So, What Do You Do?

Editor’s Note: Ashley McDonald, Membership Associate at Americans for the Arts, interviewed our member Felicia Shaw about her work in the arts field. At the time of this interview Felicia was in the process of transitioning from her role as interim executive director of Young Audiences of San Diego to her new role as executive director of the Regional Arts Commission (RAC) in her hometown of St. Louis, MO.

AM: Can you describe your role at St. Louis Regional Arts Commission (RAC)?

FS: My job at RAC will be to assume the leadership role of a local arts agency that has had an impressive 30-year history of growing the arts and culture community throughout the St. Louis region. I’ll be working to preserve the vitality of a successful organization that is ready to grow to the next level, particularly at a time when St. Louis is turning the corner and looking to the future. I am charged with establishing a vision for RAC and strategically moving the organization forward in a new and impactful way for the next decade and beyond.

Business Leaders in Dallas Choose the Arts On Their Own Time

The North Texas Business Council for the Arts (NTBCA) is a nonprofit organization, founded in 1988, by iconic business leader and philanthropist Raymond D. Nasher. NTBCA is dedicated to creating business and arts partnerships in the 16-county region that is anchored by Dallas and Fort Worth. Our programs connect business professionals to the arts through education, events, and advocacy. NTBCA’s Board of Directors is made up of executives from some of the region’s top companies.

Richard Huff Responds to Annual Convention 2014

Editor's Note: When asked to blog about his experience at and reaction to Annual Convention 2015 in Chicago, where he received the Selina Roberts Ottum Award, Richard Huff kept things short and sweet as usual: Thank you!

Our Shared Public Art (and Placemaking) Legacy

At the Americans for the Arts 2015 Annual Convention, I was honored to accept the 2015 Public Art Network Award on behalf of the Association for Public Art (aPA) and also the early innovators who guide our work today. I am acutely aware that as the nation’s first non-profit public art organization, aPA has a unique 140+ year legacy. While we do not operate in the same environment as government agencies, I believe that recognizing our shared public art legacy can fortify our position by imparting clarity, credibility, and clout.

So who were those civic-minded people who founded and supported the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) and established the earliest percent for art programs in the United States?

Arts Action Heroes to the Rescue!

During my 30 years at Americans for the Arts, I have had the great privilege to visit and learn about a different community nearly every week. While they differ vastly from one another, there is one common strength I have observed: the arts have made a profound impact on the health of each community.

Across America, in communities of all sizes, a rising population of arts action heroes -- both individuals and organizations -- are stepping up, armed with the tools of their craft and a vision of how their work in the arts contributes to the well-being of a community.

Follow up on Americans for the Arts' Annual Convention

The 2015 Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention was also my first visit to Chicago. Having arrived early, I heard that the Chicago Architecture Foundation offered outstanding tours. I arranged to join the “Must See Chicago,” tour and was not disappointed. My inner geek enjoyed learning about Daniel Burnham, bundled tube construction, and remembering the contributions to mid-century modern architecture of Mies van der Rohe from art history class. While I spent a considerable amount of time “looking up” at numerous behemoth skyscrapers, I was grounded by a treasure trove of public art. It felt like opening a new box of crayons-truly inspirational. That was only the beginning of my #AFTACON inspiration.

Some Expressions about the Arts and Creative Expression

I was thrilled to sit in on the “Vocabulary for Arts and Arts Education” session at Americans for the Arts' Annual Convention this year. All three presenters—Christopher Audain, Kevin Kirkpatrick, and Margy Waller, along with moderator Margie Reese—were all on point for the session and I perhaps overtweeted in my enthusiasm over what they shared.

As I left the session, I started focusing on what Kevin presented on changing the conversation about arts and culture. Arts Midwest recently released the study Creating Connection: Research Findings and Proposed Message Framework to Build Public Will for Arts and Culture, which examined how existing attitudes and values of our audiences connect with our field’s message output. The study suggests reframing arts activity to be “creative expression” will have a more effective connection to broader audiences, and that connecting with others, with their families, and with their inner selves is their largest motivation for participating in arts and culture.

VANS Inspires the Next Generation of Artists, Designers, and Innovators

Editor’s Note: Americans for the Arts partners with VANS on their Custom Culture program. Last week in New York City was the final event of the competition, where the winning shoe design was picked. Below are remarks that our Arts Education Program Manager made during the event:

My name is Kristen, and my organization, Americans for the Arts, partners with Vans to ensure that schools all over the country have amazing arts programs, just like yours.

Custom Culture was developed to encourage high school students to embrace their creativity and inspire a new generation of youth culture.

Working Smarter - not Harder - when Advocating for the Arts

It is an interesting time in arts education. Two distinct, relatively recent developments--the National Core Arts Standards and New Models of Teacher Evaluation for non-tested subject areas--have greatly contributed to arts education and will continue to have a positive impact on the field for years to come. These projects have provided the field with current perspectives on best practices in teaching and assessing learning in the arts. In addition to providing guidance for educators’ practices in the classroom, these developments in our field also help illustrate the positive impact of the arts in education. While these different tools provide arts educators and administrators with a means to shape valuable arts experiences in education, their relevance could also be used in current advocacy efforts.

Chicagoland's Arts and Culture Brings the Vibrancy -- and Money, Too!

This article has been co-written with Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, and originally published by The Huffington Post on June 12, 2o15.

Deplaning at Chicago's O'Hare, it's easy to daydream of the world-famous art that awaits: the gleaming, 100-ton stainless steel Cloud Gate, Grant Woods' iconicAmerican Gothic, historic architecture and the homegrown Chicago blues.

Short and Sweet: the Truth about Money and the Arts

There is never money and there's always money. I have never met a mayor, a city manager, or a school superintendent who ever had any money, but I have never seen one who quit spending it. A lack of money is not the key problem. In my opinion, creativity is the problem. Money follows ideas. Arts administrators need to be as creative as we expect our artists to be.

Justice in Education

Across the country, communities are calling for justice in education. High stakes testing, disproportionate discipline by race, and the mass closing of public schools in certain regions profoundly impact the lives of young people. In an environment where education reform, vouchers, charter schools, and increased accountability dominate the landscape, what does it mean to impact the very heart and bureaucratic structure of public school districts and build trust, equity, and meaningful change?

Using public funding to incent private sector contributions

I live in a community that clearly values the arts and creativity – arts participation in Portland and in Oregon is among the highest in the country according to the NEA. Even so, private philanthropy lags significantly behind the national average.

How can we convince more Oregonians to support the arts? Anytime we launch a new private sector initiative, we turn to our government partners first. (Perhaps that’s partially because our local arts agency, the Regional Arts & Culture Council, was a city bureau until 1995.) In any event, public-private partnerships have become the standard way of growing the Portland metro region’s arts community.

Placemaking is a Verb

On reflection, I think most of us would agree that the term “placemaking” has been conjugated beyond definition. This year’s public art pre-conference is called “Public Art and Placemaking.” In my view, the best public art is inherently placemaking (the verb). Perhaps the pre-conference should instead be called “Public Art IS Placemaking.”

Based on my experience at the Association for Public Art (aPA), formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association, art in public spaces has long been a material attribute of our civic landscape. We know and can cite examples of public art that enhance our environment, transform landscapes, express community values, bring people together, heighten our awareness, or question our assumptions.

Great Expectations: One Measure at a Time

Tis the season for all things grants. Grant applications, grant reports, grant prospecting (well really, that season never ends). In the past 90 days, I have had my hand in nearly a dozen grants, mostly to corporate and community foundations, as well as (state) government.

Those of you who work in this realm or in tandem with your development team know the drill: mission, check. Need, check. Project description, check. Impact, check. Or in this one, outcomes. But wait, the other one is asking for metrics and measurements. This one is looking for more quantitative measurement. That one encourages qualitative data. And the school systems to whom I am providing services are looking to still different outcomes and measurements altogether. And while so many benevolent community funders have taken the seemingly Herculean effort to equitably support both social services and cultural (education) funding, so often then, we are asked to complete evaluation templates that are really geared towards social service sector outcomes.

What’s Going on Internationally in Arts Education?

As we celebrated International Arts Education Week 2015 last week, I have a renewed interest in exploring what is happening around the world in the fields of arts and education; specifically where they come together.

The first International Arts education Week was held in 2012 at the UNESCO headquarters with representatives from all sectors involved including artists, educators, NGO’s and the like. To coordinate global efforts in celebration of the power and impact of arts education, the delegates at the UNESCO general conference approved a resolution designating a week to join together as a global community to celebrate on the 4th week of May annually. This guide book is a great starting place for your celebration.

It All Started With a Teacher

At times I have been asked, “How did you find your career path in the arts?” Actually, it’s more often phrased, “How’d you get in this business?” I have held a number of wonderful posts, both public and private, and am currently Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for ArtPride New Jersey, the state arts advocacy organization. My story is evolutionary, organic, and having tilled these fields for over 30 years, long. In this age of sound bites I’ll boil it down to this—“teachers and inspiring leaders.” For me and so many others, it all started with an art teacher.

The Field of Teaching Artistry

Thank you Americans for the Arts for giving your Arts Education award to a Teaching Artist for the first time (me!)! I take it as a public recognition of teaching artistry’s usually-overlooked contribution to the arts education ecosystem. So let’s take a look at teaching artistry.

When is the last time you thought about the national field of teaching artistry? For the vast majority of readers, the answer is probably somewhere between “a long time ago” and “never.” Let’s poke you into thinking about it again right now.

Five Fundamentals to Creating a District Arts Plan

Although each of us can probably recall a time when success could be defined as not losing (too much) ground, we all want to feel like our efforts have been worth the commitment and have made a lasting difference in some way.

During my ten years at ArtsEd Washington, we saw these rewards when we worked with school principals implementing the Principals Arts Leadership program to help them be effective instructional leaders for the arts. This program confirmed the importance of the principals’ role in the day-to-day provision of arts learning and also illuminated for us how difficult that role is to sustain without the context of a supportive school district publicly committed to the arts.

Writing Miami’s Next Chapter: Cultural Tourism Takes Center Stage

This piece by Laura Bruney of the Arts & Business Council of Miami was originally published on their blog,

On the 2nd of April, the Arts & Business Council of Miami (A&BC Miami) and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) hosted the 11th Annual Breakfast with the Arts and Hospitality Industry. The event takes an innovative look into how hospitality companies can attract and engage with the arts for profitable partnerships that enhance Miami’s reputation as a growing destination for cultural tourism.

Academic Rigor through the Arts

Arts integration has ebbed and flowed in American schools since the 1940’s, in various forms. I read a recent grant proposal that pointed out the challenges of the arts in service of other subjects versus the arts as equal too all subjects. The tension between STEM and STEAM demonstrates ongoing discomfort with integrating subject areas. But intellectual rigor and intense creativity are not mutually exclusive.

Oakland hosts CREATE CA’s Blueprint for Creative Schools roll-out

What a treat to be in Sweet’s Ballroom in Oakland, home-away-from-home for Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, Tito Puente, Dizzie Gillespie, Lalo Guerrero, Xavier Cugat, and so many more! And how wonderful for Sweet’s Ballroom to be a part of the Oakland School of the Arts, allowing their talented students to follow in the footsteps of the some of the greatest musicians in history.

The Role of the Arts Specialist

Public schools are full of turmoil these days. Debate over the shift to the Common Core Standards that has taken place over the last few years is causing tension. Teachers are working overtime to figure out the new standardized tests that have been created by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) to assess the new standards. People are concerned about the amount of standardized testing occurring in our schools throughout the year. Most recently, parents in some communities are taking action and pulling their children from taking the standardized tests.

Innovation and Creativity Meet Social Responsibility

The following piece by Siobhan Kenney was originally published on Applied Materials’ corporate responsibility blog.

As a company built on innovation, we understand the power of focusing creative minds on solving important problems … for our customers and for our communities. We recognize the tremendous benefit of bringing diverse people together to address issues, share experiences and design solutions.

The Arts and Arts Education Are Part of the Solution

We are in a springtime of mixed messages in America. Some graduation ceremonies feature stories of great opportunity by commencement speakers, while others are solemn events where graduating seniors are simply processed out the door toward an uncertain future. Clearly, some systems and communities are doing a better job of preparing our children for a creative, successful future. The arts can make a difference between these two outcomes--while there are certainly many other factors involved, the arts are proven to make a positive difference toward graduation and a better learning experience. That is why Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said that arts education, or the lack of it, has become "a civil rights issue in America." And The Conference Board's Ready to Innovate study found that employers want 21st century employees who are creative; this age of innovation demands a creative workforce. At the top of the list for how to become creative is having the arts in the curriculum when the young people were in school.

Lt. Governors Endorse Arts Education Week

For eight years now, Americans for the Arts has partnered with our nation’s Lieutenant Governors to promote arts education and other arts-related issues. I am often asked, “Jay, why do we work with the Lt. Governors?” The answer is simple. Whether they are elected directly, or on a ticket, Lt. Governors have broad portfolios including many aspects of tourism, creative economy, education, and economic development. Secondly, almost half of them go on to become their state’s next governor.

The Intersection of Public Art and Arts Education

<p>Across the country, the arts are changing: demographics are shifting, modes of artistic participation are becoming more diverse, and once segmented artistic practices are converging. These changes ring true for both public art and arts education, and over the past year these respective fields have been discussing their convergence.</p>
<p>The Public Art and Arts Education Programs at Americans for the Arts endeavor to explore this intersection, better understand the potential for collaborations, and create tools and resources for encouraging inter-sector cooperation.</p>
<p>As a first step, we have begun to research the shared space. There is an inherent connection between the intrinsic goals of both areas of artistic study and practice.</p>
<p>Public art and arts education have been collaborating informally throughout the past several decades, however as we move towards more formalized practices, the professionalization of both fields, and the siloed funding structures, it is vital to explicitly explore modes of integration and examples of best practices that can inform both arts professionals and decisions makers.</p>

What Metrics Matter? A Complicated Question in CSR and the Arts

Alex Parkinson, researcher for The Conference Board, urges in his blog post that arts and culture leaders need to become adept at demonstrating the social impact of the arts in terms that speak to corporate leaders. I agree! But, it’s not just about arts leaders building evaluation capacity. Social responsibility and impact starts with both cultural and corporate leaders defining clear intention and acknowledging that some shifts may be needed in defining the metrics that matter when assessing arts and corporate social responsibility investments.

Antarctica, Art, and Innovation

In our 21st century digital world, the power of storytelling has become platinum currency that many corporations use to address intractable and large scale issues. Recent findings from the Animating Democracy program of Americans for the Arts suggest that arts organizations now have a chance to reinvent corporate partnerships and engage new audiences by fully engaging corporate marketing, communication, and evaluation resources.

Corporate layoffs, limited cash resources, and employees eager to volunteer are changing the models and metrics for support of the arts. This quest for greater social impact is leading to innovative, nontraditional arts programming everywhere. At the same time, the complex, cross-cutting challenges facing local and global communities are generating more interaction between disparate cultural, economic, and social groups.


It is a beautiful and often overlooked truth that most corporations—like arts organizations —are the result of someone’s imagination and desire to serve people. An individual or a few people dedicate their efforts to inventing something that can make people’s lives easier or create opportunities.

A man concocts a syrup recipe that can alleviate headaches and stomach pains. This becomes Coca-Cola. The enterprising Wright brothers dream of a flying machine that can take people anywhere. Their innovation leads to the creation of the airline industry. An immigrant from Italy uses his own money to provide loans to Italians in San Francisco turned down by other banks. This becomes the Bank of America.


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