Blog Posts for Illinois

Stories Behind the Statistics

Posted by Cathlyn Melvin, Jan 04, 2013 4 comments

Cathlyn Melvin

“I was in a play once!”

I’m standing in line at a bookstore in my neighborhood, and the woman behind me is telling me her story. She recognized me from a show I did last spring, see, and her eyes light up as she tells me about her high school musical—how she almost didn’t audition, but in the end, it turned out to be the best eight weeks she had that year.

As an actor, I get that all the time. Not the being-recognized-on-the-street thing. That’s unusual. But when people find out I do theatre, so often I see their eyes brighten just like that lady’s, and they tell me about their third grade play, or an annual Christmas pageant, or being in the kids’ chorus of Joseph at their community theatre.

I love these stories.

I help run a children’s theatre called Compass Creative Dramatics, in Chicago, where I live, and we work with kids to create those kinds memories.

My co-founder, Cassandra Quinn, and I don’t focus on readying kids for careers in theatre, and we won’t "Make Your Child a Star." We concentrate on stretching kids creativity and bravery muscles—so they can be bold enough to raise their hands in class, or imaginative enough to problem-solve in real life. And over the course of a week-long program, we see those skills develop, and we witness those memories taking shape, so that some day, they’ll want to tell someone “I was in a play once!”

Earlier this fall, our company decided to start a campaign to collect people’s memories about participation in theatre, and how it affected them. We posted on YouTube asking for video responses, and watched the stories begin to trickle in, both through responses to our YouTube channel and through essays submitted through our email:

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KRIS Wine 'Art of Education' Contest Winners Unveiled

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Nov 13, 2012 0 comments

As you saw in a previous ARTSblog post, Brunswick Acres Elementary School in Kendall Park, NJ was very dedicated to winning the third annual "Art of Education" contest sponsored by KRIS Wine and Americans for the Arts.

Not only did this video help them jump out to an early lead, but it helped them score the top prize of $5,000 for their arts education programs:

Even more amazingly, they secured 16,000 of the 90,000 total votes in the contest!

Art teacher Suzanne Tiedemann plans to use the funds to support her recent "Shells for NJ Shores Program" for which students will create shell-themed art to raise money for those impacted by Hurricane Sandy late last month.

In addition, 15 other schools in 9 states will receive a total of $20,000.

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The #newbeans Road Show: Chicago & Minneapolis Grapple with the Rise of the Non-Subscriber

Posted by Clayton Lord, Mar 14, 2012 0 comments

Clayton Lord

For the next few weeks, I have the good fortune to be traveling with researcher Alan Brown to eight cities across the country as we present the findings from Counting New Beans: Intrinsic Impact and the Value of Art, the two year study and resulting book just published by my organization, Theatre Bay Area.

This week, we visited Chicago and Minneapolis/St. Paul and spoke to nearly 200 artists, arts administrators, and funders about the work. It was energizing, exciting work—as a field, it is clear that we are, many of us, anxious to learn how to talk more effectively and accurately about the power of the art we make, and this research, which attempts to quantify the intellectual and emotional impact of art, was provocative for many in the audiences.

In Chicago, I met an acoustic consultant named Evelyn May who believes that impact assessment (surveying your audiences about how impacted they were by your work) might be an extremely useful way to understand small but important changes you make in the physical space.

While May was particularly talking about things like rattling vents, squeaky floors, etc, I was caught up in thinking about whether you could survey audiences before and after, say, configuring your space in various ways to see what configuration was most impactful.

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Rallying Against "Most Miserable City" Rankings

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Feb 24, 2012 2 comments

Tim Mikulski

Earlier this month, Forbes released another one of its ranking lists, which I assume are only created in order to gain attention and web traffic---"America's Most Miserable Cities."

This list is one that tends to pick on the same communities that have been forced into our heads as places you don't want to live, work, go to school, etc., yet, there are residents doing all of these things in each and every one of them.

As someone who used to work in Camden, NJ, one of those cities that is constantly appearing on Forbes' similar "America's Most Dangerous Cities" list, I understand what that label can do to the residents of a community that already can't seem to catch a break.

Which leads me to the fact that Forbes declared Miami #1 on the "America's Most Miserable Cities" list. Never mind the fact the author of the main post is their sports business writer, but the fact that such a vibrant city, known for its arts and culture is #1 on that list is a bit surprising.

Well, here is the criteria they used: "We looked at 10 factors for the 200 largest metro areas and divisions in the U.S. Some are serious, like violent crime, unemployment rates, foreclosures, taxes (income and property), home prices, and political corruption. Other factors we included are less weighty, like commute times, weather, and how the area’s pro sports teams did. While sports, commuting, and weather can be considered trivial by many, they can be the determining factor in the level of misery for a significant number of people."

Very scientific.

But there's more---a number of the cities on this list also appear on the "most dangerous" list, too. Talk about kicking a community when it's down.

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Local Arts Agency - What’s in a Name?

Posted by Ms. Jennifer A. Armstrong, Dec 06, 2011 6 comments

Jennifer Armstrong

Jennifer Armstrong

Local Arts Agency -- These three words strung together cause confusion among the general public and within the arts industry.

What is a local arts agency? Even local arts agencies have asked this of me.

I receive inquiries from many discipline-specific organizations who are creating arts locally -- aren’t they local arts agencies, they wonder.

Illinois neighborhoods, villages, cities, towns, and regions are coming together and forming what could be considered local arts agencies (LAAs). However, provided with a commonly accepted definition or description, often the leaders in these efforts are reluctant to jump into that ‘box.'

Yet more and more non-LAAs seem to find a connection to LAA issues and want to join our Local Arts Network.

If I have to spend so much time explaining what an LAA is, does that label still fit?

Does it have relevance and resonance? Who falls under that nomenclature today? Is it exclusionary? Is it too wide-ranging?

Do our definitions and parameters still make sense? Does the label mean anything?

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A Network Changes Everything

Posted by Ms. Jennifer A. Armstrong, Dec 05, 2011 1 comment

Jennifer Armstrong

Jennifer Armstrong

At our statewide arts conference this year, held un-ironically in Normal, IL, our theme was The Creative Breakthrough. We wanted to acknowledge that there is no ‘normal’ to pinpoint right now, but that it will be the creative who will break through to sketch out a new normal.

The gathering was a unique opportunity for arts leaders from across the state to come together and break through old ways of thinking, spark new ideas and connections, and to leave with the affirmation that we have the power and resources to break through if we use the force within ourselves, our communities, our sector, and the creative collective.

Our keynote speaker Bruce Mau of Bruce Mau Design and Massive Change Network, posed a theory that the only way to break through the noise is to come together. His key takeaway was - a network changes everything.

According to our post-conference survey, what leaders need most in order to have more breakthroughs is a sounding board, mixing open-mindedness, and institutional knowledge. Our Illinois Local Arts Network (LAN) provides for this and more for local arts agency leaders, and it wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of two statewide institutions and a core team of Local Arts Agency (LAA) leaders.

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