When we think about partnering with schools, we’re generally pretty clear that success requires changing how work is currently getting done. We’re also (usually) clear that it’s unfair to ask people to make such a change without providing support. Within that context, professional development is a no-brainer. In arts administration and within local arts agencies, however, professional development is often considered a luxury investment. The hidden assumption in this attitude is that changing how we work is rare, or undesirable. The truth is that any arts organization operating under a “business as usual” mindset is in for an awakening—if not now, then in the near future. Local arts agencies have a responsibility to create space to support those awakenings—and a responsibility to prompt them.
Our field collectively high-fived recently when Congress passed the long-delayed budget for fiscal year 2018. Together we beat back the Trump Administration’s proposals to terminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, funded now through September 30. Each will receive a total of $152.8 million, $3 million more a piece than last year. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who passed away last month, was a fierce champion for the arts for decades, and this win is a very fitting tribute to her longtime leadership. It took the unified, tireless, and persistent work of the arts community and grassroots advocates nationwide to achieve this win. Strong activism resulted in a powerful bipartisan message that arts and humanities funding strengthens and enriches our communities and grows local economies.
Laura Ramberg is a ceramicist, sculptor, and dancer who has been working as an artist in the Lawrence, Kansas community for the past 40 years. A true innovator and creative pioneer, she has taught art classes three times a week at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center in Lawrence for two decades. Working with literally hundreds of students over 20 years, she has witnessed fluctuations in policy, changes in facilities, and the digital revolution in youth culture. She has experienced firsthand how art can help people in crisis in the moment, but also how it can change their lives. Arts Education Council member Margaret Weisbrod Morris sat down with Laura to hear about her experiences working with incarcerated youth.
On March 16, 2018, a dear friend, tireless advocate, and arts leader passed away, U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter. I have known Louise for 32 years. We’ve partnered in nearly that many Arts Advocacy Days. It has always been my honor to stand with Louise. I’ve stood with her on over 100 occasions in the last 23 years while she co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus. Americans for the Arts and the nation’s arts community owe a debt of gratitude to Louise Slaughter. There has never been an arts advocate with more tenacity, fight, humor, and spirit of generosity. May she rest in peace knowing that she made the world a better place through the arts, and may her trailblazing pave the way to more arts leaders recognizing the transformational power of the arts on our lives, communities, economy, and nation.
Arts marketers, if you’ve never used the online design platform Canva, then you need to change that—starting today! Here are five reasons why.
Founded in 2016, Bronx Native is a brand that highlights the Bronx through apparel, art, and media. It was founded by two multi-faceted individuals, siblings Amaurys and Roselyn Grullón. Bronx Native is not only a brand that represents the Bronx as a borough, but also their words and actions provide a platform for the Bronx’s artistic community, entrepreneurs, and its residents. In this interview with co-founder Amaurys Grullón, we discuss how Bronx Native marries their art with business, and the ways they have impacted the Bronx’s cultural community through creative collaborations, live events, and a commitment to showcasing the borough's history and culture through visually appealing design creations.
VSA Texas works with people with disabilities as they access the arts. This can be as a patron of the arts or as an artist. Through our Artworks: Creative Industries program, we meet artists where they are in their hobby or career and act as a resource to move them to where they want to be in that hobby or career. My challenge is to find out what the barriers are for our artists and find ways for each of them to work through those barriers to reach their personal goals. In 2009, we noticed a barrier for Veteran artists within our own services. Veterans in our community were not identifying as artists with disabilities, so they were not entering our art exhibitions or attending our workshops and events. Rather than trying to change their viewpoints, we adapted ours and started programming specifically for Veterans.
After a recent successful community event, I was able to meet with different community business leaders, one of whom asked the ubiquitous question: How can we, as community leaders, help education? My answer likely surprised him when I said, “You can stop talking out of both sides of your mouth.” He looked at me somewhat stunned as I continued. “You can quit saying that you want us to produce problem-solvers, creative thinkers, and collaborative workers while also complaining about ‘school grades’ that are based on standardized tests that assess none of those things.” My point was simple: You need to demand better data. You need to critique the misuse of standardized test data.
In informed discussions about the role of the artist when communities undergo change, words like privilege, displacement, and tools of gentrification often come up. The point is not that the blame for the detrimental effects of gentrification lies in the artist—of course there are much larger forces at play. Rather, the arts are being used as a tool on the path to displacement. If national trends are any indication, the artists who encroach as community outsiders in fact have a stake similar to longtime residents in the process of gentrification. Across the country, the artists initially involved in neighborhood “transformations” are themselves pushed out as rents rise. Artists and arts organizations have an opportunity to recognize their place in the system, and to take responsibility in it.
Advocacy promoting arts and arts education funding and policy doesn’t just exist at the federal level. While the federal government funds the NEA at $152.3 million, state governments invest $357.5 million into state arts agencies. However, like the NEA, state arts agencies cannot lobby regarding appropriations, law, legislation, or policy, in their official capacity. Enter the State Arts Action Network—a professional development network of Americans for the Arts comprised of 53 state arts advocacy and service organizations from 42 states. SAAN members work around the clock advocating for pro-arts and pro-arts education funding and policies in their home states. Here’s just a sample of the great work happening at the state level! Here’s just a sample of the great work happening at the state level!
There’s an important role arts education can play in relation to school violence: prevention. Since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, Maine high schools have had access to Building Community Through the Arts, a performing arts program that lowers social barriers and builds trust within the classroom. The Maine Alliance for Arts Education sends professional theater and dance educators into high school academic classrooms to engage all the students in the class in creating an original drama or dance piece together over eight hours of class time during school hours. The group experience is daunting at first for many students, and many are initially reluctant, but by the end the students feel differently about each other and about theater and dance itself. A pre- and post-test administered to each class, designed by the University of Maine, gives us the data that confirms this.
On Friday, March 9, 2018, twelve 4th-8th graders from four Turnaround Arts: Milwaukee schools boarded a plane for Washington, DC—a city largely defined to them by what is depicted on television, on the internet, or in a textbook. Their purpose: to perform in the Turnaround Arts National Talent Show at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Many of these twelve had never performed before on a national stage—let alone a stage at all, for those whose schools don’t employ arts educators and have only what we refer to as a gym-a-cafe-torium. Some of them have discovered their passion and love for the arts as a means to motivate them to higher academic and social levels, while others had been selected knowing this would be their first time ever performing! Regardless of experience, we held all the students to high expectations—not only to practice, prepare, and perform, but to represent their school, district, city, and state.
Almost exactly four years ago now, we at Golden Artist Colors embarked on a collaborative process to develop a new Vision Statement for our business. What emerged through this process was a collective vision that was much greater and much more audacious than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. Our vision wasn’t to beat any other manufacturer or supplier in our industry, but to ask our peer companies to join forces and, together, help us create more abundance in the arts for every one of us to grow. The art materials industry is an enormously powerful, committed, and connected community of the arts. It is important to share some thoughts of what I think this can mean for all of us to raise the value of the arts and, in doing so, clearly benefit the future and well-being of our industry—not only ours but across the private sector.
How many of us are walking a line at our jobs between being an arts marketer, or not? Nowadays it seems as if dual and blended roles are becoming increasingly the norm for all except the largest arts and cultural organizations.
This spring break season has seen an increase in the numbers of students, teachers, and arts advocates choosing civic engagement over a hedonistic week at the beach. As engagement in the arts for positive impact towards civic engagement and social justice continues to trend up, community building around organizations and practitioners working in social practice becomes increasingly important. So I reached out to Nicole Dowd, Program Manager of Halcyon Arts Lab—a newly launched residency and incubator program for artists working in social justice in Washington, DC—to learn insights gained from the first full year of the program. With local influences and resources ranging from Capitol Hill to an actively engaged tri-state area with interests in arts, policy, civic engagement, and everything in between, visiting artists to the Halcyon Arts Lab are welcomed into a profoundly energetic creative environment.
Participating in a special marketing initiative for Pennsylvania arts administrators gave our organization the tools we needed to expand our reach and strengthen our storytelling strategies.
At Lighthouse Elementary in Queens, NY, the kids love to dance. They just never expected it to be tap dance. That’s where ArtistYear AmeriCorps Fellow Crystal Simon comes in. “When I told them no hip-hop dancing—they fought me tooth and nail. But once we actually put our shoes on and we actually started to make noise the kids’ face lit up! They were enjoying it. And they would even come to me in the halls and be like, ‘Ms. Simon! I’ve been practicing! I’ve been practicing!’” ArtistYear is the first national service program dedicated to partnering with school districts to provide every underserved student in America with access to arts education through a year of national service. ArtistYear trains and supports AmeriCorps members to serve as full-time teaching artists alongside established arts educators or classroom teachers in federally-designated Title I schools.
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 arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.
Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.
Now in the middle of its fourth year, the Cincinnati Arts Association's Arts in Healing Initiative is integrating performing and visual arts in medical and non-traditional settings. Its mission is to promote community wellness and encourage our community to explore the arts as an active part of healing and ongoing wellness. When asked to write a blog about the program, I questioned if I could give justice to the stories of these artists, and the administrators, medical partners, and participants of the Initiative. Then I remembered the lesson I’ve learned: even the developer of such a program should see herself as a primary participant, too. I’ve had to ask and answer every question, face every barrier, plan and discover the founding perspective: who will the program, and the art, impact? First and foremost, this journey requires a belief that art changes lives.
It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in the art world. Left out of textbooks, exhibitions, and museum collections, women artists often face an uphill battle to get the recognition they deserve. The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) recently announced a new initiative, Matrons of the Arts, to help change that. The movement highlights female-identified artists in the Museum’s permanent collection and around the world. Inspired in part by the "name five women artists" challenge put on by the National Museum of Women in the Arts—and playing off the phrase patron of the arts—this campaign seeks to bring the public’s attention to women who have been and continue to be major figures in the world of art.
I was excited to enter Randolph High School back in 1980, mostly because of its thriving music program. I couldn’t wait to sing in the different choruses, and to audition for the competitive show choir. Yet when I arrived at school, I learned that, as a result of Proposition 2 ½, music had been cut from the high school curriculum—along with other reductions to busing, foreign languages, sports, and library staff. I was devastated. My arts education came to a sudden end, but my education as an arts advocate was just beginning. Along with other students and parents, I wrote letters and attended meetings, imploring administrators not to abandon the music program. And our efforts began to pay off.
On February 14, 2018, seventeen people, including students and adults, were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since this tragedy, the voices of young people from the community have been lifted through their dynamic advocacy to call for reform to national, state, and local gun- and mental health-related policies. Many of the strong skills that they are using for their advocacy came from their immersion and studies in arts education. As the school re-opens and our lawmakers continue important discussions as a result of this tragedy, I hope that young people in every community across our nation continue to embrace the arts to inspire change in their communities, in states, and in Washington, DC. While nothing can lessen this tragedy, the arts are one way for people to find solace and strength.
Every day at work, I am reminded that the intersection between art and government continues grow in importance. Funding, allocation, and government spending is essential to developing our education system. I intern for Americans for the Arts because advocating for equitable access to art and arts education vastly improves our education system. Research shows that marginalized communities consistently have little to no access to arts education in schools. Some of the most diverse voices are being shut out of conversations and art creation. We are left with an education system that refuses to elevate some of the most integral voices in diversity for our dialogue and our art. I had the privilege of art shaping my entire childhood, but there are some places youth have no access to art at all due to systemic inequality in our education system.
Since the beginning of our Early Literacy Learning through the Arts program, parental engagement has been a purposeful component. It is our belief that a healthy and active relationship between a Pre-K child’s parent and their teacher will lay the foundation for continued parental engagement throughout the course of the child’s academic career. Further, it is our belief that the arts offer a level playing field of sorts, a non-threatening environment for risk-taking and trust-building, that can play a unique role in cultivating a sense of comfort and rapport on the part of the parent. Previously negative experiences from personal schooling of the parent can be replaced by new, long-lasting, fully-engaging and empowering relationships with their child’s teacher for years to come.