Making Change Outside the Office

Posted by Carlos Velázquez On April - 5 - 2012

Carlos Velázquez

In a recent article about Chicago-based artist Eric J. Garcia, whose politically charged work he calls a “weapon to strike at injustice”, he added a caveat for aspiring artists: “Oh-all of this is done on our off-time when we’re not at the day job that pays the bills.”

His words came back to me when reading the prompt to this salon, a quote from Diane Ragsdale on arts sector reform:

“If our goal..is to hold onto our marginalized position and maintain our minuscule reach—rather than…actively addressing the social inequities in our country, and reaching exponentially greater numbers of people—then…I would suggest that it may not merit the vast amounts of time, money, or enthusiasm we would require from talented staffers and artists, governments, foundations, corporations, and private individuals to achieve it.”

I am glad to know that the arts sector is not confining itself to simply holding onto its miniscule reach, and that emerging artists and arts leaders, many working in art and humanities-based nonprofits, are taking the lead.

My position is that they are using the organizational skills, social vocabularies, and leadership experience gained in nonprofit environments well beyond the scope of the workday, to be wielded as “weapons” addressing social inequalities. Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: Who We Are (Part One)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 2 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

I write from Nashville, TN, a nationally recognized music city and a burgeoning arts town.

As an actor, community arts project manager, theatre producer, and staff member of an arts service organization, my days bustle with arts leaders, new and seasoned. They provide the spark for the city’s growth. And those stepping forward as new leaders will define the future of the creative sector.

When I look around at my ensemble and community, I see common characteristics that will weave through our individual impact as emerging leaders.

In this blog series I will explore three of those characteristics: who we are, how we will work in the arts and why we will dedicate so much of our hearts to it.

Who are we?

We are artists first and manager-janitors out of necessity. We are arts entrepreneurs.

From crowdfunding to self-publishing, it is becoming increasingly easy to take this do-it-yourself approach to making art.

“Film is an ever more do it yourself word,” said Coke Sams at a recent Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville seminar on alternative funding options for art projects. Coke is a producer at Nashville-based Ruckus Films and part of the team for the Blue Like Jazz film, the most successful film project in Kickstarter history raising over $345,000. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Ripple Effect Inspires Cincinnati Filmmakers

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 7 - 2012

A poster for "Radius: A Short Film."

A fascinating new project out of Cincinnati just recently caught my attention.

Filmmakers were inspired by The Arts Ripple Effect: A Research-Based Strategy to Build Shared Responsibility for the Arts, a study conducted by local arts agency ArtsWave in 2008.

The study and report were “designed to develop an inclusive
 community dialogue leading to broadly shared public responsibility 
for arts and culture in the region” and “concluded that [their] work with the community through arts and
 culture must be based on a foundation that incorporates a deeper 
understanding of the best way to communicate with the public in
 order to achieve that shared sense of responsibility.”

Calling it “the world’s first game-sourced movie,” Radius: A Short Film, created by Possible Worldwide, a WPP Digital company, with multiple Cincinnati-based partners, “the film was shot in and around Cincinnati during MidPoint Music Festival and other arts events.”

What makes it especially unique is that the film was created by editing “from more than 2,000 unique pieces of crowd-sourced content” gathered using a smartphone app called SCVNGR. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

TalkingPointsMemo.com’s IdeaLab recently posted an article that included an interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler.

In the piece, Strickler is quoted as stating,”It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the [National Endowment for the Arts]. We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way.” (Editor’s Note: Strickler has published this post in reaction to the published interview.)

He went on to explain that it is good because it could, in theory, double the amount of art in the country, but also bad in that there is room for more federal support for the arts.

While Kickstarter, and other sites like it, have the ability to take all types of art—from comics to operas—to the next level at a time when it is hard for an artist to get funding for a small project, it’s $150 million contribution to the arts is only one quarter of one percent of what is needed annually to fund the nonprofit arts sector’s $60 billion in expenditures according to Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy here at Americans for the Arts.

But, as Randy added, “This is a great illustration of how individuals are looking for a more personal connection and relationship when deciding where to donate, participate, and volunteer.”

The same principle applies with me as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally Time for the Arts to Shine in “The Age of the Creative Economy”?

Posted by Hannah Jacobson On February - 21 - 2012

Hannah Jacobson

Delight or die; this is the new paradigm set forth by Steve Denning to adapt to the new creative economy.

In a particularly fickle consumer-centric universe, the increased focus on services as opposed to goods, he says, creates a need for “continuous innovation” and what he terms “radical management.”

This new economy will be David versus the Goliath of the outgoing manufacturing economy, and we all know who ultimately wins that battle—but it will require smarts, innovation, flexibility, a great survival instinct, and a lot of new energy.

Yet for the arts, how “radical” is it really to be focused on services, to continuously innovate to survive, and, perhaps most importantly, to delight audiences? If nothing else, the arts community provides a masterful example of survival in any economy—creative or otherwise.

So the idea of the “creative economy,” a concept that has more disparate definitions than can realistically be explored here—think about the spectrum of understandings that would arise from places as distinct as the United States, Norway, England, Australia, and far beyond—might be relatively new, but creativity in the economy and even creativity as a driver of the economy are functions that the arts have long recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

Co-Authoring Meaning

Posted by John R. Killacky On September - 8 - 2011

John R. Kilacky

Online social media has radically transformed news coverage. Tweets, Facebook posts, and amateur videos were essential in the coverage of the Arab spring, Japanese tsunami, bin Laden’s death, and Hurricane Irene. Public radio and local newspapers are now multimedia companies, crowdsourcing listeners and readers in co-authoring content.

Arts organizations, surprisingly, are behind the curve. Audiences today are drawn, not merely to a performance, but to an arts experience in which they participate. The experience does not begin and end at the performance curtain, but long before and after: at home, in the lobby, online, and sharing with friends.

Word of mouth has always been potent for box office, so it is essential that the arts marshal the power of online participatory media. However, this calls for a paradigm shift in thinking about what cultural participation means for audiences, live and viral.

At social media workshops, the conversation still defaults to using these platforms as a one-way transactional marketing medium: pushing out more marketing messages. Totally wrong! Read the rest of this entry »

Low-Profit But How Much Potential? (Part 2)

Posted by Adam Huttler On May - 27 - 2011

Adam Huttler

[During last week’s Private Sector Blog Salon], fellow guest blogger Diane Ragsdale got me thinking after she posed the question: what would have happened if the nonprofit regional theatre movement had embraced (and had the opportunity to embrace) the L3C instead of the 501(c)(3) corporation?

This is an interesting and subtly radical thought experiment. Diane is effectively proposing that we rewind history and build what we now think of as the nonprofit arts sector as a socially-conscious for-profit arts sector instead. Has the horse left the barn or is it really possible to reinvent ourselves at such a fundamental level?

In truth, I’ve always believed that the alleged conflict between artistic purity and commercial success was largely overblown. If anything it’s a healthy tension, not an insurmountable chasm. Certainly there are arts organizations whose missions are to push aesthetic envelopes and operate at the leading edge of craft and artistry. They will always need philanthropic subsidy to survive, and so they should probably be 501(c)(3)s regardless. But these brave, unpopular pioneers are the exception, not the rule. Most of us operate in the vast middle ground between Broadway and The Wooster Group.  Read the rest of this entry »