A Heretical View of the Arts from a Science & Math Educator

Posted by Greg Coppa On April - 29 - 2013
Greg Coppa

Greg Coppa

For decades, science and math educators have been the beneficiaries of government largesse, which has often been supplemented by corporate philanthropy. As a high school science teacher for three decades, I have often benefited from this policy along with my students and I have never questioned why it was so.

Many of my post-graduate courses were funded in whole or part by grants from the National Science Foundation. A good number of the many summer programs that I have attended were federally financed by one agency or another. Texts, videotapes, and computer software which I used were developed with government, corporation, or coalition assistance. And I have been very fortunate to have received honors and grants which have been sponsored by federal agencies and an assortment of professional societies.

I cannot warrant that every penny used to fund the variety of things just mentioned was spent wisely by the numerous government agencies and grant recipients. But overall I would have to say that from my vantage point, the taxpayers and corporate sponsors got their money’s worth.

People were trained, energized, and assisted so that they could become better teachers of science or math. Resources or teaching methods were developed which were often better than those previously utilized, or if they turned out to be worse, at least it was known for the future that that was the case. Failure was acceptable and looked at as part of the price for future success. Read the rest of this entry »

From the Big Lick to Big Ideas: Capitalizing on Culture in Roanoke

Posted by Kate Preston Keeney On April - 17 - 2013
Kate Preston Keeney

Kate Preston Keeney

Like many of my high school classmates, I never had plans to stay in my hometown of Roanoke, located in southwestern Virginia.

Among other reasons, it seemed to lack that something special in terms of arts and culture. The local theater had reduced its performance season; a much-anticipated visual art museum was struggling to stay open; and the independent bookstore closed to become just another bar.

And so, as is common, I left my hometown in pursuit of graduate school and a job in a metropolitan area. I was perfectly situated within walking distance to public transit, yoga studios, cafes, and world-class performance centers.

But now, I’m starting to look back.

Roanoke and its surrounding areas have begun to capitalize on its rich cultural history. Let me be specific, this culture is not new, yet it has just been unearthed with contemporary knowledge of cultural vitality, opportunities for partnerships and economic development, and community leadership and buy-in.

Roanoke has taken steps to put itself on the list of desirable places to live and has done so by elevating its distinct heritage.  Read the rest of this entry »

Giving PBS the Bird

Posted by Tim Mikulski On October - 4 - 2012

Photo via Prince.org

Well, you had to have known this post was coming after seeing the debate last night, reading about it, or catching the highlights on the news.

Also, I can’t believe I’m blogging about Sesame Street for the second time in six weeks.

As a political scientist by schooling, I had to wonder who on the campaign decided it would be funny, smart, or a good idea to throw in something quippy about firing Big Bird or Jim Lehrer when once again referring to a policy of not borrowing money from China to pay for PBS (or the National Endowment for the Arts as was mentioned in a magazine article a few months ago).

First, you automatically make a ton of enemies by putting the image of Big Bird being evicted out of his Sesame Street nest in people’s heads.

Second, you are simply catering to hardcore fiscal conservatives who don’t seem to understand that public television was only allocated $75 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the FY 2012 budget (plus about $222 million in direct grants to individual public television stations)—that’s it. Guess how much was spent on national defense ($716 billion), health ($361 billion), and energy ($23 billion).

Some would argue that PBS stations should start airing commercials to generate more revenue or that there could be stations that cover more than one city or combine into regional networks. Okay, I can give you that, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the small amount of federal spending goes such a long way to help PBS leverage those pledge drive (without quality programs partially funded by the government would people still pay?) or corporate dollars.

Others say we should just privatize all PBS stations. You might want to ask folks in New Jersey if they feel their NJTV lives up to the formerly state-run NJN when it comes to covering the affairs of a state trapped between two giant media markets with no other statewide network.

Oh and then there’s Kansas. Remember when someone tried to privatize the state arts agency claiming that it could and should run without government support? That didn’t turn out so well. Read the rest of this entry »

Steal This Blog: 5 Ramblings on Arts and the Common Core Standards

Posted by Richard Kessler On September - 14 - 2012

Richard Kessler

1. For those looking for the obligatory introductory substantiations for the arts in education, search Google and insert your own here: ___________. At the same time, you might want to search on research by Ellen Winner.

2. For those who need to read that the arts are a core subject, you just did.

3. For those frustrated about the state of the arts in K–12, persevere.

Here are my five ramblings. Don’t be confused by the three above. Congratulations, you’ve just passed your first math test for today!

1. Don’t bet too much on the promise of Common Core-aligned new arts standards.

A lot of people I know are amped up about the prospect of new arts standards inspired by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for English Language Arts (ELA) and math. The idea is that the new arts standards, if positioned to reinforce CCSS, will benefit from the monumental machine behind CCSS. Unfortunately, the volume on this amp does not go to eleven.

Yes, we do need new arts standards desperately, particularly considering how stale most of the state arts standards have become. New standards done right will go a long way to align standards with current practice, recognizing the changed world of the arts, rather than establishing standards based upon a wish, like certified arts teachers in every classroom (or school). The arts have changed in so very many ways since the bulk of the arts standards were last written, so let’s make sure the new standards reflect the 21st century. (Hint: think hybrids.)

That being said, the Common Core State Standards are in ELA and math, while veering into some other domains (history/social studies) like shoots from a tree. The CCSS in ELA and math have been cemented into a newly poured foundation of the educational industrial complex and are wired through the White House, state departments of education, the philanthropic sector, school districts, higher education, corporations, and teacher and administrator unions, while being on the tip of the tongues of millions of educators around the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art and Transportation Partnership Adds to St. Paul Culture

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 24 - 2012

Although federal transportation funding has recently moved away from including public art projects, there is still state and local funding available to help bring the arts to more people in your community via murals and roadside/town square-type public art work.

In this video from MinnPost.com, the presenter walks viewers through the city of St. Paul as murals are playing a large role in the installation of a new light rail system. Americans for the Arts member Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, also appears to help explain the project:

Are there similar marriages between public art and transportation in your community?

Tell (or show us via web links) us about them in the comments below!

Gladstone Payton

Anxiety is already building on what promises to be a historic (for mostly all the wrong reasons) lame duck session of Congress after this year’s 2012 national elections in November. This session could possibly have a dramatic affect on the nonprofit arts sector.

Because all the seats in the U.S. House, and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot November 6, there is very little motivation from either party to find a compromise in advance of election day. With control of the White House hanging in the balance, the political stability that follows an election appears to be the safest time for these issues of substance to be addressed, albeit in a very compressed timeframe.

What is the big deal?

It has many names: “Taxmageddon”; “Legislative Apocalypse” and others; you get the idea. The country is on schedule to see large tax cuts first put in place by President Bush, and then extended by President Obama, expire and huge cuts in government spending basically happen at the end of this year. This means that a tremendous shortfall for the national economy at large. Currently, the Congressional Budget Office estimates are that over $600 billion will be taken out of the still precarious economic recovery by the end of 2013.

How did we get here?

Last summer, President Obama agreed to House Republican demands to cut the burgeoning national deficit in order to increase the national debt limit ceiling to avoid default on our debt obligations. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) put into place a bipartisan “supercommittee.” Charged with finding how to cut $1.2 trillion promised in the BCA, they failed (miserably) to reach agreement which will trigger deep automatic cuts of 8.4 percent (sequestration) to most social and defense programs as agreed to in the BCA starting 2013.

Adding to the anxiety is the status of the so-called “Bush Tax Cuts” and the payroll tax cut which are set to expire at the end of this year. By letting the tax cuts lapse, the marginal rates for just about every American are scheduled to increase and employees will see less in their paychecks. Combined with the previously mentioned spending cuts, you get a dramatic shortfall. This will spur a lot of talk about reforming the tax code and cutting additional spending, and it could affect the arts sector in a number of ways. Read the rest of this entry »

Rep. Louise Slaughter and Rep. Todd Platts testify at an Arts Advocacy Day hearing.

For 25 years of the Congressional Arts Caucus¹ 30-year history, arts advocates have convened for one day on Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill to flood the halls of Congress to share their views regarding arts initiatives.

On this day, such active engagement by the arts community provides our representative government with a first-hand account of the state of the arts in our country. The opportunity to meet with our constituents and businesses with a personal connection to the arts helps to put a face (and a talent) to the idea of supporting the arts at a federal level.

Arts Advocacy Day (AAD) is a day to celebrate the vibrancy of the arts and the wide array of talents here in the United States of America. There is no better place to embrace the great diversity of our country’s artistic identity than in the nation’s capital.

For the thousands of you who have participated in AAD, chances are you have met with a congressional staffer or two (or 435). As the staff members that manage the Congressional Arts Caucus on behalf of its Co-Chairs, believe us when we say these meetings have a tremendous effect on gaining the attention of your Representatives and help to keep the arts community in the Members’ thoughts throughout the year.

Because of this, arts staffers are your greatest allies in making positive change for the arts with federal investments. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim Mikulski

TalkingPointsMemo.com’s IdeaLab recently posted an article that included an interview with Kickstarter co-founder Yancey Strickler.

In the piece, Strickler is quoted as stating,”It is probable Kickstarter will distribute more money this year than the [National Endowment for the Arts]. We view that number and our relationship to it in both a good and bad way.” (Editor’s Note: Strickler has published this post in reaction to the published interview.)

He went on to explain that it is good because it could, in theory, double the amount of art in the country, but also bad in that there is room for more federal support for the arts.

While Kickstarter, and other sites like it, have the ability to take all types of art—from comics to operas—to the next level at a time when it is hard for an artist to get funding for a small project, it’s $150 million contribution to the arts is only one quarter of one percent of what is needed annually to fund the nonprofit arts sector’s $60 billion in expenditures according to Randy Cohen, vice president of research and policy here at Americans for the Arts.

But, as Randy added, “This is a great illustration of how individuals are looking for a more personal connection and relationship when deciding where to donate, participate, and volunteer.”

The same principle applies with me as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Finally Time for the Arts to Shine in “The Age of the Creative Economy”?

Posted by Hannah Jacobson On February - 21 - 2012

Hannah Jacobson

Delight or die; this is the new paradigm set forth by Steve Denning to adapt to the new creative economy.

In a particularly fickle consumer-centric universe, the increased focus on services as opposed to goods, he says, creates a need for “continuous innovation” and what he terms “radical management.”

This new economy will be David versus the Goliath of the outgoing manufacturing economy, and we all know who ultimately wins that battle—but it will require smarts, innovation, flexibility, a great survival instinct, and a lot of new energy.

Yet for the arts, how “radical” is it really to be focused on services, to continuously innovate to survive, and, perhaps most importantly, to delight audiences? If nothing else, the arts community provides a masterful example of survival in any economy—creative or otherwise.

So the idea of the “creative economy,” a concept that has more disparate definitions than can realistically be explored here—think about the spectrum of understandings that would arise from places as distinct as the United States, Norway, England, Australia, and far beyond—might be relatively new, but creativity in the economy and even creativity as a driver of the economy are functions that the arts have long recognized. Read the rest of this entry »

State Arts Funding: Good News! There Isn’t That Much Bad News

Posted by Justin Knabb On February - 16 - 2012

Justin Knabb

While state legislative sessions are just getting underway in the new year, perpetual campaigning for the election is no doubt leaving everyone already feeling cranky and cynical (or is that just me?).

But take heart, advocates! Despite the cornucopia of GOP candidate positions on public arts funding—ranging anywhere from mild tolerance to total abhorrence—President Obama just proposed an increase in NEA funding!

And on the state level, while some familiar faces are making waves, several states are receiving some great surprises and proposals for steady funding:

Connecticut
Last month, Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) announced the launch of a $3.1 million local-level creative placemaking initiative in July. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s FY13 budget recommends eliminating all direct art support and redirecting those funds to a statewide marketing campaign that would include tourism. The state’s budget office indicates that arts organizations will be able to compete for $14 million in funding with other programs in the DECD.

Florida
The state legislature is proposing an increase to Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Cultural and Museum Grants. These grants were appropriated $2 million for the current fiscal year, and for FY13 the House and Senate are currently recommending $3,025,000 and $5,050,000, respectively.

Kansas
After zeroing out the state arts commission last year, Governor Sam Brownback reversed his decision and proposed $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. However, these funds would be for a new Kansas Creative Industries Commission, a merger of the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission, housed under the Department of Commerce. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama’s Budget Request for the NEA: The Fine Print

Posted by Narric Rome On February - 14 - 2012

Image from ArtAndSeek.net

Yesterday, the Obama Administration released their fourth budget request covering all federal agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

We learned early that morning that President Obama is proposing an increase of $8 million (from $146M to $154M) for the NEA, which was a very positive start.

In the past two years, NEA funding has dropped almost $22M and has yet to recover from the enormous cuts from its high of $176M in 1992.

The fine print of these budget proposals to Congress are read by federal affairs types for additional news and direction about the programs for which they advocate.

With that mission in mind, the following details may be of interest to arts supporters (You can see the full budget document here):

While the NEA’s budget proposal increases several grant categories, it is the Our Town initiative that receives the most significant support: doubled from $5M to $10M.

The Our Town program made a big debut in 2011 with 51 grantees from 34 states receiving a total of $6.5M. More than half of these grants were awarded to communities with a population of less than 200,000 and seven went to places with fewer than 25,000 people. With $10M to spend in 2013, the NEA could make Our Town grants to 115 communities. Read the rest of this entry »

How NEA Funding Affects Local Communities

Posted by Natalie Shoop On January - 23 - 2012

This year marks the 25th anniversary of National Arts Advocacy Day (AAD), the largest and most wide-ranging, one-day advocacy effort in support of the arts.

Advocates come from across the country come to Washington, DC, to meet with their members of Congress and staff members as part of the event. While the topics range from charitable giving incentives to cultural exchange, the keystone issue for many advocates remains support for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Here is what last year’s National Arts Advocacy Day Co-Chair Kerry Washington had to say about the importance of NEA funding (and other issues):

If that wasn’t enough, check out some of the stats that demonstrate the scope of the NEA’s impact:

  • Nearly 2,000 NEA awards have been made in communities in all 50 states.
  • 100 percent of Congressional districts will receive at least one grant, and 3,000 or more communities will participate in NEA-sponsored projects. These communities will benefit from these projects in ways such as touring and outreach.
  • Nearly 90 million individuals benefit from NEA programs, including 9 million children and young adults.
  • The NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity, and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. Read the rest of this entry »

On Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the final budget agreement for FY 2012, which includes $146.255 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

On Saturday morning, the same bill passed the U.S. Senate and moves to the desk of President Obama for his signature.

The $146,255 million appropriation is identical to President Obama’s proposed budget, a cut of nearly $9 million from FY 2011, and is a compromise between the House of Representatives number of $135 million and the Senate number of $155 million as previously considered by their respective subcommittees.

Also included in this bill is $24.596 million in funding for the Arts in Education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, which had been zeroed-out in a previous proposal in the House.
Read the rest of this entry »

Liesel Fenner

As Americans are well aware, Congress is going through some significant policy discussions regarding the proper role of government and federal funding. One particular program that funds numerous arts projects nationwide is the Transportation Enhancements program (TE) funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation, and administered by state transportation agencies often in partnership with local arts agencies.

The TE program is important to the arts sector because of the federal funds made available locally for public art and design, museums, and historic preservation projects. This blog post seeks to translate proposed Congressional legalese and the actions you can take to help retain this vital program.

On November 9, 2011, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee led a markup of a two-year surface transportation bill named “Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century” or MAP-21. The committee approved the bill unanimously.

The $83.8 billion measure (S.1813) would retain the Transportation Enhancement program that has become a target for budget cutting. However, a proposed overhaul of the program would expand the types of projects that could be funded — in some cases including construction of new roads. Read the rest of this entry »

Amendment to Further Cut NEA Fails!

Posted by Gladstone Payton On July - 28 - 2011

The Walberg amendment to H.R. 2584, the House Interior Appropriations bill that would have cut an additional $10.6 million from the National Endowment for the Arts failed 240-181 earlier today. All 185 Democrats present voted against the amendment and 55 Republicans joined them.

As stated this morning, this success is due in large part to Interior Subcommittee Chairman Mike Simpson (ID) and Reps. Jim Moran (VA), Louise Slaughter (NY), David Cicilline (RI), Lynn Woolsey (CA), John Yarmuth (KY), Rush Holt (NJ), Bobby Scott (VA), and Betty McCollum (MN) who all gave effective and passionate speeches of support in opposing this amendment on Wednesday night.

The next step is for the entire House Interior bill to be completed and voted on with the committee-set appropriation of $135 million for the NEA in the legislation. It is unclear when that will occur.

In addition, the National Endowment for the Humanities is facing a cut amendment of its own when H.R. 2584 is reopened after the debt ceiling legislation is considered.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for more as these stories develop.

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

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.