Blog Posts for connect

How Public Art Programs Can Join the Movement Against Police Brutality, White Supremacy, and Anti-Black Racism

Posted by Ms. Amina Cooper, Jun 10, 2020 1 comment

On May 25, 2020, Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin brutally murdered George Floyd, an unarmed Black father accused of issuing a counterfeit $20 bill, while other police officers stood by. This tragedy, following many other recent police-involved shootings of unarmed Black men and women that have been broadcasted and protested nationwide, has sparked renewed and global visibility for the Black Lives Matter movement. This most recent wave of protests has prompted a discussion within the public art field: How can public art respond to the Black Lives Matters movement? Should it? What will we do about the public artwork that is being tagged and damaged during these protests? Public art, at its best, is an authentic reflection of our times and values. Public art should reflect the community around it, and represent the hopes, lives, and aspirations of the people in that community. What we can do as public art policy makers and administrators is uplift those voices in our communities that are calling for justice and equal protection for people of color under the law. It is time to talk about the lack of diversity within our public art commissions, artist selection panels, and our public art workforce. We need to address the elitism with which we dictate to communities which artworks are acceptable, and which persons and cultures are worth affirming with monuments and beautiful objects.

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Artists as Essential Workers with and within Local Government: Models & 3 New Resources for a Creative Way Forward

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, May 29, 2020 0 comments

In early April, as the City of Boston became an escalating COVID-19 “hot spot,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s office responded with forceful measures on many fronts. In the midst of extreme circumstances, on April 3, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture (MOAC) also announced the fourth cohort of artists-in-residence in its Boston AIR program. The program pairs local artists and staff from City of Boston departments to co-design projects that test new approaches to City policies and processes and that often address the social and political context of that year. In the years ahead, municipal and county government officials face unfathomable challenges in recovery and reconstruction stemming from COVID-19. Programs such as Boston AIR and Los Angeles County's Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence have demonstrated that artists working in partnership with government are essential workers who bring creative practices and solutions to issues that municipalities face. Local arts councils and commissions often play a big role in conceiving and coordinating these programs in tandem with local government.

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How to Combat Gentrification (and Save an Arts Community)

Posted by Ms. Tracy A. Stone, May 27, 2020 0 comments

We all know that the arts can be seen as superfluous, or non-essential, especially in times of crisis or economic hardship. This was certainly the case for the small, working-class community of Elysian Valley (aka Frogtown), a mixed-use neighborhood along the Los Angeles River in the center of the city. In the middle of the last decade, residents of the area (with a mixture of Latino and Asian ancestries) co-existed uneasily with a small group of artists and craftspeople who (sometimes illegally) occupied the former manufacturing buildings lining the river. The relationship between the two groups was non-existent at best, and full of suspicion at worst. In 2006, a small group of artists, architects, and craftspeople came together to create the first Frogtown Artwalk. The event was intended to bring together and to support the creative group of individuals operating “in the shadows” of the area. The initial Artwalk, held in November, was small, underlit, and sparsely attended—nevertheless, an arts community was born.

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10 Reasons to Invest in Your Local Arts Agency During a Crisis

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, May 26, 2020 0 comments

Cities are in trouble. A new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities—The Economy and Cities: What America’s Local Leaders are Seeing—shows that effectively every city, county, and town in America is expecting a budget shortfall this year. “[The] coronavirus will have a staggering impact on municipal employment,” notes the report, with about half expecting layoffs or furloughs. Depending on population size, 50% to 75% of municipalities will cut public services—and more than half expect that to include police. With cities facing their most severe budget headwinds in generations, every sector of government can expect to be scrutinized to gauge impact on the community, including the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies (LAAs)—arts councils, arts commissions, cultural affairs departments that lead, cultivate, and support an environment in which arts and culture can thrive. They ensure vibrant and accessible arts experiences for all. LAAs are an essential tool for local leaders as they work to rebuild their economy and promote social cohesion in the wake of COVID-19. Here are 10 reasons why investing in LAAs benefits everyone.

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Spotlight on 2020 Johnson Fellowship Nominees: Celebrating How Artists Transform Communities

Posted by Ms. Pam Korza, May 19, 2020 0 comments

We need to celebrate the important work that artists do every day. They imagine creative courses to solve problems. They create welcoming spaces to exercise cultural and civil rights and to challenge the status quo. They orchestrate rituals of spiritual and emotional healing. They configure single words, movements, marks, sounds to make meaning, purpose, and full-on expressions of beauty that remind us of the most fundamental things we humans share. Especially now, as we strategize to ensure that artists are supported and integrated into COVID-19 recovery and reconstruction, we need ready stories of their unique contributions substantiated with the real impacts of their approaches. Beginning with this post, a new ARTSblog series will celebrate the 11 music artists who were the exemplary nominees for the 2020 Johnson Fellowship for Artists Transforming Communities. Vastly different in their artistry—from classical orchestral work and blues, gospel, and American roots traditions to punk rock, improvisational, and genre stretching forms—each artist in their own right is advancing community, civic, and social goals.

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Black Owned Homes as Solutions to Cultural Space

Posted by Ms. Elisheba Johnson, May 08, 2020 0 comments

Cultural space doesn’t just live in traditional retail space. Cultural space is born where culture thrives. While on the surface it seems that four artists created the Black art center Wa Na Wari, it is actually the continuation of the legacy of Frank and Goldyne Green, who were cultural space activists before there were words for this type of work. We don’t always think of our family homes as cultural spaces, but this Green home, and their other five properties, operated in this way. After the passing of Frank Green, artists Inye Wokoma, Jill Freidberg, Rachel Kessler, and I wondered what it would mean to rent it for a year as a cultural center. This social practice project was about the act of reclaiming so much of what has been lost in Seattle’s Central District. Our formerly redlined neighborhood has experienced drastic gentrification and displacement of our Black community. A neighborhood that was at one time 80% African American is now less than 10% Black. Wa Na Wari explores what it means for Black people to reclaim space in gentrified communities. Wa Na Wari is an art house and a community organizing effort. It is a model for how black homeowners can stay in their homes while also convening around black art. 

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