Born of Two Hurricanes: ArtsReady Helps Gird Against Disaster

ArtsReady logo

It’s not that it took Hurricanes Rita and Katrina to put a fine point on the need for arts organizations to have crisis management plans, but the enormity of the damage caused by the hurricanes of 2005 did make it clear to South Arts (a regional organization) that there was a huge need for a national arts readiness initiative. That initiative has become ArtsReady, an online toolkit, application, and resource designed to guide arts organizations through developing and maintaining disaster plans.

“What we discovered,” says ArtsReady Project Manager, Katy Malone, “was that many galleries, museums, dance companies, theaters, film studios and other arts organizations had little or no preparedness plans for dealing with crisis. Most arts administrators haven’t been trained that way, and they are generally too overwhelmed with day-to-day work to seek out the additional skill set, so we looked for a way to provide a resource that could help them better protect their organizational assets and activities when disaster strikes.

“It’s important to realize that there are many types of crisis that can occur. Murphy’s Law is that it’s most likely to be the thing that you don’t expect to happen that actually does happen. While it’s true that if you’re in California, you know to prepare for an earthquake, and in Oklahoma you’ll prepare for tornadoes, anywhere you are you also need to be prepared for burglary, arson, or any other situation that might even be more likely to happen than large-scale events. That is why we modeled ArtsReady after an all-hazards planning approach.

“We do that through two levels of membership with ArtsReady.  A free Basic Membership educates organizations about all-hazards readiness through our newsletter, Alert emails and readiness tips, and a community-built resource library. However, organizations can actually build a plan with ArtsReady through a Premium Membership, which provides access to the full online application. The application guides organizations through an assessment of their readiness. Then, the organization receives a custom set of self-paced action items to help develop and maintain a plan. The application also has the Battle Buddy Network, where organizations can seek out and develop reciprocal relationships agreeing to help one another during times of need. There are also opportunities to share lessons learned, templates, planning tips, strategies for handling difficult situations, and other resources.

“And throughout the ArtsReady platform Members are shown how to safeguard their organization’s resources, activities and assets no matter what happens, rather than considering just one type of crisis or another. Through this method they quickly see that preparedness is not just about handling a specific major disaster, but about knowing where the organization’s vulnerable points are, and addressing them.”

ArtsReady’s online platform assists in identifying and addressing those needs in advance. This includes advising on or providing off-site storage for key data; advice on having a communications plan to reach staff, board members and volunteers; and enabling alternate phone, email and web-based outreach capabilities, so the organization can react quickly and minimize downtime. The self-assessment survey and advice help the Members start to formulate a business continuity plan.

ArtsReady also provides information and recovery resources to enable quick response when a crisis occurs. Elements include safety – making sure staff, artists, and audiences are cared for; ensuring that resources, financial assets and core activities can be protected or the damage mitigated; and setting up proper insurance to cover damages, or to help the organization rebuild if necessary.

“It’s true that, particularly after this past year when hurricanes hit New York City, organizations understand that bad things can happen to anyone, and the people in charge must be prepared to respond. It’s critical in the arts because the nature of what we do. Our organizations possess cultural treasures and present unique experiences that are fragile, irreplaceable, and susceptible to being lost. We must do everything we can to protect against that and minimize the impact of the unexpected.”

ArtsReady is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and state, regional and national partner organizations. To learn more, visit



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Green trends and Landscape Design

Nick Flachsbart, Landscape Design

Nicholas Flachsbart design

What’s trending in your field in terms of design?

Right now a big trend in landscape architecture is the incorporation of green infrastructure for, mostly, large buildings. From high rise office buildings to classrooms and apartments of nearly any size, a green roof may create an outdoor social environment for its occupants while also acting as a climate controlling device and greatly reducing water runoff.
Though this area of the field is focusing upon private space, and is geared toward an engineering standpoint, I find it enormously critical for helping the general public to understand how dynamic the field is. Where people would often confuse landscape architecture with horticulture or simply landscaping, they are now seeing more consciously and carefully designed green spaces where it is highly unexpected, and beginning realize the social and cultural impact of the field.

How are models used in the design process?

Landscape architects use models for a whole number of reasons and purposes. A preliminary model may be built during the design process in order to analyze spatial creation. It is extremely crucial to produce these models because it brings any design flaws to your attention, which are often overlooked on a two dimensional drawing that lacks depth. I find more abstract models to be the most effective during the design process because it gives you a chance to explore different materials and mediums. For instance, where foam may be the best representation for trees in one design, metal wiring may be more appropriate in another. One may study the layout of a site by layering chipboard to fit the contours of the topography, allowing them to walk themselves over hills, through valleys, across bridges or along a shoreline. You could perhaps use a model to discover or manipulate different view-sheds you want users of the landscape to have. That is, you may want to block a view of a river until one reaches a certain point along the curvature of a path – and now you are creating a more intellectual experience for that person.
In short, there is no limit to how and why a model may be used. A good landscape architect will design with models, and of course to show a client your design, a model can make or break their decision to use it. Today, many models are done via computer programming, but the more sophisticated and large scale design firms seem to be more likely to build a final, physical rendering to show a client
Where do you see the intersection of fine art & landscape design?
I don’t believe that the idea of fine art is something that can simply drift in and out of landscape architecture. They are interwoven into something that is both expressive and practical. High Modernism of landscape architecture suggests even that it is fine art. Many people consider architecture to be fine art if it displays a great concern for aesthetic qualities, even though an architect must consider structural engineering into their work. Similarly, landscape architects juggle the principals of design as well as civil engineering, yet people seem extremely reluctant to call it fine art. Personally, I do not believe that the field fits in as a traditional fine art, but instead uses the same theories to create pieces of work much more literal than the method by which it was conceived.

Which artists have inspired you?

Environmental artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude have probably been my biggest influence as an undergraduate student in the field. Known best for the Running Fence project in northern California and The Gates in Central Park (images attached), they have redefined the idea of art for me. British artist, Andy Goldsworthy has definitely been, and continued to be, a great source of inspiration for me as well, beginning when I watched the documentary Rivers and Tides. What both artists have in common is the temporary nature of their work. What is most beautiful to me is that an artist can have the selflessness to create a work of art that is not in a museum or gallery, but instead ceases to exist after a few weeks or even hours after completion.


What are the most common design mistakes?

It seems to me that most design mistakes in the field root from a misunderstanding of the goal of taking on a project. I have made all of these mistakes, often more than once, and I’m sure with more to come. The first and biggest design mistake is to compete with surrounding architecture. Because most projects have structures in the vicinity, a designer will become offended by ostentatious buildings and thus try to place more importance on the landscape with great amounts of hardscape and materials (excessive concrete, granite, marble, wood, walls, lighting, exotic plantings, water features…etc) in space that does not benefit from such.
Another common mistake is to design for yourself. One cannot simply conjure up a design they like and use it where ever they wish. A landscape is a living, breathing, and dynamic palate that changes on a daily basis, and thus the design of a landscape is inherent in nature. The question is not how you want to design the land, but how the land wants to be designed.
Thirdly, it is very typical of landscape architect students (as most mistakes are made before becoming a professional, but certainly not all) is to overestimate the power of landscape elements as space definers. What I mean is, when attempting spatial creation in a design in plan view (from above, on paper), it may appear that a row of trees and light posts will define an edge. Yet, if you’ve ever walked along a path that has a tree every 20 feet and a light post between each pair of trees, you’ll know how weak that edge truly is. However, using topography for instance, we can build up a 7 foot high hill at a very steep slope along a path and define the edge quite well because we cannot see over it. One must understand what a point is, how we turn that point into a line, the line into a plane, and the plane into volume.

What tips would you give to people who might consider pursuing this field?

Do not let people discourage you. The truth is, most people have no idea what landscape architecture is – and even the first year studying in the field may not be enough to understand it. Read books about the subject, as it can be very motivational. Be sure you love the artistic and technical aspect of it, because a pretty drawing of a landscape means nothing if it you don’t know how it will be built, and designing commercial parking lots limits expressive opportunity

Which organizations would you recommend to people who want to learn more?

The most important organization in the field (in the U.S.) is the American Society of Landscape Architects, which has an enormous amount of information on what we do. Theirs is the official organization from which a graduate and experienced (2 yrs minimum) junior landscape architect can receive their license after a series of exams. Another great way to learn about the field is to simply google search, “(city of your choice) landscape architecture” and see what firms come up. Click on their link and read through their design philosophy and check out their portfolios.
Nick Flachsbart is a seventh semester student of Landscape Architecture at the University of Connecticut.
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How to draw caricatures for fun and profit

by Edna Cabcabin Moran, Illustrator and Author


Studio Kat

Studio Kat

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe


Can you picture yourself leaping from a plane, parachute strapped to your back as you free-fall to earth? This scenario is similar to drawing caricatures on the fly. Okay, so it’s not as dangerous. Still, the level of risk is high especially in the company of a Type A personality party planner and a group of strangers. If you are averse to risk-taking then read no further. But if you relish the challenge of drawing people and providing one-of-a-kind entertainment then check out this overview on breaking into the profession.

The Basics

First and foremost, your talent and ability to draw, as well as, “see” are paramount. A caricaturist must capture the likeness of a person, honing in on her unique features within seconds. This takes practice. So get your drawing and observation skills up to speed through daily sketching and drawing. Draw the people around you, on TV, off magazines and from your imagination. I recommend keeping a sketchbook specifically for caricatures and cartoons. Practice using the tools of the trade—markers of all types, pencils, even paint. Use what feels natural to you.

You must also have a solid understanding of human anatomy from an artist’s perspective. When I first started out in caricatures, I was mentored by an artist who managed a caricature booth at a theme park. He recommended several of Burne Hogarth’s books, Dynamic Figure Drawing and Drawing the Human Head. While I was already competent at drawing people, I found that Hogarth’s books helped expand my knowledge with creating an invisible structure from which to render and exaggerate.

All this practice leads to “systemizing” a drawing style. It’s like having a recipe and saving time on drawing which is a key element to drawing party caricatures (which can take up to 5 minutes each). You might start out with a mentor’s system of drawing like me. I began with profile view and full-body caricatures. Once on my own, I changed to drawing people’s faces from three-quarter view. Mentors also turn up in the form of books or online tutorials. Copy a style you admire until you are proficient. Once you have that style down then go forth and draw people from life.

Taking the Leap

Starting out, I volunteered to draw at small functions and schools, and for family and friends. With each caricature, I learned something new—how to prep for a marathon drawing session, which papers worked best for me, and perhaps, most importantly, how to keep the hand moving. To gain proficiency at drawing people on the spot, you have to actually draw people on the spot! I was scared and embarrassed at first. I didn’t want others to see my wayward lines or their noses or chins gone kaput. But I kept my hand moving and with practice—lots and lots of it—I got better. Once you learn to relax and improvise as you draw, all the markings you make work toward a desired result. Over time, my speed and confidence picking up, I started getting work for corporate events, private parties and grad nights. Whether or not it’s a paid gig, you gain invaluable experience by showing up at the drawing board with actual subjects to draw.

Go Forth and Gig

During the pre-internet and early dot com days, caricature gigs were handled by talent agents and entertainment brokers. These folks still exist and while they hire caricature talent, they aren’t the only game in town. You can also market yourself through online resources like or (I have no preference for either). My fellow caricaturists are divided into two categories—full-time and part-time. (I, myself, am a part-timer as I take on other freelance art assignments.) Full-time caricaturists typically have a website or online portfolio dedicated to caricatures. Try out the free blog and portfolio sites, join an artist community, study the market rates in your area and invest in advertising through venues that interest you. People will always want their pictures drawn. So, if you have an adventuresome spirit, talent, skill, enthusiasm and stamina to draw for hours, the market is there. Best of luck drawing people for fun and profit!


Edna Cabcabin Moran creates artwork for magazines, books, billboards, t-shirts and brochures. She is also the author/illustrator of THE SLEEPING GIANT: A Tale from Kaua’i (BeachHouse Publishing 2006).

Awards and recognition include: Writers Digest 2006 Competition Honorable Mention in Rhyming Poetry, the Northern CA Gold Addy and Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration Merit.

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A Passion for Art Photography and for Saving Our Natural World

Guy Tal, Art Photographer and Educator

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13 Guy Tal 1

Guy Tal found success working in Silicon Valley for six years and then at a Utah financial services firm, before deciding to give up both the rat race and the financial security at age thirty-eight to pursue art photography full time. “It was very scary after having ‘invisible hands’ put money in my bank account each week, but it was something I knew I had to do.

“I’d gotten interested in photography as a teenager, and practiced it semi-professionally for more than fifteen years, selling and publishing a lot; so I had a good foundation. When I started, I didn’t focus on selling my work, but on teaching about the creative process. By the time I left my corporate job, I already sold books and essays, and had published articles in national publications. My workshops had also gotten a lot of good feedback, and I had a good online following, and that’s what I relied on.

“There have been a lot of challenges in recent years that have made it very difficult to make a living in this kind of photography. Probably the biggest has been the change in selling stock images, which at one time was the major source of income for many photographers, and now, with the free services on the Internet, has largely died out. So these days, unless you’re a big name with strong client relationships, it’s very tough to make a living selling photographs.

“For me, focusing on instruction, leading photography tours and publishing, have proven to be a good business. There used to be a mantra in the business that photographers don’t buy other photographers’ work, but I never subscribed to that – probably because I didn’t find it to be true about myself. So, my customers and clients often are professional photographers, or people who intend to pursue it seriously. Rather than focus on the technical minutia of operating a camera, or simply drive people around to postcard locations, my workshops are about the practice of photography as art, on finding ways of relating to the natural world on a personal, interpretive, level, and expressing the significance of such experiences through photography.

“I work with people who are at many different levels, though I do weed out the very, very beginners, since it’s important to have a working knowledge of the camera out of the way in order to pursue creative work. It also offers a unique experience because we go beyond the well-known iconic views, particularly in some of the remote areas we visit in the national parks, and spend time on understanding the art and science of expressive imagery, rather than simply documenting natural phenomena.

“I offer some workshops where I’m the primary teacher, but I also sometimes collaborate with others. We give field workshops, and then every other year or so I offer a limited number of one-on-one internships by phone and Skype with up to five students.

“I approach the photography of natural things as a form of art and creative expression, and I believe that beyond producing aesthetic images, it can also be a means of finding happiness and fulfillment. My process is described in detail in my Creative Series ebooks, which outline my six-phase process of Concept, Visualization, Composition, Capture, Processing and Presentation.

“When I’m working on a piece, I think and visualize first, and then use tools to express the story I want to tell with the image, or a portfolio of images. It’s not about the technical trivia of using a camera, but about sharing something meaningful and personal.”

In an article in Aperture Academy, Guy said this about the biggest challenge facing landscape and wilderness photographers in the future:

“I think we are the lucky ones. We still have wilderness available to us, and revolutionary technologies we can employ to create images like never before. While I see technology improving, I fear that the experiences we are after are fast disappearing in favor of misguided corporate and political agendas. If at some point in the future you could have a 100-megapixel camera that weighs less than a pound and costs $500 but nowhere left to hike and experience and camp in solitude, there will no longer be a reason for what we do.”

Guy Tal’s work has been published in many magazines, including LensWork Magazine, Outdoor Photographer Magazine, Popular Photography Magazine, Digital Photographer, Landscape Photography Magazine, and On Landscape. He’s said, “I do not consider myself as a photographer who creates art, but rather an artist working in the medium of photography. Where some photographers take a representational approach to the landscape, I wish instead to use visual elements and natural aesthetics as evocative metaphors, creating images that are not merely of, but about places and things that have become personally significant to me.”


Pitch Perfect Music and Glass Art

Nina Falk, Musician and Glass Artist

13 Nina Falk art

1. When did you start working in glass?

In 2003 I started working in glass, as a result of attending a show at the Glen Echo Park in Maryland. I saw a beautiful bowl, made by Zayde Sleph, and bought it. Shortly after, I learned that he taught there, and that he and his wife taught many of the glass artists in the area. Not only that, I learned, to my happy surprise, that there is a thriving community of glass artists in the Washington, DC area. This rich community gave me many opportunities to study more, and before long, to exhibit publicly.

2. What brought you there from music?

 I am still a performing musician. It is not unusual for a person to be drawn to more than one form of artistic expression. The sense of hearing and sight are closely aligned because of the vibrations they each create. The longtime concertmaster of the National Symphony, William Steck, took up quilting after his retirement and made gorgeous pieces.

For me, a passion for both art and music were present since childhood. I was blessed to have parents who were attentive to notice my interests and to provide me with opportunities to develop them. When I was eight I began to feel very serious about music, and studied at the Juilliard Preparatory Division with a teacher I adored, who nurtured my love for music. When I went to the Oberlin Conservatory, I was very committed to my life as a musician, but I took classes in sculpture and printmaking. In graduate school I made time to study weaving and bought a four-harness loom. I was a Fulbright scholar in London and Rome, where I studied violin-making. I loved working with my hands, but found that violin-making was not as creative as I wanted to be. It was illuminating to learn how the instrument was made, that I spent so many hours with as a player. Until I found glass, I found different avenues for creative expression in visual forms, but never focused on one in particular. Once I fell in love with glass, which happened almost immediately, I pursued it with the same intensity of purpose that is required for a musician to develop. I went to workshop after workshop, bought my own kiln, bought a second kiln, began to enter shows. I exhibited at the American Craft Council Show in Baltimore, the Washington Craft Show, the Northern Virginia Craft Festival, The Buyers’ Market for American Craft, and the Glen Echo show that had lit the fire to pursue glass.

Since I chose kiln-formed glass, it was not that difficult to maintain my musical life along with the glass work. Once you load the kiln, there is usually around 24 hours before the complete cycle is back to room temperature, depending on what process you are doing. During that time, I am able to practice the violin, rehearse, and play concerts.

3. How do you see the connection between the two areas of art for your work?

The inspiration for my work is in the oneness of all life, whether you see this as a secular or sacred phenomenon. This is seen in both art and music, and especially in nature. Since I am not a composer of music, usually the music inspires the art, rather than the art inspiring the music. But there are patterns that can be noticed in both, such as repetition, contrast, flow, and different forms…these exist in art, music, and nature. Unlike literature, much of the music I play is abstract, so the opportunities for inspiration are limitless.

4. What were some of the challenges starting to work in glass?

Besides needing to learn how to use the material, in terms of technique, including how much heat, how little, how long…there are many possibilities to consider. I am fortunate to be working in glass at a time when there is a lot of information out there that is shared by artists who came before me, as well as local colleagues. However, one challenge I think that affects all glass artists is that it is easy to get distracted by technical issues—the “how”—rather than “what” and “why”. It is very important for an artist to be true to his/her imagination, to develop it, and to listen to what is speaking inside, and not abandon that pursuit in the cause of technical skills. This is an issue, of course, in music performance, that many musicians are aware of. Virtuosity for its own sake does not hold interest over time. It is important for glass artists to stay true to whatever vision animates their work, and not let technical concerns be the driver of the piece.

5. What’s a typical day like?

It all depends on what stage I am at, in the development of a piece. It starts with an idea, or a client’s idea, and moves to a sketch, and then to tests, and finally to actually producing the piece. That production phase involves lay-up of the design elements, and multiple firings. For my tree pieces, it means creating the wood elements and working out how they will interact with the glass. For the large undulating wall pieces, after the series of firings, it means adding the installation hardware. The most exciting phase is the actual creation of the work, because it is such a pleasure to see your idea come to fruition.

7. How do you handle marketing?

Like many artists, I am sometimes introverted and not comfortable selling my own work. I am fortunate to have found a marketing assistant who has helped me with all aspects of selling, including pricing, and most important, getting my work seen. She sends e-mail blasts periodically to designers, galleries, art consultants. Sometimes I place an ad in one of the better craft magazines, which are often made available at shows as well as in bookstores and subscriptions.

8. How much time do you spend on exhibiting and on the business of promoting your work?

Because of my assistant, I spend only a small portion of my time exhibiting and promoting. Last year, I did a show with two colleagues in a cooperative gallery, and plan to do another in about a year. That will take a lot of time and energy, but it’s a great incentive to get new work accomplished, and I am eager to work on new tree ideas and new and larger wall pieces.

9. What tips do you have for others, organizations you’ve found useful, courses?

Even though the economy hasn’t recovered fully, it is good to do some shows, especially if you are starting out. You learn so much from other artists, and there is nothing that can replace the information you get from observing people notice your work. You get to see what gets the most reaction, the least, where they linger. It is important not to isolate yourself too much in the studio. And as I mentioned earlier, the Washington area glass guild is a fantastic community. Join whatever guild is near you, and connect with other artists. I also benefitted a great deal from taking courses (in design, for example) from non-glass artists. This strengthened my understanding of design basics and helped me to separate the artistic issues from the technical ones.

Nina Falk approaches her glasswork as a visual expression of the rhythms, patterns, and lyricism of both music and nature. The artist studied violin, sculpture, and printmaking at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and won a Fulbright Fellowship to explore violin making in Europe. She studied kiln-formed glass at the Corning Museum of Glass and at the Pilchuck School. She is a founding member of the Arcovoce Chamber Ensemble. She was artist-in-residence at the Wesley Theological SeminaryEnhanced by Zemanta. For more information, visit