Demonstrating the Power of the Arts

Posted by Ms. Mara Walker, Feb 14, 2011

Mara Walker

Mara Walker

Last week I had the opportunity to see the arts at work in a few interesting ways.

I was invited by Frank Hodsoll to experience The Great Game: Afghanistan (a play that explores the history of the country and it's culture right up to present day) for an audience filled with military personnel at all levels, and representatives from the Department of Defense and Department of State. I heard from those federal leaders and Martin Davidson, head of the British Council, about how powerful the arts are as a mechanism for causing these key leaders to think about our involvement in Afghanistan in a new way.

On Friday, I heard Anna Deavere Smith talk at The Aspen Institute on "The Artist's Voice for Social Change" and her commitment to using characters and the arts to get people to engage in their communities. She combines her interviews with thousands of union leaders, political officials, members of the public, and so many others into powerful theater that begs us to think for ourselves and get involved.

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The Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Apr 20, 2011

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

Editor's Note: For a revised list of 10 REASONS TO SUPPORT THE ARTS IN 2012, head over to Randy's latest ARTSblog post!

I was recently asked by a major biz leader for “10 reasons to support the arts.”

He needed the points to help him pull an 8-figure inve$tment for a new arts center...Make it compelling to government and business leaders, he asked.

Oh, yeah, he’s a busy guy—didn’t want a lot to read:  “Keep it to one page, please.”

So, apart from the 10-1 flip (and with apologies to David Letterman), this is what I delivered:

10. True prosperity...The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. They help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, the arts are salve for the ache.

9. Stronger communities...University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.  

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Enhancing Communities Through the Arts

Posted by Ms. Emily Peck, May 04, 2011

Sunoco volunteers helped paint three panels of a 42-panel mural as part of Philadelphia’s “This We Believe” city-wide mural project.

If I had to come up with a theme for the month of April, it would be the role of the arts in enhancing communities.

I spent time in Washington, DC, at our National Arts Advocacy Day on April 4-5, and then followed that with a trip to Philadelphia to attend the Council on Foundations annual conference and the U.S. Chamber’s Corporate Community Investment conference.

At all three of these events, arts and business leaders spoke about the important role the arts play in building strong and vibrant communities which leads to numerous benefits including attracting and retaining a strong workforce and enhanced civic engagement. 

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I Have A Problem…A Civic Engagement Problem

Posted by Ms. Danielle Brazell, Jun 21, 2011

Danielle Brazell

I run a local arts advocacy organization in a small fishing village on the west coast that’s home to 10 million people, 88 cities, and 81 school districts in a geography that spans thousands of square miles.

Yes, my little fishing village (aka Los Angeles) is massive!

Our advocacy approach has been high-tech/high-touch advocacy approach and is focused on three critical issue areas:

•    Arts Education
•    Cultural Economy
•    Civic Engagement

Within this context, I constantly ask the question: How can we connect more people to advocate for the arts in their community? I think the answer lies somewhere between community organizing and community development.

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Scenes From San Diego (#afta11)

Posted by Candace Clement, Jul 13, 2011

Candance Clement

In mid-June I flew from my tiny western Massachusetts town all the way to San Diego for the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention (click here for information on how to buy the Convention On-Demand). Though I have been to their annual advocacy day in D.C. before, this was my first AFTA event that wasn’t focused exclusively on policy. And though I may be able to slap the label “artist” on my life for all those hours I clock playing music in the DIY scene, I’m no “arts professional.”

That meant that I did a lot of listening for three days. As someone who tends to be a bit of a talker when I’m in my element, there’s something to be said for sitting quietly, absorbing, and identifying themes.

The conference brings together about 1,000 people from the arts world – most of them administrators from local and state arts councils, but many serving double duty in the world as artists, too.

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The Arts & Social Justice

Posted by Maya Kumazawa, Sep 02, 2011

Maya Kumazawa

Having completed my internship at Americans for the Arts, I’m excited to take back what I’ve learned to my local community in Western Massachusetts.

Over 10 weeks, I worked on a wide range of projects that involved public art, local arts agencies, and emerging leaders. One topic, community engagement, is something I can be a direct advocate for even after the summer is over.

Through Net Impact’s Board Fellow program, I’ve served on Youth Action Coalition’s Board for the last year. The Arts for Change program at the Youth Action Coalition pairs intensive arts immersion with social justice education for youth. This program is free to any youth in the community interested in creating a change in the area through high quality arts programming.

How can the arts actually be used for social justice education and youth empowerment? YAC’s four primary programs engage different audiences through various media:

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