So Let’s Actually Do Research and Development

Posted by Nick Dragga On April - 18 - 2014
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

Among other issues, I hear emerging leaders wanting a larger voice in their organization – a chance to use their knowledge and skills. From the “established leaders” in my area, I hear not knowing exactly how to use, or maybe engage, emerging leaders (ELs) and their ideas. Senior leaders are sometimes unsure or afraid of how to fit these new ideas into the organization’s structure or culture since there are reasons things are done they way they are, and sometimes (often) organizations are big ships to turn.Of course, finding a voice in your organization is a huge issue with lots of nuances, and this issue could certainly be articulated better or maybe even more correctly, but I think we all get that we all want a vibrant and relevant organization that is regenerative in its thinking and programing. There are systems in place that have grown and sustained the organizations to what they are today, and new ideas like [insert your brilliant idea here] in the pipeline that are exciting, engaging, and even revolutionary will keep organizations relevant. So, how do we bring out great ideas and engage leaders at all stages, all the while maybe even having some fun? Yes, this is a lofty goal. Further, is this lofty goal, or unicorn, possible without a huge culture shift or organizational overhaul? Read the rest of this entry »

The Cost of Creativity

Posted by Teresa Hichens Olson On April - 15 - 2014
Teresa Hichens Olson & students

Teresa Hichens Olson & students

My morning has been spent with 26 third graders mummifying Barbies, writing in hieroglyphics, and learning about ratios in relation to an ancient Egyptian cure for stomachaches. (The cure, by the way, is a mixture of garlic and honey, which produces enzymes in the body to reduce acid. A cool fact no matter how old you are.)

I start each class, as I always do, with four words: I am an artist. And my goal each day, no matter which classroom I’m in or age group I’m working with, is to show each student that they are artists as well–which may seem a bit idealistic or naïve, but after 22 years of teaching, I’ve found it always to be true, because the definition of art for me is wide.

My favorite type of student is the Hater. The one who says he or she hates art, followed by either a wonderful eye roll or guttural groan.  It is this child who was taught early on that art is a flat thing which doesn’t break rules, that has to behave a certain way and is only good if the person standing in the front of the room says it’s good. We’ve all been in that class. And it isn’t the kind of art that builds bridges between creative thinking, innovation, and science. Art can be dangerous. And, I would argue, it needs to be.  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.

Young Artists in Small Towns: Contexts of Creativity

Posted by Michele Anderson On February - 23 - 2014
Michele Anderson

Michele Anderson

I live in a small town, I am an artist, and I am young.

In my work helping other artists with their careers, I spend a lot of time thinking about the types of resources younger artists need in rural communities.  For the most part, this means just what you would expect: developing or identifying ways to help them find funding, sell their work, or learn new skills. But I also want to think more deeply than that: What kind of unique resources might actually motivate young artists to create art in the first place, be connected to their community and stick around to provide the strong, innovative leadership that small towns need right now?

In other words, what are the conditions of creativity and talent development in a small town, and how does this affect the $100 million-dollar question of rural America: Why do our young people stay or go?

Here at Springboard for the Arts’ rural office, working with and encouraging younger artists has become a priority. Last Saturday, we led a day-long creative placemaking workshop on the role of art in historic preservation and economic development as part of our Imagine Fergus Falls initiative. Much to our surprise and delight, this workshop attracted a powerhouse of young artists from the region, most of whom had never met one another before. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicole Faller

Nicole Faller

The following is an excerpt of an article originally posted on Business News Daily, written by staff writer Nicole Fallon, in which she cites a list how creativity is a truly essential business skill, particularly for entrepreneurs. Visit BusinessNewsDaily.com to read the full article.

What is the most important quality of an entrepreneur? Many would argue it is passion—an overwhelming love of what one is doing, and the drive and determination to see one’s dreams realized. Others might say leadership—the ability to bring a team of people together and guide them toward a common goal. But some believe that creativity—a boundless imagination that is constantly innovating and seeing the world through a different lens—is the ultimate key to business success.

Phoebe Cade Miles, daughter of Gatorade inventor Dr. James Robert Cade, is one such believer in the power of creativity. She watched her father work tirelessly to invent a product that, five decades after its introduction, is still used by athletes around the world. Today, Cade Miles is working on her own entrepreneurial project, The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. The museum, scheduled to open in 2015 to commemorate Gatorade’s 50th anniversary, explores the history of the famous athletic drink, and highlights the crucial role creativity played in its invention. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreaming Big To Focus

Posted by Nick Dragga On December - 18 - 2013
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

Our production manager had an iron-clad rule, “Do NOT let the artistic director see other Nutcrackers within three weeks of our own.” Don’t get me wrong, we all LOVE the creative process, but when you’ve been working on a production for six months with 150 performers, 30 crew, and hundreds of calls, making drastic changes the last week gets difficult.

Our artistic director, in all her excitement would sometimes say, “I have some great ideas! So, let’s go a whole other direction with those costumes.” Those were the 12 costumes that took 30 hours each to make…

Can anyone relate?

Again, we love the creative process, because as we all know it is through the process that great discoveries happen. We certainly do not want to minimize or squelch the excitement of our artistic director, but want to create an environment that rewards and fosters daring, creative thinking. We firmly believe that if you don’t fail every now and then, you’re not doing it right. Failure is noble. But, poor execution, laziness, or lacking of planning is not.

Creativity is not an excuse for chaos. Creativity is a discipline.

Epiphanies are a myth, or as Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.”

So what do you do? How do you keep the excitement and freedom necessary for creativity – or simply work with artistic director, who is in fact the boss – but still be practical and give your production team the time and structure to thrive…or survive?

We get more creative. We dream bigger. We dream big, huge – almost impossibly big…to focus the artistic directors. Read the rest of this entry »

Defining Outcomes in Arts Education

Posted by Bruce Whitacre On December - 16 - 2013
Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

What is the purpose of theatre education at the K-12 level? What underlying objectives are shared by diverse programs in diverse communities? How do we reconcile a theatre’s objectives in engaging future audiences with the educational objectives of schools and parents? The practical reality is that a climate of education budget cuts, standardized testing and stiff competition for budget dollars makes providing young people, especially in underserved communities, with meaningful arts education opportunities a challenging question.

This surfaced recently when I was sitting in a donor’s office laying out our plans for Impact Creativity, an ambitious undertaking to raise $5 million over three years to bridge the budget gaps of our 19 member theaters and their education programs. American creativity is at stake, and so is our sense of equal opportunity — 40 percent of underserved youth risk losing their access to arts education.

“But what are you setting out to do, actually?” the donor asked. “Raise $5 million,” I answered. She paused. “And then…?”

Ah ha. We needed to connect the dots, in other words define theater education and its impact in more tangible ways, so that we can have a national conversation about something that currently differs from state to state, school to school, and theatre to theatre.

The network of 19 National Corporate Theatre Fund (NCTF) member theaters then set out to define clear objectives for the national Impact Creativity program while communicating how the individual theatre education programs address the larger questions facing our education systems: equity, resource scarcity and increasing demand for a high-functioning workforce. Read the rest of this entry »

Inspiring Creativity, Supporting Art Education

Posted by Masha Raj On November - 5 - 2013
Vans Custom Culture Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Vans Custom Culture 2013 Winning pair of shoes, designed by Lakeridge High School; Lake Oswego, Oregon

Americans for the Arts is excited to be partnering again with VANS in 2014 for the Vans Custom Culture competition, a national shoe customization contest where high schools from all over the United States compete for a chance to win money for their art programs.

Since 2010, youth-targeted brand Vans has been encouraging high school students across the United States to embrace their creativity.  The Vans Custom Culture competition offers students a fresh perspective on art and offers an outlet for self expression through art, fashion, and design through this unique contest and multimedia exhibit.  During this contest, high school students from participating schools design shoes that fit within a particular theme representing Vans lifestyle.  The $50,000 award is granted to the winning school to support its art program.

The 2013 Vans Customs Culture winner of the $50,000 grand prize was Lakeridge High School of Lake Oswego, Oregon.  This winning school was chosen on June 11, 2013 at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. The top 5 finalist school’s shoe designs were on display at the museum for the panel of judges, which included actress Emma Roberts, designer Timo Weiland, reality star-turned-designer Whitney Port, artist Christian Jacobs and skateboarder Steve Caballero.  In addition to the grand prize, $20,000 was donated by Vans and Americans for the Arts to ten more schools across country to advance their art education programs. Read the rest of this entry »

People Make Places

Posted by Carol Jones On October - 11 - 2013
Carol Jones

Carol Jones

I live and work in a small city, the capital of a small country that has four times more sheep than people. Cardiff (www.visitcardiff.com) has a population of less than 350,000 but has a growing reputation as a vibrant city where people want to live and visit. It has, as we say in Wales, ‘hwyl’ – a complex and intangible mix of passion and sense of belonging that isn’t easy to translate but has been said to sum up Welshness in a word.

The contribution of creativity to the social and economic success of cities is a hot topic. And that’s no surprise…CREATIVITY MATTERS. It can drive economic opportunity, aid social problem solving and cohesion, generate new ways of thinking or bring together established ideas in new ways to drive things forward.

But it’s not just about economic growth – creativity can make our cities a better place to live and somewhere more exciting and stimulating to be, to work and contribute. Creative cities are also often better governed and better organized places – though perhaps it’s difficult to discern if better government produces more creativity or more creativity makes better government. (Though I know what I think.)

Either way our cities can be hotbeds of creativity – full of the buzz of arts venues, bars and restaurants and awash with architect-designed buildings. But it’s about more than that, more than being a hub for enterprise and culture even. Creative cities provide countless opportunities for everything from accidental connections to formal collaborations. And it’s those opportunities, those sparks that act as a catalyst for new thinking and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Art-Making by Corporate Executives (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by John Bryan On September - 19 - 2013
John Bryan

John Bryan

How many of Richmond’s corporate executives make art in their spare time? What percentage paint landscapes or play in a band or write poetry? Are their artistic pursuits of any real value to their companies? Does the fact that a corporate executive creates sculpture affect the bottom line of that corporation? A new survey of 271 Richmond, VA executives offers some answers.

First the context. The 2004 publication of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class ushered in a pervasive corporate understanding of the value of “creativity” to corporate success – to a company’s bottom line. Creativity has become an essential theme in corporate strategy sessions, team-building exercises, and leadership training.

But there is an ingredient that is sometimes absent from conversations and research concerning creativity in the corporate workplace: art-making. While the corporate world values “creativity” as an important attribute for its executives to have, “art maker” may not be considered as a similarly important attribute. But while creativity is an attribute that is subjective and hard to identify, art maker is an objective attribute that is easily identified.

During the first half of 2013 CultureWorks administered a two-question survey that was completed by 271 Richmond corporate executives including some of the region’s topmost executives, members of the Greater Richmond Chamber, members of Rotary, and members of the Richmond Association for Business Economics. Read the rest of this entry »

Happiness Is The Arts

Posted by Stephanie Milling On August - 14 - 2013
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

The last couple of weeks, two interesting news stories that shared conflicting perspectives of the arts were reported on the NBC Nightly News. The first report told the story of a failing school in Boston that was turned around when the principal chose to eliminate the funding that customarily subsidized the security force and invest it in the arts. This move that some considered controversial at Orchard Gardens , a school in Roxbury, MA, resulted in one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. The other anecdotal evidence that students, teachers, and the principal shared during the report reinforced evidence that arts advocates have always had statistics to support: students who study the arts in school perform better in the classroom and demonstrate more prosocial behavior. As an arts advocate, this feel good story tugged at my heart strings. I was satisfied that this principal’s quest to prove the value of the arts in education proved fruitful. As a former teacher in schools like Orchard Gardens, I was delighted to see a failing school turned around.

The second report featured the retailer, The Children’s Place, and the demands to stop selling a girls t-shirt after complaints that it portrayed a sexist stereotype. The shirt said “my best subjects,” and featured checkboxes next to shopping, music, dance, and math. The boxes next to shopping, music, and dance contained checks while the box next to math was empty. While the controversy surrounding the shirt was motivated by individuals who viewed the shirt as sexist—and I am not denying that it was sexist–I was also bothered by the fact that it trivialized dance and music as core subject areas. By selling such a product, The Children’s Place and the t-shirt designer communicated that young women are intellectually inferior to their male peers and that studying the arts is equivalent to shopping.

While the first news report portrayed the type of story that supports the work arts advocates do in this country, the second illustrates the need for continued dialogue with those who fail to understand the value of the arts in education—even if the faux pas was unintentional. While there are many ways to approach the dialogue of why students benefit from studying the arts with statistics and research to support this perspective, lately I have been thinking of a more straightforward point of entry into the conversation that might resonate with multiple audiences: engagement in the arts can lead to happiness. While approaching a conversation about the value of the arts in education with the idea that it makes us happy might sound facetious, I think it might help develop some common ground between those advocating on behalf of the arts and those who need to be more receptive to the idea that engagement in the arts leads to success in other academic subjects and life. Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

President Obama has said repeatedly that “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” According to Forbes Magazine, “If there was a central theme to the president’s remarks, it was innovation.”

Yet, although everybody is talking about how innovation is what we need and will solve our jobless dilemma, few people know what innovation is or how we get it, or critically, what our communities must do to meet the challenges of the new age.

It is becoming clear that art and culture districts are vital to ensuring vibrant economic activity in our cities. They are foreshadowing a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, Americans for the Arts (AFTA), who as early as 1998 researched the emergence of such districts in which the arts were used as part of a strategy for revitalizing cities, has now launched an even more ambitious effort:

A plan to produce an update of the earlier report, and more importantly, a three year effort – inviting mayors and other city executives, architects, city planners, and experts in the field to “blog”, and to participate in webinars and conferences to help cities and towns across America to reinvent their community for the new age, this rapidly emerging age of  “creativity and innovation.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tim McClimon

Tim McClimon

Last month, I attended the annual conference of Americans for the Arts in Pittsburgh, which was focused around the question, “Why are the arts the best kept secret when it comes to building healthy, diverse, and engaged communities?” While I was there, I presented the American Express Emerging Leader Award to Abe Flores, who is the advocacy field manager for Arts for LA in Los Angeles, CA (Congratulations, Abe!). I also participated in a panel discussion about the challenging state of private support of the arts.

During my remarks, I suggested that the arts community hasn’t done enough to align itself with the concept of creativity, which is something that is valued by many, if not most, Americans. Granted, the first part of that statement is my opinion, but the second part is based on a recent survey of Americans by Time Magazine, Microsoft, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

According to the study results, which were published in Time on May 20, 2013, 94 percent of Americans value creativity in others – compared to 93 percent who value intelligence, 92 percent compassion, 89 percent humor, 88 percent ambition, and 57 percent who value beauty.

91 percent say creativity is important in their personal lives and 83 percent say creativity is important in their professional lives. 65 percent think that creativity is central to America’s role as a global leader. In fact, 35 percent of Americans think that the U.S. is the current leader in creativity with China at 23 percent, Japan at 19 percent, Germany at 3 percent, India at 1 percent, and the U.K. at 1 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of the Arts in Education & Life

Posted by Stephanie Milling On May - 2 - 2013
Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

As a university administrator and associate professor, I frequently interact with parents who visit our campus with respective students. The one question that is always interesting to field is, “What will my child be able to do with a degree in (fill in your respective arts area here)?”

From a financial standpoint the question is a valid one: parents want to know that their investment in their child’s future is going to lead to gainful employment and prevent him/her from returning home and living on their couch after graduation. However, the assumption that any college degree, regardless the area of study, will lead to a specific job is a misconception.

While a degree does set one on a career path with a specific skill set, it does not guarantee employment in any specific field. The question is also valid because in my experience, the knowledge that a majority of students and their parents have of the opportunities in the arts is limited to practical involvement in their respective art area of study: singing, painting, dancing, acting, etc.

In higher education, I have witnessed practicing an art form as the point of entry that many students take into their respective fields. However, that initial exposure leads them to a variety of careers within and outside of the arts. Therefore, I try to quell the notion that a degree in the arts leads to being a starving artist. Instead, I point them to resources that will help them expand their perspective of the possible career options for those with arts backgrounds and discuss the transferable skills that students learn within the arts. 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 »

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

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

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.