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.

Risks Aren’t Just for Artists (We’re looking to you, Government)

At the end of 18 months of conversation, debate, creation and synthesis, the City of West Hollywood had its cultural plan. Five principles guided The Plan’s recommendations, among them #5: Experimentation. Sharing information from the cultural plan became the opportunity to develop a project new to the City—a data visualization project—in the form of digital media and temporary art installations. Guided by the experience of the City’s Public Art Coordinator Rebecca Ehemann, our call was an open one, requesting qualifications rather than proposals, and providing a fixed commission. Rather than bring on a single artist, we sought out three, ensuring that no stand-alone vision would control the data’s narrative. Artists Maria Lamadrid and Sean Noyce, and artist group YoMeryl were selected. The resulting projects—ArtEverywhereDream Cloud, and The City of Creative Delights—were partnerships between the City and the artists that allowed for new ideas to surface and West Hollywood’s public art to reach new altitudes. 

How to Make a Monument

In the fall of 2017, Mural Arts Philadelphia embarked on our biggest project ever: Monument Lab, a nine-week-long public art and history project challenging Philadelphians to join a citywide conversation about history, memory, and our collective future. Twenty dynamic contemporary artists, selected by curators Paul M. Farber and Ken Lum, created temporary monuments across the city, and four of them were selected as outstanding public art projects by Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review. Because these four artworks stem from the same project, it’s easy to draw lines between them. Monument Lab asked us to consider what a monument is, and who gets a say in history. All of the artists answered this question in different visual ways, but their common qualities are clear. All four pieces make clear what is missing, what has gone untold.

Reflections on a Quarter-Mile Long Public Artwork in Edmonton, Canada

Resonant Progression is a public art commission that was advertised internationally by the City of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and completed in September 2017. The story of the young city of Edmonton is a very interesting one, and the concept involved an important inspiration in reference to the role that Dr. Terwillegar and Dr. Oleskiw had in the bridging of a path and calling for Ukrainian, Polish, and European people to follow to come and live in Edmonton more than 100 years ago. There could have been portraiture, or narratives about their lives, but the sculptures were presented with the simple but more universally accessible idea that what is needed in our era is places to contemplate our relationship to nature—and that these sculptures could be clearly places to view from as much as look at

Mary Mattingly’s “Everything At Once,” part of Experiments in Public Art

What is a decommissioned military trailer carrying a structure erected of charred wood doing in the parking lot of an industrial area of Boulder, Colorado? Everything At Once utilized these repurposed materials, presented through the realm of an art experience, as means for social conversation, collaboration, and social change. As a foray for conversation around funding priorities and positions within the United States, Mattingly created an environment specifically constructed of a decommissioned military trailer used in Afghanistan and charred wood from a U.S. public school that recently closed in Wisconsin. Everything At Once asks, “Can we process complex histories through the transformation of objects and materials in order to collectively imagine other ways of being in the world?”

Welcome to the 2018 PAN Year in Review Blog Salon!

This year, 49 projects from across the United States and Canada were selected for the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review. Each year, three jurors review hundreds of applications to highlight up to 50 public art projects that represent the most compelling work for the year. As part of that recognition, we invited the artists and commissioning agencies to submit blogs for this salon, telling us about lessons they learned and giving us a peek at what it takes to develop a successful public art project. This week on ARTSblog, we present you with posts from half a dozen different perspectives, reflecting on anything from the administrative challenges of public art projects, to the artistic thought processes that brought us these amazing works.

Americans for the Arts Partners with the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking to Develop the 2018 National Creative Placemaking Leadership Summit

Monday, August 13, 2018

Americans for the Arts will join NCCP as a Regional Partner to provide input on content; local insight to the Maryland, District of Columbia and Northern Virginia area; marketing support; and funding connections for the upcoming summit Oct. 5-7 in College Park, Maryland. 

Vet Voices: A Healing Journey into Theatre Arts

Early in 2017, TheatreWorks Florida was interested in a new focus group for their highly successful community outreach program, TheatreCares. Through a quick internet search of “arts,” “health,” and “military,” I fell down a rabbit hole of information that led to an incredible year and a half journey of discovery to combine theatre arts with military veteran health needs. The outcome is our outstanding arts and health in the military program called Vet Voices, which provides veterans an opportunity for positive self-awareness and self-discovery in a creative “safe space” environment and allows veterans affected by war to explore the theatre arts and ultimately find healing through creativity.

Building Courageous Business/Arts pARTnerships

Earlier this year, I was invited by the Utah Cultural Alliance and Utah Division of Arts and Museums in Salt Lake City for a professional development convening to present on the pARTnership Movement, a campaign by Americans for the Arts to teach business and cultural leaders alike how arts and culture can offer businesses, through pARTnership, a competitive edge. With over 50 executive directors and marketing staff in the room, my aim was to communicate that arts and business pARTnerships can look like so much more than a transactional relationship. I’ve often heard (and experienced as an arts fundraiser), “Why can’t they [the businesses] just give more cash? We need cash.” While the need for cash is real, our approach with the pARTnership Movement is broader.

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!

How #my5days at Hallmark is Renewing, Inspiring, and Giving Back

“It was such joy to walk in with a certain set of expectations and walk away accomplishing far more than I even imagined.” This reaction from a designer at Hallmark Cards, Inc. underlines the spirit of a recent initiative that supports the creative culture at the company that has taken a new turn in 2018. Just two years ago, Hallmark created a program that would lead to new ways of thinking, personal inspiration, and growth for more than 800 members of its creative community. Now, it has grown to benefit nonprofit organizations in its local Kansas City community. Hallmark’s #my5days program offers five work days per year for creative employees to renew, explore, learn, and think differently about the world and work around them. 

A Public Art Passion Project Reaches its Halfway Point

Thursday, July 5, 2018

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On February 20, 2017, a 51-year-old man named Thomas Leeper set off to complete a public art-centric passion project: covering every linear mile of Detroit on bike, while also photographing and geo-tagging every piece of public art or graffiti he encountered along the way. Almost a year and a half later, Leeper is about at the halfway point, having biked through 2,200 of the 4,000 linear miles of the Detroit streets.

US Conference of Mayors’ 2018 Arts & Military Resolution

Funding Arts, Health, and Well-Being Across the Military Continuum

Friday, July 20, 2018

The resolution cites the potential of creative arts therapies and artist directed programs to positively impact the healthcare spending concerns, quality of care issues, and healthcare needs of active military and veteran populations.

Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston Expands Beyond Its Walls

Friday, July 20, 2018

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The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in Boston, one of the city’s major museums, recently expanded beyond its main gallery in the South Boston Seaport District. The new Watershed building represents a turning point in Boston’s history as East Boston’s first major arts destination.

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.

For Youth, By Youth: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Change; or How a Youth-led Arts Conference was Born

Over a year ago, the seeds were planted for what would become a vibrant flowering tree called Arts Amplifying Youth or AAY! for short. The leadership team spearheading Art=Opportunity, a research based arts education movement based out of Centre Artes at Cal State University San Marcos, came up with the idea to hold an arts-based youth summit for youth in San Diego. Their brilliant Executive Director Merryl Goldberg imagined a safe space where youth could express their art around important issues, which is an essential mission of Art=Opportunity. On a warm morning last October, a group of a dozen artistic teenagers came together in a small office in Little Italy with the seemingly easy-to-answer question, “How can we bring art to youth in a meaningful way?” They soon discovered that this question was not as easily answered—so they set out on their journey of event planning! 

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.

National Arts Marketing Project Kicks Off Second Pennsylvania Cohort

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Americans for the Arts, the leading organization for advancing the arts and arts education in America, is pleased to announce the second cohort of the Arts Marketing and Audience Engagement in the 21st Century: Building the Capacity of Pennsylvania’s Cultural Sector, a new, five-year initiative to strengthen and advance the arts marketing and audience engagement skills of Pennsylvania-based arts and cultural professionals. 

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.

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.”

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