Telling Your Story. No, Really.

Posted by Deborah Vaughn On October - 23 - 2012

Deb Vaughn

We get asked to “tell our story” all the time in the arts. Who are you? Why do you value this work? What is it that you hope to accomplish? How will you get there?

Funders demand it from grant applicants. Legislators require it of state agencies, lobbyists, and constituents. Individual artists have to do it to justify their work.

Even as a working professional, being able to concisely “tell the story” of what I do all day is an important skill, especially at family reunions, when Crazy Uncle Dave asks: “Now, what is it you do again?”

But rarely do any of us do it well. We get so wrapped up in the desired outcome of telling our story that we forget: the best way to achieve that outcome is to tell a compelling story. It’s as simple as that.

At a professional development training earlier this month, hosted by SpeakeasyDC, I was reminded of what it actually takes to TELL A STORY.

The facilitators asked us to think of a time when the arts impacted our lives.

We started by telling the story out loud to someone else (writing or typing your story will activate the “mean writing teacher” that sits on your shoulder, bogging you down in grammar and punctuation and sentence structure. Keep it verbal and keep going). This helps you and your listener determine which points are memorable and which are expendable.

Then our partner told the story back to us. See how it is no longer MY story, but THE story? That’s what we’re going for: finding a universal truth that the listener can connect to their own life. That’s the whole point to a good story. And when pitching a project to a funder, isn’t that your goal? Read the rest of this entry »

Nuit Blanche: One Night of Art in Toronto

Posted by Renee Piechocki On October - 18 - 2012

Two years ago I went on my first trip to Toronto and fell in love with the city and their all-night arts event Nuit Blanche. Projects like Kim Adams’ Auto Lamp made me vow to come back again:

It was a good resolution!

This year, I made my way up on September 28, driving 5.5 hours from Pittsburgh with my bike on the back of my car. Toronto is a bike-friendly city, with dedicated bike lanes, bike racks, and bike shops. Once I parked my car on Friday night, I did not see it again until it was time to drive home on Sunday afternoon.

Many of my trips tend to be a bit of a busman’s holiday, and this one was no exception. I had a list of Nuit Blanche projects to see as well as some permanent pieces commissioned by Jane Perdue through the Percent for Public Art Program. Biking gave me the chance to avoid traffic, explore more of the city than I could have on foot, and enjoy the fantastic fall weather.

Nuit Blanche started at 7:03 pm on September 29 and lasted until sunrise on September 30. This is a sleepless night of a diverse crowd of tens of thousands of people. There were over 150 projects to explore in three zones. Read the rest of this entry »

You Know More Than You Realize and It’s Time to Share

Posted by Andrew Witt On October - 12 - 2012

Andrew Witt

We are often so busy with our organization’s day-to-day programming, administration, fundraising, advocacy, and the need to establish some sense of work life balance, we forget or just don’t think about what we have to offer and learn with our peers.

Serving on one of the Americans for the Arts Advisory Councils is both a blessing and a curse (or a challenge or opportunity in biz speak).

There are 5,000 local arts agencies in the Americans for the Arts universe, or as Bob Lynch refers to them/us—arts enabling organizations. I never really thought about being an arts enabler but we are just that. Our job as administrators is to help the field grow and prosper, in our communities, our state, and our country.

And as we help the field, we also help ourselves by learning and sharing from the grassroots to the grass tops. Stop for just a minute and reflect on how you learn and how you have put that into practice.

What did you pick up at the Annual Convention, National Arts Marketing Project Conference, or a statewide or regional arts meeting? What came out of a one or two hour session in a breakout or at the bar or restaurant? Pretty valuable, eh?

Now just think what if that one or two hour session turned into a day and a half or longer and not just once a year but almost every month. And now what if those conversations were not scattered among 50 plus colleagues, but among a smaller group of 12-15.

Then there is time for to you share best practices—yours and others, address those tough personnel (hey we all have them don’t kid yourself) issues, political issues, fundraising tips, and even talk about real arts and culture policy development. Wow, when was the last time that happened!

Do yourself and your organization and your community a favor and serve on an advisory council. It’s worth every minute and every dollar you spend. But do it for the other 4,999 organizations and colleagues as well as for you.

Nominations close October 17. Nominate yourself or a colleague. You won’t ever regret it—personally and professionally.

ICYMI: ARTSblog in August

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 31 - 2012

I’ve been trying to take the time at the end of each month to review some posts that you might have missed, and since August is a particularly vacation-filled month, I figured why not start now?

In case you missed it (ICYMI), here are some highlights from ARTSblog in August:

  • Arts Education Council member Jessica Wilt honored the memory of fellow council member Alyx Kellington who passed away in late July.
  • I found a video providing a tour of the public art and transportation project taking place in St. Paul, MN.
  • Arts for All’s Laura Zucker shared lessons learned as her Los Angeles-based organization celebrated its tenth anniversary.

Don’t forget to check ARTSblog often for new content, as we try to publish at least one new post each day, and keep an eye out for our second Arts Education Blog Salon the week of September 10!

Public Art and Transportation Partnership Adds to St. Paul Culture

Posted by Tim Mikulski On August - 24 - 2012

Although federal transportation funding has recently moved away from including public art projects, there is still state and local funding available to help bring the arts to more people in your community via murals and roadside/town square-type public art work.

In this video from MinnPost.com, the presenter walks viewers through the city of St. Paul as murals are playing a large role in the installation of a new light rail system. Americans for the Arts member Laura Zabel, executive director of Springboard for the Arts, also appears to help explain the project:

Are there similar marriages between public art and transportation in your community?

Tell (or show us via web links) us about them in the comments below!

The Art of Memorial Making

Posted by Victoria Ford On July - 25 - 2012

What do we tell our children?

It’s one of many questions being asked this summer in light of the recent event in Aurora, CO, where a dozen were murdered and 58 wounded during the theater tragedy which took place at midnight this past Friday.

Crosses as memorials in Aurora, CO.

And it’s a familiar question, one I remember—with little ease—almost eleven years ago, when our country was as similarly wounded and roused as we are now.

The potency of this moment in each of our lives is something I can’t ignore. No longer is this a question addressing the eight-year-old shadow of myself from 2001, as much as it is one I’ve begun to ask myself.

How do we carry this? What can I do?

Without a doubt, I am not alone. Take a walk down the street and look closely: Many have dressed themselves in the burdens of pain caused by this tragedy. All compelled to create something in response, to take some sort of action—be it, in this case, the candlelight vigil, the countless crosses erected into the ground and decorated by floral arrangements, the memorial t-shirt designed to raise money for the grieving families of each victim.

I suppose it is, to some degree, it’s our 21st century style of memorial making. It is our process toward confronting what we tell our children, just as much as it is a way to tackle what we will leave our children with in tragedy’s wake.

Erika Doss, the author of Memorial Mania, puts it eloquently:

“Today’s growing numbers of memorials represent heightened anxieties about who and what should be remembered in America…shaped by the affective conditions of public life in America today: by the fevered pitch of public feelings such as grief, gratitude, fear, shame, and anger.” Read the rest of this entry »

While looking through my many news alerts last week, I came across an amazing kinetic sculpture recently installed in the Terminal 1 departure hall at Changi Airport in Singapore.

I have seen some great public art works in U.S. airports during my travels like Air Over Under by Norie Sato at San Francisco International Airport (which was selected as part of our annual Public Art Year in Review this year),

“Air Over Under” by Norie Sato at San Francisco International Airport.

but I have never seen anything like this piece called, Kinetic Rain:

Do you think this piece would help pass the time during a long layover?

Camille Russell Love

There is an undeniable compatibility with the arts and the City of Atlanta local economy. According to the newest evidence provided by the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV report on Atlanta, our nonprofit arts and culture organizations are a $300 million industry.

This calculation is a combination of the expenditures of these organizations ($168.1 million) and that of the attendees to cultural events ($131.9 million), excluding ticket prices. This local spending by residents and visitors to arts events benefits not only local business but local government as well.

Local government revenue from the above mentioned cultural expenditures, according to the AEP IV study, are $14 million. Proper distribution of these above mentioned government funds, in support of Atlanta’s booming arts industry will continue to heighten the city’s economic standing—without question. A good example of this cyclical relationship is a 2011 project of the Office of Cultural Affairs, Elevate/Art Above Underground. Local businesses, ranging from mom and pop shops to large hotel chains, gathered in support this downtown contemporary art and culture initiative.

Downtown Atlanta received a rather bold, immediate, and affirmative reaction following Elevate’s implementation. Elevate/Art Above Underground, a 66-day performance and visual arts exhibition in 2011, filled vacant properties, street corners, and plazas to showcase artwork ranging from 13-story murals to contemporary dance, video, installation, and poetry.

Although public funding allocated through our percent for art program was the direct source for the artist commissions, additional funding to execute an exhibition of this caliber was provided through local Atlanta businesses. Donation of art space, hotel rooms, theatrical lighting, food, advertising, and cash support nearly doubled the exhibition’s initial budget. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art Creates an Elevated Mood

Posted by Helen Lessick On July - 6 - 2012

I went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) last week to see Levitated Mass.

I love Michael Heizer’s work and travel miles to see it. His commissioned projects in Seattle and Reno are my places of cultural tourism. I saw Double Negative in decay in 1980 and City Complex in its early nineties form. I also love rocks. Igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic—I find in them extraordinary sculptures of time.

I loved the celebration of the journey of the rock (check out this video of the voyage) as it traveled from the quarry to the art museum at 11 miles per hour.

So the odd thing is that the rock isn’t the star in Heizer’s new commission. It’s the trench.

The trench is the star of “Levitated Mass.”

Levitated Mass is about the channel, the journey through the land. The 456-foot channel offers a tour of construction excellence and fetishistic form work. The concrete is polished to a matte marble finish; the finished edges and surfaces align perfectly over a huge distance. Even the discrete railing is a perfectly formed negative channel worthy of detail photos. Read the rest of this entry »

On the Fence in Denver (from The pARTnership Movement)

Posted by Deanne Gertner On June - 28 - 2012

Deanne Gertner

I hate construction sites.

I know, I know: it means architects drafting blueprints; it means a plumber buying his daughter a new tutu; it means an accountant sweating the costs of nuts and bolts; it means a toy manufacturer making more plastic tool sets; it means realtors and workman’s comp insurers and educators and marketing people all get to work and in turn buy things like groceries and clothes and gasoline, pay taxes and rent, and go to the museum or the zoo or the theatre or the gallery.

Construction equals jobs and homes and a buzzing economy.

Intellectually, I get it. I really do. As the granddaughter and niece of electricians, I really should have a better attitude about it, because, arguably, without construction, I wouldn’t even be here.

Maybe it’s that I’ve been hollered, hooted, and whistled at one too many times, albeit less and less as I’ve gotten older. Or maybe it’s the noise and the ugly mess of it coupled with the possibility of a nail puncturing my car tires that makes my left eye twitch. But lucky for my delicate aesthetic, Denver businesses are finally catching on and are turning their construction sites into canvases, so to speak.

Case study numero uno: Children’s Hospital Colorado, Phipps/McCarthy, and UMB Bank, joint finalists for Colorado Business Committee for the Arts’ (CBCA’s) 2012 Business for the Arts Awards in the Impact category for the Many Hands Create Art project.

Faced with increased patient demand and limited space, Children’s Hospital broke ground on a 10-story, 124-bed tower in 2010. The Phipps/McCarthy team, in an effort to minimize the construction’s impact on the patients in the existing hospital, suggested hanging murals from the fence lining surrounding the site. Nearly 100 mural panels were created to camouflage the construction fences. More than 40 hospital groups comprised of patients, families, nurses, physicians and staff, 25 professional artists and local art students, and seven local community groups including schools and visual arts nonprofits came together to create the panels. That’s a whole lot of art making, folks! Read the rest of this entry »

PAN-OUT — A Broad View of the 2012 Public Art Network Preconference

Posted by Liesel Fenner On June - 14 - 2012

Liesel Fenner

2012 marks my tenth Americans for the Arts Public Art Preconference, six of which I have planned and orchestrated over the years with the help of Public Art Network (PAN) Council members and local hosts.

This year proved to be another shining star, aptly-hosted in the Lone Star state of Texas and San Antonio, a sparkling gem of creative community that rolled out the red carpet for us.

Held at Pearl, Preconference attendees were greeted to hearty breakfast tacos (localvore favorite) and iced coffee, in preparation for the 90 degree-plus predicted temperatures. Newcomers were welcomed to an orientation in Pearl’s Center for Architecture, the American Institute of Architects local chapter office with crisp-geometric interiors offering flexible meeting space (everything on casters) for PAN’s breakout sessions throughout the day.

Attendees trekked across the Pearl campus to the nearby historic Stable, an oval-shaped plan once housing up to 70 horses, today hosting 270 Preconference attendees! Texas hosts, Martha Peters of the Ft. Worth Public Art Program and PAN Council member and Jimmy LeFlore of Public Art San Antonio, led everyone in a rousing welcome.

Representatives of the PAN Council presented a state-of-the-field report highlighting critical issues the Council is addressing including: public art and quality of life, evaluation, and social practices and community engagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Blurring the Boundaries—New Paradigms for Public Art

Posted by Susan Pontious On June - 13 - 2012

Susan Pontious

This session was billed as one that would explore the “new normal” for public art by considering programs, events, partnerships, and policies required for sustaining vital, culturally rich communities.

Valerie Vadala Homer from Scottsdale, AZ, began by presenting the premise that traditional percent-for-art programs enabled by legislation passed by cities, counties, and states across the country in the 1960s and 80s may have become obsolete as cities approach “build out.” She presented alternatives of replacing permanent work affixed to construction with a model that focused on art events like “Glow” in Santa Monica and temporary installations that attracted audiences and enlivened the urban landscape.

Janet Echelman, best known for her ethereal “net sculptures,” showed an overview of her work, which has been funded by a variety of sources in many different kinds of locations. She spoke from an artist’s perspective about how she was adapting her work so that her dramatic installations could travel and be installed into pre-existing architectural settings.

Edward Uhlir, from Millennium Park in Chicago, showed us what can be accomplished when a city can summon astounding sums in private patronage to commission bold, daring art and architecture on a scale unprecedented in this country.

Finally, Janet Kagen gave us a tale of two cities; one was a successful project in Clinton, NC, the other was a project for the city of Durham that was aborted when it ran into opposition by other city powerbrokers. Durham then proceeded to legislate a public art ordinance so bureaucratically Byzantine that its failure was all but guaranteed. This experience caused Kagen to conclude that communities that don’t have ordinances should “stay that way.” Read the rest of this entry »

Guerilla Tactics, Local Authenticity, and Socially Engaged Artists

Posted by Letitia Fernandez Ivins On June - 12 - 2012

The artist-initiated Victory Garden project outside of San Francisco City Hall in 2008 spurred a city-wide urban farming movement.

The Public Art Network and the Emerging Leaders Preconferences converged for their combined closing plenary session: “Multiple Meanings: The Expanding Role of Leadership in Creating Place” with Jason Schupbach (National Endowment for the Arts [NEA] Director of Design) and artist John Bela of Rebar in San Antonio on June 8.

The session sought first to explore the somewhat unsuspecting backgrounds of Jason, with a B.A. in Public Health and M.A. in Urban Planning, and John, whose education skipped from biochemistry to sculpture, performance, and landscape architecture, illustrating the benefits of their eclectic and complimentary experience to the arts field.

What does this reveal about the work of creative placemaking?

Because, in my unauthorized definition, creative placemaking is about cross-sector collaboration in which artists are a catalyst for public participation and community transformation. In order to infiltrate community, master planning processes, and policy, artists and arts professionals alike must speak the language of the architect, the planner, the social worker, the community activist, the health care provider, and the politician OR find internal allies so that we have support in the calculated risks that are intrinsic to making a social impact and to making art.

John’s formula for creative change: the Advocate, the Artist and the Guerilla Bureaucrat. For me, the latter offered the biggest conference take-away (the tantalizingly oxymoronic term also mentioned in a previous Public Art Network session). Read the rest of this entry »

The Curtain Rises on 2012 Annual Convention

Posted by Tim Mikulski On June - 7 - 2012

A nice welcome sign at the San Antonio airport.

Although some of our staff members were delayed due to weather on route to San Antonio, everyone made it from out our New York and D.C. offices yesterday in preparation for the beginning of our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this morning.

Today’s lineup includes the start of our preconferences—Public Art and Emerging Leaders—as well as several meetings of our peer network leadership councils and partners from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study (which will be unveiled live in-person and via webcast on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT).

Registration for the main convention officially opens this evening (5:00 p.m. CDT) at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio before we move into the full slate of peer networking, professional development, innovator, and discussion sessions tomorrow morning.

We look forward to the opportunities that our annual meetings bring for our staff and attendees and we hope you’ll join us even if you aren’t in San Antonio via our webcast on Friday and Convention On-Demand (featuring over 30 hours of recorded sessions) which will be available after we depart Texas.

If you are joining us in person, thank you for making the trip and make sure you share your experience with us via comments on new blog posts throughout the weekend (and into next week), tweets (#AFTA12 is our hashtag), Facebook posts, and photos on Flickr.

Multiple Interpretations & Approaches to Public Art Evaluation

Posted by Liesel Fenner On May - 18 - 2012

Liesel Fenner

A ‘lucky 13’ total number of public art blog posts were published this week from public art administrators, artists, designers, educators, and students.

Thank you to everyone in the Public Art Network (PAN) community for contributing and sharing the posts with your networks. Let us know your thoughts on the Blog Salon (you can view all 13 posts with this link) and future public art topics that you would like to see discussed through blog posts, webinars, and other information resources.

A cogent comment by Barbara Goldstein asked “does it work?” and emphatically stated, “It would be virtually impossible to measure whether one work of art has an economic impact in a specific place.” When public art administrators are asked for public art economic impact studies from elected officials, city commissions, and constituents it is incumbent on the public art program to look more deeply at how the artworks work within the larger urban and cultural context.

As Goldstein proposed, “questions that can be asked are more subtle—what makes a specific place memorable? Can you describe what you experience there and how it makes you feel? What do you think when you see a particular artwork? Does it improve your experience of this place?”

Studies are tackling the challenging approach of how to cull one’s personal experience of place, as Penny Balkin Bach introduced us to The Knight Foundation and Gallup Corporation’s Soul of the Community study that states, “community attachment creates an emotional connection to place.” The study determined that the key drivers of attachment are social offerings, openness, and the aesthetics of place—all attributes of public art. 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.

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