The Intersection of Public Art and City Planning

Posted by Meredith Frazier Britt On September - 4 - 2014
Meredith Frazier Britt

Meredith Frazier Britt

I am a city planner who can’t stay away from public art. I just finished my capstone project for my master’s in city and regional planning at Georgia Tech, and true to form, I studied commonalities between public art and planning goals in the Atlanta region.

My interest in public art began with art history in college. I trace it to a flashbulb memory of a beloved professor snapping to a slide of Claes Oldenburg’s imagined (but never constructed) intersection-blocking monument in New York City. I loved that this piece would so fully obstruct the activity of city life, interrupting our regular routes of walking and driving, imposing its message on our thoughts. Read the rest of this entry »

The Proof is in the Pudding

Posted by Earl Bosworth On August - 15 - 2014
Earl Bosworth

Earl Bosworth

Panels and symposiums don’t normally draw large crowds, at least not like live music and marching bands do.

So, when members of a select panel spoke recently at the NSU’s Museum of Art │Fort Lauderdale during a very unique symposium hosted by Broward Cultural Division, it was successful within itself that a crowd of more than 100 attendees arrived, including many from Broward’s Latin American and Caribbean communities.

They came to hear experts speak on the impact of creativity in their respective regions.

In attendance were Consulate representatives from St. Lucia, Jamaica and Peru, along with Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, a huge proponent for diversity and supporting the minority Latin American and Caribbean demographic in Broward County. Holness opened the symposium with remarks that cited Broward County’s creative sector’s growth in the last six years at 57 percent, during a period of national depression. He also brought to light the demographics of Broward County which show a Hispanic population of 26.5 percent, Black and African-American population of 27.9 percent, and a white population of 41.9 percent – making it a Minority-Majority County. These demographics signify the importance of recognizing, measuring, and supporting the arts and cultural wealth that lies here. Read the rest of this entry »

Assessing Cultural Infrastructure

Posted by G. Martin Moeller, Jr. & Scott Kratz On April - 2 - 2013
Scott Kratz

Scott Kratz

Most of the world’s great cultural capitals emerged organically through a virtuous cycle in which creative people flocked to prosperous cities, where they helped to create or expand prominent cultural institutions, which in turn attracted more creative people, and so on.

During the modern era, however, the historically strong correlation between economic vitality and cultural resources diminished somewhat. In some cases, new centers of economic activity developed with unprecedented speed, making it difficult for cultural institutions—which tend to have long gestation periods—to keep up. In the U.S. in particular, the migration of substantial wealth to the suburbs often left venerable urban institutions impoverished, while depriving nascent cultural organizations of the critical mass necessary for success.

The past couple of decades have been marked by a revival of interest in cultural infrastructure and a growing belief that museums, performing arts centers, libraries, programmed civic spaces and other cultural facilities can themselves foster social and economic progress.

The poster child of this trend is the Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, which has been credited with the revival of a small, rather run-down industrial city in Spain. Careful analysis of economic and other data suggests that the influence of this one project is often overstated, but there can be no doubt that it was a significant catalyst for urban revival, not only because of the museum’s mission and content, but also because of its exhilarating architectural form.  Read the rest of this entry »

Los Angeles: Collaboration Creates Cultural Redevelopment Project

Posted by Olga Garay-English On July - 11 - 2012

Olga Garay

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts’ Mayors’ Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative received in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA/LA) launched the planning stages for the “Broadway Arts Center” (BAC).

Envisioned as a mixed-use affordable artists’ housing, performance/exhibition space, educational facility, and creative commercial center, and located in the Historic Broadway Theater District in downtown Los Angeles, the birthplace of vaudeville and cinema in the city, the BAC has been embraced by city government and the arts community alike.

In spite of its rich history and tremendous future potential, Broadway is currently viewed as not meeting its potential in a number of different ways. Broadway bustles during the day, but merchants are struggling with a 15–20 percent ground floor vacancy rate. This ground floor struggle is made worse when viewed in the context of more than a million square feet of vacant space in the upper floors along Broadway.

And while some theatres have been reactivated, most of the glorious historic theaters do not offer regular entertainment programming, and Broadway doesn’t serve the needs of the diverse downtown community—especially at night. DCA/LA strongly believes that this situation will quickly turn around when a cadre of artists, professors, and college students, living and working in the area, make Downtown their home.

Led by DCA/LA, the core project team includes the City Planning Department’s Urban Design Studio and Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year initiative to revitalize the historic Broadway corridor.

Nonprofit partners include The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, a service organization dedicated to creating affordable housing for performing arts professionals; Artspace, the country’s premier organization dedicated to developing affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations; Local Initiative Support Corporation, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofit community development organizations transform neighborhoods; and the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), an award-winning higher education institution dedicated to training and nurturing the next generation of professional artists. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating a Suburban Cultural Hub in the Metropolitan Kansas City Region

Posted by Sarah VanLanduyt On December - 6 - 2011
Sarah VanLanduyt

Sarah VanLanduyt

How does a county arts council better serve the arts sector segment of its constituency? This is a question that began a two year conversation for the Arts Council of Johnson County (ACJC) and ended with this answer: a new website.

At first glance it’s a fairly simplistic solution; however for a small arts agency working within the greater Kansas City Metropolitan Area it’s a way to reach more constituents, connect them to regional resources and build a foundation for future ACJC initiatives and partnerships.

First a little background on the Arts Council of Johnson County.

ACJC is predominantly an advocacy organization who works with community leaders to promote the cultural and economic development of the county through the arts. Some of our previous work has included developing the Arts Business Plan and serving as lead advocate for Johnson County’s One Percent for Public Art Program. Through these projects and other initiatives ACJC has developed a good working relationship with the county government but in doing so we allowed our relationship with the arts community to weaken.

In 2010, ACJC held a series of forums for arts educators, organizations, and artists, to gain a better understanding of how to support their work in the community. It also gave us a chance to learn about their concerns and challenges within the current economic and political climate. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts and Human Rights

Posted by Ben Burdick On December - 15 - 2009

For many years, the State Department has viewed cultural exchanges as an important tool for sharing America’s values, ideas, and creativity with the world.  Programs such as Rhythm Road: American Music Abroad have helped audiences abroad gain an understanding of our society and presented our country in a positive light.  On Monday, December 14, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted the importance of the arts and artists in her remarks at Georgetown University on the Human Rights Agenda for the 21st Century.  During a question and answer session, Secretary of State Clinton was asked about the importance of the arts and artists in helping to promote human rights.  In her reply, Clinton stated:

“I remember some years ago seeing a play about women in Bosnia during the conflict there. It was so gripping. I still see the faces of those women who were pulled from their homes, separated from their husbands, often raped and left just as garbage on the side of the road. So I think that artists both individually and through their works can illustrate better than any speech I can give or any government policy we can promulgate that the spirit that lives within each of us, the right to think and dream and expand our boundaries, is not confined, no matter how hard they try, by any regime anywhere in the world. There is no way that you can deprive people from feeling those stirrings inside their soul. And artists can give voice to that. They can give shape and movement to it. And it is so important in places where people feel forgotten and marginalized and depressed and hopeless to have that glimmer that there is a better future, that there is a better way that they just have to hold onto.”

Clinton also noted that she would be trying to increase the number of these types of artistic exchanges.  To read her remarks in their entirety, please click here.


Six months ago, talk of the recession would have barely registered with 13-year-old QocTavia Shabazz of St. Paul. “When I think of the economy I relate that to politics, government,” she says. “I think, ‘That’s not my problem. Why do I have to deal with it?’ But it is my problem.”

Her perspective changed after Twin Cities artists worked with QocTavia and three other teens to connect what’s happening in the economy to what’s happening in their personal lives, and then to express those experiences through song and video.

QocTavia, her sister Aunrika, Jalil Shabazz (no relation) and Tony Gonzalez met weekly with spoken word artist Desdamona and multi-media producer Patrick Pegg. The artists helped these young people to make sense of the economic downturn’s devastating impact on their lives through art.  The  project, called My First Recession, is a unique collaboration between Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts that fosters civic engagement through arts and culture; American Public Media’s Public Insight Journalism initiative at Minnesota Public Radio, which cultivates diverse voices that deepen and enrich news coverage; and Neighborhood House, a multi-cultural center in Saint Paul. It was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Read the rest of this entry »

For those local to the Washington, DC metro area, tonight, The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts present a free performance featuring hip-hop artists from Argentina, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, the Philippines, and Vietnam on the Millennium Stage, Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at 6:00 PM. As participants in the Cultural Visitors Program, this program provides artists like these with instructive and informative experiences in their discipline, exposing them to the creation and performance of world-class art, and giving them opportunities to develop relationships with U.S. arts professionals. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described these programs “as one of the ‘smart power’ elements that are integral to the State Department’s public diplomacy mission to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people of other nations.”

How important do you think cultural exchange is to diplomatic relations between the U.S. and other countries?

At the recent Americans for the Arts annual convention, Animating Democracy debuted a newly published essay by Ron Chew, former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle.  In “Community-based Arts Organizations: A New Center of Gravity,” Ron underscores the crucial contributions of small and mid-sized community-based arts organizations, often culturally specific, to the cultural ecosystem, to civic engagement, and toward achieving healthy communities and a healthy democracy.  He points out that these groups offer artistic excellence and innovation, astute leadership connected to community needs, and important institutional and engagement models for the arts field amid changing demographics, a new political climate, technological advances, and globalization.

We distributed the essay at several convention sessions, including two of the pre-conferences.  After only one day, we were amazed at how many people had already read it cover to cover (notable given jet lag, the convention’s juicy program, and Seattle’s enticing distractions) and gratified by the enthusiastic comments about the importance of what it has to say. Read the rest of this entry »

What wouldn’t you do if you didn’t have to?

Posted by Diane Ruggiero On May - 26 - 2009

A recent article in the New York Times spoke about artists who were able to spend their time on creating art that they enjoyed rather than art that sold (Tight Times Loosen Creativity, 5/20/2009). A singer who didn’t have to perform the songs that others wanted to hear at their weddings, a painter who didn’t have to paint what was commissioned, a composer who had more time to be inspired, “It’s not paying the bills the way it did in the past, but there is more joy in it.”

It seems that the artists were suffering from a little bit of “mission creep” (to borrow a phrase from the non-profit sector). Yes, times are tougher – it is always better to earn a living and pay the rent. But, it seems that a few people are taking it as an opportunity to get back to what they enjoyed and what inspired them. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Alaska's Art Awaits All

Posted by Liesel Fenner On March - 4 - 2009

When flying to Alaska, I recommend choosing a window seat. The flight was long, but the view out the airplane window, spectacular. The snow covered mountain landscapes sloping down to narrow lines of frozen rivers were one of the mesmerizing experiences from the journey. As the flight descended into Anchorage, the landscape was like none other, pines peaked above the mist and the frozen ice at water’s edge cracked into patterns reminiscent of desert alluvial fans. This was no desert. Welcome to Alaska.

ice-sculpture detailAs Manager of Public Art for Americans for the Arts, I was invited to present at the Alaska Arts and Cultural Conference sponsored by the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Getting out of the office and into the field–connecting with the creative professionals, administrators, artists, civic leaders and more–is the most rewarding part of my job. Meeting the Alaskan arts community was an honor and a rare opportunity as Executive Director, Charlotte Fox attested to in her opening welcome. Traveling to Anchorage from within Alaska is a journey in itself. The joyful spirit of what it took for everyone to get there, to re-connect with friends and colleagues was evident from the din of hugs and greetings heard throughout the hotel ballroom and this same warmth was felt even outside in the cold as many of us took in the beautiful ice sculptures on display this time of year downtown.

Read the rest of this entry »

Asking the unpopular question—is there just too much art?

Posted by Chad Bauman On November - 17 - 2008

The economic crisis is starting to trickle down to arts organizations all over the nation. Recent casualties of the crisis include Opera Pacific, Milwaukee Shakespeare Festival, and several Broadway shows. To adjust for the weakening economy, planned productions have been abandoned at Seattle Repertory Theatre, Washington National Opera, the New York City Opera and even at the seemingly untouchable Metropolitan Opera. Not to mention the St. Louis Museum of Art postponing its $125 million expansion or the Shakespeare Theatre missing its gala goal by $300,000. Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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…