The Genius Awards: Using Art as a Community Innovation Strategy

Posted by Robb Hankins On July - 16 - 2014
Robb Hankins

Robb Hankins

As part of ArtsinStark’s 20/20 Vision planning process, an Innovation Committee made up of ten community leaders created a strategy for positioning Canton and Stark County, Ohio as one of the 10 most innovative communities our size in America. One of the first initiatives we called the “Genius Awards.” In 2013 we began inviting companies to form 8-person teams to solve a challenge and come to the first Genius Awards, which were held on March 18 of 2014.

Here were our goals:

1) To have all kinds of companies to participate: high tech, manufacturing, law firms, banks, and newspapers.

2) To find a $5,000 sponsor, charge companies a $500 entry fee, and sell $25 tickets to the event.

3) To establish a “county innovation index” for improving the level of innovation in our county over time.

The Invite: We host one of the 60 united arts fund drives in America, so during our annual visit with company CEOs we planted the seeds for the “Genius Awards.” As soon as we got one of the biggest companies in the county to sign up and then banks and law firms, it got easier to sign up the rest. In the end, 13 companies agreed to send a team for year one. Here’s a link to the contract each company signed. 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 »

The Power of Partnerships in Placemaking

Posted by Eric Rogers On February - 24 - 2014
Eric Rogers

Eric Rogers

Small places typically have small financial resources. That certainly describes the environment for Jay County (population 21,253), where Arts Place started in 1967. Small also often translates into limited audiences if an organization cannot reach beyond its traditional boundaries.

One way Arts Place has found to hurdle these obstacles has been to partner with our neighboring rural communities to create economies of scale. This approach also breaks some of the isolation natural to making the arts happen in places outside the urban mainstream.

Partnerships and collaborations have become second nature to Arts Place. While survival may have stimulated our early efforts, the benefits of such an approach have made reaching out to other communities and organizations our preferred way of making the arts happen.

Partnerships can be as simple as offering the same program in multiple communities. For example, Arts in the Parks, a series of summer workshops and community projects for children, requires significant overhead for planning, fund raising, and management during the program. But, by spreading the overhead amongst more than a dozen communities in five counties we created a more cost effective program.  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 »

New to the Community: A Love Story Set to Beethoven

Posted by Jenifer Thomas On April - 18 - 2013
Jenifer Thomas

Jenifer Thomas

I am a fairly recent transplant to a city with a vibrant arts scene chock-full of healthy arts organizations, beautiful parks and architecture, wonderful public art, a squadron of young professionals getting involved, and our very own culinary smorgasbord: a signature chili (you either love it or you hate it), mouthwatering ice cream, and questionable breakfast meat.

Where is this cultural mecca, you might ask? It’s Cincinnati, OH.

Cincinnati’s varied offerings come with an equally diverse community of people. But like many cities, Cincinnati could get to the next level by seeing art and artistic involvement that connects all of us, not just the arts-prone.

The Cincinnati ethos is evolving, and many organizations are doing great things to get engagement that is more reflective of our community and encourages we locals to put our personal stamp on the Queen City.

Recently, after two years of living in Cincinnati, I fell in love. With Cincinnati.

It happened in the most unlikely of places: the concert hall. Read the rest of this entry »

What Would Make Where You Live a Better Place?

Posted by Ruby Harper On April - 15 - 2013
Ruby Harper

Ruby Harper

So when I was asked to write the opening post to “set the tone” for this year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon—I did what any self-respecting, confident, and capable individual would do—I PANICKED!!

What would I write about? What would I say? Why would people care? What if I said something wrong?

Then I took a deep breath…and another…and then I started:

This year’s Emerging Leaders Blog Salon extended invitations to submit posts responding to “What would make where you live a better place or bring it to the next level?”

We received more than 30 submissions. The depth and breadth of the responses will make you laugh, cry, but most importantly, they will make you THINK, WONDER and they will INSPIRE!

Hopefully—at least, that’s what the Emerging Leaders Council intends.

This year, for me, has been about taking action—I was standing in a line at the BMV (or DMV, depending on where you live) and I turned towards one of the TV screens playing and a message —clear as day, white letters on a black screen—ominous in their intent and direct in their purpose: INACTION IS NOT AN OPTION.  Read the rest of this entry »

Shared Outcomes and Collective Impact for Scaling Up

Posted by Victor Kuo On December - 5 - 2012

Victor Kuo

What are funders interested in scale and results talking about these days? A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the Grantmakers in Arts 2012 Conference in Miami.

This year’s conference theme was “Forging Connections,” and I found the notion of connections incredibly relevant for scaling impact. Creating vibrant, livable communities is the responsibility of not just one project or organization, but rather partners across a sector and the entire community working together for change.

We explored an example of a community aspiring to build connections involving entire sectors, such as the arts, education, and workforce development.

The Greater Cincinnati area has a strong history of collaboration. Leading funders, such as the Greater Cincinnati Foundation and the United Way of Greater Cincinnati, are considering ways to take a collective approach to achieving social impact.

Specifically, they are talking about a collective impact approach described in “Channeling Change: Making Collective Impact Work” that identifies five key factors to facilitate change:

1) a common agenda,  2) shared measurement, 3) mutually reinforcing activity, 4) continuous communication, and 5) backbone support. Read the rest of this entry »

Planning That Gets You New Partners (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Robb Hankins On April - 27 - 2012

Robb Hankins

Most community leaders don’t think about the arts much and most don’t really believe there is a link between arts and economic development.

I try to change that by hosting my own arts and economic development planning process, but I do it on a shoe string—quick, dirty, and cheap. It’s exhausting, but totally worth it.

Last year we started 20/20 Vision—the ten year plan for arts and economic development. On March 20, 2012 we unveiled our ten strategies: five community strategies and five county-wide.

20/20 Vision has already dramatically changed the landscape for the arts in Stark County (Ohio). We have new partners (and new dollars) available for the arts from places we’d never touched before.

Business leaders like Robert Timkin, managing director of Cormony Development, are leading the effort by planning to increase creativity and innovation in business through arts-based workshops, and increase cultural tourism by creating a marketing partnership between five major nonprofit tourism attractions in downtown Canton.

This strategic marketing partnership hopes to dramatically increase the number of visitors and increase overnight stays, as well as create day trip opportunities for arts destinations throughout the rest of the county.

Here’s the quick story on how we did it: 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 »

The Power of Local Arts Leadership

Posted by Ursula Kuhar On April - 19 - 2012

Ursula Kuhar

Local. Public. Value. Arts.

Try creating a cohesive, comprehensive sentence that reflects our field using these four words.

These simple words that occupy so much complexity within our industry, and an entire day of dialogue at the first Americans for the Arts Executive Directors & Board Member Symposium held on April 15.

It was an exhilarating experience to participate in a peer exchange with diverse leaders from organizations around the country including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch, Jonathan Katz of the National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), and Mary McCullogh-Hudson of ArtsWave.

In order to frame our work as arts leaders forging into a “new normal” in the industry, Bob shared the history and context of the local arts movement in America, rooted in the discovery of the Americas to the first established arts council in 1947 by George Irwin in Illinois, to the evolution of today’s local arts enabling organization that provide cultural programming, funding, community cultural planning, and of course, advocacy activities. Read the rest of this entry »

The Arts Ripple Effect Inspires Cincinnati Filmmakers

Posted by Tim Mikulski On March - 7 - 2012

A poster for "Radius: A Short Film."

A fascinating new project out of Cincinnati just recently caught my attention.

Filmmakers were inspired by The Arts Ripple Effect: A Research-Based Strategy to Build Shared Responsibility for the Arts, a study conducted by local arts agency ArtsWave in 2008.

The study and report were “designed to develop an inclusive
 community dialogue leading to broadly shared public responsibility 
for arts and culture in the region” and “concluded that [their] work with the community through arts and
 culture must be based on a foundation that incorporates a deeper 
understanding of the best way to communicate with the public in
 order to achieve that shared sense of responsibility.”

Calling it “the world’s first game-sourced movie,” Radius: A Short Film, created by Possible Worldwide, a WPP Digital company, with multiple Cincinnati-based partners, “the film was shot in and around Cincinnati during MidPoint Music Festival and other arts events.”

What makes it especially unique is that the film was created by editing “from more than 2,000 unique pieces of crowd-sourced content” gathered using a smartphone app called SCVNGR. Read the rest of this entry »

Rallying Against “Most Miserable City” Rankings

Posted by Tim Mikulski On February - 24 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

Earlier this month, Forbes released another one of its ranking lists, which I assume are only created in order to gain attention and web traffic—“America’s Most Miserable Cities.”

This list is one that tends to pick on the same communities that have been forced into our heads as places you don’t want to live, work, go to school, etc., yet, there are residents doing all of these things in each and every one of them.

As someone who used to work in Camden, NJ, one of those cities that is constantly appearing on Forbes’ similar “America’s Most Dangerous Cities” list, I understand what that label can do to the residents of a community that already can’t seem to catch a break.

Which leads me to the fact that Forbes declared Miami #1 on the “America’s Most Miserable Cities” list. Never mind the fact the author of the main post is their sports business writer, but the fact that such a vibrant city, known for its arts and culture is #1 on that list is a bit surprising.

Well, here is the criteria they used: “We looked at 10 factors for the 200 largest metro areas and divisions in the U.S. Some are serious, like violent crime, unemployment rates, foreclosures, taxes (income and property), home prices, and political corruption. Other factors we included are less weighty, like commute times, weather, and how the area’s pro sports teams did. While sports, commuting, and weather can be considered trivial by many, they can be the determining factor in the level of misery for a significant number of people.”

Very scientific.

But there’s more—a number of the cities on this list also appear on the “most dangerous” list, too. Talk about kicking a community when it’s down. Read the rest of this entry »

Robb Hankins

In downtown Canton, OH, through an ongoing partnership with the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce (and its Special Improvement District), we’ve spent the last five years creating the Canton Arts District.

The results have been totally amazing and changed everyone’s thinking about this downtown coming back.

In 2005, we started with three strategies: live music, galleries/artist studios, and public art. We had only one art gallery—-and not a single artist studio.

Today, the Canton Arts District has 26 galleries and studios.

The first art studios opened when local developer Mike King bought an old building down on 4th Street NW, deciding to convert it into Studio 5. It would have five artist studios downstairs and five independent artist apartments upstairs. ArtsinStark partnered with King on spreading the word and providing a small rent subsidy for the first year.

By the time Studio 5 opened every unit was rented out and there were eight artists on the list hoping for another building. Here’s a video of how Studio 5 looked when it was just opening

As the Canton Arts District began to take shape we needed a way to let people know, so we decided to host a monthly party—-First Friday. Read the rest of this entry »

Hannah Jacobson

Quick — point to Dublin, OH on a map.

How about Clinton County, MI; Douglasville, GA; or Missoula, MT? (Zero points if one of those cities is your hometown).

For those of us with a few years between elementary school geography and the present, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if these seemingly arbitrary locations elude us.

Some residents of Taiwan, however, might find Dublin as easily as they would their own hometowns. It’s a similar story for students in Shiga, Japan with Clinton County; Denmark with Douglasville; and Neckargemün, Germany with Missoula.

In Americans for the Arts’ December webinar, produced in tandem with the special report entitled Backyard Diplomacy, we found out that cultural exchange—taking various forms of art that are from, inspired by, or headed to a distinctly foreign locale—is happening every day, in cities small and large, through local arts agencies (LAAs).

The major lesson? LAAs of any size and shape can and should feel empowered to take a field trip around the world. 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.