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Rose Parade 2012 – Art Promoting Art

After waking up at 3:15AM this morning, driving 2 hours to Pasadena, and waiting in a 57 minute line for a cup of Starbucks coffee; I enjoyed two hours of full sunshine in the Grandstands on Colorado Blvd.  That’s right, basking in the 80 degree weather at the 123rd Annual Rose Parade.

First let me say that the Parade was wonderful, and as a California native, it was on my bucket list.  The bands were awesome, the spirits were high, and the floats were far enough away as to not set off my allergies.  There were a total of 44 floats this year and 23 trophies (it is a competition after all).  While there were floats that were obviously marketing their sponsor’s product (ahem – Paramount and XBox), others went more toward the theme of imagining – one included a wave pool for doggie surfers (that won the Extraordinaire Trophy).

LA Concept Drawing

The cities in the upper LA basin usually enter a float each year in support of the parade and to encourage tourism.  With the budget cuts in the SoCal area, I sadly report that there were fewer cities represented this year than in all previous years.  To give you an idea of the floats, La Canada had three pigs in a wooden rocket ship which won the Bob Hope Humor Award and the City of Glendale had a pretty elephant harnessed to a carriage, but both had nothing to do with the events of either city.

LA Parade Float

The City of Los Angeles, in stark contrast, chose to promote the new (and amazing) dinosaur exhibit at the LA Natural History Museum.  The float prominently featured the LANHM building, the logo, and three fantastical dinosaurs (also the only of the parade).  The float went on to win the Crown City Innovation Trophy for best use of imagination and innovation to advance the art of float design.  Not only advancing the art of float design, but advancing art itself – even if it is prehistoric.

My question is:  How many of you saw the dino’s this morning?

That’s effective marketing.

National Council on the Arts: RECAP

So just got back from the National Council on the Arts public meeting. Though a little long  it was CHOCK FULL of inspiration. Some pretty incredible individuals got a chance to speak about themselves, the work they do, and most importantly, what inspires them.

Watch it HERE (skip to about 5:39 to get past the “please stand-by” part, you’ll know you’re there when you see Rocco in his red St. Louis hat).

After the swearing in of the fabulous Aaron Dworkin, NEA’s fearless leader, Rocco Landesman, shared about his travels across the world from his Art Works Tour. Be sure to check out his reflections on his trip to Alaska and Australia, really fascinating discoveries on the power of indigenous art, the importance of creative peacemaking, and the exploration of how “art works” so differently across the country and the world. He spoke of how across his travels he found in so many places where this incredible intersect of arts and daily life takes place for the benefit of all.

The Arts Journalism Initiative was discussed by the council, a relatively new initiative by the NEA and Knight Foundation that seeks to address the problems with declining arts coverage and the decline of professional arts journalists in favor using regular staff.  Landesman identified fives types of arts coverage that the Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge addresses:

  • Factual information about arts
  • Casual discourse
  • News coverage and investigative reporting
  • Criticism within historic and current context
  • Academic writing

It was found that increasingly arts organizations are making the push to distribute factual information about their arts events themselves removing the need for journalistic contribution and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have created a platform for casual discourse between fans (of which Opera fans are apparently the most vocarious ) allowing for discussion and personal analysis of the work. Academic writing has soared with more MFAs and PhDs in art and art history than ever. But what was missing was the initiative to support local arts coverage that is both accessible and professional.

Landesman pointed out that for the arts to flourish, arts criticism must be active. After all, “if art happens and no one covered it, does it have impact?”

The winning project ideas shared two common solutions of the problem of lagging art journalism: crowd sourcing and community creativity. This cute video summarizes the winning ideas:

Knight/NEA Community Arts Journalism Challenge Finalists from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

If you can’t/don’t want to check out the video now check out my quickly tapped out iPhone notes summary:

  1. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte arts alliance to train journalists and provide coverage content free for alliance outlets. Keep it all in single online place
  2. Detroit, MI: Lack of dialogue interactive mobile video booth iCritic record video reviews as they leave event. Reviews instantly available
  3. Miami, FL: arts spot Miami, crowd financing journalist pitch ideas to public. Winning ideas will be funded. Engaging public to select
  4. Philadelphia, PA: Drexel embed arts journalists into Daily News, partnerships, curate stories from both editorial teams. Leveraging existing resources
  5. San Jose, CA: Tech economy. Encourage better understanding using map based technology app plan will enable interactions with arts venues via map. Analyze to understand people’s understanding

Funding will be given to these winning ideas to develop “action plans” which will detail how exactly each idea will be launched, sustained and maintained. The winning action plan will receive $80,000 in implementation funding. The council asked questions two of which I found most applicable and fascinating.

The first concerned sustainability: will these projects be sustainable after the one time grant? The second, professionalism: some of the projects seem as if they may fail to elevate the arts journalism medium and instead provide a tool for  magnification of what discourse is already occurring on Internet.

It’ll be interesting into see how the action plans incorporate ideas for sustainability; many are addressing the needs for creating new types of revenue such has crowd sourcing.
As for the citizen journalist vs professional writer: many conversations that make sure of social media will be curated by professionals who through guiding the conversation and selecting the shows/areas in which they bring participation ensuring an increased level of professionalism. In the case of arts journalism it seems the difficultly is increasingly how to  determine whose voice will be heard and if all voices worth of being heard. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but are some more valid than others?

The Opera Panel and Research presentation were incredible. Favorite quotes include: “If you’re embarrassed by emotion you won’t like opera” and “to love the opera, you cannot be afraid of passion.” I suggest to watch the webcast for the truly interesting discussion between opera panelists and check out the Art Works blog and press release  for some great content about Artists in the Workforce.

The session concluded with a talk by dynamic couple: FloydFest producer, Kris Hodges and director, Erika Johnson. These two were dynamite and I was disappointed the Chairman had to leave to catch a flight before they made their presentation.

Have a little listen of the this past 2011 Floydfest lineup HERE.

Hodges and Johnson took turns describing the unique aspects of creativity and community that has made the festival such a success these past 10 years. While they weren’t shy sharing about the trails, tribulations and debt they struggled with to keep the festival running, one couldn’t help but be inspired by their pride in their community and desire to share the incredible Floydfest experience with everyone.

Born out of a combination of  “teamwork and dreamwork” (sounds familiar to anyone whose worked in the arts) and working with the ingredients on hand, Floydfest developed out of the natural and creative fertility of the land and people in the community. Hodges talked about being attracted to the “spirit of the community of creative thinkers and doers” where a pre-existing (and surprising) alchemy of tradition and open-mindedness allowed for a rich platform on which the festival could develop.

The environment of a self-sustaining community and place of pride meant Floydfest receives a lot of local support from organic markets (the couple started their own organic restaurant pre-Floydfest which they sold in order to keep the festival going) and has remained an event where authenticity, quality and sincerity are valued above all (nice-huh? Sincerity and the arts, nearly forgot about it). Despite getting some big name headliners, Hodges and Johnson say they treat all musicians in their line-up the same, as “fiercely independent artists looking to cultivate their art.”

It was nice to be reminded that “arts will exist even if there is no money behind it” because, after all, “people [ultimately] want to make art”, and will make often even without a financial goal in mind. This is what makes arts funding so tricky. Our organizations need the money, yet to make art is so basic and human, that no matter how much you cut our funding, the arts will never be quelled.

Check out a great video of the 2011 festival here and let me know if anyone wants to road trip from DC for Floydfest 2012:

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