Experience a World of Art Close to Downtown Denver

Americans for the Arts recently spent a long weekend in Denver, Colorado, for our 2018 Annual Convention and were completely awed by what an artistic city it is! To that end, we wanted to give our local hosts from VISIT DENVER the chance to share more about the variety of arts & culture Denver has to offer. Read on!

Together We Rise: Convention Reflections

Whether you’re an arts advocate, creator, or funder, attending the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, held June 14-17 in Denver, felt like a rallying call for change, and each of the keynote speakers led us with hope and honesty. Each session bravely tackled the serious issues of equity and the power of art to nourish inclusivity, embrace humanity, and grapple with the complex issues facing us today. Like so many cities, Denver has recognized that the systems of power grant privilege and access unequally in our community. The more we acknowledge this, the more we understand the pervasiveness of inequity that impacts funding, programming, arts policy, employment, and nearly every aspect of our work—bringing us closer to the opportunity to emerge into a new space.

Building Community and Making Connections in Denver

The 2018 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention was as stimulating as ever! Over the years I have attended several Americans for the Arts conferences and I am always impressed by the number and variety of attendees who gather to discuss the impact of the arts in our communities. More than 1,000 people traveled to the beautiful city of Denver to discuss the trends of equity and inclusion across all sectors, how the arts unite cities, advocacy and grantmaking, as well as the role of the arts in aging and coping with trauma. The list of topics covered seems almost endless! As an arts educator, I was interested in learning about the growing field of Creative Youth Development (CYD). The highpoint for me was hearing from the young people who attended the preconference sessions.

Americans Speak out About the Arts in 2018

Americans for the Arts Previews National Survey on Arts Attitudes, Perceptions in America

Friday, June 15, 2018

Today at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch announced the completion of a new in-depth study of American perceptions and attitudes towards the arts and arts funding and revealed three highlights of the study during his State of the Arts speech.

Presenting Historical Works of Art in the #MeToo Era

Recently, we saw a performance at the Met Opera of the classic Mozart opera Cosi Fan Tutti, restaged and mounted with a new production set in the 1950s. In the program, the director stated it was restaged so that it would be “[easier] to buy into the conceit” of the show. It was so real, in fact, that it was easy to draw comparisons to every man who has ever persistently ignored a woman’s denial and blamed rejection on the woman. So real, that when the women are literally saying they are frightened and terrified of the unwanted men sneaking into their rooms, it was easy to think of the hundreds of thousands of women who said #MeToo. As such, we began questioning the role of cultural institutions, particularly large and leading organizations to which others look for inspiration or leadership. What is their responsibility in reconciling classic works in modern times?

Americans for the Arts will continue this conversation at our upcoming Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado June 14-17, 2018, during the session “The Arts Community in the Time of the Women’s March and #MeToo.”

Great Minds See Alike

I am a Colorado native and a third-generation artist. I work in illustration, photography, jewelry, lapidary, painting, printmaking, sculpture, assemblage, and installation art. I’m also the founder of ReArranging Denver, a ten-year-old zero use self-sustaining project that has engaged over 50,000 people, connecting communities to their local business and neighboring cities through creative reuse workshops, installations, and events. I also travel to universities, libraries, art coalitions, and low income and private schools, giving living artist lectures. I always had the impression that most artists died before seeing success, so I decided to start seeing myself as a living artist sharing my secrets of success. As the Americans for the Arts staff learned more about my work, they asked me to share my story with them, with you, and with those about to join forces in Colorado at Convention.

Reflections on Over 20 Years of Americans for the Arts Conventions

In 1993 I became the Director of New York Programs of the Arts & Business Council Inc., and as head of a national partner arts service organization of Americans for the Arts, I began what has become a very long association with the organization and its Annual Convention, literally attending the first Convention under the Americans for the Arts name—and nearly every one since. I have watched the organization, and its signature convening, grow and evolve over time—responding to the field’s changes and the external environment we all operate in. Now in my role as president of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in Denver, Colorado, I have become one of the hosts and funders of the 2018 Annual Convention in Denver. We are so excited to be hosting this conference, and know that the content will be informative and inspirational, and that the City and its cultural assets will enchant. 

A Shared Vision

Why don't more private foundations fund arts advocacy? Worse, why are we seeing funders across the country moving away from the supporting the arts at all? These were key questions that the leadership of the State Arts Action Network brought with us to Boston for the 2016 Americans for the Arts Convention.

We Failed Before We Succeeded

In a lively discussion at AFTACON, one participant shared that a school in her area tells its students the word “Fail” stands for “First Attempt in Learning.” I embrace this interpretation. Failure can be an opportunity to fall back and regroup—and then come back at the challenge with renewed energy, a sharper strategy, and perhaps and a bigger megaphone

It’s All About our Base

Like most urbanized parts of the U.S., Boston’s demographics have changed dramatically in the last 30 years and so has tone of conversation. Anyone who attended this year’s Americans for the Arts conference could see and feel the change. 

Emerging Heap

I don’t know what others tasted at the 2016 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, but for four days, the crisp flavor of inspiration sat on my tongue. I felt like a freshman attending the first day of classes at her top choice school. 

Reflection and Revolution: AFTACON 2016 State of the Arts Address

“All the arts, all the people” has been our steadfast declaration about equitable access to the transformative power of the arts. It is an aspirational phrase—and one we all must strive to meet.

#OrlandoUnited

It was with conflicting emotions that I flew to Boston last Thursday to accept AFTA’s 2016 Michael Newton Award in the aftermath of the horrific tragedy in Orlando at the Pulse night club, the cornerstone of the LGBTQ community. Three reasons propelled me to move forward from a state of shock and pervasive, deep, emotional pain.

Building Creative Communities Through the Arts and…

In 2015, Americans for the Arts launched a two-year program to explore the role the arts can play in partnership with other sectors to create healthy, vibrant, and equitable communities. The New Community Visions Initiative seeks to work with our institutional systems to find points of intersection to address arts impact in our communities. 

AFTACON Keynote Speech: Remarks by Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile, vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee and prominent political strategist, gave a keynote speech at our 2016 Annual Convention on the volatile politics we’re living with, and the vital role of the arts and arts education.

AFTACON Opening Plenary: “On How the Arts can Fuel Revolution” by Diane Paulus

Diane Paulus, artistic director of American Repertory Theatre, gave a rousing speech at our 2016 Annual Convention pondering the state of our country and celebrating the role of the artist and the arts in this fragile moment.

Reflections on Resilient Arts Leadership

This week we heard over a dozen emerging leaders reflect on this year’s Arts Leadership Preconference theme: “Impact Without Burnout: Resilient Arts Leadership from the Inside Out”. Echoed in many of the blogs is the need and desire for cross-generational leadership, mentorship and professional development (positioning everyone to teach and advance the field), the need to intentionally address diversity, and the importance of “soft-skills”.

Vulnerability is the New Confidence

Arts leaders must be comfortable with risk and uncertainty to be successful. Actually, I think this is true for leaders in every industry, but especially in the arts. Embracing vulnerability can be challenging for any leader, but especially a young one. Brene Brown, a preeminent researcher on vulnerability defines it as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” She has this to say: “Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity”; “There can be zero innovation without vulnerability”; and “Invulnerability in leadership breeds disengagement in culture.”

They Should’ve Asked a Folklorist: New Horizons for State Folk Arts Programs

Following the 1974 launch of NEA support for state folklife programs, folklorists have led state arts agencies’ efforts to serve traditional artists of the nation’s rural, occupational, and immigrant communities. What are the challenges facing state-level folk arts coordinators in 2016?

To gain insight, I consulted three emerging leaders in the field: Lilli Tichinin, Program Coordinator of Folk Arts, Art Projects and Accessibility for New Mexico Arts; Jennifer Joy Jameson, Folk and Traditional Arts Director for the Mississippi Arts Commission; and Josh Ehlers, Assistant Folklorist for the Oregon Folklife Network.

A Leader's Responsibility to Create Opportunities for Others

In 2008, print publications were shedding staff writer positions. Arts criticism was on the cutting room floor at daily newspapers across the country.

Blogging was all the rage in the mid-aughts, so despite the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s unceremonious slaughter of their arts coverage, Atlanta was seeing a groundswell of local arts scene coverage. From this movement a cohort of critics emerged. This independent and often amateur motley crew consisted of emerging artists, recently graduated art history majors, retired editors and junior writers. What they penned was avant-garde reviews that disregarded traditional methods of criticism.

Working With or For Everyone in an Organization

We have all heard or said the phrase: “I wear many hats within my organization”, as if we are justifying our importance (like my Great Dane tries to justify her importance by licking my face down to the bones). We all play important roles within our organizations. I have certainly used this phrase in some shape or form, but staying humble about our numerous roles can really pay dividends as we move forward in our careers.

Working with or for everyone does not always mean everyone is asking you to do something for them. More frequently, it means asking others how you can be involved in what they are doing. This approach not only expands knowledge in the short term, but it can lead to long term benefits including building new relationships or creating opportunities to take on more responsibility. Here are my keys to success when it comes to working with or for everyone in your organization.

Resilient Leadership in the Arts: Realities about being in an Arts Couple

A few years ago, my husband got a new job several states away that completely changed our lives. At the time, I had a job I loved in theatre arts education from which I had to resign. Starting over in a new place where you know absolutely no one is a daunting task for anyone, but when you’re in the arts, it can seem like an impossible task. Jobs in the arts are harder to come by than in many other fields and it takes years to build up connections, develop working knowledge of local funding sources, and get another shot at a job with an organization when you aren’t the one hired away.

Establishing a Career Path in the Arts

In 2011, while pursuing my graduate degree in Arts Administration at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), I came across Managers of the Arts, an NEA research study conducted in 1987 by Paul DiMaggio. In this report he examined the backgrounds, education, and career experiences of senior arts administrators of resident theaters, art museums, symphony orchestras, and community arts agencies. While this report is almost 30 years old, DiMaggio highlighted some key points that are important for attracting and retaining arts managers, which included:

  • Raising salaries in fields in which administrators are least well paid.
  • Establish somewhat more predictable career paths that offer the promise of further opportunities to administrators who reach the top of large or medium-sized organizations relatively early in life.
  • Offer more equal opportunities to women managers who pursue careers in these fields.

Following Young Leaders’ Lead

Like many urban areas across the country, much is booming in Atlanta: real estate, food culture, and a hunger for public transit and public spaces. Along with the renewed investment in Atlanta’s urban core, there is a building momentum around the role arts & culture play in civic life. Of course there’s a downside to the “upswing” as Atlanta faces some of the country’s most pronounced income and wealth inequality gaps. The disparity is real in Atlanta – and the arts are not immune, falling right in line with housing and education disparities, lack of access to healthy foods, and economic immobility.

While some our most conventional cultural institutions are searching for ways to discuss and address the issue of cultural equity, I am inspired by emerging leaders in Atlanta whose core purpose is rooted in cultural equity values.

Navigating Grey Space: The Personal, Professional, and Practice

How does one lead by an example that is still evolving, or in many instances simply doesn’t exist? As a young black woman in the arts, this has proven to be the ongoing topic of many conversations amongst my peers and myself. Decades have been spent sorting through lack of diversity in the arts sector, and people of color pursuing their passions as artists and administrators alike are still faced with a lack of representation and guidance around what the future of these roles look like within the field. Most recently I’ve found myself questioning how to explore my individual path in a way that feels productive and healthy, while also understanding how that impacts my future pursuits and leadership role(s).

Leading through Listening

Last week I met with local arts advocate Julie Madden to discuss some of her career experiences in the arts. I was lucky to have met her just a few weeks prior at Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. It just took one exchange to realize that we not only represent the same congressional district, but we actually live down the street from one another! I was so happy to meet with her and to hear the wealth of stories and advice to share. Since 1998, Julie has served with Maryland State Citizens for the Arts and in 2002 became a board member of the Maryland State Arts Council. Additionally, she has served on The Baltimore Museum of Art's Accessions Committee for Decorative Arts and as Maryland's Director of Arts and Community Outreach.

How to Be (or be an asset to) an Emerging Arts Leader of Color

You have to be resilient to be in arts management. Period. This required resilience goes double for emerging arts leaders of color and the people who want to see them do well. As an educator and consultant, I am sometimes asked to speak about diversity in our field. After these talks I hear from two types of people: arts administrators of color who are on the spectrum of “I know, right?” to “let’s laugh together about this ridiculous thing that happened to me–or else I’ll cry” (I buy the latter drinks, when possible) AND I hear from potential allies who want to know how to be helpful.

What follows are a smattering of things that I have said to both groups–as the discussion for one group is usually an inverse image of the discussion with the other. I offer these lessons I have learned (usually, the hard way) as fodder for further discussion, and a moment for us to strategize before we go back out into the fray.

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