Why Public Funding for the Arts Matters

Posted by Ken Busby On June - 4 - 2013
Ken Busby

Ken Busby

We’ve just completed our legislative session in Oklahoma. Two efforts to provide state funding for an Oklahoma popular culture museum and an Oklahoma Native American cultural center were deferred for consideration because of the recent devastating tornados and their aftermath. An effort to move the Oklahoma Arts Council under the jurisdiction of the Oklahoma State Department of Tourism was fortunately averted.

However, these initiatives point to a much larger issue – a general misunderstanding of the power of the arts as an agent of economic development and a disregard for the importance of the arts in education.

And Oklahoma is not alone. Most states have seen budgets for state arts agencies reduced significantly or in some cases eliminated. And I’m not really blaming legislators for this apparent lack of understanding about the importance of the arts and public funding for them. Many of our state legislators didn’t grow up with arts experiences and field trips to museums and visits to the symphony. We’ve lost almost two generations of adults who received regular arts experiences from Kindergarten through 12th Grade. Read the rest of this entry »

John Eger

John Eger

Business in America knows well that we have entered the Age of Innovation. This became evident to attendees putting together a California “Blueprint for Creative Schools” meeting in Fresno California recently.

Business knows too, that creativity leads to innovation and that, understandably, we need to find a way to nurture creativity and attract the creative worker–across town, across the nation or using H1B visas for young people in other countries. As Randy Cohen of the Americans for the Arts has argued–and The Conference Board, and studies by IBM have found–”the arts build the 21st Century workforce.”

What is still not yet clear is whether the role of the arts and art integration is perceived by the business sector as the most legitimate method to foster creativity. Yes, business says, the arts are nice but are they really necessary?

Business isn’t stupid or shortsighted…it’s just that they don’t always see the connections. Or maybe they do but don’t have the time to hear all the rhetoric about how important the arts are. Or maybe, because of the quarter-to-quarter pressures, are not yet willing to invest in programs that will deliver a more sophisticated workforce with the new thinking skills in the decade that follows. Maybe it’s all too long range.

More to the point, maybe artists and educators are not yet talking the talk.

They are not saying what business needs to hear to get them fully engaged in the struggle to put arts back into the formula; and to push for STEAM not just STEM education. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Continue a Career in the Arts? (Part 1)

Posted by Jessica Wilt On September - 26 - 2011

Jessica Wilt

With the national focus shifting from the financial crisis to job creation (and now, this week back to the financial crisis once more), I thought I would use my personal story as a midcareer arts administrator to help shed light on the impact the economy is having on jobs in this field.

I’m in my mid-thirties and keep asking the question, “How much longer does work have to consume my entire life before the level of financial security matches my professional accomplishments and experience?”

I’ve made great professional strides in the arts education field living in one of the most ruthless and expensive cities in the world. However, the cost and sacrifices, both financial and personal, have been significant over the past several years leaving very little to show for my efforts.

In his blog post The Twelve Attributes of a Truly Great Place to Work, CEO Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project, recently wrote:

“great employers must shift the focus from trying to get more out of people, to investing more in them by addressing their four core needs – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual – so they’re freed, fueled, and inspired to bring the best of themselves to work every day.” 

Amen Mr. Schwartz — count me in! Now, where in the arts, education, and nonprofit industries can I actually find these attributes in action? Read the rest of this entry »

All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from a Chopin Nocturne

Posted by Brad Hull On September - 14 - 2011
Brad Hull

Brad Hull

I grew up in a small conservative town in Pennsylvania. As a budding piano player, my entire focus was on the great hymns of the faith, playing in church every Sunday.

The first time I had ever memorized a piece of classical music was in preparation for my college entrance auditions.

With this small bit of information about me, you can well imagine the sight of me as a very green, frightened, and shy freshman, entering the halls of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as a piano major, walking around the three floors of practice rooms hearing incredible music emanating from almost every one. On top of that, due to a lack of attention to technique, I had developed tendonitis the summer before.

My piano teacher was phenomenal and we studied the Chopin Nocturne in D-Flat, op. 27 no. 2 for the entire year. Little did I know that these were lessons not only about Chopin, but also about living and working. Here are a few things that I learned:

1. The best things in life require attention, presence, and care. Don’t take anything for granted. Chopin ended the phrase on the half beat for a reason. Turning this descending melody line upwards creates a very specific effect. Modulating to the subdominant here prepares the listener for the return of the A section. Honor these elements with your attention. Read the rest of this entry »

Well, I Do Declare: Studying Arts Not A Major Mistake

Posted by Breena Loraine On June - 18 - 2011

Higher Education Peer Group Session - AFTA11

I have the great privilege of attending this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention as a student representative of San Diego State University. As a student, I was excited to attend the Higher Education Peer Group.

During the session, the conversation gravitated toward the difficult decision college students face as they declare their major. In a fickle economic environment and uncertain job market, students may be deterred from choosing to major in their true passion—music, dance, theater, art, photography, etc. Read the rest of this entry »

Enhancing Communities Through the Arts

Posted by Emily Peck On May - 4 - 2011

Sunoco volunteers helped paint three panels of a 42-panel mural as part of Philadelphia’s “This We Believe” city-wide mural project.

If I had to come up with a theme for the month of April, it would be the role of the arts in enhancing communities.

I spent time in Washington, DC, at our National Arts Advocacy Day on April 4-5, and then followed that with a trip to Philadelphia to attend the Council on Foundations annual conference and the U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Community Investment conference.

At all three of these events, arts and business leaders spoke about the important role the arts play in building strong and vibrant communities which leads to numerous benefits including attracting and retaining a strong workforce and enhanced civic engagement.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Role of the Arts in Educating America

Posted by Marete Wester On April - 29 - 2011

Last fall, 30 top-level decision makers and thought leaders from government, business, education, and the arts gathered at the Sundance Resort and Preserve for the Fifth Annual Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable, to discuss this year’s theme – The Role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength.

Their conclusions are profiled in a new report issued this week by Americans for the Arts that calls for individuals across the public and private sector to recognize the arts as the transformational tools they are for making schools stronger and students more successful.

The recommendations offer insights from this cross-sector group on how we can better work together to ensure policies and practices are in place to increase arts in our schools.

The business and public policy communities are building consensus that if the nation is to succeed, an education steeped in the 4 “C’s” (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking) is not a luxury, but a necessity.   Read the rest of this entry »