Public Art; a means for human development – The Artist as Social Animator

Posted by Alex White-Mazzarella On September - 6 - 2014
Alex White-Mazzarella

Alex White-Mazzarella

 

It was about six years ago, in 2007, sitting in my small Hong Kong apartment, that I put down ideas for a work practice that would use public art and modern culture as means of developing community and habitat. A practice where the arts would be used not just as an aesthetic to beautify or to activate space, but as productions of communality with the residents of a place and through a process that would open a space for community members to develop and connect. It came from contact with arts in public spaces. Read the rest of this entry »

Diving Headfirst into The New Wave of Public Art

Posted by Michelle Laflamme-Childs On September - 3 - 2014
Michelle Laflamme-Childs

Michelle Laflamme-Childs

What do you think of when you hear the words, “public art?” A figurative bronze sculpture of a local hero or historical figure? Perhaps a large, brightly painted, abstract steel sculpture on your local University campus? Maybe even a landscape painting that hangs in the lobby of City Hall behind Plexiglas?

Well, here are some things that might not immediately spring to mind:

  • A “Dance Bomb” by a contemporary Indigenous dance company1,
  • A large, temporary mandala constructed in a town center from the bread and seeds of local residents, washed away hours later by a large rainstorm2,
  • A 50 foot digital dome showing an interactive immersive video project of a ground-breaking temporary installation by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei and a Navajo artist in remote Navajo Country3,
  • A flock of ceramic birds decorated with words and text of controversial histories or personal stories “landing” in a park or parking lot for a day, then disappearing4.

Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Okay?

Posted by Jessica Wilt On August - 21 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

With all the not so good news happening in the world lately – war along the Gaza Strip, new tensions flaring in Iraq, the aftermath in Afghanistan, and nationally; the racial chaos unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri along with the devastating passing of comedian and actor Robin Williams to depression and suicide – I find myself asking the question, “Are we okay?” The world could use a giant hug right now. I know I could use one.

If we’re not okay, what are some things we can do to make ourselves and our kids feel better? The combination of Arts Education with Social Service or Creative Youth Development are not necessarily partnerships we think of when it comes to the arts, but really, they are critical. We can talk all day until we’re blue in the face about the value of arts education in K-12 and higher education, arts integration, the new arts standards and common core, arts advocacy and many other reasons why we support arts education, but how often do we actually talk about the arts being a critical part of our daily physical, emotional and mental health? Read the rest of this entry »

The Proof is in the Pudding

Posted by Earl Bosworth On August - 15 - 2014
Earl Bosworth

Earl Bosworth

Panels and symposiums don’t normally draw large crowds, at least not like live music and marching bands do.

So, when members of a select panel spoke recently at the NSU’s Museum of Art │Fort Lauderdale during a very unique symposium hosted by Broward Cultural Division, it was successful within itself that a crowd of more than 100 attendees arrived, including many from Broward’s Latin American and Caribbean communities.

They came to hear experts speak on the impact of creativity in their respective regions.

In attendance were Consulate representatives from St. Lucia, Jamaica and Peru, along with Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, a huge proponent for diversity and supporting the minority Latin American and Caribbean demographic in Broward County. Holness opened the symposium with remarks that cited Broward County’s creative sector’s growth in the last six years at 57 percent, during a period of national depression. He also brought to light the demographics of Broward County which show a Hispanic population of 26.5 percent, Black and African-American population of 27.9 percent, and a white population of 41.9 percent – making it a Minority-Majority County. These demographics signify the importance of recognizing, measuring, and supporting the arts and cultural wealth that lies here. Read the rest of this entry »

The Role of the Arts in the Service of History

Posted by Gerard Atkinson On August - 11 - 2014
Gerard Atkinson

Gerard Atkinson

An unexpected part of the internship job description—being called upon to be a documentary judge. In addition to my work in the Research Services team at Americans for the Arts, I was asked to be a judge at this year’s National History Day, in the senior group documentary section. It turns out the arts and history have a lot to do with each other. Read the rest of this entry »

SarahBerry headshot

Sarah Berry

Artwork IS work. That is the credo many artists inherit. Artists learn not to give away their art or services, and good art lovers should know not to ask. Yet all artists have been approached to donate to a charity auction or volunteer to photograph an event, usually with the promise of great exposure and a free meal. But even an emerging, hungry, do-gooder artist like me knows the “I give it away for free” brand of exposure can be a slippery slope. A few rounds of generosity could gain me the reputation as an “artist philanthropist” and the requests for handouts—and the fear of decreased artwork values—that follow.

Even among artists, there is an expectation that certain art should be free (or at least on certain nights of the week, for students, seniors, practicing artists, friends of arts administrators, or library card holders.) Free events often come under the auspices of increasing arts access, though unfortunately busy and broke people with limited access to art (and transportation) may not have “Free Nights” on their radar, may feel uncomfortable attending, or may not be able to get there. The arts aren’t happening where they are, so making art free may not change the equation. Read the rest of this entry »

“It’s Not Forever”: Temporary Works and Deaccessioning

Posted by Ciara McKeown On February - 5 - 2014
Ciara McKeown

Ciara McKeown

Many municipal public art programs in North America are creating permanent public artworks in response to policy, funding structures, and a variety of other reasons. And yet, there is a recognizable shift towards durational works that focus on experience and process over object-based work. It also seems many of us are reaching capacity—more works entering into the collection and less funds to take care of them all; more time dealing with the vast unknown of conserving new media works; and  overloaded staff capacities to manage all parts of the process. Are we at the tipping point where change has to happen before we see implosion? I would argue that we are. I would argue that we need to develop the conversation in our field, nationally and internationally, to have municipal policies, funding, and programs that reflect the need and desire for both shorter and longer-term public art.

And, in tandem, we need to not shy away from why public artworks do not need to, and cannot always, last forever. Discussion is imperative—deaccession is not a bad word.

Temporary: Why it Matters and Why it Works

An excerpt I recently read from the publication Locating the Producers: An End to the Beginning, the Beginning of the End by Paul O’Neill & Claire Doherty [1], explored the established notion of place-based practice and stated that the book’s aim was to show, through research and case studies, “…that a fundamental shift in thinking about ‘time’ rather than simply the ‘space’ of public art commissioning is required to affect change at the level of policy.”[1] This may be the crux of where our conceptual thinking around public art can be refocused, adjusted, and rethought. Site response and notions of place are important, but we need to also break down words and terms. In my current public art world, we are hearing a lot about community engagement, but what does that mean? What are the real questions being asked; what is the desired outcome; and what are we asking the artist for and why? I think the desire for engagement is about experience and memory. It is about bringing together people and inciting conversation. In many of my favorite temporary projects, the strengths lie in the artist’s freedom to explore risk; unravel issues; and create a platform for meaningful public interaction, participation, and collaboration. Read the rest of this entry »

Fostering a Culture of Giving in Hong Kong

Posted by Mara Walker On December - 17 - 2013
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

I recently returned from Hong Kong where I participated in the International Arts Leadership Roundtable organized by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council. As with many countries around the world, the arts and culture organizations in Hong Kong are often funded 70, 80, or 90% by the government. They need to diversify their funding pool and are looking to the United States as a model. I was the only American among other arts representatives from Australia, Canada, England, Singapore, Japan, Korea, and many others from Hong Kong itself – all envious of our perceived high degree of private sector resources going to the arts, our ongoing ROI on public sector support, and the existence of Americans for the Arts to advance all of the arts for all the people in this country.

While there is money on the ground in Hong Kong, evidenced by the beautiful Hong Kong skyline and downtown light show I witnessed nightly, there isn’t a culture of giving. Leaders from the arts, academia, business, media, and government were brought together to discuss how to create change and foster giving to the arts and it was great to be a part of the conversation.  Americans for the Arts staff are often asked to travel around the world to talk about the U.S. funding model for the arts in order to provide a roadmap for such change. There is a sense that we’ve figured it out. It’s true that we have a long tradition of giving in this country, but private sector support could – and should – be larger. It currently accounts for roughly 30% of an arts organization’s budget, with individual giving accounting for a majority and corporate and foundation support behind. IMG_5626

On a positive note, we are seeing increases in businesses giving to the arts (2012 saw a return to 2006 levels of support) but only 4.6% of total corporate giving goes to the arts, as those dollars are always competing with social and health causes for attention. Businesses focus their arts giving on impacting the communities in which their employees live and work, and we are working to build the awareness about how partnering with the arts can help them reach their business goals. I spoke about our pARTnership Movement campaign when I was in Hong Kong and how we are demonstrating that connection by changing the dialogue to less be about an ask for money and more about building strong and lasting arts and business relationships that are mutually beneficial – financial support often follows.

That isn’t to say that “the ask” isn’t important. “The ask,” whether for funding or partnering, is everything. Positioning the arts as a solution provider that builds employee creativity and retention and strengthens the community is key. We have seen the power of collaboration time and time again, which is why we feature success stories on our website, recognize where partnerships have been effective through our BCA 10 awards and communication vehicles, and share ideas for creative partnerships at conferences and gatherings.

Our meeting space in Hong Kong was in the new Asia Society complex which beautifully stands as a testament to partnerships, constructed with funding from both government and private sources. The venue now has not only a meeting space but also features a theatre and gallery, where they were showing the daring “No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia” exhibit, jointly presented by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation New York as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative. Read the rest of this entry »

People Make Places

Posted by Carol Jones On October - 11 - 2013
Carol Jones

Carol Jones

I live and work in a small city, the capital of a small country that has four times more sheep than people. Cardiff (www.visitcardiff.com) has a population of less than 350,000 but has a growing reputation as a vibrant city where people want to live and visit. It has, as we say in Wales, ‘hwyl’ – a complex and intangible mix of passion and sense of belonging that isn’t easy to translate but has been said to sum up Welshness in a word.

The contribution of creativity to the social and economic success of cities is a hot topic. And that’s no surprise…CREATIVITY MATTERS. It can drive economic opportunity, aid social problem solving and cohesion, generate new ways of thinking or bring together established ideas in new ways to drive things forward.

But it’s not just about economic growth – creativity can make our cities a better place to live and somewhere more exciting and stimulating to be, to work and contribute. Creative cities are also often better governed and better organized places – though perhaps it’s difficult to discern if better government produces more creativity or more creativity makes better government. (Though I know what I think.)

Either way our cities can be hotbeds of creativity – full of the buzz of arts venues, bars and restaurants and awash with architect-designed buildings. But it’s about more than that, more than being a hub for enterprise and culture even. Creative cities provide countless opportunities for everything from accidental connections to formal collaborations. And it’s those opportunities, those sparks that act as a catalyst for new thinking and innovation. Read the rest of this entry »

Working with Public Transit to “Transport Opera Audiences”

Posted by Doug Tuck On October - 8 - 2013
Tuck-resized

Doug Tuck

Vancouver Opera recently received a grant from OPERA America’s Building Opera Audiences initiative, funded by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, to help us address three major audience-development challenges:

  1. The lack of opportunities for potential audiences to sample opera, in programming that will give people an affordable, accessible “first step” between no involvement with us and the purchase of a ticket to a mainstage performance. The best seat to an opera is the highest priced ticket in town, with the exception of decent seats at a Canucks game, so you can see our problem. A normal first step is in fact a leap, of both faith and investment.
  2. The vast untapped audiences in outlying municipalities, which are home to culturally diverse populations with little familiarity with the art form and little inclination to explore it. Metro Vancouver’s demographics are continuing to shift rapidly. Very soon, those whom we have traditionally called “visible minorities” – mainly people hailing from Asia and South Asia – will be the majority.
  3. The practical obstacle to attendance in the form of distance from those outlying areas to downtown Vancouver and our opera house.

We have devised a two-part project, which begins in February 2014. In part one, we’re going to transport opera to this untapped audience, by producing affordable sampler concerts in popular community venues: “400 years of opera in 75 minutes” or “Opera’s Greatest Hits”. In part two, we’ll sell them discounted tickets to a mainstage opera (rendering their sampler concert ticket effectively free). At the opera house, they’ll be “transported” by Mozart’s Don Giovanni or Verdi’s Don Carlo and become instant and lifelong opera lovers.

That, at any rate, is the plan. But here’s the cool part: an optional mode of transport downtown will be on specially arranged “Opera Trains.”  We’re working with our regional transit authority to create programming in the departure stations and on board the Skytrains while they ride downtown. They’ll get a pithy and playful introduction, with music, over the P.A. system, or on their smart phones, to the performance they are about to see.

There will be a splashy media launch, we’ll “wrap” Skytrain cars with all sorts of branding, we’ll give draw as much attention as we can to opera and our transit partners, and it will be a transporting experience for everyone.

Stay tuned. I’ll report later on how it goes.

Doug Tuck will be presenting the following sessions at our National Arts Marketing Program Conference November 8-11 2013 in Portland, Oregon:

Cultural Diplomacy and Heritage Wars

Posted by Dr. Robert Albro On May - 15 - 2013
Dr. Robert Albro

Dr. Robert Albro

Over the past two decades cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible, has become an increasingly evident – and fraught – subject of foreign affairs. One reason is a recent proliferation of multilateral conventions by UNESCO, among others, more specifically articulating international frameworks for the protection and conservation of cultural heritage globally. These include the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, the 2005 Diversity Convention, and the 2008 ratification by the U.S. of the 1954 Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, among other precedents. New collaborations between cultural professionals and the U.S. military, in the context of this increasing attention to heritage, constitute non-traditional opportunities for cultural diplomacy.

One effect of the recent push for international normative frameworks governing the conduct of persons, communities, and states with respect to heritage has been to identifiably constitute “cultural heritage” as a kind of scarce local or national resource, as a well-defined potential subject of state action, and as a basis of international relations and of conflict. Tracking this trend, some historians have referred to the contemporary onset of “heritage crusades,” which can lead to “heritage wars.” In other words, attitudes about cultural heritage have changed over time, and international actors increasingly seek legal redress, or take violent steps, in relation to an increasingly prevailing conception of heritage as: rivalrous, non-renewable, specific in time and place, and exclusively owned by people, communities, or nations.

Not coincidentally, the potential destruction of cultural heritage has become a major preoccupation, not only for particular communities and nation-states, but also for the U.S. military. Recent history is replete with multiple examples of the destruction of heritage sites or objects in active conflict zones, or leading to conflict. A short list would include the 2001 demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the 2003 looting of the Baghdad Museum, the devastation of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the destruction of Timbuktu’s sacred tombs during the conflict in Mali, and ongoing heritage loss as part of the conflict in Syria, among others. Heritage destruction, looting, and the illegal antiquities trade are one front in these heritage wars. Conflicting claims, the definition of heritage as property, and calls for repatriation, are another front. Read the rest of this entry »

How the Arts and Military Can Help Cultural Diplomacy

Posted by Brigadier General Nolen Bivens, U.S. Army Ret. On May - 15 - 2013
Brigadier General Nolen Bivens, U.S. Army, Ret.

Brigadier General Nolen Bivens, U.S. Army, Ret.

The conditions have been set and it’s now time to use the arts and cultural engagement at ground and grassroots level to further enhance cultural diplomacy and effectiveness of military security cooperation operations.

The model for military operations has six phases. The recent withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq and the goal of drawing down troops in Afghanistan beginning in July of this year, returns the focus of U.S. Military leadership to preparing for the future and the point in its operational phasing model known as Phase Zero – shaping the environment.

In the 12 years since beginning combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, joint U.S. Military Forces, other governmental and non-governmental organizations, and coalition members have demonstrated unprecedented courage, sacrifice and even creativity to protect national interest in the Middle East region.

Realizing that a key component to success during these operations is winning the hearts and minds of the people, they also learned how vital and necessary the “whole of government” approach is during all phases of military operations; that is, integrating activity across the whole of society – the political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information components.

Examples include bringing the curatorial skills of the Archaeological Institute of America, Iraq’s Cultural Ministry and U.S. Army Reserve soldiers to address the ransacking of Iraq’s museums and archeological sites by looters and insurgents.  For those not familiar with the story, in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, “Mobs of treasure hunters” tore into “Iraqi archaeological sites, stealing urns, statues, vases and cuneiform tablets that dated back 3,000 years and more to Babylon” according to some archaeologists. From a nongovernmental perspective, Greg Mortenson, author of “Stones into Schools” built 130 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan – an effort that did not go unnoticed by four-star U.S. military commanders. His 2006 book “Three Cups of Tea” was “required reading for all Special Forces soldiers deploying to Afghanistan.” Read the rest of this entry »

Soldiers on Stage

Posted by David Diamond On May - 15 - 2013
David Diamond

David Diamond

First of all, who knew that there were theatre companies on US Army bases? Who knew they had annual one-act play and full-length play competitions? Who knew that working as a mentor to the directors of those plays existed as a job?

My supervisor, Jim Sohre, recently retired as Chief, Entertainment (Music and Theatre) Program, U.S. Army Europe, created the Mentoring Program in 1995: I started the concept when we got actor, director (and personality!) Charles Nelson Reilly here to judge our Army Europe One Act Play Festival in Heidelberg.  He not only critiqued, he got right up on stage and re-worked scenes with the groups.  So it was more a working Masters Class.

I began working as a Mentor Director for the same Festival. This involved traveling from base-to-base throughout Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Northern Italy. There are about 20 bases that participate in the annual competition; I visited 14 of them. As Jim explains, Well, first, by bringing in mentors/judges from the US we are able to get top notch industry professionals who can provide contemporary input and training that is not available here in the English language.”

Each base I visited has a theatre company that regularly presents plays and musicals for the residents of the base. These companies include not only soldiers, but their families, other military personnel, non-military base workers, etc. Since the funding for the theatre companies and their facilities is at the discretion of the base commander, they operate under wildly different conditions. In Stuttgart, you have an entire performing arts complex with theatres, rehearsal spaces, everything state-of-the-art; in Grafenwoehr, plays are presented in a corner of a former basketball court using only clip lights and a boom box for tech. Still, it is remarkable what they are able to produce. Read the rest of this entry »

Advancing Cultural Diplomacy

Posted by Joanna Chin On May - 15 - 2013
Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

After moving from the individual warrior to families and communities of service members, we’d like to widen the lens even further. Our first post of the day by theater artist, David Diamond, transitions us from work with service members returning home to arts activity supporting military communities abroad. His reflection on experiences working on army bases abroad gives a personal context to the topic of day: the relationship of the arts to cultural diplomacy and military missions abroad.

In the past couple of decades, the arts have gained legs as a tool for diplomacy and as a transformational lever to build transnational community connections, bridge cultural distinctions, strengthen foreign relations, and support military communities abroad. However, this growing appreciation for the power of the arts and culture carries with it additional challenges and questions:

  • What is the role or responsibility of the military to protect other nations’ culture?
  • How do arts and culture strategies contribute to the success of U.S. missions abroad? to stronger civic structures?
  • What are the ambiguities for artists and cultural workers helping achieve “soft power” objectives?

Check back in later today for posts from General Nolen Bivens, U.S. Army, Ret. and Professor of International Communications at American University, Dr. Robert Albro, which will offer differing insights around these important questions.

Assessing Cultural Infrastructure

Posted by G. Martin Moeller, Jr. & Scott Kratz On April - 2 - 2013
Scott Kratz

Scott Kratz

Most of the world’s great cultural capitals emerged organically through a virtuous cycle in which creative people flocked to prosperous cities, where they helped to create or expand prominent cultural institutions, which in turn attracted more creative people, and so on.

During the modern era, however, the historically strong correlation between economic vitality and cultural resources diminished somewhat. In some cases, new centers of economic activity developed with unprecedented speed, making it difficult for cultural institutions—which tend to have long gestation periods—to keep up. In the U.S. in particular, the migration of substantial wealth to the suburbs often left venerable urban institutions impoverished, while depriving nascent cultural organizations of the critical mass necessary for success.

The past couple of decades have been marked by a revival of interest in cultural infrastructure and a growing belief that museums, performing arts centers, libraries, programmed civic spaces and other cultural facilities can themselves foster social and economic progress.

The poster child of this trend is the Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, which has been credited with the revival of a small, rather run-down industrial city in Spain. Careful analysis of economic and other data suggests that the influence of this one project is often overstated, but there can be no doubt that it was a significant catalyst for urban revival, not only because of the museum’s mission and content, but also because of its exhilarating architectural form.  Read the rest of this entry »