Artists For The Arts: How One Voice Became a Movement
It was January 19, 2017, and news had just broken that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH) could soon be at risk of elimination. As an opera singer and creative entrepreneur, I knew how crucial arts funding was for society at large. Inaction was not an option, so that night I turned to change.org and created a petition to save the NEA. I’m not sure what I hoped would come of it, but I knew that this was an issue near and dear to my heart, and perhaps, if enough everyday Americans realized what was at stake, the community could have a fighting chance.
ART + the Verb TO BE
In many tribal cultures, there is no word for ART. The creative act is in the shape of a context, the texture of relationships, the sounds of inquiry. It is how people are, not just what they make or do...creativity and connection, ceremony and ritual, the magic of the marketplace. ART is how we ARE.
I have written a book about arts-based community development that aspires to start conversation and support listening and learning from/about each other. At that point, we bring in the action verbs: to think, fund, make, show, see, sell. Together, we consider the challenges of: reflection, documentation, and, finally, the evaluation of who and how WE are.
Empowering and Inspiring Student Voices
As a senior in high school, I will be attending my third National Arts Advocacy Day this year. For many students, the words “arts advocacy” make us feel small. Upon hearing that phrase three years ago, it sounded like something I was not old enough to know about. How can my voice matter in changing things so far above my power as a teenager? In school, we are taught to get the best education possible to become someone who can affect change, but often we aren’t told that, as kids, our opinions matter. When policy makers shape decisions about arts education, they are making decisions about us, the students. Yet for some reason, it is the students who feel as though they are out of place in a Senator’s office.
Walk It Out: The Other Side of Brand No One Talks About
Whether you’re working in a swanky downtown office with 100 employees or if you’re an independent artist working out of your momma’s kitchen—Brand. Matters.
Diversity + Inclusion = A Winning Strategy
If we’re going to talk about diversity, we also have to talk about inclusion. Diversity acknowledges and celebrates the differences we all bring to the world. Inclusion is about picking up all of those differences and putting them to work together, and using them to drive designed and desired outcomes. Diversity and inclusion are critical at Aetna, particularly when we think about our consumers—they don’t all look and think the same way. Our employees must be diverse so that our strategies and services are diverse, leading to a practice of inclusion that allows our customers to receive the support that best suits them individually.
College and Career Ready—Are We Building Vertical Pathways for Arts Students?
Preparing students who are “college and career” ready is a common goal for success for high school students across the nation’s school districts; “post-secondary readiness” is included as an indicator for school quality or student success in the Every Student Succeeds Act legislation. Our state education departments and local school districts all have working definitions and metrics for this readiness. So, how prepared are we, the arts education community, to engage in this discussion? Are we building solid college and career pathways in the arts with our higher education partners, institutions and employers? Are we engaging and supporting our families and students in understanding that the arts provide viable college and career opportunities?
Action Both Today AND Tomorrow
There are a lot of bases to cover when preparing people to be effective arts advocates—especially when those aspiring arts advocates are undergrads. This isn’t work to be done alone. We have the distinct pleasure of working together, a boomer and a member of the Oregon Trail generation preparing arts advocates of the future. We met through ArtPride New Jersey, the state arts advocacy organization and member of Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network. It was kismet. One had suffered through too many save-the-state-arts-council and save-the-NEA crises, the other through the inherent trials and tribulations of strategically navigating academia.
There’s No “I” in “Arts Advocacy”
While a presidential election season is the most intense time of political engagement for most citizens, advocates who dedicate themselves to a particular issue or set of issues know that there is seldom a defined starting or stopping point to our work. This is especially true for the arts, which encompass a wide range of policies in addition to federal funding (for example, improving the visa process for foreign guest artists to perform in the U.S., or protecting the ability of musicians to travel across international borders with instruments that contain protected species material). Happily, speaking up for the arts and our many policy concerns is easier to manage thanks to the work of coalitions such as the ad hoc Cultural Advocacy Group, which my organization—the League of American Orchestras—has been a part of for decades.
Making Space for the Arts: A Law Firm's Story of 5,475 (Nonbillable) Hours
Let’s be frank: when it comes to creativity, innovation, and the arts, the first thing that comes to mind is not a law firm. I’ve had clients half-jokingly say that law firms are where creativity goes to die. Ouch! My rejoinder is that “we are different! We work worldwide assisting our creativity and innovation clients through patent, trademark, copyright, entertainment, and technology law. We are the cool lawyers!” In 2011, we chose to honor our true selves by converting a century-old warehouse in the Film Exchange District of Oklahoma City—an area previously known as “skid row”—into our offices. Most of our colleagues blanched, but we bet that the area had the potential to be reborn.
The Curious City Challenge
I was fortunate enough to be awarded Urban Gateways’ 2017 PROPS Award for my proposal “Claire’s Curious City Challenge.” Influenced by a phrase our organization often uses, “The City as a Classroom,” I am using the funds to embark on a yearlong mission to explore the exciting and diverse programming that makes Chicago a vibrant city. I see this challenge as an opportunity to learn more about the interesting work happening in the city, for both my own interest as an active member of the Chicago arts community and for the potential it has to inform future programming and partnerships at Urban Gateways.
A State Captain’s Final Log: The Future is in Our Very Creative Hands
One of my first trips as Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) was to the small, western Maryland industrial-town of Cumberland. Known as “Queen City,” Cumberland was Maryland’s second largest city in the 19th century thanks to the three R’s: roads, rails, and rivers. Arriving, one might expect to see a typical forgotten rust-belt town. Well, not this town! Cumberland became an Arts & Entertainment District in 2002, one of Maryland’s first. The management team targeted artists looking for affordable space and great proximity to major markets. The downtown felt as vibrant as any I’d seen, and there was a provincial feeling in the air—in the best sense of the word.