But Will A Framed Canvas Fit Through The Book Return Slot?

Thanks to a partnership between the Akron Art Museum and the Akron-Summit County Public Library, not only can you get a book to place on the nightstand beside your bed, you can also get a painting to hang over your bed.

According to a recent article, the museum is creating the Akron Art Library in the Akron-Summit County Public Library Main Library. Patrons can view the art and then use their library card to borrow a work for four weeks and renew it up to five times if no one else places a request for it.

“We want to show we can trust the public with works of art,” said Art Museum Director of Education Alison Caplan. “We want people to have that moment of ‘are you sure we can take this out?'”

Even so, the fine for not returning a borrowed piece is $500 and late fees run 50 cents per day, she said.

All the art available to borrow — paintings, drawings, photos and other two-dimensional work — is created by professional Northeast Ohio artists, many of whom have been featured at the museum.

“We tried to highlight artists that came from Akron and the region and have gone on to do great things,” Caplan said. “It’s a really good mix.”

If this sounds somewhat familiar to you, it might be because four years ago I wrote about how Oberlin College has been lending out priceless works by Dali, Picasso, Chagall, etc to their students since the 1940s.

Oberlin says they haven’t had anything damaged or stolen in all that time so the risk of allowing people to take art works home with them might not be as great as you might imagine. The museum’s focus on circulating works by regional artists can help cultivate an awareness and appreciation that there are well regarded creative people perusing produce at the supermarket and laughing too loudly behind them in the movie theater.

Not to mention the Art Library program reinforces the idea that your home is an appropriate place for art that appears in a museum and that access to such work is within your reach.

I wonder if they have/will start a children’s section so kids can follow the example of their parents and check out something to hang on their walls as well.

Artists Are The Only Asset Found In Every Community

The video of ArtPlace America’s CEO Jamie Bennett’s keynote at an Invest Health convening came across my feed recently.  What I found valuable in his speech was that he laid out an argument for the value of the arts that didn’t pivot to economic statistics.

Around the 6:50 mark he starts to talk about the factors that influence those who move into a community in making the decision to stay: social offerings; openness to new ideas and people; and aesthetics.  He says arts and culture bring all those things and helps people feel rooted in a community.

His definition of art and culture is inline with that expanded definition embraced by everyone from the National Endowment for the Arts and respondents to the recent Culture Track survey. It is the parks and food trucks as well as the opera houses.

He talks about arts and culture as a facilitator of social cohesion citing the observations of drumming circles and informal arts by an anthropologist working at the Field Museum in Chicago.  Bennett said that the anthropologist found that the act of “…art making, doing and experiencing art together, acts as a master identity.”

He goes on to say that this was based on observations of immigrants and first generation Americans living in Chicago who participated in drumming circles. As each performed drumming particular to their own cultural background, the group bonded.   Bennett says this observation is important because it potentially illustrates that arts and culture is a pathway for integrating society that doesn’t involve assimilation–“I don’t have to become more like you to become more closely bonded.”

The a-ha moment for me came around 9:15 when Bennett mentions that artists are the only asset that exists in any community. Not every community has a waterfront to develop, transportation infrastructure or an anchor institution (i.e. higher ed, medical) around which to build industry.  You can count on those who practice and participate in the arts being in your community. With some investment, those people/groups can form the basis around which community cohesion can be cultivated.

He talks about the process of Creative Placemaking as something that has to be particular to each community -“resident centric, locally informed and holistic.” You can’t copy what works somewhere else and expect it to work in your community.

While the local arts community is well-placed to respond to the needs of their community, the challenge to them is to shift their perspective to focus on creating solutions for challenges in their geographic community rather than thinking about responding to their community of donors, subscribers and peer institutions.

As an example, he cites the efforts of Springboard for the Arts in helping to mobilize 600 artists to help mitigate the negative impacts of two years of light rail construction on residents and businesses in St. Paul, MN.

Bennett says the success of this project ran contrary to many of the assumptions and expectations people have. He points out the solution came from artists who already lived in the community. No one was brought in from outside to help save the neighborhood. All the positive associations about arts and culture the project inspired didn’t require the construction of an arts center, nor was it dependent on a physical arts oriented facility or cultural district. The focus was on the human beings involved.

His comment that really intrigued me and I hope is true, is that many of the businesses in the area who benefited from the 150 events the 600 artists created have started diverting promotional money to commissioning work because they saw the events brought in more business than advertising did.

Bennett’s thought process might not immediately satisfy a government official or policy maker that wants the promise of quantifiable results. However, there is something compelling in the argument that the arts and culture community is an already present asset that can be mobilized to effect.  If they are soliciting support employing this rationale it will be incumbent upon many arts and cultural entities to start focusing on addressing the challenges in their region rather than doing more what they have done in the past.

 

Nothing Ambiguous In This Job Description

A job listing for a Program Manager at the Armed Services Arts Partnership came across my social media feed today. I might not have followed the link except that I was curious what type of work the Armed Services Arts Partnership did.

I thought a lot of the job description was particularly well written in terms of being clear about what the expectations would be. The duties clearly reflected the needs of this job rather than having been cut and pasted from a generic description or another organization’s job description.

What really struck me was the “This Role Probably Does Not Make Sense For You If” section. I am not normally inspired by job descriptions, but this one made me wish I had thought to write something that reflected the expectations and culture of my organization so well. (my emphasis)

-You cannot live in the DC Metro Area.

-You are uncomfortable working in a small work environment that involves less structure than a larger organization.

-You are looking for a traditional job with a 40-hour work week.

You are applying to this job because you think our programs are cool, but you haven’t considered the amount of work that goes into developing them.

-You don’t check your emails and deliverables at least three times before sending.

-You are approaching this job viewing veterans as victims to be saved or heroes to be revered, rather than contributors to and leaders of our community.

The “This Role Probably Makes Sense For You” section is longer and more positive. I don’t want to misrepresent the tone of the listing as being negative and exclusionary. I just appreciated that they were able to state their expectations and operational philosophy so well.

Here are some of the “Makes Sense” criteria they listed. I thought they were equally well written. They are just slightly less arresting. If this sounds like the job for you, check it out a bit more:

You are passionate about art education, community arts, performing arts, veterans affairs, mental health, civic engagement, community-building, and/or social entrepreneurship.

You are energized when working in demanding, fast-paced start-up environments where you have the ability to shape the future of an organization and movement.

You are intellectually curious and excited by opportunities to develop new skills.

You view yourself as an entrepreneur, thrive in environments where you have autonomy over your work, and are capable of managing your time effectively and efficiently.

You understand that the behind the scenes work necessary to build, plan, and improve programs is just as important the actual program delivery.

You are excited by the opportunity to lead and foster the growth of a dedicated staff.

Sending Love To Those Calling Attention To Important Theater Issues

Gotta give a shout out to Non-Profit Quarterly for putting up two theatre related articles yesterday. I wanted to call attention to it to show appreciation for to them for covering arts concerns.

(n/b – slight mistake -during editing I noticed Ross Jackson’s article was published on Jan 29, 2016, though it appeared in my social media feed today.)

The first piece by Ross Jackson on Blackness in Nonprofit Theater reinforces a lot of the conversations that have been occurring lately about the recognition and opportunities afforded people of color.

It’s publication is timely just as we move into February when many arts organizations offer their Black History Month programming. Jackson rightly criticizes this approach, (or having any sort of “ethnic slot”), as tokenism. I think many more arts organizations recognize this than had 10-15 years ago and have taken steps to remedy this.

Jackson goes on to point out some less obvious, but equally problematic choices that are made in casting and programming decisions.

More troubling is that the lone black cast member is usually male. Black women are often cast only when the script calls for them or to fill promiscuous and degenerate roles…for example, auditioning a black actor who has the talent to play Rosalind, the witty, courageous leading lady of the court from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, whom the audience is made to feel deserves love, and casting her instead as Phebe, the entitled, arrogant, shepherdess who is criticized for having too many lovers. Rosalind stays white.

[…]

Furthermore, when casting black actors in nonspecific roles, it is not at all necessary to reimagine or reconceptualize the production by placing it in the inner city or adding what a middle-aged white male thinks of as a “Hip-Hop influence,” in order to “excuse” the decision to have black bodies present onstage. We don’t all walk around with a bassline underscoring our every action; there is no reality to that, so do not try to insert it for us.

He goes to provide other examples which place black actors in the status of otherness. He proposes ways in which organizations can examine their choices and processes.

The other mention of theater on Non-Profit Quarterly was about how theaters are becoming more effective at cultivating individual donors to support their work as corporate support wanes. The piece draws from an article in American Theater.

The American Theater article is worth reading because it goes into greater detail than the NPQ piece. However, Eileen Cunniffe does a good job summarizing on NPQ. The reason why many theaters have become more effective is because they are using predictive analytic tools and engaging in one-on-one relationship building to a much greater degree than in the past. That isn’t necessarily good news for every theater company who lack the resources to keep up.

…the newer approaches to donor cultivation that have been successful for nonprofit theater companies are also more labor-intensive—sometimes requiring additional development staff, other times requiring more flexibility from development staffers in terms of when they work, adding more evening and weekend hours to woo donors—again, including board members—before and during theater performances. He also notes that fundraisers must pay more attention than ever to generational differences among individual donors.

Finally, these approaches are likely to bear more fruit for larger theater companies that can afford to invest more in fundraising; they may be unnecessary for the smaller companies, which already know most of their individual donors quite well; and the better they work for the larger companies, the more they may disadvantage midsized companies, which may not be able to invest in additional staff or bells and whistles like predictive modeling.

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