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 »

Shelley Toon Lindberg

Shelley Toon Lindberg

While gathering supplies for the Summer Arts and Apps Academy for students of the Lower Kuskokwim School District in bush Alaska, we came across a box filled with bags of beautifully colored sand.  Although the two-week academy was centered on developing eBooks and exploring various apps on the iPad, we knew we were not leaving the supply closet without the colored sand in tow.

Working as a teaching artist is thrilling on just about every level. I have the privilege of collaborating with brilliant educators, fellow teaching artists, and students who inspire me daily. I especially relish the time I spend developing curricula and planning interesting visual art experiences for students. I like to be organized and to structure lesson plans, but I must admit that after 15 years of working as a teaching artist, I have learned the value of spontaneity.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Delicate Balance: The Intersection of In-School and Out-of-School Time

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On February - 25 - 2014
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

As a statewide funder of arts education, the trend in my organization’s support of arts education over the last decade has been to push the field towards deeper levels of arts integration. Although the beginning of the erosion of arts specialists in schools predates my career in arts administration, I strongly suspect that this emphasis on integrating the arts with other (perhaps more stable) subject areas was a reactive measure rather than a proactive one. In other words, instead of honoring arts integration as an effective teaching method for addressing multiple learning styles, it was seen as a “quick fix” for the loss of critically important arts specialists.

One of the consequences of this investment has been a decrease in attention to out-of-school work. This may be due to a perceived lack of quality (not aligned with state standards, not assessed, not taught by certified educators, etc.), but is also probably a result of decreased availability of grant dollars. As funders turned their attention to in-school work, organizations dependent on that funding were forced to divert their resources towards in-school programs. While there are still many high-quality out-of-school programs in operation, as evidenced by the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, they seem to lack broad recognition as a valuable component of arts education.

I’ve recently watched the evolution of several new grant programs in Oregon, each with their own attempt to link in- and out-of-school earning. The Oregon Community Foundation’s new “Studio to School” program endeavors to create a lasting arts education legacy within a community over a five year investment. While the final funding decisions have not yet been announced, I noticed while serving as a reviewer in the initial phase that the most problematic section of the application asked applicants to “link arts education during the school day to out of school arts learning.” 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 »

Statement on the Passing of Joan Mondale

Posted by Robert Lynch On February - 6 - 2014
Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

Joan Mondale accepting the Public Art Network Annual Award from Americans for the Arts, 2008

I know the nation’s arts community joins me in mourning the loss of one of our country’s staunchest arts advocates, Joan Mondale.  As the wife of Walter Mondale, vice president to President Jimmy Carter, she used her public position to place a bright spotlight on the vital role that artists and arts organizations play in strengthening American communities.

Mrs. Mondale intersected with Americans for the Arts on a number of notable occasions, beginning with her service on our board in the mid-1970’s, when we were known by one of our predecessor names, the American Council for the Arts.  In 1977, she was the guest speaker at the tenth annual meeting of the Business Committee for the Arts (now a division of Americans for the Arts).

I first met her at the Americans for the Arts annual convention in 1987 in Portland, Oregon, where she was a fervent keynote speaker and great motivational figure for hundreds of local arts agency leaders.  I later had the privilege of serving with her on the national advisory board of the Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), where we shared a passion for fine craft—she as a potter and me as a woodcarver.  And in 2008, Americans for the Arts was pleased to honor her with the Public Art Network Award, in recognition of her lifelong nurturing of art in public places.

She was a long-time museum guide who, while her husband was in office, ensured that the home of the vice president, and later, the ambassador to Japan’s residence, were infused with art.  A frequent board member for arts organizations and an avid speaker for their gatherings, Mrs. Mondale was particularly effective in her most visible role as honorary chair of the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities during the Carter Administration.

On behalf of those of us who work in the arts who had the pleasure of knowing her and admiring the important work she did in promoting the public value of the arts, we salute “Joan of Art.”  Her voice will be deeply missed.

Reflections on the National Arts Marketing Project Conference 2013

Posted by Erin Marie McDonald On December - 11 - 2013
Erin Marie McDonald

Erin Marie McDonald

Over the past few weeks, I’ve reflected on the 2013 National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Portland, Oregon. This was my first year attending NAMPC and I left with more than I imagined. Although the conference was filled with brilliant colleagues and inspiring sessions, my biggest take-away and learning experience came from an unscheduled, happenstance moment in the Speakers Prep room with an Americans for the Arts staff member.

First, let me provide a little context: I work at an art organization that was founded five years ago. As the newest addition to the now five-person team, I’m holding down the first communications/community engagement position in our small, yet dedicated office.

At the conference, I was scheduled to assist Danielle Williams, the website and new media manager at American for the Arts, with an interview for its blog. Unfortunately, the interview subject did not show up. However, this turned out to be an ideal opportunity for me to see ideas from many of the workshops put into direct action. Following the canceled video interview, Danielle had another appointment planned; it was a website user experience test for the new American for the Arts site. 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 »

Make Room: Expanding the School Day for Deeper Arts Engagement

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On October - 16 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

Aside from the “not enough money for the arts” conundrum, “not enough time for the arts” is the second biggest barrier that most educators face in providing more arts instruction, or even arts integration, for students.  But at more than 1,000 schools across the country, this barrier is being erased thorough re-structuring the school day to gain precious minutes, hours, and even days of instructional time for students.

The National Center on Time & Learning publication Advancing Arts through an Expanded School Day offers case studies for five schools that have reorganized their schedules to provide students with more contact hours during the day and larger blocks of time to delve deeply into project-based learning.  The publication includes three key traits of extended-day schools:

  1. Educators consider arts classes to be a core feature of their comprehensive educational program.
  2. Educators organize their school day and staffing to reflect the central role of the arts and dedicate ample time to their practice.
  3. Educators value how the arts can leverage engagement and achievement in school.

In Oregon, one outstanding example of these principals is the Academy of Arts and Academics in Springfield.  This arts magnet charter school utilizes a core faculty complimented by professional artists to provide students with a robust experience of real-world inquiry.  A3 boasts an 87% graduation rate for their four year cohort (compared to a 68% graduation rate state-wide) and 83% of their graduates plan to attend college the following year.  You can see their sample schedule online. Read the rest of this entry »

More Than Pro Bono: Meaningful Cross-Sector Partnerships Build Community

Posted by Rebecca Burrell On October - 9 - 2013
Rebecca Burrell

Rebecca Burrell

At The Right Brain Initiative, an equity-based arts-in-schools program in the Portland area, we’re committed to marrying marketing and community engagement in the organic sort of way they were meant to be. As I advocate for arts education throughout the community, I’m really excited about developing sincere relationships and substantial partnerships. In fact, this month we’re finally reaching the apex of a really fruitful long-term collaboration with Design for Good committee of AIGA Portland, the professional association for design.

Early on, we identified our dynamic creative business community as a key outreach target. Whether they become Facebook fans, volunteers, friends, or maybe donors someday, it is a natural affinity group for us. These folks have personally benefited from the kind of education we promote.

Fortunately, our friends at AIGA wanted to do something to make a genuine impact on both our organization and arts education at large, but arriving at a collaborative model for this partnership wasn’t easy. While the global design sector has expressed great interest in addressing arts education, real partnerships between the design and non-profit communities are really hard to find. Socially focused designers are used to donating services to non-profits (Thank you! Please keep it up!), but those relationships can create an uneven power dynamic that prevent true collaboration. Designers are also fond of gathering to generate ideas to address social problems, but there is often no plan to bring those solutions to life. We had look for a new standard. Read the rest of this entry »

My Turn: For a Humane Tax Reform

Posted by John R. Killacky On August - 21 - 2013
John R. Kilacky

John R. Killacky

Vermont, like many states, is considering comprehensive tax reform. Committees in the Vermont Senate and House developed proposals last legislative session and systemic changes seem high on the agenda for the 2014 session. Key components focus on increasing the portion of personal income that is taxed by capping deductions, including charitable contributions.

If passed, this revision to the tax code would negatively affect the work of nonprofit organizations statewide.

Vermont’s robust nonprofit sector comprises nearly 4,000 human, social service, educational, religious, and cultural organizations, ranking us No. 1 per capita in the nation. The Vermont Community Foundation reported in 2010 that these agencies generate $4.1 billion in annual revenue and represent 18.7 percent of our gross state product.

Nonprofits deliver critical services that government alone cannot provide: sheltering, caring for, and feeding those less fortunate; early childhood education; and cultural enrichment are just a few examples. Nonprofits include schools, hospitals, churches, libraries, community health clinics, workforce development centers, mentoring programs, homeless shelters, food banks, theaters, and galleries.

Some focus on specific populations: providing safe spaces for women, LGBT youth, refugees, the disabled, and migrant workers. They range from small, volunteer-run groups to huge universities. Although more than 80 percent of Vermont’s nonprofits operate with budgets of less than $250,000 each year.

By delivering mission-related programs, nonprofits improve lives and transform communities. Investing in early intervention is more cost-effective than dealing with societal dysfunction later in life. Food and shelter vs. homelessness, after-school tutoring vs. illiteracy, involved children vs. disengaged teens, job skills training vs. unemployment, community vs. isolation — consider the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

The Value of an Afternoon with an Artist

Posted by Ronda Billerbeck On April - 17 - 2013
Ronda Billerbeck

Ronda Billerbeck

On a chilly January afternoon, I sat in a high school library, along with 40 students, listening to Suzanne Vega talk about music. Listening to any artist speak about their work is interesting at the very least and more often than not quite compelling. This was not just any artist.

Suzanne Vega is widely regarded as one of the great songwriters of her generation. She is a masterful storyteller who rewrote the book on what female singer-songwriters can say and do, paving the way for artists like Sarah McLachlan, Tracy Chapman, and the entire Lilith Fair revolution.

Suzanne performed as part of the Kent Arts Commission’s Spotlight Series. In addition to her public concert, she led a school workshop. I incorporate educational activities with professional touring artists as often as I can. Interacting with an artist in an intimate setting, hearing them discuss their vision and process, offers depth of experience that a traditional concert performance cannot. Getting that kind of glimpse into the creative process is unique and powerful—it ignites a passion for and connection with art unlike anything else.

When we have communities that are engaged with art, where art is an integral part of life and a defining characteristic of place, our communities are better for it. They are better economically, socially, and because individuals’ lives are enriched.  Read the rest of this entry »

Seeking Bridges: Arts & Education on the Edge of Change

Posted by Rafael Otto On April - 15 - 2013
Rafael Otto

Rafael Otto

PDX, Stumptown, the City of Roses, Portlandia, Bridgetown. All of these offer a glimpse into my “second-tier,” west coast city—Portland, OR—nestled between majestic Mt. Hood and the brisk and rugged Pacific coast.

After four years away I’m back with a fresh perspective, a renewed commitment to the arts, and a job that gives me an unparalleled perspective into the world of education across the country.

I also have a vested interest in the educational system here—my daughter entered kindergarten last September. She is now a student in the Portland Public School District, Oregon’s largest district, in a state that has the fourth-worst graduation rate in the country.

As a father, I cringe at stats like that. I worry about the quality of her education, especially when we emphasize assessment and test scores over creativity and collaboration.

As a writer and researcher working in education, I know we can do better.

As an artist, I see that Portland’s system of education has failed to harness the very best of Portland’s innovative and creative talent. Read the rest of this entry »

Concept-based Creative Dance for Babies & Toddlers

Posted by Rachael Carnes On March - 20 - 2013
Rachael Carnes

Rachael Carnes

Babies and toddlers love to move! Any parent or caregiver can tell you that.

For further demonstration, just look at the happy expression on their little faces as they flap their arms like a bird or their sheer focus and determination as they scoot across the floor on their tummies: kids just seem to have fun exploring their world through their own bodies.

And as they play, stretch, curl, reach, grasp, teeter, cruise, crawl and run, they’re also learning.

What Do We Mean by the Kinesthetic Sense?

When asked to list the human senses, most of us would rattle off sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing. From the shape and color of an apple in a picture book to the smell of grandma’s pumpkin pie or grandpa’s curried tofu, babies and toddlers get lots of sensory experiences that they will begin to recognize, sort, differentiate, and assimilate.

As babies and toddlers grow, their sense of their own movement, called kinesthesia, will expand. Some movement educators, physical therapists, and developmental psychologists refer to the kinesthetic sense as the “sixth sense”: It represents not only the sensation of your child’s own body, either still or moving, but also his or her growing ability to abstract cause and effect among objects. 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 »

STEM to STEAM: Finding a Seat at the ‘Cool Kids’ Table

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On March - 5 - 2013
Deb Vaughn

Deb Vaughn

STEM is like the most popular kid in school these days. Everyone wants to sit at the same lunch table and share Doritos.

Fortunately for the arts community, we have a powerful resource as the national conversation transforms from STEM to STEAM: Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-IL) announced the formation of a Congressional STEAM Caucus last month.

The group had a successful kick-off on February 14. Rhode Island School of Design President John Maeda, an advisor to the Caucus, regularly speaks about the inextricable connection between art and science and Bonamici echoed the sentiment at Oregon’s 2012 Arts Summit.

While our representatives in Washington, DC, are hard at work advising on federal policy, our state is also taking steps to assure we’ve got “STEAM heat” (thank you, Bob Fosse!).

In Governor John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013–2015 budget, which is now being considered by the legislature, there is a proposal for an initiative called “Connecting to the World of Work.”

Included in that proposal is funding to support partnerships between schools, arts organizations and businesses to increase opportunities for students in grades 6–12 to connect with creative industries. There is conversation about including internships, mentorship programs, industry residencies in schools, and student residencies at industry firms.  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.