A New Trifecta for the Arts

Louisville’s passion for the arts is hardly a new phenomenon. We pride ourselves on our eclectic, world-class arts community that is ever evolving. Fund for the Arts recognizes that as the united arts fund field continues to evolve, we must stay ahead of the curve by pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, driving new initiatives and sparking new collaborations while honoring our rich history of supporting a wide array of arts institutions. As we move forward, Fund for the Arts is focused on how the arts can be a catalyst for systemic change–a change that brings about a stronger, more inclusive and vibrant city.  

Reflections on Resilient Arts Leadership

This week we heard over a dozen emerging leaders reflect on this year’s Arts Leadership Preconference theme: “Impact Without Burnout: Resilient Arts Leadership from the Inside Out”. Echoed in many of the blogs is the need and desire for cross-generational leadership, mentorship and professional development (positioning everyone to teach and advance the field), the need to intentionally address diversity, and the importance of “soft-skills”.

Vulnerability is the New Confidence

Arts leaders must be comfortable with risk and uncertainty to be successful. Actually, I think this is true for leaders in every industry, but especially in the arts. Embracing vulnerability can be challenging for any leader, but especially a young one. Brene Brown, a preeminent researcher on vulnerability defines it as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” She has this to say: “Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity”; “There can be zero innovation without vulnerability”; and “Invulnerability in leadership breeds disengagement in culture.”

Notes from the Field

I am in the field. Literally. A wheat field in McPherson County, Kansas to be exact. There’s no cell service and no other human being in sight, so I feel seriously out of place. I am far outside of my comfort zone. Other than the hundred head of cattle expectantly staring at me over a wire fence behind me, my only companion is Stretch, the Chinberg’s farm dog. Used to the solitude, he keeps eagerly bringing me junk – a stick, discarded flip-flop with teeth marks, a chewed rabbit foot – canine enticements to friendship. There is a hot, skin-stripping wind blowing chaff onto my cheeks, getting stuck in my hair that falls into the palette I have set out. The starkness of this scene inspired my courage to capture the power of this hot, solitary land. I am here because of, and in spite of, the wind. It drives my thoughts.

They Should’ve Asked a Folklorist: New Horizons for State Folk Arts Programs

Following the 1974 launch of NEA support for state folklife programs, folklorists have led state arts agencies’ efforts to serve traditional artists of the nation’s rural, occupational, and immigrant communities. What are the challenges facing state-level folk arts coordinators in 2016?

To gain insight, I consulted three emerging leaders in the field: Lilli Tichinin, Program Coordinator of Folk Arts, Art Projects and Accessibility for New Mexico Arts; Jennifer Joy Jameson, Folk and Traditional Arts Director for the Mississippi Arts Commission; and Josh Ehlers, Assistant Folklorist for the Oregon Folklife Network.

A Leader's Responsibility to Create Opportunities for Others

In 2008, print publications were shedding staff writer positions. Arts criticism was on the cutting room floor at daily newspapers across the country.

Blogging was all the rage in the mid-aughts, so despite the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s unceremonious slaughter of their arts coverage, Atlanta was seeing a groundswell of local arts scene coverage. From this movement a cohort of critics emerged. This independent and often amateur motley crew consisted of emerging artists, recently graduated art history majors, retired editors and junior writers. What they penned was avant-garde reviews that disregarded traditional methods of criticism.

Working With or For Everyone in an Organization

We have all heard or said the phrase: “I wear many hats within my organization”, as if we are justifying our importance (like my Great Dane tries to justify her importance by licking my face down to the bones). We all play important roles within our organizations. I have certainly used this phrase in some shape or form, but staying humble about our numerous roles can really pay dividends as we move forward in our careers.

Working with or for everyone does not always mean everyone is asking you to do something for them. More frequently, it means asking others how you can be involved in what they are doing. This approach not only expands knowledge in the short term, but it can lead to long term benefits including building new relationships or creating opportunities to take on more responsibility. Here are my keys to success when it comes to working with or for everyone in your organization.

Resilient Leadership in the Arts: Realities about being in an Arts Couple

A few years ago, my husband got a new job several states away that completely changed our lives. At the time, I had a job I loved in theatre arts education from which I had to resign. Starting over in a new place where you know absolutely no one is a daunting task for anyone, but when you’re in the arts, it can seem like an impossible task. Jobs in the arts are harder to come by than in many other fields and it takes years to build up connections, develop working knowledge of local funding sources, and get another shot at a job with an organization when you aren’t the one hired away.

Establishing a Career Path in the Arts

In 2011, while pursuing my graduate degree in Arts Administration at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), I came across Managers of the Arts, an NEA research study conducted in 1987 by Paul DiMaggio. In this report he examined the backgrounds, education, and career experiences of senior arts administrators of resident theaters, art museums, symphony orchestras, and community arts agencies. While this report is almost 30 years old, DiMaggio highlighted some key points that are important for attracting and retaining arts managers, which included:

  • Raising salaries in fields in which administrators are least well paid.
  • Establish somewhat more predictable career paths that offer the promise of further opportunities to administrators who reach the top of large or medium-sized organizations relatively early in life.
  • Offer more equal opportunities to women managers who pursue careers in these fields.

Following Young Leaders’ Lead

Like many urban areas across the country, much is booming in Atlanta: real estate, food culture, and a hunger for public transit and public spaces. Along with the renewed investment in Atlanta’s urban core, there is a building momentum around the role arts & culture play in civic life. Of course there’s a downside to the “upswing” as Atlanta faces some of the country’s most pronounced income and wealth inequality gaps. The disparity is real in Atlanta – and the arts are not immune, falling right in line with housing and education disparities, lack of access to healthy foods, and economic immobility.

While some our most conventional cultural institutions are searching for ways to discuss and address the issue of cultural equity, I am inspired by emerging leaders in Atlanta whose core purpose is rooted in cultural equity values.

Navigating Grey Space: The Personal, Professional, and Practice

How does one lead by an example that is still evolving, or in many instances simply doesn’t exist? As a young black woman in the arts, this has proven to be the ongoing topic of many conversations amongst my peers and myself. Decades have been spent sorting through lack of diversity in the arts sector, and people of color pursuing their passions as artists and administrators alike are still faced with a lack of representation and guidance around what the future of these roles look like within the field. Most recently I’ve found myself questioning how to explore my individual path in a way that feels productive and healthy, while also understanding how that impacts my future pursuits and leadership role(s).

Leading through Listening

Last week I met with local arts advocate Julie Madden to discuss some of her career experiences in the arts. I was lucky to have met her just a few weeks prior at Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. It just took one exchange to realize that we not only represent the same congressional district, but we actually live down the street from one another! I was so happy to meet with her and to hear the wealth of stories and advice to share. Since 1998, Julie has served with Maryland State Citizens for the Arts and in 2002 became a board member of the Maryland State Arts Council. Additionally, she has served on The Baltimore Museum of Art's Accessions Committee for Decorative Arts and as Maryland's Director of Arts and Community Outreach.

How to Be (or be an asset to) an Emerging Arts Leader of Color

You have to be resilient to be in arts management. Period. This required resilience goes double for emerging arts leaders of color and the people who want to see them do well. As an educator and consultant, I am sometimes asked to speak about diversity in our field. After these talks I hear from two types of people: arts administrators of color who are on the spectrum of “I know, right?” to “let’s laugh together about this ridiculous thing that happened to me–or else I’ll cry” (I buy the latter drinks, when possible) AND I hear from potential allies who want to know how to be helpful.

What follows are a smattering of things that I have said to both groups–as the discussion for one group is usually an inverse image of the discussion with the other. I offer these lessons I have learned (usually, the hard way) as fodder for further discussion, and a moment for us to strategize before we go back out into the fray.

The Importance of Organizations Investing in their Emerging Leaders

“You need to pay your dues.”

This statement has always hit a nerve with me. Not because I don’t believe there is some truth to it, but because I believe that it focuses on a problem and not a solution. This often means that the task of “paying one’s dues”, which can be defined as “you need more experience,” is forced upon the emerging leader with no assistance and no direction provided. Decision making is for those with experience, for valid reasons, but what I question is how organizations help provide that much-needed experience to their emerging leaders.

How does cultural identity impact arts leadership?

How does cultural identity impact arts leadership?

“We really need someone who’s more out front, who relishes the spotlight, who can shake the hands and kiss the babies.” (A major donor)

Let us picture the figurehead of an organization. The lighting rod. The glad-handing executive, the creative dynamo, the visionary. The confident and outspoken advocate with the answers. Is that what we want from a leader? Can that be anyone, any gender, any age (within reason), any race? Can it be a senior black woman? A young disabled veteran? Can that be a third-generation Asian-American, like me?

Resilient Arts Leadership from the Inside Out: The Arts Leaders Showing Us How

Welcome to the annual Emerging Arts Leaders Blog Salon!  We asked over a dozen emerging leaders to reflect and respond to this year’s Arts Leadership Preconference theme: “Impact without Burnout: Resilient Arts Leadership from the Inside Out”. In the coming days you will read about the work of some of these leaders and their advice to the field.

To kick things off, I asked Beth Kanter, the lead facilitator and curator for this year’s Arts Leadership Preconference, four questions to help us define and better understand the concepts behind resilient leadership.

Weaving A New Cultural Tapestry

One-third of the children in Burlington and Winooski public schools are students of color, including new Americans who are English language learners. With the demographics in our region shifting so dramatically, government agencies, educational institutions, businesses, and nonprofits are grappling with inadequate cultural competency in trying to serve these myriad populations.

Yesterday, the Flynn Center, along with Burlington City Arts, the Vermont Arts Council, and the Vermont Community Foundation, hosted a forum in Burlington called New Community Visions with Americans for the Arts. The initiative’s goal was to explore the role that the arts play in pursuing a healthy, vibrant, and cohesive community, and how individuals, arts institutions, and support organizations can help achieve that.

STE[A]Mrolled

"I used language because I wanted to offer content that people - not necessarily art people - could understand." - Jenny Holzer

Some years ago I took a trip to Lisbon, Portugal. And ignorantly (and perhaps, arrogantly), I assumed my knowledge of the Spanish language would suffice for me to be able to communicate with the Lisbonites. I soon grew frustrated at my inability to communicate with the locals and when asked to describe my experience with Portuguese, I later said it was like trying to speak Spanish using French. 

Language is important.

Thank You for Being a Part of Innovations in State Arts Advocacy Blog Salon

Thank you for joining us for ArtsBlog’s first blog salon focused exclusively on innovative initiatives and programs in state arts advocacy. I hope that you enjoyed reading the stories and advice shared by state arts advocacy leaders from across the country during this blog salon.

Serving Communities: Stewarding Public Investment in the Arts

In October 2015, Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) hosted its fourth annual capacity building conference called ArtsLAB. This year’s theme was “Community Engagement; Roles and Responsibilities of Publicly Funded Arts Organizations.” Why did we choose this topic? Simple: The Baltimore Uprising of April 2015.

Our offices are in Baltimore City. On the day after the Uprising, the Baltimore City School System was closed. As a city resident, I considered this an egregious error if not a complete failure of the system to our youth. As I arrived at work and opened up our social media accounts, something so basic and so truly amazing happened. One after another, nonprofit arts organizations across the city started promoting arts activities, free lunches, free concerts and plays for Baltimore City School Students.

Volunteer Advocacy Leadership: Guarding the Backside

My wife was a corporate litigator at a major firm and she’s got some fun stories from that experience. Her direct supervisor, an esteemed senior partner, regularly advised her to “guard the backside” in litigation they brought on behalf of clients. 

For anyone unfamiliar with the game of basketball, guarding the backside refers to a situation where Team A is dribbling the ball down the court near to one sideline in an effort to reach the basket and score on Team B. Team B may be entirely focused on where the ball is coming from but Team A may suddenly pass the ball to the other sideline and then attack the backside, or weak side, of the defense. This experienced litigator recognized that part of competently preparing for litigation was: don’t forget to guard the backside.

So How Do You DO The Creative Economy, Anyway? (Hint: It’s A Process)

There are many ways to advocate for access to creative opportunities and investment in the arts as integral to economic, educational and civic success.

Some of the most important partners in this effort, in these changing and exciting times, are local governments and the economic development sector. Local officials, economic development professionals, and civic leaders are concerned with economic vitality, education for the 21st century, healthy, vibrant communities, and engaged residents. Those are arts issues in every way. As Wisconsin’s community cultural development organization, Arts Wisconsin is strategically and proactively involved in civic policy, planning and programming, working at the intersection of the creative workforce, industries and communities. Our partners now include statewide civic organizations including the League of Wisconsin Municipalities, Wisconsin Rural Partners, Wisconsin Economic Development Association, Wisconsin Main Street Program, and the Wisconsin Downtown Action Council. We all care about our state’s future.

The Arts & Health Steering New Advances in State Public Policy

“Art is a constant agent of transformation and is indeed the soul’s drive to health.”
Cathy Malchiodi, Ph.D., Art Therapist

You know the old adage, “If you have your health, you have everything.” In seeking health, whether it’s your own, a loved one’s, or in a community, the arts can be a powerful, even transformational component. A growing body of research and expanding practice confirm this belief. As such, arts and healthcare is becoming more recognized as a compelling platform for creating public value and policy. 

Hello Chamber…it’s the Arts Calling

Building partnerships is one of the most effective advocacy strategies we can employ. The right partners expand our reach and diversify our voice. Even more importantly, I believe we can supercharge our advocacy campaigns by engaging non-traditional partners.

Assembling a coalition that includes the art museum down the street, the arts education advocates around the corner, and the jazz group next door, is an important first step. But, have you ever tried reaching out to your local chamber of commerce?

Iowa Arts Advocacy Caucus: Candidates, Corn Dogs, and Collaboration!

The idea for the Iowa Arts Advocacy Caucus was born at the Americans for the Arts Action Fund event at Advocacy Day 2015 when Nina Ozlu Tunceli mentioned that Americans for the Arts would be actively participating in the New Hampshire primary and both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions in 2016. I was attending this event with Helen Duranleau-Brennan of the Iowa Thespians, and we both looked at each other and had the same idea—Americans for the Arts needed to be in Iowa before the Iowa Caucuses! We talked to Nina, and she thought it was a great idea. Planning started as soon as I got back to Iowa.

Take Arts Advocacy on the Road

“I pledge to you that the Mayor, the City Council and indeed the City of Fergus Falls will invest more in the arts.”

-Mayor Hal Leland, Fergus Falls, MN

This is just one of the astonishing things said by public officials as we traveled around the state doing the Creative Minnesota Road Show. Drawing together city council and county board members, mayors, and regional and local economic development staff along with arts advocates of every description, the 91 presentations of our 29 economic impact studies of the arts were held in every corner of Minnesota in 2015. I put 7,000 miles on my car. I could now do these presentations in my sleep. But I have to tell you that it was really fun to run from place to place being the bearer of good news.

The Importance of Partnering with Associations of Elected Officials

Go down to your street corner and ask people if they have ever thought about whether their mayor or state legislator belongs to a professional trade association. You would probably get a lot of blank stares and muffled answers. But, to Americans for the Arts, this is serious business.

Starting over 20 years ago, Americans for the Arts made the strategic decision to partner with associations that represent elected officials. Those groups are: the National Governors Association (NGA), the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA), the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), the National Association of Counties (NACo), The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM), and the National League of Cities (NLC).

Celebrating National Volunteer Week with the Arts

This week is National Volunteer Week, started by Points of Light in 1974 to inspire, recognize, and encourage people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. Seeking out imaginative ways to engage business employees through volunteerism has a natural link with the arts, as we’ve seen from over 40 years of experience with the Business Volunteers for the Arts® (BVA) Network.

Since its founding in 1975 by the Arts & Business Council Inc., the BVA program has grown and adapted to serve the changing needs of both the arts and business communities. Over its 40-year history, the BVA program has proven to be a dynamic and effective model for diverse sizes and types of communities. Since the programs inception, nearly 25,000 business volunteers have served more than 26,000 arts groups across the United States.

On the Path to Title I

In 2011, the California Alliance for Arts Education began its Title I Initiative as a way of clarifying misunderstandings about the appropriateness of using Title I funds to support arts strategies and a guide to action for schools and districts seeking to embark on the work. Four years in, we’re delighted to see that the Initiative has taken root around the state, as well as resonating with some other states pursuing similar agendas, particularly in anticipation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)’s devolution of much decision-making power to the state level.

In a nutshell, federal Title I policy clearly allows schools and districts to include arts education in their strategies to achieve Title I goals. Downstream of the federal level, however, the Alliance found that there was a lack of clarity about whether and how the arts could play a role in Title I. Coupled with the culture of “fear of reprisal” that seemed to permeate the Title I world—where funding could be retracted if a program didn’t meet state or federal expectations—this lack of clarity was proving an insurmountable barrier. Schools and districts, it seemed, were either electing to ignore the opportunity to include arts education in their strategies for achieving Title I goals, or were moving forward in a way that would draw no attention to those practices.

Starting an Arts Caucus Doesn’t Happen Overnight…

South Carolina Arts Alliance’s Betty Plumb, always an inspiration to me, had spoken for years about the Arts Caucus in South Carolina’s legislature. It was large and seemed very responsive to Betty and her arts advocates. To be honest, I was slightly jealous. But after speaking for some length with Betty about the caucus, I was determined to start one in Pennsylvania. I mean, how hard could it be, with the largest full-time legislature in the nation? 

I first knew we—the Pennsylvania Citizens for the Arts Board of Directors at and I—had to identify the initial contact in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Our likely candidate was Senator Jay Costa (D-Allegheny). He had served on the Council of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts (PCA) and was on the board of directors at several Pittsburgh area arts and culture organizations. My board chair, Mitch Swain, approached Sen. Costa about this idea to start a bi-cameral, bi-partisan Arts Caucus. We were positive the only way the caucus would work is for both Houses and political caucus to work together. To our delight, Sen. Costa thought the idea was great, agreed to act as a co-chair, and took on the task of identifying the other three Arts Caucus leaders.

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