Marisa Muller

So, an artist walks into an office…

I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But many artists start their careers or support themselves by taking “day jobs.” Andy Warhol worked in advertising. Modest Mussorgsky was a civil servant. Franz Kafka investigated personal injury cases for an insurance company. But is an artist in the office one of life’s small cruelties? Not necessarily.

A recent article featured in The Globe and Mail suggests that businesses looking to become innovators might want to consider hiring artists over those with more traditional business degrees.

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the business landscape. Due to the current economic climate and the rapid advancement of technology, businesses are focused on working smarter through innovation. In fact, according to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, 61 percent of CEOs identify creativity as a key driver of employee success in operating in a more complex, interconnected environment.

Considering the importance of thinking outside the box, bringing artists into the workplace seems like a natural choice. But how well are artists able to translate their artistic skills and sensibility into a corporate environment?

The Globe and Mail article highlights two Canadian businesses:

David Dobson, the director of business development for StarFish Medical, believes that art school gave him a simple business edge: it changed the way he thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Adlers

It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.

Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.

My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.

Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.

In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events. Read the rest of this entry »

Nina Ozlu Tunceli

Culture equals jobs. This was the theme of the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum hosted by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is one of the most enlightened and empowered elected leaders that this nation has ever seen regarding strategically investing in his city’s cultural economy in order to move it forward.

As chief counsel of government and public affairs at Americans for the Arts, I can’t begin to tell you how refreshing it was to be at a two-day conference filled with elected officials and diplomats from around the world, focused exclusively on how these leaders are incorporating public policies to showcase the arts and culture for both its social and economic powers.

Mayor Landrieu did an amazing job of showcasing New Orleans’ investment in arts education to develop the next generation of culture workers; its investment in building local film and recording studios, performance centers, and clubs to attract current culture workers; its investment in tax credits for both film production and post-production editing, marketing, gaming, and software to attract culture businesses; and its investment in tourism marketing and branding initiatives, such as JazzFest, to attract out-of-town visitors, especially from abroad, in order to grower larger audiences for its cultural industries. You can catch up on more news about the forum on Twitter by searching #WCEF.

Below is an excerpt of Mayor Landrieu’s opening address at the 2012 World Cultural Economic Forum:

“Recently, the world has seen dramatic changes in political, social, and cultural landscapes. These changes have been fueled not only by political and economic factors, but also by social and cultural issues. Read the rest of this entry »

How Art Can Strengthen Evaluation

Posted by Renan Snowden On May - 4 - 2012

Renan Snowden

Let’s be honest: sometimes evaluation can feel like taking medicine. What’s more, the results of evaluation often take the form of dry reports that are unwelcoming and, at worst, hard to penetrate. But evaluation doesn’t have to be this way.

Evaluation can be a useful and engaging process that incorporates creativity and participation to help an organization learn how it can more effectively reach its goals. Evaluation presents an opportunity for arts organizations to demonstrate the impact they are making in their communities. Incorporating artistic practice and a combination of narrative documentation and compelling graphics can make evaluation interesting and build off of an arts organization’s existing skill set.

Artists and arts organizations have an advantage with evaluation: you want it to be a creative process. Right now, some arts organizations are taking the lead in including drawing, storytelling, and graphic design as part of their evaluation process and reporting.

By making evaluation a creative and dynamic process, these organizations are helping make assessment more attractive to practitioners by showing that evaluation can build off the work your organization already has expertise in.

As a graduate student in urban planning, I’m interested in ways that the arts can help create shared spaces for community development. Writing short summaries of the in-depth resources available on the Animating Democracy website as the spring IMPACT intern, I began to notice that some of the best case studies of measuring the impact of social change incorporated the arts as part of the evaluation process. These innovative approaches to evaluation are facilitating new ways of evaluation that emphasize experience and engagement as key components of evaluation. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts: The Mother of Invention (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Janet Langsam On May - 3 - 2012

Janet Langsam

Every morning, I turn on the treadmill, tune into the Today Show and run until I bank 150 calories to earn a glass of Chardonnay at the end of the day.

Matt Lauer and the NBC crew are usually just eye candy and background chatter, but [April 25] they hit a nerve talking about college degrees that may be “useless” like “fine arts, drama, philosophy, religious studies,” when it comes to getting a job. Lauer quoted a recent poll that said that one out of two recent college grads are either unemployed or underemployed.

Donny Deutsch, one of the Today panelists said, “I never looked at a (college) major in my life in hiring people.”

And a good thing too since the National Arts Index published by the advocacy organization Americans for the Arts, indicates that interest in the arts as a college major is growing. It says that from 1996–2010 more than 1.5 million degrees were awarded in visual and performing arts, with annual graduations growing steadily from 75,000 to 129,000—an increase of 73 percent.

Could all these college bound kids be wasting their time? Read the rest of this entry »

Marty Pottenger

Art At Work

Recently, I found myself sitting in a circle in Portland, ME, leading a group that includes the city manager, police chief, a leader in the Occupy Maine movement, one of the founders of Portland’s NAACP, leaders from the Sudanese and Congolese refugee communities, the president of a city union (CEBA), and a doctor active in public health, among others. The members of this group are impressive and diverse, but what we are sharing is more so.

In only seven minutes, 20 city and community leaders composed poems that draw upon their personal histories, the history of Portland, and those things they have witnessed in this place we all call home.

Increasing the Odds

All of Art At Work’s projects are designed to increase the odds that Portland and their partner cities (Holyoke, Northampton, and Providence in 2012), launch their own Art At Work will be better able to turn anticipated social and economic crises into opportunities by integrating creative engagement in their ‘way of doing business.’

This workshop was a part of Portland Works, another one of our experiments in figuring out how to harness the transformative power of art to achieve concrete community-based outcomes. These workshops bring together community and city leaders to create a dialogue and increase understanding between individuals and groups that often see one another as obstacles as opposed to allies. “It’s just brilliant,” says Mike Miles, the City of Portland’s director of human resources, “using art to break conceptions about who people are and what people do.”

Art At Work, of which Portland Works is just one part, is designed to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects involving city employees, elected officials, community leaders, and local artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Robb Hankins On April - 27 - 2012

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it: Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Advocacy Day from a Newcomer’s Point of View

Posted by Candy Nguyen Smirnow On April - 20 - 2012

Candy Nguyen Smirnow

I came to Arts Advocacy Day for the first time this year not knowing exactly what to expect.

I’ve never considered myself a political person. I rarely sign petitions and have never campaigned for any one organization or candidate. I’ve just always been very passive when it came to politics, most certainly because of my Gen X mentality.

So, when my boss asked me to join her I was hesitant, wondering does my voice really matter? But, I’ve learned a lot in the business world, and one of those things is never to pass up an opportunity to learn something new. So, I quickly reconsidered the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill.

As I walked into day one, I was amazed by the congregation of over 500 advocates. I was especially surprised by the number of young people who were participating.

When I was their age, I would’ve never even considered joining something like Arts Advocacy Day. I grew up in the public education system in Southern California, which unfortunately did not have much of an arts-infused curriculum.

In elementary school we had a “music cart,” where once a week Mr. Nelson would roll into the classroom with his keyboard and pass out the maracas and tambourines. It was everyone’s favorite day of class, but unfortunately it didn’t come quite often enough. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Economy

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 6 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

Thinking about the economy can be rather depressing. For many people, it can seem like a volatile god: a mysterious force that affects everything and we mere mortals have no control over its whims.

Let’s start with a basic idea of what I mean when I write about “the economy.”

Economic analysis is often an attempt to make the complex world of interconnectedness more comprehensible by quantifying everything, usually through monetization. In other words, the world is complicated so we make charts.

The “economy” is everything that happens. Economics is a (left-brained) method of analyzing everything that happens, and it’s mostly focused on measuring everything in dollars and euros.

This focus on monetization is problematic for the arts because the value of artistic products is not always calculable by how much it cost to make them or by how much people are willing to pay for them. In fact, we often strive for the opposite—to give away the arts for free and know that they are priceless.

The subversive tack accepts economics for the way it is and uses the system to our advantage. In order to do that, we need to know the basic principles and be able to speak the lingo: quantification.

The arts sector is getting much better at quantifying the value and impact of the arts. Here are three great examples:

I took my first economics class in graduate school. I had no idea what to expect. As it turns out, the heart of economics can be summed up in a phrase: “supply and demand.” This is something we already understand in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Education

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 5 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

The realm of combining arts and education is vast. I do not intend to address this vast landscape in a modest 600 words. However, I will highlight two of my favorite approaches to arts + education in the Los Angeles area.

Inner-City Arts (ICA) offers a variety of programs—school field trips, afterschool and weekend workshops, teacher training, programs for parents—to give children in one of the nation’s poorest areas opportunities for skill-building, artistic expression, and a safe environment.

ICA backs up its work with phenomenal statistics and partners with UCLA, Harvard, and the Department of Education to publish research that others can leverage. In addition to their excellent work and partnerships, the stories from Inner-City Arts are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Arts for All is the mothership for organizing sequential K–12 arts education in Los Angeles County and our 81 school districts. (Yes, eighty-one.) More than half of these districts have signed on since 2003. In addition to providing half a million students with arts education, the organizations backing Arts for All actually agreed on a definition of “quality arts education”.

Despite amazing organizations like Inner-City Arts and herculean efforts like Arts for All, we’re still fighting for the arts’ righteous place in society and education. We do have reason for cautious optimism, though. The #1 most-watched TED talk is Sir Ken Robinson talking about the faults of linear-based education, a product of the industrial revolution. He illustrates his point with the story of a dancer, which gets us artsy types all atwitter. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts as a Management Tool (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Giovanni Schiuma On April - 5 - 2012

Giovanni Schiuma

When we think about creativity, we need to think of it as something we do every day—like thinking. We cannot avoid thinking and creativity is the same. We cannot avoid being creative. So when we ask the question: How does the corporate world value creativity? (and vice versa), our focus should not be creativity but something else. Culture.

Organizations need the arts. They need culture in their business. We are living in a transition time and this time calls for new models, a new management mindset, and new management tools. 21st century organizations are managed and organized for the 20th century business landscape.

But we are in a completely new landscape.

Today’s organizations need new competencies because they are dealing with new challenges, and these challenges I summarize in what I call the five e’s:

1) Experience. More and more, we are living in an experience-based economy. When we buy a suit, when we buy a product, when we buy a service, what we are basically buying are experiences. And so an organization needs to know how to build and how to shape those experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All About Creativity

Posted by John Eger On March - 27 - 2012

John Eger

Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Education, convenes the first of several meetings in Coronado, CA later this month to talk about “how the arts and creative education can transform California classrooms.” He also plans to produce a new publication called A Blueprint for Creative Schools.

Just as important, the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts will hold hearings on SB 789, legislation that will require the Governor to develop a “creativity index,” which in turn would be used to measure creativity in public schools statewide.

SB 789, authored by Senator Curren Price (D-District 26) and introduced last February, was approved by all the appropriate Senate committees and is now moving toward passage.

This movement by California matches the legislation signed by the governor of Massachusetts last spring, and is much like a bill working its way through the state legislature in Oklahoma to also establish a creativity index.

Equally significant, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Wisconsin are beginning similar discussions and Nebraska is getting itself organized, according to CreativeChallenge, Inc., which monitors creativity discussions worldwide. The group notes that Seoul, Alberta, and Edmonton—and probably other cities and nations around the world—are following these efforts closely.

Clearly something big is happening across America. Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Emerging Leaders in the Arts

Posted by Sarah Cortell Vandersypen On March - 26 - 2012
Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

“With the Government giving less to art and education, somebody’s got to give more. And that somebody is America’s corporations.” — Chase Manhattan Bank (Wu, 2002, p. 122)

During these challenging economic times, arts organizations and professionals must seek innovative funding opportunities. These opportunities include partnerships with the private sector. Americans for the Arts, in collaboration with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Foundation, has done just that.

In October 2010, I had the honor of receiving the 2010 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. By investing in human capital, both organizations seek to promote creative thinking, innovation, and visionary leadership.

During the time I received the scholarship, I was completing my M.A. in Arts Policy and Administration at The Ohio State University. This unique program, a joint degree between the art education department and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, challenges the way arts professionals think about the sector.

With its multidisciplinary approach, the program incorporates a variety of courses including economics, finance, policy formation and implementation, program evaluation, and nonprofit consulting. My graduate program has taught me to think critically about the policies and management of the nonprofit arts sector, and the NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship has freed me to do the work I love. Read the rest of this entry »

The Creative Process Ensures Quality Instruction

Posted by Joyce Bonomini On March - 15 - 2012

Joyce Bonomini

As a practitioner, I have often taken quality, engagement and partnership for granted: they are a given. How could you live without any of them?

In fact, none of these factors exist without the other. Think about it. Think about how life would be…

I know that I am expanding the definitions in my head. I am not just talking about partnership of organizations here but individuals; such as teacher to student or the partnership a person has with their instrument, writing pen, script, or experiment.

I am talking about life with or without connection of self to others. I am not sure how quality of any level can exist without connection.

WOW, what an “AHA!” moment I just had because that is what we ask hundreds of thousands of students to do every day in the classrooms across this country.

Can we stop asking WHY students are dropping out?

I mean, don’t we know why they are BORED, feel unengaged, and often have no connection to either their instructor or anyone else. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

Access to arts education is one of the civil rights issues of our time. I’d like to use brain science to explain why.

Our brains operate using two types of behavior: automated and mediated. Automated behavior puts a premium on reliability and efficiency. The brain achieves this by pruning: It streamlines the neural circuitry required to complete a task. Automated behavior can be innate, like breathing, or learned, like recognizing the alphabet.

Automated behavior is almost always unconscious. Throughout our lives, we develop and greatly rely on a host of automated skills. That’s why we don’t like backseat drivers—they force us to think about actions we’d prefer to remain unconscious.

We share the ability for automated mental behavior with all other animals. But as neuroscientist David Eagleman explains in his new book, Incognito, the human brain also has an advanced capacity for mediated behavior.

The goal of mediated behavior is flexibility and innovation. Mediated behavior depends on multiple brain circuits working on the same problem—what Eagleman terms “the team of rivals.” Instead of dedicating a limited neural network to a task, the brain tolerates redundancy and promotes networking. It’s what we mean by “keeping an open mind.”

Mediated behavior can also involve conscious awareness: We overhear and participate in the internal conversation of our thoughts. The vigorousness of our mediated behavior is unique in the animal kingdom. It is what defines us as human beings. 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.