Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2014

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 20 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Patrick O'Herron

Patrick O’Herron

At the pARTnership Movement, we think it’s fantastic that you are considering the benefits of an arts and business partnership, and that you’re sharing the values we have ignited through the 8 reasons businesses partner with the arts. But we understand that the road is long and winding, and there are pitfalls along the way. That’s why we have composed this list of the 5 things you might not be doing when considering such a partnership, and examples of how to best start.

1. Are you even asking?

According to the BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, of the 600-plus small, midsize and large businesses surveyed, 66% of businesses that don’t give to the arts stated that they were not even asked to contribute to the arts—that is two-thirds! It is our responsibility to deliver the message to businesses that the arts can help build their competitive advantage, so write those letters, set up those meetings, attend chamber of commerce meetings and make those connections—start building relationships now.

psipostpatrick12. Are you considering small and midsize businesses?

Your first instinct as an arts organization may be to run to the nearest bank or local industry giant to seek support for your programming, but according to the BCA Survey, small and midsize businesses contribute 82% of the total contributions to the arts. Exemplary examples of small and midsize business partnerships include Caramel Boutique, a DC-based clothing store that is redefining the U Street corridor as an arts destination by hosting free art shows for local artists on a monthly basis, and the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee, which turns its guests’ stay into a work of art through its Artist-in-Residence program. Download our tool-kit, “Creating pARTnerships with Small and Midsize Businesses,” as a useful resource. Read the rest of this entry »

Erin Gough

Erin Gough

It has been an exciting few weeks for arts and arts education professionals and advocates in the nation’s capital.

After a week of activities hosted by the Arts Education Partnership, Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network, Emerging Arts Leaders at American University and Americans for the Arts’ State Arts Action Network, training for Arts Advocacy Day began on April 8 and we were off to the races to meet with our congressmen and women all day on April 9.

Quite honestly, by the time I headed home, I expected to be totally wiped out—overloaded with information and overwhelmed by the situation at hand. Instead, it felt like the more time I was able to spend with such passionate people, the more energized and inspired I became.

People do not work with students, schools, community organizations, or become advocates because they are passive. They do it because they see a need to ensure arts opportunities for all of America’s students, but they know that the annual Arts Advocacy Day activities are only a small part of the work that needs to be done.

Coming down to Washington to learn about and discuss federal issues is a change of pace for me, and for most of us who work at the state and local levels.

It is absolutely important to learn about, and try to influence, federal education issues that impact the arts such as the reauthorization status of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (Delayed. Again. Still.), Race to the Top requirements (which require teacher effectiveness evaluations for all subjects, including the arts), and No Child Left Behind waivers (which allow for more flexibility at the state level to pursue changes in graduation requirements and assessments). Read the rest of this entry »

Largest Symposium Ever Proves Successful (an EALS Post)

Posted by Steven Dawson On April - 22 - 2013
Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

Once again, the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium (EALS) at American University has proven to be a smashing success. The EALS is in its sixth year of existence. The event is an annual meeting of students and young professionals who work in the arts that is held at American University. As national partners with Americans for the Arts, EALS is the official kick off for Arts Advocacy Day, and is held the day before.

It is an opportunity to engage in quality discussion about issues, unique or universal, that affect arts organizations with students, peers, and experienced leaders in the field. Past keynote speakers have included Rachel Goslins, Ben Cameron, Bob Lynch, and Adrian Ellis. All symposium activities and planning is organized and executed by a selected committee of American University Arts Management students.

The framework of EALS 2013 was “Looking to the Horizon.” Each speaker and panel discussed the new and innovative strategies and ideas coming down the road in each of the topics addressed that day. These topics included international arts management, marketing, audience engagement, career advancement, innovative organization models, and fundraising.

As the Executive Chair, I am elated to report that EALS 2013 was by far the largest and most successful Symposium ever. Counting the speakers, attendees, staff, and volunteers, 225 people walked through the doors on Sunday, April 7. That proved to be well over double last year’s number, a record growth for the Symposium. Read the rest of this entry »

The Space Race

Posted by Chase Maggiano On April - 18 - 2013
Chase Maggiano

Chase Maggiano

There are a few things I have come to believe are true: Justin Bieber’s monkey is more famous than I will ever be; there are more self-proclaimed artists in the world than at any time in history; and the arts are the next big export—both here in Washington, D.C., and abroad.

All three of these truths lead to a problem we have in our cultural communities. We need more space.

With YouTube, an iPad, and Kickstarter, anyone can create and distribute art while sitting in front of the computer in their underwear (no…not THAT kind of art). Some artists can even launch careers from the keyboard. But it is not enough to think of art as an activity performed in isolation, behind the curtain of technology.

I have learned that many people in my community feel the same way. Sure, it’s easy to rehearse and perform a play in your living room, read chamber music in a basement, and labor over paintings in the garage for hours—but if no one sees your art, does it have any real impact?

While finding performance space is often the key stumbling block, locating adequate rehearsal (or studio) space is an equally important challenge. Without an appropriate place to cultivate art, there is no true quality control of the product. Don’t believe me? Ask a dancer. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 2013
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

Marketing…Not All About the Ticket (an EALS Post)

Posted by Raynel Frazier On April - 5 - 2013
Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

It used to be that the success of arts marketers was dependent on how well they could predict the future and then pray for success. But those days are over.

Today, arts marketers can rely on data analysis and market research to make well-thought-out strategic decisions.

I, for one, am glad that marketers no longer have to rely on future telling because marketing is an essential part of the arts experience. As a jazz trombonist, I had to learn how to market myself to land gigs and then market my gigs so that people would come to them. Arts organizations have to do the same. But they must market their organization as well as individual performances.

Several years ago Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) ran an institutional marketing campaign with the theme “BAM and then it hits you.” The message they conveyed was that the experience at BAM lingered long after you left. This campaign excited people about BAM as an entire organization, as opposed to a singular performance.

There are countless other examples of successful marketing campaigns in the arts. As emerging arts leaders I think it is essential we pay attention to trends in marketing. What are the latest trends in arts marketing? How do arts marketers use data analysis and market research to make strategic decisions? What type of programming is becoming most difficult to market? There is an endless amount of questions we can ask.  Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Know Our Staff: Ten Questions with…Nora Halpern

Posted by Tim Mikulski On April - 3 - 2013
I was asked to include one of my favorite Americans for the Arts photos so I chose this shot from the 2010 National Arts Awards as it is proof that it really does take a village! It also shows that we all spruce up pretty nicely!

Nora (fifth from the right) was asked to include a favorite Americans for the Arts photo so she chose this shot from the 2010 National Arts Awards as it is proof that it really does take a village! It also shows that we all spruce up pretty nicely!

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

So far, I’ve conducted a self-interview and one with Hannah Jacobson.

This time I have turned to Nora Halpern who currently serves as Vice President of Leadership Alliances for Americans for the Arts.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.

Grasstops wrangler: find the person who can move issues forward.

2. What do the arts mean to you?

I find this a very difficult question to answer because the arts are infused in everything I do and everything I am. Therefore, trying to define or identify the arts as something “other,” runs counter to the way I think.

I was lucky to have been raised in a home where the arts were central. Film, music, performance, and the visual arts were vital members of the family and often the glue that got all six of us talking about one topic at a time. Long before the days of remixing and mash-ups, dinner at our house was a cornucopia of art conversations: whether debating likes and dislikes or passions and poisons.  Read the rest of this entry »

Don’t Just Sit There, Get Involved (an EALS Post)

Posted by Raynel Frazier On March - 29 - 2013
Raynel Frazier

Raynel Frazier

We all love to go to our favorite theatre and watch a production, sit and listen to our favorite orchestra, or visit our favorite museum.

Traditionally, a person interacted with arts organizations by sitting in the audience of a theater and viewing a performance; but is that enough? I say no way! Like me, many audience members want to get involved and interact with arts organizations in a new way.

Today we live in a world with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms. These platforms give us a space to share our views and interact with people from around the world.

As a person in my early twenties, interaction and participation is crucial. Arts organizations are beginning to realize the importance of audience engagement and are finding new and innovative ways to engage their audiences.

Audience engagement includes a range of activities from open rehearsals and online forums to interactive shows. Here in Washington, DC, Dog & Pony DC produced a production of The Killing Game that whole-heartedly embraced the idea of audience engagement.  Read the rest of this entry »

Career Beginnings, Advancement, & Ramen Noodles (an EALS Post)

Posted by Shannon Musgrave On March - 26 - 2013
Shannon Musgrave

Shannon Musgrave

Washington, DC is full of young, ambitious, up and coming leaders—politicos, entrepreneurs, engineers, and of course, those of us in the arts. We live in an exciting time and as we prepare to dive into the working world, we are faced with some unique challenges. But we are young and energetic and up to the task.

One universal challenge emerging leaders face in every field is the evolution of the ever expanding “work day.” Gone are the days of a typical 9 to 5. (Though, did they ever really exist in the arts?)

In this iPhone, iPad, Blackberry world, we are continually and constantly connected. Emails are sent and expected to be read at any and all hours. Tweets and Facebook comments don’t take the night off. We are embarking on a career world that never stops and rarely sleeps.

And how does one break into this world?

Ah yes. The internship.

Internships have the potential to be great career launchers. They also have the potential to become traps. All work and no pay makes Jane a tired intern.

The New York Times recently published an article detailing the struggles of many 20-somethings—“a population historically exploitable as cheap labor”—as they learn that “long hours and low pay go hand in hand with the creative class.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Crossing Cultures: A New Necessity? (an EALS Post)

Posted by Joshua Midgett On March - 8 - 2013
Joshua Midgett

Joshua Midgett

The expansion of marketplaces from local to global is rapid. As technology continues to evolve and the world ‘shrinks’, cross-cultural exchange and appreciation are vital to the success of an individual in any field. It is especially significant in the field of the arts, where so often culture finds its voice.

In a field where planning is already a difficult task, it is significant to discuss this expansion of perspective. The international aspects of audience, cooperation, cultural differences, and philanthropy add an extra piece or pieces to the organizational puzzle. This new challenge has not gone unnoticed by the arts management community.

Here at American University, a new Certificate in International Arts Management has been recently unveiled. Nearby, the Kennedy Center has been working with and training international arts managers since 2008.

Programs across the country are beginning take notice, and if entire degrees aren’t dedicated to the topic, many classes will be. While this field is as young as the technology that is accelerating its development, there is little doubt that it will soon be an integral part of any arts management training.  Read the rest of this entry »

But I Hate Asking for Money… (An EALS Post)

Posted by Steven Dawson On March - 1 - 2013
Steven Dawson

Steven Dawson

Regardless of the organizations mission, values, programs, etc., what is the ONE common factor that is needed to execute an organization’s purpose?

Money!

As much as we dislike connecting our important work to the dollar, the simple fact is that without it, we cannot pay our staffs, purchase materials, and pay the electric bills…and thus provide our services.

So there we have it, we must have funds to fulfill our missions. However, unless you are the lucky few, earned income doesn’t even come close to covering your budget. So to take the statement even further; we must have CONTRIBUTED funds to fulfill our missions.

Now with the sequestration set to go into effect, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) budget will be cut by 5%, or $7.3 million, and grants will decrease. (But let’s be honest, NEA funds have really just become a stamp of approval…and important stamp, that is…rather than actual difference-making funds).

Foundations are changing the focus of how and what they fund. And corporate philanthropy, while rebounding, will not cover the balance. So, lets take that earlier statement even deeper. We must have INDIVIDUAL contributed funds to fulfill our missions.

This can be a problem, though, because this all important aspect of nonprofit management is most likely the most uncomfortable aspect of nonprofit management. It is just human nature to avoid asking for money, even from people you know.  Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Know Our Staff: Ten Questions with…Hannah Jacobson

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 28 - 2013
We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call "Ten Questions with...", in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us. Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and  this week I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch. 1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less. Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting 2. What do the arts mean to you? There has been no time where I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures. I feel a real personal connection to the arts even though my stick figure drawings didn’t lead to a fashion career or visual arts (success?). I was in my first play at 7, playing a dwarf in “The Hobbit” and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college.  This includes “Barnum,” which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals.  Yes, I still make them. In college I started singing. Thinking back on the trajectory, I never thought of the arts as a career path until college, but the arts were always everywhere and inevitable in my life (maybe I owe something to my extreme lack of athletic ability). At summer camp, I picked the two art courses (Art, Politics, & Society and Philosophy of Art) to take as part of the academic program. My AP History paper was on the culture wars with the National Endowment for the Arts, but it never occurred to me that it would lead me somewhere. It was in my first art history class in college that I realized it all led up to that point and career path. The arts contextualized me in a lot of ways. I can reach back to arts experiences to make sense of where I was at that specific point in my life. I think a prevailing assumption is that acting helps you explore yourself through becoming someone else, and I think that’s true, but I used to walk alone into the dark theatre and sit on stage looking at the empty seats and it felt just as deeply personal—the arts were a safe space for me, but they were also a sacred space. Sitting on the dark stage was different in an elemental way than any other place. It wasn’t just the performances, it was the essence of the space and allowing myself to live in that place, even if for just a moment.  The arts have always provided an access point for me, guiding me to accept and appreciate the moment and the state in which I find myself—good, bad, or anything in between, the arts have always helped me to see the vibrancy of the world and gain a true sense of being present. 3. If you could have any career you wanted (talent, education not required), what would it be and why? I would own a bakery. 100%. I realize in the age of food blogging that suddenly this is hugely en vogue, and I have read MULTIPLE times that bakers say that it’s no fun, but I am going to pretend I don’t know that and stick with the fact that I love baking.  That’s what I would do. 4. How many places have you lived? Where? Six. I was born in Santa Monica, CA and moved to Los Angeles at two. We then moved to Ann Arbor, MI, but not before my brother and I ran around the dining room for hours screaming. I asked if I could bring Chinatown, the ocean, and our lemon tree with us. I moved to New Haven, CT for college, spent most summers at home in Michigan with the exception of one in D.C,. and a semester abroad in London before returning to live in D.C. 5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? My a cappella group was singing at Mory’s, a Yale dinner club, and after finishing my solo (“You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt), one patron said, “When they were giving out personalities, they gave you two!” I took that to mean I had a lot of personality (and I’m sticking with that interpretation!). He also said I had “come one to a box.” His compliments were delightfully odd and shockingly insightful. 6. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to sit down to dinner. I’m going to have to have two dinner parties. For a philosophical, somber wine and cheese gathering I would like to speak with Roland Barthes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Viktor Frankl. Barthes’ Camera Lucida is one of the most influential books I read during college in terms of my academic interests and the way I learned to think about and interpret visual art, Hurston’s autobiography is a spectacularly exuberant study of a life lived in full color, and Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is staggeringly beautiful, universally meaningful, and beyond all else, powerfully human…and it has not left me since I first picked it up at age sixteen. For a fun, outdoor picnic (preferably hosted by F.Scott Fitzgerald, but I’m flexible), I would love to spend time with Claude Monet (I have loved him since the age of three, when I encountered him in Linnea in Monet’s Garden), Ruth Reichl (her memoirs are fantastic), and Ben Franklin (I’m a colonial history dork and 1776 is my favorite movie).  If I can include fictional characters, I would invite Eloise in a heartbeat.  My idol. 7. Would others say that you can dance? Explain. People call my dancing style “the Hannah” (Editor’s Note: Which I would describe as a little Peanuts’ Sally Brown meets Hair). I was also known as Boppity Short Girl in my a cappella group (see video). 8. What is the earliest memory you have of being an audience member for a live arts event? I think my first memory was at 2 or 3 years-old at a Sharon, Lois, & Bram concert. I can remember twirling in the aisles incessantly. The most meaningful performance I can remember was “Kiss Me Kate” on Broadway. The show inspired me beyond measure. It made me see what’s possible as a performer and how engaging a live performance can be. 9. What would the title of your autobiography be? “Always Looking Up: Life from the Five Foot (and a Quarter Inch) Line” 10. Finally, if you could paint a picture or take more photos of a place you have been in your life what would you paint or photograph? First of all, I wish I could paint!! This is a tough question because, like Tim (link), I take a lot of pictures, so it’s rare that I need MORE pictures—in fact, it would probably be more helpful if I were a little better at editing. That said, I wish I had taken more pictures of places—my dorms and that part of my life—during college in addition to pictures of other people, each other, etc. When I travel I feel that I capture most of the experience, but those times when I was just hanging out—I tried to appreciate them, but I’m not sure I could have known how really special those were at the time. So I wish I had more pictures of “Flower Couch” (see photo, as we were leaving it behind at school, tears!) that we got from a hotel liquidation sale my first week of freshman year…and the other accoutrements of collegiate life! Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at the 2012 National Arts Policy Round Table (Photo by Fred Hayes)

Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at our 2012 National Arts Policy Roundtable (Photo by Fred Hayes)

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and this time I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.

Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting

2. What do the arts mean to you?

There has been no time when I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures.

I was in my first play at seven, playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college. This includes Barnum, which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals. Yes, I still make them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Economic Data Provides the Base for Public and Private Sector Advocacy

Posted by Jennifer Cover Payne On July - 12 - 2012

Jennifer Cover Payne

Eighteen years ago there was little research documenting the economic impact of arts and culture in the Greater Washington DC metropolitan region. The key advocacy message focused primarily on the intrinsic value of arts and its ability to transform communities.

Most of the information conveyed was subjective or limited to research conducted by specific arts organizations for their marketing purposes. The organizations, all part of the DC metropolitan region, did not cross jurisdictional boundaries to collaborate as research partners. The Arts & Economic Prosperity (AEP) studies eliminated the regional jurisdictional research barriers.

The Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington connects the six leaders of the arts councils and commissions representing: the District of Columbia; the City of Alexandria in Virginia; Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia; and, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland. The arts council and commission leaders meet several times a year under the umbrella of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington to discuss their arts projects, regional arts challenges, and successes.

Before the economic downturn, when local governments had more money, the AEP studies were part of the rationale that the city and council members used to grant millions of dollars to arts organizations that were building new or renovating old venues. Now the data supports the budget decision-making process for the arts and is essential to the vitality of arts programs throughout the region. Read the rest of this entry »

Giving Thanks in America’s Capital

Posted by Delali Ayivor On June - 19 - 2012

Delali Ayivor

I know this about myself: I am a writer and I am an obruni.

Obruni is a term that comes from the Ghanaian language of Twi and it translates to foreigner or, more archaically “white man.” I was born in Houston, TX. My mother was born in Durham, NC and my father in Lome, Togo. I was raised, primarily, in Accra, Ghana. In my life I have lived in four countries and three states and through it all, I have had trouble identifying myself as an American.

The United States has been a constant symbol of idolatry for me. As an elementary school student, I ordered my father to bring back suitcases full of Oreos and Cheetos from his business trips, simply for the sheer commercial joy of the American name-brand. So when I moved, by myself, from Accra, Ghana to the outskirts of Northwest Michigan at age 15 to attend boarding school, I was, for the first time since the age of 3, ecstatically emerged in America, in my obsession.

Now I am going to say something that doesn’t get said enough; I love the Midwest. Perhaps because it was the first place that I lived in the United States where I was old enough to form an opinion, but I suspect there are others out there like me.

Coming from West Africa with absolutely no background in American history, the Midwest was the America I had always envisioned. This was the America I had gleaned from hours of Lifetime Television for Women made-for-tv movies; a place where my first poetry teacher, a farm girl, actually had her first kiss on a hayride, where soda was referred to as ‘pop’, the forgotten frontier of endless strip malls and moms in department store khakis pulling up to Rotary Club meetings in their Toyota minivans to talk about foreign lands they might never see, the backwards mud people saved by $5 a month set-aside through clever coupon usage down at the Piggly Wiggly. 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.