Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2014

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 20 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Rural/Urban Exchange and the Rural Model

Posted by Matthew Glassman On February - 24 - 2014
Matthew Glassman

Matthew Glassman

For many of us working in the rural arts and culture movement, years have been spent incubating and developing our model. This April marks Double Edge Theatre’s 20th year of its Farm Center in Ashfield, MA—once a thriving dairy farm community that lost almost all of its nearly thirty farms over the course of the 80s. Double Edge previously was based in Boston and had established itself as an international company both in make-up and its touring/ research activities. The company first inhabited the Farm as a part time theatrical laboratory in April 1994 and eventually moved its full-time operations here by 1997 to create an international center for performance, collaboration, and training in the heart of rural Western Mass.

The Farm Center, a vision of Double Edge Founder and Artistic Director Stacy Klein, is this singular sort of place where creative research thrives and creativity and sustainability are deeply intertwined. The mutuality and duality between ‘W’ Work and ‘w’ work is fluid and holistic in the best and most earthbound sense. Performance, farming, administration, education, and deep individual and group research flow harmoniously on this fertile landscape in cyclical evolutions.

A slow, steady, and organic development has taken place in the past twenty years that includes renovations of barns, animal stalls, and buildings – but also a focused honing of our artistic practice and methodology and a continuous elevation of collaboration with our local community.

After recent touring to major cities in transition such as Baltimore and Hartford, as well as to more developed and gentrified places like Chicago and Washington D.C. (not to mention Moscow), it has become clear to our company through these interactions with these urban communities that now is the time for more highly developed inter-local exchange and cross pollination between these rural models and urban contexts as well as cross-pollination through rural to rural exchanges. Read the rest of this entry »

November 2013 Elections Recap

Posted by Jay Dick On November - 8 - 2013
Jay Dick

Jay Dick

Depending on where you live, the past several months might have inundated you with campaign ads (Virginia), or left you wondering – what election?   Off year elections are like that, with some people hardly even noticing there was an election.  While not as dramatic as even year elections, there were a fair amount of changes that should positively impact the arts overall.

In 2013, there were two governors up for election (New Jersey and Virginia) along with the New Jersey legislature and the Virginia House of Delegates and a smattering of special elections to fill vacant legislative seats.  Further, and probably most surprisingly, there were 433 cities with a population of over 30,000 that held mayoral elections this year.  Of this number, 74 were in cities with a population of over 100,000.  Lastly, six states—Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Texas and Washington—voted on a total of 31 statewide ballot measures.

I won’t go into the details of each race, as there are many online sources to get this information, but rather I will focus on each of the winners as they relate to the arts.  As I can’t overview every race, I will also focus on newly elected officials, not incumbents who won re-election.  But, I will say this, I am very happy to see so many pro-arts winners! Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

President Obama has said repeatedly that “We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.” According to Forbes Magazine, “If there was a central theme to the president’s remarks, it was innovation.”

Yet, although everybody is talking about how innovation is what we need and will solve our jobless dilemma, few people know what innovation is or how we get it, or critically, what our communities must do to meet the challenges of the new age.

It is becoming clear that art and culture districts are vital to ensuring vibrant economic activity in our cities. They are foreshadowing a whole new economy based upon creativity and innovation.

Fortunately, Americans for the Arts (AFTA), who as early as 1998 researched the emergence of such districts in which the arts were used as part of a strategy for revitalizing cities, has now launched an even more ambitious effort:

A plan to produce an update of the earlier report, and more importantly, a three year effort – inviting mayors and other city executives, architects, city planners, and experts in the field to “blog”, and to participate in webinars and conferences to help cities and towns across America to reinvent their community for the new age, this rapidly emerging age of  “creativity and innovation.” Read the rest of this entry »

"Demon Eye 1," by Steinar Jakobsen, 2005, oil on alucore. From the Schwartz Art Collection of the Harvard Business School.

“Demon Eye 1,” by Steinar Jakobsen, 2005, oil on alucore. From the Schwartz Art Collection of the Harvard Business School.

In a recent development in the corporate art world, many of the most important business colleges and schools are now collecting art and using it as a learning tool.

As I was updating the information for the new 2013 edition of the International Directory of Corporate Art Collections, I discovered a surprising and unexpected growth sector—business schools and colleges have begun to form art collections as a necessary component to their business curriculum.

During the past 20 years, it has become more recognized and accepted that art in a corporate environment has numerous benefits—for employees, clients, and the company itself. So it is heartening to see that many of the most important business colleges have developed an art program as an adjunct to their more traditional course offerings.

Primarily a North American phenomenon, some of the business schools with important collections include the Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, Harvard Business School, the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, the London School of Economics, and the Stephen Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. Read the rest of this entry »

Yesterday’s Tragedy in Boston

Posted by Robert Lynch On April - 16 - 2013
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

The tragedy in Boston yesterday was horrific and inexplicable and all of us at Americans for the Arts send our deepest sympathy and thoughts to those injured and to their families.

As we saw and heard things unfold from our offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, the Americans for the Arts staff began calling family and friends and members in the Boston area to see if those closest to us were okay. Some of us had loved ones right there at the site watching or running. Thankfully, all were uninjured.

But it made us think how connected, how close, how much a part of a community we all are even if scattered all across our country. In some ways that makes this tragedy all the more hurtful because it was aimed at community and fellowship itself, the very kind of coming together that marathons, and festivals, and arts events try to create. It takes aim at those who live in a community as well as tourists and visitors from across the world, that broader community created by an event like the Boston Marathon.

For me, as someone who grew up in the Boston area and spent my high school years blissfully wandering the city, this happened on sacred ground. Boylston Street was the place of high school proms, or visits to one of our nation’s great libraries, the site of New Year’s Eve First Night Celebrations, and the Lennox Hotel lounge right there was where my parents would go for end of week celebrations and pop up opera performances.

Sadly, terrible events trying to create hard and horrible memories are now all too common. But in some ways our best defense is to keep investing in the community-building arts activities that, individually and together, form the hallmark of our collective work.

Our hope is the hope itself generated by bringing people together through the arts. My hope is that what we all do in our small way in our many arts organizations across America will make the writing of notes like this one someday unnecessary.

Kara Robbins

Kara Robbins

I work in Newton, a moderately affluent suburb outside of Boston. Newton is blessed with a community of smart, talented, hard-working, and well-rounded individuals and families. Essentially, it’s the target audience for the arts—except these folks are busy!

When the Newton Cultural Alliance (NCA), an umbrella organization for participating arts and culture nonprofits, incorporated in 2009, Newton had 2 orchestras, 2 large music schools, 4 choruses, 3 visual arts organizations, 2 community theaters, 2 high school theaters, 1 nationally recognized ballet school, a museum, 3 colleges, and more.

On the business side, while Newton is one city, it is divided into 13 villages so there is no distinct city center, but rather many village centers. In theory, this is a very endearing idea but in practice, it is somewhat divisive and, until some recent efforts, no merchant association has succeeded in uniting the businesses or the community.

That being said, our local businesses are extremely supportive of area nonprofits and are always willing to donate to auctions, hang flyers, and participate in special events. In and of itself, this is a very helpful stance but it doesn’t build long-lasting or thriving relationships that will truly make a change in the community. That’s where NCA has picked up the ball.  Read the rest of this entry »

12 Ways to Market Your Public Art (Part One)

Posted by Elysian McNiff On February - 14 - 2013
Elysian McNiff

Elysian McNiff

It is a challenge to produce effective marketing strategies for our public art projects and programs.

Public art administrators and artists are faced with limited resources; we all wish we had more time, money, and capacity.

How do we go beyond our websites and Facebook pages and get the word out about our public art projects?

This two-part post (check out part two tomorrow) is a compilation of methods from New England-based public art administrators. One fail proof marketing formula does not exist; public art projects and budgets, locations, and audiences can be vastly different.

Consider these suggestions a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story and use what works for you.

1. Post on your website. The Boston Arts Commission features projects with interviews and community photographs on its website. Connecticut Office of the Arts Art in Public Spaces Program Manager Tamara Dimitri wants to “build an army of supporters” and help protect her program, so she plans to provide information about the importance of collecting art on the Office of the Arts’ website.

2. Spread the word in press releases and newsletters. Vermont Arts Council Program Director Michele Bailey uses press releases to get community input on a project and announce unveilings; however, she laments that press releases only touch a small audience. This brings up an important question: how do we communicate to those outside of our circle and engage the general public? Check out some of the innovative methods in the next post. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s All About Creativity

Posted by John Eger On March - 27 - 2012

John Eger

Tom Torlakson, the California State Superintendent of Education, convenes the first of several meetings in Coronado, CA later this month to talk about “how the arts and creative education can transform California classrooms.” He also plans to produce a new publication called A Blueprint for Creative Schools.

Just as important, the California Legislative Joint Committee on the Arts will hold hearings on SB 789, legislation that will require the Governor to develop a “creativity index,” which in turn would be used to measure creativity in public schools statewide.

SB 789, authored by Senator Curren Price (D-District 26) and introduced last February, was approved by all the appropriate Senate committees and is now moving toward passage.

This movement by California matches the legislation signed by the governor of Massachusetts last spring, and is much like a bill working its way through the state legislature in Oklahoma to also establish a creativity index.

Equally significant, Maine, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Colorado, and Wisconsin are beginning similar discussions and Nebraska is getting itself organized, according to CreativeChallenge, Inc., which monitors creativity discussions worldwide. The group notes that Seoul, Alberta, and Edmonton—and probably other cities and nations around the world—are following these efforts closely.

Clearly something big is happening across America. Read the rest of this entry »

State Arts Funding: Good News! There Isn’t That Much Bad News

Posted by Justin Knabb On February - 16 - 2012

Justin Knabb

While state legislative sessions are just getting underway in the new year, perpetual campaigning for the election is no doubt leaving everyone already feeling cranky and cynical (or is that just me?).

But take heart, advocates! Despite the cornucopia of GOP candidate positions on public arts funding—ranging anywhere from mild tolerance to total abhorrence—President Obama just proposed an increase in NEA funding!

And on the state level, while some familiar faces are making waves, several states are receiving some great surprises and proposals for steady funding:

Connecticut
Last month, Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) announced the launch of a $3.1 million local-level creative placemaking initiative in July. Gov. Dannel Malloy’s FY13 budget recommends eliminating all direct art support and redirecting those funds to a statewide marketing campaign that would include tourism. The state’s budget office indicates that arts organizations will be able to compete for $14 million in funding with other programs in the DECD.

Florida
The state legislature is proposing an increase to Florida Division of Cultural Affairs Cultural and Museum Grants. These grants were appropriated $2 million for the current fiscal year, and for FY13 the House and Senate are currently recommending $3,025,000 and $5,050,000, respectively.

Kansas
After zeroing out the state arts commission last year, Governor Sam Brownback reversed his decision and proposed $200,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. However, these funds would be for a new Kansas Creative Industries Commission, a merger of the Kansas Arts Commission and the Kansas Film Commission, housed under the Department of Commerce. Read the rest of this entry »

The STEAM Camps Are Coming

Posted by John Eger On January - 30 - 2012

John Eger

It’s early in the new year but educators across the country are already making plans for the summer and they are thinking STEAM…with the arts playing a critical role.

As demand for a new workforce to meet the challenges of a global knowledge economy is rapidly increasing, few things could be as important in this period of our nation’s history than an interdisciplinary education that brings the arts and sciences together. Not surprisingly, so-called STEAM Camps signal an increased role for the arts as part of the new curriculum.

Most analysts studying the new global economy agree that the growing “creative and innovative” economy represents America’s salvation. The STEAM camps represent a totally new approach to the curriculum, and forge a new beginning in reinventing K-12 education.

Urban Discovery Academy, a charter school in San Diego has partnered with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD); Concordia University in Mequon, WI, together with the Chicago Lutheran Education Foundation (CELF); and the largest Lutheran school systems in Northern Indiana, and other educational organizations across the country are thinking about or have already started hosting STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) Camps to jumpstart education learning for the new economy.

STEAM is a direct response to STEM, the Bush Initiative called the America Competes Act, which authorized funds to help students earn a bachelor’s degree, math and science teachers to get teaching credentials, and provide additional money to help align K-12 math and science curricula to better prepare students for college. Read the rest of this entry »

The WOO WAY

Posted by Erin Williams On December - 5 - 2011
Erin Williams

Erin Williams (Photo by Paul Kapteyn)

Worcester, MA, is a New England industrial city busy reinventing itself.

Worcester is the heart of the Commonwealth; home to 180,000+ residents and 32,000 college students.

In the late 1990s a group of cultural organizations came together to create a unique coalition, in partnership with the City of Worcester, which shines a spotlight on the creative activity taking place in the region.

The Worcester Cultural Coalition is the unified voice of the cultural community. Today 72 cultural organizations (from the stately Worcester Art Museum to the feisty arts collective Fireworks) work together with creative entrepreneurs to incite a panoply of creative activity, encouraging residents and visitors alike to get engaged.

Inspired by the work of Charles Landry, an international authority on city futures and the use of culture in city revitalization, the Worcester Cultural Coalition organized a series of forums in 2005 to encourage a civic dialogue about our great city.

More than four hundred people – artists, entrepreneurs, business and civic leaders, students, and neighborhood activists – took part in many conversations led by Landry over the course of four days, which opened up a dialogue and encouraged people to express their unique vision of the city and its future direction. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Business Investment in Arts Education Look Like?

Posted by Stan Rosenberg On September - 13 - 2011

MA Senate President Pro Tem Stan Rosenberg

This blog continues my conversation with Harvey White that took place during the “Heating Up STEM to STEAM” session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention earlier this summer. Read Mr. White’s initial comments here.

Sen. Stan Rosenberg:
“No, it’s not dumb, but I also want to do a little counterpoint here to see where you might go with this…OK, so I think the key role for the business leaders is to provide the leadership to push the government in the direction to make the investment and make the investment in a wiser way.

We spend $5 billion on education K-12 in Massachusetts. I don’t think it’s fair to go to the business community and tell them to give us another $1-2 billion to run that system. But I would sure love to use the leadership and capacity that they have to push the governor and other people to use some of that money more wisely.

Harvey White:
But you have no qualms at all in saying to the business that you ought to spend another billion on factories? Read the rest of this entry »

Investing in Arts Education to Ensure a Strong Future Workforce

Posted by Harvey White On September - 13 - 2011

Harvey White

During the “Heating Up STEM to STEAM” session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this past summer, I engaged Massachusetts Senate President Pro Tem Stan Rosenberg in a tête-à-tête about workforce development. Below is the first half of a conversation we had on the panel (You can access the full session via Convention On-Demand):

“This [educational] system that we have today was created by industry to create the workforce they needed. We’re going to need to get business leaders [involved], as it happened in Massachusetts. If you [arts education advocates] want to talk to somebody other than your arts friends or your educator, talk to your business man—that if you’re going to have the workforce that you want, you need to have the kind of education system that will give you that workforce.

This [expanded arts education] will not, in my opinion, happen if it does not get embraced by business. And I could go on for a long time about what I think that may mean. But talk about wanting to expand this—the next person you want to talk to besides your neighbor and your arts advocate [is the business man]…

Why do business people not embrace this? And [not] give money to it? What I saw was that individual business people give a lot of money. From a philanthropic standpoint, most every community prospers from the rich people from the business world that give money. But businesses don’t. Why is that? I think it’s really very simple…it’s called quarterly earnings. Read the rest of this entry »

One of the "100 Faces of War" portraits by Matthew Mitchell

On September 11, 2001, the Animating Democracy team was on a conference call with New York-based colleagues when a faint newscast on one of their TVs emitted something about a plane crashing into the World Trade Center.

What started out as a call to fine tune preparations for a national convening of Animating Democracy grantees slated to be held two days later morphed inevitably into cancellation plans, then into disbelief and mourning with the rest of the country.

Two months later, we reconstituted our plan. More than 100 grantees and guests gathered in Chicago to resume our intended work of exploring the role of the arts in fostering meaningful and productive civic dialogue.

With 9/11’s still raw emotions beating in our hearts, we asked artists Marty Pottenger and Terry Dame to help us make sense of it all, particularly the questions that had begun to infiltrate the American psyche: What does it mean to be an American? What is your relationship to America right now? What course should the U.S. take?

Terry’s slow, distorted, eerie, yet beautiful rendition of “America the Beautiful,” played on a homemade gamelon, created a different kind of space in which we moved ourselves physically, psychologically, and intellectually, guided by Marty’s creative facilitation around these questions.

This arts-based dialogue exemplified the potency of arts and culture to create a space, an invitation, and a spark for meaningful dialogue.

It was just what was needed as this collection of arts practitioners, leaders, and their community partners considered how they too could and would animate and strengthen democracy in their own communities around issues affecting people’s daily lives. Read the rest of this entry »

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

Arts Education

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

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