Honored to Serve as a SAA Commissioner

Posted by Jay Dick On July - 1 - 2014
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

Over the past 10 years as a staff member of Americans for the Arts, I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about how we as a nation support the arts and culture. I have the opportunity to work with hundreds of talented and innovative individuals across the nation. I have also learned a great deal from serving on two local boards, the Arts Council of Fairfax County and Arts for LA. Now, I have a new opportunity to help advance the arts in America.  Starting July 1st, I will begin a five year term as a Commissioner for the Virginia Commission for the Arts (VCA). I am very grateful to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe for presenting me with this opportunity.   Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

If a Local Arts Agency (LAA) doesn’t produce plays or present concerts or mount exhibitions or offer classes, why does a community need an LAA? Why does your LAA need your support?

A fundamental part of an LAA’s role in the community is to increase public access to the arts and work to ensure that everyone in their community or service area enjoys the cultural, civic, economic, and educational benefits of a thriving cultural sector. In 1999, when the LAA community and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the local arts agency movement, access was the theme that ran through our collective vision plan for American communities through 2025, which included the following:

  • Fostering a lifelong continuum of arts creation, arts experiences, participation and education;
  • Bringing cultural equity and equality into existence;
  • Helping the arts bring diverse people together and bridging differences;
  • Enabling people to value the arts by participating at both amateur and professional levels;
  • Ensuring arts diversity is valued and celebrated as an expression of our humanity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rethinking Cultural Districts for Small Towns in Small States

Posted by Michael Lange On February - 18 - 2014
Michael Lange

Michael Lange

Using cultural districts as a structure for arts and cultural activities is a central catalyst for revitalization efforts that build better communities. Many states and urban areas have setup structures, often through legislation, that promote cultural districts as a way to build vibrant communities that lead to social and economic development.

Getting to the end outcome – the arts playing a leading role in revitalization efforts – is a necessary endeavor, but setting up structures in the same way as urban areas may not be the best approach for a rural state like Wyoming.

Laramie Mural picture 3

Laramie, WY Mural

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with 575,000 people. Wyoming is better categorized as frontier or even remote. The largest populated city in Wyoming is the state capital Cheyenne, with a population just over 61,000 people. Of the 99 incorporated municipalities, only about half have populations over 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population over 10,000.

How can small populated states invest in the outcomes of cultural districts?

In Wyoming, the Wyoming Arts Council has joined in a strategic partnership with Wyoming Main Street which manages the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program. Located inside the Wyoming Business Council, the Wyoming Main Street program assists Wyoming communities of various sizes and resource levels with their downtown revitalization efforts. Between fully certified and affiliate communities, Wyoming has fifteen active communities in their Main Street Program. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to our Rural Arts Blog Salon!

Posted by Theresa Cameron On February - 18 - 2014
Theresa Cameron

Theresa Cameron

Welcome to our first ever rural arts blog salon. We have gathered together some of the best thinkers, practitioners, and artists to blog about art, placemaking, and economic development in rural communities. This blog salon will be in conjunction with our new rural webinars on these topics which will occur Feb. 26,27, and 28!

This blog salon will explore ways that small and rural communities are using the arts to help economic stability and growth in their communities. It will give you the opportunity to hear from these communities about some of the successful economic development strategies they have used like artists relocation, cultural districts, historic tax credits, etc.

Do you find yourself looking for resources for your organization? Where do you look? Placemaking is one way that rural communities are using the arts to animate spaces, create more economic opportunities, and bring diverse people together. Learn about ways communities are using placemaking tools and resources for their community. If you’re looking for resources for your organization or community, this blog salon and our upcoming webinar series are great places to start.

Check back every day this week for some new thoughts and information from our bloggers. You will see that a lot is happening in rural America through the arts.

Think Local! An Interview with Randy Cohen and Michael Killoren

Posted by Randy Cohen On October - 22 - 2013
Michael Killoren

Michael Killoren

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

When it comes to supporting the arts in America, we know that there are as many different strategies as there are communities.  At the core of all of them, however, is the local arts agency (LAA).  Broadly defined as an organization or program that works to foster and support the entire arts industry within a community, LAAs can take many forms—public or private, full time staff or all-volunteer operations, standalone or functioning under the umbrella of a different agency, and beyond.  No matter what shape they take, LAAs seek to support all of the arts for all of the people within a community—a key component of our mission at Americans for the Arts.  That is why we have, in close partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, chosen to undertake the 2013-14 Census of Local Arts Agencies.  This comprehensive survey is designed to benchmark the financial health and programmatic trends of the richly varied, highly diverse, and extremely important work of the nation’s 5,000 LAAs and the communities that they serve.  The data collection will commence in early 2014, so make sure you keep an eye out for our dedicated LAA Census webpage, coming soon!

Here to answer some of our burning questions about the survey—why it is so important, what we hope to learn, and how we plan on using the data—are two of the driving forces behind its conception: Randy Cohen, Vice President of Research & Policy at Americans for the Arts, and Michael Killoren, Local Arts Agencies and Challenge America Director at the National Endowment for the Arts. (Note: an abridged version of this interview was published in Arts Link, the quarterly membership publication of Americans for the Arts.)

Americans for the Arts Research Dept (AFTA Research): The NEA has made a significant investment in this research. Why is this work important to the agency?

Michael Killoren: A thorough understanding of America’s support system for the arts is incomplete without knowledge of the role of Local Arts Agencies, nationwide.  We have current, comprehensive data on federal and state investment in the arts – this study will complete that picture, and help the American people better understand the role of LAAs in the nation’s arts infrastructure, as well as their contributions to the cultural vibrancy of the nation. Read the rest of this entry »

Learn from Nashville: How to Prepare for the Worst

Posted by Jennifer Cole On September - 4 - 2013
Jennifer Cole

Jennifer Cole

On Friday, April 30, 2010 it started raining. Most Nashvillians rented a movie, grabbed a pizza and stayed in for the night. By lunch the next day, I remarked to my husband that the rain was “getting a little Biblical”.  Within 2 hours I received a call that changed my life. The Deputy Mayor summoned me into the Emergency Command Center to help manage the city’s coordination and flood response. I did not leave that post for nearly six months.

I had been on the job at Metro Arts for just 4 months. Luckily, my previous career had included disaster training and coordination—just enough to be helpful in a city overwhelmed by water. By May 2, the region had absorbed more than 17 inches of water, one of the largest rain events ever recorded in America. More than 11 individuals lost their lives and more than 10,000 properties were damaged. [1]

Downtown Nashville

Downtown Nashville

We sustained millions in damage to the Nashville Symphony; the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum; and dozens of smaller artist studios, galleries, and community arts organizations. Hundreds of musicians and touring acts lost their equipment and costumes when SoundCheck Nashville was completely flooded.

Within a matter of moments, I went from Arts Administrator to co-managing the Office of Disaster Recovery. More than 3 years later, I still get twitchy when it rains for more than a few hours.

What I learned on the ground during the response and working with the community after the flood just might help someone else.  Artists and grassroots arts agencies are particularly vulnerable and must think about disasters before the happen. Read the rest of this entry »

The Real Story Behind the Arts Agenices Salary Survey 2013

Posted by John McInerney On July - 29 - 2013

John McInerney

John McInerney

Americans for the Arts (AFTA), recently released Local Arts Agencies Salaries, 2013, a survey of 700 national service organizations that serve the cultural sector. While salaries in the nonprofit sector are usually below those in the for profit sector, salaries for leadership arts service positions seem reasonable given the overall environment and the salaries in the entertainment industry as a whole. The average salary for all executive directors in the AFTA survey is $78,394. For comparison, the mean salary for “Top Executive, Civic and Social Organization” by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is $95,810. Service organization salaries also seem reasonable compared to Performing Arts Executive Directors, $96,85-(BLS), and Top Executive Director, Museum, Historical Site and Similar Institution, $106,000 (BLS)–particularly when you take into account that the BLS figures include both forprofit and nonprofit positions.

The Salary Survey is a comprehensive and insightful survey but, unfortunately, the real news here is not about salaries of local arts agencies executives. The real story lies in the stark lack of diversity amongst leaders of arts service organizations and the sector as a whole. Eighty six percent of respondents identified as white (90% of Executive Directors) and 75% were women. Perhaps even more troubling, only 2% of respondents identified as Black/African American. The Voice of NonProfit Talent has documented that this lack of diversity carries through the full nonprofit sector, with overall nonprofit employment being approximately 82 percent white, 10 percent African-American, and five percent Hispanic/Latino. While I can’t source a definitive survey of just cultural nonprofits, I think it is reasonable to assume that results for culture would be similar, in particular when one looks at the demographic make up of the majority of cultural audiences and the demographics of the many cultural sector conferences for arts professionals annually.  Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Administrator Wages: Reaction to the 2013 Salary Survey

Posted by Kim Cook On July - 26 - 2013
kimpic

Kim Cook

In reflecting upon the results of the Americans for the Arts salary survey three things arise for me.  The first is the issue of wages.  The second is the issue of demographics; both of which are immediately addressed in the Executive Summary for the piece. The third issue that derives from the first two is the question of relevance.

When we address the first issue, that of wages, the question that surfaces for me is, relative to what?  When we examine our wages in relationship to each other are we perpetuating a construct in which not enough becomes normative?  I am completely alert to the fact that I am constrained when contemplating wages and wage increases for my staff, knowing that each worker will add to a cost structure that is difficult to sustain.  And, if I am not able to pay reasonably well, I am unlikely to attract and retain the talent that will help to create the mission impact my organization aspires to. Read the rest of this entry »

Local Art Agency Salaries: Measuring Up

Posted by Kerry Adams-Hapner On July - 24 - 2013
Kerry Adams-Hapner

Kerry Adams-Hapner

Local arts agencies are like snow flakes. Each one is unique.  Geographic region, cost of living, population size, budget size, staff size, number and type of programs, reporting structures, government entity or 501c3… These factors are all variables in defining the local art agency. In turn, they are also factors affecting the salaries of agency staff members.  While each agency is unique, Americans for the Arts’ Research Report: Local Arts Agency Salaries 2013 highlights trends, commonalities and areas requiring a conscientious endeavor to improve.

There are glaring issues highlighted in the report: the ethnic diversity of agency staff, gender diversity and gender equality. As a field, there is clearly more work that needs to be done here. We must be deliberate about identifying opportunities to improve ethnic and gender equality.

Another important issue is age. The data reports that the average age of the full-time employee is 52.5 years.    Let’s continue to engage the next generation in the relevance of our work and empower them as leaders.  There are many good programs and initiatives looking to move the needle on succession planning in our field. Skill development, networking, mentorship, and hiring of young professionals are areas that all agency leaders should consider part of their responsibilities. Read the rest of this entry »

Looking Like the People We Serve

Posted by Robert Bush On July - 12 - 2013

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

Reading Americans for the Arts’ 2013 study on Local Arts Agency Salaries took me back. Way back to 1981 when I took my first position as executive director, and only employee, of a county arts council in North Carolina at what I thought at the time was an incredible sum of $16,000 per year, plus health benefits. Now my parents thought I was crazy for leaving the classroom with its pay (not much more than then LAA job) and benefits. I was still young enough to see the change as a great new adventure. Nearly 30 years later and a wonderful career, I know I made the right decision.

On the plus side, salaries and benefits have come a long way since the early 1980s. On the whole, salaries and benefits are better across the board. Some highly skilled positions demand a higher level of compensation, and rightfully so, than one might expect.  For example, Senior Public Art professionals are required to be a planner, have a keen aesthetic/artist eye, project manager, legal negotiator, financial wizard, and more importantly are hard to find. It is right that their compensation levels are rising. I know some of my colleagues still struggle with wages that are not commensurate with their education and skill level or the demands of what we all know can be a 24/7 job. So we shouldn’t take the survey results as any more than a snapshot in time and hopefully provide information to help boards and commissions understand how peer agencies are compensating their employees. Read the rest of this entry »

What You’re Worth

Posted by Clayton Lord On July - 11 - 2013
Clay Lord

Clay Lord

What is a person worth?  Often, especially in the arts (but I think almost anywhere, whether out of necessity or guile), that doesn’t seem the question, really.  It seems more often to come down to what a person is willing to take.  I first started thinking about this issue back when Rocco Landesman launched his #supplydemand earthquake in that now-infamous conversation with Diane Ragsdale.  Rocco, talking about the ongoing existence of more arts institutions than there were patrons to really fully support them, sparked a lot of different conversations—but for me, at the time and, really, now still, my main question was: if there isn’t sufficient demand, then why is there still an overflow of supply?  And in the context of individuals—if there’s not sufficient money, then why are there people (usually highly educated, often educated to be something else first) to do the work?

Yesterday, Americans for the Arts officially launched a report called Local Arts Agency Salaries 2013, which provides a variety of interesting informational tidbits about the salaries and disparities at local arts agencies around the country.  It has a whole lot of information, which I hope you will read (to make it easier, we’ve broken the report into small downloadable sections based on whether you want a little information or a lot, including a summary, infographics, tables by title, and the full report).  While the report only looks at local arts agencies, it provides an interesting snapshot of wages for a variety of positions at those organizations, as well as some fodder for two important conversations.  Read the rest of this entry »

On behalf of Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund, I wish to congratulate President Barack Obama and all of the national, state, and local elected leaders across the country who won their elections last night.

White House

President Obama will now have the opportunity to fully realize his vision for the arts and culture as he originally laid out four years ago. By successfully securing healthcare for artists, economic recovery funds that saved artists’ jobs through the National Endowment for the Arts, and ongoing support for appropriations that fund federal cultural agencies, the president has taken many steps in supporting the nonprofit arts sector.

We hope to encourage President Obama and his administration over the course of the next four years to remain focused on maintaining arts education in every classroom; allocating a larger budget for the arts as an economic generator for American jobs, products, and communities; and protecting charitable giving incentives that are the lifeblood of the nonprofit arts sector.

We are proud that the nonprofit arts sector has already played an important role in our nation’s economic recovery by generating $135 billion in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs, and returning $22 billion in tax revenue back to federal, state, and local coffers.

Congress

The make up of the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate, with a few races still to be called, is poised to remain relatively the same with modest gains by Democrats in both chambers. In the House of Representatives, we are happy to report that Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) won re-election in a hard-fought campaign made difficult by New York’s congressional redistricting plan. Also, Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) will continue to chair the House Appropriations Interior Subcommittee, ensuring a friend of the arts remains at the head of that very important panel. Read the rest of this entry »

A Healthy Mix of “Arts And…” & Collaboration

Posted by Gregory Burbidge On June - 14 - 2012

Gregory Burbidge

Last year at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, I remember two comments specifically from the town hall session. The first comment was from an emerging leader who thought that it was time for established leaders to move out of the way. It was, at best, nonsense.

Intrinsic Impact?

The second comment, the one that actually bothered me more throughout the full year, was a comment that the person was tired of hearing about the economic impact of arts and culture. They wanted a return to a focus on the intrinsic impact of arts and culture. I didn’t see that person this year, though with the focus of the conference being the release of the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report, that person may have chosen to skip a year. I myself am data hungry and the report will give me much to chew on.

This year, more than most, the thing I noted was a pleasant drift from intrinsic impact. The subtle drift in a direction I am happy to paddle towards is into the territory of collaboration and a healthy mix of “arts and.” When we listen closely to the needs of our community the arts can help provide answers to many issues. It does require a willingness to be flexible that a focus on intrinsic impact does not necessarily provide.

Arts and…healthcare

Two of the most interesting sessions to me this year explore the intersections of arts and health. Both the intersection of the arts and healing (Art of Healing) and what the arts can do to ease the transition home for our veterans (Boots to Brushes: The Arts Serving Veterans’ Needs) are ways that the arts are meeting at the cross sections of arts and healthcare. Read the rest of this entry »

Seems Like Old Times…and New Times

Posted by Theresa Cameron On June - 13 - 2012

Theresa Cameron

Last weekend I was lucky enough to attend another amazing Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio. The theme of this year’s meeting was “The New Normal” which was perfect for these times of change and transition in the arts in America.

Sessions ranged from very practical like New Ways of Doing Business and Arts Education as Social Reform to the innovation sessions like How Changing Demographics are Shifting Your Community. Every session was designed to get folks thinking about ways they need to look ahead and rethink and reimagine ways they are currently dong business.

In many ways it reminded me of an Americans for the Arts Convention I attended as  a young arts administrator in Los Angeles. That convention was another time of change in America and it was an important time for conversations around money, power, and the arts in the community.

Just like those times in L.A., this year’s event helped return us to important discussions around change and where are we going as community.

What will we look like in five to ten years?

Who will be leading us?

What are the new creative funding opportunities and how can we stay relevant? Read the rest of this entry »

Convention Town Hall: Experts Tackle Important Issues in the Arts

Posted by Tim Mikulski On June - 10 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

“Something big is going on in American cities. It is urban. It is real. It is transformative.” “It is a golden time for an urban renaissance.”

Those are just short soundbites from former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former Mayor of San Antonio Henry Cisneros during his introduction to our Town Hall session to start day two of the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention.

Following that stirring introduction, Cisneros joined five other panelists, and Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch, in a fascinating discussion about how the arts can be involved in all aspects of creative placemaking.

Opening Remarks

In a round of opening remarks, the panelists were asked to respond to Cisneros’ statements about the arts, cities, and placemaking.

Knight Foundation Vice President of Arts Programs Dennis Scholl asked several questions including: “What role are we going to play in this urban renaissance?” (as described by Cisneros) and “How are we going to seize this moment?” More importantly, he stated unequivocally, “I want a seat at the table and a national cultural policy.”

Los Angeles County Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker stated, “Arts and creativity is a special sauce…if we could bottle and resell it to people, everyone would want to buy it. The challenge is to sell it.”

Trey McIntyre Project (TMP) Executive Director John Michael Schert explained how the dance company chose to make Boise, ID, its home because founder Trey McIntyre wanted to be part of shaping the community—how the city sees itself and how others see it.

In a fine example of placemaking at its core, Schert described how vital TMP has become to the community as they were named economic development cultural ambassadors and the fact he can walk down the street and local residents know who he is and often look to TMP as a resource for guidance.  Read the rest of this entry »