Jamie Kasper

Jamie Kasper

Imagine a fast-growing, increasingly diverse school district with approximately 2,700 students in grades K–12, located 12 miles from the downtown area of a city. The district currently consists of three buildings: an elementary school (grades K–4), a middle school (grades 6–8), and a high school (grades 9–12). Also imagine the following:

  • Because of the growing population, the district is building a new facility for grades 3-5 that will open in the 2013–2014 school year. This building will have a STEAM focus.
  • In addition to visual arts and music, students in the elementary school also participate in an Arts Alive class. Arts Alive is a performing arts class that focuses on storytelling; students employ dance, music, and theatre to tell and create stories. Students often comment that they wish Arts Alive would continue into the middle school because they learn so much in elementary school.
  • The administrative team—including the superintendent and other central office staff; building leadership; heads of transportation, food service, and grounds; and other leaders—has spent its last three summer leadership retreats at local arts and cultural facilities, engaged in creative arts-based learning with staff from those facilities.
  • The middle school visual arts teacher took it upon herself a few years ago to attend a robotics workshop at a local university. With the help of staff from a special robotics program at the university, she now engages her middle school students in designing, creating, and programming kinetic sculptures that use the elements and principles of design. Read the rest of this entry »

Karin Copeland

Karin Copeland

Fostering and managing innovation is a continuous challenge for businesses. To meet this challenge it is critical to build a workplace culture that supports failure as an inevitability on the path to innovation. Artists and designers are taught that their best work is a result of these failures and progress can be made by revisiting old ideas from a fresh perspective.

From the iterative methodologies found in industrial and software design to the formalized critiques of a fine arts classroom, the concept of Design Thinking is a learned skill in fields that we traditionally define as creative. This way of thought is crucial to developing an innovative business sector that is both agile and collaborative.

Design Thinking has been around for decades but it has made a resurgence in recent years as swiftly changing technologies and a global marketplace force us to adapt the way we do business and adjust our corporate culture.  Business now requires creative talent to generate the innovative solutions and products of tomorrow.

This talent is often multidisciplinary, with the ability to problem-solve a diverse project set while still holding a vision of the big picture. This superstar talent is a rare commodity but, with the adoption of Design Thinking and a push toward a collaborative workplace, a company’s culture can be redesigned in such a way that it can nurture its current staff to become these superstars.  Read the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) was formed and evolved in the 1990s when a group of public art administrators sought to establish professional standards for this rapidly-expanding sector at the intersection of art and design.

While the design professions have long-established best practices through their professional associations like the American Institute of Architects (AIA) or American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), PAN has been moving steadily forward articulating guidelines for commissioning agencies and artists alike.

The drafting of these standards comes from volunteers—leaders in the field, in particular past and present PAN Council members leading committees, discussions, and drafting platform statements posted and updated on the PAN website (www.publicartnetwork.org).

For this week’s Blog Salon we invited PAN members—both administrators and artists—who are leading programs or projects that you may not have heard about yet. They discuss everything from the ever-popular topic of conservation to things to consider when de-accessioning work to suspending the rules to allow for public art events. Read the rest of this entry »

Vans: Committed to Helping Visual Art in Schools

Posted by Adriane Fink On November - 5 - 2012

Generating $50,000 for the winning school’s art program while simultaneously drawing attention to the importance of art as an integral part of a well-rounded education, Vans Custom Culture comes back in its fourth iteration with registration opening on January 2, 2013:

The Vans Custom Culture Competition sparks the creativity and teamwork of art students across the country as they work together to design blank pairs of canvas shoes into wearable pieces of art.

Shoes are sent out in the month of February to the first 1,500 U.S.-based public or private high schools that register and students have until April 5 to complete the shoes and submit their images online.

Each registered school receives four blank canvas shoes they must design using the following themes: art, music, action sports, and local flavor—a design inspired by the surrounding community, city, or state.

An internal selection narrows the field down to 50 participants and the external online public vote whittles those 50 schools down to a group of five finalists who will be flown to New York City for the final judging in June 2013.

The winning school receives a $50,000 prize for their art program and the opportunity for the shoes to be produced and sold in Vans’ retail stores. The remaining schools won’t go home empty handed—the four runners-up will receive a cash prize of $4,000 towards their art program. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art Evaluation: An Ongoing Process

Posted by Alison Spain On May - 17 - 2012

"Wave Arbor" by Doug Hollis at Long Bridge Park in Arlington, VA.

(Author’s Note: This post builds upon prior pieces by Dr. Elizabeth Morton and Angela Adams.)

I enrolled in Dr. Morton’s Exploring Evaluation for Public Art studio as a way to complement my experience as a working artist-art educator with a limited sense of the planning and evaluation process for public art. Over the course of the studio I came to see evaluation not as a zero sum game meant to occur after installation, but rather as an ongoing series of assessments conducted by and for major stakeholders, including, but not limited to, the intended audience.

While public art evaluation clearly includes examining the perceptions of the general public, it must also examine the processes and decisions that influence, direct, and ultimately, commission, new works.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this studio was the opportunity for cross-disciplinary dialogue created by the intentional interface of urban planners, designers (in this case, architecture & landscape architecture students), artists, and arts administrators.

Each of these roles fulfills an important and different function in the life cycle of the public art project; yet all too often we work in isolation from one another and/or use language that is particular to one discipline and foreign to another. The studio proved to me that we have a great deal to learn from one another and that increased cross-disciplinary collaboration will continue to yield exciting new contributions to the field of public art evaluation.

For example, as a predominantly 2D artist moving into the more design-based role of the landscape architect, the concept of site analysis took on an expanded meaning. From a conventional fine arts perspective, a site is a location where an artwork is placed, not necessarily a place that an artwork might inhabit over time. Artists would clearly benefit from the designer’s perspective of understanding site as an ongoing process, with multiple actors; yet this is a concept that is rarely discussed in undergraduate or graduate level art programs. Read the rest of this entry »

The Public Kitchen & the Dilemma of Evaluating a Gesture

Posted by Kenneth Bailey On May - 4 - 2012

Public Kitchen participants.

The next intervention the Design Studio is working on is called the Public Kitchen. It’s part of larger project we are developing called “The Public: A Work in Progress.”

As public infrastructures—hospitals, water, schools, transportation, etc.—are privatized, the Public Kitchen takes a stab at going in the reverse direction. It is a “productive fiction”; it’s our experimentation with a new, more vibrant social infrastructure that can:

  • Challenge the public’s own feelings that “public” means poor, broken down, poorly run, and “less than” private
  • Engage communities in claiming public space, the social and food justice
  • Make a new case for public infrastructures through creating ones that don’t exist

The first step of the Public Kitchen occured last fall when we worked with artist and graphic designer Jill Peterson to create what we called a “mobile ideation kit.” This enabled us to have interesting conversations with passers-by in a variety of communities, with an easy, attractive way to ask about what would be important to them in this made-up new form.

Next, we created an indoor Public Kitchen exhibit for Roxbury Open Studios. Over 100 residents, activists and artists came for a bite, took home fresh veggies, imagined new food policies, checked out architectural sketches, and added their ideas for what’s possible for a Public Kitchen.

Read the rest of this entry »

Notes from the Creative Economy

Posted by Max Donner On December - 2 - 2011

Max Donner

Art is more than beautiful. It is profitable.

Challenging economic times have sent financial experts back to the drawing boards. Impressive results from centers of excellence in the creative economy offer a vision for sustainable economic growth.

Arts administrators who need to convince their supporters and their communities to advance the programs that make creative economies work also need to understand what works best and why. These success stories can invigorate this dialogue.

While much daily businesses news is bad news, firms that have chosen art as a core competence and engaged many artists and designers continue achieve impressive profits and growth:

1. Swiss timepiece and design firm Swatch Group reported this summer that annual sales increased 11% and profits grew by 22% over the same period in 2010. Swatch introduced its first “Art Special” at the Pompidou Centre in 1985. Since then, it has continued to commission innovative art by leading contemporary artists such as French painter Grems and sculptor Ted Scapa. The Swatch corporate strategy of building a company on a foundation of artistic talent has also built expertise in art business, for example, using sophisticated models to calculate limited edition amounts.

2. BMW employs more artists than all other auto manufacturers combined. The results speak for themselves. While General Motors and Chrysler have experienced chaotic bankruptcies and Toyota reported its first losses in decades, BMW sales and profits have continued double digit growth. This summer the company launched the BMW Guggenheim Lab together with curators from the Guggenheim Museum in New York to learn more about the foundations of the creative economy. BMW also reported record financial results: annual sales increased 17% while net profits nearly doubled to $2.5 billion for the spring quarter, the equivalent of $10 billion a year. Read the rest of this entry »

From Short-Term Participation to Long-Term Engagement

Posted by Anusha Venkataraman On November - 10 - 2011

Participants take part in integrated creative, interactive activities during the workshop. (Photo by Roxanne Earley)

In reading my fellow bloggers’ posts, I was thinking about the different sets of strategies used to interest and involve community members in the short-term (what we might call “one-offs”), and those used to cultivate engagement in the long-term.

The potential of art to involve community in the shorter term is well-documented and recognized. We recognize the value of performance and temporary public art in activating public space during large (and small) community events.

Art is also recognized as an important communication tool, a way to get across a complex message that might otherwise be technical or seem far removed from daily life. Creative processes can even be used to diffuse conflict and create the space for dialogue.

Urban planners and designers have also integrated creative, interactive activities into the charrette workshop model. This week I attended a lecture and workshop at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, led by James Rojas on his interactive, art-based technique of using semi-abstract models and moving pieces to involve community members in reimagining and redesigning urban spaces.

The materials used were simple—blocks, string, plastic toys—but the colors and shapes clearly activated different parts of the participants’ brains, and encouraged new ideas and solutions—even among a crowd of planning and architecture students that is used to addressing urban design issues every day. Read the rest of this entry »

Putting the Arts into Planning

Posted by Tom Borrup On November - 10 - 2011

Tom Borrup (center) and friends

While the mystery of how emotions are evoked or how synaptic connections get sparked may never be fully understood, we know artistic practices have capacities to do these things. Some wonderful Twin Cities artists demonstrated this to me well over a decade ago.

We were bringing people together to find solutions to neighborhood challenges, addressing things that might be known by the mundane terms of community problem-solving, strategic planning, and urban design.

Engaging people on expressive levels using visual art-making, movement, as in dance, and storytelling, these artists tapped imaginations and provoked different ways of understanding physical environments and relationships.

As my professional work has taken me into cultural and community planning and partnering with architects and urban planners and designers, I’ve had multiple (although not enough) opportunities to bring artists into the mix to enrich, and sometimes to completely reorient, the thinking of people and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Yes, And?

Posted by Anamika Goyal On November - 10 - 2011

Anamika Goyal


It’s really the only word to describe my reaction to all of the previous posts. As a newly-minted, 21-year-old college graduate, I become quickly overwhelmed by the plethora of next steps available to me.

And, after reading the posts from all of this week’s bloggers–socially responsible, creative, like-minded people doing good and interesting work–I felt exactly that.

It’s odd to me that being presented with so many interesting and feasible options elicits such angst. I would imagine that many people in the same situation would be excited, elated even. I can’t help but feel immediately burdened by the inevitable ‘choice.’ I immediately start thinking that I need to pick one and begin to fear that I might pick wrong.

So yesterday, after Googling all of the organizations and projects mentioned in the posts and finding a number of groups doing things that intrigued me, I jotted down keywords of particular interest on Post-Its and stuck them on a wall in my apartment.

‘Community’, ‘arts’, ‘engagement’, ‘interactive’, ‘installation’, ‘industrial’, ‘design’, ‘redesign’, ‘urban’, and ‘group’ were all words that kept popping up.

It felt good to write them down, but then I found myself a little stuck again. I feel like this process tends to leave me with more questions than answers, which I will now pose to you all: Read the rest of this entry »

Brendon Greaves

I just returned from several days in Wilson, NC, where I am assisting with the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park Project. This ambitious project involves conserving twenty-nine of local artist Vollis Simpson’s monumental wind-powered kinetic sculptures and relocating them from a field outside his repair shop at a crossroads in rural Lucama to an expressly designed downtown sculpture park in nearby Wilson.

This weekend was the annual Whirligig Festival, a street fair inspired by the community’s affection for Mr. Simpson’s artworks, which already adorn several public locations downtown, providing an aesthetic identity and metereological indicator for Wilsonians.

Despite enthusiastic sanction and financial support from the National Endowment for the Arts, ArtPlace, the Educational Foundation of America, the North Carolina Arts Council, and many others, the true power of this remarkable placemaking project resides in its grassroots foundation.

The concept of using vernacular art to leverage investment in the community for the goal of cultural tourism and arts-driven economic development originated with local stakeholders concerned about both Mr. Simpson’s legacy (he is 92 and can no longer climb the 55-foot sculptures to grease bearings and repaint rusting surfaces) and the economic future of Wilson in a post-tobacco economy (Wilson once boasted the title of the world’s largest tobacco market). Read the rest of this entry »

Urban Design is a Universal Language

Posted by Radhika Mohan On November - 9 - 2011

Radhika Mohan

It’s no secret that cities are becoming larger and more diverse. The newest 2010 Census numbers speak for themselves:

  • Over 80% of our current population lives in a metropolitan area;
  • The Hispanic population grew by over 40% in the past ten years, now making up 16% of the total U.S. population;
  • The Asian population in the country also grew by over 40%;
  • Those identifying themselves as “two or more races” increased by over 30%;
  • Nearly 50% of the U.S. Western region’s population is minority.

What is it about cities that attract such diverse groups to one place?

I think on one level it is about comfort- as humans in an age of globalization and displacement, we find comfort in communities that feel like home. Cities are able to remind us of our heritage through access to specialized foods, clothing, and other goods and institutions: think of Chicago’s Devon Avenue, Philadelphia’s Italian Market, or even Tampa’s historic Ybor City.

Amongst all these different demographic and census groups, languages, and modes of communication that exist within cities there is something we all can understand about places and that is consistently aided with urban design.

In many ways, urban design is a universal human language, something that can traverse our differences and connect us all through visual and sensual interventions.

As an example, I will draw from my own neighborhood in Washington, DC: Columbia Heights. Read the rest of this entry »

Interesting PBS NEWSHOUR story covering the city’s new Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, architect Moshe Safdie’s feelings on the design (and his other new works like Crystal Bridges in Arkansas), and the impact that community hopes the Kauffman Center will have on the city.

My Latest Website Crush (From Arts Watch)

Posted by Joanna Chin On April - 13 - 2011
Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

In the past few weeks, I’ve become addicted to this new online thing.

And by addicted, I simply mean that participating in it has sort of taken over my free time.

No, it’s not Twitter or Facebook or Linkedin or FourSquare…in fact, it’s not any of the usual suspects.

My latest web crush is called OpenIDEO.

It’s an online platform developed by the design firm, IDEO, as a way to include a broader range of people in tackling significant global problems through the design process.

Basically, it works like this:   Read the rest of this entry »