The Contributions of Small and Midsized Community-Based Arts Organizations (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jul 22, 2009

At the recent Americans for the Arts annual convention, Animating Democracy debuted a newly published essay by Ron Chew, former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum in Seattle.  In “Community-based Arts Organizations: A New Center of Gravity,” Ron underscores the crucial contributions of small and mid-sized community-based arts organizations, often culturally specific, to the cultural ecosystem, to civic engagement, and toward achieving healthy communities and a healthy democracy.  He points out that these groups offer artistic excellence and innovation, astute leadership connected to community needs, and important institutional and engagement models for the arts field amid changing demographics, a new political climate, technological advances, and globalization.

We distributed the essay at several convention sessions, including two of the pre-conferences.  After only one day, we were amazed at how many people had already read it cover to cover (notable given jet lag, the convention’s juicy program, and Seattle’s enticing distractions) and gratified by the enthusiastic comments about the importance of what it has to say.

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How Are Artists Helping Solve Community Problems? Animating Democracy and Public Radio Want Your Stories!

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Jul 30, 2009


Six months ago, talk of the recession would have barely registered with 13-year-old QocTavia Shabazz of St. Paul. "When I think of the economy I relate that to politics, government," she says. "I think, 'That's not my problem. Why do I have to deal with it?' But it is my problem."

Her perspective changed after Twin Cities artists worked with QocTavia and three other teens to connect what's happening in the economy to what's happening in their personal lives, and then to express those experiences through song and video.

QocTavia, her sister Aunrika, Jalil Shabazz (no relation) and Tony Gonzalez met weekly with spoken word artist Desdamona and multi-media producer Patrick Pegg. The artists helped these young people to make sense of the economic downturn’s devastating impact on their lives through art.  The  project, called My First Recession, is a unique collaboration between Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts that fosters civic engagement through arts and culture; American Public Media’s Public Insight Journalism initiative at Minnesota Public Radio, which cultivates diverse voices that deepen and enrich news coverage; and Neighborhood House, a multi-cultural center in Saint Paul. It was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

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Burning Man Festival Glows in Nevada Desert (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Liesel Fenner, Sep 02, 2009


Five hundred miles northwest of nature’s scouring of the southern California landscape a planned burn is about to take place in the Black Rock desert of Nevada. At midnight August 31, the gates opened to hundreds of cars, RV’s and truckloads of people and arriving for the week-long Burning Man festival of art, self-expression, self-reliance, participation, and community.

Americans for the Arts featured Burning Man founder and director Larry Harvey at the 2007 Las Vegas Annual Convention. Harvey co-presented with artists Lady Bee, Louis Brill, and Leslie Pritchett discussing the interactive art of Black Rock City, the temporary experimental community of over 40,000 people that exists the week before Labor Day every year. Each year, participants bring art of all forms as well as materials to create more art during the week-long event. This year’s theme, Evolution, was posed to Burners, “What are we as human beings, where have we come from, and how may we adapt to meet an ever-changing world?”

What is Burning Man? According to their website, “Trying to explain what Burning Man is to someone who has never been to the event is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind.”

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Scotiabank Nuit Blanche October 3 2009

Posted by Liesel Fenner, Oct 21, 2009

written by Marc Pally

"Hey Dave!" 2009  Dave Clarke + team photo: Marc Pally

"Hey Dave!"
2009 Dave Clarke + team
photo: Marc Pally

All Night Long, not the Lionel Ritchie song but an art event called Nuit Blanche. First started in Paris in 2002 by a visionary mayor determined to bring contemporary art to the public’s attention and to integrate it into his agenda of re-energizing the French capital. The wild success of Paris’ Nuit Blanche prompted other cities to develop their own all-nighters, including Toronto, which just finished it’s fourth such event, called Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, in acknowledgement to the huge Canadian bank that provides core funding. The official tally is 130 projects including over 500 artists. This is a huge organizational effort undertaken by Toronto Special Events, a unit of the City of Toronto’s Economic Development, Culture & Tourism Division.

"Sounding Space" <br>2009, Karlen Chang, Dafydd Hughes, David McCallum <br>photo: Marc Pally

"Sounding Space"
2009, Karlen Chang, Dafydd Hughes, David McCallum
photo: Marc Pally

The projects ranged from the most humble, low-tech (no-tech) to the glittery display of hi-tech wizardry. The event (or “free all-night contemporary art thing” according to official marketing) was centered in three zones, all more-or-less downtown, though distances for some events were beyond comfortable walking. Bike riding was encouraged and seemed like a sensible way to handle the spread of the events between all three zones. Trolleys, buses and the subway ran all night. Within each of the three zones, it was very easy to walk from project to project. Good maps and a program guide were made available at four information centers. Great effort and success was achieved through

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Universal Design for Cultural Institutions (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Tiffany Bradley, Nov 18, 2009

Earlier this week, I was able to attend the fall Cool Culture fair. Cool Culture is an organization that works with Head Start families to increase access to the arts. Founded by two dynamic educators, the organization has welcomed 50,000 underserved families in the New York City area to various cultural institutions. The organization uses a network of community liaisons to break down visitation barriers and provide free visits to New York’s cultural gems. This week’s fair was a chance for the Cool Culture stakeholders—child educators, community liaisons, and cultural organizations—to share best practices and highlights.

One of the highlights of the gathering was a panel describing partnerships between museums and early childhood programs throughout the city. A partnership between the Highbridge Nursery School in the Bronx and The Guggenheim Museum brought up some tactics that really reflect smart arts marketing. All of the panelists spoke wisely to the idea that entry barriers aren’t just for underserved children, they apply to all of us (and limit audience development for all of us).

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Help Map the Funding Landscape for Arts that Make Civic and Social Change (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, Nov 25, 2009

How are funders—public and private sector alike—thinking about and supporting arts and culture as a strategy for civic engagement and social change? That’s what some funders and Animating Democracy want to find out as we launch a survey of local, state, and regional arts agencies, private and corporate foundations, and other funders as part of our Arts & Social Change Mapping Initiative. The survey for funders will be available online from December 1–18, 2009.

Some of our recent inquiries suggest a shift within the funding community to more support for the arts as a strategy to meet community change goals:

  • The arts funding program officer within a community foundation is asked by trustees to make the case for sustaining an arts and civic engagement funding initiative only two years old. To help make her case, she wants to find out what peers have learned about impact of comparable grantmaking.
  • A social justice funder is looking for examples of projects that employ arts and culture to address issues related to immigration. Learning about the role the arts can play will inform how to integrate arts and culture into grantmaking strategies.
  • In line with a recent cultural plan, a local arts agency is revising guidelines and grant review criteria to encourage civic engagement through the arts. The agency wants to identify funders whose guidelines can inform their own.
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