YoungArts Exhibition at the U.S. Department of Education Promotes Tolerance

Monday, June 4, 2018

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Student Art Exhibit Program, which has been in operation since 2004, regularly features a rotating collection of visual art created by both American and international students. On May 4, the program debuted an exhibit called “Total Tolerance.” The exhibit includes various photos, paintings, and poetry by winners of the 2018 YoungArts’ National Arts Competition, a yearly competition for young artists ages 15-18.

Americans for the Arts to Present Six Awards for Arts Leadership

Honorees to Be Recognized June 16 at Americans for the Arts’ Convention in Denver, CO

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Americans for the Arts announced today the recipients of the 2018 Americans for the Arts Leadership Awards. Given annually, these awards recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations committed to enriching their communities through the arts.

Americans for the Arts to Present American Express Emerging Leaders Award to Quanice G. Floyd

Floyd to Receive Award on June 16 at Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Denver, CO

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Americans for the Arts announced today that Quanice G. Floyd, educator and founder/director of Arts Administrators of Color Network, will be awarded the 2018 American Express Emerging Leaders Award. The annual award recognizes an exceptional new and/or young arts professional for their exemplary leadership, deep engagement with community, and strong commitment to advancing the arts. 

Let Others Lead: A Mid-Career Manifesto

As an emerging leader in my late 20s and early 30s, I was desperate for a chance to be heard. I sought out opportunities to get involved with organizations and groups that would both connect me to other people in the field and allow me chances to organize, empower, and lead others. I had ideas. I wanted to share them. And I wanted to learn in the process. As the sun set on my emerging leader status—though I’m not sure exactly when that started happening, just when it was over—I had a pretty stark shift in my attitude about leadership. I found I wasn’t hungry for it anymore—not in the same way, at least.

Change The Story. Change The Equation. Change The Game.

Throughout this Blog Salon, you’ve heard testimony from arts leaders across the country: creatives working in street symphonies and theater companies in LA; administrators building community practices in Florida and Boston; artists and curators invested in equity work from Portland to Washington, DC, and all points in between. By using this Blog Salon as a platform, the ELC is combating the dominant narrative that power in the arts exists only in the hands of a historically white, historically male, historically wealthy minority. We’re collectively organizing our experiences into a larger tapestry to change the story. Another intention: all of this year’s contributors identify as People of Color (POC). By centering experiences of POC who are artists, administrators, and experts, we’re attempting to course-correct decades of exclusion, disenfranchisement, and marginalization our communities have experienced working in the arts. 

From Shy to Fly—How the Arts Developed My Self Worth

I first realized I had the power to create change through the arts in a small camp in my hometown, Rockford, IL. I was just a little girl trying to muster up the courage to get on stage and perform when I attended the Rockford Area Arts Council Camp for Young Creatives. Waiting backstage with knots in my stomach, fingernails digging into my fingertips to distract from my nerves, I reassured myself I knew all the moves. “I got this,” I thought to myself, “...but wait! What’s step one again!?” The music starts and my body takes over, making all the right decisions on time. All that was required of me was trusting my capacity to pull it off. It was before I knew what it meant to be a woman of color and the importance of representation in leadership roles, and before I could speak intelligibly about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts. 

Diversification Begins with a Theory of Change

When I finally pivoted into arts administration, inching my way closer toward being a full-time creative, I was a bit surprised to find how much the sector was struggling with issues of diversification. Over time, I suppose I had grown accustomed to an industry that had no issue tackling diversification head-on and I expected the arts, the champion of inclusion, would be the same way. I am fortunate enough to oversee two great projects at ArtsBoston which help to drive the change we desperately need in greater Boston’s arts sector. For the ArtsBoston Audience Lab, diversification (specifically audiences of color) began with a Theory of Change—a blueprint designed in collaboration with the ten participating organizations in the Lab. When organizations state that they want more “diversity” in their audiences, we ask them to think a step further.

A.W.E in Portland: Arts Workers for Equity

I work in the nonprofit arts sector in Portland, Oregon, which is 76% white despite the growing racial and ethnic diversity in the country. This whiteness was deliberately designed. In the 1800s, exclusionary laws were ratified into the Oregon constitution and the language wasn’t officially removed until 2002. This history is reflected in who lives, works, and plays here, including the demographic makeup of who runs our cultural and artistic institutions. In 2016, a group of us arts administrators came together with the evocative question: “Why are the arts so white?” A truly grassroots operation, Arts Workers for Equity (AWE) is a collective of ten individuals who represent a multitude of intersectional identities. Alone and individually, we had limited power to effect change. But collectively we’ve influenced Portland’s nonprofit arts sector, citywide.

What does it mean to be accountable?

Several years ago, as I struggled to further define and understand my own work as an artist, my mentor and friend asked me one simple question “Are you doing healing work or just making art about something?” It took me more than two years to answer that question. Longer still to understand what she meant. Even longer to understand what it truly means to be accountable to myself, the community, those that came before, and those yet to be born. As a community-based artist, organizer, and occasional urban farmer, my creative practice is rooted in exploring and expanding methodologies that utilize art as a vehicle for dialogue, social change, and community healing. For several years, however, what I did not do: interrogate and explore the moral and ethical implications of working in community. Beyond a trendy catch-phrase, what did I mean when I said community healing?

Questioning the value of change from inside the Archives of American Art

In response to the prompt for this writing: yes, I have been at the forefront of critical changes, and I can identify the factors empowering me to do so. Those changes, centered on an inclusive understanding of what constitutes “American art,” will certainly continue to motivate my work. As I settle into my new role, however, I realize that my power to create change in the arts is rooted in a desire to encourage students and my peers to take a beat, and ask ourselves if and when we are seeking change for change’s sake. Is forward always the best direction? In my hours of conversation and archival dives, it is apparent to me every day that many of today’s issues are not unique.

Yo Soy Lider! I am a Leader

When I first moved out to Western Massachusetts I realized quickly that there was a budding arts community. Specifically, in regard to theater arts, all of the shows and showcases being put forward were stories featuring white European-centric actors/characters and their struggles and strife. Where were the Black/Latinx characters? The ones that weren’t treated racially and/or stereotyped? Where were the fully developed main characters of color that had full depth and breadth? Then came “In the Heights” and the “Lin-Volution” (Lin-Manuel Miranda) of the arts began. That show changed my outlook and perspective on what the arts should look like—they should reflect and relate to the people you are trying to reach. This is what spurred my vision for the Palante Theater company. I wanted to bring shows to the community which would highlight the struggle, sacrifices, and similarities that many Latinx individuals, like myself, experience every day. 

7 P’s for Power: Creating Change through Arts-Based Community Development

In my role as an arts administrator for an organization whose focus is on community development, I have been committed to understanding and strengthening my local arts ecosystem through my work to provide direction and ensure its relevancy. It is imperative for arts leaders and administrators to not just think out of the box, but also to work outside of it in order to help the arts field evolve and stay relevant, particularly with changes in funding, patronage, and social value. Arts-integrated community development allows arts and non-arts leaders to support their arts ecosystem while creating solutions for community issues. It’s not easy work, especially when you’re new to it. In my experience, I have found that it requires 7 P’s for Power.

It Has to Be Bigger Than You

When my mother died I felt a shift. When my first nephew was born, I felt another shift. Both events happened in the span of six months. Suddenly, theatre as I knew it didn’t matter in the same way anymore. At the exact same time my journey with mentor Diane Rodriguez of Center Theatre Group, with the support of a TCG Future Leaders Grant, allowed me to make a living working in theatre. The grant, and Diane’s network, unlocked new opportunities that I had long dreamed about. One day I realized that for me theatre was bigger than me, that my family was bigger than me, that the remaining three years that I would share with my elderly aunt and the unknown years I would spend with my nephew (plus two additional nephews later) was bigger than me. I was no longer moved solely by trying to be a powerful director and a mover and shaker of the theatre sector; there were many things bigger than me that I had responsibility for.

Joyful Work: Music in the Community

As artists, it’s our job to tell stories and to ask questions. The great “masterpieces” I play as a symphonic musician were written to tell the stories of communities, as much as they were written for what we might perceive as some grandiose idea of individual expression. I have dedicated my life to studying and performing the works of these great masters, largely in part because I will always be humbled by their craft and their music. We will always be humbled by the opportunity to hear—and play—something new in the music we love. But we have to ask the question—do we truly reflect the vibrancy and power of our communities just by playing the music of old, dead, white men? What’s our modern day “Messiah”? What is the sound of America, today, now?

Welcome to the Emerging Leaders Blog Salon

The arts field has begun to open its minds and hearts to the chorus of voices that have been on the outside for far too long. Many organizations are (finally) taking a critical look internally to investigate and interrogate the many ways in which the field has been built upon, and continues to perpetuate, problematic practices that demonstrate bias against under-represented groups. A lot of the changes have been procedural, to date. There are many of us waiting with bated breath to see if practical change occurs and is maintained. Despite the psychological and emotional hurdles many artists and arts administrators of color experience during their respective journeys in the field, we have hope. This year, Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders Council wanted to show gratitude for that hope by offering a substantive means of acknowledgement through this week’s blog salon.

Meet the Team

Cristyn Johnson

Cristyn Johnson is the Local Arts Advancement Program Manager at Americans for the Arts.

Americans for the Arts Welcomes New and Re-Elected Advisory Council Members

Friday, December 15, 2017

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Americans for the Arts today announced 26 new and re-elected advisory council members for each of their four networks: Arts Education, Emerging Leaders, Private Sector, and Public Art Network. These individuals will advise Americans for the Arts’ staff on developing programs and services that will build a deeper connection to the field and the network membership. 

Americans for the Arts Mourns the Passing of Advocate Ebony McKinney

Friday, August 4, 2017

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Ebony McKinney, a tireless advocate for the arts who pushed for diversity in the community and for unity among local organizations, died unexpectedly July 29 from complications related to pneumonia and lupus. She was 41. McKinney was a member of Americans for the Arts’ Emerging Leaders Council from 2009-10. 

Audience Demographics: The Complexities of Intersectionality

As an organization that has always been led by a majority of queer people of color, I knew that the National Queer Arts Festival (NQAF) survey needed to be able to capture the unique intersections of the organization’s artists and audiences. I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to neatly categorize the complexity of queer identity … but I could try. The underlying principle of the survey and its synthesis needed to be rooted in multiplicity and intersectionality; to allow complex gender and sexual identity to be celebrated rather than stripped down to fit into a single box.

Americans for the Arts to Present American Express Emerging Leader Award to Kevin Seaman

Seaman to Receive Award on June 17 at Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Francisco

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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Americans for the Arts announced today that it is presenting the 2017 American Express Emerging Leader Award to Kevin Seaman, artist, curator and consultant of Bring Your Own Queer (BYOQ), a San Francisco-based community arts organization that fosters greater understanding between disparate segments of the LGBTQ community and its allies by hosting free and low-cost community events that promote accessibility, diversity, and inclusion. The annual award recognizes an exceptional new and/or young arts professional for their exemplary leadership, deep engagement with community, and strong commitment to advancing the arts. 

Americans for the Arts to Present Six Awards for Exceptional Arts Leadership

Honorees to be Recognized on June 17 in San Francisco

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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Americans for the Arts announced the recipients of the 2017 Americans for the Arts Annual Leadership Awards. These awards recognize the achievements of individuals and organizations committed to enriching their communities through the arts.

Are You as Connected as You Could Be? Introducing our Member Briefing Series

On February 8, Americans for the Arts launched our Arts Mobilization Center, which serves as a hub for all of our position papers. The Mobilization Center is available to the public and is intended to be a tool to help you advocate for the arts. Then, to help our members be the most effective advocates they can be, we launched a regular member briefing series on March 23. These are 30 minute calls available exclusively to members around a specific issue statement, topic area, or program update. During each call, Americans for the Arts senior staff members and I provide background on a given topic, then we take your questions live!

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