Arts Better the Lives of Everyone

At the Berklee Institute for Arts Education and Special Needs, we believe that the arts better the lives of everyone. This is something other countries have figured out, but we still need to learn it here. We still need to learn to welcome all—including people with disabilities—into spaces where performances and exhibits take place. We still need to learn to broaden our understanding of who can be an artist, and what an artist looks like. We still need to learn how to open up our classrooms to all students and break down barriers to arts learning so that arts education, artistic expression, and artistic engagement can be a powerful, meaningful, and significant part of everyone’s life.

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.

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. 

The Business of Public (Art)Work

The discourse of what public art can be is ever expanding. With the accessibility of new creative tools and platforms to present new forms of public art, artists and presenters are pushing existing boundaries and creating new ones for what public art can be and how it is presented. It’s an exciting time for Masary Studios, a team of artists creating one-of-a-kind visual and sound experiences. By unlocking the hidden possibilities of an urban landscape or space, Masary’s works are at once a performance, a dissection of architecture, and an immersive visual spectacle. And while we are artists, we are also business owners. Each piece takes on a different artistic approach, but our business model for project management, technical direction, budgets, and attention is consistent and critical in how we see a vision through to retain a healthy balanced working life. 

Cambridge Sets out to Designate Arts Overlay District

A Way to Provide Affordable Living and Work Spaces for Local Artists

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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The proposed district will create a specific arts zone that will incentivize arts development and create "deed restrictions, or limitations on rent increases" so that the community can accomadate the loss of another building that was a prominent hub for creative makers.

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.

Building Capacity for Creative Placemaking

Creative placemaking has been an ongoing discussion in cities and towns across the country for several years, but where do planners sit in this dialogue? What role does a planner have in the development of a creative placemaking strategy? How can planners incorporate creative placemaking ideas into their projects? Or encourage communities to implement these kinds of projects? Americans for the Arts has partnered with the American Planning Association, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Area Planning Council and The Townscape Institute, on a National Endowment for the Arts funded project to develop a suite of curated resources to assist planners in understanding how arts and culture can impact their work. The tools developed in this project will live as a Knowledgebase on APA’s website, accessible to all who are interested in implementing creative placemaking projects.

Preparing Your Organization and Your Donors for Shifts in the Charitable Tax Deduction

On January 1, the 2018 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act went into effect, a substantial change to the U.S. tax code which has the potential to negatively impact arts and culture nonprofit organizations in a variety of ways. One of the most significant impacts will come in changes related to the thresholds and amounts associated with the charitable tax deduction. This 100-year-old provision was designed to stimulate giving to charities and other organizations serving the public good by providing an opportunity to claim a deduction as a reduction in an individual’s tax burden. While the repercussions of the federal tax code changes are still emerging, and corresponding shifts in state-by-state tax policy may impact your situation, the notes that follow are an introductory primer. If you have questions about state-level implications, we recommend you reach out to your state comptroller or state association of nonprofits.

Arts Advocacy Day Is Coming

Although years may really just be a number, in its 31 years, Arts Advocacy Day has seen six different U.S. presidents spanning both political parties. It’s witnessed sixteen different congressional sessions and eight different Speakers of the U.S. House. Through it all, every year, attendees hear that “the arts are bipARTtisan.” Because, no matter who’s in office, arts advocacy matters. Funding decisions are made every year. Who’s deciding this year may not be deciding next year. Who’s to remember what happened before? Who’s to know why it matters? Who’s to learn from each other? The answer is us. All of us. All of us together.

Artists’ Voices Ring Through Civic Dialogue and Municipal Engagement

The role of the artist is changing. In the midst of these challenging times, civic engagement has become the focus of attention across many sectors and fields. More than ever, the arts are promoting greater awareness and understanding of community issues, contributing to shifts in thinking and in attitude. I see artists and arts organizations across the country being integrated into practices of civic engagement, and applying the power of artistic imagination to inform, inspire, engage, and motivate social action. And I continue to applaud state and municipal governments across the U.S. for embracing such collaborations.

Daily Inspiration to Fight the Good Fight: Gard’s “To Change the Face and Heart of America”

As many of you are aware, the Wisconsin Idea at public universities is under attack in many states—one of them sadly being Wisconsin. Allocations by states to their universities are either reflecting this ideology or simply the tough choices created by fiscal reality. Lacking the affluent alumni and profit-generating research, arts and humanities departments in particular are in peril. This flies in the face of Gard’s own legacy in Wisconsin. There is a forgetting, as Gard points out, that the arts “enable the individual to explore the creative potential of his intellectual and emotional self, and … can result in new understanding of the human environment.”

Youth Finding a Voice, Finding a Stage

Excerpted from my interview with Xavier Harvey: “What I’ve noticed being an actor and being involved with Actors’ Shakespeare Project is the tools that art gives you is learning more to express yourself. So when you’re hit with a difficult angle at something and you don’t know how to go about it, you learn different ways to conquer those challenges and all those obstacles. And in my way and where I live and the people that I surround myself, I always think about if I was put in that position again, if I had an artist’s way of thinking then I would have taken these challenges different and made better choices in life.”

Enchanted Circle is celebrating National Arts in Education Week with the unveiling of The Secret Stream Story Walk, a public art and advocacy campaign created with 5th grade students at Holyoke’s Sullivan School to raise awareness of Day Brook, an underground stream in Holyoke that flows into the Connecticut River.
The Story Walk unveiling will take place on Thursday September 14th at 1:15pm at Sullivan School in Holyoke.

Greenfield, Massachusetts will be holding an Arts Conversation on November 6, 2017 from 6-8 pm at 114 Main Street, Greenfield, MA. 
With the designation of our Cultural District and the purchase of the First National Bank on Bank Row, Greenfield is stepping into a new arena with regard to the Arts. We welcome one and all to join us to engage in a conversation about what that means for the town. We also want to talk about the ways that grants from the Greenfield Local Cultural Council may help further these ideas.
We ask the public these questions:

New theater promises economic benefit in Peabody, Massachusetts

Monday, August 7, 2017

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Actors and theatergoers aren’t the only people excited about the new black box theater under construction in downtown Peabody, Massachusetts. Local business owners are anticipating a swell in economic activity in their restaurants, bars, and shops.

New Resources Summarize IMLS Support for Museums and Libraries in Each State

Thursday, June 29, 2017

The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) released reports with detailed views of IMLS funding for the past six years (FY 2011 through FY 2016) for every state across the nation and the District of Columbia, including total dollars and counts of IMLS grants and awards, as well as amounts of grantee matches or state government maintenance of effort levels.

Storm the Barricades! But, which ones?

Content sponsored by University of Massachusetts Amherst Arts Extension Service.

Advocacy is fundamental to building a vibrant and lasting cultural community. In our chapter on advocacy in “Fundamentals of Arts Management,” published by the UMass Amherst Arts Extension Service, you will learn the ins and outs of arts advocacy from creating strategy, to building alliances, to the details and protocol of conducting a meeting with an elected official. 

Arts & Economic Prosperity 5: How the Nonprofit Arts & Culture Industry Impacts the Economy in Your Community

When recently asked how best to advocate for the arts in the current environment, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (NM)—co-chair of the Senate Cultural Caucus and chief sponsor of the CREATE Act—was unequivocal: “Start by telling every one of your Senators about the economic benefits of the arts.” This familiar refrain is one we have heard for decades from city council chambers to governor mansions to the halls of Congress—and it works. Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 does just that. It changes the conversation about the arts from that of a “charity” to one about an “industry” that provides both cultural and economic benefits to the community.

Americans for the Arts Unveils Findings from Fifth National Economic Impact Study of Nonprofit Arts and Cultural Organizations and Their Audiences

Study Demonstrates That Nonprofit Arts Are An Economic, Employment Powerhouse

Saturday, June 17, 2017

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A new national study by Americans for the Arts finds that the nation’s nonprofit arts and culture industry generated $166.3 billion in economic activity in 2015—$63.8 billion in spending by arts and cultural organizations and an additional $102.5 billion in event-related spending by their audiences. This activity supported 4.6 million jobs and generated $27.5 billion in government revenue. 

Annual Convention Saturday Keynote Announced

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will share her thoughts on the role of the arts in today's political climate

Monday, May 8, 2017

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi will share her thoughts on the role of the arts in today's political climate in the June 17 keynote plenary session at Americans for the Arts' Annual Convention.

Americans for the Arts Statement on Bipartisan Agreement to Fund the Nation’s Federal Cultural Agencies and Programs for FY2017

Friday, May 5, 2017

Americans for the Arts president and CEO Robert L. Lynch issued a statement following the signing of the bipartisan agreement. 

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