When I re-launched Createquity two years ago following its website redesign, I put a brash new descriptor of the site on the “About” page: “a unique virtual think tank” for the arts. I loved the idea of Createquity being a place for the exchange of ideas, not just a platform for their dissemination. For the year and a half following that change, however, the notion of Createquity as a “think tank” was mostly a fiction. Aside from a few excellent posts by Guy Yedwab, if there was a thought factory in operation here, I was the only one coming in to work.
Fast forward to yesterday, which I am pretty sure set a record for both the number of posts (6) and the number of words (over 14,000!) ever to appear on Createquity in a single day, all tackling three of the most significant works of research and policy literature from the past decade. I’m pretty sure that record will stand for some time. And I didn’t write a single one of those posts. Today, my vision of a “virtual think tank for the arts” feels quite a bit more real.
The explosion of verbosity yesterday marked the end of the inaugural Createquity Writing Fellowship. For the past five months (give or take a week), Aaron Andersen, Jennifer Kessler, and Crystal Wallis have been contributing guest posts to the blog on a semi-regular basis, enlivening this space with their diverse perspectives, wealth of experience, and bon mots.
Aaron Andersen was the very first one out of the gate with a typically strong post on markets and economies just days after the Fellowship period started. Then he became a new father, and, well, that kind of took up all his time for a while. But Aaron’s been tearing it up and putting a hella lot of words up on this blog over the past month, and each of his contributions show him in fine form. Here’s a roundup of Aaron’s pieces this past semester (post titles in bold are among the top 15 most-viewed articles ever at Createquity as of this writing):
- Attendance is not the only measure of demand, in which Aaron covers the #supplydemand debate ignited by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman in January.
- Federal arts funding: a trace ingredient in the sausage factory of government spending: Aaron explains the difference between direct and indirect subsidy, and details out how for-profit industries receive far more in giveaways from the government than our supposedly handout-dependent arts sector.
- South Carolina Legislature overwhelms, overrides Governor’s veto of Arts Commission budget: Aaron breaks the happy news.
- Arts Policy Library: Arts, Inc. In the longest guest post in Createquity’s history, weighing in at nearly 5,000 words, Aaron provides a detailed and tough read of Bill Ivey’s manifesto on cultural rights. Read the brevity version if you’re in a hurry.
Jennifer Kessler began the Fellowship looking for new challenges. Having recently switched from a career in performance to managing arts education programs, she was eager to delve into the arts education policy and research literature in addition to writing about her passion, El Sistema. Jennifer did just that, slogging through complex texts like the Obama administration’s recommendation for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and Arts Education Partnership’s seminal arts education literature review, “Critical Links,” so that we didn’t have to. In the midst of it all, she found out that she’d been accepted as one of the 2011-12 Abreu Fellows at New England Conservatory, and will be spending time in Boston and Venezuela next year as part of that gig. Here is all of Jennifer’s writing for the site:
- Re-envisioning No Child Left Behind, and What It Means for Arts Education: Jennifer offers a glimpse into how mainstream education policy debates might affect the arts this year.
- El Sistema: The Movement. Jennifer reflects on her experiences with El Sistema and provides a roundup of how it has influenced education programming at orchestras around the United States.
- It Don’t Mean a Thing (If There’s No Audience to Swing): Jazz Audience Development in 2011: this exhaustively-researched article features interviews with a number of professionals at diverse levels of the jazz world talking about their strategies for audience engagement.
- Arts Policy Library: Critical Links, in which Jennifer analyzes an analysis of 62 research studies (many of which are meta-analyses in their own right), while talking about the limits of meta-analysis. Seriously, just read it (the bullet-point version offers an easier entry for those short on time).
Crystal Wallis brought to this opportunity a unique combination of skills and interests: a deep love for folklore and traditional arts combined with a lot of experience and comfort with spreadsheets. I thought this was an irresistible pairing, and Crystal has delivered, with posts on topics as diverse as ethnographic research methods, real-estate-based business models, and volunteer management. Crystal just recently got her Master’s degree in arts management from Carnegie Mellon, a program that has greatly impressed me with the quality of its graduates, and it’s not yet known what lucky organization is going to have the privilege of adding her to its team. I’m happy to speak on Crystal’s behalf to anyone looking for a whip-smart and seasoned manager with a great attitude and excellent writing and analytical skills. Here are Crystal’s posts:
- More trouble for NPR: Crystal started us off with some crack reporting on the NPR mini-scandal that was manufactured by James O’Keefe and resulted in the resignation of its CEO.
- Get a folk(life): How folklore research helped an arts agency: Crystal’s signature post garnered a huge reaction from the folklore community, driving it into the ranks of the top 10 most-viewed articles on Createquity all-time.
- The Social Network: Volunteer Edition. This short piece on volunteer engagement was written for the Createquity Writing Fellowship application itself. I didn’t intend to make people write new material for that application…but hey, it worked!
- Arts Centers and Real Estate: Sustainable Business Model? Crystal examines several examples of arts centers that have invested in surrounding properties in order to generate supplemental income.
- Arts Policy Library: Informal Arts, in which Crystal makes it through a 431-page research tome to report on the landmark ethnographic study by Alaka Wali and company. If you’re a skimmer at heart, the informal version may be for you.
Stay tuned for more details about the fall Writing Fellowship opportunity. In the meantime, let’s give a big round of applause to Aaron, Crystal, and Jennifer!