Around the horn: diversity edition


  • The Future of Music Coalition’s Casey Rae recaps current policy on orphan works (i.e., creations under copyright but whose owners no longer exist), and outlines a solution that protects the original author/performer in such cases. Casey’s post has instructions if you want to file supporting or additional comments with the Copyright Office.
  • With all the headline grabs about cuts to public funding, we don’t hear enough about the politicians that really do support the arts, who often do so behind the scenes. Guy Yedwab shares some observations from a speech by outgoing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who is now running for city Comptroller.
  • California is changing some of its rules for fiscal sponsors.
  • Kaid Benfield writes on the increasingly unchecked, government-like powers of local homeowners’ associations.
  • Rocco Landesman writes a postcard from retirement; Doug Borwick reflects on his tenure at the NEA.
  • I realized last week, to my embarrassment, that the NEA’s official Art Works blog had not been showing up in my Google Reader feed since this past August. This happens sometimes when content providers move to a new platform and change their feed URL – there’s no way for subscribers to know unless you put up a notice on the old feed telling them to resubscribe at the new address. We’ve seen this at ArtsJournal as well as the blogs there have slowly migrated from Moveable Type to their new WordPress platform. If you’re subscribed to any of these blogs in Google Reader, check to make sure you’re still getting updates! I keep a list of such feed changes at my blogroll. Anyway, here are some of the fun pieces at Art Works that I missed over the past few months because of this:
    • Steven Shewfelt and Ellen Grantham describe a new pilot initiative to assess the artistic excellence of activities funded by the NEA, after the fact.
    • Elizabeth Miller interviews Rachel Cain and Anthony Radich about WESTAF’s Public Art Archive software.
    • Sunil Iyengar analyzes the new SNAAP report, “Painting with Broader Strokes,” and another report from the National Center for Education Statistics. (Would be nice to have links to those in the post…)
    • An interview with NEA Acting Chair Joan Shigekawa. Here’s a previous interview with Deepa Gupta, who serves on the National Council of the Arts and was formerly an arts program officer with the MacArthur Foundation.
    • Rich Heeman describes the NEA’s recent efforts at improving data collection and transparency practices.
    • Shewfelt reflects on creativity in arts research, the NEA’s arts research grants program, and arts-related changes to the General Social Survey.
    • Julie Heizer shares an update on the federal government’s national tourism and marking strategy, and details how arts organizations can get involved.


  • Michael Kaiser announces his planned departure as head of the Kennedy Center. No word on what’s next for him.
  • Four dance companies in Chicago are coming together to share marketing and customer service responsibilities. I’m not sure if the model is as unusual as they seem to think it is, but it’s still one to watch for those interested in shared services as a cure for the 501(c)(3) blues.


  • The perspectives on race and the arts continue to roll in, with responses from Jon Silpayanamant, Linda EssigDoug Borwick, and this particularly trenchant one from Trevor O’Donnell (I’d love to get him and Borwick in a room together!). Another lens on this whole thing is a geographic one; a lot of the initial discussion came from people on the West Coast, and the rhetoric in the Clayton Lord post that I originally responded to, arguing that institutions had a moral responsibility to have audiences that looked like their local communities, struck me as very California way of looking at the issue. For better or worse, the powers that be in the East have largely not been pressuring arts nonprofits to diversify with the same ferocity, seemingly for worse in this particular case.
  • Oh, and in case anyone was under the illusion that this was only an issue in the United States: “Salvador, with a welcoming Atlantic harbor, was the first capital of Brazil. From the 16th to the 19th centuries, until Brazil ended slavery in 1888, it was the largest port in the New World for the slave trade, and 80 percent of the city’s current population is Afro-Brazilian….African-rooted rhythms propel much of Brazilian popular music. Yet the prime-time face of carnaval is almost entirely white.”
  • Seth Godin on the NFL vs. the arts (a subject that came up in other forums as well): “The new media giants of our age (Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.) don’t point everyone to one bit of content, don’t trade in mass. Instead, they splinter, connecting many to many, not many to one. The cultural touchstones we’re building today are…mostly not for everyone. Instead, the process is Tribes -> Connections/communities -> Diverse impact….[W]e build our lives around cultural pockets, not cultural mass. Our job as marketers and leaders is to create vibrant pockets, not to hunt for mass.”
  • Chad Bauman on the formula for subscription success: “great artistic product + best seats + best price + outstanding customer service = more subscribers.”
  • What exactly is the dividing line between respecting your audience’s taste and shameless pandering?” Adam Huttler considers by examining the case of Netflix’s new show House of Cards, which represents a $100 million bet on algorithmically-determined original programming.


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Winter public arts funding update

Continuing a recent trend, the news from abroad is much more interesting than what’s happening here at home. Below, the round-up:


Beyond the official departure of Rocco, it’s been a slow news season at the federal level for the arts. One series of developments, however, has involved the Internet Radio Fairness Act, or IRFA. If you listen to Pandora (as I do), you might have heard advertisements in the fall urging action on this bill, which would lower what Pandora claims are high rates it has to pay to rightsholders in order to broadcast their music. Trouble is, the royalties that artists actually receive from Pandora and other streaming services are already extremely shitty, so as you can imagine artists aren’t a huge fan of this one. After a hearing that didn’t go well for IRFA, the bill is shelved for now – but may be re-introduced under a new name this year.


Appropriations season has begun for state arts councils, and we are getting an early look into how things might go this spring through the stories that are developing now. Overall, there’s some of the usual attempts to cut budgets, but they don’t seem to have the same teeth as in previous years. Two years after Kansas temporarily zeroed out the budget for its arts council, a proposal to gradually eliminate funding for the state arts council in neighboring Oklahoma is thankfully dead in the water. In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley is trying to mess with the state arts commission yet again, though she has given up on doing away with the agency’s grant budget and only wants to get rid of its staffing (how she expects the grants to get awarded without a staff is anyone’s guess). And the California Arts Council is set to lose about $160,000 per year it was getting from donations via California taxpayers’ tax returns.

Meanwhile, as we know, states support the arts through other means besides direct funding. For years, many states have offered tax credit to lure film studios; now, several are trying to do the same with Broadway productions. Illinois passed a law just over a year ago allowing shows such as the Cyndi Lauper musical “Kinky Boots” to receive a tax credit for previewing in the state before hitting New York. Louisiana and Rhode Island have similar legislation on the books. Now Massachusetts wants in on the act as well, though Jeff Jacoby sees trouble down that road.

On the local front, after a millage (property tax) measure to support public art in Ann Arbor failed in November, the city council has voted to suspend the existing public art program so that it can be retooled, hopefully to allow more flexibility in how the funds are spent. At Oregon Arts Watch, Barry Johnson gives an incredibly in-depth account of how Portland’s more successful ballot initiative came to pass (literally) – a must-read for anyone involved in arts advocacy. And ticket sellers take note: Maryland’s highest court has ruled that Ticketmaster’s annoying service fees amount to scalping – in violation of a Baltimore ordinance outlawing the sale of tickets above their face value.


Great news coming from Toronto, as a billboard tax that advocates have long sought is now going to be diverted toward the city’s arts funding. The tax will eventually bring in $22.5 million per year, boosting the city’s cultural budget by nearly 50% over current levels. It probably doesn’t hurt that arts funding enjoys overwhelming support in Canada, with 87% of respondents to a recent poll saying that government should place a “moderate amount” to a “great deal” of importance on the arts.

Over in merry England, though, things remain chaotic. Arts Council England’s budget will fall £11.6 million between now and 2015, on top of much more drastic cuts enacted in 2010. Meanwhile, multiple cultural leaders in the UK are under fire from the arts community there, including British Culture Secretary Maria Miller. A backlash against the policies of Creative Scotland got so bad that its head, Andrew Dixon, resigned in disgrace. Through it all, England’s cities are facing crushing budget crises: Somerset has already cut its entire culture budget and Westminster is threatening to do the same. The biggest city to contemplate 100% cuts to arts funding was Newcastle, but shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has stepped in at the 11th hour to prevent that from happening.

Further afield on the Continent, the Netherlands’ arts scene is reeling from budget cuts totaling €470 million, a huge amount for this tiny country. According to the article, “about 40 of the 120 cultural arts organizations in the country became ineligible for federal grants this year. Some of them have been able to secure financing from other sources, but at least two dozen had to fold at the beginning of the year.” Head-scratching policies include a rule that no more than one dance company can be supported per city, leading to the closure of the country’s premier modern dance group, Dansgroep Amsterdam. But hey, at least a tattooed composer and performing arts professor ran fifth in the presidential election of the country that brought you Vaclav Havel!

Recently, Brazil made headlines by promoting a new government policy that gives workers earning up to five times the minimum wage the equivalent of $25 a month to spend on cultural purchases. Ninety percent of the bill is footed by the employer, with the remaining 10% coming out of the worker’s pocket, so it’s like one of those Groupons where you pay $2.50 for a $25 gift card. (The employer expenses are offset 1:1 by tax credits, so it’s still effectively a government subsidy.) The workers really do get a card, which is controlled so that it can only be spent on cultural purchases. Joe Patti wonders why something like this couldn’t work in the United States, although Maria Vlachou isn’t convinced the measure is solving the right problem. For my part, the idea reminds me of my old proposal for income-sensitive tickets (that I think is perhaps worth a revisit).

Finally, we’d written previously about the ongoing tragedy in Mali as Islamist militants took over much of the northern part of the country, threatening artists and destroying cultural heritage sites. Thanks to France’s military intervention, the rebels were driven out of the ancient city of Timbuktu last month, but not before they set fire to two libraries containing thousands of manuscripts from medieval times. The materials presumed destroyed include an ancient history of West Africa and texts on astronomy, poetry and medicine dating back to 1204. There are lots of items that survived the conflict because they were hidden away from the rebels, but it’s still a terrible loss. Meanwhile,  UNESCO has announced that it will help to rebuild Timbuktu’s destroyed mausoleums using local mud-based materials and the buildings’ original plans.

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Why aren’t there more butts of color in these seats?

Recently, Clayton Lord has been fomenting lots of discussion about race and audiences on his blog, New Beans. Diane Ragsdale has much to say in response, bringing in a recent Nina Simon post about the Irvine Foundation’s Exploring Engagement Fund (which has racial undertones but is not solely about diversifying audiences). Most recently, Barry Hessenius dove into the fray with this post from over the weekend.

There are so many threads to the discussion that it’s easy to get lost. But the core of it comes down to this: do arts organizations whose audience is mostly white have an inherent obligation to diversify their audiences? In his post, Clay writes the following:

[A]s I continue to evaluate data for this forthcoming paper on the diversity of Bay Area theatre, I have been struck strongly by the homogeneity of the cohort, particularly when it comes to race.  It should be said that among the 25 companies I am looking at there are no truly culturally-specific theatres (because they had insufficient information in the various data banks from which I pulled to take part), but it should also be said that these companies do represent a strong cross-section of the type of work, structures, and sizes that make up the majority of the nonprofit theatre system.  [....] There is basically no difference in the level of diversity among the theatres’ audiences across counties at all, even in the counties where the actual total populations are majority-minority….On average, these twenty-five companies have audiences that are over 80% white in one of the most diverse regions in the country.


A mission is a driving principle, not a shield….A mission should not allow a company to opt out of serving a wide array of people unless the mission is to only serve a narrow range of people–which is, to point it out, decidedly not the mission of any of the twenty-five organizations in the study.

The art we make is local.  It is place-based, which means it is community-based, whether we want it to be or not….Fundamentally, a graph like the one above, where our theatre culture is just a large white smear across a canvas of many different varying shades of beige, is wrong, and is exactly reflective of the endemic problems of our field.

I’ve heard and read a lot of similar rhetoric in the past, and there’s something about the way these discussions are often framed that bothers me. Recently in a comment to Clay’s post I was able to put my finger on it: the urgent call for “white” organizations to diversify audiences, and the provision of funding to help that process along, strikes me as weirdly paternalistic toward people of color. Here’s (most of) what I wrote:

Is it “wrong” for an individual theater to have a mostly white audience, if its mission is broad and its community diverse? You declare it to be so, in no uncertain terms. But I’m not so sure. I think we have to accept that certain genres and artistic traditions, for all sorts of reasons having to do with social history and notions of community identity, are going to resonate more for certain cultural groups than others. And since “educated white people in the United States” is a cultural group, albeit a privileged one, by nature there are going to be types of programming that appeal more to this audience than they do to others.

Sure, we could invest lots of energy and hand-wringing in trying to change patterns of cultural participation, but I question what that ultimately accomplishes. It seems to me it’s really just moving around preferences in some kind of shell game for no real purpose other than to sustain specific institutions like those 25 companies in Clay’s post.

The real question is whether people feel like they have opportunities to lead an expressive life at a level that feels appropriate and in contexts that are meaningful to them. Just diversifying a theater audience isn’t necessarily going to do that, especially if in doing so you’re reducing opportunities for that theater’s former audience.

We have to remember that institutions can’t change the composition of their audiences single-handedly. They can modify their programming and marketing strategies all they want, but at the end of the day, it’s still up to individual people of color to decide whether that institution is worth their time or not. If there exists a theater that is of, by, and for a particular nonwhite community, why wouldn’t we focus on building up that theater’s capacity and reach instead? To make the value judgment that the current picture of theater attendance is “wrong” inadvertently calls into question, I fear, the validity of the existing aesthetic choices and preferences of people of color.

I should note that I haven’t yet touched upon money. That’s where the moral dimension of diversity in the arts comes into play. Is it right that a theater mostly serving a white audience can raise $30 million for a capital campaign while a theater with a substantially nonwhite audience struggles to get a $10,000 grant? Well, that’s another story. But we have to remember that there are plenty of mostly-white-serving arts organizations in the “have not” category as well. I think it’s easier to change patterns of cultural subsidy than it is to change patterns of cultural participation. (Not that it’s easy to change either!) It’s great to see a mainstream institution’s audience reflect its community, but in order to ensure real equity, our discussion of this issue must be person-centric (what are the opportunities for an expressive life available to this person?) rather than institution-centric (why aren’t there more butts of color in these seats?).

That last line does a good job of getting at my discomfort with the carrot-and-stick approach to addressing diversity. I worry that strong funder incentives to racially diversify audiences inadvertently encourage institutions to value people of color for their skin rather than for what’s underneath, and reinforce visible markers of diversity (which, God knows, don’t need any reinforcement) at the expense of no less important measures of the same. Worse, in designating certain arts organizations as “white” and others as “diverse,” we completely dismiss and devalue the inevitably nonzero proportion of nonwhites who do patronize and enjoy these “white” institutions. In my more subversive moments, I sometimes wonder if some of the motivation behind the drive to diversify audiences for traditionally European art forms comes from a place of wanting to assimilate people of color so that we can all be one, big, happy family – on white people’s terms.

But this is all speculation on my part; I can only tell one side of the story. In fact, one thing that I have a hard time ignoring is that virtually all of the recent discussion about race, audiences, and funding in this particular corner of the blogosphere is happening among well-meaning white liberals who just can’t help themselves from occupying public space with their opinions (myself included). (When I dared to point this out on Twitter, the ensuing defensiveness was kind of hilarious.) Luckily, it just so happens that we’re less than a week out from SphinxCon, the inaugural convening on diversity in the performing arts organized by the Sphinx Organization, a Detroit-based group that aims to develop young black and Latino interest and talent in classical music. Judging from the speaker list, it looks like the organizers have done a great job of ensuring a truly diverse mix of voices at the table for what will no doubt be some stimulating conversations. (If there’s any forum in which racial diversity matters, it’s conversations about racial diversity!) I unfortunately can’t attend, but I’d love to feature some first-person perspectives from the event on Createquity. So if you’re going to be there and feel like sharing, please go ahead and submit one paragraph about your experiences, takeaways, new insights, remaining questions, etc., via the contact page. I will compile submissions received by February 22 and present them here, preserving anonymity on request – assuming I get enough of them.

[Update: Clay responds to my post.]


Announcing the Spring 2013 Createquity Writing Fellows

Congratulations to the latest class of Createquity Writing Fellows! You’ll be reading their contributions to the site between now and mid-June. Here is a bit more about each of them:

Tegan KehoeTegan Kehoe is a museum professional, historian, and freelance writer with a passion for helping museums be vital to and fully engaged with their communities. She has also worked in a consulting firm that does strategic planning for nonprofits, and has a variety of connections to the arts scene outside of work, most recently through community theater. Her article, “New England Museums as Civic Institutions,” appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of NEMA News, the journal of the New England Museum Association. She also contributes to the blog of Museum Textile Services, and writes her own public history blog, Cambridge Considered. During her Fellowship tenure, Tegan plans to explore partnerships between arts and non-arts organizations in the local community.

Hayley RobertsHayley Roberts has been a Program Associate at Open Society Foundations’ Campaign for Black Male Achievement since July 2010. Hayley started her career in the nonprofit sector as a Development Associate at the New York Historical Society, where she worked on fundraising events and initiatives which generated over $1 million for the museum. Following her time at the Historical Society, Hayley worked in the Participant Relations department at StoryCorps, where she managed the organization’s StoryBooth and StoryKit programs. Hayley received her master’s degree in History from New York University’s Graduate School of Arts and Science in 2010 and her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University in 2006. Hayley will be focusing on the intersection between social justice, popular culture, and the arts during her time with Createquity.

Dan ThompsonDan Thompson is a graduate student in public policy at the University of California, Berkeley, focusing on arts, climate change, and energy policy. Before going to Berkeley, Dan worked for the Capital Institute, a think tank focused on the role finance can play in environmental stewardship. He also worked for the sustainability program at Demos, a multi-issue policy think tank and advocacy shop located in New York City. He received a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Business from Boston’s Berklee College of Music in 2010. Dan intends to use the Fellowship as an opportunity to weave his varied interests together while considering the relationship between the arts and the public good.

Please join me in welcoming Tegan, Hayley, and Dan to Createquity!

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Around the horn: Super Bowl edition

Createquity has had some milestones recently: in addition to reaching 3000 subscribers (woohoo!), for the first time, both authors of the research studies given the Arts Policy Library treatment recently have responded to the Createquity Writing Fellows in the comments. You can read Holly Sidford’s many-months-later perspective on “Fusing Arts, Culture, and Social Change” here, and the SNAAP comments section features both an official response from advisory board member Sarah B. Cunningham and additional information from research director Steven Tepper. It’s great to see researchers participating in substantive dialogue and debate about methods and meaning on Createquity – that really gets to the core of what this space is all about. I can imagine that waking up to a skeptical 4000-word post about your work doesn’t make for the greatest week, so I appreciate all the more their willingness to engage forthrightly, respectfully, and constructively with us on how to elevate our collective game on all fronts.

So hooray for all that! And now to our regularly scheduled programming…


  • Remember the item a while back about patent trolls? Rachael Wilkinson at the Technology in the Arts blog alerts us to a very disturbing case of a troll targeting an arts organization, in this case a theater in Connecticut for using the “Tweet Seats” concept. Looks like it’s time for arts organizations to speak up for patent reform.
  • Federal arts education standards do make a difference in practice.
  • Danielle Brazell of Arts for LA writes about bringing the arts into the upcoming Los Angeles mayoral election.
  • Don’t miss this fantastic interview between Barry Hessenius and NEA Chief of Staff Jamie Bennett, one of my favorite people in the arts (and you’ll soon see why in the interview). Side note: I had no idea that Jamie served on the board of a group called the “No-Pants Theatre Company,” but that is just awesome.


  • The Cultural Data Project finally has a new CEO to lead its transition to an independent nonprofit: Beth Tuttle, a consultant with METStrategies.


  • One of the big trends I’ve been seeing over the last decade, and that I think we’ll see accelerate in the next, is the slow migration of low-profit enterprises with social value – think jazz venues, record labels, newspapers/journalism providers – to a nonprofit context. That trend includes independent bookstores, and this article from the Toronto Globe and Mail explains why.
  • More food for thought on the economics of music streaming.





  • John E. Craig, Jr. explains the whys, hows, and what nexts of foundation archiving (part 1part 2).
  • What is there to say about this amazing article covering the Portland karaoke scene, other than read the whole thing? So many gems in this one, but just to whet your appetite:

    Portland does have dozens of karaoke bars, and over the course of six nights we did our best to visit them all. I sang Lee Ann Womack in a honky-tonk in far southeast Portland, Kanye West in a comedy club and INXS in a Chinese restaurant. I watched Emilie, my seven-months-pregnant sister-in-law, sing Melanie’s “Brand New Key” onstage at Stripparaoke night at the Devils Point, a teensy, low-ceilinged club on a triangular lot well outside Portland’s downtown, while a topless dancer worked the pole next to her. Afterward, the dancer — whose bare stomach featured a tattoo of a vividly horrible shark and the word REDRUM — gave Emilie a sweet hug.


    Chopsticks III: How Can Be Lounge is located between a heavy-equipment rental shop and a Hanson pipe factory. It’s the kind of awful nightspot where if your watch was broken, you could keep time by the diminishing height of the melting heap of ice dumped in the urinal in the men’s room. When the heap of ice read 10:00, Chopsticks III was jammed with 50 people or more: groups of women out for a night away; a dwarf with an Afro who submitted his power ballads under the stage name Micro; a group of four buddies whose Monday-night karaoke club requires them to sing any song a friend challenges them to, blind. Also, a troupe of puppeteers from a local children’s theater, their snakes, ducks and cowgirls laid carefully across a table in the back of the bar.

    This was puppet karaoke.

    And my favorite…

    Correction: January 23, 2013

    An earlier version of this article  referred incorrectly to a puppet that appeared in a show at a local karaoke club. It is known as Señor Serpiente, not Señora Serpiente.

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America’s Top ArtPlaces

San Francisco, CA / The Mission District

San Francisco, CA / The Mission District

ArtPlace has released a report on the “top 12 ArtPlaces” in the country – the neighborhoods or clusters that scored highest on a subset of the funder’s much-discussed vibrancy indicators: number of “indicator” businesses (“eating and drinking places, shops, personal service establishments and other businesses that cater to consumers”), percentage of independently owned businesses, walkability, percentage of workers in creative occupations (“artists, writers, entertainers, architects, engineers and designers”), number of arts-related nonprofit organizations, and number of arts-related businesses. The results are organized by ZIP Code and then ranked, with a half-mile radius being drawn around the epicenter of activity in each ZIP.

Carol Coletta of ArtPlace and Mayor Tom Barrett recognize the Third Ward as one of America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013.

Carol Coletta of ArtPlace and Mayor Tom Barrett recognize the Third Ward as one of America’s Top ArtPlaces 2013.

The list is clearly media bait – there have already been five events scheduled to provide mayors and city officials an opportunity to crow in public about making the inner circle, and ArtPlace is openly soliciting more. And, no surprise, the list does not provide any insight on how ArtPlace’s own investments fit in to the mix. That said, I do like the fact that it is quantitative rather than editorially-driven, and if what we’re really measuring is “rapidly gentrifying hipster paradises,” it passes the smell test at least for two of the places I’ve spent significant time: Washington, DC (the intersection of U Street/Adams Morgan/Dupont) and San Francisco (Mission District).

Washington, DC / Adams Morgan and the U Street Corridor

Washington, DC / Adams Morgan and the U Street Corridor

Having just recently moved to (and therefore looked for an apartment in) DC, it’s uncanny how well the methodology captured my preferences in that city. Although we ended up in the somewhat less exciting neighborhood of Cleveland Park for commuting-related reasons, I recall being instantly attracted by the obvious bustle and life around the corner of Columbia Road, Adams Mill Road, and 18th Street during early and subsequent visits. New York’s entries are a little more surprising – Manhattan is represented not by the West Village or the Lower East Side, but by Manhattan Valley, a term I have never heard before despite living in NYC for six years but that apparently refers to the area spanning upper Upper West Side and lower Morningside Heights. (A slightly odd choice to normalize the results by income, pushing up lower-income areas that have higher-than-expected concentrations of cultural resources, might be affecting what we’re seeing here.) Brooklyn also makes the list with what is now known as the BAM Cultural District (home to the new Barclays Center), rather than ultra-hot Williamsburg, I’m guessing because there aren’t enough nonprofit organizations in the latter neighborhood. I was surprised not to see the Boston area represented in the top 12, although both Back Bay and North Cambridge made a longer list of 44, representing the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The press release notes that a “Top Small Town ArtPlaces” list is being prepared for later this year.

Brooklyn, NY / The intersection of Downtown, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights

Brooklyn, NY / The intersection of Downtown, Fort Greene, Gowanus, Park Slope and Prospect Heights

At the very least, it all makes for some pretty maps.

Related: the NEA’s Our Town gets a glowing review as an “example of powerful placemaking” in The Atlantic Cities.

Update: here’s some more local perspective from Dallas.


Cool jobs of the month

Evaluation Officer, Effective Philanthropy Group, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, based in Menlo Park, California, seeks to recruit an Evaluation Officer for its Effective Philanthropy Group. The Effective Philanthropy Group, launched in August 2012, is designed to work collaboratively with all program and operational teams on issues of cross-Foundation relevance, providing support in the areas of strategy, measurement and evaluation, organizational learning, philanthropy, and organizational effectiveness. This hybrid team includes both grantmaking and internal strategic functions. The Evaluation Officer will report to the Director of the Effective Philanthropy Group and will have the opportunity to contribute to and help shape this new team within the Foundation.

No deadline, but it was posted over a month ago, so check with them.

Program Associate for Research and Policy, Arts Education Partnership

The Arts Education Partnership, a division of the Council of Chief State School Officers, is seeking applicants for a full-time Program Associate for Research and Policy position. AEP is a national coalition of more than 100 education, arts, business, cultural, government, and philanthropic organizations dedicated to ensuring that every young person in America has a high qualityeducation in and through the arts as part of life and learning. AEP provides leadership, advocacy, research, and policy analysis to its partnering organizations and to the field of arts education. It is the primary source and convener for organizations interested in advancing arts education through partnerships.

No deadline.

Program Associate and Software Engineer, Ruby on Rails, Fractured Atlas

Fractured Atlas is seeking a full-time Program Associate.  This position will provide administrative support for all of our core programs and services and for the organization overall. It is an entry-level position and involves a great deal of front-line customer service.  We have over 25,000 artists nationally in our membership who come to us daily for guidance, assistance and support., an arts organization management platform, is seeking an experienced software engineer to design new features, improve our application, and make our users happy.

Deadline is February 1 for the software engineer position and February 15 for the program associate. Come be my coworker!

Exhibitions Manager, Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History

We are looking for a collaborative, experimental, organized person to join the MAH team as our exhibitions manager. This is a full-time position with benefits; salary range is $40,000-$50,000 depending on experience. In this role, you will have three primary responsibilities:

  1. management of the development, design and installation of all exhibitions and site-based installations
  2. development of interactive and participatory elements throughout the museum
  3. community leadership and organizing to advance the Museum’s social goals through exhibition projects

In the first 12 to 18 months, 50% of your work time will be spent leading the redevelopment of our permanent Santa Cruz History Gallery to be a more interactive, flexible, and participatory space. After that project is done, this job may shift to part time or continue at full-time depending on what new projects have arisen. We’re a growing organization and I hope you can understand our uncertainty in this regard.

No deadline. Santa Cruz MAH is Nina Simon‘s shop. They are also hiring a part-time Community Engagement & Marketing Associate with a deadline of January 31. Note: both of these positions require a rather intense application.

Senior Associate, Neighborhood Investment, Center for the Study of Social Policy

The Senior Associate position will be part of a team of people working on CSSP’s Neighborhood Investment and Community Change initiatives. The incumbent will have leadership responsibilities on several efforts. The incumbent will be responsible for day-to-day management and coordination of CSSP’s work as part of a team providing technical assistance and training support to cities funded as part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Choice Neighborhoods initiative. This position will also play a senior role in CSSP’s technical assistance to cities that are planning or implementing the Promise Neighborhoods approach, as part of CSSP’s role within the Promise Neighborhoods Institute at PolicyLink. The goal of this technical assistance is to help assure that local sites “turn the curve” on desired results for children, families and communities.

The link says the deadline is January 10, but it was posted January 22, so I assume it’s still open.

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Around the horn: Livestrong edition


  • The Los Angeles Times, via music critic Mark Swed, revives the Secretary of Culture talk, this time nominating Peter Sellars and Leon Botstein for the job. It’s an earnest appeal for an idea worthy of consideration, but if it was a political nonstarter four years ago, it’s hard to see how it has more legs now.
  • Video game makers are finding themselves in the regulatory crosshairs after the Newtown shooting massacre, despite limited evidence that games played a role in motivating recent shootings. (Certainly a lesser role than…guns.)
  • Margy Waller continues the charitable deduction discussion in a guest post over at New Beans.
  • The NEA has relaunched the “Your Town” program as the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design, which invites proposals for community-led workshops to improve quality of life in rural areas with the help of creative placemaking experts.


  • Well, that didn’t take long: Richard Dare, who just left the Brooklyn Philharmonic to take the top job at the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, abruptly stepped down after a New York Times investigation into his past.
  • Clayton Lord is leaving Theatre Bay Area, where he pioneered a number of research initiatives, to take the position of Vice President of Local Arts Advancement at Americans for the Arts. Lord replaces Mitch Menchaca, who left to become COO of Chorus America.


  • Joe Patti makes some astute observations about convergences between the arts and religion, including ways in which churches are getting into the placemaking game and the tidbit that newly minted pastors are more interested in starting their own flock than in joining established institutions. Fascinating stuff!



  • I think Diane Ragsdale has become the arts sector’s “questioner-in-chief.” She’s back after a monthlong hiatus with a doozy of a question.
  • Michael Hickey ruminates on scale, efficiency, and what size grants would encourage the most art created per dollar. (But is it about the most, or the best?)
  • year in the life of Collective Impact.
  • Phil Buchanan, writing at the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog: “I think this whole aversion to dependency may be yet another example of where analogies to the for-profit world have created confusion in our sector. We’re so enamored with market analogies that we can’t get our heads around the fact that certain work simply requires ongoing philanthropic support. Other than large-scale government support, there is no ‘exit’ event on the horizon for nonprofits, no analog to the IPOs that allow early private sector investors to cash in and get rich.”
  • I wholeheartedly endorse this pledge on Andrew Taylor’s part not to discuss “generic topics” in 2013. Taylor identifies three in particular that provoke discussions with “lots of heat, but not much light”: business models, advocacy, and value.


  • A new research study from Germany appears to show a causal relationship between music training and “verbal memory” (and by extension, speech and language processing). The study seems well-designed although the sample is on the small side.
  • The New York Public Library system appears to be more vital and in demand than ever despite budget  cuts over the past decade, according to a new report from the Center for an Urban Future.
  • A woman named Amy Webb found her life partner online…data scientist style. She conducted a detailed study of popular women’s behavior on JDate by creating 10 fake male profiles and interacting with 96 women over the course of a month, taking notes all along. It’s all ever so slightly unethical, but it does make for some, ah, engaging reading.
  • This is a great example of how a theory of change can illuminate assumptions needing testing. Do more entrepreneurs and more companies = more innovation?


  • In 2011, Createquity shared the story of Aaron Swartz, who had been indicted by federal authorities for “liberating” some 4.8 million academic journal articles from the online database JSTOR in an act of protest against restrictive copyright policies. In a sad coda, the 26-year-old Swartz, who suffered from depression, committed suicide this month in the face of a potential 35-year prison sentence (although the prosecutor in the case claims that she was only seeking six months). Among the other tributes making their way around the web, it turns out that GiveWell’s Holden Karnofsky (of course) had developed a personal friendship with the kid supergenius.
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Graduation Ceremony

Last week marked the end of the fall 2012 Createquity Writing Fellowship. You wouldn’t know it from this month’s posting schedule, but Talia Gibas and Jacquelyn Strycker have been writing steadily for Createquity since last September. My autumn travels forced some extended review times for a little bit in the middle there, but Jacquie and Talia took it all in stride, sometimes working on as many as four or five articles in parallel so that we wouldn’t miss a beat. I’m deeply thankful for and admiring of their talent and professionalism. Let’s take a look back at their contributions to the site, shall we?

With a no-nonsense approach to her writing and a suitable fearlessness of going out on a limb, Talia Gibas shook down topics in arts education and beyond in search of insight close to home.

  • Science Doesn’t Have All the Answers. Should We Be Worried? Maybe a little, Talia argues, as she explores several threads of controversy within the scientific community and how they potentially relate to the challenges we face in arts research.
  • In Unpacking Shared Delivery of Arts Education, Talia presents a straightforward yet in-depth explanation of this complex concept that’s currently in vogue in arts education circles. The article has already made its way into workshop curricula, and is well along the path toward becoming one of Createquity’s most popular posts of all time.
  • In Arts Policy Library: Fusing Arts, Culture and Social Change, Talia takes on perhaps the most widely-read and influential arts research report of the past several years, and finds a good deal to quibble with. Read the condensed version to get a quick preview.
  • If you really want to see Talia at her best, though, you simply must read Looking Beyond Our Borders for National Arts Education Policies. It’s no picnic at over 6,000 words, but the original research that went into this piece and the sheer breadth and ambition of its coverage place the article among the finest that Createquity has ever published, in my opinion.

Jacquelyn Strycker focused her time with Createquity on exploring the boundaries of what art can be and the interactions between institution and individual.

  • Jacquie wrote Artificial Intelligence and the Arts as part of her application for the Writing Fellowship. Noting a number of recent advances in technology that enable the modeling/mimicking of creativity through computation, the article asks whether machines could ever replace the creative function of human beings.
  • The sublime and ridiculous are considered alike in The Art School as Artwork, an image-rich look at a new breed of experimental arts education.
  • From Palate to Palette: Can Food Be Art? explores the age-old (but newly relevant) question of whether the “arts” belong in “culinary arts.” The post is currently burning up social media and was picked up in ArtsJournal and Big Think, among others.
  • In From Grassroots to Institution, Growing With Integrity, Jacquie examines the case of FIGMENT, a community-oriented public art festival in multiple cities, and contemplates what it might learn from past examples of small organizations that became big.
  • Finally, Jacquie’s Arts Policy Library: Strategic National Arts Alumni Project analysis takes a tough look at an ambitious attempt to understand the lives and livelihoods of arts training program graduates. The short version gives a roadmap for the time-impaired.

Cheers to Jacquie and Talia for their hard work, and we can’t wait to see what the spring 2013 edition brings!

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Strategic National Arts Alumni Project: The Condensed Version

SNAAP Report

This is a condensed version of my full Arts Policy Library write-up on the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP). Please check out the latter for a more comprehensive discussion of their report. 

Is an arts degree worth it or worthless? Many an art or art history major has had to defend the value of her studies. Indeed, in a Kiplinger article that used data from and Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce to determine the “Worst College Majors for Your Career,” fine arts, studio arts, film/photography, graphic design, drama and theater arts all made the list. The article claims that recent arts graduates have higher unemployment rates and are more likely to wind up working in retail than those who chose other majors. But the recent Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) report, “A Diverse Palette: What Arts Graduates Say About Their Education and Careers” indicates that post-graduation life is not so bad for arts alumni. SNAAP’s report found that:

  • The unemployment rate for arts alumni is less than half the unemployment rate for all Americans, and about equivalent to the unemployment rate for college graduates.
  • The overwhelming majority (92%) of SNAAP respondents reported either a “good” or “excellent” experience at their alumni institution and most would “do it all over again” if given the chance.
  • More than three-quarters of currently employed arts alumni are “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with their primary job.
  • More than two-thirds of arts alumni remain active in the arts community by creating, exhibiting and performing.
  • Arts alumni are significantly more likely than the average American to have volunteered their time or donated money to an arts organization or artist in the past year.

However, when we look further into SNAAP’s research, the following stand out as issues:

  • The possibility that SNAAP’s respondents aren’t representative of arts alumni as a whole, for the following reasons:
    • the survey only reaches graduates who have maintained valid contact information with their school or who can be located using a service called Harris Connect
    • the survey is exclusively online and takes 20-30 minutes to complete, possibly rendering it less attractive for alumni who lack consistent internet access in their homes or don’t feel strongly about their relationship with their alma mater
    • institutions pay to participate in SNAAP, which may indicate that participating institutions are already paying above average attention to their students and alumni
    • a disproportionate number of the participating institutions appear to have top-ranked arts programs, based on an analysis of visual arts fields; graduates from these programs may be better-off and happier with their education than the average arts alumni
  • The potential conflict inherent in using data from paying institutions to create a field research report
  • SNAAP used different measures than the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce study or the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to collect employment figures; SNAAP’s method includes intermittent work as employment, making accurate comparisons impossible
  • The survey does not ask its respondents to consider their opportunity costs when making subjective judgments about the value of their education

Ultimately, the SNAAP report is largely inconclusive, in large part due to the questions about its representativeness and because one of the few metrics that could potentially serve as a common yardstick with other fields of study is complicated by SNAAP’s alternative approach to measuring employment status. Still, SNAAP is the most comprehensive data resource available for pre-professional arts education, and reminds us that an education should be valued for more than the average earning potential of its graduates.

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