Blog Posts for social change

Rising to Community Leader through a Collaborative Lens

Posted by Sara Bateman, Apr 05, 2012 1 comment

Sara Bateman

For the past year, I have been captivated by the concept of how tomorrow’s arts leaders must also serve as community leaders. Hailing temporarily from Oregon, where I have been pursuing a master’s degree in arts management that focuses on community arts, the line between arts leader and community leader is one that is quickly blurring for me.

As an emerging leader who is continually drawn to work that falls at the intersection of arts and social change, my eyes are most often focused on projects that look to address civic engagement, social justice, and community development needs.

In order to produce and promote effective programming at this intersection, I have delved into graduate courses, practicums, internships, research, and beyond to inform myself in the areas of not only arts management, but also community cultural development, arts learning policy, community arts theory, and social art practice.

Leaving Oregon with my degree in hand in just a few short months, my view on the art world has widened.

I entered the degree looking for solid skills in what I defined as arts management—the programmatic, financial, and administrative aspects—and left with much more. Becoming informed in the areas of community cultural development, community organizing, activism, and beyond have opened my eyes and abilities to effectively straddle the line between arts leader and community leader.

In being both a great arts leader and community leader, there is much knowledge needed of an individual. And sometimes, as we often feel in the nonprofit world, we can’t do it all, even though we are asked to.

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Arts Education: It's About Providing Hope

Posted by Molly O'Connor, Apr 05, 2012 0 comments

Molly O'Connor

There’s a crisis underway in Oklahoma’s public schools. Even though House Bill 1017 requires art and music as core curriculum, these programs have disappeared from too many Oklahoma schools in communities both large and small.

This is nothing new, but that fact alone ensures that any attempt to reinstate these programs faces increasingly tough challenges. Today’s generation of parents were some of the first to miss out on art and music education, and therefore, are often unaware of the benefits of arts education and what their own children are missing out on.

Interestingly enough, several community leaders in Oklahoma continue to step up in efforts to pick up where the schools are falling short. Although, in most cases, it’s about so much more than providing an arts learning experience: It’s about providing hope.

With a thirty-year history of presenting modern dance in Oklahoma, Prairie Dance Theatre has developed new outreach programs for underserved youth and struggling Oklahoma City public schools. Artistic Director Tonya Kilburn is one of the instructors who has been instrumental in implementing dance into physical education programs in the public schools.

Tonya: “Bringing dance to children in OKC is both exciting and rewarding for me as an educator and as a concerned community member. I’ve always felt very fortunate that my chosen art form is so physical, and with Oklahoma rated as the seventh most obese state in the nation, I feel very connected to the solution.”

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Making Change Outside the Office

Posted by Carlos Velázquez, Apr 05, 2012 0 comments

Carlos Velázquez

In a recent article about Chicago-based artist Eric J. Garcia, whose politically charged work he calls a “weapon to strike at injustice", he added a caveat for aspiring artists: “Oh-all of this is done on our off-time when we’re not at the day job that pays the bills.”

His words came back to me when reading the prompt to this salon, a quote from Diane Ragsdale on arts sector reform:

“If our goal..is to hold onto our marginalized position and maintain our minuscule reach—rather than…actively addressing the social inequities in our country, and reaching exponentially greater numbers of people—then…I would suggest that it may not merit the vast amounts of time, money, or enthusiasm we would require from talented staffers and artists, governments, foundations, corporations, and private individuals to achieve it.”

I am glad to know that the arts sector is not confining itself to simply holding onto its miniscule reach, and that emerging artists and arts leaders, many working in art and humanities-based nonprofits, are taking the lead.

My position is that they are using the organizational skills, social vocabularies, and leadership experience gained in nonprofit environments well beyond the scope of the workday, to be wielded as “weapons” addressing social inequalities.

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Our New Home for Animating Democracy: A 10-Minute Tour

Posted by Joanna Chin, Mar 28, 2012 0 comments

Joanna Chin

As the lead for developing Animating Democracy’s new website, I can tell you that it’s filled to the brim with incredible resources from our Arts and Social Change Mapping Initiative and Arts & Civic Engagement Impact Initiative as well as earlier publications, tools, and resources from the program’s first decade of contributions to the field.

In fact, I’d wager that if you’ve gone to the site, one of the problems is that there’s too much there! Have 10 minutes?

Let me walk you through my shortlist of the top-5 things to do on our new website:

Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and the Transformative Power of Music

Posted by Tricia Tunstall, Mar 19, 2012 6 comments

Tricia Tunstall

When was the last time The New York Times ran four major articles, including one front-page feature, on arts education?

I can’t remember the last time that happened…before a few weeks ago, when suddenly El Sistema, the vast children’s orchestra program in Venezuela, was front-page news. The program has been growing steadily for 37 years, but only recently has it become a hot topic here.

Why has El Sistema made its unlikely leap over the media’s tacit barriers to news coverage for arts education?

It’s partly because Gustavo Dudamel, the Sistema’s most famous product, has become a celebrity conductor in Los Angeles, the crucible of celebrity. In fact, the first article in the Times series last month focused on Dudamel and his star status.

But I think it’s also because El Sistema is not a strictly “arts ed” story. At the very heart of this extraordinary program is a convergence of musical and social goals—a conviction that musical excellence and social transformation can be fused in a single mission.

The real news about El Sistema is that it has given new life and hope to hundreds of thousands of Venezuela’s neediest children, by following the precept of its founder, Jose Antonio Abreu, that “if you put a violin in a child’s hands, that child will not pick up a gun.”

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Making a Collective Impact

Posted by Victoria Plettner-Saunders, Mar 13, 2012 5 comments

Victoria Plettner-Saunders

Over the last several months I’ve been hearing a lot about “collective impact.” This is the idea that social change can be more deeply rooted and successful if there is a coordinated effort to bring together dozens of organizations through a broad cross-sector approach around a shared agenda. Simply stated, by working collectively we can make a greater impact.

The Winter 2011 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review, written by Mark Kramer and John Kania, is aptly titled Collective Impact and it provides the best overview of how this movement is helping communities create meaningful reform around education, health, and welfare issues.

The assumption is that large-scale efforts require multiple stakeholders. What sets collective impact apart from other collaboratives is that the collective impact effort builds a central infrastructure, has a dedicated staff, and holds a shared agenda as well as a system of measuring outcomes. The “collective” is about many and diverse entities working together with a common goal.

A quick Google search brings up dozens of references to articles and websites that describe how collective impact efforts have supported social change.

Locally we’ve talked in some arts education circles about how we might use a collective impact approach to create a better system for educating our children. I’m always interested in arts education being at the table when discussions about education reform take place but so often, it’s not on anyone’s radar except the arts organizations that are dancing as fast as they can to provide programs in schools to fill in gaps or enhance district efforts.

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