Can public art be used equitably?

The benefits of public art are plentiful: inspiration, engagement, revitalization, economic development, beauty. Public art has all too often been directly associated with the displacement of families and individuals when used as an economic development tool in historically low-income communities without proper protections in place against displacement. With a well-thought-out anti-displacement strategy in place, public art can be transformative for historically low-income neighborhoods everywhere. The Punto Urban Art Museum, a public art initiative founded by North Shore Community Development Corporation in Salem, Massachusetts, is addressing this head on as we enter a third year of programming. After seeing increased levels of engagement when utilizing arts and creativity in our community organizing work and in a temporary pilot mural project, NSCDC began to take art and placemaking more seriously as a strategy to address the community priority of reducing stigma in the predominantly low-income, majority-minority Point neighborhood.

40 Years Young: The Evolving Practice of Cultural Planning

Research released this week by Americans for the Arts sheds light on the aspirations, accomplishments, shortcomings, and methods used in cultural planning over the past decade and compares findings with Craig Dreeszen’s similar—although more extensive—study from 1994. The data reveal that expectations of cultural planning have increased significantly over these 20-plus years, and that the greatest change is in the emphasis on serving community interests rather than a focus on the arts and cultural sector’s own needs. While community-wide cultural planning helps formulate aspirations and action strategies, it doesn’t ensure results. Where cultural plans also set their sights, but where outcomes fell short, is in the area of cultural equity—expanding resources for under-represented groups including immigrant populations, removing barriers to participation, and bolstering education and youth development. Fewer than half of cultural plans included specific actions to address diversity, equity, and inclusion—a surprising finding in 2017.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 

Americans for the Arts Celebrates National Arts and Humanities Month

Americans Are Encouraged to Explore the Role of Arts in Their Communities

Monday, October 2, 2017

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Americans for the Arts invites all Americans to celebrate October as National Arts and Humanities Month. The month-long celebration is the country’s largest collective celebration of arts and culture. 

Animating Democracy

Aesthetic Perspectives:
Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change

NEW framework offering 11 aesthetic attributes defined by artists that enhance the potency of arts and culture to motivate change in communities. Supports understanding, description, funding, and evaluation of arts at the intersection of community, civic, and social change.  Find out more.

ART + the Verb TO BE

In many tribal cultures, there is no word for ART. The creative act is in the shape of a context, the texture of relationships, the sounds of inquiry. It is how people are, not just what they make or do...creativity and connection, ceremony and ritual, the magic of the marketplace. ART is how we ARE.

I have written a book about arts-based community development that aspires to start conversation and support listening and learning from/about each other.  At that point, we bring in the action verbs: to think, fund, make, show, see, sell. Together, we consider the challenges of: reflection, documentation, and, finally, the evaluation of who and how WE are.

Making Space for the Arts: A Law Firm's Story of 5,475 (Nonbillable) Hours

Let’s be frank: when it comes to creativity, innovation, and the arts, the first thing that comes to mind is not a law firm. I’ve had clients half-jokingly say that law firms are where creativity goes to die. Ouch! My rejoinder is that “we are different! We work worldwide assisting our creativity and innovation clients through patent, trademark, copyright, entertainment, and technology law. We are the cool lawyers!” In 2011, we chose to honor our true selves by converting a century-old warehouse in the Film Exchange District of Oklahoma City—an area previously known as “skid row”—into our offices. Most of our colleagues blanched, but we bet that the area had the potential to be reborn.

ASC Announces First Cultural Vision Grant Recipients

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

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ASC announced the new grant in August 2015 in response to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg community’s interest in arts, science, history, and heritage programming, and a desire to experience more community-focused and innovative cultural programs.

The Origins of the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Program: Try, try again...

This is the story of how the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Program came into being. It’s a story created through patience, persistence, and opportunity. It began as the mid-1990s approached, as a result of a constituent request for state assistance by the founder of the Yiddish Book Center, a nationally known cultural resource located on the campus of Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.

What women leaders said about the arts during a Creative Conversation held at McMurry University

On October 19, 2016, The Center for Arts Excellence (CAE) at McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, hosted a Creative Conversation as a way to celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month. The CAE gathered women leaders together from the Grace Museum, Abilene Cultural Affairs Council, United Way, Paramount, Hunt Direct Marketing and McMurry University to discuss the arts in Abilene. More specifically, this group focused their discussion on three distinct areas: arts and community, access to the arts, and possible community arts partnerships.

What Happened to Impact? Navigating Aesthetics & Social Responsibility in the Public Art World

In 2014, a coalition of Wynwood-based organizations invited a frenzy of mural artists to turn the school into an outdoor gallery. Even though the school’s walls looked vibrant, the students were not included in the mural project in any significant way. They were mere spectators to the act of creativity, rather than participants in the creative process. Did the murals fully empower the local students to be capable, responsible and active citizens? In other words, did this good-intentioned mural painting project do enough?

National Creative Conversation on Facebook

Creative Conversations started in 2004 as a program through the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Network, bringing together individuals in their communities to talk about the arts & culture and creativity, with a goal to generate partnerships and increase energy and awareness around grassroots efforts. Meeting people where they are is a key focus of local work and of particular interest in fostering space for conversation and gathering. Knowing that organizational budgets and individual resources can be limited or non-existent makes in-person national dialogue difficult. So how could we easily meet people “where they are” on a national scale? 

Lessons Beyond the Playa: Bringing Burning Man Home

Fundamentally, as we celebrate National Arts and Humanities Month in October, we celebrate creativity and what it means to be human today. We celebrate everyday creative expression in all of its forms—from the amateur to the master artist and his/her craft. Burning Man celebrates that, too.

Author(s): Cohen, Randy
Date of Publication: Aug 01, 2016

This one pager give an overview of key data from the 2015 Local Arts Agency Census about how local arts agencies use the arts to develop healthier communities.

Author(s): Cohen, Randy
Date of Publication: Jul 01, 2016

This one pager give an overview of key data from the 2015 Local Arts Agency Census about how local arts agencies provide services to their communities.

My Voice: Celebrating Native American heritage

Lakota culture and tradition remain a guiding light—the beacon from which the community has drawn from and used their cultural and artistic practices to both honor their ancestors and rally their communities towards solutions. There is no question that traditional cultural and artistic forms root individuals in a shared history, connect them in expression, and help them look towards the future.

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