Artists & Planners Partner in DC: Innovating Engagement & Instigating Systems Change
A few years ago, the District of Columbia Office of Planning (DCOP) launched an ambitious local government creative placemaking initiative. DCOP designed a multi-year, multi-neighborhood effort that would build community in areas experiencing rapid change. Supported by the Kresge Foundation’s Arts and Culture Local Systems Program, “Crossing the Street: Building DC’s Inclusive Future through Creative Placemaking” used arts and culture to activate space, foster conversation, promote inclusive experiences, highlight neighborhood assets, and advance planning. What became apparent as we embarked on this journey with curators, artists, and communities was the impact that an artist-municipal framework could have: planners began to think like artists, and artists began to think like planners. We also had not fully accounted for the unique lens, approach, and connections that artists make when working in a community. There are many lessons learned from our Crossing the Street, but we will focus on two distinct areas: 1) a new way to engage community; and 2) systems change. Inherent to both areas was a single underlying facet: the role of artists-municipal partnerships.
The 10 most read ARTSblog posts of 2018
ARTSblog once again was a vibrant space for sharing and learning across all sectors of the arts field in 2018. All told, we published more than 215 blogs by authors working in public art, healthcare, government, marketing, local arts agencies, the private sector, and at Americans for the Arts, plus artists, arts educators, leaders at every stage of their careers, and many more. We hope you got your fill of your favorite topics and posts—but if you’re looking for a quick snapshot of the year that was, here are the 10 most viewed ARTSblog posts from 2018.
Business Improvement in Colorado Historic Corridor Tied to the Arts
Small business is the heartbeat of the economy—that’s certainly the case here in Lakewood, Colorado—population 155,000 in a city that occupies 44 square miles between Denver and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. We have seven large organizations with 1000+ employees, but nearly 7000 entities employ 50 or fewer. Primary employers are critical. But the math is crystal clear … small business rules the road. But as the new millennium arrived, not every part of our City’s economic engine was hitting on all cylinders. Lakewood’s 40 West Arts District is located in the oldest part of our City along West Colfax Avenue—a historic commercial corridor that is just now emerging from 30 years of economic decline, with the arts at the vanguard of its renaissance.
Room to Breathe and Grow: The Executive Leadership Forum at Sundance
I have had the honor and pleasure of attending Americans for the Arts’ Executive Leadership Forum (ELF) three times in the last eight years. Without a doubt, these experiences have provided the best leadership and professional development in my life. The ELF is an opportunity for executive directors in the arts and culture field to come together for the opportunity of deep learning, reflection, and planning, all aimed at advancing the arts at the local level. Having several days to reflect, retreat, connect, and celebrate with colleagues who “get it” is a tremendous bonus that is both restorative and empowering. The quality of content carefully prepared by the Americans for the Arts staff helps ensure that each ELF provides the enrichment and reflection necessary to equip local arts leaders in what is often a busy and demanding life. The attention to detail and advanced reading material helps set the stage for a great learning opportunity.
2018 PAN Year in Review Trends and Themes: Underrepresented History Projects
Annually, the Public Art Network (PAN) Year in Review recognizes outstanding public art projects that represent the most compelling work for the year from across the country and beyond. The projects are selected and presented by a jury of three professionals who represent different aspects of the public art field, including artists, admonitors, and other public art allies. New this year, the PAN Advisory Council curated the selected 49 selected projects for 2018 under five unique themes to broaden the exposure of the selected works on ARTSblog and social media, and to provide context to the works through national trends and themes that are impacting the field today.
Many of 2018’s selected public art projects addressed issues at the forefront of current political discourse — particularly, how history and culture has not represented race, gender, sexuality, and class with fairness. Politically and socially, the issues are playing out through the incoming U.S. House of Representatives and the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements, among others. The arts and culture field is not exempt from addressing these national challenges, as demonstrated in recent museum exhibitions focused on decolonization, through the debate on memorials and monuments, and with temporary and permanent public artworks. Of the 2018 selected PAN Year in Review projects, six uniquely addressed the issue of underrepresented histories.
Rehearsing for Civic Dialogue
Few of us are taught how to do civic dialogue. How do we develop and improve our ability to facilitate groups made up of individuals with potentially vastly different life experiences, identities, vested interests, and communication styles? Here’s one answer: Theater. When we want to literally incorporate new skills in our work, we need a body-based practice that can allow us to explore the interplay of subject matter, emotional response, social identity, and physical bodies in a physical space. That is the theater of civic engagement. And the methods of theater are learning tools that can and should be central to the training of public officials and community leaders who shape our interactions in the public sphere. Drexel University is currently working to ensure that urban planners have the skill set to facilitate civic engagement, and its Masters of Science in Urban Strategy (MSUS) program has drawn on embodied and theater-based methods as a core training methodology.
Arts Education: Next Gen Leaders and “Breaking In” to the Field
I often get questions from up and coming leaders about what it takes to “break in” to the arts education field. I can relate—I love the career path that I’ve taken and yes, arts education can feel like a specific field that no one really envisions themselves doing from a young age. I fell into the profession with no set path but a vision of wanting to do good and contribute to a more just and equitable society. While I have a background in multicultural education, and was able to eventually blend my academic training and my interest in visual arts to impact communities that do not have access to formal and experiential programs in the arts, for many like myself the path is far from being clear cut.
An Artist at the Table Means Hope for a Better World
2018 was a year of some highs, but many lows. Controversy and anger and fear still seem to swirl around us in large supply, and more often I find myself sitting at my piano, my energy source and antidote for when I am feeling low. I imagine how all of us can better convey the power of the arts as a unifying force—as a solution for our country—during these difficult times. Our need for the arts is apparent. We have needed and sought the healing and teaching power of the arts for a long time. Robert Redford once said, “I’ve long believed we could move toward solving some of our biggest problems if there were an artist at every table.” Woven through the events of this year were artists who are making a tremendous difference in communities across the country, and their diverse voices are animating conversation and giving us hope for a kinder and more compassionate world.
HundrEDs of Good Ideas for Arts Education
Imagine yourself among over 100 educators from throughout the world whose conversations are focused on innovation! Pinch me—is this real? Over and over that question entered my mind as I traveled to Helsinki, Finland to attend the Innovation Summit planned by HundrED during the first week of November of this year. It was an honor to be invited to participate in the summit. HundrED is a non-profit organization that discovers, researches, and shares inspiring innovations in K12 education, and was born from the notion that in a world becoming increasingly connected and globalized, education can still be very local and isolated in its practices. HundrED has identified 100 innovators for 2019 and highlighted their work so others can learn and apply ideas to their own work. Some of the innovators are working against all odds. But the one thing they have in common is starting with a seed of an idea and figuring out how to impact the learners in their communities.
The Importance and Impact of Planning for Public Art
There is a growing interest in public art from across the country. In the Public Art Programs Fiscal Year 2001 report, Americans for the Arts estimated 350 public art programs across the U.S. The 2017 Survey of Public Art Programs identified more than twice as many. With this growth it is important to understand the various ways public art is planned for and implemented in different communities. In this post, we provide an overview of three papers published by Americans for the Arts that speak to the diverse needs of public art programs across the country, and how local institutions are approaching the topic in innovative ways. With a focus on planning for public art from a municipal perspective, growing public art programs in small to mid-sized cities, and recognizing grassroots and folk art in rural communities, these papers show that successful public art values local context and the public art programs are as unique as each community.
Arts Marketing Trends A-Z: 2019 Edition
As we close the book on 2018 and open a new edition for 2019, the world of arts marketing and marketing in general continues its furious pace. What trends we should be keeping an eye on for the coming year?