Conversation and Innovation

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On July - 25 - 2011
Stephanie Evans Hanson

Stephanie Evans Hanson

Innovation, change, and new ideas start with a conversation. Your new idea may come from a conversation you overhear in a coffee shop, from a television interview you watch, or from a panel discussion or keynote you listen to at a conference.

Or, it may come from a discussion you are actively taking part in. Innovation can also come from a conversation you first have with yourself, which you reflect on over time, and possibly discuss with family, friends, or colleagues.

It can be easy to overlook the value of a conversation when brainstorming an innovative idea. It’s easy to tell yourself that you don’t have time to go to the next meeting, or listen to that podcast, or read blogs, or…the list goes on and on.

But in actuality, we can no longer afford to continue the status quo in our field. The organizations that are innovative with business models, marketing, fundraising, programming, and reaching new audiences are the ones that will survive in this economy. If innovation starts with a conversation, we must allow ourselves the time for discussing, listening, reading, and reflecting.  Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Ideas: Seeking and Celebrating the Spark of Innovation

Posted by Ebony McKinney On July - 25 - 2011

Welcome to the Emerging Ideas: Seeking and Celebrating the Spark of Innovation blog salon. This Salon is part of a larger effort on the part of the Emerging Leaders Council to help Americans for the Arts and the field at-large learn from the best and brightest thinkers and doers in communities around the country.

In January, we decided to initiate a year-long research project by asking, “What lessons can the rest of the field learn or take away from novel, under-the-radar, and locally-based ideas, projects or approaches to old problems?”

We were looking for great examples of innovative, on-the-ground projects or initiatives that deserve wider attention because of their potential to serve as a model for the rest of us.

Hopefully many of you were able to attend our Idea Lab at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Diego this year. Several of this salon’s bloggers were gathered in conversation there.

This fall, our committee will present a selection of in-depth profiles on some of the innovative ideas, projects and themes we’ve uncovered throughout the year. This week’s salon is an effort to expand and frame that conversation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Top-50 Tweets from #AFTA11: Part One

Posted by Ron Evans On July - 22 - 2011

Ron Evans

I wasn’t able to attend the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this year, but I did get to participate in the next best thing: following the conversation on Twitter.

There were lots of great discussion and opinions. But unless you were following 24/7, you may have missed some gems.

So, I’ve gone through the entire stream of tweets using the hashtag #AFTA11 (all 2389 of them!) cut out all fat, and filtered them down to my picks for the top 50 most-useful tweets to me from AFTA 2011.

I say most useful because I wanted to separate out things that can be acted on, resources/measurements that can be explored, impactful facts and figures, and new “lightbulb ideas.”

A big thank you to these great posters for posting meaty tweets – If you like something you see, follow the author on Twitter.

So here goes, from oldest (public art pre-conference) to newest (end of conference) order… Read the rest of this entry »

Innovating Locally, Thinking Globally (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On July - 20 - 2011
Stephanie Evans Hanson

Stephanie Evans Hanson

Earlier today, I had the chance to listen in on a talk by National Endowment for the Arts Local Arts Agencies & Challenge America Director Michael Killoren as he was speaking to a group of Americans for the Arts and NEA interns.

As he spoke about his career path and what he’s learned thus far, one thing he said stood out to me: Most innovation is happening at the local level.

We spend a lot of time, energy, and resources advocating for increased dollars for the arts at the federal and state level, which is important and that work should continue. However, I believe a focus on what’s happening culturally at the local level in what we estimate to be 19,000 cities is equally important to pay attention to. This is one reason why I am very excited about the upcoming Emerging Leader blog salon, titled Emerging Ideas: Seeking and Celebrating the Spark of Innovation, taking place July 25-29 on ARTSblog. Read the rest of this entry »

A Pop Conversation

Posted by David Seals On July - 20 - 2011

David Seals

In the height of the 2007 football season, shortly after the Audience Experience Initiative project began talking about a new vision for audience engagement, I found myself on my Monday bus commute after a Steelers defeat.

“What if these people felt as opinionated about what happened at the ballet this weekend as they do about the Steelers?”, I thought. Be careful what you wish for.

Last week, Squonk Opera had the moxie to place their critically-acclaimed work in front of an incredibly unforgiving audience: three judges and millions of viewers on NBC’s America’s Got Talent.

The initial responses (which, in the long run may be the least important result of this experience for Squonk) seemed to be abject confusion—both from the judges and the Twitterati. The comments were not exactly the sort you’d find in a theatre review, but the gist was a lot of strong opinions ranging from visceral reaction to technical critique. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All About Your Network

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On July - 11 - 2011

Tara Scroggins

Networking is important, especially to emerging leaders (EL). Climbing the career ladder, creating new partnerships, and even social events can all be enhanced by who you know.

A combination of knowing who to connect with and how to approach them will transform an ordinary contacts list into the much-revered Golden Rolodex.

I’ve just made a transition in my approach to networking that seems to be part of the “emerging” process:  instead of a laser focus on prospective employers, I’m fostering career-long relationships with my peers. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, I Do Declare: Studying Arts Not A Major Mistake

Posted by Breena Loraine On June - 18 - 2011

Higher Education Peer Group Session - AFTA11

I have the great privilege of attending this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention as a student representative of San Diego State University. As a student, I was excited to attend the Higher Education Peer Group.

During the session, the conversation gravitated toward the difficult decision college students face as they declare their major. In a fickle economic environment and uncertain job market, students may be deterred from choosing to major in their true passion—music, dance, theater, art, photography, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Low-Profit But How Much Potential? (Part 2)

Posted by Adam Huttler On May - 27 - 2011

Adam Huttler

[During last week’s Private Sector Blog Salon], fellow guest blogger Diane Ragsdale got me thinking after she posed the question: what would have happened if the nonprofit regional theatre movement had embraced (and had the opportunity to embrace) the L3C instead of the 501(c)(3) corporation?

This is an interesting and subtly radical thought experiment. Diane is effectively proposing that we rewind history and build what we now think of as the nonprofit arts sector as a socially-conscious for-profit arts sector instead. Has the horse left the barn or is it really possible to reinvent ourselves at such a fundamental level?

In truth, I’ve always believed that the alleged conflict between artistic purity and commercial success was largely overblown. If anything it’s a healthy tension, not an insurmountable chasm. Certainly there are arts organizations whose missions are to push aesthetic envelopes and operate at the leading edge of craft and artistry. They will always need philanthropic subsidy to survive, and so they should probably be 501(c)(3)s regardless. But these brave, unpopular pioneers are the exception, not the rule. Most of us operate in the vast middle ground between Broadway and The Wooster Group.  Read the rest of this entry »

Amanda Alef

In today’s uncertain economic times, a college degree can be considered the key to success. In fact, a new study conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce indicates that college graduates overall make 84 percent more over a lifetime than those with only a high school diploma.

Furthermore, the study proves that the age old question “What will I major in?” has become increasingly more important when making decision about undergraduate education, as the findings reveal that not all Bachelor’s degrees are created equal.

What’s it Worth? The Economic Value of College Majors, based on United States Census data available for the first time, analyzes the economic value of specific college majors in order to help connect the dots between college majors and career earnings. The report presents data pertaining to earnings potential, employment rate, likelihood to obtain a graduate degree, and occupational trajectory across 171 specific college majors (categorized into 15 different fields).  Read the rest of this entry »

Artist-Centered Business Models

Posted by Rebecca Novick On May - 18 - 2011

Rebecca Novick

In the chapter I contributed to 20under40: Reinventing the Arts & Arts Education for the 21st Century, I highlighted a theater company called 13P, a group of 13 playwrights who came together with the intention of producing one play by each of them and then disbanding. In that context, I was celebrating their interest in a mission that could be accomplished in a limited timespan, but they also serve as an astoundingly successful example of an organization centered on artists and driven by the agenda of its founding artists.

The 13P model relies on placing its resources in the hands of each playwright in turn, and hiring administrative and producing help show by show, depending on the needs of a particular project. In Minneapolis, the Workhaus Collective is exploring a similar model while in residence at the Playwrights Center (also a good example of a larger organization offering umbrella services to a smaller one).  Read the rest of this entry »

Sorting the 501(c)(3) Arts Basket

Posted by Claudia Bach On May - 18 - 2011

Claudia Bach

We might look more critically at how our current structure lumps radically different entities into this  single basket labeled the nonprofit arts organization: very large institutions such as the Metropolitan Opera or the Getty Museum; regional theaters and community art centers; tiny fringe theaters, artists’ start ups, and community festivals all share nonprofit arts organization status. Some of these, especially the longstanding institutions, seem to handle the 501(c)(3) structure with success. At the other end of the spectrum we find artistic work that seems to have woken up to find itself carrying a big heavy carapace made up of 501(c)(3) regulations and practices.

Perhaps it is time to stop assuming that one 501(c)(3) basket is the right container for all nonprofit arts entities. Maybe we can start to sort arts groups into a greater diversity of structures while still assuring that we have mechanisms to encourage artistic work and access. Here are some things I find interesting as we navigate this terrain.  Read the rest of this entry »

Incubators – Not Just for Chickens

Posted by Valerie Beaman On May - 18 - 2011

Valerie Beaman

Arts incubators are not a new model, but it seems to me that recently some of them have taken on a new joie de vivre. I attribute this to the fact that they are no longer necessarily focused on developing artists into new 501(c)(3) organizations, but empowering ordinary mortals to try their hand at creating something for their own imagination and amusement.

The success of organizations like Brooklyn’s 3rd Ward is confirming research which finds that the younger generation wants to participate in art, not passively observe it. 3rd Ward is a for-profit membership organization which provides space, back office services, food, galleries, a supportive community, and top-of-the-line creative resources, including photo studios, media lab, jewelry studio, wood & metal shops, along with a huge education program. You don’t have to be a member to enjoy the classes, but membership gets you access to the studios.  Read the rest of this entry »

Over or Under Modified?

Posted by Claudia Bach On May - 16 - 2011

Claudia Bach

The nonprofit arts organization. An ungainly set of modifiers. But in the pre-professionalized mid-1970s, when I had to create my own bachelors degree in arts administration, I felt like I was part of an exciting evolutionary force, helping to grow the structural integrity and value of the arts within the conceptual and legal arts nonprofit corporate framework.

At that time it appeared to be a boundless horizon: a corporate structure where artists could gather force to develop and publicly share their work, communities could access entertainment and elucidation, and where we could rest assured that cultural legacies would inspire us and be preserved for future generations. I don’t think I, or my fellow travelers, questioned this as a common good. It was the chosen path and our work was to use it to good advantage in service of the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from Harvard’s Arts in Education Program

Posted by Stephanie Riven On May - 10 - 2011

Stephanie Riven

I have just spent three months as a visiting practitioner at the Harvard Graduate School of Education/Arts in Education (AIE) Program. Steve Seidel, director of AIE, extended an invitation to me to study, teach, and serve as a resource for students during the semester.

So what did I discover after three months of talking and meeting with young people, auditing classes, and attending forums, lectures, and workshops on arts education, education reform, and leadership?

Three takeaways, among many, include:

1) With changes in the economy, the influence of technology and the expansion of entertainment and leisure options, there is a need for bold ideas and creative leadership in shaping a new vision to move the arts and arts education forward. It is our young leaders who possess many of these ideas. Edward Clapp’s collection of essays from emerging leaders in the field entitled 20UNDER40 is quite simply one of the most exciting and hopeful set of ideas for our field that I encountered. I encourage everyone to get your hands on a copy of this book and pass it around to your staff and board members to create an intergenerational dialogue about how to conceive of, program, and sustain the arts and arts education in the future.  Read the rest of this entry »

To Face Ruin is a Victory

Posted by Kenji C. Liu On April - 29 - 2011

Kenji C. Liu

This post originally appeared during the Emerging Arts Professionals/San Francisco Bay Area’s blog salon entitled “Cultural Policy 101″ earlier this month. You can view all of the postings from that salon on their website.

In my last post [for the salon], I suggested framing art as a human right, in the sense that community art is a practice that can sidestep or challenge the spreadsheet mentality that exists in the United States when it comes to arts and culture policy.

This is not to say that we can completely escape this mentality, as recent proposals to zero out arts grants by the City of Oakland show.

Oakland is a vibrant arts city despite the lack of robust institutional support. With some notable exceptions, much of it is grassroots or on the down-low.

Although we need this kind of city and state support and should advocate for it, if arts looks for its value only through the affirmation (funding) of the state, we are in dangerous territory.    Read the rest of this entry »