#artssowhite - How can arts education help build equity in the arts?

Oscar season is upon us and rather than debating who will win Best Picture or Best Actor/Actress, the debate has been how “white” the Oscars are.  #oscarssowhite went viral and African American actors began to boycott. As a result, the Academy (which is 94% white) responded by making the bold move to change their composition to reflect more diversity.

The Oscar issue is reflective of a much larger issue across all sectors of the arts; lack of diversity. I just returned from the annual meeting of American’s for the Arts and all of their advisory councils. This issue was front-and-center over the three-day meeting, as it has become a top priority for AFTA. As I sat and looked around the room I could see why.

5 key ways the arts drive economic & community development

 “[Cultural activities] enrich and expand on my understanding of what binds us together as a community, where we have come from and perhaps where we are going.”
-ArtsFund Patron Survey, 2015

Arts advocates often talk about how cultural organizations play a critical role in creating a vibrant, thriving economy, in definining civic identity, and in building an engaged and connected population, but how do we support that claim? 

 

Legislative Sessions Open, Now What? Advocate!

With the start of a new year comes the start of a new General Assembly session, at least in my home state of Virginia, and also for three-quarters of our states’ legislatures. And for our state so begins the battle for increased funding for our state arts council—the Virginia Commission for the Arts. This Wednesday, arts leaders and supporters from across our Commonwealth will gather for Arts Advocacy Day when we will meet with our state representatives to plead our case. And just what is that case?

OH at a Meeting: It’s Not Just a Bike Rack

We were in Oklahoma City and Heather Ahtone of Norman Oklahoma shared a story about the power of Arts And…, a moment when, as she said, “The arts community met a civic need in a creative way.”

Her city, like lots of other places, is growing fast. So fast that traffic has gotten a lot worse in the center. City planners decided to encourage more people to start riding bikes to get around, improving the quality of life for everyone. What happened next? 

Introducing the Artists & Communities Conversation Series

Americans for the Arts is excited to debut a new conversation series, Artists & Communities, highlighting the voices of artists and arts practitioners working across sectors and within communities. Over the next ten months, we will publish ten conversations between pairs of established and emerging community arts leaders as they share their visions for, experiences with, and challenges to making healthy, equitable, vibrant communities through arts and culture. As community-based work receives more recognition, and intersections and collaborations become stronger, these conversations illuminate just how artists and community arts leaders can work to sustain and maintain healthy communities through their practice.

First up: Liz Lerman, choreographer, performer, writer, educator, speaker, and founder of Dance Exchange, and Deana Haggag, Director of the Baltimore-based nomadic museum The Contemporary.

Product Relevance–An Experiment in Engaging Silicon Valley Corporate Millennials

In June 2015, Silicon Valley Creates, a regranting organization in San Jose, California, with a thirty-plus year record in providing funding opportunities for the local arts and culture community, made a bold move–for us. We took a first-time experimental step in investing in capacity building, specifically to elevate the conversation about product relevance.

Living the Dream

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character—that is the goal of true education.” As we reflect on the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week, I was reminded of this one of many, but not often cited, quotes by Dr. King.

Recently, the Arts Education Advisory Council of Americans for the Arts met for its midwinter meeting in Los Angeles. We spent much of our time discussing equity and the need for access to the arts for all students, pre-K through high school. We took a tour of the Colburn School, an outstanding music conservatory with numerous community engagement programs. The mission of the Colburn School is to admit students who have tremendous artistic promise and provide them with full tuition, including room and board, so that they can focus solely on their musical careers.

How a “non-artist” found her niche in the art world

A foray into the Monterey History and Art Association’s December 2012 exhibit, “Flows to Bay,” totally altered my outlook on how to communicate action on environmental issues. A small exhibit, it featured a variety of art using discarded plastics from the marine environment to demonstrate how they detrimentally affect our planet. I do not consider myself an artist, so the lenses I view the world through are primarily those of an environmental scientist. But what I saw hooked me, and its strong yet captivating message gave me new insight into a way to frame environmental degradation through art. 

Where We Love to Live—Tales from the Community Visions Tour

What kind of community is the place where we all want to live, work, and visit? 

That’s one of the questions Americans for the Arts is asking on a national tour, talking with people about their vision for healthy, equitable, vibrant communities of the future. The answers—and the discussion—are compelling.

Employee Resource Groups: what do they mean for the arts?

The pARTnership Movement’s latest tool-kit, on partnering with Employee Resource Groups, is a great introduction to working with these often under-discussed groups. Why should they matter to you, and how can you partner with them? Also, what are they?

An Employee Resource Group (ERG) is a network of likeminded individuals with similar interests or shared pasts and can usually be contacted though the company’s HR department. They’re often known as affinity groups, because they bring together people who have had a shared experience that influences their professional demeanor or outlook.

Top 10 in Arts Education 2015

Each December, I have the pleasure to reflect alongside colleagues of the Americans for the Arts’ Arts Education Advisory Council about what happened in arts education in America over the course of the previous year. It is truly one of my favorite activities – a chance to celebrate big accomplishments, learn from incidents that were not-so-good, and identify trends which may crop up in our work in 2016.

Last year, as we looked back over 2014, we discussed STEAM, creative youth development, standards, new reports, resources for specific student populations, mayors and more. Some things continued this year, and some things did not – check out the list below!

We Are From the Arts and We’re Here to Help

When people who work in the arts talk about the value of our contribution in communities, we risk seeming privileged and paternalistic.

Our motivation is just fine, but we don’t realize how we sound sometimes. In the midst of many local and national conversations about the role of the arts in community planning efforts, we should listen carefully to see if we can hear ourselves the way others might.

Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts!

Happy New Year from all of us at Americans for the Arts! Together our work has helped transform America’s communities through the arts.  

Share with ARTSblog readers one way the arts helped transform your community in 2015, in the comments below and on social media! Tag us @Americans4Arts.

Congratulations on your success in 2015! We look forward to an exciting and productive New Year.

The Arts Help Us Find Comfort, Peace, and Unity

2015 is almost over, and what a year of successes and changes we've had as a country. The unemployment rate dropped to its lowest level in more than seven years; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide; a landmark climate change agreement was approved; the U.S. embassy reopened in Cuba after 54 years; and a week ago, the Every Student Succeeds Act passed--a tremendous win for arts education. The arts won a number of other legislative victories too, such as increased federal arts funding and arts-friendly legislation regarding both IRA tax rollovers and visa law along with key successes at the state and local levels.

More Than a Number: The Role of the Arts in Youth Development Programs

When a potential supporter for creative youth development approaches me, one of the first things I tell them is to look at the numbers. This model works. Students who participate in rigorous, arts-based after school programs perform better in school and have higher graduation rates than that of their peers who do not participate in the arts. I reference programs such as The Wooden Floor in Santa Ana, Say Si in San Antonio, ARTS in San Diego – the results are impressive. It is at this moment that I have their attention. I have connected my work to something they value: academic success.

2015: what a year for the arts!

2015 was a huge year for the arts! From the monumental new federal K-12 education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, to a funding increase of $2 million for the National Endowment for the Arts, to key federal charitable tax provisions being made permanent, arts and arts education policy have progressed immensely this past year.

New Ways to Talk About Art, Artists, and Community

A young dancer recently told me she would be so happy if architects of community change and innovation and planning came to her with a request to put her skills to work for her community. Nothing would make her happier as an artist.

She’s just waiting for the invite! So, why doesn't this happen more often? And why do artists find it so hard to get a seat at the community planning table?

In recent meetings about the role of arts in community building and development, including the four regional meetings of the New Community Visions Initiative this fall, participants from the arts told us that they have a hard time getting a seat at that table. They sense that people in other sectors don’t seem to take arts seriously as a community development partner.

 

Designing the Experience of Art in the Workplace

Corporate art collecting may be motivated by a number of objectives, from creating an aesthetically pleasing work environment to fostering employee engagement to strengthening a company’s image. Businesses that place a high value on art within and beyond the workplace likewise demonstrate an appreciation for innovation, creativity and corporate social responsibility. For the global furniture, interior architecture, and technology company Steelcase, corporate art collecting has created a thriving interplay between art, design and inspiration over the course of its 103-year history.

State Legislative Session 2015—Arts Education Policy and Funding Advancing at the State Level

As the leading organization for advancing the arts and arts education in the nation, Americans for the Arts' Federal Affairs team keeps its finger on the legislative pulse line of Capitol Hill and champions arts and arts education friendly legislation such as the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)*. 

Americans for the Arts is also passionate about empowering positive arts and arts education policy at the state and local levels, where there is much less political gridlock and thus more opportunity for positive change to occur. Our State and Local Government Affairs team connects individuals to their respective State Arts Action Network (SAAN) members, tracks arts and arts education legislation at the state and local levels to study trends, and enables members to lead grassroots action on state and local issues through our e-advocacy tool, Voter Voice. 

Montana Arts Standards: An Interview with Superintendent Denise Juneau

With the publication of National Core Arts Standards in 2014, states around the country began to consider how they might inform standards at the state level. While each state process is unique, there is much to be learned from our colleagues at different points in the journey.

The state of Montana is nearing the end of their adoption process (scheduled adoption date is July, 2016). Last week, I had the opportunity to ask Superintendent Denise Juneau, a former teacher who understands well how a well-rounded education that includes the arts leads to college and career preparedness, about the work Montana has undertaken over the last year.

3 Reasons Theatre Summer Camp is the Perfect Holiday Gift

Did I say perfect?

Yes. Yes, I did. And here are just three (of many more*) reasons I believe that's true.

1) The gift of experience doesn’t clutter your kids’ bedrooms.

Okay, this is a big one for me (that’s why I made it Reason #1!)

Families – and individuals – are experiencing increasing physical (and technological) clutter.

The role and responsibility of the arts

“The arts are like a little black dress; right for every occasion, but one size doesn’t fit all.” - Commander Moira McGuire, Clinical care coordinator; Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Jamie Bennett, President of ArtPlace America, recently shared this missive with me and I couldn’t agree more. The arts are unique in their capacity to inspire, motivate, connect, give voice, and, all in all, lead to great things.  And, to quote another great source, Spiderman, “with great power comes great responsibility.” 

These 5 Tips Will Help You Become a Championed Arts Advocate

In the arts, it seems as though we always have something on our advocacy schedule. We’re advocating for funding. We’re advocating for support. We’re advocating to be included in education and strategic plans. Sometimes we’re even just advocating to exist. And because of our interconnectedness, we’re seldom just advocating for our own cause. We have to advocate for each other, too. We have to advocate for the field as a whole. And we have to advocate at every level of the system. With all of this advocating, sometimes it can be difficult to get our other work done. Some lucky arts organizations have the fortune of a staff member whose sole job is to work on advocacy efforts. But this just isn’t feasible for many, especially in rural states like South Dakota where arts professionals are overworked and underpaid.

Nexus of Artist Innovation + Health + Exponential Technology

Crowd-sourced genomic data, 3D printed hearts, robotic surgeries, dramatic shifts in medical education and population health–the future of how we think about, define and create health is exponentially changing–which is why we are pioneering new roles for artists in this ever-changing industry and societal landscape.

At Singularity University’s Exponential Medicine conference, co-founder Peter Diamandis said, “You are the CEO of your own health.” But, when there is systemic racism in clinical trials, inequality in access to care, and discrepancies between how medical practitioners define health and how different communities do, new approaches must come forth which empower both people and systems to fully realize a culture of health.

“Waiving” Goodbye to No Child Left Behind

Over the last few years, Americans for the Arts has been covering each attempt by Congress to reauthorize the Elementary & Secondary Education Act, most recently recognized as No Child Left Behind.
 
We are pleased to say that this might be the final in a series of blog posts capturing the legislative efforts over the past few years. We began covering legislative developments in 2011, 2013 and then the 2015 actions (January, February, July, and September) that led to this final bill.

Wait, This Year Was Fast…Too Fast?

It’s true. Bringing Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), a former governor, together with Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a former preschool teacher, has led to legislative advancement usually unseen and unheard of: unanimous Senate committee approval; an 81-17 Senate vote; nearly unanimous (38-1) Conference Committee approval, and now expected final passage in both houses and a presidential signature! Wow.

 

The season of Thanksgiving in Arts Education

It's the season of thanksgiving, and we have so much to be thankful for in a world that may, at times, seem less than hospitable.

This week, we celebrated Giving Tuesday – a reminder that while the Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday retail efforts are all important to the economy, the nonprofit world deserves equal consideration in terms of financial support for the good these organizations do in our communities.

Where would we be as a nation without our arts education nonprofit organizations?  Where would we be without art and music and dance and drama and poetry and theatre?

Strength in Numbers

How does a hardworking artist become an economically thriving one? In today’s art world, talent alone is rarely enough. Without sufficient financial support, most artists will struggle to get ahead—or even stay afloat—but direct funding for the arts is getting increasingly harder to come by. In 2014, individual artists received less than 5% of the grant dollars awarded by nonprofits or state arts agencies for arts-related work [Sources: The Foundation Center; National Assembly of State Arts Agencies]. What’s more, the vast majority of support that individual artists receive from non-governmental institutions is filtered through fiscal sponsors, a step that not only creates an additional obstacle for artists, but also cuts into the total dollar amount that they receive.

Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs

Last month, our country lost one of its great thinkers and activists for a just and equitable society.  We join friends and colleagues in Detroit and across the nation in mourning the loss of Grace Lee Boggs who passed away on October 5. She was and will live on as an unrelenting exemplar of what it means to live a life of humanity and activism in striving for social justice.

Transforming Lives Through Music – Even Among Seniors!

“The Academy has strongly shaped my present life and my plans. I am retiring next week and I will immediately become a full-time violin major at college.”  BSO Academy Violinist, 65 years old

A senior myself, I am acutely aware of the importance of music in helping me to stay sharp, to be successful in my full-time job as Vice President of Education and Community Engagement at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and to physically handle the demands of work and family.  That is why I am passionate about the BSO Academy, a suite of educational programs enabling older amateur musicians to play side-by-side with the pros. 

It’s Not About What Happens in Ten Years: It’s About Right Now

It is past time to put the arts into action for every child in this country. If we are serious about equipping our kids with the tools they need to be successful in the future, let’s prove it by systematically and completely addressing the inequities that exist in our schools right now.

I recently participated in the New Community Visions Initiative in Oklahoma City. I came away from that event filled with hope and inspiration after a day of working side by side with many intelligent and empowering people: educators, government officials, private industry leaders, cultural organization heads, and foundation leaders. We looked at how we see the arts and culture playing a strong role in building a healthier, more vibrant, and more equitable community over the next ten to fifteen years.

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