Building a Foundation for Native Arts & Culture Councils

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, Dec 06, 2022

Native Arts & Culture Councils, a two-year pilot project funded by the Ford Foundation, is designed to help Native communities develop Arts and Culture Councils similar to existing local arts agencies across the United States. In the initial stages of this initiative, this group of tribal-led, community-based organizations is making important contributions to our national cultural discourse and paving the way for broader participation by other tribes. The Native cultural field has changed dramatically in the last thirty or so years. There is broader acceptance that there should be no “speaking about us without us,” and Native leaders, artists, and cultural organizations want their cultural perspectives recognized, documented, understood, and celebrated. Community-anchored and community-informed work includes a variety of approaches: Some of the tribal organizations are committed to advancing tourism to strengthen the local economy; others focus on supporting local artists (including artist directories, organizing local art markets, and commissioning public art projects); still others seek to develop programmatic capacities related to public events, classes and workshops, film screenings, youth projects, ceremonial activities, and heritage preservation and oral history projects. There is value in having input from people living in tribal communities and having their perspective on how best to develop local cultural assets that suit their community’s needs.

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Recognizing the Value of the Arts in Oxford, Mississippi

Posted by Oliver Nell, Nov 28, 2022

Only a few years ago, the business community in Oxford skewed heavily toward traditional notions of economic growth and profitability, which inevitably bred a bias toward large manufacturing businesses, insurance, finance, and healthcare. A smaller-scale entrepreneur community, particularly more creative and artistic entrepreneurs, was not cultivated to the degree it should have been. This community didn’t attract attention because it wasn’t necessarily seen as vital to the health of the local economy. In 2015, Oxford’s local arts agency, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council (YAC), recognized this was an issue for the community. They saw that a major part of the local economy—the arts sector—was not being taken seriously as an economic driver. The numbers, they found, were on their side, demonstrating that the arts made up more than a negligible portion of the local economy. The YAC began strategizing with the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce on how they could best capitalize on the arts ecosystem in town, which was finding a way to survive even without the necessary value placed on it. Together they began looking for ways to integrate the separate arts and business communities such that their complementary skill-sets and capacities could meet their mutual goals and needs.

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Counties poised to pursue solutions through Creative Counties Placemaking Challenge

Posted by Jack King, Apr 29, 2022

The National Association of Counties (NACo) and Americans for the Arts are pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Creative Counties Placemaking Challenge, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. NACo and Americans for the Arts invited small- and medium-sized counties to assemble a team of county leaders, local artists and community stakeholders to imagine how art can be used to solve local challenges. From Potter County, Pa.’s “Highway to the Stars” through Cherry Springs State Park to the storied and breathtaking beaches of Hawai’i County, Hawai’i’s Puna district, the winners represent the geographic and social diversity of the nation as a whole. The teams will seek to address a wide array of challenges confronting their local communities, from drug addiction to climate resilience. Over the next 10 months, Americans for the Arts experts will provide virtual training and mentoring of these teams as they explore the arts as an applied strategy for meeting policy objectives. On July 25, the counties will participate in an in-person convening in Adams County, Colo., in conjunction with NACo’s 2022 Annual Conference.

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Painting By Numbers: How Cities Can Use Data to Support the Arts

Posted by David Andersson, Feb 25, 2022

Although cities increasingly rely on data to help shape policy and identify service gaps, there is often skepticism from both the creative sector and government about whether metrics can meaningfully capture the impact of the arts. In a field where variety of creative expression is fundamental, how do you count what really counts? For cities that recognize their artists and cultural institutions as a critical part of the economy and essential to quality of life for residents, arts data can be a powerful tool to advocate for culture alongside other city services. Data can also help city leaders understand who is and isn’t being served by government arts dollars and expand access to arts experiences in every community. Through best practices and case studies, Arts Data in the Public Sector: Strategies for Local Arts Agencies aims to help arts agencies and city leaders show measurable impact, identify priority policy areas, and establish more equitable and inclusive practices to promote access to the arts across communities.

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CERF+ — The Artist’s Safety Net: Providing Emergency Relief for the Cultural Sector

Posted by Mr. John W. Haworth, Feb 24, 2022

The work of CERF+ is vital within the larger context of the complex challenges cultural organizations and individual artists have managing—and surviving—disasters and emergencies. As emergency planning has become an ever-higher priority for cultural facilities throughout the country, CERF+ puts key strategic questions on the table: How do local cultural communities prepare for the enormous challenges of floods, fires, earthquakes, and storms? How do we meet the economic and human costs of such life-changing circumstances? With major support from foundations and other funders, local arts agencies across the country have developed programs to provide grants to individual artists. Though much of this support is earmarked for creative work, there is a growing recognition of what is required to sustain creative careers over many years or a lifetime. CERF+ is committed to helping artists sustain their careers and develop the tools and support to protect and preserve their livelihoods, studios, and creative output.

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Cultural Asset Identification & Building Inclusive Creative Economies

Posted by Jessica Stern, Jan 20, 2022

In early 2021, we published an outline of the goals and commitments Americans for the Arts is making towards supporting the development of an inclusive creative economy nationally and in local communities. This work in 2022 will focus on helping communities build awareness of their cultural assets and how to equitably strengthen, value, and utilize them. In partnership with and under the guidance of Cézanne Charles and John Marshall, principals of rootoftwo, LLC, we will embark on a year-long process to devise a set of tools, guides, evaluations, and trainings—with ample opportunities for participation from the field in the development of these tools—that will support local arts leaders in their efforts to identify and define their unique creative economies, and help communities to identify cultural assets and understand the health of those assets. 

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