Pushing the Possibilities for Diversity in Arts Leadership

In 2018 the Arts & Business Council of New York (ABC/NY) is expanding on the success of its 25-year-old Diversity in Arts Leadership internship by approaching a new challenge area in the career continuum where we can grow and share our expertise. DIAL Labs is a summer 2018 pilot series that will engage professionals 5 to 10 years into their arts careers to include senior-level mentor pairing, interactive expert panels, and culturally-relevant programming. This program is not just about earning promotion into senior leadership; it is an intentional investment and exploration into the longevity, inclusion, and retention of an increasingly diverse arts leadership. Together, as an arts field in NYC and beyond, we will expand the network of executive opportunities for arts professionals traditionally untapped for senior leadership.

Professional Development: Not an Add-On

When we think about partnering with schools, we’re generally pretty clear that success requires changing how work is currently getting done. We’re also (usually) clear that it’s unfair to ask people to make such a change without providing support. Within that context, professional development is a no-brainer. In arts administration and within local arts agencies, however, professional development is often considered a luxury investment. The hidden assumption in this attitude is that changing how we work is rare, or undesirable. The truth is that any arts organization operating under a “business as usual” mindset is in for an awakening—if not now, then in the near future. Local arts agencies have a responsibility to create space to support those awakenings—and a responsibility to prompt them.

Arts and Gentrification: Potential for Change

In informed discussions about the role of the artist when communities undergo change, words like privilege, displacement, and tools of gentrification often come up. The point is not that the blame for the detrimental effects of gentrification lies in the artist—of course there are much larger forces at play. Rather, the arts are being used as a tool on the path to displacement. If national trends are any indication, the artists who encroach as community outsiders in fact have a stake similar to longtime residents in the process of gentrification. Across the country, the artists initially involved in neighborhood “transformations” are themselves pushed out as rents rise. Artists and arts organizations have an opportunity to recognize their place in the system, and to take responsibility in it.

Incubating Art for Social Impact: An Interview with Halcyon Arts Lab in Washington, DC

This spring break season has seen an increase in the numbers of students, teachers, and arts advocates choosing civic engagement over a hedonistic week at the beach. As engagement in the arts for positive impact towards civic engagement and social justice continues to trend up, community building around organizations and practitioners working in social practice becomes increasingly important. So I reached out to Nicole Dowd, Program Manager of Halcyon Arts Lab—a newly launched residency and incubator program for artists working in social justice in Washington, DC—to learn insights gained from the first full year of the program. With local influences and resources ranging from Capitol Hill to an actively engaged tri-state area with interests in arts, policy, civic engagement, and everything in between, visiting artists to the Halcyon Arts Lab are welcomed into a profoundly energetic creative environment.

Eight for 2018: New Obstacles and Opportunities in the Arts

Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.

Matrons of the Arts Initiative Highlights Female Artists

It’s no surprise that women are underrepresented in the art world. Left out of textbooks, exhibitions, and museum collections, women artists often face an uphill battle to get the recognition they deserve. The North Carolina Museum of Art (NCMA) recently announced a new initiative, Matrons of the Arts, to help change that. The movement highlights female-identified artists in the Museum’s permanent collection and around the world. Inspired in part by the "name five women artists" challenge put on by the National Museum of Women in the Arts—and playing off the phrase patron of the arts—this campaign seeks to bring the public’s attention to women who have been and continue to be major figures in the world of art.

Arts Education becomes Arts Advocacy

I was excited to enter Randolph High School back in 1980, mostly because of its thriving music program. I couldn’t wait to sing in the different choruses, and to audition for the competitive show choir. Yet when I arrived at school, I learned that, as a result of Proposition 2 ½, music had been cut from the high school curriculum—along with other reductions to busing, foreign languages, sports, and library staff. I was devastated. My arts education came to a sudden end, but my education as an arts advocate was just beginning. Along with other students and parents, I wrote letters and attended meetings, imploring administrators not to abandon the music program. And our efforts began to pay off.

Art in Politics: Why Both Matter

Every day at work, I am reminded that the intersection between art and government continues grow in importance. Funding, allocation, and government spending is essential to developing our education system. I intern for Americans for the Arts because advocating for equitable access to art and arts education vastly improves our education system. Research shows that marginalized communities consistently have little to no access to arts education in schools. Some of the most diverse voices are being shut out of conversations and art creation. We are left with an education system that refuses to elevate some of the most integral voices in diversity for our dialogue and our art. I had the privilege of art shaping my entire childhood, but there are some places youth have no access to art at all due to systemic inequality in our education system. 

A Recipe for Representation and Inclusiveness in the Arts

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Goya Foods, Inc. got its start in NYC and now collaborates with artists and arts organizations, like Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, to reflect its values in family, achieving the American dream, and helping cultivate Latin culture in the boroughs and beyond.

The Issue of Creating Across Generations

Myah Overstreet (20) and Jason Wyman (41) are an intergenerational producing team with The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture. They have worked together for over two years co-piloting The Alliance Youth Media Initiatives. Their latest endeavor with The Alliance is The Issue, a new arts + culture magazine designed to inspire a future where we all belong, which was published on January 11, 2018. The Issue is a model of intergenerational collaboration and mutual reciprocity, where diverse voices are artfully represented and joyfully celebrated. Overstreet and Wyman recently sat down to chat how and why they collaborate and create across age as a means to create a more inclusive future. 

Americans for the Arts Joins Federal Amicus Brief in Support of Free Speech Rights of Congressional Art Competition Student Artist

Americans for the Arts joined 17 national, state, and local arts service organizations urging reversal of a ruling that permitted Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers to remove a painting by St. Louis high school student David Pulphus from a Congressional Art Competition exhibit at the U.S. Capitol. His allegorical post-Ferguson painting depicts a civil rights demonstration and includes two police officers with boar heads; one is pointing his gun at a protester with the head of wolf. The painting was removed under pressure from a small group of Congressmen, with the contention that the exhibition was “government speech” which the government could censor at will. 

A Conversation with Outgoing Board Chair Abel Lopez

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to speak with Abel Lopez, outgoing Chair of the Board of Directors at Americans for the Arts. As Chair since 2013, Abel has been an instrumental part of the growth of Americans for the Arts, particularly in sustaining leadership, developing goals as part of the organization’s most recent Strategic Plan, and spearheading the Statement on Cultural Equity. In this interview, Abel talks about his history with Americans for the Arts, his experience as Chair, and his excitement for the future of Americans for the Arts and the nonprofit arts and cultural sector. 

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. 

Documentary Video Tells the Story of a New Public Art Monument in Richmond

“A Monument to Maggie” explores the decades-long community effort to develop a monument honoring civil rights hero Maggie L. Walker

Monday, December 11, 2017

A Monument to Maggie tells the story of the development and unveiling of a monument to civil rights hero Maggie L. Walker, which was unveiled after nearly 20 years of efforts led by community and political leaders to help tell another part of Richmond's history.

Relating to each other as whole people

Our filter bubbles and gated communities (both suburban and barbed) divide us. In this intentional division, it is our responsibility to seek that which is different, to engage with what is uncomfortable, and to soften to our own tenderness in order to grow, together, into the promise of America. This America has not yet existed but the potential is there. How, in this time of rapid and sometimes overwhelming change, can the arts alter the face and heart of America?

National Business Leaders Discuss Leveraging the Arts for Employee Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

The Business Roundtable is part of a series of convenings Americans for the Arts hosts to gather insight and best practices from leaders in all sectors, and is designed to address the needs of businesses across industries looking to engage and retain a diverse workforce by incorporating the arts into their portfolios, and to strengthen and diversify their talent and their brand. The roundtable was bookended with an example of an arts-based experience that the Arts & Business Council of New York encourages the corporate community to employ in its approach to addressing DEI goals in thoughtful and innovative ways.

Questions to Begin a Conversation about (Re)Designing Your Organization for Equity

As we approach the upcoming National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Memphis, I’m excited to enter a new conversation about the possibilities for our sector that can be unlocked by embracing a designer’s mentality to address the critical need to diversify our audiences, our leadership, and our organizations.

A Perspective on Accessibility

I’ve long held that audiences with disabilities, including deaf audiences, would benefit from being considered from a marketing perspective and understood from a multi-cultural standpoint, rather than a strictly legal requirement/service perspective.

Advocate with Grace

I had the honor of creating the Kennedy Center Youth Council (KCYC) in Spring 2016 with a specific mission of investigating how the Kennedy Center can positively impact and be positively impacted by youth. The KCYC founding was inspired by the Kennedy Center’s yearlong celebration of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, which included the exploration of citizen artistry, defined as using the arts for positive social impact. One of our most extraordinary KCYC members, an embodiment of the citizen artist ideology, is Grace Dolan-Sandrino. Grace, a 16-year old senior at Duke Ellington School of the Arts, has accomplished more than seasoned professionals twice her age.

I Grew Up in a Museum

At the age of 5 I could recite the definition of genocide and explain to people the history of California and its first actions to eliminate Native Americans as a state. My knowledge of the events that are commonly hidden from textbooks did not make me the popular kid in school. I was picked on, not only by kids, but by teachers. I was a know-it-all and viewed by my teachers as a challenge. My mom, the executive director of the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center, recognized that the problems Native children face today are not different from the ones that she faced as a child. To combat the misinformation and stereotypes surrounding our people, she turned to the arts.

Postcards from the Field—Part 2!

This week, we present the final installment of our Diversity in Arts Leadership intern profile series. For 25 years, the Arts & Business Council of New York has been hosting the DIAL internship program as an investment in a more equitable arts management field. This summer, 12 interns from all over the country have descended upon arts nonprofits in New York City for ten weeks to explore and build skills in arts administration and leadership.

The Role Museums Play in Social Activism

The choice of museums to take a stand is unique to each institution, and it’s complicated, layered, and specific to the geographical location and political climate of the region. In the meantime, artists will continue to create works that question our existence and boundaries; be responsive to the emotional, social, political, and religious world around them; and ask the important questions that move us all forward as aware global citizens. Museums and cultural institutions that support contemporary artists will continue to support them, whether through curatorial or educational programming.

Expanding the Arts Ecosystem in Malawi

Malawi has no shortage of artists. What’s needed is a more robust arts ecosystem in which artists can grow and thrive. There is no question that the arts are critical to fostering human development, establishing identity through shared cultural heritage, bolstering democracy, and protecting human rights. It is high time that international donors and the Malawian government realized that one of the country’s greatest resources—arts and culture—remains largely untapped.

Loving the Question of Beauty

Why is beauty, a word often included in definitions of aesthetics, missing from the list of 11 attributes of excellence in the Aesthetic Perspectives framework? It is a question that prompted many conversations during the making of the framework as we wrestled with exclusive connotations of “taste” and what is “beautiful.” I posit that the sum total of the 11 aesthetic attributes complexifies beauty and provides a framework for reconsidering what is beauty in Arts for Change. 

Social Transformation Under the Sheltering Sky of Aesthetics

The integrity and transparency with which we conduct ourselves at the National Public Housing Museum is extremely important to everyone involved. This is work where the process is as vital as the result itself. And we intend to evaluate the so-called “excellence” of our efforts in how much justice we help to create in the world. The Aesthetic Perspectives framework emerges at a key moment for our work, as both a blessing and offering. It opens up a utopian and expansive new terrain for how to reflect on work that is meant to be socially engaged and transformative.

The Case for Complexity

Change requires doing things differently, in new, creative, and risk-taking ways. Public Matters wants to see the arts recognized as a critical element of civic life and of a healthy community. Doing so requires pushing beyond standardized conceptions of who or what an artist is and does. The Aesthetic Framework can play a role in this conversation by expanding the appreciation of what this work entails and what it can achieve. Openly embracing risk-taking is essential, within the arts and in partnerships with historically risk-averse disciplines and agencies seeking better outcomes.

Complex Movements: Artists Put the Framework to Use

For the past seven years, we have been developing super-hybrid work that pushes us to seek new ways to define quality, integrity, and success. After many years of development and touring, we wanted to understand and be able to talk about this work among ourselves and with others who are working similarly. Throughout the project, we tried developing surveys ourselves and with support from other people in the field. We got some useful feedback but most of it didn’t get to the heart of both the social justice and artistic goals of the work. Aesthetic Perspectives helped us do that.

Aesthetics of Process in a City Master Plan in Western Sydney, Australia

The Future of Penrith/Penrith of the Future came out of the C3West initiative (community, commerce, contemporary art), and demonstrates how partnerships between artists, city councils, urban planners, architects, and businesses have resulted in positive social outcomes where communities reimagine urban life, establish relationships to place, and experience what art can be and do outside the museum. The C3West model challenges the orthodoxies of community art by bringing in civic and business partners, tapping into sources of money that would not normally be available to artists.

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