Member Spotlight: Billy Ocasio

Posted by Linda Lombardi, Apr 12, 2021

Located in Chicago’s Humboldt Park, the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture (NMPRAC) is the only museum in the country outside of Puerto Rico dedicated exclusively to Puerto Rican arts and culture. Under Billy Ocasio’s leadership as executive director, the museum’s budget has tripled, staffing has grown, and visitor attendance has increased 67%. In 2012, NMPRAC was named the latest City of Chicago’s Museums in the Park, making history as the first new addition in over 20 years. “At NMPRAC, our vision is to be the premier organization that both influences and connects diasporic arts, culture, and history to evolving generations. Supporting both local and national Puerto Rican artists has always been important to the museum. To this day, finding new and creative ways to engage with our communities remains a top priority and can be witnessed through our programming, including the annual Barrio Arts Fest, various workshops, lectures, and panel discussions, as well as through exhibiting work from Puerto Rican artists.” 

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Why the Arts are Valuable in Business School Curriculum

Posted by Alexandria Kotoch, Oct 06, 2020

When you think of MBA coursework, you think of core classes in marketing, finance, economics, operations, decision sciences, strategy, and so on. You don’t think of color theory, collaborative drawing, or watercolors. But at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, we do. Unlike traditional business schools that collect and present art, we make it. In addition to core curriculum that encompasses fundamental business areas, for the past two years Kellogg has offered students an opportunity to participate in artist-led, hands-on workshops that focus on a variety of arts-themed topics. I attribute the success and popularity of these workshops to filling a much-needed void in MBA curriculum—one that stimulates the right brain, which supports creativity and intuition. Exercising these functions encourages important skills for aspiring business leaders. Interactions with art develop observation, collaboration, communication, narrative building, and critical thinking skills. They also emphasize empathic thinking, creative ideation, implicit bias awareness, and recognizing the nature of objectivity/neutrality. Leaders are made and trained, not necessarily born. Exercising empathy, knowing how to communicate effectively, and having the ability to think creatively through complex issues all help leaders manage effectively. 

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How to Secure a Local Proclamation for National Arts & Humanities Month

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Sep 08, 2020

Proclamations are a wonderful way that your mayor, city council, or your city (or county) in general can easily show its support for the arts and culture. Each year, Americans for the Arts encourages advocates to work with their local and state elected officials to issue a proclamation declaring October National Arts & Humanities Month in their city, county, or state. They allow elected officials to easily demonstrate their support for the arts, offer a written document for advocates to use year-round to demonstrate the value of the arts and culture, and serve as a tool to engage other arts advocates in their local communities. For those who have never done this before, I thought that I would offer a how-to guide help you understand the process of obtaining a proclamation.

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Local Arts Agency Roundtable: A Conversation with Erick Deshaun Dorris

Posted by Mr. Erick D. Dorris, Apr 13, 2020

Last year in Joliet, Illinois—inspired by a rising tide of creativity and arts stewardship—the city council recognized the need for a central, organizing body for the local creative sector and voted unanimously to establish the Joliet Arts Commission. If I can offer any word of encouragement for others looking to establish an arts agency in your community, it is that you are not alone. There is a network of folks across your state and the country who are doing this work, even if you are a solo act in your community. Joliet could not get this far this quickly without the guidance, support, and encouragement from our state and national local arts networks. About two years ago, I walked into a meeting in Galesburg, Illinois, and said, “Joliet wants to start a local arts agency,” and the resounding response was “Okay, how can we help!” I have found that people in these roles want to help you and are looking for opportunities to connect with you. Reach out, be humble, and ask questions.

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A Strong Equation: How State Arts Advocacy Efforts are Paying Off!

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Feb 21, 2020

The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) recently published their FY 2020 State Arts Agency Revenues Report. By any measure, the report paints a very positive picture for state funding of the arts, with year-to-year appropriations increasing by more than 37% to a grand total of almost $495 million in total legislative appropriations. Because the economy is doing well, it stands to reason that SAA appropriations would be higher. While it is true that a strong economy makes increases more likely, a strong economy alone cannot explain this year’s massive increase. There in an interesting equation at work: If your state has a State Arts Agency that is engaged in thoughtful programming, a strong statewide arts advocacy organization, and advocates who are proactively engaged with your state’s existing political leadership, more funding/pro-arts policy are possible! 

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Joliet, Illinois Establishes an Arts Commission: Voices From the Cultural Community

Posted by Mr. Erick D. Dorris, Aug 16, 2019

On July 16, 2019, the Joliet City Council voted unanimously to establish a Joliet Arts Commission. At over 170,000 residents, Joliet is the third largest city in the state and was, until recently, the largest city in the Illinois to not have an Arts Commission or Arts Council—and the community felt this void. On August 6, 12 of the 17 members of the arts commission were appointed. The process of starting an arts council (or local arts agency) was not an easy one and involved input from many voices from the community. Here are a few voices of the artists, educators, and community members who have been advancing Joliet’s cultural and artistic landscape leading up to this milestone.

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