What’s Soul Got To Do With It?

Posted by Donna Collins On May - 28 - 2014
Donna Collins

Donna Collins

For many individuals outside the circle of arts advocacy and arts policy there seems to be a recurring question: What is the role of the arts in job creation, economic sustainability, and the quality of life of our citizenry? The dollar, and not the soul, seems to be at the core of the discussion. I dare say you can’t have one without the other.

My knee jerk response to such queries is to shout from the rafters that by investing in the arts and incorporating arts and culture into every economic development plan, the yield will be abundant benefits to our economic, social, civic, and cultural vibrancy. The significance of the arts allows a community to generate an increasingly stable and creative workforce, new and increased tourism, fiscal infusion, and more sustainable neighborhoods. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Leadership and the Changing Social Contract

Posted by Emiko Ono On April - 15 - 2014
Emiko Ono

Emiko Ono

Since I began working in the arts in 2001, there has been a subtle but constant pressure on the sector to transform that can be both distressing and motivating. I will never forget the time in 2003 when Mark O’Neill, then the Head of Museums and Galleries for the city of Glasgow (Scotland), described how a population of shipyard workers reported that they did not attend a nearby museum because the price of admission was too expensive. The nauseating twist was that the museum did not have an admission fee. Last week, this story came to mind again as I spoke with Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and an arts leader with more than 25 years of experience. Susie’s hypothesis—that the tacit social contract between society and arts organizations is changing—is one I have found to be incredibly useful. The premise of her theory is that it is no longer sufficient for arts organizations to provide distinctive work, attract an audience, and secure financial support—it needs to include wider swaths of people who are largely not involved.  Read the rest of this entry »

Five Tips for Applying to Internships & Entry-Level Positions in Arts Management

Posted by Camille Schenkkan On February - 20 - 2013
Camille Schenkkan

Camille Schenkkan

Rambling ten-page resumes. Headshots submitted for management positions. Cover letters written in one big, messy paragraph in the body of an email. And one resume that was somehow, inexplicably, saved as a series of stream-of-consciousness bullet points in an .RTF file.

I coordinate the internship program at Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group (CTG), one of the largest—and most prestigious—theatres in the country. These are just a few of the bizarre, sad, and shockingly common application faux pas I saw in our last application cycle.

Most undergraduates aren’t introduced to career options in arts administration within an academic context. An internship can provide an excellent introduction to the field. Many of the applicants I see are undergraduate theatre or acting majors, curious about career options in the discipline they love.

And many of them are woefully unequipped to apply for any job.

It’s tempting to fault schools for this lack of preparation. However, nearly every two-year and four-year college or university has a career center with free services. I’m also a big fan of personal responsibility.

So hey, arts major. Here are five tips for applying to internships or entry-level jobs in arts management.  Read the rest of this entry »

John Legend speaks while receiving a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also picture are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

John Legend received a Citizen Artist Award from The United States Conference of Mayors and Americans for the Arts. Also pictured are Philadelphia Mayor Micheal Nutter (left), New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. (Photo via USCM)

Each year, Americans for the Arts presents a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards to elected officials at all levels of government and artists who speak out in favor of the arts and arts education.

We just recently presented the first of the 2013 awards at The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting in Washington, DC. The USCM is Americans for the Arts’ oldest public partnership going back more than two decades.

Each year, we also sponsor the “Mayor’s Arts Breakfast” were we present awards to two mayors, a governor, and one or more nationally-acclaimed artists. This event is very important as more than 350 of the country’s most powerful mayors gather to hear about how the arts are important to their cities.

I am happy to report that over the years, our nation’s mayors have become vocal advocates for arts funding as we provide them with a front row seat to learn the importance of arts and culture and the economic value the sector provides.

At this year’s breakfast, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss were recognized for their support of the arts and culture in their cities. Both of these mayors, one from a fairly large city and the other of a fairly modest size, understand the importance and value of supporting their local nonprofit arts community and how that support generates substantial economic impact. Read the rest of this entry »

John Bryan

John Bryan

Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class is now 11 years old, and the notion that left-brained corporate types can benefit from right-brained creative types is acknowledged as gospel.

Although Florida’s work has resulted in blue-chip value for “creative thinkers,” there is no empirical evidence to show whether business executives claim any workplace value for their own personal artistic pursuits.

Indeed, do the personal artistic pursuits of business workers add value to the corporate workplace? The exploration of this question is one line of research that has been spawned by a recent gathering in Virginia.

On November 27 in Richmond President and CEO of The Conference Board Jonathan Spector and Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert Lynch convened 16 corporate executives and 16 artists for an eight-hour “Creative Conversation”—a day of envisioning a new transaction model between business and arts. The forever-held model is straightforward: businesses give money to the arts so that the arts can enrich their communities.

Richmond’s event explored the possibility of an opposite transaction model. Can corporations benefit by reaching out to and engaging practicing artists? Participants included executives from Fortune 500 companies such as Altria, Dominion, and MeadWestvaco; leaders from service organizations such as J. Sergeant Reynolds Community College and Leadership Metro Richmond; and CEOs from specialty companies such as The Martin Agency and Richmond Times-Dispatch. Read the rest of this entry »

The How-and-Whys of Our Top 10 Most Viewed Posts of 2012

Posted by Tim Mikulski On December - 19 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Everyone loves a top 10 list. Sure, it seems the lists are everywhere this time of year—to the point that you’d think that we’ve over-saturated the market for them, right? Wrong.

The best evidence that I can give you to prove that top 10 lists bring people to your site is that four of our top 10 most viewed posts this year contain the number 10 and, as you will see below, our top 3 new posts published in 2012 contain the number, too.

Thankfully, though, that’s not all we’re about here on ARTSblog.

So, the Top 10 Most Viewed ARTSblog Posts created in 2012 are:

1. The Top 10 Skills Children Learn From the Arts

2. Ten Years Later: A Puzzling Picture of Arts Education in America

3. 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2012

4. Former President Clinton Supports Arkansas Arts Education Program

5. Overcommitment: Taking the ‘I Shoulds’ Out of Your Life?

6. What Do We Really Know About People Who Get Arts Degrees?

7. What’s Actually Keeping Your Audience Away?

8. President Obama’s Budget Request for the NEA: The Fine Print  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 »

No One Calls Himself a Hipster and Other Emerging Fallacies

Posted by Charles Jensen On December - 3 - 2012

Charles Jensen

In a recent edition of Thomas Cott’s “You’ve Cott Mail,” readers encountered a series of blogs and articles exploring the utility—and, in one case, the aftermath—of embracing a term like “emerging” in its application to artists.

It was earlier this year when Barry Hessenius, too, addressed in his blog the importance of identifying emerging leaders. “I wonder whether or not we are isolating these people by relegating them to their own niche as ‘emerging,’ and whether or not by confining them to their own ‘silo’, we might be doing them, and ourselves – at least in part – a disservice,” he wrote.

By identifying emerging leaders, the early impulse was to provide support and resources. But it was the majority group who defined this difference. The term does not apply to them, only to a separate group. A discrete category. Others.

Or, to put it another way, by creating “emerging leaders,” the term separated the field into two groups: “emerging leaders” and “leaders.”

Before continuing, three illustrations:

1. The term “hipster,” like its predecessor “yuppie” in the 1980s, has become inextricably linked to this cultural moment. Yet, who is a hipster? Read the rest of this entry »

You Know More Than You Realize and It’s Time to Share

Posted by Andrew Witt On October - 12 - 2012

Andrew Witt

We are often so busy with our organization’s day-to-day programming, administration, fundraising, advocacy, and the need to establish some sense of work life balance, we forget or just don’t think about what we have to offer and learn with our peers.

Serving on one of the Americans for the Arts Advisory Councils is both a blessing and a curse (or a challenge or opportunity in biz speak).

There are 5,000 local arts agencies in the Americans for the Arts universe, or as Bob Lynch refers to them/us—arts enabling organizations. I never really thought about being an arts enabler but we are just that. Our job as administrators is to help the field grow and prosper, in our communities, our state, and our country.

And as we help the field, we also help ourselves by learning and sharing from the grassroots to the grass tops. Stop for just a minute and reflect on how you learn and how you have put that into practice.

What did you pick up at the Annual Convention, National Arts Marketing Project Conference, or a statewide or regional arts meeting? What came out of a one or two hour session in a breakout or at the bar or restaurant? Pretty valuable, eh?

Now just think what if that one or two hour session turned into a day and a half or longer and not just once a year but almost every month. And now what if those conversations were not scattered among 50 plus colleagues, but among a smaller group of 12-15.

Then there is time for to you share best practices—yours and others, address those tough personnel (hey we all have them don’t kid yourself) issues, political issues, fundraising tips, and even talk about real arts and culture policy development. Wow, when was the last time that happened!

Do yourself and your organization and your community a favor and serve on an advisory council. It’s worth every minute and every dollar you spend. But do it for the other 4,999 organizations and colleagues as well as for you.

Nominations close October 17. Nominate yourself or a colleague. You won’t ever regret it—personally and professionally.

It’s All About Choices: Women (and Men) Can Have It All

Posted by Mara Walker On July - 10 - 2012
Mara Walker

Mara Walker

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in the current edition of The Atlantic got me thinking.

I do believe a woman can have it all. Life is all about choices—this is just as true for men as it is for women.

I have a theatre degree and had seen women with their children playing hide and seek in rows of seating or with their Barbies in the aisles during rehearsals, one eye on their napping baby and the other on the actors they were directing and made a different choice for myself.

I so admired these mothers, but wanted something different and opted to try to impact theatres by being an attendee and board member and make my living advancing the arts in other ways.

I got lucky in working for Americans for the Arts, and its predecessor organization. I love this work. It is hard and important. That said, I was honestly relieved when my husband came home miserable from a job he hated and we agreed it would be best for him to stay home for a while. I wanted him to be happy and thought it would be great for him to be available to take my daughter to doctor visits and soccer practices.

It meant major financial sacrifices for sure, but it enabled me to do this job and at the same time rarely miss a soccer game, crew match, helping her study for exams, or walking her through a difficult social situation at school. I made an agreement with Bob Lynch (our President and CEO) that I would get in the office early and start running, but I would be out of here each night in time for dinner (with obvious exceptions for events and conferences).

There are great role models all around me. I have never looked for society to tell me who I am supposed to be, how I am supposed to spend my time, or what I am supposed to do with my life. I have gone with gut and drive. I never worried about whether a man was climbing higher or getting paid more. Read the rest of this entry »

Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

A couple of weeks ago, Barry Hessenius of Barry’s Blog posted a question and concern that caught my attention. He wondered “whether or not we are isolating [emerging leaders] by relegating them to their own niche as ‘emerging’, and whether or not by confining them to their own ‘silo’, we might be doing them, and ourselves [meaning the field]—at least in part—a disservice.”

I was pleased to see Barry post this concern, because at least a couple of times a year, arts administrators approach me with the same issues. In my role as leadership development program manager at Americans for the Arts, our Emerging Leaders program and national network is a large part of my work portfolio.

I want to thank Barry for sharing his thoughts on emerging leaders and bringing this issue, which has been bubbling under the surface for quite some time now, to wider attention. Barry also deserves quite a bit of credit for all the great work he has done on behalf of emerging leaders in California. The networks in California—thanks in large part to the James Irvine Foundation’s and the Hewlett Foundation’s leadership—are some of the most robust networks we have nationally and are consistently looked to as model programs.

I appreciate Barry’s concerns regarding sub-sectors of our field, and wanting to create an environment where those new to the field can be seen as fellow leaders by their peers. Transition and succession planning is a large issue that our field needs to address head on in a unified way. As an emerging leader myself, I personally want to avoid the existence of “artificial walls” between emerging and experienced leaders.

In my mind, one of the discerning qualities of the Emerging Leaders Network is that it is an opportunity for those new to the field to practice and workshop their leadership skills, learn fundamentals, and network with peers. Oftentimes, a new arts administrator can feel isolated in their work, and one of the largest benefits of the network to me is that it allows an individual to connect to something larger than themselves and remember that they are a part of a movement. Read the rest of this entry »

Nonprofit Rockstars, EXCELLENCE, and a Chinchilla

Posted by Camille Schenkkan On June - 26 - 2012

Taking a convention break to enjoy a puppy webcam.

“I kept looking around and wondering: Do I belong here? Do I want to belong here? I mean…What if I don’t want to be a nonprofit rockstar?”

The question hit me hard. I was leading an informal roundtable on work/life balance at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, and a young mother was talking to me about her experience at the Emerging Leaders Preconference.

She was referencing the second of two mind-blowingly awesome sessions by Rosetta Thurman, a 29-year-old writer and career coach who co-authored How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar: 50 Ways to Accelerate Your Career with Trista Harris, executive director of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice.

In the session, Rosetta led us through the seven tenets of the book, including Developing Expertise and Practicing Authentic Leadership. You’ll have to buy it to find out the other five. I did buy it, marking the first time I’ve purchased a speaker’s book immediately after leaving a session.

There’s something weird about being in a room filled with really, really motivated young people. This was a room with the future head of the National Endowment for the Arts, the next Artistic Director of Actors Theatre of Louisville, the budding arts manager who will re-envision the museum-going experience for the 21st century.

And then there’s me.

At least, that’s always where my brain goes. Not in a good way—more of a “Why am I here and why am I in a suit?” way. Read the rest of this entry »

Shift Happens in the Generation Gap

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On June - 20 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

There are currently four different generations existing in the workplace and living within our communities. Each generation has unique characteristics, and preferred ways that they interact with technology, each other, and their relationship between work, life, and family.

During our Annual Convention last week, presenters for the Shift Happens in the Generation Gap session led attendees in a conversation around new approaches and strategies to promote intergenerational collaboration within the workplace. They also discussed new practices to connect with ethnically diverse audiences.

Rosetta Thurman, owner and principal of Thurman Consulting and author of the book How to Become a Nonprofit Rockstar began the session by leading us through the characteristics, similarities, and differences of the four different generations:

  • Matures were born between the years 1925–1945. They are best characterized as wanting to continue contributing and providing mentorship.
  • Boomers are the largest generation with 80 million of them in the workforce today. Born between 1946–1964, they have a strong sense of optimism and tend to operate under the assumption that they will be around forever.
  • Generation X is best known as the Slacker Generation. Born between 1965–1979, they tend to be very individualistic, but are also not interested in the corporate world. They are half the size of Boomers, and often considered the “forgotten generation” in that can be passed over for leadership opportunities simply because there aren’t as many of them.
  • Millennials  were born between 1980–2000, and are growing up as the most educated generation to date, but also carry the largest amount of student debt. Once they enter the working world, they expect to be paid well not always out of entitlement but out of necessity. This generation is very technology centered and thrives in a constantly connected world.

After taking session participants through that overview, Rosetta invited us to think about our own experiences, and to highlight similarities and differences that people are seeing amongst generations in their own work. After 10 minutes of discussion, everyone came back together, and reported out from our conversations. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling: Marriage of Data and Personal Narratives

Posted by Ryan Hurley On June - 18 - 2012

Ryan Hurley

During our Americans for the Arts Annual Convention ARTventure to San Antonio’s culturally rich Westside neighborhood, we spent the afternoon with San Anto Cultural Arts, a local organization that builds community through the process of creating murals. Outside of their small office there is a large religious mural featuring a profile of Jesus surrounded by two angels. One of the organization’s co-founders, who was kind of hanging in the background of our tour, was encouraged by the tour guide to tell this story.

When heading back to the office one day he noticed a woman, whom he later found out was a prostitute, hanging out on the border of their property near the mural. As soon as she saw him approaching she apologized for loitering and promised to leave right away. He told her not to worry and began talking with her. She told him that the church down the street wouldn’t allow her to enter, so she would often come to this outdoor mural to pray.

The storyteller wasn’t trying to commodify this story or use it as a sales pitch. He shared this experience so we could understand the human element of their work. Those moments that we experience everyday and assume that others can summon when we talk about that abstract “power of the arts,” need to be shared, built upon, and married to supportive data.

During the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Bob Lynch said something to the effect of “…for a group of artists, we need to become better storytellers.” I think this was said in the context of arts advocacy but I believe it is interrelated to growing as a community.

It was probably because of our own personal narratives or the persuasive narratives of others that convinced us to spend our lives in a financially (and emotionally) unstable field taking up the banner for the arts. This is not to underestimate the power of studies such as the new Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (4.1 million jobs are supported nationally by the nonprofit arts sector, nice!). These studies are invaluable to a diverse field that hosts a diverse audience, but these two quantitative and qualitative narratives could benefit from becoming more intertwined. Read the rest of this entry »

Bringing Advocacy Home from the Annual Convention

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On June - 11 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

What I was really planning on doing at the conference this year was coming and learn what trusted friends and advisers are doing all across the country. We spend so much time being part of a small pool of people doing the work we do in our communities that this is a rare chance to take a break from that isolation. I feel like I come to conference to learn advocacy, and instead I build relationships and discover a library of incredible research.

If I didn’t come home with an advocacy guide, it would be my secret. But as I thumb through my notes this year, it turns out I learned a lot about advocacy this year that I am going to go and share in Atlanta this month.

At the end of the month, I will talk to a small group of emerging leaders in Atlanta about advocacy. A colleague has added to his personal work plan this year the goal of meeting all the elected officials that represent him and I could talk about that. It would certainly be a good start for most people. At the conference though, I added some tools to pass along to the group.

All things obvious. All things you already probably know. None of the subtlety of conference for me, thank you.

Once is not enough…

The first unfortunate bit of news is one meeting won’t be enough. I think my colleagues’ efforts to meet each of their elected officials is absolutely heroic. I won’t manage to match this feat. But Bob Lynch, in his remarks, let us know that it is time to become a trusted adviser instead of a last minute lobbyist. I haven’t taken the time to think about how trusted advisers are developed. Read the rest of this entry »