What is the Future of Arts Journalism?

Posted by Robert Bettmann On July - 2 - 2014
Robert Bettmann

Robert Bettmann

Arts journalism is changing rapidly. Newspaper coverage has shifted, and the number of blogs and small magazines covering the arts has grown exponentially. While it’s uncertain what the structural changes in arts journalism will mean for the arts over the next twenty years, changes are happening and affecting audience participation.

As an artist, editor, arts writer and arts advocate, I was right at home moderating the “Future of Arts Journalism” panel at the recent Dance Critics Association (DCA) conference held in downtown Philadelphia at the Gershman Y. The DCA was created in 1973, “when a group of dance critics attending a Philadelphia arts conference saw a need for an organization that represented working dance critics.” The annual DCA conference draws leading arts writers from across the country for a weekend of panels, performances, and trainings. As she has before, critic Elizabeth Zimmer led the “Kamikaze Dance Writing Workshop”, which is a two-day boot camp for young and aspiring dance critics, and as he has before DCA Board Chair Robert Abrams organized the conference volunteers, and panelists. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern New Hampshire

Posted by Jamie Feinberg On February - 24 - 2014
Jamie Feinberg

Jamie Feinberg

Growing up in New Hampshire, my favorite days of the year — a few major holidays excepted — were Old Home Days. I loved the crafts, the animals, the special parades, performances and fireworks – it was part of what made our town so special. Cultural traditions still play a large role in defining local community identity in northern New Hampshire towns. While it can be tempting to focus exclusively on new art forms when we look for ways to use the arts as a driver of 21st century rural economic development, we’ve found that the key is often in discovering, acknowledging, appreciating, nurturing — and then marketing and building upon — what we already have.

The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts defines traditional arts as “artistic activities that are passed down from one generation to the next within families and communities and are regarded by the community as part of their heritage”. Whether we’re attending contra dances, purchasing locally woven ash baskets or fishing with a hand-tied fly, traditional arts feature prominently in both our daily life and in our celebrations.

Old Home Days were created in New Hampshire in the late nineteenth century to encourage sons and daughters who’d moved west after the Civil War to come home – for a visit or to stay – and to support their hometowns. This same need – to attract young people and to reconnect with one another — exists in our rural communities today. Traditional arts have always been showcased at these celebrations, but it isn’t just the locals who appreciate them. These events have become popular with both tourists and new residents, people who are looking for authentic experiences and a glimpse of a unique community and culture. People from eight to eighty-eight can be seen both observing and participating in these community celebrations, which reflect past traditions while showcasing the best the town currently has to offer. (Oh, and did I mention they’re fun?!) Read the rest of this entry »

Rural Arts Resources Hunting Guide: Finding your inner soup stone

Posted by Pat Boyd On February - 23 - 2014
Pat Boyd

Pat Boyd

Rural arts organizations like us are always hunting for resources. Sometimes it’s a treasure hunt.  Sometimes it’s a scavenger hunt. Sounds like fun. That must be why we just can’t stop searching out ways to support ourselves!  (Trumpets sound.) 

Resourceful is near the top of the list of most admirable traits of rural Americans, followed unfortunately but necessarily by self-reliant and thrifty.  We have to use as much imagination and skill to support arts opportunities as we do to create them.

You have license to go resource hunting within the territory defined by this circle of support and creation. Your carefully crafted mission and its resulting programs and projects come from there. They make your map, but there are no x’s to show where the hidden treasures lie.

Stray too far in your hunt for support and you risk losing your way in the real work of art.  Your role as an arts organization in your rural community is complicated in ways that belie the apparent simplicity of size and setting. Best be clear in your purpose.

As hunters and gatherers for the arts, we have to stand in that clearing and think about that purpose. If you are having trouble finding support, it is good to figure out what is the matter. So start with what really matters:

            What good does it do?                                                        

                        Who cares?

                                    What does it take to do it?

                                                What do you have now?

                                                            What are you looking for?

                                                                        How much do you need and when?

If you know the answers without thinking, you are probably wrong.  Take the time to explore the answers in full. If you go off half-cocked by making assumptions, you might hunt up some help and simultaneously create some problems you don’t need.

Getting and understanding the answers can lead to your best resources. You may be looking for support for general operations, a major program or a small project — starting up, sustaining, or starting over, you make your case successfully if you know.  Read the rest of this entry »

It’s the Ecology, Stupid

Posted by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas On February - 22 - 2014
Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas

Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas

Ecology and economy share the same root word, oikos referring to a household or family. Because it is at that level that these concepts can best be understood –a discrete unit that can sustain itself, financially, culturally and environmentally; large enough to have impact; diversified enough to be resilient, yet small enough to retain knowledge and control of its elements.

Economies in rural communities retains some of this compact nature. We operate at a level where our work can have measurable impact. We can communicate directly with elected officials, business leaders and seldom have to introduce ourselves more than twice.

Our original household economic goals were modest- we sought to derive a living by growing and marketing organic vegetables. Though our backgrounds were in the arts, we were used to performing duties not directly related to our vocation in order to pay the bills. But we quickly discovered that there were connections between the fields of culture and agriculture- not the least of which is the work of farming.  But for us, without the necessary balance of art, it would prove unsustainable.

Wormfarm Institute Combine

Wormfarm Institute Combine

Because of this, the Wormfarm Institute has always found the relationship between a vibrant culture and economic activity to be a natural one. Over the past several years, as our projects have grown larger and more complex, involving several communities simultaneously we have come to value projects in part in terms of economic development. This isn’t a stretch or compromise but instead a natural result of working to increase diversity, vibrancy and resilience whether in our farm fields or our small downtown. This coincides with a nascent re-localization movement growing in response to the global economic upheavals of the last 8 years. It is easier now to make this oikos (human-scale) argument since most folks are aware how unwise it is to be dependent upon distant financial markets operated by self-interested entities, personal or corporate, untethered to any community.

Read the rest of this entry »

It’s About Time; It’s About Place

Posted by Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas On February - 21 - 2014
Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Donna Neuwirth and Jay Salinas.

Some are born rural, some achieve rural, and some have rural thrust upon them. I am somewhere between the second two and have been immersed in rural life in Wisconsin for 20 years now. Though I was formed by urban and suburban places, none would claim me.

I used to call it portable roots and came by them honestly. Ours was a military family who moved every 3-4 years. There was once a time when my peripatetic life was unusual, but now even people like myself, who are most passionate about the places we live, once lived somewhere else and may likely relocate again. I live as I believe we all do—with varying degrees of awareness, along a rural/urban continuum.

This continuum is especially vivid to me today as I write from Mexico City, which has a population of 25 million.  Here among ancient and contemporary ruins, throngs of people, and centuries of visible history on nearly every corner, is live music or bizarre performances; every wall is either a reminder of Spanish conquest or crowded with murals and graffiti. The stream of romantic couples, the well behaved children, the ornate churches, the incense, the roaming vendors, and the incredible street food all goes through my senses into my brain and winds up comingled with Fermentation Fest or Roadside Culture Stands. Experiences here in Mexico for a couple weeks (during a polar vortex back home) can’t help but shape ideas to enliven and transform our very small, very different agricultural community. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning for the Arts in Rural Wyoming Communities

Posted by Michael Lange On February - 19 - 2014
Michael Lange

Michael Lange

Planning for the Arts in Rural Wyoming Communities

Due to Wyoming’s population and rural nature, the arts and cultural entities have the ability to be considered in key community development strategies in Wyoming. Below are two of the ways that the Wyoming Arts Council (WAC) has been focusing on development of the arts in rural communities.

Wyoming is one of the largest states geographically, but has the smallest population of any state with only 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 more than 1,000 people, and only a handful of those have a population more than 10,000 people.

Getting the Arts in Community Plans

The Wyoming Rural Development Council (WRDC), part of the Wyoming Business Council, has developed a comprehensive assessment program to help communities develop locally conceived and locally driven development strategies, and provide a long term support system to help achieve development goals. Of the 99 incorporated communities, the WRDC has facilitated community assessments in almost 80 Wyoming communities, as well as revisited communities at five and 10 year increments. Read the rest of this entry »

savannah

Savannah Barrett

There are many ways that the arts contribute to a more diversified economy. As the funding consortium ArtPlace America demonstrates, creative placemaking has become an investment priority for many funders. With 32% of arts event attendees travelling from another county, cultural tourism is increasingly popular as an earned income generator for small towns across America. Arts organizations and the events that they host generate a significant boost to the economy, estimated at $135.2 billion annually by the Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study. The question is no longer IF the arts contribute to a thriving economy, but HOW to best employ arts and cultural amenities to promote economic stability and social uplift in disparate communities.

Many strategies have worked well in communities large and small across the nation, and many of those position the arts at the strategy’s core. Still, there is no silver bullet to address the comprehensive needs of a whole community, as a different approach is necessarily used in each success. While we should study, reflect, and aspire to the opportunities for investment that each type of arts and economic opportunity provides, we as artists and organizers must envision a plan with our communities that amplify the resonance of our own cultural assets. That reverberation attracts others, and that collective energy can resound across the spectrum of a place to impact the social, domestic, and economic health of your community.

Engage Your Whole Community
Opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives and cultural experiences aren’t urban amenities, but quality of life amenities. When a region (rural or urban) envisions a future through art and demonstrates consistent offerings of varied activities that people can not only observe but participate in, those people (both tourists and locals) have the kinds of remarkable experiences that inspire devotion to a destination. The buzz that the arts and culture prompt in a community draws people into social space, which attracts business. Those kinds of thriving markets accomplish a dual task: they engage with their cultural richness by coming together as a whole community, which attracts new markets overtime and continues to honor their cultural heritage in a genuine, sustainable way. 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.

Taking the Arts to Rural Counties

Posted by Jay Dick On November - 26 - 2013
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

I recently found myself in Santa Fe, NM for a meeting of the Steering Committee of the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) Rural Action Caucus (RAC). While Americans for the Arts has partnered with NACo for over two decades, this was the first time that we have taken the arts out of the NACo Arts Commission and into one of the two the larger caucuses of the association (the other being the Large Urban Caucus).

While working with the NACo Arts Commission has proven to be beneficial in promoting the arts on the county level, it has been limited in scope. Many of NACo’s members didn’t even know there was an Arts Committee. Moving the conversation to the RAC exposes the benefits of the arts on a much larger scale.  There are 3,069 counties in America. Of this number, 70% are considered rural with populations under 50,000.  As we know, in every county there is always some form of arts and culture already in existence, but people often take them for granted. For example, at the beginning of my talk, I asked the attendees who had cultural resources, most, but not all raised their hand. After my talk, one County Commissioner approached me to say she didn’t raise her hand, but as I talked, she realized that in fact she did have cultural assets. She just took them for granted and didn’t see them as economic engines.   Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Why Does a Community Need an Arts District?

Posted by Jeffrey Parks On July - 26 - 2013
Jeffrey Parks

Jeffrey Parks

The threshold question for any use of public and private resources is “Why should we allocate these precious resources to create an arts district when there are so many needs in our community?”

Indeed, an arts district may not be the priority when all of the needs of a community have been analyzed.  There are specific circumstances that merit the consideration of an arts district in communities. The need will set the metrics for the success of a district.

Some of the specific needs which an arts district can support are:

  • Urban revitalization. The major strategy for this need is attracting artists and arts organization to underutilized properties.  If revitalization is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Increase in access to the arts and cultural services for the residents of the district.
    • Increased employment opportunities for residents of the district.
    • Attracting investment, new businesses and residents to the district.
    • Enhancing property values in the district.
  • Economic development of the region by expanding arts and cultural offerings that appeal to the “creative class” in fields ranging from software engineers to medical professionals to graphic designers. If this is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Ability of businesses to attract creative class employees, rather than moving or adding offices in distant communities.
    • Attraction of creative businesses into the community.
    • Increase in new businesses generated by local residents or graduates of local colleges.
  • Adding an arts component to an existing retail district to enhance vitality and competitiveness of an urban center. If this is the goal, the metrics may include:
    • Increased revenues for district businesses.
    • New businesses in the district.
    • Making the district a destination, with multiple attractions including shopping, art galleries, arts facilities and events.

In most communities the reason for establishing an arts district will be combination of the reasons above.  It is important to understand that districts and “creative placemaking” are not ends in and of themselves. There is a great deal of conversation about the metrics for success for these endeavors. The best way for a community to measure its success is to set goals and establish the metrics in advance. This important decision will inform everything from the type of organization to drive a district to what resources need to be marshaled to create the desired results.

 

The Human Experience of Our Creative Community

Posted by Lori McKinney-Blankenship On July - 25 - 2013
Lori McKinney-Blankenship

Lori McKinney-Blankenship

I am sitting in The Room Upstairs, our living room style theatre, cross legged on a comfortable couch. To my right, my good friend Tiffany is sculpting an octopus out of polymer clay and giggling with her brilliant musician boyfriend Jordan; he just came off the stage after an intense improvisational jam. On stage now is resident artist Maggie playing folk songs on her guitar. Behind her is a beautiful space scene projected on the screen, mixed with video clips of the ocean. It’s beautiful.

To my left is Bobby, a man from the neighborhood who we first met as he collected cans to recycle. He absolutely loves it here. He has a special chair in the back; it’s a soft cushy seat, and he kicks back, totally engaged from the time the music kicks in until it finishes at the end of the night. We gather that there isn’t much more in life that is available for him; he spends a good bit of time pushing a shopping cart around. Everyone here welcomes him with open arms. In the front row is an autistic lady who rocks hard back and forth to the music and comes with her caretaker, a musician, every week. There are high school kids, college kids, a couple of grandparents, lots of 20- & 30-somethings, and a three-legged black dog. Read the rest of this entry »

Small Town Renaissance

Posted by Lori McKinney-Blankenship On July - 24 - 2013
Lori McKinney-Blankenship

Lori McKinney-Blankenship

Coming from a small town with a population of 7,000, my perspective and experience is quite different from others. The actual county population is 30,000, so the city number is a bit misleading, but still, Princeton, West Virginia is most definitely a small town. Our cultural district is developing in a once abandoned downtown around The RiffRaff Arts Collective, a cooperative group of visual, performing, literary, and healing artists. The concentration of creative activity pouring from our space spilled out and painted the block, and then connected with all the positive pockets of energy and possibility in the downtown. Now, the neighborhood is experiencing a major turnaround complete with government buy-in and major private investment, sparked by something as organic as a few colorful, visionary artists inhabiting a building.

It’s no ordinary building, mind you; this reborn turn of the century structure includes an old ballroom turned living room theatre and recording studio, an art gallery, and artists studios. Across the street is Stages Music School, where music is taught to induce joy and change the world. The heavy dose of positive energy is working its way up and down the street, which has been stigmatized for decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Artists of Change

Posted by James LeFlore On July - 23 - 2013
James LeFlore

James LeFlore

The types of cultural district that I like best are those that are the hardest to define. They’re not the type that is bolstered by a fine arts institution or even have organized events that you can rely upon for your evening and weekend pleasure.  I’ve always been drawn to the artist-made hot spots that evolve over time and transform areas of town known as a “dud” into a “hub”.

Why is it that artists are so good at being able to do that? What do artists know that is so potently effective at revitalizing old buildings and empty neighborhoods where others coming beforehand have failed, given up, and left ruins to slowly fade into darkness? The answer to artists’ effectiveness at environmental change is not a secret, but it does involve magic. First, the power they wield comes directly from their ability to harness the power of unbridled creativity. The illusion they achieve is due to their capacity to suspend reality just long enough for cool things to start happening – as if they can animate the dead. Artists are the best-trained professional I can think of in the art of improvisation; and when the chips are down we all must know how to improvise, right? Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.