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 »

Amy Webb

Amy Webb

“When people go to work, they shouldn’t have to leave their hearts at home.” -Betty Bender

My name is Amy Webb, the newest member of the Americans for the Arts staff and the Director of Arts & Business Council of New York, and I’m so excited to kick off this week’s Unique Business Partnerships blog salon!

My goal in my new position is to increase our New York City presence and enhance connections between the arts and the business communities using a variety of current and developing programs. One of these is the implementation of an employee engagement program for businesses to connect employees with the arts and to help businesses increase recruitment and retention as well as overall employee satisfaction in the workplace. In my last job at Neuberger Berman–an asset management firm–I witnessed a transformation in the workplace once a well-rounded employee engagement program was put in place. There was a buzz around the office and it seemed like, for the first time, everyone was involved in something artistic. There are numerous ways–both big and small–to bring art to your employees, and from my experience they will thank you. Read the rest of this entry »

My Experience at Annual Convention and Resulting To-Do List!

Posted by Ella van Wyk On June - 27 - 2014
Ella Van Wyk

Ella Van Wyk

“There’s nowhere to go but on!” – Feist

Let this blog begin with my gratitude for the amazing experience I have had over these last few days. Receiving the Arthur Greenberg Memorial Scholarship Award is an event that has truly influenced my career, and will benefit my organization and my local arts community.  Thank you to Abe Flores, Rebecca Burrell, and Adam Fong for taking the time to have genuine conversations with me and truly contribute to the work I am doing.

Attending a conference is too passive a description for these last few days. I learned, sang, listened, laughed, digested, deliberated, rejected, reinforced, inquired, decompressed, and grew. I watched Robert L Lynch (CEO of Americans for the Arts) and Jonathan Katz (CEO National Assembly of State Arts Agencies) jam together. They spoke about leadership, their nonlinear careers, they read their own poetry, sang songs, enjoyed each other’s company, and celebrated each other’s achievements! I met fantastic people from across the country, Canada, and the UK who are all fighting for the same cause, attacking similar challenges and were open and willing to share ideas, brainstorm and listen. I sang with Ben Folds. I stayed up until midnight disseminating what I’d experienced that day making To-Do lists and resource wish-lists so that when I get home I can hit the ground running and implement all I have experienced here. I received wisdom, knowledge, empathy, and suggestions from leaders in the arts and experts with invaluable years of experience. Read the rest of this entry »

It Was TOO Short!

Posted by Norie Sato On June - 24 - 2014
Norie Sato receiving the 2014 Public Art Network Award at Annual Convention

Norie Sato receiving the 2014 Public Art Network Award at Annual Convention

The Nashville PAN Preconference has come and gone, sniff sniff, I miss seeing everyone already. I was thrilled to be able to speak to so many of you and to be with smart, hard working people in the field. The PAN preconference is such a great time to reconnect with old colleagues and meet new people as well as to learn. And so many issues and things to learn just to keep up or to innovate do not fit into the time we had. A special thanks to those who worked so hard for us to organize the conference.

But in the spirit of constructive feedback and reflections back on the precon, I offer the following:

1)  The Preconference is TOO short. We had essentially only 1 day. 2 panel session slots do not give us enough time for the various issues that need covering. At least another half day would have allowed us at least another session slot to allow for some more breadth and depth would truly be desirable. The Nashville team worked hard to showcase their city…and maybe we (I) could have spent more time in it, as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Provocations and Basic Truths for Rethinking our Work at Home

Posted by Jim Clark On June - 23 - 2014
Jim Clark

Jim Clark

I always look forward to Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention for two very specific reasons: one is to be provoked by the audacity of others; the second is to be reminded of basic truths about our field.

The provocations usually generate one of two possible self-reflections: “Why didn’t I think of that?” or, “We did something similar, but why doesn’t anyone know about it?” Regardless of how I am provoked, these moments during the conference become the “drivers” that propel me to rethink our work at home. The provocations challenge, inspire, and create a sense of professional restlessness that keeps things fresh.  Case in point, Penny Balkin Bach’s presentation on how the Association for Public Art in Philadelphia uses social media. It was challenging and inspiring because I realized my organization was not using the tools (most of which are free) that are at our finger tips to not only communicate to a larger audience but also to harness the tools of measurement that are embedded within them. Read the rest of this entry »

Using my day job skills to be a better writer

Posted by Gemma Irish On June - 12 - 2014
Gemma Irish

Gemma Irish

The following is an article originally posted on Minnesota Playlist, written by playwright Gemma Irish, in which she describes how her daily work in marketing at a Fortune 500 company has made her a better artist.

Writers are notorious procrastinators. We would rather do the dishes, read the entire internet, eat a sandwich, or meet friends at the bar than sit down and write. When we finally get down to work (probably because we have a deadline looming, and/or we’re disgusted with ourselves) we drink sherry, we write while reclined, or standing up, or at a café, or in absolute silence. We need just the right conditions, the right pen, the right atmosphere in which to write.

I have to be honest with you: I am guilty of cleaning my entire kitchen instead of re-writing a play, and furthermore I am guilty of getting caught up in the mystique of Being A Writer. “This is how I’m supposed to act! I’m supposed to be a total weirdo and drink too much coffee and put off revising this draft by cleaning my apartment and researching serial killers! It proves that I am a Real Writer!” Read the rest of this entry »

Cara Scharf

Cara Scharf

The following is an interview with Americans for the Arts’ Senior Director of Arts Policy Marete Wester. Conducted by Cara Scharf, it was originally published in ArtsLine, the Drexel Arts Administration quarterly newsletter focusing on the program, the arts and culture sector, and the students’ perspective.

Marete Wester’s professional journey started in the mid-80s with a Masters in Arts Administration from Drexel University and landed her at national arts service organization Americans for the Arts in 2006. As Senior Director of Arts Policy, Wester brings the voice of the arts field to policy discussions nationwide. This means cultivating partnerships and convening meetings with a diverse group of organizations to show how the arts play a role in quality-of-life issues such as the environment and education. One recent example of her work is the National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military, which works to expand access to and research on the arts as effective tools in the care of service members. I spoke with Marete about her work and experience in Drexel’s program.

Read the rest of this entry »

Now You Can Build a Winning Website

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 6 - 2014

5 Reasons You Should Launch a Website in “Beta”

Posted by Kimberly Hedges On June - 6 - 2014
Kim Hedges

Kim Hedges

The day we planned to launch the new AmericansForTheArts.org website, everyone on staff was ready for a party-a pizza party to be exact–to celebrate all our hard work and the debut of our beautiful new site.

While the web team was humbled by staff’s faith in us and their palpable joy about the new site they helped create, we were a little less ready to celebrate.

Yes, technically, we just needed to make one DNS update on that day to point traffic from our old site to the new one and viola, a new site is launched.

But, it’s actually not that simple.

Yes, we had spent weeks testing the site and getting everything in order, but the traffic of 10 people testing a site just doesn’t match the traffic of your daily visitors. When you open your site to that increased traffic, they stretch it in different ways, interact with it differently, and a new level of testing begins.

And that’s the testing that really matters-whether you acknowledge it or not. Read the rest of this entry »

Kick Your Content Up a Notch with Multimedia

Posted by Raheem Dawodu On June - 5 - 2014
Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

Caitlin Holland

Caitlin Holland

Earlier in this blog salon, we discussed the ten ways you could improve the website you already have, as well as the ways you could  create engaging content for your website.

In both of those posts, we briefly highlighted the use of multimedia – graphics, video, animation, audio – as a way to make your content more interactive.

But, what is multimedia? And what is the best way to use it to tell your organization’s story? Read the rest of this entry »

Learning Website Lingo on the Fly

Posted by Joshua Jenkins On June - 5 - 2014
Joshua Jenkins

Joshua Jenkins

Working on a website redesign or refresh can become easily overwhelming, especially if you don’t consider yourself well-versed in the lingo, countless acronyms, and big concepts that get tossed around throughout the process.

Learning a few of these more “techy” concepts, how they function, and why they are important will make navigating through the design and development process a lot easier.

Here’s a rundown of some important concepts to grasp:

Information Architecture

When you are setting out to redesign your website, the concept of information architecture is paramount and one to consider in the early stages. The Information Architecture (IA) structures your website’s content in the way you’d like the user to experience it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Design Process: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Posted by Elizabeth Van Fleet On June - 5 - 2014
Elizabeth Van Fleet

Elizabeth Van Fleet

Stop. Before you start thinking about the pretty wrapping paper you’re going to use for this awesome new website you’re about to give your audience, make sure you’ve done your research, organization, and started working with staff on content.

Why do you have to do that first?

Because to get good design you have to answer the hard questions; you have to know WHO you’re designing it for and WHAT message you want your design to send to your audience.

As Manager of Publications and Communication at Americans for the Arts, part of my job is to manage the design process for many of our printed and online materials. I work with a variety of vendors on a regular basis, and I was part of the team that decided on the design direction for our new website. Read the rest of this entry »

Raheem Dawodu

Raheem Dawodu

The time has come. You’ve done your research to find out your audiences, figured out how to create great content to meet their needs, and you’ve convinced your organization’s staff and leadership that it’s time to build a new website.

Now it’s time to involve your staff in the process – since they are the issue experts that should work with you to create or revise your website’s content. At Americans for the Arts, though everyone on staff has an interest in the success of the website, only some of the people on our 70-person staff are what we call “content creators” – the ones who write the content. Read the rest of this entry »

5 Documents You Need for a Successful Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

We’ve already talked about how important it is to do your due diligence when taking on a website redesign – figuring out your audiences, securing buy-in from your leadership, selecting good partners and vendors, the importance of quality content for your website – and we’ll be diving in deeper later in this blog salon about working with staff to create and revise quality content.

As you continue to bring together all these great resources, it will be helpful to compile them in a format that will be useful to your team and your vendors. During our website redesign, we ended up creating a number of documents that helped us fully scrutinize and contemplate all of our options. No stone was left unturned, which helped our stakeholders feel more comfortable with some of the drastic changes we were suggesting. Read the rest of this entry »

How to Pick the Best Partners for Your Website Redesign

Posted by Danielle Williams On June - 4 - 2014
Danielle Williams

Danielle Williams

Now that you’ve decided that you need a new website, figured out your audiences, and garnered support from your leadership and staff, you should be ready to select a team of professionals to help you with the website overhaul process. There are very few organizations who can completely handle a web redesign in-house, so it’s important to have great partners who can help you through this project.

At Americans for the Arts, our Marketing, Communications and Technology Department includes a Vice President, a 5-person Marketing and Communications team, a 3-person Web team, and a 5-person Database and internal IT team. Though our entire 70-person staff played part in this project (as we detail later in this blog salon!), our Web team and VP were primary, working with our external vendors and with a good deal of content help from Marketing and Communications. Read the rest of this entry »