Blog Posts for social change

Blog Salon Reflections: Art, Enterprise, & Equity

Posted by Ebony McKinney, Jul 29, 2011 1 comment

Ebony McKinney

“We are witnessing new practices and challenges to old assumptions.” ~ Ben Cameron during the closing keynote at this year’s Americans for the Arts Annual Convention.

A sector transformation is underway. Today’s arts administrators, activists, and cultural entrepreneurs are fashioning new routes to mission fulfillment, while contending with diminishing grant funds, demographic and technological shifts, and audience erosion. The relevance of institutions is being challenged as much of the sector experiments with new opportunities for practice and participation. The expanding definition of ‘the who, how, and where’ is evident.

The role of enterprise in this shift is of great interest to me. This fall I’ll begin a graduate program focused on how to create the infrastructure and environment needed for cultural and creative enterprise to flourish. I know for some arts and enterprise are conflicting ideas - enterprise represents the commercial, the shallow, the crude and calculated manipulation and manufacture of cultural, creative, or artistic product, but I think that enterprise can encourage resilience, flexibility, and empowerment inside and outside of institutions.

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WTF? (or in other words...Where’s the Funding?)

Posted by Naomi Natale, Jul 27, 2011 1 comment

Naomi Natale

One of the greatest challenges of creating work at the intersection of art and social justice is finding the resources — read funding — to produce it.

The reality seems to be that art funders don’t seem to have much interest in this type of work and social justice funders are looking for measureable impacts by which to gauge their investment. Those of us doing this work know that our impacts are often immeasurable and that even when they are measurable it may not be possible to see them immediately. At the same time, the impacts are undeniable. So how do we even open the door to funders without becoming professional stalkers or finding a socially conscious, art appreciating angel willing to invest?

The way I see it, the funding challenge affects this work in two key ways.

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The Visible Movement: Art That Challenges Us to Respond

Posted by Naomi Natale, Jul 25, 2011 2 comments

Naomi Natale

For me, great art works challenge a viewer’s initial perspective and enables her or him to look at something in a different way, aesthetically, culturally, possibly politically.

That may be enough. But in my own work, I want to do more. I am specifically fascinated by the relationship between art and action and how it can effectively be applied to create social impact.

Each work I make has three stages: the creation of a visual concept; sharing that concept through hands-on workshops, education, and personal interactions; and collecting the individual artworks created during that process for a resulting public installation.

My work functions at that tipping point where an individual is so moved by a visual concept that the new, challenged, or changed perspective compels him or her to action. The action is to make an artwork that supports the visual concept. And all these actions piled one on top of another transforms my visual concept into a collaborative public work.

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I Have A Problem…A Civic Engagement Problem

Posted by Danielle Brazell, Jun 21, 2011 3 comments

Danielle Brazell

I run a local arts advocacy organization in a small fishing village on the west coast that’s home to 10 million people, 88 cities, and 81 school districts in a geography that spans thousands of square miles.

Yes, my little fishing village (aka Los Angeles) is massive!

Our advocacy approach has been high-tech/high-touch advocacy approach and is focused on three critical issue areas:

•    Arts Education
•    Cultural Economy
•    Civic Engagement

Within this context, I constantly ask the question: How can we connect more people to advocate for the arts in their community? I think the answer lies somewhere between community organizing and community development.

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Circus Mojo - Part Two

Posted by Paul Miller, May 19, 2011 1 comment

Paul Miller

Circus as an industry has been incredibly exploitative.

When I joined the circus as a college drop-out in the late 1990s, the Soviet Union fell and with it, went their highest art form—the circus. Their amazing artists had no support from the government, so American circuses enticed these talented individuals to come to the United States. They were paid thousands of rubles which seemed like a lot of money but was, in fact, only about $50 per week. This is not unusual.

I’ve worked with many Russian and Asian circus teachers who can barely read or write. In 2000, I had a six-month gig in Japan with a fellow performer who could speak seven languages but his agent stole half his fee because he could not read the contract. 

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