Katie Kurcz

Katie Kurcz

At last month’s Arts & Business Council of Chicago’s workshop, we learned that the secret to building cultural corporate partnerships is that there are no secrets. In fact, the core strategy is as basic as building a strong, healthy relationship.

Although this revelation is rather anti-climatic and fairly intuitive, the case studies and advice shared by the workshop panelists provided instructive takeaways about who to target, how to approach prospective partners, and what to expect in making asks.

The panel was comprised of two sets of partnership pairs representing both the corporate and the arts perspective.

Ruth Stine, director of special projects at the Chicago Humanities Festival (CHF) and Business Volunteer for the Arts (BVA) consultant, presented alongside Beth Gallagher, director of community engagement at Aon.

Beth acknowledged that the best way to get support from Aon is having an internal advocate(s) already involved with the organization as a board member or volunteer. The more Aon employees involved with the organization, the more likely Aon will consider a request for support. The status and tenure of the advocates are factors that are considerations as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Scaling Out Like a Saguaro Cactus

Posted by Roberto Bedoya On December - 6 - 2012

Roberto Bedoya

I don’t have a great talent to align easily with authority…one could say I have an allergic response to it…so when I was asked to write about “scaling up”, my head began to ache and I started to sneeze.

Maybe my responses are triggered by the “authoritarian” tone associated with scaling up, it’s hierarchical connotations that projects images of success, as a bigger and better operation that makes me wonder about the assumptions at work here or maybe it is the management chants of “scale up, scale up” that makes me nervous.

I do not oppose the work of scaling up, but I am not a skilled manger in that arena and the process of scaling up is mercurial to me. My experiences in the arena of community cultural development practices, has produce a understanding of scaling that is focused on scaling “out” as opposed to scaling “up”

A desert story: The most beautiful aspects of the Sonoran desert are the Saguaro cacti. Their majesty is how they dot the landscape as these tall and eloquent plants that reach upward. And in their long life span it takes up to 75 years to develop a side arm that stand out against the vivid blue of the desert sky. In the heat of this desert they thrive and their success lies in their root systems—a system that is linear, moves outward across the land and grows and proposer.

The Saguaro is a model of development that we can learn from—how to scale out and thrive. I find that the language of scaling up is inadequate when ones charge, as an art leader is to foster cultural vitality and support an equitable society. To do this work over time one must know to build relations, know how to scale-out these relationships that results in healthy communities and a robust democracy. Read the rest of this entry »

Go Deep to Go Wide

Posted by Jeanette Lee and Mike Medow On December - 6 - 2012

Attendees enjoy an Allied Media Conference session.

Organizers often believe we have to choose between breadth and depth. Do we prioritize meaningful relationships or strive to “reach” the greatest number of people?

At Allied Media Projects we see this is a false dichotomy. Over the past 15 years of organizing the annual Allied Media Conference (AMC), we have learned that we can achieve broad engagement while also prioritizing deep relationships.

Relationships are key

The AMC has a unique conference organizing model that fosters relationships at the internal and interpersonal, community, and inter-community levels. Small-scale relationships fostered through the AMC have ripple effects that create large-scale impact. Founded as a zine conference in 1999 around the independent press mantra of “become the media,”  the AMC has since evolved a theory of change that says:

Creating our own media is a process of speaking and listening that allows us to investigate the problems that shape our realities, imagine other realities and then organize our communities to make them real. When we use media in this way, we transform ourselves from consumers of information to producers, from objects within narratives of exploitation and violence to active subjects in the transformation of the world.

Our definition of “media” has grown over the years to include everything from breakdancing to broadcasting community radio and building web applications. The conference features more than 140 hands-on workshops, strategy conversations, caucus meetings, and art and music events. Read the rest of this entry »

Time-Tested Tools for Evaluation

Posted by Chris Dwyer On May - 2 - 2012

Chris Dwyer

I’ve had the good fortune to live in the same community for the past 27 years and the double good fortune to have participated over time in a wide range of arts-based initiatives in that community:

  • site-based work related to immigration
  • explorations of the history of a working class neighborhood now gentrified
  • rediscovery and recognition of the paved-over African Burying ground in our white New England city
  • perspectives on the challenges faced by seniors
  • and the most widely known, The Shipyard Project, which was a two-year exploration through dance of the intertwined histories of a large naval military installation and a port city that have co-existed side-by-side for over two hundred plus years.

So, I’ve had an advantage that most project evaluators never experience, that is, a really longitudinal view of unfolding impacts.

Long after initiatives have concluded, I have seen relationships that began in a community arts project rekindle to tackle a new issue or witnessed policies that were the object of arts-informed debate finally take hold after several failed attempts. I have seen young people who were inspired by the arts planning of my generation decide to settle in the community and become the next generation of arts and community leaders.

The real impacts become visible many years after the evaluator has delivered the final report to the funders. Read the rest of this entry »

Marty Pottenger

Art At Work

Recently, I found myself sitting in a circle in Portland, ME, leading a group that includes the city manager, police chief, a leader in the Occupy Maine movement, one of the founders of Portland’s NAACP, leaders from the Sudanese and Congolese refugee communities, the president of a city union (CEBA), and a doctor active in public health, among others. The members of this group are impressive and diverse, but what we are sharing is more so.

In only seven minutes, 20 city and community leaders composed poems that draw upon their personal histories, the history of Portland, and those things they have witnessed in this place we all call home.

Increasing the Odds

All of Art At Work’s projects are designed to increase the odds that Portland and their partner cities (Holyoke, Northampton, and Providence in 2012), launch their own Art At Work will be better able to turn anticipated social and economic crises into opportunities by integrating creative engagement in their ‘way of doing business.’

This workshop was a part of Portland Works, another one of our experiments in figuring out how to harness the transformative power of art to achieve concrete community-based outcomes. These workshops bring together community and city leaders to create a dialogue and increase understanding between individuals and groups that often see one another as obstacles as opposed to allies. “It’s just brilliant,” says Mike Miles, the City of Portland’s director of human resources, “using art to break conceptions about who people are and what people do.”

Art At Work, of which Portland Works is just one part, is designed to improve municipal government through strategic arts projects involving city employees, elected officials, community leaders, and local artists. Read the rest of this entry »

The Aversion to Risk

Posted by Adam Thurman On September - 8 - 2009

To have a successful career in the arts you have to understand risk aversion.

Here’s the best definition of risk aversion I have ever heard and it is particular to the performing arts: Most people, when given the option to attend a performing arts event are more scared that the performance is going to be disappointing then they are excited that the performance is going to be good.

When we approach the public with our work, they immediately ask themselves, “is this worth my time and money?” And the default answer to that question is “no” until we prove otherwise.

That means the burden of proof is on us. Many of us don’t understand this. Read the rest of this entry »

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Serving the Local Arts Community (from Arts Watch)

Posted by mschoenfeld On June - 10 - 2009

The recently posted Americans for the Arts strategic plan re-asserts the role of local arts agencies in our organization. My recent travels, emails, and tasks around the office remind me of the challenge and opportunity we face in serving the local arts agency community well. In completing a statistical report for the U.S. Urban Arts Federation (the directors of the arts agencies in the 60 largest U.S. cities), we are reminded that more and more, there isn’t just one entity providing the service – one organization may provide most of the funding to artists and arts organizations, while another manages cultural planning. Yet another may manage the bulk of the cultural facilities in a community or coordinate advocacy and public policy development. We asked Urban Arts Federation members if other public agencies, offices, and departments supported the arts, whether it was with cash, and if so, whether that cash was managed through the arts agency. The answers were all over the map. Conferences where I got to meet with local arts agency leaders in Georgia and California this spring confirmed that this complexity is not unique to urban areas.

We are no longer in the age (if we ever were) of a stand-alone agency that takes care of all of a community’s needs. This decentralization is generally great news in terms of making art more widely available in our communities. A challenge for us – how do we understand and document the full picture of support for the arts on the local level? What professional development and training opportunities will best position our members to develop partnerships and leverage relationships to increase resources? We know each community is different – so what kind of strategic analysis necessary to size up what will work best? When is it worth it to try to centralize activity?

We’d love to hear from you about the ecology of support in your community and how Americans for the Arts can both provide the training you need to excel in your environment, and the research and information you need in order to do your job well.

Art As Shared Experience, Part II

Posted by Alan Nunez On January - 8 - 2009

I’m tickled by the fact that my two year-old personal blog has two entries in it and this will be my third for Americans for the Arts in five weeks. I like to think of myself as the Terrence Malick of the blogging world. I guess when it comes to arts, I had more to say than I thought.

The thought of art as a shared experience has been in my head for years and years. However, inspired by my fellow bloggers, it’s been busting to get out. Much of this has to do with the advent of web 2.0. It’s amazing that we can access so much information, such as watching video on demand. However, I’ll digress here and say that I still think it’s a travesty that we can’t see the famous George Brett/Pine Tar Incident without sending a hefty payment to MLB. However, as to prove a point on advent of greater accessibility and user-created content, I did find a low-key reenactment and another done by the Famous Chicken and Johnny Bench. For those of you who haven’t seen it, trust me that the real thing is only slightly less surreal.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Artcast Episode 12: Recognition of Arts Supporters is Crucial

Posted by Graham Dunstan On December - 12 - 2008

Bob Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses how recognition of arts supporters provides key opportunities for championing the value of the arts.  He focuses on the recipients of the 2008 National Arts Awards and BCA 10 awards this past October during National Arts and Humanities Month.

I'm hosting a "Change is Coming" House meeting

Posted by Silagh White On December - 10 - 2008

I’m not sure if you’ve all read the Obama Arts Platform – but it’s linked here for easy access. There’s one strong piece in it, right near the top ‘Expand Public/Private Partnerships Between Schools and Arts Organizations:” – that means to me, that higher education needs to consider more about how it shares its expertise in, support of, and commitment to the ARTS – not only for those within the Ivory Tower, but in our surrounding communities. Read the rest of this entry »

Artcast Episode 11: The Importance of the Arts in a Troubled Economy

Posted by Graham Dunstan On December - 1 - 2008

Bob Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses the importance of rallying behind the arts in times of economic uncertainty.  Americans for the Arts is working with several national partners, including the International City/County Management Association and the National Association for Business Economists, to further spread the message to governments and corporations that the arts are essential to the growth of cities and communities and are a powerful economic generator.

ArtCast related resources:

Bob Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, discusses a recent forum on the Arts conducted by the US Conference of Mayors.  This national group of mayors includes the arts as a key factor in the health and growth of American cities in their new 10-Point Plan for Cities.

Dual-Career Relationships: Tips and Traps

Posted by Lex Leifheit On October - 15 - 2008

An emerging leader listserv post by John Abodeely tapped into a subject that has been on my mind lately. Namely, how to navigate job decisions as part of a dual-career couple. Abodeely linked to a post on GeekDad about a nonprofit arts couple who made the decision to move to Kansas, only to see the wife’s job fall through, leaving the couple with limited options that could satisfy their mortgage obligations. Small towns are more affordable, but big cities (as Richard Florida points out in his latest book) offer the long-term security of suitable employers for both people in a relationship, even when something doesn’t work out as expected. Read the rest of this entry »

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