A Conversation with Outgoing Board Chair Abel Lopez
Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to speak with Abel Lopez, outgoing Chair of the Board of Directors at Americans for the Arts. As Chair since 2013, Abel has been an instrumental part of the growth of Americans for the Arts, particularly in sustaining leadership, developing goals as part of the organization’s most recent Strategic Plan, and spearheading the Statement on Cultural Equity. In this interview, Abel talks about his history with Americans for the Arts, his experience as Chair, and his excitement for the future of Americans for the Arts and the nonprofit arts and cultural sector.
Amplifying Institutional Evolution
Nearly a year ago, two members of Trinity Repertory Company’s resident acting company proposed an idea: use the Rhode Island tradition of presenting A Christmas Carol to amplify our institution’s commitment to community engagement. They dreamed of incorporating different community groups every night, connecting our audiences to work and people they might not otherwise know. Fast-forward to now, somewhere mid-run of an unforgettable Christmas Carol. Every three days a new community group steps into a show so full of heart it bursts off the stage. The results of this work are still uncountable, and yet the reverberations are already so easy to see.
We Should All Value the Artists and Their Vital Role in Our Communities
As we celebrate the holidays, I encourage you to think of all the ways artists have helped your company, organization, place of worship, community. How have artists bettered your family and your life? Think about the artist behind the public art mural as you pass by while running errands. Take a moment to listen to caroling. Take family and friends to galleries, a live music venue, or small theater production. Let’s all support these artists and community change-makers this holiday season.
Volunteers = Impact
For those who are on the ground working directly with communities, we know our work simply cannot be done without a number of partners, including donors; local, state, and federal government; other organizational partners; and of course, the children and families themselves. I’d like to shine a light on one of Pablove’s most important constituents—our volunteers—and discuss why they are so instrumental to the work that we do in the healing arts.
Ars Populi: Art of/by/for the People
When I began teaching arts management, I remember Robert E. Gard’s The Arts in the Small Community almost leaping off the library shelf at me. His insistence on the importance of the arts to all people, and of communities to the arts, resonated with me from the moment I encountered his work. I have since discovered that as a high school student in Iowa my life was transformed by a summer program he was instrumental in supporting in Wisconsin. Many themes emerge from Gard's writing, and many of my most cherished ideas, among them the role of the “arts establishment” in this work (the need to pay attention to communities) and the role of the arts council.
Enacting Change in the Performing Arts World Begins with Changing the Conservatory Culture
Twenty-five years ago American orchestras began a conversation about what would happen to excellence in performance if orchestras broadened their missions to focus on education and community engagement. The fear, unfounded, was that excellence would be compromised. The opposite was true. Today, administrators of top performing arts organizations are begging for those of us who train artists to start training like it’s the 21st century and not the 19th. More than new skills—which is certainly part of it—this requires something more difficult: a change in the mindset of musicians. We must understand we’re all in the audience development business.
Museums and Creative Aging
In the United States, 1 in 10 adults age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. As the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will escalate rapidly. Although cultural institutions have created programs for this population for many years, how these programs are created—how educators are intentional in the works of art they select for the program, how much research and evaluation is put into a session, etc.—are growing and becoming more substantial. So, how are we doing it? And are these programs effective?
Why I support Americans for the Arts
The arts are important to me, and if you’re reading this, I bet they’re important to you too. I know you’ll agree that the arts help communities heal, learn, and grow. And that’s why I'm proud to support Americans for the Arts: because they help make it possible for arts organizations and artists in communities all over the country to do what they do better, through education, advocacy, professional development, case-making research, and more. I hope you'll join me.
Looking Back and Moving Forward—Supporting Our Veterans Through the Arts
November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.
The Arts Are Part of the Solution
To recognize the important role of the business community in advancing the arts, Americans for the Arts annually presents the BCA 10 awards celebrating ten businesses for their innovative partnerships with the arts. These businesses range in size and location but share a passion for engaging with the arts to advance their companies and communities; and from our work around the country, we know that they are not alone and that there is increased engagement from the business community in support of the arts. That is why it is not surprising to see that the 2017 edition of Giving in Numbers produced by CECP, in partnership with the Conference Board, showed an increase in arts funding from the corporate community between 2014 and 2016.
Relating to each other as whole people
Our filter bubbles and gated communities (both suburban and barbed) divide us. In this intentional division, it is our responsibility to seek that which is different, to engage with what is uncomfortable, and to soften to our own tenderness in order to grow, together, into the promise of America. This America has not yet existed but the potential is there. How, in this time of rapid and sometimes overwhelming change, can the arts alter the face and heart of America?