Here Comes Summer … Time to Get to Work!
It’s the final countdown! Students stroll down the hallways chatting about summer vacation plans, teachers eyeball stacks of books in the corner and make plans for clean-up and storage, and school leaders are wrapping up teacher evaluation cycles and planning end-of-the-year assemblies. Everyone is racing to the finish line! Now would be a terrible time for arts organizations to reach out to schools to talk about future partnerships, right? WRONG! As they wind down, we should be winding up. As you begin to brainstorm ways to connect with your local schools, here’s a quick list of tips to make the most out of their summer vacation.
How Technology Supports Becoming a More Resilient, Innovative Arts Funder
The Ohio Arts Council was an early adopter of online grants management technology back in 2005, reflecting its belief that up-to-date tools can play a big role in helping it achieve its mission. That early work was successful, and the agency’s subsequent upgrade to an online system built by SmartSimple in 2015 has now paid dividends as well, contributing to recent increases in service to OAC constituents, streamlining of panel processes and costs, and improvements in end-user satisfaction with the grant application process.
Youth Voice for Change
As youth arts programs deploy across the country every year, I have had the privilege of supporting a group of youth voices that are not often at the forefront because of their circumstances, but are at the cross section between arts, science, and health: teens living with cancer. This year, for the first time (not an exaggeration, I don’t believe there are other creative youth development programs that do this), The Pablove Foundation has developed a program—a platform for students living with cancer—to use photography to tell their story and curate a group exhibition and gallery show together. The students learned advanced photography techniques and arts healing, developed a sense of visual literacy, did peer critiques, and mostly hung out and formed community with hope that others will learn through their art and what they have to say about childhood cancer.
Let Others Lead: A Mid-Career Manifesto
As an emerging leader in my late 20s and early 30s, I was desperate for a chance to be heard. I sought out opportunities to get involved with organizations and groups that would both connect me to other people in the field and allow me chances to organize, empower, and lead others. I had ideas. I wanted to share them. And I wanted to learn in the process. As the sun set on my emerging leader status—though I’m not sure exactly when that started happening, just when it was over—I had a pretty stark shift in my attitude about leadership. I found I wasn’t hungry for it anymore—not in the same way, at least.
Change The Story. Change The Equation. Change The Game.
Throughout this Blog Salon, you’ve heard testimony from arts leaders across the country: creatives working in street symphonies and theater companies in LA; administrators building community practices in Florida and Boston; artists and curators invested in equity work from Portland to Washington, DC, and all points in between. By using this Blog Salon as a platform, the ELC is combating the dominant narrative that power in the arts exists only in the hands of a historically white, historically male, historically wealthy minority. We’re collectively organizing our experiences into a larger tapestry to change the story. Another intention: all of this year’s contributors identify as People of Color (POC). By centering experiences of POC who are artists, administrators, and experts, we’re attempting to course-correct decades of exclusion, disenfranchisement, and marginalization our communities have experienced working in the arts.
From Shy to Fly—How the Arts Developed My Self Worth
I first realized I had the power to create change through the arts in a small camp in my hometown, Rockford, IL. I was just a little girl trying to muster up the courage to get on stage and perform when I attended the Rockford Area Arts Council Camp for Young Creatives. Waiting backstage with knots in my stomach, fingernails digging into my fingertips to distract from my nerves, I reassured myself I knew all the moves. “I got this,” I thought to myself, “...but wait! What’s step one again!?” The music starts and my body takes over, making all the right decisions on time. All that was required of me was trusting my capacity to pull it off. It was before I knew what it meant to be a woman of color and the importance of representation in leadership roles, and before I could speak intelligibly about diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts.
Diversification Begins with a Theory of Change
When I finally pivoted into arts administration, inching my way closer toward being a full-time creative, I was a bit surprised to find how much the sector was struggling with issues of diversification. Over time, I suppose I had grown accustomed to an industry that had no issue tackling diversification head-on and I expected the arts, the champion of inclusion, would be the same way. I am fortunate enough to oversee two great projects at ArtsBoston which help to drive the change we desperately need in greater Boston’s arts sector. For the ArtsBoston Audience Lab, diversification (specifically audiences of color) began with a Theory of Change—a blueprint designed in collaboration with the ten participating organizations in the Lab. When organizations state that they want more “diversity” in their audiences, we ask them to think a step further.
A.W.E in Portland: Arts Workers for Equity
I work in the nonprofit arts sector in Portland, Oregon, which is 76% white despite the growing racial and ethnic diversity in the country. This whiteness was deliberately designed. In the 1800s, exclusionary laws were ratified into the Oregon constitution and the language wasn’t officially removed until 2002. This history is reflected in who lives, works, and plays here, including the demographic makeup of who runs our cultural and artistic institutions. In 2016, a group of us arts administrators came together with the evocative question: “Why are the arts so white?” A truly grassroots operation, Arts Workers for Equity (AWE) is a collective of ten individuals who represent a multitude of intersectional identities. Alone and individually, we had limited power to effect change. But collectively we’ve influenced Portland’s nonprofit arts sector, citywide.
Leaning In With the Arts
Whatever your role is in arts education, the challenges of the world and today’s issues are seeping into our work (and even our play), much more than they did even a year ago or five years ago. Each day educators interact with young people facing challenges like food insecurity, immigration, and deportation issues, social or emotional health, fear of school shootings, sexual and gender orientation, just to name a few. In addition, teachers are challenged with standards, assessments, student behaviors, media literacy, school climate, student engagement, and much more. Many of these topics are intertwined. The issues weigh on our minds. I am hopeful that the arts will help us not only get through this difficult period but make us stronger!
What does it mean to be accountable?
Several years ago, as I struggled to further define and understand my own work as an artist, my mentor and friend asked me one simple question “Are you doing healing work or just making art about something?” It took me more than two years to answer that question. Longer still to understand what she meant. Even longer to understand what it truly means to be accountable to myself, the community, those that came before, and those yet to be born. As a community-based artist, organizer, and occasional urban farmer, my creative practice is rooted in exploring and expanding methodologies that utilize art as a vehicle for dialogue, social change, and community healing. For several years, however, what I did not do: interrogate and explore the moral and ethical implications of working in community. Beyond a trendy catch-phrase, what did I mean when I said community healing?
Questioning the value of change from inside the Archives of American Art
In response to the prompt for this writing: yes, I have been at the forefront of critical changes, and I can identify the factors empowering me to do so. Those changes, centered on an inclusive understanding of what constitutes “American art,” will certainly continue to motivate my work. As I settle into my new role, however, I realize that my power to create change in the arts is rooted in a desire to encourage students and my peers to take a beat, and ask ourselves if and when we are seeking change for change’s sake. Is forward always the best direction? In my hours of conversation and archival dives, it is apparent to me every day that many of today’s issues are not unique.