Introducing the Arts + Social Impact Explorer

To improve the perceived public value of the arts, we must connect into the places where people find value. To get members of our community to stand up and say, “We want more,” we have to tell them why “more” matters. If we’re trying to create advocates for arts and culture among the members of communities, we need to increase the occasions where thinking about the arts makes sense. Because the truth is, the arts make more things possible, from better education to greater health outcomes to a more civically-engaged citizenry—it’s just that people don’t always see the connection to the arts when change happens. Knowing people prioritize core issue areas like education, job security, housing, public safety, and health and wellness, how do we show the important ways the arts intersect with their day-to-day lives? At Americans for the Arts, our answer is the Arts + Social Impact Explorer.

Living Up to the Promises We Made

We are, with this post, launching our first ever blog salon populated by posts from across the staff of Americans for the Arts. As part of our broader work on cultural equity, and our ongoing commitment to being transparent about the internal process we’re going through to become a more equitable organization, we invited our colleagues to reflect on what it means to work toward cultural equity.

On Audience: For Whom Are the Arts? by Robert E. Gard

The arts are for everyone. Each man, be he young or old, rich or poor, has the right to experience the arts both as spectator and as participant.

On Value: What Does Art Have to Do with America? by Robert E. Gard

"If I could wish for one thing in this life it would be that I might live long enough to hear the music of the American spirit emerging from thousands of fine civic orchestras in large places and small; see good plays, joyously presented and viewed in every American community almost every night; see fine pictures by native American artists decorating the walls of a multitude of American homes of every economic status."

What is Our Calling? by Robert E. Gard

This is the first in a weekly series of posts drawn from the newly released book, "To Change the Face & Heart of America: Selected Writings on the Arts and Communities, 1949-1992," by Robert E. Gard. This excerpt, "Invocation: What Is Our Calling?," was originally published in 1969.

AFTACON Keynote Speech: Remarks by Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile, vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and prominent political strategist, gave a keynote speech at our 2016 Annual Convention on the volatile politics we’re living with, and the vital role of the arts and arts education.

AFTACON Opening Plenary: “On How the Arts can Fuel Revolution” by Diane Paulus

Diane Paulus, artistic director of American Repertory Theatre, gave a rousing speech at our 2016 Annual Convention pondering the state of our country and celebrating the role of the artist and the arts in this fragile moment.

On the Full Creative Life Cut Short

The shooting in Orlando is horrible, full stop. The invasion, the breaking of the space, the wrenching away of the core creative life of not just those 50 people who died but the 250 other people who were there—and, in a lesser way, of all of us who once found our solace in gay spaces—is where the howl emerges from me.

The Humble Step

The pursuit of cultural equity is a journey of mountains and valleys, someone once told me.  It is a series of hard climbs, brief moments of celebration, if you’re lucky, and then the progression begins again.  It is the type of work we do against our comfort, because it is necessary.

The pursuit of cultural equity for someone like me—someone who had the luck and privilege of not being confronted by the inequities of this country for the first two decades of my life, and then did—is a series of moments of confronting parts of myself that go against the idealized person I strive to be (and sometimes the person I see myself as).  There is irony, and a disappointment, in catching myself using the term “pow wow” when leading a session on issues of equity.  There is irony, and a disappointment, in catching myself exerting my positional power in a conversation where I am in a disagreement with someone else about whether positional power is a thing. The irony, there, comes tinged with the pain of recognizing a part of me that is less-good than I want it to be.

Resilient Roads and Community Visions

In 1995, as you surely know, Oklahoma City was the site of a bombing. A man drove a truck up one of the streets in downtown, pulled into a parking lot, went into a church and prayed, left, drove another block and parked in front of a federal building. Then he got out and blew the truck up, killing over 140 people including a bunch of children who were in a daycare in the building.

I got to see the memorial that was built on the site of the bombing. That road is now a glassy slip of water bounded on each end by gates. Where the building was, there are now ornamental chairs—smaller for children, larger for adults—to commemorate each life lost. Across the street, a gigantic, swooning tree that survived the blast stands guard. And throughout the city, at all of the street intersections that became makeshift helipads when responders rushed to the scene, there are deep red and tan bricks laid in resonating circles that pulsate out. The tragedy and the resilience of the place have literally been embedded in the roads, and the vision and perseverance of the people has been memorialized through art.

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 Greater DC Diversity Pilot Initiative, #1: Doubling Down on Small Steps as Meaningful Progress

Clay Lord Clay Lord

Teasing Messaging Strategy Out of Research

Clayton Lord

At the place where marcomm* and advocacy meet, discussing our value in the landscape of possible activities is becoming increasingly important. Because at its core, both marcomm and advocacy are about where someone should put dollars, albeit on different scales.

How Do We Make People Care?

Clayton Lord

There are a lot of posts coming in about advocacy and arts education, and many of them are both hopeful and cautious about what's happening now in the world.

It's good to see such optimism, especially given that we face mighty opposition to the very basic value of what we do and make, but it seems to fly against what I see as a burgeoning reality in America.

The Space Between Stories and Numbers

Clayton Lord

Last week, arts advocate Arlene Goldbard spoke at the Association of Performing Arts Service Organizations conference in Austin. Goldbard believes we need to start using a more empowered (and less-numbers-based) vocabulary for arguing for the value of the arts. At one point she said this:

Constantly Increasing the Sum of Our Arts

Recently, I did a big set of interviews for a series of articles that I was writing for Theatre Bay Area magazine on the intersection of mission, community and art.  In the course of these interviews, I often

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