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.”

Reflections on Over 20 Years of Americans for the Arts Conventions

In 1993 I became the Director of New York Programs of the Arts & Business Council Inc., and as head of a national partner arts service organization of Americans for the Arts, I began what has become a very long association with the organization and its Annual Convention, literally attending the first Convention under the Americans for the Arts name—and nearly every one since. I have watched the organization, and its signature convening, grow and evolve over time—responding to the field’s changes and the external environment we all operate in. Now in my role as president of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation in Denver, Colorado, I have become one of the hosts and funders of the 2018 Annual Convention in Denver. We are so excited to be hosting this conference, and know that the content will be informative and inspirational, and that the City and its cultural assets will enchant. 

Culture Notes

Art is a barometer of its time, providing the common ground for our shared humanity—essential in a vibrant democracy. I came of age as an artist and administrator in New York in the 1970s. Post modernists, punks, minimalists, and graffiti artists were deconstructing and distilling everyday actions. By the 1980s, some of these provocateurs mainstreamed into galleries and museums, theaters and opera houses. Many audiences were mystified, some transformed by the emergent forms. At the end of the ‘80s, I was performing arts curator at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the aesthetic zeitgeist had changed. 

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. 

Artist Jeff Koons to Lecture on Artistic Endeavors, Collaborations, Why Businesses Should Partner with the Arts

Tuesday, June 5, 6:30 p.m., New York Institute of Technology Auditorium on Broadway

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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Americans for the Arts today announced that artist Jeff Koons will deliver the 2018 David Rockefeller Lecture on Arts and Business, a signature program of the Business Committee for the Arts. The lecture will address Koons’ arts and business collaborations, and how they have benefited his own artistic endeavors and the strategic goals of the businesses. 

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.

Americans for the Arts Thanks NEA Chairwoman Jane Chu for Four Years of Tireless Arts Leadership

Monday, April 30, 2018

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Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch offered a statement in reaction to news that National Endowment for the Arts Chairwoman Jane Chu has chosen to resign on June 4, 2018.  

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.

Remembering Louise (1929 – 2018)

On March 16, 2018, a dear friend, tireless advocate, and arts leader passed away, U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter. I have known Louise for 32 years. We’ve partnered in nearly that many Arts Advocacy Days. It has always been my honor to stand with Louise. I’ve stood with her on over 100 occasions in the last 23 years while she co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus. Americans for the Arts and the nation’s arts community owe a debt of gratitude to Louise Slaughter. There has never been an arts advocate with more tenacity, fight, humor, and spirit of generosity. May she rest in peace knowing that she made the world a better place through the arts, and may her trailblazing pave the way to more arts leaders recognizing the transformational power of the arts on our lives, communities, economy, and nation.

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. 

Americans for the Arts Reacts to $152.8 Million Funding Increase to Each NEA, NEH

Thursday, March 22, 2018

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Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert L. Lynch offered a statement in reaction to last night’s proposal by Congress to fund the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) at $152.8 million each. 

Help, I’m Marketing and I Can’t Get Up

How many of us are walking a line at our jobs between being an arts marketer, or not? Nowadays it seems as if dual and blended roles are becoming increasingly the norm for all except the largest arts and cultural organizations.

Arts Caucus co-Chair Rep. Leonard Lance Receives 2018 Congressional Arts Leadership Award

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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Before a crowd of 650 arts advocates from every state, including a delegation of 30 from his home state of New Jersey, Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors recognized and thanked U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) for his congressional arts leadership during the 31st Arts Advocacy Day.

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