“A Future Out of My Hands”
The High Museum of Art believes in the power of teens’ voices. This past summer, the High had a group of 16 teens from the metro Atlanta area who learned the ins and outs of the museum, and who worked with local artists, dancers, choreographers, and writers to create programs. The Teen Team is a dynamic group of rising juniors and seniors who help create and host public programs at the High, including the teen-only Teen Night and monthly free admission day, Second Sundays. The Teen Team program is a paid, year-round commitment, and the teens are considered Museum employees. They explore the Museum’s collection and special exhibitions, meet museum staff, local artists, and get the inside scoop on museum careers through hands-on experience. This blog is written by Teen Team members and is a reflection of the political and social context in which they are growing up.
Crowdfunding in Public Art
In recent years, there has been an increase in smaller scale, temporary public art projects that encourage community participation and conversation. This is an exciting moment as community members are taking the initiative to create public art that fosters a sense of ownership and pride in their neighborhoods. As the interest in localized public art grows, the individual artists and communities who pioneer these projects are looking for new ways to fund their art. Crowdfunding, a grassroots method of funding a project through raising many small amounts of money from a larger number of people, typically via the Internet, has grown in prominence as a way to pool resources towards a project. In the recently published paper “Crowdfunding in Public Art,” I explored the ways crowdfunding has been used to implement public art, and I’ve been inspired by what I’ve seen.
Winter Wonderings in Arts Education
As arts educators, we should always try to dream big. We don’t need a Broadway budget to create good educational theatre. What we need are dedicated arts educators who are passionate about the message of the production and how it can be a transformative experience for young people. So many students often tell us that this may be the first play they have ever seen and how powerful the storytelling experience was for them. Rain, sleet, or snow, like the post office, we always deliver an authentic theatre experience; no matter where we go or how we get there, the rewards are always worth the effort.
Good Tidings from SAAN
Much has happened since last I wrote, including the 2018 Midterm Elections, in which: Over 113 million citizens nationwide turned out to vote; a record-breaking total of 107 women were elected to serve in Congress; Democrats now control the U.S. House and Republicans retain hold of the U.S. Senate; key congressional arts supporters like Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) on the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee and Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) on Ways and Means Committee will be the new chairs; at the state level, there will be 19 new governors, 27 new state legislative leaders, and 1,700 new state legislators—resulting in a 23% turnover; and more than 2,000 women will serve in state legislatures in their upcoming sessions and will hold the majority in two state legislative chambers—the Colorado House and Nevada Assembly. On top of getting out the vote for this year’s midterms, State Arts Action Network leaders had noteworthy advocacy gains in their communities.
Artists Transforming Local Government: Creative Strategies Toward Racial Justice
A few years ago, the City of Seattle Race and Social Justice Initiative Team started looking more closely at how the individualist, perfectionist, paternalistic, and compartmentalizing culture of white supremacy within ourselves and across the institution got in the way of the progress toward racial equity that we were making with trainings, policy tools, and interdepartmental organizing structures. We began to develop a strategy to shift that culture. We adopted the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond Anti-Racist Principles as our guideposts. We developed trainings to begin to understand and heal from the dehumanizing impacts of internalized racial inferiority and superiority. And we began working to de-center ego and lift up spirit, collective action and the belief that no one is disposable. We started getting real about practicing grace for ourselves and for each other. Cultivating creativity in our work has become a central piece of this strategy.
Move Well with Communities
When we think of health and wellness, we think about the mind, body and spirit. We imagine wholeness. … Why? Because every day, we have the opportunity to make conscious decisions about what we allow into our bodies. This includes not only what we eat, drink, watch, and listen to, but also our thoughts. To us at heidi duckler dance (HDD), wellness is how we realize our self image, and as artists, it is the overall practice we promote in our daily lives. HDD transforms non-traditional spaces, provides learning opportunities by engaging diverse communities, and promotes the concept that the arts can change our vision of the world and of ourselves. Through working with HDD’s Artistic Director, Heidi Duckler, I have had the pleasure of seeing firsthand the power of utilizing all types of venues while simultaneously using arts from across different disciplines to uncover powerful stories. This process has allowed me to see how I, as an artist and an administrator, can incorporate wellness into our work.
Who Are the Naturally Occurring Artists in Your Municipal Agency?
The first time I tried to get a job as an artist in government, I failed. I was recruited for a position focused on community engagement, visioning, and imagination. The hiring agency was excited by my artwork, and sought me out for the skills I’d honed through social practice. But as we negotiated the terms of my position and I asked that my title be “artist,” I quickly got shot down. To call this work “art” would somehow make it harder for it to be taken seriously by other stakeholders. Plus, my colleagues feared, they were already seen as “soft” for their focus on community engagement, and would be further ostracized from the real decision-making work of the agency. I could do the work however I wanted, they said, but I couldn’t call it art. The second time I tried to get a job as an artist in government, I kept my artist identity to myself.
Creative Strategist Initiative: Embedding Artist in the Bureaucracy
This summer the LA County Arts Commission (LACAC) kicked off the artist-in-residence Creative Strategist Initiative. One of seven recommendations from the Cultural Equity & Inclusion Initiative that were funded by the LA County Board of Supervisors in 2017, the AIR Creative Strategist Initiative places individuals with artistic expertise in County departments to assist in the implementation of special County projects. Creative Strategists are placed as artists in residence (CS-AIR) for a minimum of 12 months, and work alongside department staff. Together, the department and CS-AIR collaborate with project partners and community stakeholders to effect change and impact a specific project or initiative. The Arts Commission implemented extensive field research and months of conversations with these departments to prepare for artist placement, uncovering critical lessons through the process.
Real Change Requires a Dismantling of Old Norms
Many arts organizations approach change efforts this way: they operate on the surface with small adjustments to tactics or processes and encounter some of the same self-defeating results. In my career, I’ve observed this reality emerge among many different types of arts organizations. Maybe an organization is trying to improve their operations, or prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion, or consider how/if they can ensure that their impact is aligned with their mission, or effect systemic change. The common theme in most of these change efforts is that tactical strategies don’t yield transformational and sustainable results. So how do we do it? First, it’s important to examine what is at the core of the issues. We do this only after committing to a process that’s built on shared agreements, that prioritizes intellectual curiosity, trust, patience, compassion, and transparency. It’s work that doesn’t happen overnight, because our issues and/or challenges don’t happen overnight.
Visionary Artist + Judge + Local Arts Agency = Partnership for Restorative Justice
The purpose of the Restorative Justice + the Arts program is to enable artists and arts organizations to provide dynamic program opportunities for youth and families who have interacted with the criminal justice system. Our aim is to equip teaching artists with the tools they need to bolster their practice in ways that lead youth toward productivity, resiliency, and well-being. In FY 2018, the artists have been able to serve 424 youth who have been incarcerated, had other involvement with the court, or who are deemed at-risk due to poverty, school attendance, neighborhood crime, poor school performance, or living in an area where fresh food is scarce. Through this program, Metro Arts is able to live more fully into its theory of change and recently adopted cultural equity statement: that the arts are a tool to create opportunities for citizens to deepen their arts participation, foster vibrant neighborhoods, and cultivate a strong creative workforce.
Relevance, Diversity, and Progress in the Arts
When you look at the arts sector more broadly, it is clear women have gradually come into more leadership positions. Although art history departments and museums were male-dominated for centuries, recent data show that we’re finally turning a corner. Nevertheless, there is a stubborn gender imbalance at the helms of the largest museums. And barriers for women of color—or men of color for that matter—are even higher. Having seen as much change in my field as I have since 2000, I am both heartened and worried. As a society we have made progress on the recognition and remediation of gender inequality, and the persistence of racism as a driver of inequality has come into clearer view. In philanthropy we are becoming better at rewarding leadership in these arenas—often belatedly. But we also see that social progress can engender apathy and even resistance. There is far more to do for the arts and museum sector to become truly representative, equitable, and inclusive, and thus the most excellent it can be for our country. For all of us in the practice, study, and philanthropy of the arts, this is a great calling.