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In Philanthropists’ Shoes: Three Perspectives on Being Genuine From Luxury Brands and High Net Worth Individuals (from the pARTnership Movement)

Bruce Whitacre

Bruce Whitacre

While corporate philanthropy has long ago shifted from community charity to strategic, carefully designed programs, a fundamental question of authenticity can undermine the soundest strategies.

If the association between a company and a cause, or the social impact of the company’s action does not resonate with consumers and other stakeholders, what is the point of the best-laid plans?

This question was examined at a recent panel convened by Barron’s and the Luxury Marketing Council, a collaborative organization of leading brands. Discussion was led by journalist and author Richard C. Morais, editor of Barron’s Penta, a quarterly magazine and website serving wealthy families. In this context, Morais addressed the inherent contradiction facing luxury brands and philanthropy — high end products are often marketed as expressions and rewards for one’s self, and this can create dissonance for philanthropic projects focused on others. Customers of these brands are also often philanthropists themselves and they are attuned to these inconsistencies.

As Page Snow, Chief Philanthropic Officer at Foundation Source, illustrated, “Individuals of wealth are approached constantly for various causes, and their BS detector becomes very finely tuned, especially at higher levels of wealth.”

Alignment sets the stage for genuine and successful partnership. Snow offered advice to those of us on the asking side of this equation: she pointed out that younger family philanthropists are looking out for how their foundations’ assets are being invested just as much as how their grants are being made. They want their portfolios to align with their own values, just as much as their grantees. Even more important, they are not looking for non-profits to fund. They are looking for problems to solve.

Photo from left: Richard C. Morais, Editor of Barron's Penta; Jasmine Audemar, Audemar Piguet; Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality; and Page Snow, Foundation Source. Photo courtesy of Rogers Kisby Photography.

Photo from left: Richard C. Morais, Editor of Barron’s Penta; Jasmine Audemar, Audemar Piguet; Danny Meyer, Union Square Hospitality; and Page Snow, Foundation Source. Photo courtesy of Rogers Kisby Photography.

She went on to analyse recent luxury cause marketing campaigns for alignment and authenticity. RuPaul and Viva Glam: great match. While one of the most inauthentic of recent campaigns, she said, was Komen and KFC. Curing cancer through products that contribute to obesity and cancer just doesn’t fly.

Sometimes the alignment simply fits the company’s DNA. Illustrating this was Jasmine Audemars, Chairman of Audemars Piguet, a Swiss watch manufacturer that supports global sustainability projects. “Time evokes the evolution of geology” according to Piguet. As head of their corporate foundation, Audemar and the board direct its resources toward forest preservation around the world as well as in their own backyard in Switzerland’s Jura.

And on the corporate side, they built the first industrial building in Switzerland to receive the Minergie Eco label. Sustainability advocates are embedded within each department to help improve the company’s processes. None of the foundation projects are used to overtly promote watches, the corporate image or otherwise fit a “strategic” marketing or communications objective. So, while the foundation work informs the corporate work, it is not used as a marketing gimmick.

Danny Meyer highlighted a staff-based philanthropy approach. Employees at his Union Square Hospitality Group restaurants are hired primarily based on their “Hospitality Quotient,” their desire and happiness in serving others. Even in his business’s early days when Union Square was being redeveloped, he and his staff engaged with the community by serving free lunches to organizers and farmers market advocates. Each restaurant manager and staff choose their own local philanthropy, and Danny himself has several in which he is involved, such as Share Our Strength and City Harvest.

This focus on employee engagement comes back to a core focus of Union Square Hospitality Group: it all starts with employees, not customers, investors or anyone else. Staff that is continuously engaged and challenged is central to the company’s business growth.

With a focus on fulfilling one’s employees, public recognition for philanthropy becomes secondary. Union Square Hospitality has sponsored the Big Apple Barbecue in Madison Square Park for years. After all, nearby Blue Smoke is one of their restaurants. But only lately have they actually put their name on it.

But one occasion where they are stepping forward as a brand is the DeVine Intervention campaign for Hurricane Sandy relief that recently closed. Wine suppliers have donated lots valued at $250,000 for an online auction benefiting recovery. The timing was felt to be important…offer an infusion of cash for those suffering the longer term effects of the storm.

So the question all of us engaged in philanthropic partnerships should ask is, “What problem am I solving, and how am I being authentic about it?” Only then will a cause find its voice, and its true partners.

(This post, originally published on, is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)

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The Value of the Arts in Education & Life

Stephanie Milling

Stephanie Milling

As a university administrator and associate professor, I frequently interact with parents who visit our campus with respective students. The one question that is always interesting to field is, “What will my child be able to do with a degree in (fill in your respective arts area here)?”

From a financial standpoint the question is a valid one: parents want to know that their investment in their child’s future is going to lead to gainful employment and prevent him/her from returning home and living on their couch after graduation. However, the assumption that any college degree, regardless the area of study, will lead to a specific job is a misconception.

While a degree does set one on a career path with a specific skill set, it does not guarantee employment in any specific field. The question is also valid because in my experience, the knowledge that a majority of students and their parents have of the opportunities in the arts is limited to practical involvement in their respective art area of study: singing, painting, dancing, acting, etc.

In higher education, I have witnessed practicing an art form as the point of entry that many students take into their respective fields. However, that initial exposure leads them to a variety of careers within and outside of the arts. Therefore, I try to quell the notion that a degree in the arts leads to being a starving artist. Instead, I point them to resources that will help them expand their perspective of the possible career options for those with arts backgrounds and discuss the transferable skills that students learn within the arts.

If someone wants to work in the arts or an arts-related field upon graduation, the choices are numerous and extend beyond practical involvement in the field. Many college arts programs and career centers post information about the careers a person can pursue with a degree in specific arts area.

The Career Center at Boston College and The Career Center at the University of California Berkeley are two just examples of this type that can be located on college and university websites. By directing prospective students and parents to such resources, it enables them to peruse career profiles and their accompanying qualifications. In addition, many of these web pages include links to other websites for internship possibilities, professional organizations, and career finder search engines.

Making the connection between a college major, a prospective job in the field, and the professional networks that exist for various arts-related professions is one way of helping people understand that individuals in the arts do work and contribute to the functioning of industry in a variety of ways.

While there are specific long-standing careers in the arts and arts-related professions, recent discussions in higher education circles and news media have revolved around arts entrepreneurship and innovation.

At the International Council of Fine Arts Deans conference that I attended in October, James Undercofler, Artistic Director of the National Orchestral Institute at the University of Maryland and special advisor to Ithaca College’s new MA in Entrepreneurship in the Arts, spoke about how today’s arts students are inventing their own careers. He frequently blogs for Arts Journal and shares Entrepreneurship in Music and Arts Student Projects completed by students at Drexel University.

The projects demonstrate how the students are able to think outside of the box and create their own opportunities within the arts. “Innovation-ready” students who are inventing jobs are discussed by Thomas L. Friedman in an op-ed piece entitled “Need a Job? Invent It” recently published in The New York Times. In his review of Tony Wagner’s book entitled Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World, Friedman summarizes Wagner’s argument regarding education reform in the United States.

Wagner believes that students in the United States are getting shortchanged when curricula does not allow them to develop creative problem solving and critical thinking skills: these are the capabilities that he believes will set them apart in a competitive marketplace where employers are expecting workers to do more than possess knowledge of their field and demonstrate innovative ways to use their knowledge.

A similar sentiment was discussed in “The value of a liberal-arts education spurs major debate,” a recent article in The Columbus Dispatch. Creativity is being valued in corporate America, which is demonstrated by a recent example discussed in “Dance troupe markets creativity to cube-dwellers.” This article highlights the efforts of Hewlett Packard as the organization has engaged Trey McIntyre Project, a dance company, to help employees learn about creative process and its potential in the workplace.

There are countless other articles that have appeared in recent media sources, and I am sure that you have discovered similar stories that I encourage you to share. I have begun compiling these resources to use as tangible examples to support the list of careers in the arts to help me I am asked what one can do with a degree in the arts. Perhaps real world stories like these might resonate with skeptics in a way that research cannot and encourage a perspective that values the arts at the center of human experience.

Studying the Arts in Higher Education Creates Artists & Alchemists

Raymond Tymas-Jones

Raymond Tymas-Jones

Arts education in our society sometimes gets a bad rap. When I’m speaking with potential students and their families I’m frequently asked questions such as: What do people actually do with a degree from the College of Fine Arts? What kind of jobs do they get? How much money do they make?

These are all valid questions, but the answers are often more complicated than the inquirers desire. I often wonder whether or not these are the most important questions for people who are passionate about studying and creating art.

The Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) is an organization designed to enhance the impact of arts-school education. To do this, SNAAP partners with degree-granting institutions to administer an annual online survey to their arts alumni. The information from the survey provides important insight as to how artists develop in this country, help identify the factors needed to better connect arts training to artistic careers and allow education institutions, researchers and arts leaders to look at the systemic factors that helped or hindered the career paths of alumni.

SNAAP defines “the arts” and “the arts alumni” broadly, to include the fields of performance, design, architecture, creative writing, film, media arts, illustration, and the fine arts. The survey population includes alumni from undergraduate programs, graduate programs, and arts-focused high schools.

SNAAP launched its first national survey in 2011–12 and, for the first time, alumni of all ages were surveyed and over 36,000 arts alumni from 66 institutions in the U.S. and Canada responded. The population of respondents graduated from schools or programs within the last 20 years and tracked such information as jobs and livelihoods, self-reported satisfaction with their training, how their jobs may or may not invoke their arts training, and what kinds of additional skills or knowledge would have proved useful to them as arts alumni.

Among the topics surveyed, arts alumni are asked about current and past education and employment, relevance of arts training to work and further education and satisfaction with curricular and extracurricular experiences. There were 33,801 alumni who responded to the survey. Seventy-two percent of the respondent reported that they continue to practice art separate from work, while 77% reported artistic technique as being important to their work. It is interesting that 75% of these alumni have been self-employed at some point in their career.

It is safe to conclude that artistic skills and competencies were gained during matriculation. The respondents, however, identified as “important skills and competencies” acquired during their studies in the arts are critical thinking, creativity, listening and revising, teamwork, broad knowledge, leadership, project management, networking, research, technology, entrepreneurial, and writing skills. Each skill is applicable for any vocation and often provide opportunities for arts majors to be major contributors in any environment.

The alumni provided an impressive array of occupations that arts graduates hold with their fine arts degrees. Of course, the jobs within the arts are not surprising, such as design, fine artist, musician, film/TV/video artist, arts administrator, arts education, curator/museum, dancers/choreographers, writer/editor, and so forth.

On the other hand, outside of the arts, alumni are employed in a variety of fields, such as the legal profession, management, financial advising, computer/mathematical, communication, engineering/science, and transportation.

A truly amazing statistic is that 29,406 (87%) arts alumni said that they were satisfied with their primary job. Also, 28,392 (84%) indicated that their current job included creative work opportunities and 27,378 (81%) had opportunity to create work for the greater good. SNAAP respondents confirm that arts schooling is a good economic investment as well as a meaningful ladder to meaningful work.

All in all, college students who major in the fine and performing arts acquire skill sets that serve graduates in a myriad of ways and opportunities. Significant percentages of responding alums in the 2011 SNAAP Survey indicated that they were gainfully employed and content with their lives as contributors to the public good.

The important fact is that most alumni with a fine arts degree do not consider that they are without options and opportunities. It is inherent that artists can create for themselves and others through the power of their imagination, creativity, and innovation. In other words, artists are alchemists.

Yesterday’s Tragedy in Boston

Robert L. Lynch

Robert L. Lynch

The tragedy in Boston yesterday was horrific and inexplicable and all of us at Americans for the Arts send our deepest sympathy and thoughts to those injured and to their families.

As we saw and heard things unfold from our offices in Washington, DC, and New York City, the Americans for the Arts staff began calling family and friends and members in the Boston area to see if those closest to us were okay. Some of us had loved ones right there at the site watching or running. Thankfully, all were uninjured.

But it made us think how connected, how close, how much a part of a community we all are even if scattered all across our country. In some ways that makes this tragedy all the more hurtful because it was aimed at community and fellowship itself, the very kind of coming together that marathons, and festivals, and arts events try to create. It takes aim at those who live in a community as well as tourists and visitors from across the world, that broader community created by an event like the Boston Marathon.

For me, as someone who grew up in the Boston area and spent my high school years blissfully wandering the city, this happened on sacred ground. Boylston Street was the place of high school proms, or visits to one of our nation’s great libraries, the site of New Year’s Eve First Night Celebrations, and the Lennox Hotel lounge right there was where my parents would go for end of week celebrations and pop up opera performances.

Sadly, terrible events trying to create hard and horrible memories are now all too common. But in some ways our best defense is to keep investing in the community-building arts activities that, individually and together, form the hallmark of our collective work.

Our hope is the hope itself generated by bringing people together through the arts. My hope is that what we all do in our small way in our many arts organizations across America will make the writing of notes like this one someday unnecessary.

The Arts: A Promising Solution to Meeting the Challenges of Today’s Military

Marete Wester

Marete Wester

On November 15, 2012, a group of concerned and dedicated military, government, private sector, and nonprofit leaders gathered at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC for the Arts & Health in the Military National Roundtable.

The Roundtable represented the second step in the ongoing development of the multi-year National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military, a collaborative effort to advance the arts in health, healing, and healthcare for military service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers.

Launched in January 2012, the National Initiative is co-lead by Americans for the Arts and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in partnership with a national steering committee comprised of military, federal agency, nonprofit, and private sector partners.

The Roundtable was charged with advancing the mission of National Initiative by recommending a framework for a “blueprint for action”—one that will ensure the availability of arts interventions for our service men and women and their families, and integrate the arts as part of the “Standard of Care” in military clinical (VA and military hospitals) as well as programs in community settings across the country. 

The Arts: A Promising Solution to Meeting the Challenges of Today’s Military—A Summary Report and Blueprint for Action was officially released at the 2nd National Summit: Arts, Health and Well-Being Across the Military Continuum hosted by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on April 10, 2013.

The intent of the Blueprint is to open the door for a national conversation and the development of a National Action Plan. More than 200 leaders from the military and arts community were engaged on-site at the Summit, in sessions designed to solicit their suggestions for moving forward.

We invite you to read the report and join the conversation. Help us define what actions and strategies will be necessary—and that we can take together—to expand the use of the arts across the military continuum, and on behalf of service men and women, their families and caregivers.

The results of the discussions and public comments will be summarized and included as part of the findings of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military White Paper and National Action Plan, to be released in 2013.

Stay tuned to ARTSblog for more information on this important initiative going forward.

Yo-Yo Ma Spins an Emotional Tale of “Art for Life’s Sake”

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As I have been sitting back at my desk at Americans for the Arts this afternoon, I’ve had a hard time coming up with a way to describe what I experienced last night at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

It could be the lack of sleep, the lack of coffee, or the abundance of Twizzlers and Clif Bars I’ve eaten during and before Arts Advocacy Day 2013; but, I’m not convinced of that.

Watching Yo-Yo Ma’s combined lecture and performance of a speech called “Art for Life’s Sake: A Roadmap from One Citizen Musician” as our 26th annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy last night was priceless.

Not only did it feature eloquent points about the power of arts education and being a citizen musician, but it also featured memorable performances by jooker Lil’ Buck, bagpiper Cristina Pato, MusiCorps, and teaching artist Greg Loman and founder Arthur Bloom—two of which brought tears to the eyes of those around me in the Concert Hall.

Before I get too involved in describing it, I guess I should provide you with a chance to watch the entire event below or you can continue reading and click on the links to see the specific parts I point out as I attempt to capture the night to the best of my ability.

I’ll wait here while you watch…

Speaking of arts education, Ma explained that experts say there are four qualities needed in students and inside the current workforce: collaborative, flexible, imaginative, and innovative.

Ma said, “We know that our present educational system encourages knowledge acquisition and critical thinking, but what about these other qualities? How do we develop them?” He thinks the answers are in the arts through its integration into the entire school curricula.

Bringing a little science to the mix, Ma said that the “edge effect” is the point in ecology where “two eco-systems meet” and “in that transition zone, because of the influence the two ecological communities have on each other, you find the greatest diversity of life, as well as the greatest number of new life forms.”

He then went on to explain that this effect impacted his life as he initially balanced his immigration from Paris to New York City at the age of seven and then again in examples like the fact that he played at one of the first fundraisers for what would eventually become the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a young child, too.

It was at that event that he met Danny Kaye who literally came down to his level in order to speak with the young cellist “in order to be an equal.” Ma said Kaye came to the edge of a child who was probably fairly uncomfortable and won him over.

Ma explained that since then he “subliminally internalized this gesture and attitude today” and has tried to apply that concept to everything he does—to meet people at eye level, at their edge that decides one person from another.”

Ma, Parto, & Lil' Buck perform "The Swan"

Ma, Parto, & Lil’ Buck perform “The Swan”

At this point that he turned to his cello, invited dancer Lil’ Buck and pianist Cristina Pato to the stage for a performance that left the audience smiling and nodding in silence (minus a “wow!” or two that I could hear from my back row orchestra seat…Lil’ Buck formed a swan with his body to end the performance named after the bird!).

Ma returned to the main topic of “Arts for Life’s Sake” as he set up a performance that may stick with me for the rest of my life.

He began by saying that “musicians spend years learning technique, but the point of art is always to transcend technique. That’s when we get to meaning. We transcend technique in order to seek out the truths in our world in a way that gives meaning and sustenance to individuals and communities—that’s art for life’s sake.”

From there, Ma said he wanted to share with the audience an example of an artist responding to need in the form of Arthur Bloom, who developed MusiCorps which is a program that works with injured service members at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

I just had a chill even thinking about the stirring rendition of Levon Helm’s “Wide River to Cross” that followed. The song was emotionally performed by Specialist Nathan Kalwicki, Lance Corporal Josh Cawthorn, Sergeant Rex Tharp, Corporal Marcus Dandrea, Lance Corporal Tim Donley, and MusiCorps teaching artists Greg Loman and Arthur Bloom.

Lance Corporal Tim Donley raises his arm to the crowd after singing "Wide River to Cross."

Lance Corporal Tim Donley raises his arm to the crowd after singing “Wide River to Cross.”

After the performance Ma returned to the “edge effect” stating that “as music therapists know, by combining two things many don’t usually associate (music and healthcare), Arthur has discovered a new path for healing for these veterans. And, as Arthur explains, this real work, discipline, and rigor. You can see for yourselves the transformative power of what the veterans are doing when Lance Corporal Tim Donley, who says so beautifully at age 21 that he feels blessed to have found two great loves in his life. First, the marines and now, music.”

Ma went on to discuss his arts education work through his own Silk Road Project and the Turnaround Arts initiative, and the importance of including the arts in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning.

He concluded with a performance of Sarabande by Bach from the Sixth Suite for Solo Cello.

While the event came at the end of our training sessions for Arts Advocacy Day the next day, everyone in the Hall felt that the impact of Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture will likely live on well beyond as more of us take the time to appreciate, participate in, and cherish “Art for Life’s Sake.”

Arts Advocacy: It’s Worth More Than Dollars & Cents

Julie Hawkins

Julie Hawkins

Why advocate for public funding of the arts?

It’s a question I’ve never really asked myself, because it’s always been valuable to me.

I grew up in North Carolina during the height of the “Culture Wars.” The summer after my junior year of college I interned in the budget office of the National Endowment for the Arts. One of the highlights of the internship program was a meeting with your U.S. Senators.

Thus it was that in 1993, at the ripe old age of 21 and full of piss* and vinegar, I got to meet the Hon. Jesse Helms and his staff to make my case for government support of the arts. I learned a lot about government and the arts that summer, and some of that piss and vinegar still fuels my passion for arts advocacy today.

I know that answering the question of why we should advocate for public funding is not easy, though, because if it were we’d see many more people engaging in it every hour of every day.

And to be perfectly honest, though arts advocacy and public funding are deeply held values of mine, I’ve still encountered moments where I wonder if it’s working and if it’s worth it, particularly in a period of time when we’ve experienced some substantial reductions to public funding for the arts.  

I temper those thoughts by remembering lessons from “The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy” (Teles and Schmitt 2011), one of which suggests that the successful outcomes of advocacy shouldn’t be measured by direct effects alone (Did the bill pass? Was the funding increased?).

With that in mind, let’s consider why else we should advocate for public funding of the arts. The most common reasons I hear in this regard are two that you are no doubt quite familiar with. Maybe you’ve used them yourself:

1. Public funding is one of the few available sources of general operating support.

2. Public funding leverages other sources of support by functioning as a ‘seal of approval,’ demonstrating to others the value and excellence of our work.

While I think these statements are good ones, I don’t think they are why we should advocate for public funding of the arts. They take into account some benefits of public funding, but don’t recognize the broader impact of advocacy beyond financial support for any single organization or artist.

When we widen the perspective of what constitutes success, thinking about what successful advocacy means not just for single organizations or artists but for our field, our communities, and our country, other benefits that matter emerge, too.

It’s been suggested to me that a cost-benefit analysis of advocacy for public funding simply doesn’t work, because we invest far more time and energy in advocacy than we see returned in actual dollars and cents, given that public funding is such a small part of the current funding mix, at nearly 7% of an arts organization’s annual revenue (NEA 2012).

So why does it matter that we engage consistently and for the long haul in advocacy for public funding of the arts? Through my experiences I’ve come to recognize three reasons beyond the value of the dollar.

First, engaging in advocacy builds stronger organizations. I know frustrated arts employees whose supervisors don’t allow them to participate in advocacy during work hours, because it’s not a part of their job description and there are more immediate, pressing demands. I have even spoken with people who have to use vacation time to support their vocation.

Yet, we also know that the highest-performing nonprofits are those who engage in a dual role of advocacy and program delivery (Crutchfield and Grant 2007), because their work on the ground informs the policy changes needed to make that work more successful, and their advocacy enables those policy changes to occur.

If we don’t encourage—even require—our own workforce to participate in advocacy, then, we’re short-changing both the field and the communities in which we work by failing to create and leverage opportunities to change policy in ways that would enable our practices to further deepen their impact.

Engaging in advocacy for public funding isn’t just about balancing a budget. It’s about what a grant enables in terms of an organization’s impact in its community, and about what other policy changes we advocate for as a result of that work.

Second, those of us who already believe in the value of the arts are often frustrated by what we see as a lack of support for the arts among the general public. How can we change this attitude? The same way other issue groups do—through advocacy.

We should consider events like National Arts Advocacy Day to not only be an effort to increase NEA or other government funding, but to be a moment, once a year, that we all come together to change the broader public perception and understanding of the value and impact of the arts.

I don’t have room to share the whole story here, but I encourage you to check out the Artistic Rebuttal Project for a great example of this.

Third, other countries that previously enjoyed strong government support for the arts have in recent years been rocked by deep cuts to government arts funding, the Netherlands, England, and Portugal among them. In my former role at the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, we were approached by a group in England looking to us for models of how to make the case and advocate for restoring government funding. What kind of signal are we sending to our international peers if we don’t do everything we can to advance arts advocacy here in America?

In sum, I believe we should take the bigger picture into account when considering why we advocate for public funding of the arts. When we do, it becomes clear that doing so enables us to advance important efforts like building higher-impact organizations, changing public perception of the value of the arts, and supporting international efforts to advance the arts.

Do any of these reasons strike a chord for you? I’d love to know, and to learn about other benefits you see resulting from advocacy for public funding of the arts, too. Leave a note below, or better yet, come see me if you’re in D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day.

(*pun intended)


Crutchfield, Leslie and Heather McLeod Grant. “Advocate and Serve.” Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits. Jossey-Bass (2007). Chapter 2: 30-54.

National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). How the United States Funds the Arts. Third Edition, November 2012.

Teles, Stephen and Mark Schmitt. The Elusive Craft of Evaluating Advocacy.Stanford Social Innovation Review. (May 2011)

Join Arts Advocacy Day from Your Desk (or Couch)

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

As Congress returns to work in Washington, DC, this week they will face more than just angry tourists who came to see the not-quite-in-bloom cherry blossoms.

Today, advocates are receiving training from experts and tomorrow 500 arts advocates from across the country (and even Japan!) will take to the Hill on behalf of their local arts and arts education programs.

The good news is that you don’t have to be here to participate (although we’d love you to come next year!). In fact, you can pick and choose your ways to support the arts over the next two days.

1. Send a letter to your member of Congress! Head over to our Action Center and send an email stating your case for funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, arts education programs at the U.S. Department of Education, and encouraging their participation in the House Arts and STEAM Caucuses.

2. Watch the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy live online! At 6:30 p.m. EDT join us live as we stream Yo-Yo Ma’s lecture and performance tonight via our YouTube channel. You won’t want to miss his inspiring story!  

3. Check out our revised Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013! Our data guru, Randy Cohen, has authored a new list of reasons to support the arts. You can even download a PDF copy to bring to your next advocacy meeting.

4. Join a Google Hangout with Yo-Yo Ma, Matt Sorum, Damien Woetzel, and Lisa Phillips! Tomorrow morning (April 9) at 10:30 a.m. EDT join our own President & CEO Robert Lynch for a moderated discussion about arts and arts education. You can participate via Google+ or YouTube!

5. Read our Arts Education Navigator: Facts & Figures and Arts Education Field Guide resources! These two documents provide the reader with statistics supporting the need for arts education in schools and the ecosystem of players, partners, and policymakers involved in arts education.

Be sure to return to ARTSblog periodically over the next several days as more content about Arts Advocacy Day 2013 is published!

10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2013

Randy Cohen

Randy Cohen

There is an old quote attributed to John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich:

“If any man will draw up his case, and put his name at the foot of the first page, I will give him an immediate reply. Where he compels me to turn over the sheet, he must wait my leisure.”

This was the charge given to me by a business leader who needed to make a compelling case for government and corporate arts funding:

“Keep it to one page, please,” was his request. “I can get anyone to read one page.”

With the 2013 arts advocacy season once again upon us, the following is my updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts:

1. True prosperity…The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts help us express our values, build bridges between cultures, and bring us together regardless of ethnicity, religion, or age. When times are tough, art is salve for the ache.

2. Improved academic performance…Students with an education rich in the arts have higher GPAs and standardized test scores, lower drop-out rates, and even better attitudes about community service—benefits reaped by students regardless of socio-economic status. Students with four years of arts or music in high school average 100 points better on their SAT scores than students with one-half year or less.  

3. Arts are an industry…Arts organizations are responsible businesses, employers, and consumers. Nonprofit arts organizations generate $135 billion in economic activity annually, supporting 4.1 million jobs and generating $22.3 billion in government revenue. Investment in the arts supports jobs, generates tax revenues, promotes tourism, and advances our creativity-based economy.

4. Arts are good for local merchants…The typical arts attendee spends $24.60 per person, per event, not including the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside the county in which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42)—valuable revenue for local businesses and the community.

5. Arts are the cornerstone of tourism…Arts travelers are ideal tourists—they stay longer and spend more. The U.S. Department of Commerce reports that the percentage of international travelers including museum visits on their trip has increased from 17 to 23 percent since 2003, while the share attending concerts and theater performances increased from 13 to 16 percent (only 7 percent include a sports event).

6. Arts are an export industry…U.S. exports of arts goods (e.g., movies, paintings, jewelry) grew to $64 billion in 2010, while imports were just $23 billion—a $41 billion arts trade surplus in 2010.

7. Building the 21st Century workforce…Reports by the Conference Board show creativity is among the top 5 applied skills sought by business leaders—with 72 percent saying creativity is of high importance when hiring. The biggest creativity indicator? A college arts degree. Their Ready to Innovate report concludes, “…the arts—music, creative writing, drawing, dance—provide skills sought by employers of the 3rd millennium.”

8. Healthcare…Nearly one-half of the nation’s healthcare institutions provide arts programming for patients, families, and even staff. 78 percent deliver these programs because of their healing benefits to patients—shorter hospital stays, better pain management, and less medication.

9. Stronger communities…University of Pennsylvania researchers have demonstrated that a high concentration of the arts in a city leads to higher civic engagement, more social cohesion, higher child welfare, and lower poverty rates. A vibrant arts community ensures that young people are not left to be raised solely in a pop culture and tabloid marketplace.

10. Creative Industries…The Creative Industries are arts businesses that range from nonprofit museums, symphonies, and theaters to for-profit film, architecture, and design companies. An analysis of Dun & Bradstreet data counts 905,689 businesses in the U.S. involved in the creation or distribution of the arts that employ 3.35 million people—representing 4.4 percent of all businesses and 2.2 percent of all employees, respectively (get a Creative Industry report for your community on our site). 

11. What is Your Number 11?…Tell us in the comments below!

You can also download this list as an easy, one-page PDF at

5 Ways You Benefit from Writing Poetry! (from The pARTnership Movement)

jaffe-home-010913Richard Jaffe

April is National Poetry Month, inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets to celebrate poetry and its vital role in American culture. The academy sponsors events such as the star-studded Poetry & the Creative Mind Gala (April 17 at Lincoln Center in New York City) and mass-appeal activities like Poem in Your Pocket Day (April 18), when everyone is encouraged to carry a poem.

I love April, and not just because of my birthday and all those Final Four games!

We would be wise to celebrate America’s poetry because it’s an art form that does as much—sometimes even more—for the writer as the reader. Poems inspire, educate, and cleanse. And now that writing has become more abbreviated with blogs, text messages, tweets and the like, the time is perfect for poetry to make a big comeback.

The process of exploring my thoughts and feelings and expressing them in symbolic word images exercises my creativity in a fun way. I think it makes me sharper and, the more I explore the well of my imagination, the faster it fills again.

Everyone can benefit from writing poetry, whether they want to share it or not, because it:

1. Improves cognitive function. Learning new words (I’m never without a Thesaurus), working out meter (math!), and finding new ways to articulate our thoughts and feelings (communication) are all good for the brain. Want to get smarter? Write poetry! 

2. Helps heal emotional pain. Grief is one of the most painful emotions we experience, and it’s also the source of some of the world’s most inspirational poetry. When I have experienced a profound loss, the act of putting my feelings into words or memorializing and paying tribute to those who I lost is extremely cathartic.

3. Leads us to greater self-awareness. Most of us don’t have the time or desire to just sit and aimlessly ponder the meaning of our lives or what makes us deeply happy. Writing poetry gives us a constructive way to do that. Not only does it help us explore and gain insight, we have something to show for all that “inner reflection” when we’re done.

4. Provides a gift of inspiration or education to others. One thing we know—we are not alone! Universal questions, fears, and emotions are called ‘universal’ because everyone, no matter what country or culture they’re raised in, experiences them. Once we’ve done the work of exploring and finding our own answers, we can help others by sharing them. I like to share my poem ‘Eternal Happiness’ because it describes what I’ve found to be the source of my own eternal happiness.

5. Helps us celebrate! For some things, balloons and cake just don’t suffice. Proposing to my wife, the births of my children, their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, falling in love—these were among the most emotionally powerful, joyful times of my life. Thanks to the poems I wrote at the time to capture those feelings, I can experience them again and again.

If you’ve never tried your hand at poetry, I encourage you to give it a go in April.

You can share your poem with me by tweeting a link to @rbjaffe or posting to my Google+ group, “Inspirational Poetry.”

(This post is one in a weekly series highlighting The pARTnership Movement, Americans for the Arts’ campaign to reach business leaders with the message that partnering with the arts can build their competitive advantage. Visit our website to find out how both businesses and local arts agencies can get involved!)