Intro to the Arts Programs Enhanced by Vans Custom Culture Grants

Posted by Jeff Poulin On July - 14 - 2014
Jeff Poulin

Jeff Poulin

Earlier this summer, you may have read Kristen Engerbretsen’s, Americans for the Arts’ Education Program Manager, blog post about the final event of the 2013-14 Vans Custom Culture program in NYC. It was an exciting, inspiring and high-octane event honoring some of the most innovative shoe designs I have ever seen. Being able to spend time with Vans employees – a company that values the arts as a vital part of education, community and life as told by their Brand Manager in this blog – and the students whom they work with as part of this program, was definitely one for the books!

However, did you know that the Custom Culture program doesn’t end with a big party in NYC? 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 (In)Efficiencies of Scale (Part Two)

Posted by Michael Hickey On January - 25 - 2013

Michael Hickey

(Editor’s Note: Michael continues his response to our Animating Democracy Blog Salon from December 2012 in this post. It was originally published on his Man-About-Town.org site January 13, 2013.)

The Means of Production

When you “produce” something, that’s a very different process from “creating” something. Production is about assembly, and scaled production means you can bring all the pieces together in an orderly, timely fashion. Again, this works best when both inputs and outputs are standardized.

Automobiles, microfinance, and high school educations all share this in common. In my comments to Ian’s blog post, I noted that the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with it’s $300 million annual budget, “produces” quite a bit of art: that is, it has assembled a stunning diversity of work created by others. But the process it uses to produce this art is highly standardized, as is the way that we consume it.

When it comes right down to it, the Metropolitan Museum of Art actually creates very little art itself. The same is true for the other captains of the NYC cultural sector (Lincoln Center, MoMA, the Guggenheim, Carnegie Hall), and the rule holds true in other sectors as well.

Therefore: Greater scale = Greater standardization. Read the rest of this entry »

Blog Salon Recap: So, Does Size Matter?

Posted by Joanna Chin On December - 7 - 2012

Joanna Chin

As the newest staff member on the Animating Democracy team, reflecting on how our past has informed present work has been illuminating.

By placing individual artists and organizations such as those that made up our original Animating Democracy Lab cohort into a national or field-wide context, we hope we have helped to magnify their impact over time and on a national scale.

Although the initial Animating Democracy grant cohort was a relatively small group (36 organizations), we continue to see the connections and ripples from relationships formed through many deep learning exchanges. As time progresses, the connections made within a small group of artists and arts organizations continues to “scale out” (a phrase borrowed from Roberto Bedoya’s post) in the form of collaborations and cross sector work such as that of Sojourn Theatre.

We have always been a national initiative; but, we accomplish our goals by creating opportunities to capture and translate the practitioner’s voice to a broader field and across sectors. This is still essentially true in our current work exploring the social impact of the arts as well as mapping art and social change trends.

We are national in scope, but scale has been achieved primarily through promoting human connections and ripples over time. In this vein, I’d like to take a crack at summarizing and connecting our bloggers under some major themes/approaches that emerged during the Salon: Read the rest of this entry »

Greater Lansing’s Art in the Sky

Posted by Leslie Donaldson On March - 21 - 2012

Leslie Donaldson

Driving around Greater Lansing, MI, commuters may be surprised to discover 672-square-foot works of art on area billboards that normally carry advertising.

These artful billboards can be found in the sky along the highways leading into Michigan’s capitol city, near highly trafficked shopping centers, and outside local neighborhoods, all transforming traditional advertising spaces into an artful visual display.

These billboards, which were all launched as an initiative to bring art to the masses via the medium of outdoor advertising, is made possible through a program called Art In The Sky, a unique partnership between the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and local advertising company, Adams Outdoor Advertising, highlighting the local arts community.

Debuting in March 2011, Art In The Sky billboards have been installed in various locations around the Greater Lansing region. To date, Adams Outdoor has donated space to local artists, each of whom have received an Individual Artist Grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. A panel of peer reviewers selected the artists’ respective applications to receive funding for a specific arts project with a local public component. Grantees were selected on artistic merit and the potential impact of their public project upon the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing Anew: How Serving on a Selection Panel Changed My Perspective (Podcast)

Posted by John R. Killacky On February - 28 - 2012

John R. Kilacky

(Editor’s Note: Play the podcast above to hear John read his post. Both were first published by Vermont Public Radio earlier this month.)

Recently I served as a panelist for the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Forty-nine applicants wanted to be embedded in scientific research teams. They sought to explore the ethos, mythologies, and realities of this extraordinary continent.

Composers wanted to listen to the wind, water, animals, and shifting ice. Visuals artists hoped to delve into infinite striations of whiteness: the effects of transparency on ice, the glitter of ice crystals, and light and shadow patterns on the surface and internal features of the frozen landscape.

Photographers and documentarians were drawn to the heroics of transformative research under such harsh conditions. Poets and writers wanted to go with a blank page free of hypothesis. Choreographers aspired to locate themselves in the overwhelming immensity of endless horizons.

My panel duty did not ignite a travel-lust of my own for Antarctica; instead I have been inspired by these artists to pay more attention to my own home environment. Seeing anew, I observe how the longer days continually shift the light in the woods behind our town house to reveal an ever-evolving panorama. I never realized before, just how many different kinds of birds live there even in winter. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Incubators: Creating a Roadmap for Resilience

Posted by Ebony McKinney On November - 30 - 2011

Ebony McKinney

This post is part of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council.

Increased creative freedom, autonomy, and flexibility have come with a more precarious work style. This is becoming the new normal, even outside of the creative realm.

Does this make artists and creatives “new economy pioneers” prototyping the workstyle of the ‘conceptual age’? If so, what advice can we offer? Can we create a roadmap for resilience?

In this post I’d like to consider how arts incubators play an important role in not only supporting innovation and risk taking, but also by cultivating our most important assets — social and human capital.

BAY AREA VIDEO COALITION (BAVC)

In 2007, Bay Area Video Coalition’s (BAVC) Producers Institute for New Media, began in San Francisco. The institute was developed because BAVC recognized that traditional cinema didn’t inspire people to take action. Also, new media was becoming more prolific and gradually more accessible. Read the rest of this entry »

Embracing the Velocity of Change (Part 1)

Posted by Marete Wester On October - 24 - 2011
Marete Wester

Marete Wester

Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA)—a national association serving arts and culture funders—recently held its 2011 conference, Embracing the Velocity of Change, October 9-12 in San Francisco—and Americans for the Arts was there.

For close to twenty years, Americans for the Arts has been pleased to represent the 3,000-plus field of local arts grantmaking agencies in communities both large and small at GIA.

Our history of support of GIA is part of our ongoing commitment to sharing information and deepening the understanding between local arts agency grantmakers and their natural partners in the private funding community.

Collectively, local arts agencies fund more than $1 billion annually in public funding and more than $100 million annually in private funding, providing support for the arts and arts education in communities across the country. The GIA conference is an annual opportunity for us (along with arts funders across the country) to present session ideas for juried selection. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts-Based Solutions for a Stronger America

Posted by Marete Wester On October - 20 - 2011

A word cloud generated by the discussion at the National Arts Policy Roundtable.

On September 22-24, over 40 top-level private and public sector leaders along with renowned as well as emerging artists, converged at the Sundance Resort and Preserve for the sixth annual Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable, “Innovating for Impact: Arts-Based Solutions for a Stronger America.” The Roundtable is convened in partnership with the Sundance Institute.

The questions put forth were as big as the brilliant blue sky above the reddening autumn leaves dotting the Wasatch Mountain range—“how do the arts bring innovation to social problem-solving?” and “how, as leaders from foundations, business, government and the social sector, can we encourage and support the arts as agents of change?”

Presentations by participants informed the discussion. Artists were at the core both demonstrating and explaining how their work is leading to change on the ground.

Poignant stories told through film, theater, and visual art highlighted the value the arts have in leading to change. Arts projects magnified through the lens of television and social networking revealed how the artistic process and products can be transformed into larger movements and calls to action.

The issues the arts addressed ranged from alleviating poverty to overcoming intolerance, and trying to understand the emotional complexities and personal devastation buried underneath the economic downturn. Read the rest of this entry »

Regrets of a Former Arts Funder – Part 2

Posted by John R. Killacky On July - 1 - 2011

John R. Kilacky

Culturally specific arts have to evolve, too

Many culturally specific creative organizations founded in the 1970s were centered on an identity politic of its core artists. While essential in its time, this focus ultimately limited an organization’s potential as time, issues, and the political landscape changed. Artists, too, constrained themselves if art practices were myopically identity-based. So much aesthetic change happens from the fringe; history continually bears this out.

Therefore philanthropy should always be seeding the future along multiple frontiers. But after awhile, if an artist or artist organization does not get traction in its community, then perhaps aesthetic Darwinism should prevail.  Read the rest of this entry »

Regrets of a Former Arts Funder – Part 1

Posted by John R. Killacky On June - 30 - 2011

John R. Killacky

As Program Officer for Arts and Culture at the San Francisco Foundation, I and philanthropic colleagues often bemoaned how fragile many culturally specific organizations were. How was this possible in a community that has no “majority culture,” that has had a Hotel Tax Fund giving decades of operating grants to culturally specific arts organizations, and a Cultural Equity Program since 1993 created to redress inequities in funding?

And sadly, at the national level, arts organizations from disenfranchised communities are no more stable. Few African American, Latino, or Asian theater companies founded in the 1970s are still in existence, or if they are alive, they do not appear to be as artistically vibrant.

As changed demographics transform the country, we should be seeing a burgeoning renaissance for artists working within specific cultural traditions in communities of color. But where is that renaissance? Is our society so racist that these artists and organizations cannot thrive? Read the rest of this entry »

Kansas: To the Stars Through Difficulties

Posted by Kathy Smith On June - 3 - 2011

Kathy Smith

The recent events in the Kansas state government were like “déjà vu all over again” for those of us in Topeka. In 2005, our city council decided that our local arts council would no longer receive funding from the general budget, or any budget for that matter.

In response, the Topeka Community Foundation moved ahead with plans to create a privately funded entity, ARTSConnect, which would be a part of the United Arts Fund network.

This was a welcome concept among those in the arts community – a stable, sustainable plan for general operating funds, plus an organization who would help to provide that umbrella for all organizations and individuals who are passionate about the arts and our community.  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.