Blog Posts for Social Change

Emerging Ideas: Mobilizing Your Community through Innovation

Posted by Gabriela Jirasek, Nov 22, 2011 0 comments

Gabriela Jirasek

This post is part of a series on emerging trends and notable lessons from the field, as reported by members of the Americans for the Arts Emerging Leaders Council. It’s not just the Angelina Jolies and Brad Pitts of the world who fall victim to the ruthless 24-hour news cycle. The public’s hunger for uncomplicated, easily digestible news can slander celebrities and entire cities alike. On January 11, 2011, Newsweek magazine published a now infamous article titled “America’s Dying Cities.” It crunched U..S census data to list the top-10 cities with 100,000 residents or more that experienced the steepest population decline in the country. Number 10 on that list was Grand Rapids, MI. But the residents of Grand Rapids were about to prove that the reports of their city’s death were greatly exaggerated. In answer to the article, lifelong Grand Rapids residents and filmmakers Rob Bliss and Scott Erickson created perhaps the greatest letter to the editor of all time,  a 10-minute lip dub music video of Don McClean’s “American Pie” featuring a cast of thousands and a full tour of downtown Grand Rapids. Responding to the city’s premature death knell, director and executive producer explained, “We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean's ‘American Pie,’ a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope.

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Developing Community through an Integrated Arts Approach

Posted by Jim Sparrow, Nov 16, 2011 0 comments

Jim Sparrow

Some of the greatest growth in formal arts institutions has taken place in the last 40 years. Why?

As we look at budget growth, sustainability, and growing gaps in earned revenue vs. contributed, was something flawed in this growth?

The Rockefeller Institute report on the performing arts from 1961 identified trends that sound eerily familiar today. Decreasing audience and demand, continued struggles with aging infrastructure, need for increased revenue, and new earned income were all outlined.

Ironically many of the traditional arts organizations used as baseline examples in 1961, had guaranteed weeks and production schedules that were much less then they are today. There were no 52-week orchestras nor were there guaranteed contracts, production or administrative staffing at levels that are even close to today -- even with adjustments for today’s inflation.

So why have we grown in many cases without apparent demand, but in spite of it?

The recommendations from that report advised focus in key areas, growing access and infrastructure to build appreciation and understanding and using foundations such as the Ford Foundation for growth as part of a Great Society vision for the arts.

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Is Photography Dead?

Posted by Joanna Chin, Nov 11, 2011 0 comments

Joanna Chin

I just returned from a FotoWeekDC lecture at the Corcoran Museum by photographer, Trevor Paglen where he began his talk with this question. The answer is no; however, the crucial point of his talk was about the necessity of broadening our definition of what photography is at this particular point in time.

So, is art dead?

In my opening post for the salon, I said that the arts and culture have always had a place in this work of creating a sense of place, strengthening civic participation, and bolstering positive social change. I refrained from suggesting exactly what arts and culture looks, sounds, and feels like; yet, the overarching thread of blogs throughout this salon have alluded to a broadened definition of the arts as something beyond just a physical object constrained to a physical space.

Our bloggers shared a diversity of opinions and perspective, but two of my big take-aways from the salon overall were:

1.    It’s all about time (not just place): The making of a place isn’t just about the physical space, but also the cultural and social space that continues to develop and change over time. The most vibrant places are those where the process of creation, storytelling, activation, and use becomes woven into the changing fabric of the place.  Part of the key to the future is bridging the past/existing conditions with the present, which is typified by inter-generational work.

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Community Engagement & College Degrees: Building the Next Generation of Arts Leaders

Posted by Sara Bateman, Sep 23, 2011 2 comments

Sara Bateman

Lately, it seems that every conference I attend, classroom I enter, or art forum I participate in is fixated on the notion of transforming those in the arts field from just merely that of an artist or an administrator to that of a community leader.

While the arts have been recognized for over two decades as a way to revitalize our neighborhoods, it seems like now more than ever before people are reaching out as a way to ignite community engagement and inspire change. But if we are to depend more and more on the arts as a way to transform not only the structural but the psyche of our communities, if we are to elevate from simply artist to organizer, how do we train the next generation who will be stepping into these roles?

Colleges worldwide have the answer through a new breed of degree being offered behind the walls of academia. Or I should say, outside. Breaking artists out of the solo studio experience, placing administrators in the community, and creating programming that reaches beyond the college boundary, colleges are offering an educational experience that focuses on engagement and activism through the arts.

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Civic Engagement in the Arts…In Action (Part 2)

Posted by Maya Kumazawa, Sep 23, 2011 0 comments

Maya Kumazawa

For the last two posts in a series on how the arts can foster community engagement, I interviewed Sara Potler, founder and CEO of Dance 4 Peace (D4P), a global peace education and civic engagement nonprofit that engages young people through dance and creative movement. Sara shared with me her perspectives on the arts, civic dialogue, and sparking social change through dance. You can read the first half of our interview on yesterday's post. Her are my final questions for her:

Q (Maya): How do you measure impact / what has been the impact so far?

A (Sara): At Dance 4 Peace, it has certainly been a fun challenge to measure how our program is creating peace in classrooms and communities. To measure our impact, we have thought long and hard about our vision of peace and broken this down into specific areas, such as anger management, physical violence, and appreciation of diversity. Using surveys and coded observations, we have been able to demonstrate real change as a result of our programming.

To date, our evaluations have shown that students who participate in Dance 4 Peace are less likely to choose physical or verbal violence when angry. On the flip side, they are 15% more likely to listen to others, 30% more likely to enjoy working in groups, and 25% more willing to try new things. In several schools, pre- and post- evaluations showed a dramatic decrease in tendencies toward physical and verbal violence. One school in DC, for instance, when given a case study of an NBA player punching a fan, 32% more students said this was not okay in the post-test than the pre-test.

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