Dreaming Big To Focus

Posted by Nick Dragga On December - 18 - 2013
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

Our production manager had an iron-clad rule, “Do NOT let the artistic director see other Nutcrackers within three weeks of our own.” Don’t get me wrong, we all LOVE the creative process, but when you’ve been working on a production for six months with 150 performers, 30 crew, and hundreds of calls, making drastic changes the last week gets difficult.

Our artistic director, in all her excitement would sometimes say, “I have some great ideas! So, let’s go a whole other direction with those costumes.” Those were the 12 costumes that took 30 hours each to make…

Can anyone relate?

Again, we love the creative process, because as we all know it is through the process that great discoveries happen. We certainly do not want to minimize or squelch the excitement of our artistic director, but want to create an environment that rewards and fosters daring, creative thinking. We firmly believe that if you don’t fail every now and then, you’re not doing it right. Failure is noble. But, poor execution, laziness, or lacking of planning is not.

Creativity is not an excuse for chaos. Creativity is a discipline.

Epiphanies are a myth, or as Chuck Close said, “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.”

So what do you do? How do you keep the excitement and freedom necessary for creativity – or simply work with artistic director, who is in fact the boss – but still be practical and give your production team the time and structure to thrive…or survive?

We get more creative. We dream bigger. We dream big, huge – almost impossibly big…to focus the artistic directors. Read the rest of this entry »

Art-Making by Corporate Executives (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by John Bryan On September - 19 - 2013
John Bryan

John Bryan

How many of Richmond’s corporate executives make art in their spare time? What percentage paint landscapes or play in a band or write poetry? Are their artistic pursuits of any real value to their companies? Does the fact that a corporate executive creates sculpture affect the bottom line of that corporation? A new survey of 271 Richmond, VA executives offers some answers.

First the context. The 2004 publication of Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class ushered in a pervasive corporate understanding of the value of “creativity” to corporate success – to a company’s bottom line. Creativity has become an essential theme in corporate strategy sessions, team-building exercises, and leadership training.

But there is an ingredient that is sometimes absent from conversations and research concerning creativity in the corporate workplace: art-making. While the corporate world values “creativity” as an important attribute for its executives to have, “art maker” may not be considered as a similarly important attribute. But while creativity is an attribute that is subjective and hard to identify, art maker is an objective attribute that is easily identified.

During the first half of 2013 CultureWorks administered a two-question survey that was completed by 271 Richmond corporate executives including some of the region’s topmost executives, members of the Greater Richmond Chamber, members of Rotary, and members of the Richmond Association for Business Economics. Read the rest of this entry »

Renewal of Our Cities for the Age of Innovation

Posted by John Eger On July - 25 - 2013

John Eger

John Eger

Economist Edward Glaeser once said, “Cities are so fascinating because they play to mankind’s greatest gift, which is our ability to learn from other people.”

They are places also where you raise your children, develop your sense of right and wrong, learn about yourself and your fellow man. Importantly, they are the places where attitudes about life and values and politics converge and where new ideas take root.

Now, perhaps more than ever, cities are places where the crucial incubators of innovation are formed. Now more than ever Art and Culture Clusters are vital to renewal and reinvention.

In the wake of globalization the challenge America faces in the wake of global competition is daunting. Globalization 3.0, first coined by The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, is here. As Friedman has written, The World is Flat. Outsourcing and offshoring have entered our lexicon of new words and we are suffering what economists are euphemistically calling a “jobless recovery.” We don’t know exactly how many jobs are lost from offshoring. But this shift of high tech service jobs will be a permanent feature of economic life in the 21st century. Read the rest of this entry »

Tim McClimon

Tim McClimon

Last month, I attended the annual conference of Americans for the Arts in Pittsburgh, which was focused around the question, “Why are the arts the best kept secret when it comes to building healthy, diverse, and engaged communities?” While I was there, I presented the American Express Emerging Leader Award to Abe Flores, who is the advocacy field manager for Arts for LA in Los Angeles, CA (Congratulations, Abe!). I also participated in a panel discussion about the challenging state of private support of the arts.

During my remarks, I suggested that the arts community hasn’t done enough to align itself with the concept of creativity, which is something that is valued by many, if not most, Americans. Granted, the first part of that statement is my opinion, but the second part is based on a recent survey of Americans by Time Magazine, Microsoft, and the Motion Picture Association of America.

According to the study results, which were published in Time on May 20, 2013, 94 percent of Americans value creativity in others – compared to 93 percent who value intelligence, 92 percent compassion, 89 percent humor, 88 percent ambition, and 57 percent who value beauty.

91 percent say creativity is important in their personal lives and 83 percent say creativity is important in their professional lives. 65 percent think that creativity is central to America’s role as a global leader. In fact, 35 percent of Americans think that the U.S. is the current leader in creativity with China at 23 percent, Japan at 19 percent, Germany at 3 percent, India at 1 percent, and the U.K. at 1 percent. Read the rest of this entry »

Bringing Backstage Onstage with Social Media

Posted by Kelly Page On April - 18 - 2013
Kelly Page

Kelly Page

Imagine, if we saw social media more like an artist’s studio or cafe and less like a marketing channel?

While walking through the exhibit, Building: Inside Studio Gang Architects at the Arts Institute Chicago last November, I felt like I was seeing into the private design space of the architect.

The exhibit was an installation of an architect’s studio with concept drawings, full-scale project mockups, material samples, and photographs of completed work that now form part of the Chicago city skyline. This exhibit was a celebration of the work of the artist behind their city stage.

The work of the artist backstage, however, many don’t experience. The space is unorganized and cluttered; the work in progress, being constructed, deconstructed, is unpredictable and incomplete. This is why many artists and arts managers do not openly bring backstage onstage and into the public eye—because it is messy.

Imagine for a moment, however, if we did?  Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Karin Copeland

Karin Copeland

Fostering and managing innovation is a continuous challenge for businesses. To meet this challenge it is critical to build a workplace culture that supports failure as an inevitability on the path to innovation. Artists and designers are taught that their best work is a result of these failures and progress can be made by revisiting old ideas from a fresh perspective.

From the iterative methodologies found in industrial and software design to the formalized critiques of a fine arts classroom, the concept of Design Thinking is a learned skill in fields that we traditionally define as creative. This way of thought is crucial to developing an innovative business sector that is both agile and collaborative.

Design Thinking has been around for decades but it has made a resurgence in recent years as swiftly changing technologies and a global marketplace force us to adapt the way we do business and adjust our corporate culture.  Business now requires creative talent to generate the innovative solutions and products of tomorrow.

This talent is often multidisciplinary, with the ability to problem-solve a diverse project set while still holding a vision of the big picture. This superstar talent is a rare commodity but, with the adoption of Design Thinking and a push toward a collaborative workplace, a company’s culture can be redesigned in such a way that it can nurture its current staff to become these superstars.  Read the rest of this entry »

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

“We have a euphoria inhibitor in Stage 2 trials,” explained the drug company executive to the bio-tech venture capitalist.

I paused. I told him that we in theatre seek euphoria wherever we can find it. He laughed and explained that euphoria inhibitors help keep strong pain medication from becoming addictive. The venture capitalist leaned in to hear more and I went to the buffet for another sandwich.

I was attending the Long Wharf Theatre’s 2013 Global Health and the Arts symposium, “Obesity and its Public Health Consequences.”

Driven by the combination of Yale Medical School and other Yale University researchers, the proximity to the Boston research corridor, the Tri-state pharmaceutical industry, and the catalytic qualities of Long Wharf trustee David Scheer, the conference capitalizes on Long Wharf’s unique location in New Haven, CT.

The idea came from David’s desire to do more for Long Wharf Theatre. It played to his strengths, and as I’ll explain later, those of Long Wharf as well.

In past years, the conference has focused on cancer, addiction, mental health, and Alzheimer’s disease. It’s a serious medical conference that is convened in and uses theatre to enliven and engage researchers and businesspeople alike.  Read the rest of this entry »

Olympic-Sized Collaboration Leads to Regional Public Art Network

Posted by Eric Fiss On February - 13 - 2013
Eric Fiss

Eric Fiss

It was late 2008, and I had recently taken up the position as Public Art Planner for the City of Richmond, British Columbia, when I was invited to two meetings in early 2009, discussing regional collaborative projects. These discussions took place during the run up to the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games when international media attention would be focussed on our region.

The first meeting was for the Necklace Project, ten communities surrounding the City of Vancouver, working together to develop best practices and creating a series of public art projects on a unified theme. The ten participating communities were Burnaby, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, New Westminster, North Vancouver City, North Vancouver District, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Richmond, and Surrey.

The goal of the Necklace Project was to commission public art installations in all ten host municipalities and connect them through the theme of Illuminations, as well as encourage visitors to visit and experience each of the project sites.

For several of the communities this was their first public art project, and the support of more experienced communities, including administrative support from the Alliance for Arts and Culture and cultural planner, Oksana Dexter, were vital in realization of the projects.

As mutual support and best practices were crucial to the success of the Necklace Project (be sure to check out the Necklace Project website for a final report and critical essay coming soon!), one of the more experienced public art coordinators, Lori Phillips, serving both the City and District of North Vancouver, suggested we might want to formalize our collaboration to extend after the Necklace projects were complete and to and welcome other municipalities into our public art networking group. Read the rest of this entry »

What Innovators Can Learn from Artists (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Tim Leberecht On January - 31 - 2013
Tim Leberecht

Tim Leberecht

Andy Warhol knew it all along: “Good business is the best art.” And lately, a number of business thinkers and leaders have begun to embrace the arts, not as an escapist notion, a parallel world after office hours, or a creative asset, but as an integral part of the human enterprise that ought to be woven into the fabric of every business—from the management team to operations to customer service.

John Maeda, the president of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and author of the book Redesigning Leadership, predicts that artists will emerge as the new business leaders and cites RISD graduates Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky, co-founders of Airbnb, as prominent examples. The author William Deresiewicz heralds reading as the most important task of any leader. John Coleman makes a compelling case for the role of poetry in business. Intel named pop musician will.i.am as director of creative innovation. And the World Economic Forum has been inviting arts and cultural leaders to its events for several years and this year added the ‘Role of the Arts’ to its Network of Global Agenda Councils.

Indeed, the “art” of business becomes ever more important as the “science” gets ever more ubiquitous. Against the backdrop of our hyper-connected economies and as Big Data and sophisticated analytical tools allow us to maximize process efficiencies and standardize best innovation practices worldwide, intuition and creativity remain as the only differentiating factors that enable truly game-changing innovations. Like any “soft asset,” they cannot be exploited, only explored. And like artists, innovators must develop a mindset and cultivate creative habits in order to see the world afresh and create something new.

How do artists think and behave? Here are twelve traits any individual aspires to make his or her mark on the world would do well to emulate:  Read the rest of this entry »

We Aren’t Preparing Young People for Careers at Disney or Apple

Posted by Lisa Phillips On January - 14 - 2013

Lisa Phillips with Steve Wozniak

There seems to be a major disconnect between how creativity is valued in society and the career advice we give our children. We all know that the arts are a valuable means of expression, a means to share stories across cultures and an uplifting and moving source of entertainment.

We revere our cultural icons, whether they are movie stars, literary authors or artists, but we seem to limit the possibility of careers in the arts to only a talented few.

How many of us arts professionals have heard from family and friends, “When are you going to get a real job?”

So, why do we put our cultural icons on a pedestal but undervalue arts education? I think one of the reasons is that as a society we are preoccupied with the idea that the arts are reserved only for those with talent. However, in the reality of today’s job market, we need to change this idea.

There is a significant gap between what children are told is important for their future career success and what business leaders actually want from the emerging workforce. Creative individuals are actually in demand. Not just for arts careers, but for careers in business as well.

For example, Disney and Apple are two of the most successful companies of our time, largely because of the creativity, innovation, and the leadership they have demonstrated in their respective industries.

In an era when businesses are constantly struggling to find creative ways to stay at the top of their market, arts education can be a powerful tool to nurture the creative abilities of our young people, ensuring they are ready for the skills that are in demand. Read the rest of this entry »

Technology Driving Arts Attendance, Engagement, & Fundraising

Posted by John Eger On January - 8 - 2013

John Eger

In the last decade alone, any business without a web presence—without an online, interactive website—was simply, not in business. Or wouldn’t be for long. The government and nonprofit sector soon learned their way around the internet too.

Now the Pew Charitable Trusts, specifically the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a major survey covering 2007–2011 and involving 1,256 arts organizations, reported that: “The internet and social media are integral to the arts in America.”

The survey found:

  • 81 percent of the organizations in this survey say the internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts.
  • 78 percent say these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement.
  • 65 percent say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising.

There seemed no question that web presence was “important” or “very important” although not everyone is persuaded—yet—that an internet strategy is a priority. Those reporting also felt that such technologies “disrupted much of the traditional art world” by changing “audience expectations, put[ting] more pressure on the arts groups to participate actively in social media and in some circumstances, undercut[ting] organizations’ mission and revenue streams.” In fact, 40 percent believe that “attention spans for live performances” are being negatively impacted. Read the rest of this entry »

Has Endowment Become a Dirty Word?

Posted by Leah Hamilton On December - 13 - 2012

Leah Hamilton

Endowment. Much like the word “elite” or “patronize,” the term “endowment” seems to have acquired a negative connotation.

The traditional endowment model was sold as a core strategy of sustainability for an organization; the interest provided reliable budgetary support, and the principle was the legacy of dedicated arts patrons. But organizations began to use the fund’s annual draw in place of fundraising.

Then, when times got tough, the principle became a financial lifeline. When this happened, a new trend emerged; funders began to redirect their initiatives towards innovation and creative placemaking instead of endowment.

But, as with most trends, there are exceptions to the rule.

Springfield, MO is nationally recognized as a collaborative community, as highlighted recently by Mayor Robert Stephens on the Huffington Post. With consistent job growth in the city as well as lower than average unemployment rates, Springfield’s collaborative nature has helped the community weather the recession.

In the arts community, more than 30 local groups share The Creamery Arts Center. The 35,000-square-foot building, once home to the Springfield Creamery Co. and later the first distribution center for O’Reilly Automotive, includes administrative offices, as well as an exhibition hall, board room, arts library, arts classroom, film editing bay, a shared costume shop, and set design/fabrication studio. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Creating, Collaborating, Connecting with Art, Activism, and the Internet

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 5 - 2012

Xavier Cortada

At the end of the last millennium, when the internet was young, I installed two webcams in my studio and invited people watching me out in cyberspace to share their ideas in a chat room. I would incorporate their views into the murals I was creating in my “webstudio.”

Back then, I was painting collaborative message murals to address important social concerns in different locations around the world (AIDS in Africa, child welfare in Bolivia, peace in Northern Ireland gangs in Philadelphia).

The collaborative murals mattered because I wanted to amplify people’s voices, share their concerns. I wanted to expand the circle of participants beyond those I could reach in person. The webcams and the webstudio were my way of trying to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Back then, I think the farthest I got from my Miami studio was Atlanta.

Since then, technology has developed to a level where online and human interaction has revolutionized communication to an extent unimaginable when I first created that early project. Art making can have exclusively online manifestation, reaching millions in space and time. It is indisputable that one can also build a sense of community online—ask Facebook.

We have even created realms where we can have second lives fully inhabit a completely virtual reality. And that is good: I find participatory art projects that engage individuals locally across communities to be address global concerns very powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

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.