HistoriCorps: Volunteers in U.S. Historic Preservation Make Their Mark and Have Fun Doing It

©HistoriCorps

Want to experience a slice of American history? Would you be willing to clear some brush, wield a hammer, and step off the beaten track? If so, and if you have a week, month, or more of your time to give, and you’re willing to travel, consider becoming a volunteer for HistoriCorps, a kind of national landmarks-focused Peace Corps for sites in the U.S.

Described by executive director Townsend Anderson as “a hybrid between a nonprofit construction company and an outdoor adventure company,” HistoriCorps “mobilizes and engages a volunteer workforce to work on historic preservation projects.” Anderson describes the experience as a kind of adventure vacation in some of the most beautiful—if sometimes remote—parts of the country.

Since its founding in 2009, as many as 900 HistoriCorps volunteers have logged more than 60,000 hours doing preservation work on close to 170 projects in more than 20 states. Projects are currently underway at Clermont Farm, Virginia; Santanoni Preserve, New York; Routt National Forest, Colorado; and Tahoe National Forest as well as special project sites in West Virginia and Arizona.

HistoriCorps evolved from a “partnership between a group representing land managers and preservationists, who collaborated to restore buildings on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest in Salida, Colorado. That initiative helped the U.S. Forest Service recognize the power of such a collaborative model, since the federal agency has thousands of historic buildings under its care, but it is not able to do all the preservation work that is needed.” HistoriCorps along with its sponsors and partners tries to help with projects that can benefit from volunteer manpower.

According to Anderson, the organization goes out of its way to provide an easy, accessible experience for those who join, and group leaders train them to work side-by-side with skilled tradesmen and other volunteers. No previous experience is necessary. Individuals are provided with the tools they need and basic accommodations, including a kitchen and camping equipment to provide adequate shelter.

“It has really become a gateway, if you will, that historic preservation has never had before,” explains Anderson. “It is introducing many non-preservationists to historic preservation. […] HistoriCorps has offered, for me, the best opportunity I have had to teach a preservation ethic.”

Those who work on HistoriCorps have the chance to repair and restore “places that preserve and tell the nation’s history.” Ann Pritzlaff, one of the founding members, calls HistoriCorps “more than a clearinghouse for volunteers or a resource for funding.” She described the mission as having a number of parts, to “build the capacity of land management agencies and local governments to achieve preservation projects, advance green technologies and enable innovators in historic preservation and stewardship, so that preservation can take on real value for communities and economies.”

Historic preservation can take many forms, preserving, conserving and protecting things from the past that are deemed to be of historic importance. It can be about protecting houses and other buildings from being destroyed, or the recovery and protection of artifacts and sites. In the United States, one of the earliest, best known examples was “the decision to maintain Mount Vernon, George Washington’s homestead, in its original condition rather than demolishing the property shortly after his death.” In the late 1940s, President Truman signed legislation to create the National Land Trust. More recently, in 2011, the National Trust announced a dynamic new program called National Treasures, through which the organization will identify significant threatened places across the United States, and take direct action to save them. National Treasures are part of a new and focused effort to bring more Americans into the preservation movement, and demonstrate the relevance of preserving the nation’s historic places.

On the grassroots level, HistoriCorps is one of a number of organizations trying to help out. For those who are interested in HistoriCorps but can’t participate as on-site volunteers, individuals can make donations to HistoriCorps, where even less than $100 can be allocated to buy new tools or buy meals for field teams. The organization also accepts applications from organizations and groups that have a structure or property they believe may have historical significance and should be restored and used to benefit the public.

To learn more about activities in historic preservation, visit HistoriCorps’ sponsor pageor the National Trust for Historic Preservation (NTHP). Preservation Action, a nonprofit lobbying group also hosts Preservation Week each spring to help raise awareness of important issues. And NTHP publishes a yearly list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on their website to spotlight national treasures and rally efforts to save them.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Oh, The Place You’ll Go in 2016: The Seuss Museum, in Springfield, MA

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

Thneeds factory in The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. (top, ™ and © 1971 by Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P.); Springfield Gasworks, early 20th-century (bottom)

In an effort to ensure no other city will claim Dr. Seuss for its own, Springfield Museums has announced it will create “the first museum dedicated to the life and legacy of (Springfield) city native Theodore Seuss Geisel.”

The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum is scheduled to open in 2016 at the Quadrangle, precisely two blocks away from the real-life Mulberry Street, the site of Dr. Seuss’s very first picture book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The museum will also be only a few blocks from the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, where sculptor Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, Geisel’s stepdaughter, created bronze sculptures of Dr. Seuss and some of his most beloved characters, including The Cat in the Hat, Horton the Elephant, the Lorax, and Yertle the Turtle.

The new museum will feature all those characters and many more, and include a mural of an illustration from that first book, “which launched Geisel’s career as the most recognizable in children’s literature.” The first floor of the museum will open in 2016, and a second floor, which will include a “recreation of Ted Geisel’s studio,” is scheduled for completion the following year. The Springfield Museums has raised more than three million dollars toward the project, which includes “funds from donors, foundations and $1 million grant from the state.”

As WAMC-Radio reported, “The Dr. Seuss Museum will include interactive exhibits featuring the classic characters from the children’s books,” which “include references to many local landmarks.”

Like the hugely successful Eric Carle Museum not far away in Amherst, Massachusetts, the new Dr. Seuss Museum will promote both its namesake and children’s literacy overall. Dr. Seuss’s books are sold in 17 languages in 95 countries, making this development important for tourism and as a place to promote and cultivate a love of children’s literature. Museums officials, citing the worldwide popularity of Dr. Seuss, expect the new museum will result in a 25 percent increase in visits to the Quadrangle. They also believe it will help advance the cause of literacy in their community and beyond. In Springfield, currently “only 40 percent of the city’s public school students are proficient readers.” City officials hope to double that percentage over the next year by the time the new museum opens.

Springfield Museums President Holly Smith-Bové said at a meeting of the editorial board of the Republican, “With input from the Davis Foundation, educators from the Springfield public schools and Square One early childhood agency, the museum will also be a place where children can practice the basic reading skills including letter recognition, vocabulary and rhyming.”

This is important for all visitors, because, to quote another Dr. Seuss book, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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The Art of the Pitch

14 Art of pitch

Pitching well is tough whether you’re on the mound or in the board room. It takes focus, concentration and a lot of practice. Pitching in a business setting is challenging because you’re expected to deliver your message in a succinct, meaningful way and your pitch time can easily be cut short if you aren’t well-prepared. No wonder that this type of selling can produce performance anxiety much the same as public speaking, which is known to be a top fear for many people.

Learning to pitch effectively is well worth the effort and the secrets to doing it well, not surprisingly, lie with research and preparation. But other factors can impact your success, and it’s important to understand pitching as a form of performance and engagement as well as sales.

First, think about whom your audience is and the time you’re likely to have. These days, almost inevitably, time will be short. Think about the setting you’ll be in. Will it be a person’s office, a conference room, or a booth on a convention floor? What potential interruptions or distractions might there be? Will you have access to the set ups and equipment you might want to use in your presentation? In terms of content, ask yourself what you have to offer that will engage and interest the person or people you’re talking to. Consider what you can you do to make your presentation to them memorable both audibly and visually. Do your research well in advance so you can 1) make sure you’re talking with the right people, 2) know their concerns and possible objections, and 3) come equipped with a way to present that you’re comfortable with and is appropriate to the setting.

Know too that despite the fact that we’re constantly being told that everything is about storytelling, pitching well is about having interaction that’s designed to draw out meaningful information. It’s like a first date – you want to introduce yourself, but also get to know the other person to see if your styles and interests will mesh. As with dating, being nervous is okay and showing that you genuinely care about the other person will go a long way. Courtesy – being punctual, respectful of the time being given to you and staying focused on what their objectives are – is imperative as is honesty and a willingness to walk away, if you find it’s not a good fit.

Be prepared to keep the first meeting brief and to the point, and don’t be “pitchy.” Think beforehand about you can offer and what the obstacles might be. The most common are cost, whether the person has decision-making authority, if needs are likely to be met, and time commitment.

Don’t make the mistake of turning someone off by coming on too strong. These days engagement is expected to be a two-way street with both parties having equal chance to provide input. Customization and personalization are of great value. Use what you’ve prepared as a jumping off point for meaningful conversation rather than keeping to a script, but still keep in mind the information you need to remember to convey. Decide ahead of time what you’d like to take away from the conversation, let the person know how you’d like to follow up and, when you do, consider whether there’s anything else you can provide them by way of thanks – which can be information, a connection, or suggestions based on your conversation.

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Trends to Watch as Gen Z Comes of Age

Gen z

Now that we’ve hit the end of the generational alphabet with Generation Z (mid-1990s-present), we’re in the midst of courting a group born and cultivated with more market savvy than any who preceded them. Forrester Research has found them to be “demanding consumers” exposed to many brand choices. And, compared with their parents and grandparents, they are proving to be more resistant to persuasion and fully expect to have a say in the evolution of products they consume. Further, they’re digitally savvy, constantly connected and experience driven. They’re also looking for ultra-personalization in their buying choices and in how they connect with marketers and companies.

A study published by the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University, http://bit.ly/1iRLUh7, found four trends likely to characterize Generation Z as consumers: 1) a focus on innovation, 2) an insistence on convenience, 3) an underlying desire for security, and 4) a tendency toward escapism.

It’s interesting to view these in light of trends recently discussed by Randi Zuckerberg, Founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, at Vocus’s Demand Success conference. Engagement, innovation, and crowd-sourcing were all highly touted by Zuckerberg as critical components to successful marketing in today’s competitive environment. Author and illustrator groups might want to take a turn at what companies like Google and Facebook have done with their hackathon initiatives – where employees are encouraged to take time every few months to stay up overnight, brainstorm and try out new concepts with the group based, not on what employees do in their day jobs, but on their individual passions. Zuckerberg said that at Facebook, many of their most interesting innovations had been conceived in that environment.

Per Gen Z’s second priority, we’re certainly seeing consuming made increasingly convenient and customizable. Purchasing today has much less to do with physical location or availability than with discoverability of products and services. Online shopping has prompted a massive shift, and now we’re hearing about almost instantaneous gratification, with the imminent package delivery by drones (which Zuckerberg believes is something we’ll see from Amazon in the next couple of years), and with 3-D printing of virtually anything you can imagine – and some I hadn’t – from designed-on-you clothing to printed spaghetti and pancakes to (and apparently China is working on this) 3-D printed homes you can live in. This ties-in with Gen Z’s desire for convenience and for products that have been personalized for them, so be prepared to have your customers want to engage more and more in the products they purchase.

Fun and engagement are also paramount to this group, and that’s where gamification fits in – and is prepared to be part of every minute of our daily lives. Having trouble waking up to catch your next flight? Snooze is an alarm clock app that pledges $0.25 of your own money to charity every time you hit the snooze button. Want to visually capture a day in your life as an artist to share with your fans?  The Narrative Clip is a new wearable device that can take and store a photo automatically every 30 seconds. Wondering where your dog or cat goes when he vanishes out of site? Tagg or Tractive, which use GPS technology, give you the chance to virtually “ride along” with your pet as they prowl the neighborhood – good perhaps for authors overcoming writer’s block on that next animal fantasy story. And for sci-fi, it’s hard to imagine what’s next when there’s so much technology we couldn’t have even imagined five or ten years ago cropping up all around us — and which will be the reality for Gen Z. Next up, in the generational nomenclature – a group some are beginning to call Generation Alpha. Terrified to think what that may indicate when we meet them as consumers.

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Tips for Putting the Arts in Arts Marketing

13 Bender & Lynch - Ninja Marketing art

Ninja marketing

 Marketers David Bender and A. Tyler Lynch

Arts marketing requires finding a balance between honoring the artist as creator, the artist as business person, and the art itself as an entity inspired by the artist’s vision, yet open to the emotion and interpretation of people who experience it. Easy to see why artists can get overwhelmed at the thought of doing this themselves.

However, having a good overview of marketing and knowing which tools you can use can make all the difference. I recently attended a session for artists run by David Bender and A. Tyler Lynch at the international puppetry conference near Philadelphia. They covered key elements of marketing communication, including social media, physical meetings and presentations, email outreach, phone calls, online ads, events, and having a meaningful website presence. They correctly pointed out that the website is the hub for the rest. It’s  where the artist gets to articulate his or her vision, lay out credentials, provide background to help the audience understand how they’ve evolved their work, and share news and events of importance.

Email and physical marketing; which can include presentations, workshops, pop-up events, ticket giveaways, backstage and studio tours, prize promotions and handouts. These are ways to directly spread the word and give potential customers a taste of the product. Social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ — work best on the 80/20 rule, where 20% of the communication is about your own product and 80% is sharing information of interest to the community as a whole, such as news articles, events, trends, and tips. For handouts, make your business cards bold and your posters eye-catching and reusable (leave space in the middle to add event information, so you can print the general piece once and then print or copy specific information in later).

Bender and Lynch shared some excellent tools. For social, they recommended the ever-popular Hootsuite, which makes sharing articles and information quick and easy (grabs part of a headline, a shortened URL, and allows you to immediately post, or pre-schedule a post to one or more social media platforms). They recommend loading up a couple weeks’ worth of posts, so you don’t have to find something every day. Where can you find good news to post? Try Zite, which will aggregate news of topical interest. And, if you’re tight on time, bookmark those stories to read later using Pocket.

When to schedule the posts? Depends on your audience, but as a rule of thumb, Bender and Lynch said, “8:30 am (lots of people commuting, so keep it short, upbeat, simple); 11:30 am (getting ready for lunch, should be fun, can be a little longer – a great time for video); 3:30 pm (may be bored at work & game for some engaging copy & video); 6:30 pm & weekends (great for longer-form articles and when you want people to spend time with the material.

As events and news happen, make sure to do good publicity. Bender and Lynch stressed that traditional media has more impact on potential customers than the others combined, particularly in the area of arts and entertainment. “TV is gold,” they said. Niche marketing is also very important – try to find five niches outside your primary audience to expand your base.

And, finally, remember that successful engagement is a two-way street. Think about what will be of value to your audience and provide those things. Consider what will make it easy for people to participate. And once they do, thank them and make a plan to nurture your new relationship, so they will be yours for the long haul.

David Bender runs the Philadelphia Center for Architecture and is in the process of launching The Phantasmagoria, a collection of experiences that will celebrate local and international artwork that animates the inanimate: puppetry, animation, robotics, movement theater, shadow shows, automatons, and more. A. Tyler Lynch is a software and social media consultant specializing in small to medium sized businesses. His clients have included Bain & Company and the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Arts to Market celebrates the work of artists, innovators and arts organizations and shares advice on balancing the creative life with arts marketing and business development.

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PUPPETRY ARTS AT UCONN

Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., Director of Puppet Arts at UConn

When people think of puppetry, they often think of popular, children’s shows like The Muppets, Sesame Street or Mr. Rogerssee how many of these TV puppets you can name! However, puppetry is much more than that. You cannot go to the movies or watch television without at some point seeing a puppet, either knowingly or unknowingly.

Puppetry has been used in movies and television for years, and with new technology, the form is only getting better. The world is their palette, using many types of materials. And with the advancement of technology, we can expect even better puppets and better performances. Though puppetry is still performed in traditional ways, the use in popular media is significant. They are easy to reset and easy to tweak, saving industries money to gain the same effect as if they chose to go with computer animation.

Bart P. Roccoberton Jr, director of the renowned Puppet Arts Program at the University of Connecticut, explained that there are many different paths to go into the field of puppetry. The most traditional is becoming an apprentice to a puppeteer or, now there’s the option of studying puppetry at a university, which provides a broad knowledge of the field in a much shorter time than it would take to learn independently. Roccoberton’s students at the University also come out of school learning the craft of puppetry, and the self-discipline of being your own boss.

The Puppet Arts Program students at UConn also work closely with the drama department, so the puppeteers learn how to perform using their puppets as well as being taught in the puppetry program the craft of building them. Roccoberton explains that by knowing how to both build and perform, it gives the students more of an edge when they begin their professional careers. Performers who know how to build will better be able to understand the puppet they are working with. While the puppet builders will be able to create a puppet that can move with the performer and create fluidity in the performance.

UConn’s Puppet Arts Program is one of only two schools in the country that offer a degree in the form, and it’s the only one to give three different types of puppetry degrees. There are also still only a few schools in the world that offers accredited academic degrees in Puppetry. UConn is also home to The Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry,  which has  more than 2,500 puppets from all over the world; an archive of books, manuscripts, posters, drawings, audio-visual materials and photographs all covering the history of puppetry. The Institute curates and produces exhibitions of puppetry, both at the Ballard Museum and for touring across the United States.

In 1962, when  the Drama, Art and Music Departments at UConn merged to form the School of Fine Arts, Professor Frank W. Ballard added puppetry to the curriculum. Classes in puppetry began in 1964 and continue today under Roccoberton who succeeded Frank Ballard as the Director in 1990.

Bart P. Roccoberton Jr., is a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s MFA program, as well as Artistic Director of The Pandemonium Puppet Company, and Founder and former Director of The Institute of Professional Puppetry Arts at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center.                                                                                   –contributed by Mallory Matula

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Artful Original Thoughts: Artist Joann Mettler

[vimeo 23783486 w=500 h=281]

Joann Mettler has followed her artistic passion through a variety of mediums and has found some surprising and delightful subjects along the way. From whimsical pigs and cows to bowls full of flowers with hidden images; from the contents of her colorful shoe closet to capturing facial expressions and making them into a crowd of people-sized faces on wheels, her work is playful, discerning and insightful.

For her, being an artist involves active engagement with the process and her emotions as each work evolves. Here she shares some of her thoughts, entitled My String of Pearls.

 MY STRING OF PEARLS

Artful original thoughts – Joann Mettler

I paint to lift the human spirit.

Love empowers (a work of art). It’s all bits and pieces but in the end it is something that is deeper than the surface.

You are limited only by your imagination.

Painting is like a lottery ticket; scratch the surface and you’ll find a painting.

I try to find what is in a painting rather than putting it there.

I never know where my work is taking me…I just keep watching, working and following its path.

Creating is like walking through a cloud.

Painting is a process where you construct, deconstruct and then reconstruct.  What’s left is the painting.

To make art YOU need all of your emotions to make sense of your senses.

Artist choices tell the story of themselves; completely personal and inspired by all they have touched, felt and seen.

Art is visual thinking.

Paintings need quiet places.

Painting is my silent music.

In painting, you can’t get away from being yourself.

If you’re not you then who are you?

Your painting is your humble opinion.

Respect your creative hands and don’t expect perfection.

Don’t make it so right that it’s wrong.

I do what I do for you (the viewer)

Your art shouldn’t reveal everything.

A state of mind:  Just being there, No dimensions, No before, No after.

Clouds are like patterned smoke.

It’s not simple to keep life simple.

Is this the rest of your life, or are you resting for the rest of your life?

It’s not what happens to you in life rather it’s how you react to what happens to you.

A sale purchase unneeded is expensive.

Don’t make a decision if you don’t know what decision to make.

I’ve smiled a lot through the years and they’ve made some impressions.

There will never be another you.

Common sense adds up to more than dollars and cents.

I always read the fine print; it is here that you find some important information.

If I didn’t see out of the corner of my eye I wouldn’t see anything.

I try to show you something other than reality.

New isn’t necessarily better; better is better and not necessarily new.

YOU are responsible for your own boredom.

Be there for yourself

So much damage can be done with the turn of a screw.

For every curve there is an opposing straight on the human body.

I’ve seen the power of courage.

Death is the resolution to life.

I COLLECT SHAPES they give me information to recognize an object.  Simple shapes are distillations of objects which become metaphors for the actual objects and can be very descriptive.  I don’t paint things as they are, rather, I paint my perception of how they are. I take shapes out of context.  The outside shape doesn’t have to be related to the inside.

©Joann Mettler 2013

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