"The arts are not for the privileged few, but for the many. Their place is not on the periphery of daily life, but at its center." --John D. Rockefeller 3d
Commentary: Using social bridging to be "for everyone" in a new way
Nina Simon, Museum 2.0 blog, 5/8/13
Like a lot of organizations, my museum struggles with two conflicting goals:
1) The museum should be for everyone in our community.
2) It's impossible for any organization to do a great job being for everyone.
At the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, we're approaching this challenge through social bridging. We intentionally develop events and exhibitions that matchmake unlikely partners -- opera and ukelele, Cindy Sherman and amateur photographers, welding and knitting. Our goal is to bring people together across difference and build a more cohesive community. For more than a year now, what started as a series of experiments and happy accidents is now embedded in how we develop and evaluate projects. We've seen surprising and powerful results -- visitors from different backgrounds getting to know each other, homeless people and museum volunteers working together, artists from different worlds building new collaborative projects. Visitors now spontaneously volunteer that "meeting new people" and "being part of a bigger community" are two of the things they love most about the museum experience. This has led to a surprising outcome: we are now de-targeting many programs. This isn't just a philosophical shift -- it's also being driven by visitors' behavior. "Family Art Workshops" suffer from anemic participation whereas multi-generational festivals are overrun with families. Single-speaker lectures languish while lightning talks featuring teen photographers, phD anthropologists, and professional dancers are packed. Programs that emphasize bringing diverse people together are more popular than those that serve intact groups. Why fight it?
PNC Foundation's "Arts Alive" gives over $5 million to increase arts access
Family art making in underserved communities, a symphony for sports lovers and a Philadelphia film festival for children are among the innovative programs that were funded by the PNC Foundation through PNC Arts Alive. Including [this year's] recipients, PNC Arts Alive has awarded more than 120 grants totaling $5 million to more than 55 arts organizations in the Greater Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey region [since 2009]. The 2013 grants support a wide range of disciplines, audiences and participatory experiences from arts groups large and small, city and suburban. "The creativity of Philadelphia's arts sector is clearly evident in the innovative programs by PNC Arts Alive grantees" said Bill Mills, PNC regional president. "We set out to make the arts more accessible and challenged arts groups to help people experience art in new ways -- to engage them now and in the future. The region's performing arts community has delivered." Results from the first and second year grant portfolios prove the effectiveness of Arts Alive in reaching new audiences. In year one, 73% of the projects increased attendance, while also attracting a new and more diverse audience to arts and cultural programs and events. In year two, 100 percent of the projects were effective in introducing the arts to audiences with limited access.
Commentary: Making art accessible to people in poverty
Sarah Anderson, The Star-Press [Indiana], 4/12/13
We all love the story about the underdog kid pulling himself up by the bootstraps to become a successful adult and leaving his life of poverty. And it is a wonderful, heartwarming story. Unfortunately, reality can be quite different for so many children living in poverty. [According to U.S. data from 2010,] 15.1% of individuals [were] living in poverty and 22% of children under 18 [were] living in poverty. Children growing up in poverty are much less likely to receive the tools they need to succeed: good nutrition, great education, and a strong support system. Individuals, whether they are parents or single, living in poverty are also blocked by those same barriers. And, unfortunately, it can become a cycle. There are several agencies in Delaware County [that] have banded together in the Poverty Awareness Year partnership to provide tools to get out of poverty. I am happy to work at an organization that plays a small role in all the good work going on in our area. Here at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, we believe in art for all. We believe visual arts, dance, music, theater and more are integral parts of a person's education. We believe art helps one grow as a person, learn to express him or herself in new ways, and can even act as a stress reliever. One of our "cornerstones" is the idea that art should be accessible to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status. We have a strong financial aid program that provides free classes to children and adults. When I hear that an acting class was "like walking into a room of friends on the first night" or that a child struggles at school but feels "like a rock star in his hip hop class," I know that we make a difference.
Global Poverty Project uses concert tickets to promote anti-poverty activism
James C. McKinley Jr, The New York Times, 5/1/13
When the Global Poverty Project staged a benefit concert with Neil Young, the Black Keys and Foo Fighters in Central Park last fall, skeptics wondered if that nonprofit's attempt to generate pressure on world leaders to help the poor would fade as soon as the amplifiers and guitars were put away. But this week the charity proved it had won converts, at least within the music industry. More than 70 artists, among them Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Bruno Mars, have pledged to give the project two tickets from each of their concerts over the next year, creating a pool of more than 20,000 tickets. The tickets will be used as prizes to encourage people to become involved in causes like fighting poverty in the third world, eradicating polio, building schools and ending famine. To win the tickets, fans are asked to earn points by taking action through a related Web site, globalcitizen.org. They can sign petitions, pledge to volunteer their time as aid workers, write elected leaders or donate money to aid organizations. "It provides us with an opportunity to get really powerful activism worldwide," said Hugh Evans, the chief executive of the Global Poverty Project. [The idea] caught on quickly with artists and managers because giving up two tickets for each concert is a small sacrifice -- and because the causes the project supports tend not to generate controversy or alienate fans. One artist who signed on, Dierks Bentley, said, "As a country singer, I really do try to avoid any sort of political involvement" that might "throw my fans for a loop. But when it comes to poverty, man, shoot. There are so many people in this country who are struggling, and a whole other level of struggle outside our borders, and I've had a chance to see part of that."