Ken Busby

When you hear the phrase, “the new normal,” do you ever stop and wonder what exactly that means? It certainly has become one of the most often-used phrases that we hear today. Everything has a “new normal.” However, there is something important in these three words. Important enough that it’s the theme for this year’s Annual Convention of Americans for the Arts.

Just this past week, the Dow took a dive or a dip (however you want to look at it) because the country isn’t creating enough jobs. Already, analysts are saying that we might be heading toward another recession—just as we are beginning to see daylight from the last one. So what is “the new normal?” Are we in a period of recovery or are things about to look bleak again?

The answer, quite simply, is yes or no—to both or neither. My point being…it doesn’t really matter what the national economy is doing on a daily basis. There are good days and bad days. However, our jobs as nonprofit arts education administrators and providers go on. And we have to find ways to make it all work. Is it easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes! So we do it—we move forward for the good of our organizations and the people and communities that we serve.

To me, “the new normal” is a reminder that every day is a new day, full of possibilities. Whatever we did yesterday, it’s done. We can’t change it. We can learn from it, but then we have to look to the future. What can we bring to the table today that will make a difference in our community tomorrow?  Read the rest of this entry »

Suzan E. Jenkins

After several years of trying, I was happy to finally snag a meeting with the Montgomery County (Maryland) Chamber of Commerce to make a presentation called Innovative Ways to Attract/Retain Top Talent: Innovative Arts & Humanities Community Strategies. How did I do it? Sheer perseverance!!

Why did it take me nearly two years to convince the president and CEO of the chamber of commerce that arts-centric businesses play an important role in building and sustaining economic vibrancy?

Because like many corporate professionals, she was skeptical that we could demonstrate that partnering with our sector can build market share; heighten awareness of member company products and services; attract employees; increase job satisfaction; and, enhance relationships with existing and new customers.

Like so many of her peers, she was unaware of that arts-centric businesses spend money locally, attract talented young professionals, generate government revenue at a high rate of return, and serve as a cornerstone of tourism and economic development

So I kept at it. And finally, she shared that her members’ most pressing concern was employee retention. She asked whether the arts and humanities community could offer strategies that would help corporate employers attract and retain top talent. Read the rest of this entry »

A Utility Player Comes Through (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Tim Yergeau On May - 18 - 2012

The arts and corporate communities have an interesting, long-standing relationship—especially here in Hartford. In fact, the Greater Hartford Arts Council owes its very existence to the corporate community.

Back in 1971, businesses got together and encouraged the creation of one fundraising and grantmaking entity to support the arts and cultural organizations in Hartford that were growing at an astonishing pace—and, understandably, had increased their need for donations and institutional support. Since then, a somewhat amusing relationship has formed between the arts and business: companies like strong arts organizations—they attract workers, give the neighborhood a rich, vibrant flavor and provide opportunities for positive stewardship.

The arts, too, rely on business for more than just philanthropy: the wealth of resources in the corporate world, from providing pro bono services and building connections with local leaders and everyday employees, businesses have much to offer the arts.

Yet we all seem to get hung up on the almighty dollar.

Trust me, it’s something we talk about every day. Probably multiple times a day. How much is this company willing to give? Who can we get to sponsor this event? How many employees do they have—and, how successful will the employee giving drive turn out to be?

The unfortunate reality of an unforgiving fundraising climate is that we sometimes miss the forest beyond the trees. Read the rest of this entry »

Federal Departments Announce New Tourism Strategy

Posted by Narric Rome On May - 17 - 2012

Narric Rome

On May 10, U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson and the U.S. Secretary for the Interior Ken Salazar released the U.S. National Travel & Tourism Strategy as developed through the Task Force on Travel & Competitiveness.

The task force had been set up through a Presidential Executive Order in January that called for a strategy within 90 days. President Obama announced the Executive Order at a visit to one of the most popular tourist sites in the world, Main Street USA in Disneyworld.

That same day in Orlando, FL, a new slate of members of the U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board was sworn in by Secretary Bryson, including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch and Linda Carlisle, the Secretary of North Carolina’s Department of Cultural Resources—both critical voices representing the arts and cultural tourism community within the larger tourism sector.

In its first three months of work, The U.S. Travel & Tourism Advisory Board (TTAB) developed a set of recommendations to Secretary Bryson to inform his work, and that of the task force, on the development of the national strategy.

Among the TTAB recommendations that relate to the arts and culture were:

(1) the inclusion of the arts as an objective to attracting tourists to secondary markets throughout the country,

(2) how an “authentic” experience is critical to a quality experience, and

(3) the need to include local tourism partners, such as city agencies and destination marketing organizations as partners with the federal government. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »