Eugene O’Neill’s Grant Writer Walks Into A Bar….

Posted by Bill O'Brien On December - 7 - 2012

Bill O’Brien

…and spots the dramatist hunched over in a corner booth, scribbling in his notebook. He walks over to the playwright, drops the first draft of Long Day’s Journey Into Night on the table and says, “That’s great, Eugene—but how am I supposed to prove economic growth or improved health and well-being with this?”

Obviously, this never happened. But if it did, it would be a great example of the conundrum we sometimes find ourselves in when we try to “scale up” societal benefits via the power of the arts. Identifying positive outcomes we’d like to pursue on policy levels at 20,000 feet can sometimes feel far removed from the missions being pursued by artists on the ground.

Trying to harness the power of the arts to provide broad public benefit in a strategized way is a good idea. The idea that our greatest American playwright should bend his art-making towards these aims is not. So if we’re trying to organize a way to share specific impacts of the arts so more people can benefit, how should we proceed?

In an art-science post called “The Imagine Engine!” on the National Endowment for the Arts’ (NEA) Art Works blog this spring, I stated that it may be possible for artists and scientists to “borrow freely from each other’s methods and practices and share insights with each other that they might be unable to find on their own.” This fall, through a program we’ve established via a partnership with the Department of Defense, we’re beginning to see evidence suggesting this hypothesis may be true. Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Memorial Making

Posted by Victoria Ford On July - 25 - 2012

What do we tell our children?

It’s one of many questions being asked this summer in light of the recent event in Aurora, CO, where a dozen were murdered and 58 wounded during the theater tragedy which took place at midnight this past Friday.

Crosses as memorials in Aurora, CO.

And it’s a familiar question, one I remember—with little ease—almost eleven years ago, when our country was as similarly wounded and roused as we are now.

The potency of this moment in each of our lives is something I can’t ignore. No longer is this a question addressing the eight-year-old shadow of myself from 2001, as much as it is one I’ve begun to ask myself.

How do we carry this? What can I do?

Without a doubt, I am not alone. Take a walk down the street and look closely: Many have dressed themselves in the burdens of pain caused by this tragedy. All compelled to create something in response, to take some sort of action—be it, in this case, the candlelight vigil, the countless crosses erected into the ground and decorated by floral arrangements, the memorial t-shirt designed to raise money for the grieving families of each victim.

I suppose it is, to some degree, it’s our 21st century style of memorial making. It is our process toward confronting what we tell our children, just as much as it is a way to tackle what we will leave our children with in tragedy’s wake.

Erika Doss, the author of Memorial Mania, puts it eloquently:

“Today’s growing numbers of memorials represent heightened anxieties about who and what should be remembered in America…shaped by the affective conditions of public life in America today: by the fevered pitch of public feelings such as grief, gratitude, fear, shame, and anger.” Read the rest of this entry »

How the Arts Helped Us Through the September 11 Tragedy

Posted by Robert Lynch On September - 9 - 2011

Robert L. Lynch

In late July 2001, Americans for the Arts held its annual conference in New York City. It was the biggest gathering we had ever had, some 1,600 leaders from the local arts agency and state arts agency worlds, including not only members of Americans for the Arts but also the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

A favorite event that we produce at these conferences is ARTventures — special off-site, educational tours that offer convention attendees the opportunity to see what arts activities are going on and meet artists in different neighborhoods and different venues throughout the city. In New York in 2001, I chose to go to our ARTventure program at the World Trade Center.

Somewhere up high on the 91st and 92nd floors of Tower One was an arts colony carved out of raw space that had been donated by the Port Authority to artists and arts organizations to create, plan, and dream. The 60 or so of us who went there that day as guests of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council got to share in those dreams and visions and gazed out the giant plate glass windows at the same blue New York sky that was serving as an inspiration to all those artists within.

On Sept 11, 2001, just a few weeks later, I was looking out the window of Americans for the Arts’ headquarters office in Washington, D.C., which looks at the White House and beyond towards the Pentagon. Suddenly I could see the plume of smoke rise from where the Pentagon was located. We had just received word both via news media and from our New York office that the Twin Towers had been hit. Some members of our New York staff were on their way to work and saw the impact. Read the rest of this entry »