Inspiration Lives Here.

Posted by Ms. Kerry Adams Hapner, Feb 04, 2015

Inspiration: Symphony Silicon Valley’s musicians, instruments in hand, bustling in and out of the beautifully renovated 1927 California Theatre. Crowds lined up to see Opera San Jose’s latest production of Rigoletto. The Subzero art festival, during which the streets are jammed with a mix from Millennials to families to empty nesters - all curious about the art work of creative entrepreneurs and eclectic music performances. Youth mixing new music and producing new multimedia projects at MACLA’s PeaPod Academy. Art loading into the galleries. Anonymous and whimsical artistic expressions of yarn bombed bike racks and light poles. Sidewalk cafes with people dining to see and be seen – and yes, be inspired. This is the daily life of San Jose’s SoFA district.

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Formal and Informal Districts

Posted by Greg Handberg, Jul 23, 2013

Greg Handberg Greg Handberg

Recently I attended the Americans for the Arts preconference on Cultural Districts. Many presented information on tools and incentives that can be used to establish districts, and it got me thinking more about the difference between informal and formal types of districts.

In my work, I travel to a lot of communities assisting them with real estate development projects in the arts. Through this work I have begun to differentiate between "formal" and "informal" arts districts. I now recognize that almost every project I work on takes place within an "informal" district. Very little of my work takes place in "formal" arts districts. What's the difference? I came away from the preconference thinking about "formal" districts as those that are established through some sort of local or state legislation while "informal" districts are established through an organized branding initiative - typically undertaken at a community (sometimes city) level - but without legislation.

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Creating Access: Defining Neighborhoods As Destinations

Posted by Felix Padron, Dec 09, 2011

Felix Padron

I am excited about San Antonio in that it feels like the conversations are finally leading to a collective common ground.

For the past ten years or so, San Antonio has had its share of independent strategic planning efforts related to art and culture, and their relationship with inner-city revitalization, economic development, and tourism. Most of these plans have had little return on investment, in part because of a lack of clear vision and dedicated resources.

Now, however, the mayor’s SA2020 initiative may help jump-start strategies that had never seen the light of day but are still relevant in today's cultural environment. SA2020 has also signaled a new political willingness to shift from a passive planning mode to a more proactive "Just Do It" mindset. This is a good set of circumstances to pave the way for real transformation.

More important, the arts have reached credible acceptance throughout the community. Together with its various art & culture partners, the Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) maintains a productive working relationship with city departments and agencies such as the Convention Visitors Bureau, Economic Development, International Affairs, the county, the San Antonio River Authority, and the Metropolitan Transit System. This level of engagement has given cultural organizations and artists a place at the table as the city and affiliated agencies all move forward with new, tangible initiatives.

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Small Town Renaissance

Posted by Lori McKinney-Blankenship, Jul 24, 2013

Lori McKinney-Blankenship Lori McKinney-Blankenship

Coming from a small town with a population of 7,000, my perspective and experience is quite different from others. The actual county population is 30,000, so the city number is a bit misleading, but still, Princeton, West Virginia is most definitely a small town. Our cultural district is developing in a once abandoned downtown around The RiffRaff Arts Collective, a cooperative group of visual, performing, literary, and healing artists. The concentration of creative activity pouring from our space spilled out and painted the block, and then connected with all the positive pockets of energy and possibility in the downtown. Now, the neighborhood is experiencing a major turnaround complete with government buy-in and major private investment, sparked by something as organic as a few colorful, visionary artists inhabiting a building.

It's no ordinary building, mind you; this reborn turn of the century structure includes an old ballroom turned living room theatre and recording studio, an art gallery, and artists studios. Across the street is Stages Music School, where music is taught to induce joy and change the world. The heavy dose of positive energy is working its way up and down the street, which has been stigmatized for decades.

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The Power of Local Arts Leadership

Posted by Ursula Kuhar, Apr 19, 2012

Ursula Kuhar

Local. Public. Value. Arts.

Try creating a cohesive, comprehensive sentence that reflects our field using these four words.

These simple words that occupy so much complexity within our industry, and an entire day of dialogue at the first Americans for the Arts Executive Directors & Board Member Symposium held on April 15.

It was an exhilarating experience to participate in a peer exchange with diverse leaders from organizations around the country including Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch, Jonathan Katz of the National Association of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), and Mary McCullogh-Hudson of ArtsWave.

In order to frame our work as arts leaders forging into a “new normal” in the industry, Bob shared the history and context of the local arts movement in America, rooted in the discovery of the Americas to the first established arts council in 1947 by George Irwin in Illinois, to the evolution of today’s local arts enabling organization that provide cultural programming, funding, community cultural planning, and of course, advocacy activities.

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Los Angeles: Collaboration Creates Cultural Redevelopment Project

Posted by Olga Garay-English, Jul 11, 2012

Olga Garay

With a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts' Mayors' Institute on City Design 25th Anniversary Initiative received in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA/LA) launched the planning stages for the “Broadway Arts Center” (BAC).

Envisioned as a mixed-use affordable artists’ housing, performance/exhibition space, educational facility, and creative commercial center, and located in the Historic Broadway Theater District in downtown Los Angeles, the birthplace of vaudeville and cinema in the city, the BAC has been embraced by city government and the arts community alike.

In spite of its rich history and tremendous future potential, Broadway is currently viewed as not meeting its potential in a number of different ways. Broadway bustles during the day, but merchants are struggling with a 15–20 percent ground floor vacancy rate. This ground floor struggle is made worse when viewed in the context of more than a million square feet of vacant space in the upper floors along Broadway.

And while some theatres have been reactivated, most of the glorious historic theaters do not offer regular entertainment programming, and Broadway doesn’t serve the needs of the diverse downtown community—especially at night. DCA/LA strongly believes that this situation will quickly turn around when a cadre of artists, professors, and college students, living and working in the area, make Downtown their home.

Led by DCA/LA, the core project team includes the City Planning Department’s Urban Design Studio and Bringing Back Broadway, a 10-year initiative to revitalize the historic Broadway corridor.

Nonprofit partners include The Actors Fund Housing Development Corporation, a service organization dedicated to creating affordable housing for performing arts professionals; Artspace, the country’s premier organization dedicated to developing affordable spaces for artists and arts organizations; Local Initiative Support Corporation, an organization dedicated to helping nonprofit community development organizations transform neighborhoods; and the California Institute for the Arts (CalArts), an award-winning higher education institution dedicated to training and nurturing the next generation of professional artists.

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