Collaboration is the key to “Love and Forgiveness”

Posted by John Wood On August - 22 - 2014
John Wood

John Wood

The “Love and Forgiveness Project” at Detroit School of Arts, a recipient of the 2014 VANS Custom Culture grant, involves a collaboration between a variety of media and disciplines. Poet and educator Suzanne Scarfone is the lead curriculum writer for the Afghan Women’s Writers Project Lessons from Afghanistan: A Curriculum for Exploring Themes of Love and Forgiveness.

Suzanne choose the poem “Small Heart” as the starting point for our collaborative project. The poem was shared with musical composer Marilyn Perkins Biery, who created a composition for soprano, chorus, piano, and flute. The full composition will be recorded by Scott Koue at Detroit School of Arts in May 2014 with students and professional musicians from the community. The audio track will be used as the score for the animation project. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a future for arts education?

Posted by Ken Busby On May - 21 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

“The arts are under attack!”  We hear this cry on a consistent basis as state and local governments wrestle with priorities to balance budgets.  The arts always seem to be the first on the chopping block.  Detroit continues to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and one of the suggestions for how to raise capital to satisfy creditors is to sell off the outstanding art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Selling the DIA’s collection is only a short-term fix, that doesn’t actually alleviate the problem at all.  It’s more for showmanship.  It’s a statement that we can live without the arts.  They are only important if they can be sold to raise money. Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strength of Diversity: The Strength of the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch On March - 12 - 2013
Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l)

Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l) during Arts Advocacy Day.

One of our great American leaders, Congressman John Lewis, has been celebrated in the news quite a bit recently. It is the 48th anniversary of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL. The march was led by a young John Lewis—his skull was fractured, and for that sacrifice an enormous gain for civil rights and for voting rights was realized.

Congressman John Lewis is also a great arts leader. For years he has personally led the fight for fair tax treatment of artists. Many times over the last several decades, he has brought his powerful story of how the arts and the Civil Rights Movement were invaluable allies to Americans for the Arts gatherings.

He has pointed out that the arts—from folk or gospel or classical music performed in jails or the streets or in concert halls, to the visual arts in portrayals of the struggle through posters and placards—were a key to motivation and hope as the Civil Rights Movement progressed. We all honored him last week as he, Vice President Joe Biden, and others reenacted that famous bridge crossing.

During the State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the civil rights of the broad face of America when he honored the battles and sacrifice at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. And during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama honored the transformative power of the arts and arts education for everyone when she said, “[The arts] are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive everyday to reach those dreams.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Questions to Ask Before Addressing Scale

Posted by Judi Jennings On December - 5 - 2012

Judi Jennings

Does size matter? Of course it does. But is this the right question to ask first?

How about approaching the question of size by first asking how arts, culture, and philanthropy advance positive social change? And how does size relate to equity?

Size matters locally and globally, but arts and culture drive change regardless of the size. Maria Rosario Jackson’s recent report on Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities convincingly argues that arts and culture create community identity, stimulate civic engagement, and affect neighborhood economies directly and indirectly.

Writer and cultural organizer Jeff Chang argues that “where culture leads, politics will follow” on national and international issues.

As a place-based grantmaker, my theory of change is that local people make the most appropriate and lasting advancements when they have the necessary tools and resources.

Allied Media Projects (AMP) in Detroit is a great example of place-based social change. AMP argues that “place is important” and “Detroit is a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions.”

Honoring local culture does not mean working in isolation. MicroFest USA, for example, led by the Network of Ensemble Theatres, is looking at how art and culture can create healthy communities in Detroit, Appalachia, New Orleans, and Hawaii. The idea is that performance-based learning exchanges like this can connect artists, activists, cultural workers, and thinkers working locally and nationally. Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit Voters Save the Day for 125-Year-Old Museum

Posted by Kim Kober On August - 8 - 2012

Kim Kober

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a ballot measure to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Two of the counties, Oakland and Wayne, passed it by more than 60 percent, while the third county, Macomb, came down to the wire at 51 percent.

The museum was founded over 125 years ago, but began to suffer financially when public funding dried up in the nineties, followed by the Great Recession over the past several years. The measure was included on the ballot for the primary elections held in Michigan yesterday and its passage adds a property tax, also known as a millage, that will cost homeowners an average of $15–$20 annually.

The resulting funds will provide approximately $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years, covering their annual operations. During that time, the museum will focus on building their endowment to ensure the museum’s sustainability after the ten years have passed.

Detroit arts advocates employed some creative tactics in the weeks leading up to the primaries.

Free Art Friday, led by Skidmore Studio, invites artists and arts supporters to create art and leave it around the city with a note, for others to find and keep. Last Friday, the event began with a rally at the DIA in support of the museum. Just days before that, Art is for Everyone sponsored a rally in a nearby park. Between the two events, hundreds showed up in support of the museum, and the visibility made a difference.

Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan. Yes, it is only one organization out of hundreds, but voters representing counties totaling 40 percent of the state’s population just said yes to funding the arts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Private Sector Funding in the New Normal: Working All the Angles!

Posted by Valerie Beaman On June - 13 - 2012
Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, moderated a convention panel on creative methods for growing new funding born out of the experiences of the recession. The rise of online funding campaigns, emphasis on creating partnerships with businesses and, more radically, treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding and don’t rely on it for core operating income were some of the ideas explored. The consensus was to, remain flexible but, above all, stay true to your mission.

Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, used the Community Foundation Challenge in Detroit as an example of the challenges and best practices for online giving/day of arts giving campaigns. A major goal of the Challenge was to raise awareness for the arts and culture sector.

Referencing it as “Glitches to Riches,”  Maud said the Challenge program raised $4,992,000 million for 75 organizations in one day. While the larger organizations raised higher dollar amounts, smaller organizations raised a higher proportion of their budget size. Existing donors were the mainstay of the Challenge (59 percent), but the Challenge brought in a significant number of new donors as well (28 percent).

Lessons learned by the arts community include: the importance of being prepared with technology and social networking in order to be able to respond quickly to challenge opportunities; the future of online giving is with younger donors; and, convenience, ease, flexibility and lack of pressure are the appeals of online commerce.

Maud emphasized the necessity of a good donor database and an excellent donor stewardship program. She personally donated to twelve different organizations during the Challenge, received very few thank you letters, and only three of the twelve followed up the following year for new donations. Lost opportunities! Read the rest of this entry »

Planting a Seed About Evaluation

Posted by Sioux Trujillo On May - 15 - 2012

Sioux Trujillo

I recently resigned from a public art program in Detroit that was housed inside a small arts college. During my time there, evaluation became a big part of my job. It was critical to track, define, and report for the future of the program to serve as a baseline for success for the arts institution. Before this, my idea of success was primarily based from the perspective of the studio artist.

The projects that were created in the neighborhoods of Detroit were much more complex because each project was so very different from one another, involved different people from diverse backgrounds, and had community defined goals and artist selection.

When I set out to create a plan of evaluation I realized this was going to be a complex task.

My first obstacle was simply trying to figure out what to call the projects. A seemingly simple thing turned into more than I expected.

I started to compile a list of all the different names that artists and organizations are using to define public art which involves the people around the project in some way.

•    Social Aesthetics
•    Relational Aesthetics
•    Social Justice Art
•    Community Art
•    Placemaking
•    Social Sculpture
•    New Genre Public Art
•    Tactical Media
•    Cultural Activism
•    Social Practice
•    Interventions
•    Happenings
•    Participatory Art Read the rest of this entry »

Rallying Against “Most Miserable City” Rankings

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 24 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Earlier this month, Forbes released another one of its ranking lists, which I assume are only created in order to gain attention and web traffic—“America’s Most Miserable Cities.”

This list is one that tends to pick on the same communities that have been forced into our heads as places you don’t want to live, work, go to school, etc., yet, there are residents doing all of these things in each and every one of them.

As someone who used to work in Camden, NJ, one of those cities that is constantly appearing on Forbes’ similar “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” list, I understand what that label can do to the residents of a community that already can’t seem to catch a break.

Which leads me to the fact that Forbes declared Miami #1 on the “America’s Most Miserable Cities” list. Never mind the fact the author of the main post is their sports business writer, but the fact that such a vibrant city, known for its arts and culture is #1 on that list is a bit surprising.

Well, here is the criteria they used: “We looked at 10 factors for the 200 largest metro areas and divisions in the U.S. Some are serious, like violent crime, unemployment rates, foreclosures, taxes (income and property), home prices, and political corruption. Other factors we included are less weighty, like commute times, weather, and how the area’s pro sports teams did. While sports, commuting, and weather can be considered trivial by many, they can be the determining factor in the level of misery for a significant number of people.”

Very scientific.

But there’s more—a number of the cities on this list also appear on the “most dangerous” list, too. Talk about kicking a community when it’s down. Read the rest of this entry »

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.