Art is History of People

Posted by Anna Huntington On March - 18 - 2015
Anna Huntington

Anna Huntington

Confession #1: I had to Google “cognitive development” before I started writing this. I’m an arts administrator, after all, not an educator.

Confession #2: From my perspective, it seems clear that art makes kids smart. To the body of research demonstrating art education’s score-boosting, transferrable-skills, and college-readiness cognitive development superpowers, I say, “Yup.”

Confession #3. I live in Rapid City, South Dakota (not far from Mount Rushmore). Our community, which encompasses nearby Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, has long, deep, painful struggles with racism. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2015

Posted by Randy Cohen On March - 13 - 2015
Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

With the arts advocacy season fully upon us, the following is my updated “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Changes this year include updating #3 with the BEA’s new Arts in the GDP research, #8 to include a statement about the benefits of the arts in the military, and #10 includes the new Creative Industries data (now current as of January 2015).

This is just one of many arrows to include in your arts advocacy quiver. While it’s a helpful one, we know there are many more reasons to support the arts. What are yours? Please share your #11 (and more!) in the comments section below. What a great collection we can build together. Read the rest of this entry »

Lucy Wang

Lucy Wang

Editor’s Note: Lucy Wang is the 2015 recipient of the NABE Scholarship, presented annually by Americans for the Arts and the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) Foundation to a student of both economics and the arts.

Even though economics and art are two very distinct fields, I feel that they are best understood in combination with one another. Art inspires me but can’t reveal the quantitative foundations of modern life. Economics allows me to understand the underlying influences of the world, but I synthesize and process the things I learn through art. Read the rest of this entry »

Neighbors and Strangers

Posted by Caron Atlas On February - 3 - 2015
Caron Atlas

Caron Atlas

“We fought poverty, violence and blight, and we made the Southside a better place to live. We are now strangers in our own neighborhood, and it’s painful.”

These words from longtime Brooklyn resident and community leader Evelyn Cruz at a forum about gentrification in Williamsburg have stuck with me for years. I thought of them as we created Naturally Occurring Cultural Districts New York (NOCD-NY), a citywide alliance of artists, cultural organizations, and community leaders coming together to revitalize New York City from the neighborhood up. And I’m thinking about them now as I write this blog about cultural districts and communities as catalysts of change. How can we make sure that our work does not make people strangers in their own neighborhoods? Read the rest of this entry »

Cultural Districts as Community Connectors

Posted by Rebecca Chan On February - 3 - 2015
Rebecca Chan

Rebecca Chan

Baltimore’s three cultural districts are each reflections of the distinctive neighborhoods and communities in which they are situated: the Bromo Tower, Highlandtown, and Station North Arts & Entertainment District. An inherently place-based practice, each District operates under a different management structure, producing programming and projects tailored to the strengths and challenges in each District that serve the artists, businesses, and residents in their respective neighborhoods. Read the rest of this entry »

Rejection to Re-imagination: A nontraditional cultural district story

Posted by John Davis On February - 2 - 2015
John Davis

John Davis

Failure. Unanimous rejection. Back to square one. That was the reaction nearly 15 years ago when I first proposed the idea that the entire town of Lanesboro, Minnesota (pop. 754) could be transformed into an arts campus.

Fast forward to today: Lanesboro is now a national model arts community, tourist community, and agricultural community. A scenic town with a river running through it (great for trout), it boasts a historic main street, a bike trail, and a waterfall on the town’s edge. Read the rest of this entry »

Beauty and the “We”

Posted by Roberto Bedoya On November - 21 - 2014
Roberto Bedoya

Roberto Bedoya

“Our experience of the beautiful in the recognition of models that make world and community is restricted to the moment when these worlds and communities present themselves explicitly as the plural” – Gianni Vattimo

“We is not the plural of I” – Emmanuel Levinas

Beauty and the We. Beauty as an articulation of the plural, announced in engagement practices, is the experience I know and have been lucky to support in my career. Most recently, as the Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council. Our team has supported 66 projects since 2010 that advance civic well-being, civic engagement, and community building of the We through the arts. Most prominently, this happens through the PLACE (People, Land, Arts, Culture and Engagement) Initiative, our placemaking/civic engagement platform. These projects create art experiences that shape the identity of place, present visions and manifestations of social cohesion, and activate democracy so as to build and animate the commons. And where is Beauty in PLACE? Read the rest of this entry »

Pop Quiz: Socially Engaged Art and Aesthetics

Posted by Jen Delos Reyes On November - 21 - 2014
Jen Delos Reyes

Jen Delos Reyes

I received an invitation to participate in this blog salon on the relationship between aesthetics and arts in community development and social change work by way of my work as an artist and organizer around socially engaged art, however my response is most informed by my work as an educator.

From 2007-2014 I served as the co-director of an MFA program focused on art and social practice. The mantra of the program could have easily been that art and social practice starts and ends not in rarefied spaces, but out in the world. The students did not receive studio spaces and instead created their work out in the world through collaborations and partnerships, embedded in communities. The program sought to educate and activate students to develop and utilize their artistic skills to engage in society. It is the kind of education that created engaged citizens. But perhaps the most important aspect of the curriculum was that it asked artists to consider their relationship to and placement in society. So the core questions of this invitation, “But what happens when we assess art not just for art’s sake, but also for its civic purpose?” was a familiar one. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s time to Replace the “Broken Window” with a “Scaffold Up.”

Posted by Amy Sananman On November - 21 - 2014
Amy Sanamman

Amy Sanamman

A year ago, New York City voted in its first new mayor in 12 years. The city council election resulted in new members in almost half of the 51 seat council. It was an exciting time for the progressive communities—for all those that have fought for social change through the fields of education, immigration reform, fair wages, affordable housing or, of course, the arts. While the Mayor’s new platform addressed many of these items, it did not include an arts agenda or integrate a strategy to use arts and culture to support a more just and equitable city for all. Over the past few months, I have seen NYC—its new administration and city council—struggle with finding new frameworks. I have been thinking about how the aesthetics of language and framing influence how we understand our communities, their challenges, opportunities, the role of arts, and how policies may be considered. One example of this is how NYC is grappling with the broken windows theory and its legacy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Beauty of Change: Re-imagining Small Town America

Posted by John Davis On November - 20 - 2014
John Davis

John Davis

I am the Executive Director of Lanesboro Arts, a multidisciplinary arts organization founded in 1980. Lanesboro Arts fulfills its mission to serve as a regional catalyst for artistic excellence and educational development in providing diverse art experiences for people of all ages through visual art galleries, the performing arts, an artist residency program, public art, and educational outreach. Last year, Lanesboro Arts programming involved more than 180 volunteers, 300 artists, and 30,000 audience members. In 2013, Lanesboro (pop 754) was named one of the Top 12 Small Town ArtPlaces in America, a recognition determined by the number of arts opportunities per capita. Read the rest of this entry »

But What About Quality?

Posted by Nina Simon On November - 20 - 2014
Nina Simon

Nina Simon

Scene: a regional workshop on arts engagement. A funder is speaking with conviction about the fact that her foundation is focusing their arts grantmaking strategy on engagement. Engaging new people. Engaging more diverse people. Engaging people actively in the arts. Any questions?

One, from a museum director. The question that comes up every time, the question so big it deserves the impropriety of all caps: BUT WHAT ABOUT QUALITY? Read the rest of this entry »

Ae$thetics and Social ¢hange

Posted by Anitra Budd On November - 20 - 2014
Anitra Budd

Anitra Budd

When I was asked to write an entry for this blog salon, I was excited. When I noted the topic, aesthetics and social change, I was alarmed. In trying to analyze this instinctual sense of danger, I realized that the root of my feeling was my conflation of aesthetics with judgment.

The term aesthetics, like Walt Whitman, contains multitudes (take a look at this chapter by art history and education scholar Terry Barrett for a great discussion of the concept’s many dimensions). To consider aesthetics largely in terms of assessment and discernment is limiting, but not unusual. Read the rest of this entry »

Re-Imagining Beauty, Embracing Complexity

Posted by Andrew Horwitz On November - 20 - 2014
Andy Horwitz

Andy Horwitz

The question of aesthetics in socially engaged art is as fraught and enduring as our varied understandings of what constitutes critical discourse.

In a society so fully enveloped by the market-driven logic of Late Capitalism it is nearly impossible to relate to any work of art in a non-transactional context. We are told we are consumers purchasing experiences at a premium. “Cultural Authorities” tell us we are incapable of assessing the value of “art product” ourselves and so are provided with “reviews” that are little more than consumer advocacy, in newspapers such as the New York Times that are little more than lifestyle guides for the privileged. Read the rest of this entry »

Seeing Power and Possibility in Socially Engaged Art

Posted by Deborah Fisher On November - 19 - 2014
Deborah Fisher

Deborah Fisher

There is a productive conflict at the root of any discussion about aesthetics and social practice that I would like to focus on.

On one hand, attempting to articulate anything about the aesthetics of socially engaged art entails confronting a frustrating lack of structure. Anything can be art, and aesthetics can be so broadly defined as judgments of sentiment and taste. Who doesn’t have those, about anything and everything? We don’t quite have a formal analysis of social practice that we all agree upon—no singular framework for seeing and locating the aesthetics in a socially engaged art project. Read the rest of this entry »

A Brute in America: Poetry and an Interrogation of Violence

Posted by Patrick Rosal On November - 19 - 2014
Patrick Rosal headshoast

Patrick Rosal

I’ve been in a bunch of fistfights. I fought many years into my adult life. After brawling, me and dudes in my crew would slip from the scene, hit a diner, order burgers or late-night breakfasts, then tell stories of what just went down. We recalled the damage. We reconstructed the fragments of how the fight started and who was where and what happened in what order.  We talked about what startled us and even what amazed us or made us laugh. Mostly, fear, sorrow, and regret went unsaid. Then, we all went home.

The inner life for people of color contains whole landscapes. Read the rest of this entry »