The Artist at the Center

This year’s Americans for the Arts (AFTA) conference, held in Chicago, proved to be a great success with almost 1,500 people in attendance.  For me, the conference began when Theaster Gates took the stage and spoke about empowering the voices inside communities through art.  I have so many thoughts from this lecture, but what stays with me now is the role of Theaster as a mentor, as a leader.  I was awe-struck by his dedication to serving his community and his presence and availability to us, his audience. 

Top Ten Moments from the ABC/NY Summer 2015 Diversity in Arts Leadership Internship

The Arts & Business Council of New York recently graduated its most recent class of Diversity in Arts Leadership interns. The program brings college students of diverse and underrepresented backgrounds to New York City for the summer where they are placed in local arts organizations and paired with mentors from the business community. Take a look at some of the top moments of the summer as the group participated in site visits to local arts organizations, cultural outings, arts and volunteer projects, and professional development workshops!

On Vacation? Rise and Shine -- Explore the Arts All Around You!

It's almost Labor Day and in my family, growing up, that meant vacation. It was always the time for travel and discovering new places, which of course is now an activity we call tourism. It is still the time I choose for getting away and as I write this, I am on my way to Morocco. I'm looking forward to many new arts, music, culture, craft, architecture and people discoveries.

Public Art Spurs Economic Development

From a purely business perspective, the arts in general and public art in particular are demonstrated spurs of economic development. This happy reality has proven true in my work as the Principal and sole employee of Prospective Inc., which is the exclusive leasing agent for the 4-million-square-foot office component of Reston Town Center, an internationally-recognized urban mixed-use development located in Reston, Virginia.

The Hills (and Country) are Alive with Arts Education!

I returned home from the Americans for the Arts 2015 Annual Convention in June with information and ideas swimming in my head, and hope rising in my heart for the optimistic future of arts education. There are numerous areas of the country where great things are happening to provide access to quality arts education for all children in a district, city, or county, depending on the location and size of the program.

Drab Tunnel Transformed into Bikeable Kaleidoscope in King County, Washington

On an October afternoon in King County, Washington, a crowd of about fifty threw on their roller skates and attended a roller disco party, complete with bright lights and psychedelic colors. The party wasn’t at a skating rink, however—they had all joined together in a tunnel on one of King County’s biking trails, and were celebrating Ebb & Flow, the new public mural by local artist Kristen Ramirez that covered the tunnel walls and enveloped the disco-goers.

Happy Anniversary to the Arts & Business Council of Miami and the Arts & Business Council of Chicago

The Private Sector Network of Americans for the Arts, which includes organizations like Arts & Business Councils and Business Committees for the Arts, works to promote the message that business sector support for the arts is integral to the success and longevity of the arts, and essential in building communities in which the business sector can thrive. This post is one of two that highlights five such organizations that are celebrating monumental anniversaries in 2015 and have spent decades building these vital partnerships.

Two weeks ago we featured the Arts & Business Council of New York, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts as they celebrate major anniversaries this year. Now, we turn to the Arts & Business Council of Miami and the Arts & Business Council of Chicago to learn more about their work over the past 30 years. 

“Looking at the world through a windshield.”

•   5,997 miles driven

•   11 events

•   17 Minnesota Artists

•   8 Communities

•   50 cups of gas station coffee

•   0 flat tires

•   25 fish

Living in a rural, pastoral location can ironically promotes restlessness. One typical requirement about living in a small town and wanting to experience art is that one must travel to IT, whatever it might be.

How to create award-winning public art

This year, Arlington Public Art received our seventh PAN Year in Review Award since the award program began in 2000.  We feel honored to be so distinguishedChristian Moeller’s Quill (2014) joins Liquid Pixels by Ned Kahn (2002); Memory Bricks by Winnie Owens-Hart (2005); Cultivus Loci: Suckahanna by Jann Rosen-Queralt (2006);  Flame by Ray King (2007); CO2LED by Jack Sanders, Robert Gay and Butch Anthony (2008); and Echo by Richard Deutsch (2012), our other Year in Review Award winners.

So how did we do it?

What's Possible in America: Dread Scott, More Art, and the Impossibility of Freedom

The thing I remember most about the start of the performance was the deafening sound of silence.

That was the first unexpected moment during artist and activist Dread Scott’s performance piece with More Art. The crowd pressed forward in anticipation as Scott turned a corner and prepared to advance. The firefighters, prepared to unleash a stream of water against Scott equivalent to a crowd control hose, were at the ready. And the world held its breath.


6 Ways to Know Your Arts Education Program Made a Difference

I asked an arts ed colleague the other day “What session would you like to see on a state-wide arts conference agenda to justify your time and travel expenses?” The answer: “How did you know your program made a difference?”

Wish: Granted. 

Vancouver, Canada: Artists Explore Year of Reconciliation

We live in interesting times. In Canada, Aboriginal rights are becoming a primary part of the political landscape. We are embarking on a long journey to recognize injustice and develop new partnership and governance models. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada was a five-year project established to witness the stories and address the harm done by Indian Residential Schools and to set the country on a path of healing. In the spirit of this project, the City of Vancouver established a Year of Reconciliation from June 2013 to June 2014, working in partnership with Reconciliation Canada. 

How to Succeed at Public Art when everything goes wrong

I can now say that twice en route to a major installation I have looked at the person or people I was bringing with me to help, and said something to the effect of, “the worst thing that can happen is when we get there, we can’t work…”  I should probably stop saying things like this because both times it came true. The first time the problem was resolved by some cable rigging, come-alongs, crawling around a mud puddle and hanging off a small cliff to make it all work. The second time was on the way to install The Rippling Wall.

Getting Creative: Designing and Installing psychylustro

Over the past few years, the City of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program has expanded the boundaries of its artistic and social practice, exploring the definitions of traditional mural-making and teasing out the nuanced meanings of public art. psychylustroinstalled in 2014, was an exploration of an abstract gesture in public space, and a new facet for Mural Arts, challenging us as an institution to get innovative both with conception and implementation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies on the Power of Public Art

At Bloomberg Philanthropies we recognize the enormous potential of public art to enliven neighborhoods, drive foot traffic to local businesses, bolster tourism, and inspire people to live and work in places identified with creativity. So in October 2014, we launched the Public Art Challenge to support temporary public art projects that catalyze urban growth, contribute to local identity, and promote creativity. In addition to generating exciting work in cities and seeding strong public-private partnerships supporting culture, we hoped the initiative would encourage local governments across the United States to view artists and the arts as resources for addressing civic priorities in real and transformative ways. 

Encouraging News

The email crossed the Atlantic on 9th June 2015. My iPhone chimed its arrival into a gloriously sunny North Yorkshire afternoon, and into a conversation with friends and colleagues in the lowering sun.

Dear Kit,

Congratulations! Your project Congregation was selected and recognized in the recent Americans for the Arts 2015 Public Art Network Year in Review. The project was selected by jurors Peggy Kendellen, Laurie Jo Reynolds, and Ernst C. Wong and will be publicly presented on Thursday, June 11th at the 2015 Public Art & Placemaking Preconference in Chicago…” etc, etc.

Behind the Scene: Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review 2015

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review, which annually recognizes outstanding public art projects that represent the most compelling work for the year from across the country. Over the years we have had over a thousand applications. Each year, a jury of up to three art professionals reviewed and selected projects to highlight. This week we are posting blogs directly from those involved in the creation of the projects in PAN Year in Review selected by our three art professionals, Peggy Kendellen (Public Art Program Manager at the Regional Arts & Cultural Council) Laurie Jo Reynolds (artist) and Ernest C. Wong (landscape architecture and urban planning professional) and presented on June 11th at the Americans for the Arts Public Art & Placemaking Preconference in Chicago.

5 Ways For You to Use Art to Create a Linchpin in Your Community

At the moment I’m getting my hands on everything Seth Godin has written. There’s something magical about having someone tell you to be an artist, do your art and, if it’s not being appreciated, do it better. It’s simple, concise, and easy to follow.

In Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Mr. Godin explains that a linchpin is someone in the workplace “who is indispensable, who cannot be replaced – her role is just far too unique and valuable.” He asserts that we’re all capable of being a linchpin; that we’re all brilliant and can create art. Mr. Godin’s definition of art is not resigned to the brush and canvas. Rather, it is you rising to the level of excellence that you are capable of.

How Businesses Can Recruit and Retain Talent through the Arts

For more than 50 years, Americans for the Arts has been dedicated to building broad public support, strong leadership, and increased resources for arts and arts education. The pARTnership Movement, which was launched in 2012 by Americans for the Arts’ Business Committee for the Arts, bridges the gap between the businesses world and the arts world, and helps businesses understand that partnering with the arts can have real strategic value.

Dream It! Do It!

At The Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in downtown Los Angeles (known as Grand Arts High School) we have produced an original music video – Dream It! Do It! –directed and choreographed by Emmy, Golden Globe, NAACP Image, Drama Desk, Astaire and Olivier Award winner Debbie Allen.  Read more to watch/read more about this inspiring video! 

The Case for Culture in the Promise Zone: Connecting Federal Initiatives with Place-Based Culture

Philadelphia is known for a lot of things: Rocky, Will Smith, dedicated sports fans, cheesesteaks…

We’re also a city where:

  • Approximately 3 out of every 10 residents are eligible for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • 18% did not graduate high school
  • 7.8% are unemployed (well above the national, state, and regional levels)
  • We have the 6th highest homicide rate among nation’s 10 largest cities

 (Pew State of the City 2015)

Where the Cultural Life Flowers, the Community as a Whole Prospers and Grows

What makes a “healthy, vibrant, equitable community” healthy, vibrant, or equitable? As time marches on, what challenges will be presented to that community—to the millions of different communities that exist and overlap in every part of our lives? And how can the arts be a part of pushing past those challenges, empowering change, and creating a brighter future?

The arts mean business in Iowa

Ask an outsider what they know about Iowa, and they may say one of three things, CORN ... HOGS ... and FARMLAND. Yes, Iowa is known for its agricultural bounty.

But visit the world-famous Art Institute of Chicago, and you’ll undoubtedly run into “American Gothic,” a painting universally recognized as a cultural icon — created by Grant Wood, an Iowan.

The explosion in the numbers of artists and arts activities in the 1940s and 1950s left a legacy that continues today, and what may come as a surprise is that in Iowa, the arts serve as an economic driver that attracts companies, creates jobs and grows local and state revenue. Without a doubt, the arts mean business in Iowa.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Transforming the Field

“To fundamentally transform the field in order to meet a fundamentally changing nation and time, we need to fundamentally change who is in the field ”

This was the prompt I was given, earlier this year, when I was asked to speak at the Americans for the Arts Convention. It so happens that I spend a lot of time thinking about transforming the arts and culture field; on the account of the fact that I work for Fractured Atlas, a nonprofit technology organization that helps artists with the business side of the creative work, where transforming the status quo of the field is part and parcel of everything that we do.

Happy Anniversary to the Arts & Business Council of New York, the Colorado Business Committee for the Arts, and the New Hampshire Business Committee for the Arts

The Private Sector Network of Americans for the Arts, which includes organizations like Arts & Business Councils and Business Committees for the Arts, works to promote the message that business sector support for the arts is integral to the success and longevity of the arts. This support is also essential in building communities in which the business sector can thrive. This post is one of two that highlights five such organizations that are celebrating monumental anniversaries in 2015 and have spent decades building these vital arts and business partnerships.

Teaching Artists in the Post-Silo Era

A number of trends discussed at the 2015 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention resonated with my personal experience as a teaching artist. One trend arose frequently, in a number of different contexts: we all need to consider it since it is clearly top of mind in our field, and prominent in our experimenting with change.  Different presenters used different words to describe this trend, but the gist is: the longtime silos of practice and identity within the greater arts field are coming down. We have stayed within them too long, and now necessity and good strategy are bringing them down.  

The Art of Athletics

Anyone that is in my presence for more than ten minutes will probably pick up that I am passionate about two things outside of my family: Sports (particularly football and basketball) and artistic expression (particularly music and film). I’ve often debated with various friends whether or not sports could be considered art, and opinions have varied.

It’s Never Too Late for PTSD Awareness

Some may not have known, but Saturday, June 27th was National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day. In 2010, Congress named June 27th PTSD Awareness Day. They later declared the entire month of June 2014, National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month.

Plastered in Paducah

I first learned about Paducah, KY eleven years ago when I started working at Americans for the Arts. Where is Paducah, you ask? Well, it’s a town of about 25,000 people nestled where the Ohio and Tennessee rivers converge, approximately 140 miles north of Nashville in the western sliver of Kentucky. But don't let this quaint town fool you, as it packs a huge arts punch. 

Non-Traditional Forms of Arts Education

I’m not sure if it’s because it’s summer and the tourism/events season is really rolling in South Dakota or if it’s the fantastic arts experiences I’ve had the good fortune of experiencing in the past couple of months, but I’m having a hard time shaking thoughts about non-traditional forms of arts education.

The arts, in all disciplines, are educational by their very nature. If people are engaging in an arts event or exhibit, they are learning, and there’s no way to stop it. But the really cool thing about learning through the arts is the multiplied effect that results. When learning through the arts, audiences are almost always learning about more than one thing. Another really cool thing: This type of learning generally continues through adulthood.


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