November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.
To recognize the important role of the business community in advancing the arts, Americans for the Arts annually presents the BCA 10 awards celebrating ten businesses for their innovative partnerships with the arts. These businesses range in size and location but share a passion for engaging with the arts to advance their companies and communities; and from our work around the country, we know that they are not alone and that there is increased engagement from the business community in support of the arts. That is why it is not surprising to see that the 2017 edition of Giving in Numbers produced by CECP, in partnership with the Conference Board, showed an increase in arts funding from the corporate community between 2014 and 2016.
Our filter bubbles and gated communities (both suburban and barbed) divide us. In this intentional division, it is our responsibility to seek that which is different, to engage with what is uncomfortable, and to soften to our own tenderness in order to grow, together, into the promise of America. This America has not yet existed but the potential is there. How, in this time of rapid and sometimes overwhelming change, can the arts alter the face and heart of America?
I recently joined an arts high school community, and I live in awe of the complexity, depth, and flexibility that the arts school model provides. I’m enamored with the space we create when we design schools for students who have a demonstrated passion and aptitude for the arts. Arts schools allow our most creative young people in society to feel supported, celebrated, and encouraged to grow. I contend that the confidence, skills, and sense of community students gain from attending arts schools helps them to become the best version of themselves.
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For arts organizations, retaining customers means building a core audience who are loyal, will take risks with you and in general are easier to sell to. These customers are also more likely to support your organization with donations.
The role of the artist is changing. In the midst of these challenging times, civic engagement has become the focus of attention across many sectors and fields. More than ever, the arts are promoting greater awareness and understanding of community issues, contributing to shifts in thinking and in attitude. I see artists and arts organizations across the country being integrated into practices of civic engagement, and applying the power of artistic imagination to inform, inspire, engage, and motivate social action. And I continue to applaud state and municipal governments across the U.S. for embracing such collaborations.
The Business Roundtable is part of a series of convenings Americans for the Arts hosts to gather insight and best practices from leaders in all sectors, and is designed to address the needs of businesses across industries looking to engage and retain a diverse workforce by incorporating the arts into their portfolios, and to strengthen and diversify their talent and their brand. The roundtable was bookended with an example of an arts-based experience that the Arts & Business Council of New York encourages the corporate community to employ in its approach to addressing DEI goals in thoughtful and innovative ways.
For many artists, making art is a coping mechanism to find inner calm and some kind of understanding about a confusing, chaotic world. So how might art heal our world? How might the artist become the healer?
Art has the power to transform our lives and strengthen our communities. In spite of this, the future of our beloved arts has experienced a hair-raising roller coaster ride over this past year. Like many of you reading this post, a fire has ignited within me to stand-up for what I believe in—and, I believe in the arts. When the going gets tough, we must speak loud, stand up tall, and refuse to back down. The arts are the most vibrant and expressive of the vital pillars that make up our great nation. In this fight for the brightest and most prosperous future for the arts, we all have skin in the game.
As we approach the upcoming National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, I’m excited to enter a new conversation about the possibilities for our sector that can be unlocked by embracing a designer’s mentality to address the critical need to diversify our audiences, our leadership, and our organizations.
By wishing to incorporate youth and their communities in decision-making for initiatives that are intended to engage them and their peers, organizations and program managers are (knowingly or unknowingly) giving these young people a lesson on power dynamics, the power of organizing, and policy development via focus grouping, researching, and consulting with experts (aka themselves). By welcoming youth into the decision-making process, we can begin to show them how decisions—within our organizations and more broadly in society—could be made differently. Let’s lean into it and, in fact, give these young folks more power over programs that are meant to be for them, particularly in organizations that have little or no history of incorporating young people in admin-level spaces.
Facebook’s changes suggest a general direction towards offering incentive for DIY advertising. Anyone who can send an email, shop on Amazon, or navigate around a basic spreadsheet can learn Facebook advertising basics by launching a campaign in under an hour.
I’ve long held that audiences with disabilities, including deaf audiences, would benefit from being considered from a marketing perspective and understood from a multi-cultural standpoint, rather than a strictly legal requirement/service perspective.
When you work for a non-profit arts organization outside of a metropolitan area, it’s easy to fall into the mindset that what works for the big organizations won’t work for you—even when you know your mission is BIG.
Or maybe it is? Or maybe it isn’t. The challenge that arts marketers face is navigating the changing landscape and being mindful of the identity and personality of the organization balancing against welcoming the whole community.
Way before immersive theater or virtual reality were trendy, Robert E. Gard spoke to the idea of an experience that is creatively valuable because the experience of the “audience” becomes the story itself. We see this in role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, as well as new forms of immersive theater like Sleep No More or Then She Fell, in which the experience of participating becomes its own creative energy. I think these creative endeavors resonate with people because they are grounded in each participant’s lived experience (rather than universal plots or a reflection of someone else’s perspective) and, as such, they cannot help but be authentic.
To build the workforce of tomorrow, let’s invest in arts education for our youth today. Studies show that early arts engagement for students from low socio-economic backgrounds significantly increases their likelihood of college attendance and graduation. Increased graduation rates lead to increased employability, and studies also show these students demonstrate increased volunteerism and political participation. Exposing young people from all backgrounds to the arts is an investment not only in their future, but in a collective future with an employed and engaged next generation.
One of the most pressing needs in the cultural sector is to identify the difference that art museums make in people’s lives and to demonstrate this value with evidence that can withstand intense scrutiny. Without research-based data, art museums and art educators will not succeed in convincing policymakers and civic leaders that museums are vital to civic life, leading to the significant reduction or even absence of opportunities to engage with original works of art as an integral part of education and community experiences. That museums are more than nice—they are necessary. To begin to answer the question, The National Art Education Association (NAEA) Museum Education Division and the Association of Art Museum Directors (AAMD) joined forces to conduct a nationwide, four-year intensive research study on the impact of single visit art museum school programs.
October is National Arts & Humanities Month, a time to celebrate and champion the arts locally and nationally. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The effective arts advocate needs a full quiver of case-making arrows to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. To help fill your quiver, I offer an updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.
Arts organizations are situated in a prime spot in society for changing community outcomes, but are not recognized or leveraged by impact investors as a critical resource. Can you imagine a world in which capital is connected with arts organizations that dually function as social entrepreneurship firms, B Corps, and employee-owned co-ops? This very well could be the future of social impact investing. There is a rising tide of organizations working to facilitate the interaction between investors and arts organizations that create a social and financial return, both in the USA and abroad. We could be finally witnessing the genesis of a trend that whittles away the wrongly perceived line dividing artists from economic contributors.
As the new school year has officially begun across the country, I feel a renewed sense of possibility for the role the arts can play in learning, in all subjects, in the year ahead. Even greater, I feel a new sense of opportunity for the role the arts can play in cultivating new awareness and understandings for students of all ages, across our communities.
As many of you are aware, the Wisconsin Idea at public universities is under attack in many states—one of them sadly being Wisconsin. Allocations by states to their universities are either reflecting this ideology or simply the tough choices created by fiscal reality. Lacking the affluent alumni and profit-generating research, arts and humanities departments in particular are in peril. This flies in the face of Gard’s own legacy in Wisconsin. There is a forgetting, as Gard points out, that the arts “enable the individual to explore the creative potential of his intellectual and emotional self, and … can result in new understanding of the human environment.”
We don’t empower young people for the simple concept of empowering young people—but instead because it is the right thing to do. How dare we sit around as adults to discuss the future of arts education without the young people who participate and benefit from that arts education present? Additionally, I know that from experiences like advocating publicly, we are building the leadership skills of the next generation through intergenerational dialogue and cyclical mentorship. We learn just as much from young people as they do from us. Lastly, we know that decision-makers respect the power of authentic youth voice, speaking from experience. So, my message this National Arts in Education Week is simple: Let us take the lead of our youth to support a shared vision for the future of arts education in America.
From my interview with Shemar Pelzer: “The idea of how arts are made and what it takes to create art—all of those skills can apply to other things. Through dance and through my work with the New Victory Theater Usher Corps, I’ve seen a lot of growth in my willingness to be more open to different things, seize opportunities and speak to different people. I recognize that this will help me in the future and I want to share that with others.”
There wouldn’t be anything to do on earth without creativity! For example, a phone. The creativity is in all the technology put into the phone to make it what it is. You can be talking to someone all the way in Canada while still in the United States! C’mon, we all know that’s creative. Don’t deny it! The arts and creativity can take on many different forms and be important to everyone in different ways. Most people don’t even realize that art and creativity are everywhere and can come in so many forms. Examples can be music, arts-integrated learning, drama, singing, instruments, and dancing. That’s just 6 examples. If art and creativity are everywhere and in everything just imagine how many more examples there are!