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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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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Backyard Diplomacy: International Cultural Engagement & Local Arts Agencies (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Hannah Jacobson, Jan 11, 2012 0 comments

Hannah Jacobson

Quick -- point to Dublin, OH on a map.

How about Clinton County, MI; Douglasville, GA; or Missoula, MT? (Zero points if one of those cities is your hometown).

For those of us with a few years between elementary school geography and the present, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if these seemingly arbitrary locations elude us.

Some residents of Taiwan, however, might find Dublin as easily as they would their own hometowns. It’s a similar story for students in Shiga, Japan with Clinton County; Denmark with Douglasville; and Neckargemün, Germany with Missoula.

In Americans for the Arts’ December webinar, produced in tandem with the special report entitled Backyard Diplomacy, we found out that cultural exchange—taking various forms of art that are from, inspired by, or headed to a distinctly foreign locale—is happening every day, in cities small and large, through local arts agencies (LAAs).

The major lesson? LAAs of any size and shape can and should feel empowered to take a field trip around the world.

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Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts!

Posted by Americans for the Arts, Jan 05, 2012 10 comments

Happy New Year 2012

In 2012, Americans for the Arts resolves to invigorate political discourse and the nation by continuing to spotlight the importance of the arts in America. Artists, teachers, arts managers and professionals, lawmakers, administrators, and advocates are integral to this mission.

This election year, the urgency is growing to have political candidates and office holders understand how arts are vital to our communities. We ask that you make your own resolutions this year by responding to this question:

How can the arts energize the political dialogue in your community this election year?

Here are some insightful responses to get you thinking. Add yours in the comments below!

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Rewarding Sustained Attention (from Arts Watch)

Posted by Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Dec 14, 2011 0 comments

Merit, Aesthetic and Ethical by Marcia Muelder Eaton

“Great art rewards sustained attention.” This simple theory comes from philosopher Marcia Muelder Eaton, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota.

In my personal experience, it is true. Eaton has been considering art and writing about aesthetics for a few decades. Her early publications get to the heart of this definition but a later book, Merit, Aesthetic and Ethical (Oxford Press 2001) offers an inclusive concept of art, aesthetics, and value that is very relevant to the themes of Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change.

In that book, Eaton suggests that “formalists in the world of aesthetics ignore the roles that artworks play in the life of community and conversely, ignore the ways in which communities determine the very nature of what counts as artistic or aesthetic experiences that exist within them.” I recommend her writings in general and this book specifically.

I share Eaton’s work here because my enthusiasm for the conversation raised by Fusing Arts Culture and Social Change is not to call out the major institutions and question whether they deserve support, but rather to encourage sustained attention for small, mid-size, and community-based arts groups that are rooted in communities, neighborhoods, ethnic, and tribal traditions.

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