Community Boots on the Ground: Building Healing Arts and Military Community Relationships

For several years now, I’ve had the great honor to work with Americans for the Arts and its National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military to convene and advocate the value of the arts in health and healing nationwide, particularly its significance to the military community. Through this transforming experience, I’ve seen thousands of individuals—boots on the ground—who are building healing arts and military networks, which offer civilian and military community members greater opportunities to regain health and wellbeing and to build resiliency in response to the reality of increasing trauma occurring within our communities. A ubiquitous presence in the community ecosystem uniquely positions the arts to lead the movement to create healing networks and non-stigmatized environments that both afford respect and foster community-wide resilience and growth for individuals facing the invisible wounds of war. 

Celebrate National Shop Local Artists Week 2018

Be part of the nationwide celebration December 2-8, 2018

Thursday, November 8, 2018

From December 2 to 8, 2018, the initiative encourages the creative field to join together in communities across the country to promote the sales of the work of local artists, and to promote to all consumers that art—including tickets to events and organization memberships—makes great holiday gifts.

The Transformative Power of Cross-sector Collaboration: A Story of the Lackawanna County ARTS Engage! Task Force

The ARTS Engage! Task Force was created in 2016, inspired by a successful youth arts program and with a mission to “improve the quality of life for Lackawanna County residents through access to and participation in artistic, creative, and cultural experiences.” The power of passionate, committed, and diverse people working together has the ability to transform communities, but meaningful cross-sector collaborations take time. The kind of knowledge trust, enthusiasm, and planning needed for sustainability cannot be achieved in a short time frame. But rather than think of this as daunting, we can see it as a chance to expand our world, meet new people, challenge our cognitive biases, and create innovative and integrative systems of change. There will be stressful days, things won’t always work, and there may even be conflict. But I have found the joy in this work, and the impact far outweighs the difficulties.

Growing New Mexico Arts and the Military Initiative: Finding a Heart for Veterans

In a state with two million people spread out over a landmass that’s 10 times the size of New Jersey, the challenges of bringing people together in one place are obvious. Yet we know from experience that the time invested in traveling outside the state capital to cities and rural communities is worth the effort, and is indeed the only way to build trust between neighbors for a new concept. Fortunately, we could rely on the National Endowment for the Arts’ Creative Forces and Americans for the Arts’ National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military for guidance. In the last three years we have held face-to-face meetings with 90+ new individuals at three roundtable discussions—two in Albuquerque, one in Roswell. In the last two grant cycles, we have funded five new projects with a veteran and/or military focus. These numbers are modest, and we acknowledge, even embrace, the “baby-steps” method of outreach.

Spark a Creative Conversation During National Arts & Humanities Month

Happy National Arts and Humanities Month! Each October, millions of people across the country celebrate the transformative power of the arts in their communities. National Arts and Humanities Month is a “coast-to-coast collective recognition of the importance of culture in America,” with the goals of: FOCUSING on the arts at local, state, and national levels; ENCOURAGING individuals and organizations to participate in the arts; ALLOWING governments and businesses to show their support of the arts; and RAISING public awareness about the role the arts and humanities play in our communities and lives. During National Arts and Humanities Month, some truly amazing celebrations of arts and culture take place across the country. One of the big initiatives for the month is Creative Conversations, which gather community leaders to “discuss local arts, culture, and creativity to generate partnerships and increased energy around the grassroots movement to elevate the arts in America.” 

Americans for the Arts Reports Record Number of Celebrations Held During National Arts in Education Week September 9-15

Monday, September 24, 2018

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Americans for the Arts reported that more than 800 celebrations were held in communities across the nation for the 8th annual National Arts in Education Week, September 9-15 – a significant uptick compared with 428 in 2017. The celebrations ranged from block parties to city hall meetings to online visibility campaigns. 

Five Reasons Why Public Art Matters

Public art matters to me because I see it as a platform for civic dialogue and as the most democratic of art forms. When done well, a public artwork engages citizens in conversation that can vary from understanding historical and cultural backgrounds, to driving attachment to place and social cohesion. In a world struggling with new ways to connect, public art can make public spaces more approachable. In June of this year, Americans for the Arts worked in collaboration with the 2018 Public Art Network (PAN) Advisory Council to launch “Why Public Art Matters” to provide the field with a tool to help educate community members, local decision makers, and other stakeholders on the value that public art can bring to cities and towns. The resource document provides talking points, reasons, data, and examples of how public art can positively impact a community in five specific areas.

“How” is Just as Important as “What”: Bringing Audiences Together Through Uncommon and Engaging Experiences

It’s that time once again. Many of us across the performing arts realm are hanging on to the last remnants of summer, while also turning our attention to (and girding our loins for!) the new season ahead. For the University Musical Society, this officially begins on Sept. 21, a couple of weeks after the University of Michigan commences its fall semester. One of the things I value most about UMS and my new role here is the great care and attention we give to not just WHAT we present, but HOW we present it. This is an important lesson for all of us, each and every day, as we endeavor to grow the energy, focus, and evolution of our institutions. I’m proud to say we’re digging deep to answer many fundamental questions about who we are and what we want to be in the future.

Minneapolis: At the Corner of Arts and Justice

It is true what people say, that art can heal. But what if art can do more than that? Above and beyond that old maxim, a platform for the arts can bring a whole community to the table. The Hennepin Theatre Trust is exploring the intersection of public space, social justice, and local creativity as it works to improve the historic Hennepin Theatre District. Surpassing even the most ambitious examples of creative placemaking, the Hennepin Theatre Trust made a journey from “talking the talk” to truly “walking the walk” of community-building through the arts. Making Hennepin Avenue safer and livelier was not only a question of engaging theatre-goers; it was a matter of actively including the voices of local people experiencing homelessness who rely on Hennepin Avenue to be a safe haven. Through this project, HTT began to lift the curtain on who uses public spaces in West Downtown Minneapolis, and why.

Have Your Heard the Buzz About Creative Conversations?

Creative Conversations were launched in 2004 in response to feedback for a need for dialogue from the Emerging Leaders Network. Since then, they have been used as a catalyst in communities across the nation to unify groups of people engaged in arts and culture by sparking dialogue, spurring advocacy efforts, and creating networking opportunities for participants. Most Creative Conversations take place in October as part of National Arts and Humanities Month; however, now they are popping up more frequently at other times of the year. Interested in learning more about these community engagement events, or hosting one in your area? Read on for information and inspiration to help get you started!

Passion Works

This story is about what happens when the talents and interests of people with developmental differences are followed. In 1998 I was invited to set up an experimental art studio within a sheltered workshop in Athens, Ohio. A sheltered workshop is a day program for people with developmental disabilities that offers assembly line-like work options (capping pens, stuffing envelopes, bagging items). The work is repetitive with a clear expectation of the end product. In the back of the old factory was a 15’ x 25’ room where I was invited to set up a studio space through a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. When people were done with their work quotas they could come back to the art studio and explore. The enthusiasm and excitement that unfolded ignited something in me and I found my passion. This group was magical. They had talent, imagination, fearlessness, cooperation—everything needed to feed the creative process within a collaborative community making experience.

Americans for the Arts Presents Award to Community Arts Training Institute of St. Louis for Exemplary Work at Intersection of Arts and Community Life

Saturday, June 16, 2018

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Americans for the Arts today announced that the Community Arts Training Institute (CAT Institute) of St. Louis has been awarded the Robert E. Gard Award. The award recognizes and celebrates exemplary work at the intersection of the arts and community life, and was presented this morning at Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention in Denver.

Americans for the Arts Recognizes 49 Outstanding Public Art Projects from Around United States

Friday, June 15, 2018

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Americans for the Arts today honored 49 outstanding public arts projects created in 2017 through the Public Art Network Year in Review program, the only national program that specifically recognizes the most compelling public art. Chosen by public art experts, the roster of selected projects was unveiled this morning at Americans for the Arts’ Annual Convention in Denver. This is the 17th year that Americans for the Arts has recognized public art works.

The “50 States Initiative” Utilizes Public Art to Bolster Civic Engagement

Artist-run organization plans to mobilize public art to encourage political participation in the U.S.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

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The artist-run American nonprofit For Freedoms has announced the launch of “The 50 State Initiative,” a nonpartisan political and artistic campaign that will utilize public art to spark political engagement. Spanning the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, the campaign’s focal point is the planned installation of political billboards in all 50 states, plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico.

Private Partnership Makes Possible the Largest Recurring Public Art Program in NYC

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

With the understanding that the arts can foster vibrant communities, Fosun 28 Liberty leverages its space to attract, engage, and present artists and their work.

Welcoming Travelers to a Community Through the Arts

As the gateway to a city, airports are the first and last place that air travelers experience; they are a doorway for passengers and visitors alike. An airport has a broad range of functions, but its visual impact can run the gamut from a blank canvas to a celebration of sights and sounds. As the canvas on which impressions of a destination can be formed, airports have an opportunity to tell their story through permanent and temporary installations as well as through performing arts. When an airport chooses to introduce travelers to the arts and cultural assets of a region and beyond, wonderful things can happen. Each artistic effort says to travelers that not only do the arts matter, but also that the aesthetics of an airport are important.

Engaging a Fan Base: Arts Patrons as Fanatics

What can we, as arts marketers, learn from sports marketers about how they cultivate a culture of fandom? How can we benefit from thinking about our patrons as fanatics?

Thriving arts communities need for-profit support

Almost exactly four years ago now, we at Golden Artist Colors embarked on a collaborative process to develop a new Vision Statement for our business. What emerged through this process was a collective vision that was much greater and much more audacious than anything we could have imagined for ourselves. Our vision wasn’t to beat any other manufacturer or supplier in our industry, but to ask our peer companies to join forces and, together, help us create more abundance in the arts for every one of us to grow. The art materials industry is an enormously powerful, committed, and connected community of the arts. It is important to share some thoughts of what I think this can mean for all of us to raise the value of the arts and, in doing so, clearly benefit the future and well-being of our industry—not only ours but across the private sector. 

Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in 2018

The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.

Americans for the Arts Announces Inaugural Johnson Fellowship

Johnson Fellowship Awarded to Los Angeles-Based Artist and Designer Tanya Aguiñiga

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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Americans for the Arts announces today the inaugural Americans for the Arts Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. The new annual fellowship celebrates the legacy and work of the late Robert Leroy “Yankee” Johnson. Americans for the Arts also announces that Los Angeles-based artist and designer Tanya Aguiñiga has been selected as the inaugural fellow. 

Advancing Arts Locally

While we all work to serve audiences that are growing in diversity, we cannot prescribe the art that might engage our audience without engaging in conversation. We must be ready to walk with them, to find out through relationship and exploration together what their expectations, needs, and wants are. And that’s how we truly build community through the arts.

Amplifying Institutional Evolution

Nearly a year ago, two members of Trinity Repertory Company’s resident acting company proposed an idea: use the Rhode Island tradition of presenting A Christmas Carol to amplify our institution’s commitment to community engagement. They dreamed of incorporating different community groups every night, connecting our audiences to work and people they might not otherwise know. Fast-forward to now, somewhere mid-run of an unforgettable Christmas Carol. Every three days a new community group steps into a show so full of heart it bursts off the stage. The results of this work are still uncountable, and yet the reverberations are already so easy to see. 

We Should All Value the Artists and Their Vital Role in Our Communities

As we celebrate the holidays, I encourage you to think of all the ways artists have helped your company, organization, place of worship, community. How have artists bettered your family and your life? Think about the artist behind the public art mural as you pass by while running errands. Take a moment to listen to caroling. Take family and friends to galleries, a live music venue, or small theater production. Let’s all support these artists and community change-makers this holiday season. 

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