Artists, Funders, and Disruption in the Public Realm

When artists activate the social imagination and cultural practices bring people together, when new images and events claim or create public space, and when cultural organizing mobilizes people to action, art disrupts and influences social and political dynamics and discourse in the public realm. And, when funders shape programs to support this work, they too are influencers and activists in the public realm. As definitions of public art broaden to include social and civic practice, art in the public realm continues to recur as a central idea and practice. The concept of the “public realm” recognizes public space as more than physical places for locating art. They are connectors that support or facilitate public life and social interaction. In April, Americans for the Arts and The Barr Foundation released Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm: A National Field Scan with snapshots of 28 programs supporting and building capacity for artists working in the public realm. The scan highlights how funders and cultural agencies are shaping programs to support artists for more place-specific and issue-specific work as well as cross-sector collaborations.

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Pathways to Freedom: We Put the ‘Public’ Back in Public Art

Posted by Mrs. Laura Conrad Mandel, Aug 15, 2019

The Jewish Arts Collaborative was new to public art when we commissioned Julia Vogl to create Pathways to Freedom in 2018. Our priority was to take the Passover Exodus story and make a universal story of freedom, exile, and immigration—relevant to all in the Greater Boston community in a major way. It was a bigger undertaking than our staff of five really understood, but we knew that Julia’s commitment to digging into individual stories and beautifully featuring them was just what was needed in our community. We took a leap of faith on a project of this size and cost—and this is what we learned.

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The Making of ‘Pathways to Freedom’

Posted by Julia Vogl, Aug 15, 2019

When a Jewish organization wants to make an artwork accessible to all—it has to reach out to all in the making of the work. That’s what I and the Jewish Arts Collaborative, a Boston arts organization, did together to explore the meaning of the Passover holiday. To me, the themes of Passover were already universal—leaving oppression, seeking a new start, ending up in limbo for years as you find a new home. The Exodus story is the story for many refugees today, one of how seeking freedom is about liberation but with a responsibility, too. Because the Pathways to Freedom artwork was going to surround the Soldiers and Sailors Civil War monument on Boston Common, at the city center, I wanted to be as inclusive as possible in making the work. So, I created a pop-up cart and with the JArts team and a band of volunteers, we travelled across the Boston region. Our mission: to engage people on the subject of freedom and immigration. 

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August Arts Advocacy Challenge!

Posted by Lauren Cohen, Jul 31, 2019

So far, 2019 has been a banner year in the world of federal arts advocacy. Throughout the spring, we saw promising bipartisan benchmarks for support of an increased budget for the NEA in FY 2020. However, our work advocating for pro-arts policies doesn’t stop with funding for the NEA. Americans for the Arts, along with national coalition partners, has pursued more federal legislative priorities this year than ever before. From tax policy to transit, healthcare to education, we’re working to ensure expanded arts access and opportunity throughout the country. You can get more information and send a message to your congressional delegation about any of these bills through our Action Center.

The U.S. Congress will take its traditional month-long recess in August. Members of Congress will be in their home states and districts holding town halls, making visits to local organizations and businesses, and taking meetings in their local offices. Wondering how to continue your arts advocacy momentum during the long recess? Participate in the August Arts Advocacy Challenge to stay involved and make an impact.

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The U.S. Census and the Arts

Posted by Mr. Clayton W. Lord, Jul 11, 2019

At the Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention this past June, quite a few members voiced concern about the upcoming U.S. Census. In many communities, there is worry that an inaccurate count could negatively impact towns, cities, regions, and even states, and disproportionately affect people who are already marginalized. This blog is meant to give information on the Census, its impact, and what arts and culture agencies across the United States are doing to ensure a comprehensive and equitable count. The U.S. Census is a consequential tool for distributing time, attention, and money in all sorts of ways—including ways that are deeply impactful on the arts. It is also an increasingly politicized tool, and as we round the corner into the 2020 U.S. Census, it is important to understand what the U.S. Census is, what it influences, what the implication of certain proposed changes could be both generally and for the arts, and how arts and culture agencies and organizations are mobilizing to ensure a fair, full, and unthreatening U.S. Census count.

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Baking and Arts Education Leadership: Science, Patience, and Artistry

Posted by Dr. Rhoda Bernard, Feb 20, 2019

As the weather here in Boston becomes colder, I find myself wanting to bake more and more often. Bread. Cookies. Chicken casseroles. Homemade granola. Cupcakes. All of these have become recent projects and obsessions. There is something about the cooler days and chilly nights that makes me feel the call of the oven and the desire to bake. The other day, when I was preparing a batch of homemade chocolate almond biscotti, I started to think about baking as a metaphor, and I realized that there is a powerful connection between my experience of the process of baking and my experiences as a leader in arts education. The next time you bake, think about your own leadership in arts education in terms of science, patience, and artistry. How do those three qualities play out in your work? Where could you infuse more artistry? Where and how would you benefit from exercising more patience? How does science help and hinder your leadership?

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