days, I can’t help but feel honored to be a part of such a great community of committed and creative individuals. Read the rest of this entry »

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Looking Forward: A View to Seattle

Posted by Randy Engstrom On June - 23 - 2008

I can’t help but view this whole conference experience through the lens of its arrival in my hometown next year. What will we do differently? What worked and what didn’t? What does ‘Metro Natural’ mean? I really want to be able to show off the ‘Authentic Seattle’ character, but also be realistic about what we will be able to do…I didn’t even make all of the sessions I wanted to this year, and I had far less responsibility than I will next time around.

I really enjoyed the presentation I just saw about uwishunu, and am totally blown away by how smart, savvy, and authentic that project seems to be. I hope they come to Seattle next year. I also really enjoyed the panel that Ra and Lisa from Illinois Arts Alliance hosted on succession planning; I did manage to step on a small land mine during that discussion when I suggested that hiring young, capable staff and training them up through the organization was a way to protect yourself from succession crisis…apparently it sounded like I was saying don’t hire people over 35 (I wasn’t). It made me think about a few things for next year:

-Multigenerational Leadership dialogue: It gets a little too ‘us vs. them’ for me…I think we would all be served by being able to hear and learn from each others stories, regardless of age or institution.

-Combined panels with Economic Development and Leadership: In both tracks it was sometimes hard to tell which was which. I think these two areas are closely linked (uwishunu is a good example).

-I have 3 staff under the age of 25, all running different aspects of our program…I’d like to put them on a panel next year and explore what works/doesn’t work about distributed leadership, and what their view of organizational structure is. A lot of people wonder aloud what young people think/want; I suggest we ask them.

-Youth Voice: There is so much dialogue about arts education, but I haven’t seen any youth as presenters. I think that would be really informative

-Sustainability: It appears that this is out theme, and I hope we can explore a wholistic view of the idea of sustainablility…Organizational, environmental, career, operating structure. I have some great ArtVenture ideas for the conference that adress this idea. I also think that susatainability naturally lends itself to crossover between tracks.

I’m just sayin’

I love the people from Tuscon!!!

See you next time…

Randy

Can I Get A Seat At the Player's Table?!

Posted by Julie Bates On June - 22 - 2008

Yesterday’s highlight: Joyce Fellow Adam Thurman challenging the Americans for the Arts Board of Directors to give “us”—a new generation of emerging leaders of color—a voice on that board.

The board’s response? A direct invitation to work with their strategic planning and diversity committees in providing feedback on their strategic plan draft.

Adam, I think that’s a yes.