Barriers to Arts Participation: On Perception, Value, and Luxury

Posted by Kelly Olshan On August - 23 - 2014
Kelly Olshan

Kelly Olshan

In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.

Like other so-called “luxuries,” people go to extreme measures to preserve its integrity. Historically, art is something we risk incarceration for, accept poverty for, or in the case of the quintessential rock star—quit your job, sell your house, and move across the country. Chuck Close said art saved his life. Ai WeiWei has been detained by the Chinese government. Thrice. Clearly, we’re onto a powerful motivating force.

Yet if so many acknowledge the arts’ value, then why do we even have to convince people to participate? Americans for the Arts’ CEO Bob Lynch traces Americans’ view of cultural events to our puritanical roots: “In Europe, arts advocacy organizations don’t exist they way they do in America—simply because they don’t need them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Are We Okay?

Posted by Jessica Wilt On August - 21 - 2014
Jessica Wilt

Jessica Wilt

With all the not so good news happening in the world lately – war along the Gaza Strip, new tensions flaring in Iraq, the aftermath in Afghanistan, and nationally; the racial chaos unfolding in Ferguson, Missouri along with the devastating passing of comedian and actor Robin Williams to depression and suicide – I find myself asking the question, “Are we okay?” The world could use a giant hug right now. I know I could use one.

If we’re not okay, what are some things we can do to make ourselves and our kids feel better? The combination of Arts Education with Social Service or Creative Youth Development are not necessarily partnerships we think of when it comes to the arts, but really, they are critical. We can talk all day until we’re blue in the face about the value of arts education in K-12 and higher education, arts integration, the new arts standards and common core, arts advocacy and many other reasons why we support arts education, but how often do we actually talk about the arts being a critical part of our daily physical, emotional and mental health? Read the rest of this entry »

The Proof is in the Pudding

Posted by Earl Bosworth On August - 15 - 2014
Earl Bosworth

Earl Bosworth

Panels and symposiums don’t normally draw large crowds, at least not like live music and marching bands do.

So, when members of a select panel spoke recently at the NSU’s Museum of Art │Fort Lauderdale during a very unique symposium hosted by Broward Cultural Division, it was successful within itself that a crowd of more than 100 attendees arrived, including many from Broward’s Latin American and Caribbean communities.

They came to hear experts speak on the impact of creativity in their respective regions.

In attendance were Consulate representatives from St. Lucia, Jamaica and Peru, along with Broward County Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, a huge proponent for diversity and supporting the minority Latin American and Caribbean demographic in Broward County. Holness opened the symposium with remarks that cited Broward County’s creative sector’s growth in the last six years at 57 percent, during a period of national depression. He also brought to light the demographics of Broward County which show a Hispanic population of 26.5 percent, Black and African-American population of 27.9 percent, and a white population of 41.9 percent – making it a Minority-Majority County. These demographics signify the importance of recognizing, measuring, and supporting the arts and cultural wealth that lies here. Read the rest of this entry »

Thor Urness

Thor Urness

Progressive employers want workers with high levels of what David Kelley calls, in his recent book of the same title, “Creative Confidence.” Kelley, the head of Stanford’s d.school and founder of the design firm IDEO, defines creative confidence as “the natural human ability to come up with breakthrough ideas and the courage to act on them.” As a partner in the Nashville office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, that is certainly what we want from our lawyers and staff.

However, the 2012 “State of Create” study by software maker Adobe identified a workplace creativity gap, where 75% of respondents said they are under growing pressure to be productive rather than creative, despite the fact that they are increasingly expected to think creatively at work. The study showed that 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth, yet only 1 in 4 respondents believe they are living up to their own creative potential, with respondents across all of the countries surveyed saying they spend only 25% of their time at work creating. Read the rest of this entry »

STEM + A ≠ STEAM

Posted by Raymond Tymas-Jones On July - 16 - 2014
Raymond Tymas-Jones

Raymond Tymas-Jones

Each day the need for continuous engagement in higher learning is evident.  All sectors of society depend on the advanced new knowledge and full development of all human talent.  To that end, every citizen’s capacity to expand and acquire increased global learning for the express purpose of addressing the world’s urgent challenges and problems—economic, ethical, political, intercultural, and environmental—becomes more and more paramount.  Recently, there has been enormous emphasis placed on the need for greater exploration in areas such as the sciences, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). While the need for advanced new knowledge in the STEM fields is unquestionable, the development of all human talent requires equal emphasis in the arts and humanities.  Nevertheless, the key is not found in a silo approach but in an integrative or collaborative model. Read the rest of this entry »

Robert Bush

Robert Bush

If a Local Arts Agency (LAA) doesn’t produce plays or present concerts or mount exhibitions or offer classes, why does a community need an LAA? Why does your LAA need your support?

A fundamental part of an LAA’s role in the community is to increase public access to the arts and work to ensure that everyone in their community or service area enjoys the cultural, civic, economic, and educational benefits of a thriving cultural sector. In 1999, when the LAA community and Americans for the Arts (AFTA) celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the local arts agency movement, access was the theme that ran through our collective vision plan for American communities through 2025, which included the following:

  • Fostering a lifelong continuum of arts creation, arts experiences, participation and education;
  • Bringing cultural equity and equality into existence;
  • Helping the arts bring diverse people together and bridging differences;
  • Enabling people to value the arts by participating at both amateur and professional levels;
  • Ensuring arts diversity is valued and celebrated as an expression of our humanity.

Read the rest of this entry »

Fresh Consumer and Business Data on the Local Arts Index Site

Posted by Roland Kushner On May - 28 - 2014
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

In 2010, Americans for the Arts launched the National Arts Index; this was followed in 2012 by its community-level sibling, the Local Arts Index.  The Local Arts Index (LAI) is the largest publicly accessible source of data on arts and culture at the county level.  It offers a free and easy-to-use web tool that displays information about the arts in every U.S. county in the form of 75 indicators, with data since 2009.  The site makes it easy for you to learn about your county (or the one next door, or where you’re thinking of moving) as an arts community.  Read the rest of this entry »

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

In March 2014, the Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) published its annual State of the Nonprofit Sector.  While there are several reports published annually about the nonprofit arts sector—such as our own National Arts Index—this report offers the added appeal of showing how the arts stack-up to the rest of the nonprofit sector.  With a smidge over 5,000 survey responses, the arts made its presence felt with 919 responses. (Nationally, there are about 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, 95,000 of which are arts organizations.) It’s good to see arts leaders contributing to knowledge of the field by participating in such sector-wide research.

Financial Performance Indicators 

While I wasn’t one of those kids who read the last chapter of an adventure novel first, I will confess to jumping right to certain financial performance indicators in these reports. I am always curious about whether organizations are finishing the year with a deficit or surplus, or if they are breaking even. Read the rest of this entry »

So Let’s Actually Do Research and Development

Posted by Nick Dragga On April - 18 - 2014
Nicholas Dragga

Nicholas Dragga

Among other issues, I hear emerging leaders wanting a larger voice in their organization – a chance to use their knowledge and skills. From the “established leaders” in my area, I hear not knowing exactly how to use, or maybe engage, emerging leaders (ELs) and their ideas. Senior leaders are sometimes unsure or afraid of how to fit these new ideas into the organization’s structure or culture since there are reasons things are done they way they are, and sometimes (often) organizations are big ships to turn.Of course, finding a voice in your organization is a huge issue with lots of nuances, and this issue could certainly be articulated better or maybe even more correctly, but I think we all get that we all want a vibrant and relevant organization that is regenerative in its thinking and programing. There are systems in place that have grown and sustained the organizations to what they are today, and new ideas like [insert your brilliant idea here] in the pipeline that are exciting, engaging, and even revolutionary will keep organizations relevant. So, how do we bring out great ideas and engage leaders at all stages, all the while maybe even having some fun? Yes, this is a lofty goal. Further, is this lofty goal, or unicorn, possible without a huge culture shift or organizational overhaul? Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Leadership and the Changing Social Contract

Posted by Emiko Ono On April - 15 - 2014
Emiko Ono

Emiko Ono

Since I began working in the arts in 2001, there has been a subtle but constant pressure on the sector to transform that can be both distressing and motivating. I will never forget the time in 2003 when Mark O’Neill, then the Head of Museums and Galleries for the city of Glasgow (Scotland), described how a population of shipyard workers reported that they did not attend a nearby museum because the price of admission was too expensive. The nauseating twist was that the museum did not have an admission fee. Last week, this story came to mind again as I spoke with Susie Medak, managing director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre and an arts leader with more than 25 years of experience. Susie’s hypothesis—that the tacit social contract between society and arts organizations is changing—is one I have found to be incredibly useful. The premise of her theory is that it is no longer sufficient for arts organizations to provide distinctive work, attract an audience, and secure financial support—it needs to include wider swaths of people who are largely not involved.  Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2014

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 20 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2014 arts advocacy season upon us, the following is my updated “Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.”

  • Which of these would you rank as #1?
  • Do you have a #11 to add?
  • Tell us in the comments below!

You can download this handy 1-pager here.

1. Arts promote true prosperity. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Arts improve academic performance. Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, and lower drop-out rates—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with 4 years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with just one-half year of arts or music. Read the rest of this entry »

Karin Copeland

Karin Copeland

The goals of the arts, culture and creative sectors are often viewed as separate from or counter to those of the business community. The Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia is working hard to change this perception and build a wide, two-way bridge between these communities by creating awareness around the impact of creativity in the workplace and the contributions of arts and culture to a thriving economy.

The creative sector fuels exciting, vibrant lifestyles for citizens in the Philadelphia region; and the colorful, intriguing cultural life of Philadelphia drives people to move into the city, building a stronger hiring pool. Likewise, the business communities feed critical experience and resources into the lives of artists and art-making institutions. This is why the Arts & Business Council envisions a vibrant creative sector with strong leadership — in terms of professional staff and volunteer board leaders — and a cultural scene that continues to be one of our region’s greatest assets. Through our capacity-building services, we work every day to strengthen a creative sector that is already valued for how it enriches the quality of life in our region, the jobs it creates, the visitors it attracts, and the impact is has on our children. And we champion the cause of a creative sector that has the support of audiences, businesses, donors, volunteers and government agencies. Read the rest of this entry »

BEA’s Arts in the GDP Study: How You Can Help Make it Great

Posted by Randy Cohen On January - 28 - 2014
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

BEA is a Big Deal

In December 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) added to the canon of research on the economic impact of the arts with the new Arts and Cultural Production Satellite Account—a measure of arts and culture in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Economic impact of the arts is not a new story.  What’s new is that an agency of BEA’s stature has undertaken the research.  The BEA is choosy about the satellite accounts it establishes and wouldn’t measure arts and culture unless it recognized the sector as important to the nation’s economic well-being and global competitiveness.

What did BEA find?  That arts and culture activity produce $504 billion dollars in goods and services annually in the U.S.—representing 3.25 percent of the nation’s economy—numbers larger than transportation ($448 billion) and agriculture ($174 billion), and only slightly behind construction ($530 billion).  The arts numbers were much larger than expected and turned enough heads at BEA headquarters to get the attention of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, who provided a quote in the NEA’s release about the value of arts and culture (not an insignificant recognition). Read the rest of this entry »

Eileen Cunniffe

Eileen Cunniffe

In the waning days of 2013, an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer cited examples of performing arts organizations experimenting with curtain times, holding some weeknight performances as early as 6:30 pm instead of the long-accepted standard of 8:00 pm. The reasons given included appealing to younger audiences, who might want to go somewhere else after the show; appealing to older audiences, who might appreciate getting home earlier; and appealing to everyone in between, who might find it easier to hire a babysitter or just to show up for work the next day. One of the early trends from this experimentation is that some midweek performances with earlier curtain times are pulling even with or outpacing once-hot Friday evening ticket sales.

In other words, Friday is the new Tuesday—or maybe Tuesday is the new Friday? Either way, this is as good a place as any to begin the conversation about what constitutes the “new normal” for the nonprofit arts and culture sector and how arts organizations continue to respond to the changing environment in terms of audience behaviors and, in the wake of the Great Recession, evolving funder behaviors, too.

Looking back at 2013, it was in many ways a year of contradictory trends in the arts sector: two steps forward, one step back, or perhaps the other way around. Growth, contraction, innovation, struggle, resurrection, collapse. Read the rest of this entry »

As Charity Goes, So Goes the Arts?

Posted by Roland Kushner On December - 12 - 2013
Roland Kushner

Roland Kushner

I was happy to see the editorial “Handsome is as handsome gives” from long-time musician and arts advocate Arthur C. Brooks in the Wall Street Journal on Nov 25. Brooks, also an accomplished social scientist and president of American Enterprise Institute, cites studies, cites studies showing how increased generosity is good for one’s health, well-being, and attractiveness.  He cheerfully encourages readers to give generously so they might reap those rewards for themselves.

It turns out that Brooks missed one other benefit of increased generosity: it’s good for the artistic instinct and the progress of the arts.  There is a strong connection between the vitality of the arts and private support of all charitable causes that has persisted over many years.  Here’s some interesting data about that connection.

Last August, Americans for the Arts released the 2013 National Arts Index report, our fourth annual measure of vitality of arts and culture in the U.S.  The report spanned 2000 through 2011.  Co-author Randy Cohen and I calculate the Index score from 78 indicators of attendance, participation, consumption, investment, returns, volunteering, performances, compositions, imports and exports, government funding at all levels, numbers of artists and more.  The Index shows how dynamic those years were for the arts.

And not only the arts … we experienced recessions, booms, crises, recoveries, wars, political changes, technological advances, demographic shifts, new social movements, and of course, changes in the arts.  Intuition and experience suggest how that some of those dynamic forces – mostly macroeconomic – are positively linked to the arts: GDP, employment, stock market, population, and income. Some behavior and attitude patterns are arts-friendly: charitable giving, consumer confidence, leisure participation.  Each of these forces (and others) has its own record of growth and decline in recent years. How closely do the arts track these other forces? Read the rest of this entry »

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.