This story is about what happens when the talents and interests of people with developmental differences are followed. In 1998 I was invited to set up an experimental art studio within a sheltered workshop in Athens, Ohio. A sheltered workshop is a day program for people with developmental disabilities that offers assembly line-like work options (capping pens, stuffing envelopes, bagging items). The work is repetitive with a clear expectation of the end product. In the back of the old factory was a 15’ x 25’ room where I was invited to set up a studio space through a grant from the Ohio Arts Council. When people were done with their work quotas they could come back to the art studio and explore. The enthusiasm and excitement that unfolded ignited something in me and I found my passion. This group was magical. They had talent, imagination, fearlessness, cooperation—everything needed to feed the creative process within a collaborative community making experience.
For Youth, By Youth: Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, and Change; or How a Youth-led Arts Conference
Over a year ago, the seeds were planted for what would become a vibrant flowering tree called Arts Amplifying Youth or AAY! for short. The leadership team spearheading Art=Opportunity, a research based arts education movement based out of Centre Artes at Cal State University San Marcos, came up with the idea to hold an arts-based youth summit for youth in San Diego. Their brilliant Executive Director Merryl Goldberg imagined a safe space where youth could express their art around important issues, which is an essential mission of Art=Opportunity. On a warm morning last October, a group of a dozen artistic teenagers came together in a small office in Little Italy with the seemingly easy-to-answer question, “How can we bring art to youth in a meaningful way?” They soon discovered that this question was not as easily answered—so they set out on their journey of event planning!
Experience a World of Art Close to Downtown Denver
Americans for the Arts recently spent a long weekend in Denver, Colorado, for our 2018 Annual Convention and were completely awed by what an artistic city it is! To that end, we wanted to give our local hosts from VISIT DENVER the chance to share more about the variety of arts & culture Denver has to offer. Read on!
A Utah Business “Not Throwin’ Away its Shot” to Help Rural Students Experience “Hamilton”
When Zions Bank was approached by the Utah Division of Arts and Museums with a request to support the Hamilton Education Program, executives knew high school students from Title I schools and rural towns spanning the state needed to be in “The Room Where It Happens.” The $16 billion-in-assets financial institution based in Salt Lake City has a significant presence and market share in rural communities; because of its statewide network of branches, it is important to the bank to help promote rural populations’ access to the artistic treasures concentrated in Salt Lake City. Through the Hamilton Education Program, nicknamed “EduHam,” producers made tickets available at a discount, which was subsidized by Zions Bank and the State of Utah through a bi-partisan appropriation. After weeks of studying a special integrated curriculum about Alexander Hamilton, the May 4, 2018 performance provided more than 2,300 students an opportunity to experience the musical in person.
Remembering to Celebrate the Victories: State Arts Action Network Members’ Advances for the Arts
First, I want to acknowledge that the past few months have been tough; it seems like anytime I refresh my web browser, there’s more bad news happening in our nation. Personally, I find some solace in the work that we as arts advocates do at the federal, state, and local levels in advancing the healing and transformative power of the arts and arts education. I think it’s important to remember the positive moments and for us to celebrate the victories that we as a field are achieving. In that spirit, I want to share with you a few stories about the current advocacy successes at the federal and state levels, spearheaded by the State Captains, State Arts Action Network (SAAN), and their states’ advocates.
Together We Rise: Convention Reflections
Whether you’re an arts advocate, creator, or funder, attending the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention, held June 14-17 in Denver, felt like a rallying call for change, and each of the keynote speakers led us with hope and honesty. Each session bravely tackled the serious issues of equity and the power of art to nourish inclusivity, embrace humanity, and grapple with the complex issues facing us today. Like so many cities, Denver has recognized that the systems of power grant privilege and access unequally in our community. The more we acknowledge this, the more we understand the pervasiveness of inequity that impacts funding, programming, arts policy, employment, and nearly every aspect of our work—bringing us closer to the opportunity to emerge into a new space.
Building Community and Making Connections in Denver
The 2018 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention was as stimulating as ever! Over the years I have attended several Americans for the Arts conferences and I am always impressed by the number and variety of attendees who gather to discuss the impact of the arts in our communities. More than 1,000 people traveled to the beautiful city of Denver to discuss the trends of equity and inclusion across all sectors, how the arts unite cities, advocacy and grantmaking, as well as the role of the arts in aging and coping with trauma. The list of topics covered seems almost endless! As an arts educator, I was interested in learning about the growing field of Creative Youth Development (CYD). The highpoint for me was hearing from the young people who attended the preconference sessions.
Presenting Historical Works of Art in the #MeToo Era
Recently, we saw a performance at the Met Opera of the classic Mozart opera Cosi Fan Tutti, restaged and mounted with a new production set in the 1950s. In the program, the director stated it was restaged so that it would be “[easier] to buy into the conceit” of the show. It was so real, in fact, that it was easy to draw comparisons to every man who has ever persistently ignored a woman’s denial and blamed rejection on the woman. So real, that when the women are literally saying they are frightened and terrified of the unwanted men sneaking into their rooms, it was easy to think of the hundreds of thousands of women who said #MeToo. As such, we began questioning the role of cultural institutions, particularly large and leading organizations to which others look for inspiration or leadership. What is their responsibility in reconciling classic works in modern times?
Americans for the Arts will continue this conversation at our upcoming Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado June 14-17, 2018, during the session “The Arts Community in the Time of the Women’s March and #MeToo.”
The Hustle—Economic Sustainability in the Arts Education Field (Part 2)
As we uncovered in our previous post, creating a sustainable living from a long-term arts education career can be difficult whether you’re a teaching artist, public school art teacher, or arts education administrator. However, we believe there is great work and inspiring advocacy being done around pay equity in our field that we want to share to inspire the new generation of arts education leaders to continue to invest in the future of our field.
Leaders in the field must stop accepting the culture of scarcity that has become our norm in the arts and education field. It is our job to stand up and ask for compensation for our time and expertise, finding value in our work and articulating it. Otherwise, when the young people we work with say they want to go into a career in the arts, we won’t have any other response than, “What’s your back-up?”
The Hustle—Economic Sustainability in the Arts Education Field (Part 1)
A short play:
Me: I want to go into the arts.
Teachers/Friends/Family: What’s your back-up?
All three of us have had this conversation in some form at various points in our lives. We did it anyways. Pay equity for race and gender have been at the forefront of many national conversations, which has led many in arts education to question our own pay structures. In this two-part blog, we explore three different points of view on how pay equity issues affect arts education professionals, whether they are teaching artists, public school arts teachers, or arts education administrators.
Great Minds See Alike
I am a Colorado native and a third-generation artist. I work in illustration, photography, jewelry, lapidary, painting, printmaking, sculpture, assemblage, and installation art. I’m also the founder of ReArranging Denver, a ten-year-old zero use self-sustaining project that has engaged over 50,000 people, connecting communities to their local business and neighboring cities through creative reuse workshops, installations, and events. I also travel to universities, libraries, art coalitions, and low income and private schools, giving living artist lectures. I always had the impression that most artists died before seeing success, so I decided to start seeing myself as a living artist sharing my secrets of success. As the Americans for the Arts staff learned more about my work, they asked me to share my story with them, with you, and with those about to join forces in Colorado at Convention.