Blog Posts for culture and communities

Soldiers on Stage

Posted by David Diamond, May 15, 2013 0 comments

David Diamond David Diamond

First of all, who knew that there were theatre companies on US Army bases? Who knew they had annual one-act play and full-length play competitions? Who knew that working as a mentor to the directors of those plays existed as a job?

My supervisor, Jim Sohre, recently retired as Chief, Entertainment (Music and Theatre) Program, U.S. Army Europe, created the Mentoring Program in 1995: I started the concept when we got actor, director (and personality!) Charles Nelson Reilly here to judge our Army Europe One Act Play Festival in Heidelberg.  He not only critiqued, he got right up on stage and re-worked scenes with the groups.  So it was more a working Masters Class.

I began working as a Mentor Director for the same Festival. This involved traveling from base-to-base throughout Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Turkey and Northern Italy. There are about 20 bases that participate in the annual competition; I visited 14 of them. As Jim explains, Well, first, by bringing in mentors/judges from the US we are able to get top notch industry professionals who can provide contemporary input and training that is not available here in the English language.”

Each base I visited has a theatre company that regularly presents plays and musicals for the residents of the base. These companies include not only soldiers, but their families, other military personnel, non-military base workers, etc. Since the funding for the theatre companies and their facilities is at the discretion of the base commander, they operate under wildly different conditions. In Stuttgart, you have an entire performing arts complex with theatres, rehearsal spaces, everything state-of-the-art; in Grafenwoehr, plays are presented in a corner of a former basketball court using only clip lights and a boom box for tech. Still, it is remarkable what they are able to produce.

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8 Ways a Cultural Event Can Transcend Genre, Geography & Demographics

Posted by P. Scott Cunningham, Apr 24, 2013 0 comments

P. Scott Cunningham P. Scott Cunningham

Three years ago, a group of friends and I started to dream up what a lot of people considered impossible: a festival that would bring poetry to all 2.6 million residents of Greater Miami.

At that time, Miami’s cultural scene was exploding. Art Basel was in full force, and we wanted to do a festival that was the opposite of the “pipe-and-blazer” readings that most people associate with poetry. We wanted to do a festival that reflected Miami’s diversity and personality.

Knight Foundation had just finished the first round of its famous Random Acts of Culture™ and we liked how those events turned everyday events into cultural occasions. What if did something like that? What if we did it every day for a month?

And that’s how O, Miami was born. In the poetry festival’s first year, we did 45 events and 19 projects in a 30-day span, and almost none of them had a recognizable headliner. (You can get a taste for it in a new report being published this week.)

As we headed into our second full incarnation of the festival this month, we wanted to share a few of the things we learned about engaging new audiences and creating a cultural event that transcends geography, genre, and demographics...

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Can Art and Culture Districts Shape the Cities of the Future?

Posted by John Eger, Apr 23, 2013 1 comment

John Eger John Eger

Welcome to the global economy and society.

U.S. astronauts reflecting on their experiences in space all seemed to see the earth as one "big blue marble."

As NASA writes: "For the first time in history, humankind looked at Earth and saw not a jigsaw puzzle of states and countries on an uninspiring flat map—but rather a whole planet uninterrupted by boundaries, a fragile sphere of dazzling beauty floating alone in a dangerous void."

Thanks to the pervasive worldwide spread of internet technology, the "big blue marble age" is here, the global economy has arrived, and in a sense, the world's map is being redrawn in a way never envisioned.

While interviewing Nandan Nilekani, the C.E.O. of Infosys, Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times and author of The World is Flat, observed:

"There (has been) a massive investment in technology, especially in the bubble era, when hundreds of millions of dollars were invested in putting broadband connectivity around the world, undersea cables, (and) those things...created a platform where intellectual work, intellectual capital, could be delivered from anywhere. It could be disaggregated, delivered, distributed, produced and put back together again."

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From the Big Lick to Big Ideas: Capitalizing on Culture in Roanoke

Posted by Kate Preston Keeney, Apr 17, 2013 2 comments

Kate Preston Keeney Kate Preston Keeney

Like many of my high school classmates, I never had plans to stay in my hometown of Roanoke, located in southwestern Virginia.

Among other reasons, it seemed to lack that something special in terms of arts and culture. The local theater had reduced its performance season; a much-anticipated visual art museum was struggling to stay open; and the independent bookstore closed to become just another bar.

And so, as is common, I left my hometown in pursuit of graduate school and a job in a metropolitan area. I was perfectly situated within walking distance to public transit, yoga studios, cafes, and world-class performance centers.

But now, I’m starting to look back.

Roanoke and its surrounding areas have begun to capitalize on its rich cultural history. Let me be specific, this culture is not new, yet it has just been unearthed with contemporary knowledge of cultural vitality, opportunities for partnerships and economic development, and community leadership and buy-in.

Roanoke has taken steps to put itself on the list of desirable places to live and has done so by elevating its distinct heritage. 

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At the Crossroads of the Rustbelt and the Artist Belt

Posted by Ms. Roseann Weiss, Apr 24, 2012 0 comments

Roseann Weiss

In the second week of April, when St. Louis was blooming with an early spring, 292 people came for Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads—an arts-based community development convening—to be part of the discussion about the arts and social change.

This conference combined the three Rustbelt to Artist Belt meetings that took place in Cleveland and Detroit with the At the Crossroads convening that took place in St. Louis in 2010.

I proposed this combination when attending the conference in Detroit and the idea stuck with Seth Beattie from Cleveland’s Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC), the organizer of Rustbelt. With phone calls and emails back and forth and with a grant from the Kresge Foundation, we did it!

I wondered whether our gamble—combining the people who talk about creative regeneration of neighborhoods in the Rustbelt with people who practice community arts and social engagement—would pay off.

Would we all be able to significantly connect these threads that make up the fabric of positive social change?

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