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Arts Advocacy Receives Research Gift

Two major Arts Education studies were released this past week, the FRSS 10-year comparison and the Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth a 12-year longitudinal study.  When these studies are married, their effectiveness as a tool for advocacy becomes undeniably clear.  While the FRSS will get much of the press because Secretary Duncan presented it, the study is of little consequence to the progression of arts education other then outright stating of significant declines in the amount of offerings across the board.  On the other hand, move over Charlie Bucket, the longitudinal study is the golden ticket arts education advocators have been praying for.

The longitudinal study gives the data for students of Low Socioeconomic Status (low SES) with both high and low arts exposure and their counterparts in the High Socioeconomic Status (high SES).  The matrixes measured for each of the four categories include high school graduation rates, civic involvement, recorded GPA, college graduation rates, average test scores, volunteer rates, other extracurricular activities, and labor market outcomes.  The results are startling, not because they affirm what advocates have said for years, but because of the achievement gap between low SES/low arts and low SES/high arts.

Looking at graduation rates alone, low SES/low arts had a dropout rate of 22%, compare that to low SES/high arts with a dropout rate of 4%.  The low SES/high arts students are even below the overall sample average of 7%.  For the mindset of these low SES/high arts students, we need only to look at the percentage of 8th graders planning to earn a bachelor’s degree 74% compared to 43%.  These are motivated students and compared to their low arts counterparts they are 14% more likely to vote in a national election or local election, 21% more like to volunteer, and 29% more likely to read the newspaper.  Looking at grades and curriculum, the high arts students have an average GPA of .39 points above low arts and were 10% more likely to enroll in calculus while in high school.

It should be noted that the high arts students are inherently involved individuals, as they are participants in athletics and service organizations.  However, students who are involved in other activities but are low arts do not have as high of GPA or curriculum gains as high arts students.

This is all fine and dandy, but why am I saying that this is hugely important when combined with the FRSS data?  Because in secondary school music alone there was a drop of 19% of offered programs for students in the low SES, but the high SES saw an increase of 6% between 2000-2010.  In affect, the advantage is going to the advantaged, while the disadvantaged are becoming disenfranchised.  But there’s more: of the high SES, 62% of schools offered 5 or more courses in the music, while low SES only measured 32%.

One area the low SES has dominated though is in collaboration and integration.  Music teachers in low SES are 14% more likely to consult with other teaches to incorporate units of study from other subject areas into the music curriculum and 17% more likely to utilize an integrated music instructional program with other academic subjects and 18% with other arts subjects.

Like music, visual arts have rather similar data (in secondary schools): a drop in offering for the low SES of 13% and only 22% of the remaining programs offering 5 or more courses.  Compare that to the 95% of high SES schools of which 56% offer 5 or more visual arts classes.  The unexpected number in all this comes from the consulting with other teachers to incorporate units of study from other subject areas into the visual arts curriculum indicator for low SES, which stands a staggering 17% above high SES.

So what’s the conclusion?  The students who benefit most from high exposure to the arts are receiving less of it then they did 10 years prior.  Granted we had the Great Recession and states have to balance their budgets, as a native Californian (and boy, did we get hit hard in 2008) I understand.  That does not mean we are off the hook.  As Secretary Duncan has said time and again, “we’re either going to invest in education or not, it comes down to the values.  Everyone has to step up or we’re going to struggle.” (March 2, 2012)

You made it to graduate school…now what?

You have made a decision, and perhaps a leap of faith, to go to graduate school. You do your research, visit some schools, talk to faculty and current students, apply and get accepted into your dream program. Voila. You are now a student in an arts management program (in my case, at American University in Washington, D.C.)

Now what?

There is no perfect recipe for success that works for everyone but here are a few tips and advices from some brilliant and passionate arts professionals as well as from my personal (well, professional) experience:

1. START FROM YOUR ACADEMIC PROGRAM

You are likely to meet people from various very interesting professional backgrounds in your graduate program. Start with this inner circle. For example, my classmates include a database manager for a non-profit, a development associate at a museum, an orchestra manager, a stage manager, a music teacher, and an actor/ director of a theatre group etc., and they have 0 to over 20 years of experience in the field. Not only you can learn from their experiences and share your own, you can also meet their friends and colleagues and expand your circle.

Another circle that you might not think of immediately is the alumni network of your program. In our case, we not only have an active email listserv of current students and alumni from the program, we also have an active Facebook group that news articles, arts issues, and events etc are posted by current students, alumni and sometimes professors. These alumni have been in your program and made their interests and passions into their careers. Learn from them – from course recommendations to where to eat in town, from job searches to which conferences to go to, they are a wealth of knowledge that you ought to take advantage of, then you can pay it forward to future students when you are out in the real world (again).

Another “inner circle” not to neglect is your program faculty. Schedule meetings with them or take them out for coffee, then learn about their experiences and tell them what you are interested in. You may not wish to teach in graduate school in the future but these professors most likely have connections in the field or were arts managers prior to becoming professors. They can give great advice in where to begin looking and networking as well as make introductions to help you get to where you wish to be.

 

2. EMERGING (INSERT FIELD) PROFESSIONAL GROUPS

For some people, going to graduate school requires moving to a new city or even a new country. If that is the case, networking is like killing two birds with one stone. You meet a group of like-minded professionals who most likely understand your pains and gains of working (or the desire to do so) in the arts. They have been there and done that. Introduce yourself to them (do you have an elevator speech yet?) and ask them about how they get to where they are. They are usually happy to share with you their experiences and give advice, and sometimes lend a hand in making introductions and even letting you know about job openings in their institutions.

In Washington D.C., networking opportunities are endless. Emerging Arts Leaders DC(in affliation with Americans for the Arts) and, if you are interested in working in museums, the D.C. Emerging Museum Professionals are two of the many active professional groups in town with multiple events each month. Get involved!

Although there isn’t a school requirement for you to go to an EALDC networking First Friday lunch or a DCEMP happy hour, I suggest you to go whenever you can as these informal conversations often lead you to people and opportunities that you might not have expected.

Feeling a little too shy for impromptu conversations at happy hours? Go to the career development events with less talking and more listening then. I recently attended a DCEMP career development workshop on interview skills – not only I learnt a lot about interviewing, I also got to meet some great people, most of them either looking for their first jobs out of graduate school or those who are looking to transition into a new area in the field.

 

3. CONFERENCES, SYMPOSIUMS, LECTURES, WEBINARS…YOU NAME IT

Are you more of a listener and need a little warming up before you feel like networking? You have got plenty of options as well! Look for conferences, symposiums, webinars and colloquia online and ask around for recommendations. Good places to start looking are websites of Americans for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums, and other graduate programs in your area.

I have attended and volunteered at many of such events and have met so many great people and learnt so much that I cannot possibly explain in one blog entry. Many conferences offer student discounts, scholarships and fellowships so do not let the registration price tag deter you. If all else fails, there is always the option of volunteering for a conference. Trust me, it never hurts to ask, the worst answer you can get is a “no” but you might just met your new friend or mentor from that conversation. You can often volunteer for one day of a conference to be able to register for a discounted price or for free for the rest of the conference. My experiences from these conferences have always been very positive, and I highly recommend volunteering to anyone new to the arts world.

Got a full-time job and a big student loan or simply don’t have time to travel? Again, fret not, there are still many ways to get involved. There are often affordable (or free) webinars, webcasts of panels and conferences, webchats, tweetups and slideshows available for view online. Good places to look are Guidestar, Foundation Center, idealist, National Arts Marketing Project etc, in addition to the websites mentioned above.

The arts management program at American University hosts the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium annually right before Americans for the Arts’ Arts Advocacy Days. This year, the Symposium will be held on Sunday, April 15, 2012. Participants from DC and around the country have always said it’s a great opportunity to meet current leaders in the field (who are usually speakers and panelists) as well as to network with other emerging professionals.  Registration is currently available online here and we sure hope to see you this April!   

 

4. INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS

If you are ready for some one-on-one time with people in positions you dream to be in, it is time for some informational interviews. For example, if you aspire to be a gallery director, visit galleries and do research on directors and managers of these galleries. Meet them at an open house or send them an email to ask if you can meet them for coffee or in their office to ask a few (well-prepared) questions about their professional experiences.

I recently did an informational interview with a director of a gallery that I would love to work for in the future and it was just a great experience chatting with him and learning about how he got to where he is now. These chats will help you prepare for better-focused job searches and better-prepared interviews. Although I do not see myself being a registrar or collections manager of a museum in the future, I had an informational interview with a collections manager at one of the art museums at the Smithsonian (whom I met at one of the conferences) to better understand the work of her department, as well as how it fits into the greater picture of museum management. And I came out of the meeting having learnt those things and more. In short, keep an open mind and do not let someone’s job title determine your interest – you might learn something you do not expect in each encounter!

Hopefully these tips are helpful to you, my fellow colleagues-in-training. Do share your experiences in networking in the comments below. Good luck with your journey ahead and hope to see you at the Emerging Arts Leaders Symposium this April 15!

Post-APAP NYC Reflection

45 dance companies in 4 days. After some reflection (and catching up on sleep) over the past couple days, I can, without a doubt, say that seeing so much dance in such a short period of time was most definitely the highlight of my APAP|NYC experience. For those who aren’t aware, APAP|NYC is the annual international conference for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, a “national service and advocacy organization dedicated to developing and supporting a robust performing arts presenting field and the professionals who work within it.”

Slew of programs for the showcases I attended

I (Cathy Teixeira) attended the conference with some co-workers from American Dance Institute (ADI), a presenting organization just outside Washington, D.C. One of our main goals for this conference was to get a feel for what companies were out there, both nationally and internationally, see what they were creating, and of course to see if there were any potential companies ADI should look into presenting in the future. If it weren’t for the APAP conference, it would not have been possible to see so much in so short of a time span. I can’t begin to imagine how much work goes into organizing and coordinating showcases, not just for dance but for all disciplines, so I commend APAP for their fine work.

The showcases, usually running from 9:30am to as late as 10pm, took place in various venues across the city. Often times, the agents and/or choreographers would introduce the piece and indicate whether or not the companies were eligible for funding from NEFA’s National Dance Project (NDP). Working in development, I especially appreciated this key

Networking Opportunity-- Post-showcase reception for presenters and artists

piece of information. Presenting can get very expensive, and receiving a bit of support can make all the difference in whether or not an organization can afford to present certain companies. I also noticed that most choreographers would emphasize that fact that their work was flexible (in the number of dancers, staging, size, etc) and customizable based on the financial capacity of the presenter and the confines of the performance space. Again, another important factor when considering the possibility of presenting a company.

One lesson I learned: choreographers are pretty darn clever. Several of them had incorporated a community engagement component to their work. From a fundraising perspective this is wonderful because it makes raising money a lot easier when you are creating a unique experience for the audience/community that goes beyond just sitting in a theater. The most common way to do this is through master classes, post-show talks, or meet-the-artist receptions. But in David Dorfman Dance‘s newest work Come, and Back Again the music of Patti Smith is played by a five-piece band; a band that can tour with the company or alternatively, be comprised of local musicians in the presenter’s location. The music would be sent ahead of time, the company would come, they’d rehearse a couple times, and BAM! put on the show. Genius. I know this isn’t a novel idea, but David is creating opportunities for true community involvement by including this possibility in his work.

David, aside from being one of THE nicest people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, has a knack for involving the audience and making his art truly accessible. ADI presented his wildly successful work Prophets of Funk back in November, and at the end of the show, the audience was invited to come dance with the company on stage. Check out the awesome moment below:

There were so many impressive dance companies, but this blog post would get out of hand if I tried to mention them all so here are just a couple of my personal* favorites:

Lar Lubovitch Dance Company– Lubovitch’s choreography was simply beautiful. I particularly enjoyed their setting of Histoire du Soldat, composed by Stravinsky. The

Lubovitch's Histoire du Soldat

narrative (a soldier sells his violin/soul to the devil and tries to win it back), music, and choreography worked together seamlessly resulting in a cohesive piece.

Keigwin + Company– Keigwin’s work is often described as “sexy” but it’s so much more than that; it’s clever and utterly captivating. In fact, I was so drawn in that I didn’t notice how badly my leg had fallen asleep. They’ll be at the Kennedy Center in March— even if you aren’t a dance person, they are a MUST SEE.

Brian Brooks Moving Company. Photo (c) Christopher Duggan

Brian Brooks Moving Company– The company performed an excerpt of DESCENT, described by the NY times as being “visually arresting”. And it was just that. In the duet, one dancer “manipulated” the other dancer’s falling weight, creating quite an impressive effect.

In addition to all the dance we saw, Jessica (the Development Director of ADI) and I scheduled three consultation meetings: a fundraising consultation with The North Group, Inc. and meetings with the NEA presenting and dance specialists. I didn’t know what to expect in these one-on-one meetings, but they proved to be informative and encouraging. For the fundraising consultation, Jessica gave the consultant a run-down of the current development situation, and then we were given ideas on where we should be prioritizing our efforts. As for the NEA meetings, the presenting and dance specialists were able to tell us what types of grants we were eligible/most appropriate to apply for, and which grant cycle would give us a greater competitive edge. It was great to meet the specialists in person, and to receive positive feedback on what was going on at ADI.

One of the sessions I attended was called What Jazz Can Teach Us About Winning Audiences, where Christy Farnbauch and Bob Breithaupt of Jazz Arts Group presented the results of Jazz Audience Initiatives, their ground-breaking study on jazz audiences. To be honest, I was a bit skeptical about the session being applicable to the dance field, but actually left with a lot of useful information and ideas. They found that 86% of ticket

Taken from the full JAI report.

buyers (ages 18-34) attend because of recommendations from friends and family. As they pointed out, this is intuitive information, but the research just further proves the importance of the initiators (those doing the inviting) in building an audience. It challenged me to consider how we can identify these initiators and what we can do to reward/provide incentives for them to ultimately become active advocates of an organization. For the full report, click here.

If you’ve been reading the wonderful blog posts from my classmate and fellow EALS committee member, Steven Dawson, you’ll find that our experiences at APAP were quite different. (In fact, we only ran into each other once the entire conference!) The great thing is that the APAP Conference is so comprehensive that there’s a rich experience for everyone: across all disciplines, presenter or exhibitor, student or executive. There is so much going on that you can mix and match sessions/meeting/showcases and tailor your schedule to fit your needs. Thank you APAP for a wonderful conference!

-Cathy Teixeira

___________________

This is a non-APAP related piece, but something that I thought was worth mentioning, especially for opera lovers. I had Monday night free, so on my bus ride up to New York, I

Obligatory tourist-y photo of Lincoln Center

decided to see if there were any operas at the Met that I could go see. It was a piece of cake to get $25 student tickets (for orchestra seats that are usually $95!) to their new production of Faust. And if you aren’t a student, you can go to the box office two hours before a show and get $20 rush tickets.

*Disclaimer: These are my own personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of American Dance Institute.

Measurable Joy

Once upon a time there was this fabulous little arts organization where you could go make pots. Better than Color Me Mine. Better even than this:

The woman who ran it wanted to apply for a grant from the NEA. And the NEA wanted things like logic models and evaluation and MEASURABLE OUTCOMES.

Ugh. She just wanted to make pots and help other people have beautiful pot making experiences. So she sat down and wondered whether or not she could generate measurable outcomes. So she decided she would measure joy.

we again grappled with the core questions — how do you know when the artistic experience is authentic? How can you measure joy? The consensus was you know it when you see it

Arts managers need to think more in this way. We need to think about measuring joy, satisfaction, happiness, all the feel-good things that the arts enable, we will continued to be required to defend them. To measure them. So how did she do it? Read the full article here: Measuring Joy: Evaluation at Baltimore Clayworks

My Experience Interning at the NEA

National Hispanic Heritage Month is from September 15th – October 15th here in the United States. This year the National Endowment for the Arts hosted a Hispanic heritage month film screening for the staff. The film was Latin Music USA and it discussed the impact Latin music has had in America from jazz to rock; influencing many artist from Dizzy Gillespie to the artists listening to Santana at Woodstock. It was a remarkable film and I remember thinking how great it was that the NEA was showing this film for staff during work hours.

Since mid September of this year I have been interning at the National Endowment for the Arts in the performing arts division. My internship thus far has been very rewarding. In the past month I’ve been working with staff to help prepare for the NEA Opera Honors, the arts council meeting, and upcoming panels. With that being said my post today is not about my internship experience. Instead it is about the internal marketing at the NEA.

During class this semester we talked about the importance of internal marketing for an organization. All staff on all levels should understand the mission of the organization and have a clear sense of what they are doing for the community and why. So far in my experience at the NEA, they have a successful internal marketing strategy.

The showing of the film Latin Music USA for staff during work is an example of good internal marketing. By encouraging staff to take time off work and view a film it shows that the emphasis should be on the art. The NEA funds arts related projects and by taking time to appreciate art, in this case music it helps reinforce why the staff works so hard. They work so that great art is available to the community. By keeping the art at the forefront the NEA is showing staff where their priorities should be. Also, by showing the film during work they encourage the staff to take a break and enjoy the art they work so hard to fund.

As an arts management student and emerging arts leader I have found my time at the NEA to be a great learning experience. I hope in the future wherever I work that emphasis is always on the mission of the organization and that steps are taken for every staff member to understand that mission. When all staff and volunteers understand the mission they have a purpose and can relate better to their audience. What do you as emerging arts leaders hope your future job environment will be like? What is your experience now?

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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