Jim Clark

Jim Clark

“Creative Placemaking” as described by Anne Gadwa Nicodemus and Ann Markusen offers artists and arts administrators a template to engage business and civic leaders in the articulation of new cultural policies at the local level.  In her paper, “Fuzzy Vibrancy: Creative Placemaking as Ascendant U.S. Cultural Policy,” Nicodemus states that one of the hallmarks of creative placemaking is the development of cross-sector partnerships to promote “arts-centered initiatives with place-based physical, economic and/or social outcomes.”

Does this widespread interest in creative placemaking present an opportunity for us to expand and develop cultural policy at the local level? Read the rest of this entry »

Advancing Social Justice through Documentation and Archiving

Posted by Jamie Haft On May - 19 - 2014
Jamie Haft

Jamie Haft

A call to action is what has emerged for me from Animating Democracy’s vigorous blog salon, Back to the Future: Forward-Thinking Documentation & Archiving. Imagine an organizing effort to achieve Reverend James Lawson’s founding statement of principle for the civil rights movement’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee: “a social order of justice permeated by love.” Do documentation and archiving come to mind as essential to building a movement? Reading the insights from all the thoughtful writers in this blog salon, I am happy to say, yes!

The work of documenting, archiving, and communicating about the field of community cultural development is a political act. This context encompasses and gives meaning to the five debunked misconceptions about archiving and documentation in my opening post. Read the rest of this entry »

A Call for a Shared Digital Town Square

Posted by Jan Cohen Cruz On May - 19 - 2014
Jan Cohen-Cruz Caracas

Jan Cohen-Cruz Caracas

Jamie Haft names in her blog initiating this series on Documentation, Archiving, and Communication the misconception that the Community Cultural Development (CCD) field needs “a central digital town square.” While I, too, recognize the value of multiple platforms publicizing stories, news items, essays, manifestoes, et al, for diverse CCD constituencies, we risk bifurcating the field if all communication reflects separate siloes. I propose the additional creation of a CCD Reader — shaped along the lines of the Utne Reader, a publication that “combs the alternative, independent, and digital press for thoughtful journalism, artful storytelling, and emerging ideas.” A CCD Reader could serve as a commons for the regular exchange of ideas across our habitual groupings. To generate such a “digital town square,” we could, say once a year, cull from the multiple publications representing different CCD threads to produce one set of pieces valuable to us all. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Horwitz

Andrew Horwitz

It was close to seven years after we launched Culturebot.org when my colleague Jeremy M. Barker joined the effort, and I had the time to begin more clearly articulating how the site functioned as community archive and platform for discourse. Rather than recapitulate the entire narrative, I will share some insights from my experience:

1. Positioning the Archive

Culturebot’s essential point of difference is positional. Since Culturebot.org originated at Performance Space 122 (P.S.122) –a hub of community – and because it has always operated from within that community of artists, it has never been positioned within either journalism or academia. Insofar as capacity and resources have allowed, Culturebot has been a collaboratively created, community-supported archive to promote a variety of perspectives and complexity of critical discourse. Even as it serves as a dynamic social map enabling a community to self-define, Culturebot is also meant to serve a critical function – to allow dissent and support voices that may otherwise be ignored. Read the rest of this entry »

Dee Boyle Clapp

Dee Boyle Clapp

Archiving community cultural development and the story of the arts through arts policy is important to the Arts Extension Service.

We recently launched the National Arts Policy Archive and Library (NAPAAL) in partnership with the UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) as a free-standing collection within SCUA’s Social Change Collection.  SCUA staff does the hard work of archiving, digitizing, and making it possible for anyone with internet access to explore these materials.  They ensure that the primary documents will be stored and made available for visitors.   Read the rest of this entry »

Toolbox as Documentation

Posted by Liz Lerman On May - 15 - 2014
Liz Lerman

Liz Lerman

The topic for this salon is big. I am going to write about one small part of it. I am interested in how we observe our processes, discern them as repeatable actions, develop them to become tools for others to borrow and make their own. I believe that we can harvest our histories, make sense of what we did and describe it in terms that help us understand the context, the decisions, and perhaps the wisdom and meaning surrounding the work.  At the same time we can delineate the data, information, formats, processes that may aid others in their work.

In my case, the idea for such a toolbox made from thousands of hours of teaching and choreographing and dancing came in an instant.  It was a visitation born out of utter confusion and despair.  As I was preparing to lead a workshop for K-12 teachers I was pondering why the organizing arts and educational institution with whom I was working wanted an outline from me that would describe what was to transpire.  They wanted to hand it out at the beginning even though we all knew that the activities would change once I was in the room with the very particular people and needs that would coalesce that afternoon.  It was true I had a plan, but it was equally true that the plan would shift as soon as we began our work. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew Horwitz

Andrew Horwitz

I have come to view human history as an epic tragedy of inadequate knowledge management. While I am dubious that we will ever finally solve the problem of knowledge lost across generations and cultures, much less the greater problem of recognizing wisdom when we see it, I’m hopeful that we can change our society’s perception of how history is constructed, and encourage a collaborative, peer-driven model of cultural discourse and documentation.

As Jamie Haft has inferred, it would be difficult to overstate the urgency around building new practices for discourse and documentation, not just in the field of community-based arts, but for society as a whole. We inhabit a moment of both great crisis as legacy systems fail and even greater opportunity to create new systems to supersede the old. Read the rest of this entry »

Documenting Community-Based Arts and Funding Inequities

Posted by Sonia Manjon On May - 14 - 2014
Sonia BasSheva Manjon

Sonia BasSheva Manjon

The discourse, documentation, research, archiving, and communication about community cultural development are indeed vast and deep. Within this multilayered, diverse, and complex field of community-based art are artists and organizations that represent the diversity and complexity of communities and neighborhoods in the United States. The urgency for documentation, archiving, and communication are, at times, limited to those organizations that represent a more mainstream paradigm. The creation and introduction of multifaceted arts institutions is important to the building of community based arts organizations with social justice and cultural equity foci. Art institutions that address a holistic aesthetic perspective that embrace the complexities of their cultural communities are rooted across the country. Read the rest of this entry »

Jamie Haft

Jamie Haft

Virginia Tech recently hosted a small national meeting on documentation, archiving, and communication in the field of community cultural development. Articulated by convener Bob Leonard, the meeting’s lead organizing question: How is documentation, archiving, and communication in the community cultural development field serving and not serving artists, humanities researchers, community organizers, non-artist community partners, community agencies and institutions, and scholarly communities? For me, the meeting debunked five misconceptions about documentation, archiving, and communication in the field.

 

Virginia Tech meeting, by Andrew Morikawa

Virginia Tech meeting, by Andrew Morikawa

Misconception #1: There’s no urgency.

Documentation, archiving, and communication are essential to demonstrating the ability of community cultural development to improve the lives of community members and to fostering a critical discourse that builds and sharpens those doing the work. Questions for the critical discourse include: Is community cultural development work advancing equity? How does the field deal with well-meaning but ineffective and sometimes even unethical practices? Bill Cleveland, Center for the Study of Art and Community, called for investments in independent reporting and data collection to reveal impact – for example, a study and report about how and where projects are doing damage and how and where they are making a difference. Participants pointed to assessment resources like Animating Democracy’s Impact Initiative and Imagining America’s Integrated Assessment Initiative. Cindy Cohen, Acting Together, suggested a core group commit to regular meetings over a sustained period of time to discuss and communicate the moral and ethical dimensions of community cultural development. Read the rest of this entry »

Pam Korza

Pam Korza

In early December, during the first of many icy weather events of this past winter season, Animating Democracy co-directors Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Pam Korza participated in an national gathering at Virginia Tech (VT), warmly orchestrated by Bob Leonard, Professor of Directing and Director of Community-based Arts in VT’s Theater and Cinema Program.  A couple dozen artists, cultural workers and intermediaries, communications and technology folks, and scholars participated, united in their commitment to community cultural development as essential to healthy communities and artistic practice. 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 »

Getting Hired: Teaching Artist or Music Teacher?

Posted by Jennifer Kessler On March - 12 - 2014
Jen Kessler

Jen Kessler

In preparation for the launch of our new Youth Orchestra of St. Luke’s – a music for social change initiative inspired by El Sistema—the Community & Education department of Orchestra of St. Luke’s was looking for a team to teach string instruments to a group of 10 year olds, to shape the students’ leadership, focus, and collaborative skills, and to help build a sense of community among OSL and participating families.

This was a tall order, but we were optimistic. After all, we worked in New York City, where extraordinary music teachers abound. But as we finished the job description, we were stuck: Is this a Music Teacher position, or a Teaching Artist position? Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Artists as Equity Warriors

Posted by Tina LaPadula On March - 11 - 2014
Tina LaPadula

Tina LaPadula

I facilitate arts education workshops and conversations nationally. Teaching artists often ask me why it’s important to discuss arts education and social justice. I’m still honing my response, but here’s my current thinking:

We live in a country with undeniable barriers in education and the arts. I’m not even going to get into the differences between private and public schools, or the historic divide between formal arts training and cultural and community arts in this post. (Although, you should take a moment to read this great piece from the The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy and Helicon which makes the case that more foundation funding in the arts should directly benefit lower-income communities and people of color). If we accept the idea that social justice is a vision for a society in which all people, of all identities, are treated equitably then we also have to admit the landscape is currently inequitable.   Read the rest of this entry »

Looking for the Punch Line

Posted by Joanna Chin On December - 9 - 2013
Joanna Chin

Joanna Chin

Animating Democracy’s December blog salon explored how artists, comedians, and other cultural commentators employ humor in the heavy work of social justice. Starting out the salon, I posed several questions to bloggers including the seemingly simple inquiry, how does humor work?  When is humor a strategic choice and toward what social effects? Similar to other art forms, humor is fundamentally about emotions and human connection, which makes it simultaneously risky and inviting; relatable and inexplicable. While their methods and approach vary greatly – from slapstick to satire; political cartoon to YouTube musical number – the bloggers for this salon all seem to agree on the aspects of humor that make it so effective in social justice work:

  • On an individual level, comedy and laughter can stimulate creativity, open lines of communication, improve people’s moods, and diffuse tense situations
  • Humor comes from a personal place, but connects to universal feelings and experience
  • Laughter builds community and a sense of belonging (e.g., inside jokes)
  • Humor calls on the audience to finish the piece, think, fill in the blanks, come to his/her own conclusion/interpretation

Particularly as tongue-in-cheek skits and articles without clear punch lines gain popularity, the expectations and dynamics between comedian and audience continue to shift. As I said in my intro post, humor has always been something mysterious and untouchable to me. But, even if I’ll never be a stand-up comedian, the growing expectation and responsibility placed on audiences to interpret, understand, and even add their own layer of irony or satire to humorous work, especially as a tool for social change, gives me and all of us an important role to play in crafting our own punch lines.

Hungry for more? Check out Animating Democracy’s trend paper about the role of humor in the work of social change by Dr. Nancy Goldman and this post from Safe Places for the Advancement of Community & Equity, which has additional resources.

Changing Habits With Humor

Posted by Caroline Ceniza-Levine On December - 6 - 2013
Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Caroline Ceniza-Levine

Typically, if I ask my 12-year old a question, I’ll get a short answer that I’ll need to probe with many more questions to get the information I need. If you’re a parent of an older child, you recognize that scenario. But when my daughter mentioned her math class was working on integers, I asked, “do you mean positive numbers, the ones that say ‘You go, girl. You can do it!’ and negative numbers, the ones that are sad and discouraged?” She laughed, and we had a free-flowing conversation. If humor can wrestle information from an adolescent habituated to clam up rather than share, what other habits can we change with humor?

Our society needs to save more. With retirement savings too low, this puts an unsustainable financial burden on the economy. At the same time, consumer debt is at an all-time high implying we’re on a path to increased exposure with a shrinking safety net. We can remind people to save more and spend less but the ones with the problem probably already know that and have resigned themselves to these habits. This Saturday Night Live sketch on saving would make an excellent public service announcement to encourage better financial habits.

Another habit worth adopting would be to lay off texting while driving, as this is a growing cause of car accidents. Again, people know this intuitively, and we could try scaring people with graphic pictures of automobile crashes and the consequences. Or we could circulate this video of Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake and their ridiculous Twitter talk and let humor show people how ridiculous it is to bring too much online into our offline lives.

As a longtime professional in the human resources field, I could point out the grim statistics on diversity – too few women and people of color in executive and board positions. Instead, I include a bit about the lack of Asian-Americans in mainstream entertainment in my stand-up comedy.

Humor is a powerful vehicle for social change – one habit at a time. Humor is the perfect tool for raising self-awareness — it’s harder to get defensive when you’re laughing. Humor invites change — it’s easier to stay open to suggestions when you’re feeling silly. If pressed to define an activist’s work, you might think first of circulating a petition, organizing a protest, or rallying from a soap box. But we should also include sketch writing, viral videos and stand-up comedy in our toolkit for change.

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

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

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.