Scaling Back to Scale Up

Posted by Mark Rodriguez On May - 2 - 2012

Mark Rodriguez

Upon reviewing a blog entry about The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth study released by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) earlier this month, I ran across a respondent who stated, “It’s great to have all of these studies, but how does it help me and my organization? How can small or midsized arts organizations measure their impact without the resources of large institutions like the NEA?”

The following shares the story of how Changing Worlds, a midsized Chicago-based educational arts nonprofit went from basic surveys and pre- and post-residency exercises to a longitudinal study that improved our practice, reaffirmed the quality of our program, and helped build an organizational culture of inquiry.

In 2003, I became the executive director of a small start-up nonprofit that had little to no infrastructure in place to assess its programs. We had lots of informal data and some feedback from program partners. I knew immediately that if we were going to grow, thrive and succeed, we had to identify our unique niche, solidify our program model and select program inquiry questions we wanted to explore.

From 2003–2008, we went through various renditions of evaluation tools and we even contracted with three independent evaluation consultants. After five years, we learned some new things, developed the basic capacity to measure the impact of our residency programs and invested lots of time. While this helped us gain insight into our short-term impact, it didn’t address the potential long-term impact and implications of our program. 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 »

Sara Bateman

In my first post for the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon, I discussed the need for producing collaborations and partnerships in order to elevate ourselves from arts leaders to community leaders.

If the arts are to become a cultural zeitgeist, where we can leverage our work to address the social inequities of our time, we must be open to partnerships, collaborative environments, and shared leadership.

In searching for this combination as an emerging leader, I feel it is important to not only to leverage our new perspectives and fresh energy, but also to learn from the examples of those who have already been pushing the field forth.

Throughout the past two decades, the arts have been recognized as a way to revitalize communities across the nation. We’ve seen that programs celebrating an individual community’s character, history, people, and values through art have the potential to communicate and empower a neighborhood’s voice in a manner that can create powerful place making and important systemic change.

But who is best placed to initiate and leverage this type of work? Is it a local artist, a small community center, an arts council, or a major institution?

While all mentioned above are capable and have already initiated successful community and civic engagement projects, local arts agencies in particular are in a unique place to spearhead revitalization, change, and engagement through the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Rising to Community Leader through a Collaborative Lens

Posted by Sara Bateman On April - 5 - 2012

Sara Bateman

For the past year, I have been captivated by the concept of how tomorrow’s arts leaders must also serve as community leaders. Hailing temporarily from Oregon, where I have been pursuing a master’s degree in arts management that focuses on community arts, the line between arts leader and community leader is one that is quickly blurring for me.

As an emerging leader who is continually drawn to work that falls at the intersection of arts and social change, my eyes are most often focused on projects that look to address civic engagement, social justice, and community development needs.

In order to produce and promote effective programming at this intersection, I have delved into graduate courses, practicums, internships, research, and beyond to inform myself in the areas of not only arts management, but also community cultural development, arts learning policy, community arts theory, and social art practice.

Leaving Oregon with my degree in hand in just a few short months, my view on the art world has widened.

I entered the degree looking for solid skills in what I defined as arts management—the programmatic, financial, and administrative aspects—and left with much more. Becoming informed in the areas of community cultural development, community organizing, activism, and beyond have opened my eyes and abilities to effectively straddle the line between arts leader and community leader.

In being both a great arts leader and community leader, there is much knowledge needed of an individual. And sometimes, as we often feel in the nonprofit world, we can’t do it all, even though we are asked to. Read the rest of this entry »

Tossing Small Stones to Change an Entire Landscape

Posted by Kacy O'Brien On April - 3 - 2012

Kacy O'Brien

Change starts small, right?

We have seen time and again that small pockets of people, when seized with an idea, can come together and with the right leadership, momentum, and tools can affect change.

Change often starts with one person and a vision. If we want to be part of the “cultural zeitgeist, actively addressing the social inequities in our country” and reach “exponentially greater numbers of people,” as Diane Ragsdale suggests, then we need to do it in our backyards.

That may sound counter-intuitive—“to reach more people stay close to home”—but in my experience thus far as an early-career theatre producer, it seems to be the only way we’ll stay relevant to our respective communities.

In addition, cultural institutions need to have the room to try out ideas that are related to our missions, but not bound by them. That is not a new idea, by any stretch, but I think if we’re able to consider programming—not funding (though we could use that, too!)—in terms of venture capitalism, we may see large equity returns by way of audience growth, community partnerships and social relevance.

We talk a lot about relevance to our communities in the arts sector, particularly in regional institutions, and I think that the future of arts institutions and artists would benefit greatly from pursuing high-potential, high-risk programmatic change—what I’ll dub “venture capital projects.” Read the rest of this entry »

Multiplying Presence: 3 Lessons from red, black and GREEN: a blues

Posted by Eboni Senai Hawkins On April - 3 - 2012

Eboni Senai Hawkins

Over several months, I have witnessed a small part of the national unfolding of red, black, and GREEN: a blues (rbGb), a performative collaboration between Marc Bamuthi Joseph/The Living Word Project and Theaster Gates.

I am stunned at the synergy in practices between Bamuthi (artist/educator and director of performing arts at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts) and Theaster (artist/urban planner and director of arts and public life at the University of Chicago).

For both Bamuthi and Theaster, the “relationship economy” is intrinsic to their work. As I become immersed in Emerging Leaders Network – Chicago (ELN) and the city as a whole, I’ve observed three areas highlighted by rbGb, activated in ELN and others, and rich with opportunities for greater impact in the arts.

1 – Flatten hierarchy. Stay in community online and off.

In a “Green Paper” about the future of arts leadership, Jennifer Armstrong describes the “amazing Technicolor dream” that could be achieved if emerging leaders “poke[d]” at established managers until a “genuine exchange” came around. This move to level existing hierarchies is possible from both sides. Jennifer, for example, is a champion for the field and subscribing to her feed on Facebook allows me, an aspiring curator, a vehicle for quick questions and insight into cultural initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

The Subversive Tack: Because Making the Case Isn’t Working

Posted by Tara Aesquivel On April - 3 - 2012

Tara Aesquivel

Anyone reading ARTSBlog likely already agrees with what I’m about to say.

You know the benefits of an arts education and lifelong arts participation.

You know that the arts are everywhere, in everything, for everyone.

I’m not going to be another repetitive voice confirming your beliefs. I am, however, going to point to some great activities happening in the Los Angeles and, hopefully, present some subversive ideas for how to make artistry the norm.

By the way, I’m Tara Aesquivel (formerly known as Tara Scroggins). I think I’ve been invited to this blog salon because of my role as the Executive Chair of Emerging Arts Leaders/Los Angeles.

My subsequent posts will be related to other hats that I (and most of my fellow emerging leaders tend to) wear:

  • Arts + Sustainability — My full-time job is serving as the program coordinator for the M.A. in Urban Sustainability at Antioch University Los Angeles.
  • Arts + Education — I hold a seat on the Young Professionals Advisory Board at Inner-CityArts and have recently joined the CreateCA movement.
  • Arts + Economy — I studied cultural economics at the University of Bologna, an opportunity through the Master of Arts Management program at Carnegie Mellon University.

So what’s behind the title of my blog? (Just after penning that title, I discovered that I’m not the only one publicly admitting that making the case isnt working.)

What do I mean by that? Read the rest of this entry »

Unique Leaders, Common Characteristics: Who We Are (Part One)

Posted by Jaclyn Johnson Tidwell On April - 2 - 2012

Jaclyn Johnson

I write from Nashville, TN, a nationally recognized music city and a burgeoning arts town.

As an actor, community arts project manager, theatre producer, and staff member of an arts service organization, my days bustle with arts leaders, new and seasoned. They provide the spark for the city’s growth. And those stepping forward as new leaders will define the future of the creative sector.

When I look around at my ensemble and community, I see common characteristics that will weave through our individual impact as emerging leaders.

In this blog series I will explore three of those characteristics: who we are, how we will work in the arts and why we will dedicate so much of our hearts to it.

Who are we?

We are artists first and manager-janitors out of necessity. We are arts entrepreneurs.

From crowdfunding to self-publishing, it is becoming increasingly easy to take this do-it-yourself approach to making art.

“Film is an ever more do it yourself word,” said Coke Sams at a recent Arts & Business Council of Greater Nashville seminar on alternative funding options for art projects. Coke is a producer at Nashville-based Ruckus Films and part of the team for the Blue Like Jazz film, the most successful film project in Kickstarter history raising over $345,000. Read the rest of this entry »

Emerging Leaders Networks: Leveraging Impact for the Future

Posted by Stephanie Hanson On April - 2 - 2012
Stephanie Hanson

Stephanie Hanson

Coming up with the theme for a blog salon is always a challenge.

For the past few years that I’ve been working with our Emerging Leaders Council committee to develop our blog salons, we usually have a kernel of an idea for what to focus on. It’s ideal when the initial inspiration comes from the council, because then it’s truly coming from the field. After all, the point of our blog is to facilitate online discussion about big picture issues in the arts that we feel need to be addressed.

When thinking about this year’s salon, the council knew they wanted to feature the Local Emerging Leaders Networks around the country. Great. Love it. Easy. Done.

But what should we have them talk about?

We already talked about emerging ideas in the field last year. What’s next?

We began to think about HOW those emerging ideas get implemented. In many cases, in order for a new idea to thrive, we as individuals, organizations, the community, and the field as a whole may need to change at a very fundamental level.

Perhaps we need to change our definition of success; how our organizations are structured; how we interact with our communities; and how we make art.

Then, we read Diane Ragsdale’s February 14 blog post; If Our Goal is Simply to Preserve Our Current Reality, Why Pursue It?, where she writes about innovation and arts sector reform.  Diane’s thesis can be summed up in these sentences: Read the rest of this entry »

A True Arts Education Partnership

Posted by Alyx Kellington On March - 29 - 2012
Alyx Kellington

Alyx Kellington

In revisiting the Arts Education Blog Salon, I’ve found that one topic keeps popping up in conversation. Victoria Plettner-Saunders asked, “When is it a partnership and when is it something else?” That something else is often a collaboration—and although equally important, there are differences between “collaboration” and “partnership.”

To celebrate Spring Break, I thought I’d highlight a true partnership.

For the past seven years, an amazing partnership has taken place at the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in Palm Beach County, FL.

Sponsored by Prime Time Palm Beach County, Inc. and the Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County, each year approximately fifty children attend the Spring Break Residency: a two-week intensive afterschool program for youth in grades 4–8. The kids work with professional teaching artists and learn new skills in stage production and various art forms.

Students are nominated by afterschool providers and this year, came from eight different sites within a fifteen mile radius. The students do not have to have previous experience in the arts to be involved in the residency program. Youth are encouraged to take an active part in creating their own production, work as a team, cultivate their own ideas, and use their unique talents to express themselves on stage.

The youth are very dedicated and come together for six consecutive days during spring break, 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. and then for the next week, for five days after school. Read the rest of this entry »

Greater Lansing’s Art in the Sky

Posted by Leslie Donaldson On March - 21 - 2012

Leslie Donaldson

Driving around Greater Lansing, MI, commuters may be surprised to discover 672-square-foot works of art on area billboards that normally carry advertising.

These artful billboards can be found in the sky along the highways leading into Michigan’s capitol city, near highly trafficked shopping centers, and outside local neighborhoods, all transforming traditional advertising spaces into an artful visual display.

These billboards, which were all launched as an initiative to bring art to the masses via the medium of outdoor advertising, is made possible through a program called Art In The Sky, a unique partnership between the Arts Council of Greater Lansing and local advertising company, Adams Outdoor Advertising, highlighting the local arts community.

Debuting in March 2011, Art In The Sky billboards have been installed in various locations around the Greater Lansing region. To date, Adams Outdoor has donated space to local artists, each of whom have received an Individual Artist Grant from the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. A panel of peer reviewers selected the artists’ respective applications to receive funding for a specific arts project with a local public component. Grantees were selected on artistic merit and the potential impact of their public project upon the community. Read the rest of this entry »

Katherine Damkohler

Katherine Damkohler

When visiting a foreign country, you are expected to know at least a few choice phrases, if not speak the language. In addition, you need to know local customs, pastimes, and the economic/social contexts of its citizens.

In much the same way, a school’s arts partner must also be aware of the academic environment they enter, and understand the perspective of the faculty and students. Of course, as arts partners we have something unique and important to contribute to the school (that’s why we’re there, after all), but speaking the language and understanding the challenges of the school make the connections so much richer.

We all talk about the power of the arts to engage students. Engaging students is vitally important, but it cannot be empty engagement—they must be engaged in a way that inspires learning and connections across the curriculum. By speaking the language of the school you help the school’s mission and your organization’s mission simultaneously.

Currently, and in the near future, the dialog within schools focuses upon the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The shifts that are required to implement the CCSS are vital for arts partners to understand. Read the rest of this entry »

So…What’s Your Equation for Quality?

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On March - 16 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

I hope that everyone has enjoyed reading the various thoughts and stories from leaders across the country during our bi-annual Blog Salon (come back in September for our second one).

During the Salon, we heard examples of how folks are measuring quality, in terms of the effectiveness of their partnerships and their levels of student engagement:

We also heard some calls to action, by authors who wanted to push the field forward:

  • Seth’s ideas for shaking up education.
  • Jane’s call to let go of the notion that “models” from the “pockets of excellence” in the field will emerge and conveniently help us “scale up” and solve all of our problems.
  • Joyce’s simple reminder that creativity is the answer to this search for quality.

Thanks for following our salon on quality, engagement, and partnerships.

After reading all of these posts, have you decided on your own equation for quality in your community? I’d love to hear your final reflections in the comments section.

To view the salon in its entirety, please use this link: http://bit.ly/y9d2JV.

Joanne Riley

The new pARTnership Movement has really resonated with the Cultural Alliance of York County (PA). Though we solicit individuals now, we started, and mostly still are, a corporate campaign for the arts.

Annually we raise $1.2 million dollars. More than 300 companies make that happen by contributing to a campaign for arts, history, and culture. That’s an incredible number considering we are a town of 44,000 and a county of about 400,000.

The founders of the Cultural Alliance were the heads of large corporations here. They supported the concept of a United Arts Fund and invested in it. We had success our first year (2000) and have continued to meet or exceed goal.

The message that we clearly stated, from the beginning, is that the arts are good for business. Though our message was not so clearly articulated as the pARTnership Movement has been, the fact is we use those eight reasons to establish the arts’ genuine ability to change our community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Growing Stronger Together: Arts Partnerships in Philadelphia

Posted by Sahar Javedani On March - 15 - 2012

Sahar Javedani

As some of you may know, after seven years of working in New York City in arts education, I have recently moved to Philadelphia and am excited to join the creative workforce there!

Just after moving to Philly, I was encouraged by fellow arts ed colleagues to reach out to Varissa McMickens, director of ArtsRising, and she welcomed me with open arms, sharing valuable resources and orienting me on the current arts education scene and its’ wonderfully diverse programs.

On February 28, I had the great pleasure of joining 50 other representatives of Philadelphia arts & culture organizations in “Growing Stronger Together : Center City Student Forum & Conversation.”

This forum was organized by partner organizations: Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, ArtsRising, and PhillyRising.

Here’s a great description of the event from the ArtsRising website:

“Growing Stronger Together, a focus group with approximately 20 local high school students and representatives from the organizations mentioned above, was really about hearing the students’ voices. 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.