Blog Posts for Community Engagement

Rebel with a Cause

Posted by Mr. Richard Stein, Dec 06, 2011 2 comments

Richard Stein

My first full-time job after finishing grad school was as executive director of the Oswego County Council on the Arts in upstate New York.

Three and a half years ago, I returned to arts council management after more than 25 years as a theatre producer and director, when I was appointed executive director of Arts Orange County.

I don’t know which is worse, running an arts council or running a theatre in times like these, but one thing I’m sure of: I owe my success to breaking the rules.

There are plenty of people who’ve attempted to dissuade me from that path or criticized me for failing to adhere to the conventional wisdom of the field. Conventional wisdom may have contributed to the growth of America’s arts organizations in decades past, but it sure isn’t helping them much today.

I see this every day—and not just in the reforms I’ve been instituting at Arts Orange County, but among the many constituent organizations we serve.

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Rethinking Strategies

Posted by Felix Padron, Dec 05, 2011 3 comments

Felix Padron

San Antonio is at a crossroads.

It is a city whose traditional identity has been shaped by generations of families rooted in the region and immigrants from Mexico. This identity has deep historical and cultural implications shaped by a unique set of economic and cultural dynamics; the backbone of a context that more often than not, influences most political efforts and outcomes.

Yet San Antonio is undeniably a growing city. The bulk of its population growth comes from the outside, creating a more heterogeneous cultural environment, where different and specific cultural identities are now being engaged.

The challenge becomes: Can San Antonio expand in a global economy while staying committed to an “authentic" culture?

This question is at the forefront of most discussions regarding the city's future.

It is a delicate balance for San Antonians, and it makes it difficult to reach consensus when trying to formulate strategies that allow for the cross-pollination of innovation and cultural preservation. This is certainly a challenge for local arts and cultural organizations as well.

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A Multiple Choice Test to Determine Vocational Compatibility for the Local Arts Agency Field

Posted by Ms. Aileen Alon, Dec 05, 2011 1 comment

Michael Spring

Prof(?) Michael Spring

1)    The acronym “ATFAA” stands for:

a)    Do I need to answer this in the form of a question?

b)    I do not need to know what an acronym is to work is this field.

c)    I know what OMG stands for.

d)    Americans the for AArts or Aptitude Test for Arts Administrators.

2)    A nonprofit arts organization asks for an extension to a grant submittal deadline...

a)    I tell them that the very asking of this question makes them ineligible to apply forever.

b)    I check the date and time to see if I am on vacation.

c)    I explain that while it is our policy not to do this, case law is on their side.

d)    Probably none of the above.

3)    A dancer, musician and playwright walk into a bar... 

a)    They better not be using fellowship money.

b)    The bartender says, “Okay, I’ll serve you a beer, if you can finish this joke.”

c)    This has something to do with the economic impact of the arts.

d)    Is “bar” misspelled?

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A Network Changes Everything

Posted by Ms. Jennifer A. Armstrong, Dec 05, 2011 1 comment

Jennifer Armstrong

Jennifer Armstrong

At our statewide arts conference this year, held un-ironically in Normal, IL, our theme was The Creative Breakthrough. We wanted to acknowledge that there is no ‘normal’ to pinpoint right now, but that it will be the creative who will break through to sketch out a new normal.

The gathering was a unique opportunity for arts leaders from across the state to come together and break through old ways of thinking, spark new ideas and connections, and to leave with the affirmation that we have the power and resources to break through if we use the force within ourselves, our communities, our sector, and the creative collective.

Our keynote speaker Bruce Mau of Bruce Mau Design and Massive Change Network, posed a theory that the only way to break through the noise is to come together. His key takeaway was - a network changes everything.

According to our post-conference survey, what leaders need most in order to have more breakthroughs is a sounding board, mixing open-mindedness, and institutional knowledge. Our Illinois Local Arts Network (LAN) provides for this and more for local arts agency leaders, and it wouldn’t be possible without the collaboration of two statewide institutions and a core team of Local Arts Agency (LAA) leaders.

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Posted by Ms. Erin Williams, Dec 05, 2011 0 comments

Erin Williams

Erin Williams (Photo by Paul Kapteyn)

Worcester, MA, is a New England industrial city busy reinventing itself.

Worcester is the heart of the Commonwealth; home to 180,000+ residents and 32,000 college students.

In the late 1990s a group of cultural organizations came together to create a unique coalition, in partnership with the City of Worcester, which shines a spotlight on the creative activity taking place in the region.

The Worcester Cultural Coalition is the unified voice of the cultural community. Today 72 cultural organizations (from the stately Worcester Art Museum to the feisty arts collective Fireworks) work together with creative entrepreneurs to incite a panoply of creative activity, encouraging residents and visitors alike to get engaged.

Inspired by the work of Charles Landry, an international authority on city futures and the use of culture in city revitalization, the Worcester Cultural Coalition organized a series of forums in 2005 to encourage a civic dialogue about our great city.

More than four hundred people – artists, entrepreneurs, business and civic leaders, students, and neighborhood activists – took part in many conversations led by Landry over the course of four days, which opened up a dialogue and encouraged people to express their unique vision of the city and its future direction.

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Welcome to Our First Local Arts Agency Blog Salon

Posted by Theresa Cameron, Dec 05, 2011 0 comments

Theresa Cameron

With local arts agencies facing many challenges, earlier this year Americans for the Arts conducted our second "Listening Post" survey designed to gather a collective perception about the direction of local arts funding and current trends.

Overall, our field seems to be optimistic about the future and are very resilient, but we also wanted to give folks the opportunity to talk about their communities.

As part of the Listening Post, we are launching our first very Local Arts Agency Blog Salon. For this Blog Salon, we’ve invited a sample group of bloggers representing the field as a whole.

Based on the Listening Post, we asked them to write about the following:

  • How the arts community can come together to address changing trends in arts attendance and audience engagement
  • The level of collaboration between arts organizations and non-arts community groups/agencies
  • Other trends/areas that will be important to your community in 2012 
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