New Cabinet Nominees Have Pro-Arts Records

Posted by Robert Lynch On June - 10 - 2013
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Just a few weeks ago, President Obama nominated two talented and accomplished individuals to lead the U.S. Commerce Department and U.S. Transportation Department. Penny Pritzker of Chicago and Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte were nominated to serve as Secretaries of Commerce and Transportation, respectively. I’m pleased to say that both have impressive connections to the arts and arts policy and this is encouraging because their agencies have been important to supporting the non-profit arts sector.

Americans for the Arts is working with both agencies to further an arts agenda. For example, I serve on the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board, which reports to the Commerce Secretary, on strategies to further our national, and international, travel and tourism sectors. The arts and culture are a major reason for tourists to visit the United States and through the Board’s advocacy subcommittee, which I lead, we are working on recommendations to strengthen the ease of travel; the security of our visa system; the support for our institutions, venues, and events; and the visitor experience. From a business sector perspective, our Arts & Economic Impact IV study shows that the nonprofit arts have a $135 billion a year economic impact, support 4.1 million jobs, and return almost $10 billion a year in revenue to the federal Treasury. The Commerce Department has many programs that our arts leaders and creative industries are pursuing and utilizing to support their businesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Collaboration is Key in D.C.

Posted by Sunny Widmann On April - 17 - 2013
Sunny Widmann

Sunny Widmann

I moved to Washington D.C. four years ago, after living in a village of 600, and I absolutely love where I live. I enjoy trying new restaurants, seeing world premiere plays, watching drummers and acro-yogis perform in my favorite public park and the proximity of it all.

Although I cannot deny the benefits of living near national cultural centers such as the Smithsonian museums, I find that most of my moments of bliss have come from time spent away from the national mall, in the city’s smaller pockets of cultural activity. Therefore, I argue that moving resources and attention from the center to other parts of the city would bring D.C. to the next level.

During a panel discussion I moderated at the Corcoran last year, I heard from D.C. arts champions on the challenges of working in a city where a small but thriving local arts scene is often overshadowed by the national centers. For those of us on the consumer side, there is also a downside when the emphasis is placed on “tourist D.C.” rather than “local D.C.”.

The prevailing value proposition in our field today centers around creative placemaking. If you buy into this concept (as the National Endowment for the Arts does), you believe that arts-related activity helps neighborhoods flourish, spurs economic activity, and broadly benefits the entire community.

Though I am skeptical of the metrics used in some of these studies, I have observed that when a cultural center such as a small music venue opens in my neighborhood, cafes, restaurants, and even other arts organizations pop up around it, drawing more visitors to the area. This influx of money and people is consistent with the vibrancy indicators used by ArtPlace.  Read the rest of this entry »

2013 Annual Convention Spotlight: Exploring Pittsburgh’s Art Community

Posted by Michelle Clesse On April - 17 - 2013
Michelle Clesse

Michelle Clesse

An installation art museum, a nationally renowned glass studio, and a cartoon museum walk into a bar. Just kidding. Museums and studios do not have legs, and therefore, cannot walk anywhere.

Plenty of cities have great art resources for artists and art enthusiasts alike. When I stumbled into Pittsburgh in 2009, I was amazed by the combination of major arts institutions, niche arts organizations, and scrappy little start-up arts groups; but even more so by how approachable and accessible the Pittsburgh arts community was.

I had a hotbed of arts at my fingertips. By the time I’d been in Pittsburgh for a year, I’d taken two glass blowing classes at the Pittsburgh Glass Center, dragged every out-of-town visitor to the Society for Contemporary Craft, and learned about Gertie the Dinosaur at the ToonSeum.

Now, I certainly didn’t limit myself to the visual arts scene. During my first year I also saw the Pittsburgh Ballet perform twice, checked out the Pittsburgh Symphony, and saw The Mikado performed by CMU’s School of Drama.

As I’ve settled into the city and put down more roots, I still frequent some of my favorite art spots fairly regularly. I have also continued to explore both large and small performance art groups, while keeping my hands busy (and dirty) at many of the public access and cooperative art studios. Read the rest of this entry »

Assessing Cultural Infrastructure

Posted by G. Martin Moeller, Jr. & Scott Kratz On April - 2 - 2013
Scott Kratz

Scott Kratz

Most of the world’s great cultural capitals emerged organically through a virtuous cycle in which creative people flocked to prosperous cities, where they helped to create or expand prominent cultural institutions, which in turn attracted more creative people, and so on.

During the modern era, however, the historically strong correlation between economic vitality and cultural resources diminished somewhat. In some cases, new centers of economic activity developed with unprecedented speed, making it difficult for cultural institutions—which tend to have long gestation periods—to keep up. In the U.S. in particular, the migration of substantial wealth to the suburbs often left venerable urban institutions impoverished, while depriving nascent cultural organizations of the critical mass necessary for success.

The past couple of decades have been marked by a revival of interest in cultural infrastructure and a growing belief that museums, performing arts centers, libraries, programmed civic spaces and other cultural facilities can themselves foster social and economic progress.

The poster child of this trend is the Guggenheim Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry, which has been credited with the revival of a small, rather run-down industrial city in Spain. Careful analysis of economic and other data suggests that the influence of this one project is often overstated, but there can be no doubt that it was a significant catalyst for urban revival, not only because of the museum’s mission and content, but also because of its exhilarating architectural form.  Read the rest of this entry »

Open the Door & Come In: Celebrating Penny Balkin Bach

Posted by Liesel Fenner On March - 27 - 2013
Liesel Fenner

Liesel Fenner

“Open the Door and Come In,” a sweet phrase invented as a fortune cookie prediction by her granddaughter, fully expresses the life and work of Penny Balkin Bach, Public Art Dialogue’s (PAD) 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

Penny is the longtime executive director of the Association for Public Art (APA; formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association) in Philadelphia; an Americans for the Arts Public Art Network (PAN) Council member; and a curator, producer, educator, writer, activist, advocate, mentor, world traveler, bon vivant, and arts administrator extraordinaire.

Her brilliant leadership and vision in the field was deservedly recognized and honored at the award ceremony on February 15 at the annual College Art Association conference in New York City. Surrounded by friends; APA board, PAN, and PAD members; and other fans and colleagues, Penny provided a sweeping overview of exemplary projects she’s curated, shepherded, and protected over the past thirty years.

Her talk, “Separation Anxiety: Rites of Passage in Public Art,” provided an overarching theme that followed the philosophy of Joseph Campbell’s stages of a hero’s journey: departure, initiation, return—rather like the phases of the public art commissioning process (proposing, information gathering, idea testing, fabricating, etc.).  Read the rest of this entry »

Adding Arts to the Equation

Posted by Susan Harris MacKay On March - 19 - 2013
Susan Harris MacKay

Susan Harris MacKay

Every day, in every aspect of curriculum, Opal School students are invited to work with the arts to express their interpretations and growing relationships with the world around them.

Inspired by the municipal preschools of Reggio Emilia, Italy, Opal School began 12 years ago with the intention to pursue the question: What are the implications of these approaches for the American Public Elementary School?

Carlina Rinaldi, has written, “We are all researchers of the meaning of life. Yet it is possible to destroy this attitude of the child with our quick answers and our certainty.”

We ask ourselves daily: What assumptions need to shift if we are to sustain curiosity and preserve this attitude of research? What would school look like if it intended to promote the development of the kind of healthy brain architecture our citizens need to support a healthy planet and democracy?

What happens if we withhold quick answers? What relationships become visible? What tools and strategies become of value?

In TED prize winner, Sugata Mitra’s recent talk, we hear him ask similar questions. While I agree with his equation/response to these questions: broadband + collaboration + encouragement, my experience tells me he is missing a vital part: the arts.  Read the rest of this entry »

Old Songs, New Opportunities

Posted by Erin Gough On March - 18 - 2013
Erin Gough

Erin Gough

It is a familiar trope that early childhood teachers claim that they get as much out of teaching young ones as students get out of their lessons. They do it for the love of children, the excitement of youthful discovery, and the joy of nurturing rather than a hefty paycheck. My own mom, a longtime preschool teacher, often says she gets “paid in hugs.” But for some women in Erie, PA, early childhood instruction is a gateway to a new life.

The Old Songs, New Opportunities (OSNO) program at the Erie Museum of Art creates opportunities for refugee women to use traditional skills and cultural assets from their home countries to begin to build a career as early childhood educators. This program—one part job training, one part cultural education, and one part early education—has been transformative for the both the women who go through the museum’s training, and for the students they care for.

Through OSNO, women who were expert caregivers in their home countries and are interested in learning the ins-and-outs of the American early education process are provided with over 50 hours of accredited instruction in basic child development theory, discipline and alternatives, the role of the childcare work, and how art, music, and movement aid physical and mental development.

At the same time, these women provide exposure to and instruction of their cultural traditions to fellow OSNO trainees, and create a tapestry of song and tradition that bonds teachers with students, and teachers with one anotherRead the rest of this entry »

500 Artists, Gardens Celebrate Florida’s 500th Birthday

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 17 - 2012

On Easter Sunday 1513, Ponce de Leon landed his three ships on the eastern shore of the peninsula where I live.

Claiming the land for Spain, he named the place La Florida, (for the Spanish word “flor” or flower) because of the lush landscape and because of the day the explorers arrived, Pascua florida, Easter.

As we approach the 500th anniversary of this encounter, I am working through the Florida International University College of Architecture + The Arts to develop FLOR500, a participatory art, nature, and history project that encourages participants to explore Florida’s natural wonder:

Indeed, I wanted to create an art project that allowed our inhabitants to understand the multicultural origins of our state, its fragile biodiversity, and its threatened coastlines. So I took the father of the Fountain of Youth mythology and his historic milestone as a point of departure to explore ways of rejuvenating “the Sunshine State.” Read the rest of this entry »

Part of the Value of Culture (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Will Maitland Weiss On September - 20 - 2012

Will Maitland Weiss

Last Friday, a couple of Arts & Business Council of New York staff members attended a City Council hearing on how cultural organizations support New York City businesses, to help Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, his City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, and the Committee on Small Businesses in their effort to quantify the economic impact of and further connect arts and business.

Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Kate Levin was there and talked about the purchasing power of cultural organizations, particularly in terms of local spending in areas such as printing, catering, and equipment rentals.

Councilmember Van Bramer said, “Any time we cut the budget for cultural institutions, we are hurting small businesses.” Here’s what we said:

We all know why 51 million tourists come to New York.

We know that 6.3 million of them come to the Met Museum—so many, the Met is looking at opening seven days a week for the first time since 1971. There’s only one museum on earth that more people go to (the Mona Lisa is there), and no place on earth has the breadth and diversity of museums, and the breadth, depth, and impact of enrichment programs for public school children.

We know that Broadway always has been, is, always will be New York—more than 12 million attendees in 2011, more than $1 billion in ticket sales. How many other, smaller businesses are supported in and around the Great White Way?

We know that almost 200 movies and 140 TV shows were filmed in New York last year. It’s not just Woody Allen and Smash. This is where the top artists want to work, which creates 100,000 jobs for others behind the scenes, every one of whom shops, eats, spends (and pays taxes) in New York. Look at Buttercup and Kaufman Studios. Look at the expansion plans for Steiner Studios.

We know the economic impact figures for New York State are $25 billion a year, and 200,000+ jobs…or maybe it’s twice that by now (those are the Alliance for the Arts figures from 2005)? The most recent Municipal Art Society/Cultural Data Project figures from just 1,325 of the nonprofit culturals show 120,000+ people employed and over $5 billion in direct expenditures—just from the nonprofits. 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 »

The Art of Memorial Making

Posted by Victoria Ford On July - 25 - 2012

What do we tell our children?

It’s one of many questions being asked this summer in light of the recent event in Aurora, CO, where a dozen were murdered and 58 wounded during the theater tragedy which took place at midnight this past Friday.

Crosses as memorials in Aurora, CO.

And it’s a familiar question, one I remember—with little ease—almost eleven years ago, when our country was as similarly wounded and roused as we are now.

The potency of this moment in each of our lives is something I can’t ignore. No longer is this a question addressing the eight-year-old shadow of myself from 2001, as much as it is one I’ve begun to ask myself.

How do we carry this? What can I do?

Without a doubt, I am not alone. Take a walk down the street and look closely: Many have dressed themselves in the burdens of pain caused by this tragedy. All compelled to create something in response, to take some sort of action—be it, in this case, the candlelight vigil, the countless crosses erected into the ground and decorated by floral arrangements, the memorial t-shirt designed to raise money for the grieving families of each victim.

I suppose it is, to some degree, it’s our 21st century style of memorial making. It is our process toward confronting what we tell our children, just as much as it is a way to tackle what we will leave our children with in tragedy’s wake.

Erika Doss, the author of Memorial Mania, puts it eloquently:

“Today’s growing numbers of memorials represent heightened anxieties about who and what should be remembered in America…shaped by the affective conditions of public life in America today: by the fevered pitch of public feelings such as grief, gratitude, fear, shame, and anger.” Read the rest of this entry »

Local Arts Index: Museums, Zoos, Libraries, and More

Posted by Randy Cohen On July - 9 - 2012
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

This post is one in a series highlighting the Local Arts Index (LAI) by Americans for the Arts. The LAI provides a set of measures to help understand the breadth, depth, and character of the cultural life of a community. It provides county-level data about arts participation, funding, fiscal health, competitiveness, and more. Check out your county and compare it to any of the nation’s 3,143 counties at ArtsIndexUSA.org.

One approach to the Local Arts Index is through examining groups of indicators that address related subjects, such as museums and collections.

If you look around your community or your region, you’ll probably see that there are various museums to see—museums of art, science, history, and more. And there are other kinds of collections on display, living collections of animals and plants. Perhaps you have visited one of these museums in your community in the past few months. Or a zoo, arboretum, or botanical garden with your family and/friends to enjoy the outdoors but to appreciate how the items are presented and displayed. Perhaps these are some of the places you think of as a routine part of the life in your community or places to go when you are a local guide to family or friends in from out of town.

We think of these collections-based organizations as contributing to a community’s arts in culture in two ways. One is as resources for culture and learning, a second is in their roles as destinations for visitors.

Earlier this year, we released an indicator on the adult population visiting art museums. More recently, we released four additional indicators that measure collections-based organizations where you live. These organizations and institutions that are based on a collection—historical, canonic, living—are deeply rooted in our communities and provide places for reflection, learning, observing, and enjoyment.

Here’s some info on those four: Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art Creates an Elevated Mood

Posted by Helen Lessick On July - 6 - 2012

I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) last week to see Levitated Mass.

I love Michael Heizer’s work and travel miles to see it. His commissioned projects in Seattle and Reno are my places of cultural tourism. I saw Double Negative in decay in 1980 and City Complex in its early nineties form. I also love rocks. Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic—I find in them extraordinary sculptures of time.

I loved the celebration of the journey of the rock (check out this video of the voyage) as it traveled from the quarry to the art museum at 11 miles per hour.

So the odd thing is that the rock isn’t the star in Heizer’s new commission. It’s the trench.

The trench is the star of “Levitated Mass.”

Levitated Mass is about the channel, the journey through the land. The 456-foot channel offers a tour of construction excellence and fetishistic form work. The concrete is polished to a matte marble finish; the finished edges and surfaces align perfectly over a huge distance. Even the discrete railing is a perfectly formed negative channel worthy of detail photos. Read the rest of this entry »

PAN-OUT — A Broad View of the 2012 Public Art Network Preconference

Posted by Liesel Fenner On June - 14 - 2012

Liesel Fenner

2012 marks my tenth Americans for the Arts Public Art Preconference, six of which I have planned and orchestrated over the years with the help of Public Art Network (PAN) Council members and local hosts.

This year proved to be another shining star, aptly-hosted in the Lone Star state of Texas and San Antonio, a sparkling gem of creative community that rolled out the red carpet for us.

Held at Pearl, Preconference attendees were greeted to hearty breakfast tacos (localvore favorite) and iced coffee, in preparation for the 90 degree-plus predicted temperatures. Newcomers were welcomed to an orientation in Pearl’s Center for Architecture, the American Institute of Architects local chapter office with crisp-geometric interiors offering flexible meeting space (everything on casters) for PAN’s breakout sessions throughout the day.

Attendees trekked across the Pearl campus to the nearby historic Stable, an oval-shaped plan once housing up to 70 horses, today hosting 270 Preconference attendees! Texas hosts, Martha Peters of the Ft. Worth Public Art Program and PAN Council member and Jimmy LeFlore of Public Art San Antonio, led everyone in a rousing welcome.

Representatives of the PAN Council presented a state-of-the-field report highlighting critical issues the Council is addressing including: public art and quality of life, evaluation, and social practices and community engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

The 99% and the Arts

Posted by Robert Bettmann On May - 11 - 2012

Robert Bettmann

The arts are positively integrated into the Occupy Movement in several ways, but they are also a front on which activists are attacking the economic system.

While the arts field wrestles internally with issues of diversity and aging, attacks by Occupy activists are actually an affirmation of the relevance of the arts in civic life.

One Occupy LA blogger wrote, “if history has taught us anything…it’s that art is among the most honest and lasting of cultural indicators.” Occupy activists believe in the arts enough to fight for it.

The arts are a tool of the Occupy movement, an expression of the movement, a support in the movement, and also a target.

As a target, actions related to the arts are in some cities organized by an Occupy Museums working group. The Occupy Museums manifesto identifies that the group exists to “[call] out corruption and injustice in institutions of arts and culture” and their actions focus in two areas: labor issues and service to the one percent (generally).

The labor concerns relate to abrogation of union contracts and use of non-union labor at galleries and museums, and the broader concern relates to the question: to whom do the benefits of the cultural economy accrue? 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.