John Eger

The International Council of Fine Arts Deans‘ (ICFAD) meeting in Minneapolis (October 24–27) for their annual conference talked about “Art as a Public Good”—meeting the demands for creativity and innovation, and serving the communities they represent, socially and economically.

Nurturing the talented performer, musician, or sculptor is of utmost importance to the fine arts deans and their universities. However, knowing that the arts, broadly defined, are being called on to shape the larger economic discussion—a national discussion, really—to change the way the whole country thinks about education, economic prowess in the global economy, and preparing our students for the new innovation sector, cries out for their leadership.

Lucinda Lavelli, dean of University of Florida and incoming President of ICFAD, kicked off the conference by talking about the concept of “the creative campus,” now adopted by several universities, “to establish educational settings that infuse the academy with the arts, foster creativity in all disciplines, promote interdisciplinary projects and encourage new ways of solving problems and expressing ideas.”

She asked several deans to talk about their university and how their college was collaborating with other colleges in business, engineering or the sciences, but more, she asked perhaps the biggest question of the conference: “What could—or should—the deans and their universities be doing” with their students, their alumni living in the area and through the town/gown relationships that exist, and how can others be engaged to help everyone in our community to think differently about the arts?

Quite simply, as Harvey White, co-founder and former president of Qualcomm, has been known to say, this is a “national emergency.” The clock is ticking, and when the dust settles after years of budgetary and fiscal malaise, the nation will desperately need young graduates with the new thinking skills for an economy that demands the most creative workforce. 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 »

Niel DePont

In my personal assessment of the Common Core State Standards document (CCSS) it occurs to me that, for all its merits, the CCSS presumes that somewhere along the way, creative processes and critical thinking skills will be learned as a result of following the CCSS. I’m not sure that is true, but I am sure that those skills are practiced and illuminated by thinking like an artist thinks when making art.

We are soon to leave the Knowledge Age and enter the Innovation Age, if we haven’t already. In the 21st century creativity and innovation will be the skills most highly valued in students graduating from our colleges and universities. It is undeniable that there will be an increasing demand for skills in science, technology, engineering and math, the “STEM” skills. And, if you believe the CCSS, the English language arts (ELA) and mathematics skills it promotes at the K-12 level will be essential for college preparation and career readiness.

But I believe that students who excel in the skills of creativity and innovation, and evidence a talent for synthesizing disparate kinds of data and concepts into new and unique outcomes, will be the most prized workers of all, whether they enter the workforce after high school, college, or graduate school.

This is why we must integrate the arts into the current movement of promoting various alphabet-soup-titled approaches to education reform. Whether you believe that the CCSS is the way to create a better educated and “career ready” populace, or that a STEM-based education should be our national mandate, I personally believe that changing STEM into STEAM by adding the A for ARTS is the best acronym of all.

Having said that, I also believe we must reframe arts education in a new and vital way.

In the Innovation Age we must shift our arts education syllabus from one that is only performance focused to one that is also creativity focused. Students need to experience the creation of new work through the arts because the arts train the mind in sensory awareness and the ability to think flexibly and creatively, as both a problem finder and a problem solver. Read the rest of this entry »

San Jose: The Arts at the Heart of Economic and Cultural Development

Posted by Kerry Adams-Hapner On July - 12 - 2012

Kerry Adams-Hapner

Let me begin by saying this: art is at the heart of everything we do. Preserving, advancing, and celebrating culture and expression is our fundamental mission here in San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA).

We strategically position that mission to align with economic development goals, which is authentic to our city’s culture and climate, benefits the sector and enables us to advance our core mission. I don’t have that “intrinsic” versus “instrumental” debate; intrinsic impact is a foregone conclusion for me and the economic benefits enable strategic alignment, a.k.a. partnerships and resources.

In San Jose, the OCA is a division of the Office on Economic Development. I am both the Director of Cultural Affairs and a Deputy Director of Economic Development. Recognizing that a vibrant community attracts talent, and talent attracts companies, our economic development strategy fosters the vital cycle between cultural development (the arts), workforce development (the people), and business development (the companies).

We fulfill our cultural development goals through three primary strategies: attracting and retaining destination quality events; promoting high quality public art and placemaking; and providing arts industry support.

We foster the arts industry through nonprofit grants and support, cultural facility management, and support for creative entrepreneurs—comprised of artists and the commercial creative sector. Each function has its inherent, intrinsic cultural value—celebrating heritage, creativity, and the arts. And yet, we celebrate and amplify the economic side of these functions—culture as a catalyst for business through the nonprofit and commercial industries.It is also a means of building a sense and brand of place, a magnet to attract other industries. Read the rest of this entry »

Marisa Muller

So, an artist walks into an office…

I know, it sounds like the start of a bad joke. But many artists start their careers or support themselves by taking “day jobs.” Andy Warhol worked in advertising. Modest Mussorgsky was a civil servant. Franz Kafka investigated personal injury cases for an insurance company. But is an artist in the office one of life’s small cruelties? Not necessarily.

A recent article featured in The Globe and Mail suggests that businesses looking to become innovators might want to consider hiring artists over those with more traditional business degrees.

Over the past several years, there has been a dramatic shift in the business landscape. Due to the current economic climate and the rapid advancement of technology, businesses are focused on working smarter through innovation. In fact, according to IBM’s 2012 CEO Study, 61 percent of CEOs identify creativity as a key driver of employee success in operating in a more complex, interconnected environment.

Considering the importance of thinking outside the box, bringing artists into the workplace seems like a natural choice. But how well are artists able to translate their artistic skills and sensibility into a corporate environment?

The Globe and Mail article highlights two Canadian businesses:

David Dobson, the director of business development for StarFish Medical, believes that art school gave him a simple business edge: it changed the way he thinks. Read the rest of this entry »

Laura Adlers

It is no surprise to anyone working in the arts and culture sector that arts organizations all around the world are consistently challenged with the task of securing new and diverse sources of funding in order to keep their lights on while fulfilling their artistic mandates. Businesses receive hundreds of requests every week from the arts sector.

Although many decision-makers in the corporate world recognize the value of the arts in the community, they are inundated with cookie-cutter, standard template proposals which are primarily focused on the needs of the arts organization, and not on how they can partner in a creative way with the businesses they are approaching.

My own conversations with executives from the corporate sector across Canada reveal that businesses which are considering supporting the arts expect to receive innovative sponsorship proposals. They are looking for creative synergies which stand apart from the pile of requests they receive every day. They expect a well-researched, professional business approach demonstrating a solid return on investment for their company, whether this means engaging their clients and employees at an event, reaching new audiences, or raising the profile of their company by being aligned with an innovative arts organization or project.

Logo recognition and tickets to events are a given, but in terms of sponsorship benefits, they are standard practice and old news. Businesses are looking for the imaginative, clever new idea which will bring them recognition as a supporter of the arts.

In Canada, our answer to these challenges is artsVest™, a unique program of Business for the Arts which combines in-depth training in sponsorship development with a matching incentive grant and a toolkit for securing and sustaining successful new partnerships, and brings local arts and businesses together at special events. Read the rest of this entry »

Choose Your Own Adventure: Innovate or Bust (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On May - 22 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

(Author’s Note: The ArtsFwd team invited me to respond to their NextGen Quick Poll because of my knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing young leaders today gleaned in my role at Americans for the Arts.)

Pretend you have two job offers in front of you (I know, we’re just pretending here, okay?!)

  • Organization A is a respected organization that has been producing high-quality artistic work for the past 50 years. You get the sense that your role in the marketing department will be to continue business as usual to an audience who can afford the organization’s $150 per seat tickets. There is no social media campaign, something that you are very interested in starting. However, it’s unclear whether the organization’s leadership understands social media, or if they think it’s a good use of time or energy.
  • Organization B is a start-up organization that is three-years-old. The social impact is clear—Organization B is providing a safe space for children from dual income families to go after work. The children are exposed to art, music, and dance classes at an affordable rate. Your job would be to launch a social media presence, but you’d also be tasked with finding new untapped sources of revenue and creative partnerships to help sustain and grow the important work this organization is doing for the community.

So, which position would you choose? (By the way—we’re also pretending the pay scale, benefits, and title level of both positions is the same, although we know that in reality, this would not be the case).

If you choose Organization B (which we’re defining as the highly-innovative organization), then according to ArtsFwd and EmcArts recent NextGen QuickPoll, you may find yourself feeling 80 percent more likely to want to “move up” in the organization. Granted, this is not a scientific study, nor was it intended to be. Also, I made up those above case organizations. But, the survey and exercise itself brings up some very interesting questions and illuminates some issues in our field that I believe need addressing. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Robb Hankins On April - 27 - 2012

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it: Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Arts + Education

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 5 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

The realm of combining arts and education is vast. I do not intend to address this vast landscape in a modest 600 words. However, I will highlight two of my favorite approaches to arts + education in the Los Angeles area.

Inner-City Arts (ICA) offers a variety of programs—school field trips, afterschool and weekend workshops, teacher training, programs for parents—to give children in one of the nation’s poorest areas opportunities for skill-building, artistic expression, and a safe environment.

ICA backs up its work with phenomenal statistics and partners with UCLA, Harvard, and the Department of Education to publish research that others can leverage. In addition to their excellent work and partnerships, the stories from Inner-City Arts are a never-ending source of inspiration.

Arts for All is the mothership for organizing sequential K–12 arts education in Los Angeles County and our 81 school districts. (Yes, eighty-one.) More than half of these districts have signed on since 2003. In addition to providing half a million students with arts education, the organizations backing Arts for All actually agreed on a definition of “quality arts education”.

Despite amazing organizations like Inner-City Arts and herculean efforts like Arts for All, we’re still fighting for the arts’ righteous place in society and education. We do have reason for cautious optimism, though. The #1 most-watched TED talk is Sir Ken Robinson talking about the faults of linear-based education, a product of the industrial revolution. He illustrates his point with the story of a dancer, which gets us artsy types all atwitter. Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Leaders Networks: Leveraging Impact for the Future

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On April - 2 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

Coming up with the theme for a blog salon is always a challenge.

For the past few years that I’ve been working with our Emerging Leaders Council committee to develop our blog salons, we usually have a kernel of an idea for what to focus on. It’s ideal when the initial inspiration comes from the council, because then it’s truly coming from the field. After all, the point of our blog is to facilitate online discussion about big picture issues in the arts that we feel need to be addressed.

When thinking about this year’s salon, the council knew they wanted to feature the Local Emerging Leaders Networks around the country. Great. Love it. Easy. Done.

But what should we have them talk about?

We already talked about emerging ideas in the field last year. What’s next?

We began to think about HOW those emerging ideas get implemented. In many cases, in order for a new idea to thrive, we as individuals, organizations, the community, and the field as a whole may need to change at a very fundamental level.

Perhaps we need to change our definition of success; how our organizations are structured; how we interact with our communities; and how we make art.

Then, we read Diane Ragsdale’s February 14 blog post; If Our Goal is Simply to Preserve Our Current Reality, Why Pursue It?, where she writes about innovation and arts sector reform.  Diane’s thesis can be summed up in these sentences: Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Emerging Leaders in the Arts

Posted by Sarah Cortell Vandersypen On March - 26 - 2012
Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

Sarah Cortell Vandersypen

“With the Government giving less to art and education, somebody’s got to give more. And that somebody is America’s corporations.” — Chase Manhattan Bank (Wu, 2002, p. 122)

During these challenging economic times, arts organizations and professionals must seek innovative funding opportunities. These opportunities include partnerships with the private sector. Americans for the Arts, in collaboration with the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Foundation, has done just that.

In October 2010, I had the honor of receiving the 2010 NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship. The scholarship was established in 2008 to encourage the integration of the arts into the economic education process. By investing in human capital, both organizations seek to promote creative thinking, innovation, and visionary leadership.

During the time I received the scholarship, I was completing my M.A. in Arts Policy and Administration at The Ohio State University. This unique program, a joint degree between the art education department and the John Glenn School of Public Affairs, challenges the way arts professionals think about the sector.

With its multidisciplinary approach, the program incorporates a variety of courses including economics, finance, policy formation and implementation, program evaluation, and nonprofit consulting. My graduate program has taught me to think critically about the policies and management of the nonprofit arts sector, and the NABE Foundation Americans for the Arts Scholarship has freed me to do the work I love. Read the rest of this entry »

Anthony Brandt

Anthony Brandt

There is growing evidence that the brains of newborns are highly networked and only mildly specialized.

L. Robert (“Bob”) Slevc, an associate professor of neuroscience at the University of Maryland, likens the developing brain to a growing corporation. As a start-up, the company is run by a handful of people who do all of the tasks: apply for grants, conduct research, and keep the books.

Gradually, as the company takes off, those tasks become more intensive and dedicated staff are required to carry them out: Soon there is a lab with researchers, an accounting office, a development wing, etc. At that point, the workers are no longer interchangeable: Corporate functioning has become highly modular and specialized.

Brains have no central processing unit, no central nexus where every thought has to pass through; instead, every neuron is its own CPU. This gives us the capacity for massive parallel processing. In a highly modular adult brain, biological “walls” reduce the crosstalk between neural networks, thereby enabling them to function more efficiently.

What’s interesting about this is that the American education system mirrors our neurological development: generally, students have one classroom teacher in elementary school; gain different teachers for each subject in middle and high school; and study in different buildings in college. The geographic layout of the university thus reflects a highly modular view of the adult, “well-educated” mind. Read the rest of this entry »

Building Commonly Valued Outcomes & Committing to the Journey

Posted by Jennifer Bransom On March - 14 - 2012

Jennifer Bransom

Confession time, I’m writing this second blog in advance of the first blog being published (this is how publication works). So, I am hoping we’ve had a widely successful conversation already about quality teaching and learning.

If we haven’t, then close your eyes, call forth the best dream conversation you can, attribute it to this blog, open your eyes, and let’s proceed.

In all seriousness, creating an open and rich conversation about quality is akin to facilitating a quality teaching and learning experience for and with students.

You need to set a climate where all feel comfortable sharing. This includes keeping the conversation focused and productive, while ensuring mutual respect among all parties.

You also need to generate engagement and investment by outlining clear expectations and offering multiple entry points for participants to stretch and extend their thinking.

Shared dialogue is another critical element. Not just talking, but listening, responding, and collaboratively using evidence and examples to construct new meaning, raises the quality of the work.

Skills, technique, and/or knowledge form the backbone of the work. They are the “what” we are teaching and learning. Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Case for Arts and Business Partnerships

Posted by Valerie Beaman On February - 29 - 2012
Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

There are many reasons that partnering with the arts advances business goals from recruiting and retaining a workforce, to rewarding employees, to building communities, and more.

The pARTnership Movement has identified eight strong reasons for businesses to partner with the arts. While some of these reasons will resonate better than others, depending on the industry, size and needs of the business, one reason that continues to gain traction is the role of the arts in fostering critical thinking.

Building and inspiring a creative and innovative workforce remains incredibly important as the country works to increase creativity and innovation.

Did you know that creativity is among the top applied skills sought by employers? More often than not business leaders say creativity is of high importance when hiring. The arts are about critical thinking, solving and reframing problems and facts in ways that reveal insights and opportunities.

Music, creative writing, drawing, and dance provide skills sought by employers of the third millennium. In fact, 72% of companies that give to the arts recognize that it stimulates creative thinking, problem solving, and team building.

Through our work, we know that the arts play an important role in fostering critical thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Rewarding Sustained Attention (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon On December - 14 - 2011

Merit, Aesthetic and Ethical by Marcia Muelder Eaton

“Great art rewards sustained attention.” This simple theory comes from philosopher Marcia Muelder Eaton, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

In my personal experience, it is true. Eaton has been considering art and writing about aesthetics for a few decades. Her early publications get to the heart of this definition but a later book, Merit, Aesthetic and Ethical (Oxford Press 2001) offers an inclusive concept of art, aesthetics, and value that is very relevant to the themes of Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change.

In that book, Eaton suggests that “formalists in the world of aesthetics ignore the roles that artworks play in the life of community and conversely, ignore the ways in which communities determine the very nature of what counts as artistic or aesthetic experiences that exist within them.” I recommend her writings in general and this book specifically.

I share Eaton’s work here because my enthusiasm for the conversation raised by Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change is not to call out the major institutions and question whether they deserve support, but rather to encourage sustained attention for small, mid-size, and community-based arts groups that are rooted in communities, neighborhoods, ethnic, and tribal traditions. 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

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.