Collaboration is the key to “Love and Forgiveness”

Posted by John Wood On August - 22 - 2014
John Wood

John Wood

The “Love and Forgiveness Project” at Detroit School of Arts, a recipient of the 2014 VANS Custom Culture grant, involves a collaboration between a variety of media and disciplines. Poet and educator Suzanne Scarfone is the lead curriculum writer for the Afghan Women’s Writers Project Lessons from Afghanistan: A Curriculum for Exploring Themes of Love and Forgiveness.

Suzanne choose the poem “Small Heart” as the starting point for our collaborative project. The poem was shared with musical composer Marilyn Perkins Biery, who created a composition for soprano, chorus, piano, and flute. The full composition will be recorded by Scott Koue at Detroit School of Arts in May 2014 with students and professional musicians from the community. The audio track will be used as the score for the animation project. Read the rest of this entry »

The Role of Corporations in the Grand Bargain of Detroit

Posted by Maud Lyon On July - 31 - 2014
Maud Lyon

Maud Lyon

If you want to know why art matters, look at Detroit. Art has become the centerpiece of the plan for Detroit to emerge from municipal bankruptcy. The visionary plan began to take shape last fall with three goals: protect the city’s retirees from disastrous cuts in their pensions; avoid years of contentious litigation that would hamstring efforts to rebuild Detroit; and avoid selling the collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) to pay the city’s debts.

Dubbed the Grand Bargain, indeed it is. Everyone has to contribute in one way or another, and everyone gives up something to make it work. A group of more than 13 foundations, national and local, have pledged $366 million over the next 20 years to support the pension fund. The State legislature approved $195 million in current dollars for this special fund (equivalent to $350 million over 20 years). The DIA’s board voted unanimously to raise $100 million, not for the DIA, but for the pension fund, and as of mid-July, have achieved pledges for 80% of that goal. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there a future for arts education?

Posted by Ken Busby On May - 21 - 2014
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

“The arts are under attack!”  We hear this cry on a consistent basis as state and local governments wrestle with priorities to balance budgets.  The arts always seem to be the first on the chopping block.  Detroit continues to face seemingly insurmountable challenges, and one of the suggestions for how to raise capital to satisfy creditors is to sell off the outstanding art collection of the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Selling the DIA’s collection is only a short-term fix, that doesn’t actually alleviate the problem at all.  It’s more for showmanship.  It’s a statement that we can live without the arts.  They are only important if they can be sold to raise money. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. 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 »

"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 »

The Strength of Diversity: The Strength of the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch On March - 12 - 2013
Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l)

Rep. John Lewis (r) receives the 2009 Congressional Arts Award from Robert Lynch (l) during Arts Advocacy Day.

One of our great American leaders, Congressman John Lewis, has been celebrated in the news quite a bit recently. It is the 48th anniversary of the civil rights march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, AL. The march was led by a young John Lewis—his skull was fractured, and for that sacrifice an enormous gain for civil rights and for voting rights was realized.

Congressman John Lewis is also a great arts leader. For years he has personally led the fight for fair tax treatment of artists. Many times over the last several decades, he has brought his powerful story of how the arts and the Civil Rights Movement were invaluable allies to Americans for the Arts gatherings.

He has pointed out that the arts—from folk or gospel or classical music performed in jails or the streets or in concert halls, to the visual arts in portrayals of the struggle through posters and placards—were a key to motivation and hope as the Civil Rights Movement progressed. We all honored him last week as he, Vice President Joe Biden, and others reenacted that famous bridge crossing.

During the State of the Union Address, President Obama highlighted the civil rights of the broad face of America when he honored the battles and sacrifice at Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall. And during this year’s Academy Awards ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama honored the transformative power of the arts and arts education for everyone when she said, “[The arts] are especially important for young people. Every day they engage in the arts, they learn to open their imaginations and dream just a little bigger and to strive everyday to reach those dreams.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Getting to Know Our Staff: Ten Questions with…Hannah Jacobson

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 28 - 2013
We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call "Ten Questions with...", in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us. Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and  this week I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch. 1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less. Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting 2. What do the arts mean to you? There has been no time where I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures. I feel a real personal connection to the arts even though my stick figure drawings didn’t lead to a fashion career or visual arts (success?). I was in my first play at 7, playing a dwarf in “The Hobbit” and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college.  This includes “Barnum,” which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals.  Yes, I still make them. In college I started singing. Thinking back on the trajectory, I never thought of the arts as a career path until college, but the arts were always everywhere and inevitable in my life (maybe I owe something to my extreme lack of athletic ability). At summer camp, I picked the two art courses (Art, Politics, & Society and Philosophy of Art) to take as part of the academic program. My AP History paper was on the culture wars with the National Endowment for the Arts, but it never occurred to me that it would lead me somewhere. It was in my first art history class in college that I realized it all led up to that point and career path. The arts contextualized me in a lot of ways. I can reach back to arts experiences to make sense of where I was at that specific point in my life. I think a prevailing assumption is that acting helps you explore yourself through becoming someone else, and I think that’s true, but I used to walk alone into the dark theatre and sit on stage looking at the empty seats and it felt just as deeply personal—the arts were a safe space for me, but they were also a sacred space. Sitting on the dark stage was different in an elemental way than any other place. It wasn’t just the performances, it was the essence of the space and allowing myself to live in that place, even if for just a moment.  The arts have always provided an access point for me, guiding me to accept and appreciate the moment and the state in which I find myself—good, bad, or anything in between, the arts have always helped me to see the vibrancy of the world and gain a true sense of being present. 3. If you could have any career you wanted (talent, education not required), what would it be and why? I would own a bakery. 100%. I realize in the age of food blogging that suddenly this is hugely en vogue, and I have read MULTIPLE times that bakers say that it’s no fun, but I am going to pretend I don’t know that and stick with the fact that I love baking.  That’s what I would do. 4. How many places have you lived? Where? Six. I was born in Santa Monica, CA and moved to Los Angeles at two. We then moved to Ann Arbor, MI, but not before my brother and I ran around the dining room for hours screaming. I asked if I could bring Chinatown, the ocean, and our lemon tree with us. I moved to New Haven, CT for college, spent most summers at home in Michigan with the exception of one in D.C,. and a semester abroad in London before returning to live in D.C. 5. What is the best compliment you’ve ever received? My a cappella group was singing at Mory’s, a Yale dinner club, and after finishing my solo (“You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt), one patron said, “When they were giving out personalities, they gave you two!” I took that to mean I had a lot of personality (and I’m sticking with that interpretation!). He also said I had “come one to a box.” His compliments were delightfully odd and shockingly insightful. 6. Name three people in history (dead or alive) with whom you would want to sit down to dinner. I’m going to have to have two dinner parties. For a philosophical, somber wine and cheese gathering I would like to speak with Roland Barthes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Viktor Frankl. Barthes’ Camera Lucida is one of the most influential books I read during college in terms of my academic interests and the way I learned to think about and interpret visual art, Hurston’s autobiography is a spectacularly exuberant study of a life lived in full color, and Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning, is staggeringly beautiful, universally meaningful, and beyond all else, powerfully human…and it has not left me since I first picked it up at age sixteen. For a fun, outdoor picnic (preferably hosted by F.Scott Fitzgerald, but I’m flexible), I would love to spend time with Claude Monet (I have loved him since the age of three, when I encountered him in Linnea in Monet’s Garden), Ruth Reichl (her memoirs are fantastic), and Ben Franklin (I’m a colonial history dork and 1776 is my favorite movie).  If I can include fictional characters, I would invite Eloise in a heartbeat.  My idol. 7. Would others say that you can dance? Explain. People call my dancing style “the Hannah” (Editor’s Note: Which I would describe as a little Peanuts’ Sally Brown meets Hair). I was also known as Boppity Short Girl in my a cappella group (see video). 8. What is the earliest memory you have of being an audience member for a live arts event? I think my first memory was at 2 or 3 years-old at a Sharon, Lois, & Bram concert. I can remember twirling in the aisles incessantly. The most meaningful performance I can remember was “Kiss Me Kate” on Broadway. The show inspired me beyond measure. It made me see what’s possible as a performer and how engaging a live performance can be. 9. What would the title of your autobiography be? “Always Looking Up: Life from the Five Foot (and a Quarter Inch) Line” 10. Finally, if you could paint a picture or take more photos of a place you have been in your life what would you paint or photograph? First of all, I wish I could paint!! This is a tough question because, like Tim (link), I take a lot of pictures, so it’s rare that I need MORE pictures—in fact, it would probably be more helpful if I were a little better at editing. That said, I wish I had taken more pictures of places—my dorms and that part of my life—during college in addition to pictures of other people, each other, etc. When I travel I feel that I capture most of the experience, but those times when I was just hanging out—I tried to appreciate them, but I’m not sure I could have known how really special those were at the time. So I wish I had more pictures of “Flower Couch” (see photo, as we were leaving it behind at school, tears!) that we got from a hotel liquidation sale my first week of freshman year…and the other accoutrements of collegiate life! Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at the 2012 National Arts Policy Round Table (Photo by Fred Hayes)

Christine Meehan and Hannah Jacobson at our 2012 National Arts Policy Roundtable (Photo by Fred Hayes)

We recently launched a new series on ARTSblog that spotlights the staff at Americans for the Arts that I call “Ten Questions with…”, in which I will ask everyone the same questions and see where it takes us.

Last time I interviewed myself as a test case and this time I have turned to Hannah Jacobson who currently serves as Executive Assistant to President and CEO Bob Lynch.

1. Describe your role at Americans for the Arts in 10 words or less.

Writing; editing; calendaring; herding; travel booking; prepping; printing; note taking; pinch hitting

2. What do the arts mean to you?

There has been no time when I wasn’t involved in the arts. There are pictures of me before I can remember next to and posing as Degas sculptures.

I was in my first play at seven, playing a dwarf in The Hobbit, and was in no fewer than six shows per year up until college. This includes Barnum, which led me to my great secret talent: balloon animals. Yes, I still make them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Questions to Ask Before Addressing Scale

Posted by Judi Jennings On December - 5 - 2012

Judi Jennings

Does size matter? Of course it does. But is this the right question to ask first?

How about approaching the question of size by first asking how arts, culture, and philanthropy advance positive social change? And how does size relate to equity?

Size matters locally and globally, but arts and culture drive change regardless of the size. Maria Rosario Jackson’s recent report on Developing Artist-Driven Spaces in Marginalized Communities convincingly argues that arts and culture create community identity, stimulate civic engagement, and affect neighborhood economies directly and indirectly.

Writer and cultural organizer Jeff Chang argues that “where culture leads, politics will follow” on national and international issues.

As a place-based grantmaker, my theory of change is that local people make the most appropriate and lasting advancements when they have the necessary tools and resources.

Allied Media Projects (AMP) in Detroit is a great example of place-based social change. AMP argues that “place is important” and “Detroit is a source of innovative, collaborative, low-resource solutions.”

Honoring local culture does not mean working in isolation. MicroFest USA, for example, led by the Network of Ensemble Theatres, is looking at how art and culture can create healthy communities in Detroit, Appalachia, New Orleans, and Hawaii. The idea is that performance-based learning exchanges like this can connect artists, activists, cultural workers, and thinkers working locally and nationally. Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping the Arts in Public Schools

Posted by Adriane Fink On September - 26 - 2012

KRIS Wine Art of Education contest

It’s a favorite time of year for students, teachers, and parents as the weather finally cools, leaves begin changing, and pumpkins pop up on every corner. Oh, and students across the country make the daily trek back to school.

For 16 lucky schools, those students and arts teachers can add a little more bounce to their steps. Last fall, consumers and arts advocates selected 16 grant winners by voting for their favorite K–12 public school during KRIS Wine’s Art of Education contest.

$25,000 was disseminated to schools all over the country to be used for arts programming. From Washington to Michigan and L.A. to Georgia, funds are being used for a wide range of projects. In an era where funding for strong arts programs consistently fall by the wayside, every extra dollar helps.

For the following schools KRIS Wine’s investment has made all the difference:

Kenmore Elementary, Kenmore, WA
Kenmore Elementary was the top awarded school in the KRIS wine “Art of Education” program. “We believe the money will greatly help us in continuing to provide an enriching educational experience,” said Principal Steve Hopkins. Kenmore Elementary plans to use the grant to host an artist-in-residence for the entire 2013 school year to conduct a series of visual art lessons with 500 students in its K–6 classes.

Lake Ridge Elementary, Magna, UT
Lake Ridge Elementary was able to fund costumes and scenery for The Avalanche, an opera created entirely by fourth grade students. The opera took the class nearly the whole school year to organize from writing the story and music to painting all 320 square feet of scenery. Barbara Knowlden, fourth grade teacher shared, “With the money from KRIS Wine, I was able to purchase the necessary supplies. It really helped my students’ self-esteem as they realized what they accomplished and how wonderful they looked in the costumes!” Read the rest of this entry »

Detroit Voters Save the Day for 125-Year-Old Museum

Posted by Kim Kober On August - 8 - 2012

Kim Kober

Last night, the three largest counties in Michigan passed a ballot measure to help sustain the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). Two of the counties, Oakland and Wayne, passed it by more than 60 percent, while the third county, Macomb, came down to the wire at 51 percent.

The museum was founded over 125 years ago, but began to suffer financially when public funding dried up in the nineties, followed by the Great Recession over the past several years. The measure was included on the ballot for the primary elections held in Michigan yesterday and its passage adds a property tax, also known as a millage, that will cost homeowners an average of $15–$20 annually.

The resulting funds will provide approximately $23 million in annual funding for the museum for each of the next ten years, covering their annual operations. During that time, the museum will focus on building their endowment to ensure the museum’s sustainability after the ten years have passed.

Detroit arts advocates employed some creative tactics in the weeks leading up to the primaries.

Free Art Friday, led by Skidmore Studio, invites artists and arts supporters to create art and leave it around the city with a note, for others to find and keep. Last Friday, the event began with a rally at the DIA in support of the museum. Just days before that, Art is for Everyone sponsored a rally in a nearby park. Between the two events, hundreds showed up in support of the museum, and the visibility made a difference.

Mike Latvis, director of public policy at ArtServe Michigan and chair of the State Arts Action Network noted, “This is a great win for arts and culture in Michigan. Yes, it is only one organization out of hundreds, but voters representing counties totaling 40 percent of the state’s population just said yes to funding the arts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Planting a Seed About Evaluation

Posted by Sioux Trujillo On May - 15 - 2012

Sioux Trujillo

I recently resigned from a public art program in Detroit that was housed inside a small arts college. During my time there, evaluation became a big part of my job. It was critical to track, define, and report for the future of the program to serve as a baseline for success for the arts institution. Before this, my idea of success was primarily based from the perspective of the studio artist.

The projects that were created in the neighborhoods of Detroit were much more complex because each project was so very different from one another, involved different people from diverse backgrounds, and had community defined goals and artist selection.

When I set out to create a plan of evaluation I realized this was going to be a complex task.

My first obstacle was simply trying to figure out what to call the projects. A seemingly simple thing turned into more than I expected.

I started to compile a list of all the different names that artists and organizations are using to define public art which involves the people around the project in some way.

•    Social Aesthetics
•    Relational Aesthetics
•    Social Justice Art
•    Community Art
•    Placemaking
•    Social Sculpture
•    New Genre Public Art
•    Tactical Media
•    Cultural Activism
•    Social Practice
•    Interventions
•    Happenings
•    Participatory Art Read the rest of this entry »

At the Crossroads of the Rustbelt and the Artist Belt

Posted by Roseann Weiss On April - 24 - 2012

Roseann Weiss

In the second week of April, when St. Louis was blooming with an early spring, 292 people came for Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads—an arts-based community development convening—to be part of the discussion about the arts and social change.

This conference combined the three Rustbelt to Artist Belt meetings that took place in Cleveland and Detroit with the At the Crossroads convening that took place in St. Louis in 2010.

I proposed this combination when attending the conference in Detroit and the idea stuck with Seth Beattie from Cleveland’s Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), the organizer of Rustbelt. With phone calls and emails back and forth and with a grant from the Kresge Foundation, we did it!

I wondered whether our gamble—combining the people who talk about creative regeneration of neighborhoods in the Rustbelt with people who practice community arts and social engagement—would pay off.

Would we all be able to significantly connect these threads that make up the fabric of positive social change? Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Advocacy Day from a Newcomer’s Point of View

Posted by Candy Nguyen Smirnow On April - 20 - 2012

Candy Nguyen Smirnow

I came to Arts Advocacy Day for the first time this year not knowing exactly what to expect.

I’ve never considered myself a political person. I rarely sign petitions and have never campaigned for any one organization or candidate. I’ve just always been very passive when it came to politics, most certainly because of my Gen X mentality.

So, when my boss asked me to join her I was hesitant, wondering does my voice really matter? But, I’ve learned a lot in the business world, and one of those things is never to pass up an opportunity to learn something new. So, I quickly reconsidered the opportunity to visit Capitol Hill.

As I walked into day one, I was amazed by the congregation of over 500 advocates. I was especially surprised by the number of young people who were participating.

When I was their age, I would’ve never even considered joining something like Arts Advocacy Day. I grew up in the public education system in Southern California, which unfortunately did not have much of an arts-infused curriculum.

In elementary school we had a “music cart,” where once a week Mr. Nelson would roll into the classroom with his keyboard and pass out the maracas and tambourines. It was everyone’s favorite day of class, but unfortunately it didn’t come quite often enough. Read the rest of this entry »

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.