Collective Impact and the Wisdom of Slow Culture

Posted by Bill Cleveland On December - 7 - 2012

Pomegranate Center works with communities to imagine, plan, and create shared public spaces designed to encourage social integration and build local identity.

In the world of commerce scaling up has a long history. In the eighteenth and ninetieth centuries, mass production spawned the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, scaling applied to retail businesses like fast food and electronics manifested as chain stores and franchising.

The intention with these enterprises is to maximize profit by providing reliable and affordable products and services through economies of scale. In terms of profitability, mass production, chains, and franchising have been stupendously successful.

On the nonprofit side, given the significant gap between community needs and resources it is understandable that policymakers and funders are going to eager to find ways to extend the benefits of what they see as effective ideas and practice. Slow Food USA, Link TV, and KIPP charter schools are good examples of how innovative nonprofits have shared and spread the wealth.

The downside, of course is that one-size-fits-all predictability and sameness can have a sterilizing effect on the delicate strains of quirk and diversity upon which vital culture depends to multiply and thrive. For people like me who are concerned with community cultural development, or in the current vernacular, creative placemaking, this is no small thing. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for Inspiration in the New Normal

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders On June - 1 - 2012

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

As an arts education advocate who is leading an effort in San Diego to ensure that arts education is not lost in the midst of budget cuts at San Diego Unified School District, I must confess I am a little lost these days.

In the past, it’s been easy. District administration red lines the visual and performing arts department to save money, we advocate to the school board, and the school board approves funding for another year. It’s been this way for at least the last three years. But this year is different.

This year, the pink slips to more than 1,600 teachers were not rescinded in the final hour as they had been every year before. This year, the May revise shows the state budget gap is not $9 billion but almost $16 billion—definitely not what the governor anticipated. In 2009 they projected that the district budget would turn around by 2013. But that’s nowhere near what’s happening. This year it’s a very different ball game.

As a strategist, I take pride in knowing just what tools to use and what angle to take when going to bat for the arts in San Diego City Schools. But I’m at a loss this year. How do we continue to demand that the arts education budget remains intact when 1 in 5 teachers district-wide will be without a job come June unless the board can work with the teachers union and agree to contract concessions?

How do we continue to have faith that it will all work out when California voters refuse to support the taxes needed to ensure that education budgets aren’t decimated and fiscal conservatives in the state legislature think that the only answer is more cuts. And even if the governor’s tax increase proposal is approved by the voters in November, the result the district projects is a flat budget, not an increase, in school funding. Read the rest of this entry »

Tricia Tunstall

When was the last time The New York Times ran four major articles, including one front-page feature, on arts education?

I can’t remember the last time that happened…before a few weeks ago, when suddenly El Sistema, the vast children’s orchestra program in Venezuela, was front-page news. The program has been growing steadily for 37 years, but only recently has it become a hot topic here.

Why has El Sistema made its unlikely leap over the media’s tacit barriers to news coverage for arts education?

It’s partly because Gustavo Dudamel, the Sistema’s most famous product, has become a celebrity conductor in Los Angeles, the crucible of celebrity. In fact, the first article in the Times series last month focused on Dudamel and his star status.

But I think it’s also because El Sistema is not a strictly “arts ed” story. At the very heart of this extraordinary program is a convergence of musical and social goals—a conviction that musical excellence and social transformation can be fused in a single mission.

The real news about El Sistema is that it has given new life and hope to hundreds of thousands of Venezuela’s neediest children, by following the precept of its founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, that “if you put a violin in a child’s hands, that child will not pick up a gun.” 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.