Blog Posts for Social Change

Lessons from Public Funders

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Dec 13, 2011 0 comments

Barbara Schaffer Bacon

Grantmakers in the Arts asks, “What can private foundations learn from public funders who are working with marginalized communities?”

I think public support programs, some old, and some more current have a few lessons to offer. Though neither was without problems or controversy, both Roosevelt’s Federal Arts Projects in the 1930s and The Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) in the 1970s suggest that light structure can produce great results.

They provide evidence that talented artists will answer the call and can produce great works that are relevant to and reflective of the communities for which they are created. While the Federal Art Project was more prescriptive, artists had a very public platform and some latitude to create their work. The public works created and the artist’s interaction with the public is credited with stimulating national interest in American art and laying the groundwork for the National Endowment for the Arts to be established.

As a jobs (not an arts) program, CETA had a looser structure. Artists and creative administrators were deployed, often creating their own job descriptions as they went to work in neighborhoods and community centers around the country; but they found their way and many of the programs created had staying power.

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Stewardship: Culture Wars 2.0 and Placemaking

Posted by Roberto Bedoya, Dec 12, 2011 0 comments

Roberto Bedoya

I ended my previous blog post with a reference to the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants (CEG) program that I want to expand upon in the context of the democratic ideals of inclusion and stewardship.

CEG is a national model of excellence that shows the cultural sector, how through grantmaking one can address the systemic roots of inequity in society. CEG’s 19 years of service illustrates how the stewardship ethos of taking care is made real through programming strategies that serves our culturally diverse society.

This cheerleader moment for CEG is tied to the backlash being felt against the equity conversation that is heating up in our sector and the nation. CEG is a reminder of what’s possible -- that citizens can manifested their passion for equity in a cultural policy designed to serve all.

Let’s call this backlash an example of “Culture Wars 2.0.” The first Culture War of the 90s was an attack on art and artistic free speech. Cultural War 2.0 attacks are against our civil and cultural rights -- the right to be taught the works of Latino playwrights in high schools; a women’s right to control her body; the right of gays and lesbians to marry their loved one; the right to be free from racial profiling that is happening within intensity to America’s Muslim and Latino communities; the right of collective bargaining...Attacks by whom? --- The 1%, the “me and my friends” of a privatized a “we” of self-interests, the intolerants?

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The Storyline Project

Posted by Maggie Guggenheimer, Dec 09, 2011 0 comments

The Storyline Project is a great example of effective and inexpensive collaboration with valuable community outcomes.

Launched in summer 2009, the project had roots in an impromptu collaborative effort from the previous year. Charlottesville Parks & Recreation came to Piedmont Council for the Arts (PCA) for help painting a school bus to transport youth to recreation centers around town. Aware of our limited capacity, we reached out to another nonprofit, The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, for help.

Though similarly small, The Bridge had experience working with local artists on public art projects. With their expertise, PCA’s commitment to managing the project, and our shared enthusiasm for the possibilities, a new partnership was born.

Together, we coordinated a team of local artists and Parks & Rec summer camp students for the exciting challenge of painting what became known as the Fun Bus.

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Expanding Community Participation

Posted by Ms. Libby Maynard, Dec 09, 2011 0 comments

Libby Maynard

Continuing the focus on community engagement and participation in arts and culture, I’d like to share with you how we at The Ink People in Humboldt County, CA, have been practicing these principles for the last 25 years.

Our DreamMaker Program invites community members who have a vision for an arts and culture project or see a need in their community that can be addressed through such a project, to partner with us.

Sometimes I think of us as the center of a broad web, supporting and nurturing community-initiated visions. We are not a fiscal receiver. The board of directors decides whether or not to adopt each project as a full-fledged part of The Ink People, with full nonprofit benefits and stakes our reputation on each one.

In addition to this, we give administrative support and intensive mentoring to each project, as well as offering a series of Mini Nonprofit “MBA” classes. The classes are designed only to give project leaders an idea of what they don’t know, so they can ask the right questions to have the best chance at success.

Generally, a project follows one of four paths. It may be short term, with limited and well defined goals and outcomes, such as the publication of a book about Japanese Senryu poetry by the artist’s grandmother, with illustrations by the artist, and a series of workshops on writing Senryu poetry.

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Posted by Erin Williams, Dec 05, 2011 0 comments

Erin Williams

Erin Williams (Photo by Paul Kapteyn)

Worcester, MA, is a New England industrial city busy reinventing itself.

Worcester is the heart of the Commonwealth; home to 180,000+ residents and 32,000 college students.

In the late 1990s a group of cultural organizations came together to create a unique coalition, in partnership with the City of Worcester, which shines a spotlight on the creative activity taking place in the region.

The Worcester Cultural Coalition is the unified voice of the cultural community. Today 72 cultural organizations (from the stately Worcester Art Museum to the feisty arts collective Fireworks) work together with creative entrepreneurs to incite a panoply of creative activity, encouraging residents and visitors alike to get engaged.

Inspired by the work of Charles Landry, an international authority on city futures and the use of culture in city revitalization, the Worcester Cultural Coalition organized a series of forums in 2005 to encourage a civic dialogue about our great city.

More than four hundred people – artists, entrepreneurs, business and civic leaders, students, and neighborhood activists – took part in many conversations led by Landry over the course of four days, which opened up a dialogue and encouraged people to express their unique vision of the city and its future direction.

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Back to the Future (Part 2)

Posted by Erik Takeshita, Dec 02, 2011 0 comments

Erik Takeshita

The deeper the roots, the stronger we are. 

I have a print in my office made by a teen from The Point Community Development Corporation with this on it. I couldn’t agree more. We need to know where we came from to get where we wanted to go. This is true for individuals, organizations, and communities.

On November 16, Minneapolis-based Bedlam Theatre had 24 hours of live, web-streamed programming for "Give to the Max Day" including a panel discussion on “Placemaking? Arts Bubble or Dawning of a New Age?”

While I enjoyed participating in the conversation with Bedlam, Anne Gadwa from Metris Arts Consulting, and my colleagues from the Irrigate project (an artist-led creative placemaking initiative in St. Paul that received one of the initial ArtPlace grant awards in September), I am not sure we are asking the right question.

What I mean is I think placemaking is neither an “arts bubble” nor the “dawning of a new age,” but rather something that human beings have always done. We are always striving to make the places we inhabit more livable, attractive, and vibrant.

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