National Parks Artifacts among Newest Additions to Google Cultural Institute

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Not sure when you’ll make time to visit the national parks? Google is prepared to take you there—virtually—both for scenic views and for close-ups of the art and artifacts you’d see. According to The Verge, Google, which has been “building out an online museum for the past five years,” is now adding nearly four thousand works of art, artifacts, and records as a result of a partnership with the National Park Service. These, along with almost sixty new Street View exhibits (50 outdoor park views and eight interior views of museums and historical locations), are part of the National Parks Collection on Google’s vast Cultural Institute site

Google Cultural Institute, which in just a few years has amassed images and information gathered from more than 1,000 groups from around the world, contains more than 730 art and cultural collections from sites and museums large and small. On one end of the spectrum are the world’s most visited institutions, including the Smithsonian, the British Museum and The Hermitage; on the other end, some that are very specialized, such as the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum and Japan’s Seto Inland Sea Folk History Museum.

New features and collections are being added at a dizzying pace. Google’s partnership with The British Museum was announced in November; one with the Guggenheim focusing on its architecture was announced in late January; in the first week of February, the site We Love Budapest announced partnerships with museums there. On a Lilliputian scale, there’s news from Hamburg, Germany, about Google capturing scenes fromMiniatur Wunderland, the world’s largest model railway museum. This last was ingeniously done by putting a Google Street View camera on tiny toy cars and other vehicles and driving them around the model village exhibit, capturing hidden angles of streets and buildings too small or not visible to the naked eye.

Not everyone is a fan, of course. Last fall, Maureen Dowd of the New York Times wrote in a piece entitled “The Google Art Heist” that “the more playful Google gets, the more paranoid I get.” Conceding on the one hand that the collection, containing “the most famous paintings of the Uffizi to an archive of South Korean film to virtual galleries of the pyramids,” is impressive, Ms. Dowd also pointed out questions that have been posed elsewhere about whether the “project will lead to people prowling museums from the comfort of their couch, filtering and missing out on actual visits.” Copyright concerns have also been raised, as the Washington Post reported last year, saying, as with Google’s Books project, “Google’s grand cultural efforts have been dogged by suspicion and property-rights claims.”

And, lest any area of the arts think that this couldn’t apply to them, take heed. Just two months ago, a Wall Street Journal article said the Google Cultural Institute proved that “practicing—or buying a ticket” are no longer the only ways to get to Carnegie Hall, or to more than 60 other performing arts venues around the world. Now, you can go virtually to meet famous performers, get a backstage tour, and even “be thrust in the middle of the action.”

Really, with all this, how will we find time to actually go anywhere that isn’t virtual? Except maybe the gym, until Google finds an armchair solution to burning calories…and that can’t be far off.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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New York’s Art Students League in Battle over Air Rights Decision

English: Looking north across 57th St at Art S...

English: Looking north across 57th St at Art Students League of New York on a sunny afternoon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Creative space is sacred to an artist. So, it’s not surprising that passions have flared on West 57th Street in New York at the prospect of change adjacent to—and cantilevered over—the site of the famed Art Students League. The 140-year-old nonprofit art school “that counts Winslow Homer, Norman Rockwell, Georgia O’Keeffe and Mark Rothko among its alumni” is, according to The New York Times, the scene of a “battle being fought between the school’s leadership and a faction of its 3,945 voting members” over the granting of air rights to build, in part, above the school.

On paper, the deal looks good for the Art Students League, which has negotiated to be paid close to $32 million in return for granting air rights—the right to build in the empty space above a piece of property—to Extell Development Company, which intends to build “one of the tallest residential towers in the world” next door.

The League administration’s plan, according to the petition that was circulated earlier this year to gain support for the decision, is to allow Extell to “build a cantilever some 30 stories above the League and 6,000 square feet of air rights.” Then, they’ll use that money in the arts building to add floors, additional studios, unveil skylights that have been covered up, and to restoring “gallery space and the library.” Their board also sees this as a way to provide the League “a strong foundation for a capital fundraising campaign to pay for the expansion.” Further, they want to have money to use to “keep tuition low, and augment the League’s endowment to serve future generations of students.”

The dissenting group, which is called ASL 2025, has also expressed dissatisfaction with the school’s president, ­­­­­­­­Salvatore Barbieri, claiming that he has “ruled by fiat, making up the rules as he goes along.” Led by Marne Rizika, a painter and printmaker, and Richard Caraballo, a graphic designer, ASL 2025 claims there have also been “efforts to intimidate and stifle any dissent.”

In return, according to the Times, President Barbieri, has called the attacks a “classic pattern of amateurish slanderous writing” filled with “false and distorted allegations without supporting facts.” And the institution’s lawyers have said, “Under Mr. Barbieri’s tenure, the league is in better financial shape than it has ever been…. Its prospects for longevity and the ability to educate artists for generations to come have never been brighter.”

But that’s not the way Rizika and Caraballo see it. “The sense of collegiality that formerly existed between art students, instructors and administrators, in an ‘open-door’ policy, has disappeared,” said Ms. Rizika, who unsuccessfully challenged Mr. Barbieri for the presidency several weeks ago, “and been replaced with autocratic rule, which has included hiring armed guards for members’ meetings.

“The opponents agree that overturning the sale itself is impossible. The purpose of the suit, Mr. Caraballo said, is to challenge the way the 2014 vote approving the deal was conducted.”

Today, the League remains an institution run by artists for artists. They follow in the footsteps of the many famous artists who have “shaped the vocabulary of art worldwide, [and] have been instructors, lecturers and students at the League. They include, among many others, Thomas Hart Benton, Alexander Calder, Helen Frankenthaler, Man Ray, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Robert Rauschenberg, Louise Nevelson, Red Grooms, Donald Judd, Roy Lichtenstein, Ben Shahn and Cy Twombly.” Hopefully, the two sides can reach a comfortable agreement soon. Perhaps it can help to recall what Paul Klee once said about his art space: “All is well with me. The rain doesn’t reach me, my room is well heated, what more can one ask for?”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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One Million Children Forced from School by Boko Haram

Nigerian Lives Matter / Garry Knight

Nigerian Lives Matter / Garry Knight

Attacks by Islamist military group Boko Haram have “forced more than 1 million children to abandon their studies and closed at least 2,000 schools in northeastern Nigeria and neighboring countries,” according to Bloomberg News. Neighboring Cameroon, Chad and Niger are also now experiencing violence as well.

In a story this week following a UNICEF report, Bloomberg News said, “Schools have been hit by attacks as Boko Haram, which means, ‘Western education is a sin’ in the Hausa language, pursues a six-year-old campaign to establish its version of Islamic law in the region.”

Boko Haram gained world attention last year following the abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls—most of whom still have not been found—from their dormitories in the town of Chibok, which sparked the #BringBackOurGirls social media campaign championed by Michelle Obama and thousands of others. Most of the girls haven’t been found. Associated Press reports that overall, “Boko Haram’s insurgency has killed about 20,000 people and displaced 2.3 million, according to Amnesty International and the United Nations.”

Since starting its war on the Nigerian government in 2009, “Boko Haram has repeatedly targeted schools, students and teachers,” reports The Guardian. Further, the New York Times adds that while “hundreds of schools in northeastern Nigeria have reopened in recent months…many classrooms are overcrowded or are used as shelter for those displaced.” Security continues to be a challenge; the instability has kept teachers from returning to class, given that as many as 600 teachers have been killed during the six-year insurgency.

“Schools have been targets of attack, so children are scared to go back to the classroom,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s regional director in West and Central Africa, said in a statement on Tuesday. “Yet the longer they stay out of school, the greater the risks of being abused, abducted and recruited by armed groups.” In fact, the Bloomberg story said, “In Nigeria, 10.5 million children are out of school,” making it the highest in the world.

And there are increasing fears lack of education will fuel further radicalism. Yan St-Pierre, terrorism analyst at Modern Security Consulting Group in Berlin, said, “There was already a problem with getting kids to school on a regular basis that simply became worse once Boko Haram emerged.”

Between bloody raids and incessant suicide bombings, Boko Haram has severely damaged what little infrastructure existed in Nigeria’s impoverished northeast at a time when the commodity-dependent country is facing a cash crunch thanks to plunging oil prices. Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had given the military there a December deadline to beat back the group. But, according to the site Foreign Policy, “Even with some assistance from the United States, United Kingdom, and France, that goal looks increasingly unrealistic. A multi-regional military task force has dismantled some of the group’s strongholds, forcing the extremists to rely on asymmetric tactics. Those attacks, in turn, are increasingly involving children.”

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Diversity is Critical to the Success of the Arts—and Arts Education is the Key

Diversity-millennials

Calls for increased diversity are no longer episodic or quixotic; they are regularly heard across our business and cultural landscapes. And, if trends we see currently with Millennials continue, the need to cultivate diverse arts audiences will increase.Advertising Week this year identified the need to focus on diversity as a main theme, pointing out that while Millennials represent our “largest (and most diverse) generation, most marketing decisions and campaigns are run by alarmingly non-diverse groups.”Science News reported, too, that Americans are growing more genetically diverse, “choosing mates with ethnic backgrounds different from their own.”

In the arts, the desire for change bumps up against a number of challenging realities. One is that there are fewer non-white artists and organizations in traditional areas of the arts, such as classical music, and it takes time and a commitment to arts education to effect a change. Afa Sadykhly Dworkin, president and artistic director of the nonprofit Sphinx, and her husband, Aaron Dworkin, who is a MacArthur fellow who served in the Obama administration, have been working to change that for quite some time. Sphinx, headed by Ms. Dworkin as president, operates programs that reach “over 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of over two million annually.” Last week, for example, Syracuse, which has “the highest rate of concentrated poverty among black and Hispanic communities” in the U.S., benefited by having the Sphinx Virtuosi ensemble perform at schools throughout the city and at the Red House Arts Center at Syracuse University.

Dworkin, whose organization is based in another struggling city, Detroit, and who runs yearlong programs there, has seen the impact arts education can make, providing “a place of refuge and a place where [children] can feel confident, where they can have fun and have a break from their everyday challenges.”

As in other traditional areas of art, “classical orchestras tend to be overwhelmingly white. According to a 2012 report by the League of American Orchestras, only 4.5 percent of orchestra musicians are black or Latino—hardly representative of the general population, which, according to the 2010 census, was 13.6 percent black and 16.3 percent Hispanic or Latino.” Sphinx has been responding to that in a variety of ways, including providing free violins and lessons to elementary students in underserved communities, hosting a summer camp to work with aspiring young musicians who “demonstrate aptitude toward classical music but lack resources and access,” and by sponsoring an annual national string competition for Black and Latino youth. Red House Arts Centerhas worked similarly on the local level in Syracuse, to help underserved populations by “creating opportunities…and bringing the arts to students in struggling Syracuse elementary schools reaching 2,200 kids each day.”

“In the Syracuse City School District, about 10 percent of students in kindergarten through eighth grade play instruments, and about 65 percent participate in choral ensembles. In high school, students generally choose one or the other, or participate in art classes,” according to the Syracuse New Times. Sarah Gentile, supervisor of fine arts there, has been working had to improve that, but that type of change requires funding, parental and community support.

A big part of the equation is the value placed on arts education and the arts by the society overall. According to Americans for the Arts, “In America, the arts are often seen as a luxury. They are the first thing to go when school boards cut budgets, and successful arts policy is seen as the exception, not the rule.” As Creatiquity, a research-backed news site that explores issues in the arts, said in an article entitled “Why Don’t They Come,”

People with lower incomes and less education participate at lower rates in a huge range of activities, including not just classical music concerts and plays, but also less ‘elitist’ forms of engagement like going to the movies, dancing socially, and even attending sporting events.

Jennifer Swan reported on this for the NPQ Newswire at the beginning of this year,outlining findings from three National Endowments for the Arts (NEA) studies. The article concluded with a quote from NEA Chairman Jane Chu:

“The implications from this research are significant. The findings show that there is great diversity in how people engage in the arts, and this gives us a framework to use our creativity to innovate new ways to reach these audiences.”

At a time when funding and support for arts and cultural nonprofits is on a decline, it is more important than ever to prove their importance to our representatives, communities, and leaders. With reports like these, and other arts advocacy groups like Americans for the Arts, we are evolving from a perspective of “art for art’s sake” into one of “art for business’s sake.” No longer are arts and culture something “extra”—they are an economic driver with an impact on our neighborhoods, our jobs, our employment, and, as always, our creativity.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Art and Trauma: The Soldier Art Workshop

©Art Therapy Alliance

©Art Therapy Alliance

Art may not be the first therapeutic tool that comes to mind when treating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it has proven to be effective and is being used in a number of places to help returning soldiers. In El Paso, a new collaborative project called the Soldier Art Workshop Program will be launched by the El Paso Art Association in March. The volunteer effort brings local artists together with area soldiers and their families and is designed to teach art to the soldiers as they “make the transition to normal military and family life after deployment.” Twelve workshops will be held at the El Paso Museum of Art and the Fort Bliss Family Center over the course of a year. They will focus on visual arts, including oil and watercolor painting, mixed-media encaustics, and digital photography.

Arts organizations participating in the Soldier Art Workshop Program include the El Paso Museum of Art, Plein Air Painters of El Paso, the Pastel Society of El Paso, and Rio Bravo Watercolorists. Military sponsorship has been provided by Ft. Bliss MWR (Morale, Welfare & Recreation), the Warrior Transition Battalion, and the Ready & Resilience Center. Among the El Paso artist volunteers are Jan Wisbrun Dreher, Krystyna Robbins, Julie Caffee-Cruz, Nina Walker, Ben Avant, Pat Olchefski-Winston, Darrell McGahhey, Jimmie Bemont, Ron Fritsch, Melinda Etzold, and Rami Scully.

These artists are in good company in using art with returning soldiers. A National Geographic cover story this month, “How Art Heals the Wounds of War” by Andrea Stone, reported on an art therapy program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, which had soldiers making masks revealing an aspect of their experience. Melissa Walker, an art therapist who works with veterans at Walter Reed, said the program started in 2010 to help returning injured service men and women. “We needed to look for additional types of treatment,” Walker said. “At the time, I’m not so sure people understood the impact it would have, (but after) a very short time, it became clear [they] were taking to art therapy.”

Jackie Biggs, a 2013 masters graduate from George Washington University’s Columbian College Art Therapy Program, was given a National Endowment for the Arts grant to “integrate art therapy into treatment for active-duty military patients at Fort Belvoir,” one of the first in the country to focus on the area of art therapy for trauma victims. That treatment has now become a standard component of the hospital’s patient/soldier protocol. Biggs believes it’s been effective because “this is a group that tends to internalize their trauma; they hope it will go away if they don’t talk about it.” But swallowing trauma like that can lead to depression, abuse, or suicide, whereas art therapy can “give them a voice when words aren’t there.”

Another program that has received national recognition is Operation Oak Tree, run by the Institute for Therapy through the Arts (ITA) in Chicago. Operation Oak Tree utilizes art therapy and the creative arts to help military families from the time of pre-mobilization and deployment through reintegration. It gained the attention of Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden when it was part of a presentation made in June where Dr. Biden was touring to promote an initiative she’s promoting with First Lady Michelle Obama to mobilize all sectors of society to give members of the armed forces and their families opportunities and support.

The new El Paso program has the potential to serve as an affordable model in this vein because it encourages the local arts community to serve as a conduit for supporting soldiers and their families at a very difficult time.

[This article first appeared in Non-Profit Quarterly]

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Woodworking on Wheels – Pop-up Arts Ed

Beth Ireland, Wood Sculptor and Educator

Many folks may not realize it if they don’t have kids,  but schools are besieged right now, lacking classrooms, and no more art, shop, or science class. But I’ve seen how much of a difference introducing art can make in their lives.  –Beth Ireland

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13 Beth Ireland bagThinking outside the box comes naturally to Beth Ireland. Whether making herself a feature in her own art installation (well, that was in a box she built – but definitely non-traditional); mixing wood with tinsel, polymer, toys and other unusual material to create bowls and vessels; or as in her recent adventure, turning a cargo van into a wood turner’s traveling workshop; she takes a novel approach people love.

The cargo-van-workshop also has a mini bedroom and bath to serve as mobile living quarters when Ireland is on the road traveling to schools and colleges to teach woodworking across the country. She coordinates with project partner, Artist Jenn Moller who shares her passion for bringing art instruction to kids, particularly those in troubled areas, whose districts (more and more these days) don’t have budget for arts education. Now in its fourth year, their program called Turning Around America, has introduced thousands of kids to woodturning and woodworking, and the results can serve as a model for future thinking about arts ed.

“When we conceived of a traveling educational program, our main goal was to empower people through the simple act of making an object in wood. The first project consisted of a seven-month journey around the country teaching hand skills through wood turning and woodworking to as many groups and individuals possible,” says Ireland. Given that today a lot of adults as well as kids don’t learn how to use tools to build and fix things as they once did; that alone would have been great, but Ireland and Moller also discovered that young people really latched onto what they were doing.

Their most recent program, entitled Turning Around Boston, was part of an initiative sponsored by the Eliot School to bring a basic woodworking experience to Boston Public School students who ranged in age from kindergarten through high school. Ireland and Moller, along with local volunteers, introduced more than 1,000 young people to woodworking. According to Moller, “The most consistent statement we heard from teachers and parents was, ‘I have never seen them concentrate so well.’” Moller said she’s wondered, “What is it about working with tools to solve problems that engages so many students? I believe it is in our human DNA and, as budgets are cut and electives are eliminated, the wonderful benefit of developing hand skills and working in wood has been taken away from many public school children. It is one thing to understand this intellectually and another to witness the besieged state many schools are in because of funding problems and problematic politics”. Ireland agrees and has great concern about the increasing disparity between the haves and have-nots in our society. She’s seeing so many children who are being left behind in areas where arts education is considered a luxury.

“What we’ve also seen is that kids can have very different responses to the opportunity – those with less access and privilege often have been some of our most creative and motivated students. Whereas some schools we’ve visited that had many thousands of dollars’ worth of tools and equipment, but people there weren’t getting the kids excited and engaged, so it was all going unused.” Ireland’s also run programs outside the U.S. including one last fall in Guatemala – where adults and kids were both involved in the program and were often very interested in designing their own custom tools for work and home.

Next up for Ireland is to run a woodturning intensive for adults at the Center For Furniture Craftsmanship in Maine from January through March 2014. But more arts ed will also be happening, and she welcomes invitations from schools and communities to bring woodworking and art to their hometown. More information is at http://bethireland.net and www.turningaroundamerica.com.

Beth Ireland is a Woodturner/Sculptor who draws upon a lifetime of professional, traditional Woodturning/Woodworking skills to explore sculpture, architecture and relational aesthetics. Her belief in the power of the object drives her work, exploring the idea of memory locked in objects, and the creation of object as a visible symbol of memory. Working alone and collaboratively she delves into the anthropological meaning of making in our modern lives.

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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Gold, Silver and Tin: Metalsmithing with Marlene True

Marlene True, Metal Sculptor

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As an undergraduate student, Marlene True thought she would pursue ceramics, her first love in art. But when she took an elective in metal work, she found she loved the range of materials and techniques that involved.

She did find it challenging to find ways to bring color to the metal work, but that changed when she heard a lecture by Bobby Hansson, author of The Fine Art of the Tin Can, which provided a whole new medium that she found she loved and is still using today in her art along with other metals.

Tin cans, which are actually made from mild steel with a thin tin coating, proved to be colorful, lightweight, yet structurally strong, so allowed for working in larger pieces. True knew that in the process of fabricating, soldering would remove painted images, but discovered she could use gold plating and powder coating to get the surface color she wanted.  Fabrication methods such as Cold-connecting gave her the ability to build pieces while retaining the original color or image.

True started working with tin ten years ago and, by 2008, she felt really established with it.  She sold at craft shows and found she loved talking with people and engaging – and saw that consumers often wanted to share what they knew about the history of some of her found tin items – whether they were food cans, cosmetic tins, or other types of old containers. She also enjoyed doing research and finding out more about the product’s background and how it had changed – both in its graphic design and usage over the years. When at one point her work turned to using bottle caps to make tiny spoons and other items, she discovered people had some very particular brand loyalty to favorite types of soda and beer!

While selling at craft shows she found that she needed to make a lot of production items to have enough inventory to sell, and through that process learned she preferred working at her bench making one of a kind pieces which kept the work moving in new directions.

Following graduate school at East Carolina University, she was invited to teach at Pocosin Arts in Columbia, North Carolina. She enjoyed the experience and asked to do a metalwork residency and, since they didn’t have their own metal studio, she brought her own bench and material and had a fantastic experience. True then helped write a grant to get a metals program started and, when the grant came through, she stayed on to teach a Jewelry and Business class. “It’s a great place to be, and now we have students and teachers coming from all over for all sorts of metals and jewelry classes.”

True has embraced the business side herself and believes artists must be prepared to be active with that if they want to gain traction for their art and career. “It’s time-consuming. You have to order materials, do your accounting, handle photography and advertising, attend shows, and teach courses. Perhaps you can get help with some of it, but most people have to expect to spend about fifty percent of their time on the business side of the work. It’s best if you can view it as part of your creative process.”

Personally, True has found that the big challenge is managing her time. “You can easily spend every waking hour doing your artwork and what’s related to it. I try to keep a balance with my personal life – and find that stepping away for a bit helps me get refreshed to do better in my art.”

Her main tip for artists is: Don’t rush! “I find when I teach, students are often anxious to get to the end point of a project quickly. I tell them that, if they try to find a shortcut and rush through the work, they’ll usually pay for it in the end trying to correct something that a little more time spent in the beginning would have made a non-issue.”

For those interested in working in metal, she recommends The Society of North American Goldsmiths, which was the most helpful to her in learning more about the field through conferences, workshops and the opportunity to meet other artists. “They run a lot of exhibitions of work, so people can enter art into shows. I’ve also found their Maker’s Profiles very helpful because it provides a place for people to post images of their work and news about what they’re doing – like a mini website, but even better because you get the benefit of traffic from a large audience.”

True is now Director of Pocosin Arts, where she still does some teaching and continues with her own artwork. Her work can be seen at Penland Gallery, Penland, NC; Dow Gallery, Deer Island, ME;

Metal Museum Store, Memphis, TN; Facèré Gallery, Seattle, WA; and Equinox Gallery, San Antonio, TX. She’ll be teaching at Thomas Mann Studio Flux in New Orleans from October 30 – November 5 and then in scheduled to teach at West Dean College in Chichester, West Sussex, UK from May 2 – 5.

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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Immersion Learning for Art at Peters Valley NJ

Kristin Muller, Executive Director

Peters Valley School of Craft

Making time to do art can be a challenge, particularly when it’s not your day job. And, even when it is part of your weekly schedule, the distractions of email, social media, and other daily demands can put what’s left for creative time at a premium. “Peters Valley School of Craft in Layton, New Jersey is one of just a few places in the country to offer an immersion program for craft where people can go to explore new areas and to move their art to a new level. New and returning students go there to learn from artists working in multiple disciplines,” says Kristin Muller, Peter’s Valley’s Executive Director.

“What we offer is different from attending a class or a workshop because we have everything right here on site. Many people who come stay on campus, so they’re working, eating and socializing with our resident artists and staff and with the artists who are teaching here during the time of their stay. At any given time, we have classes in ceramics, metalworking, fiber arts, jewelry, woodworking and other media, so people have a chance to explore beyond their own area. Further, since courses run over a 3-5 day period, it requires more of a time commitment, so we get pretty committed students. Our process is also different than a lot of other programs because the focus is more on process than on producing a product.

“This is a tough time for people working in the arts, particularly with what’s happening at the government level. We’re all feeling it, and it’s important to realize that we need to support the arts and arts education. At the same time, many people recognize the value of this type of learning and how it can contribute to society, business and other areas. Artists learn to be problem-solvers, and here we’re teaching those skills, which are very important.

“Our organization, like many in the field, is looking for new ways to expand our outreach and gain more visibility. We’re exploring bringing artists into schools, expanding into assisted living, and recommending artists for special needs programming.

“Programs here run between May and September. We offer around 125 workshops. There are 30 buildings on our campus, which is in the Delaware Water Gap and part of the National Park Service. We have a store, and at the end of September each year, we hold a large craft fair. This year, the Fair will be September 28th-29th. Overall, we handle about 600 students in the course of the season.

“I’ve been here about four years, and right now we – the administration and our Board – are running a lot of assessments to see how we will handle future funding, how we can improve operations, and to see what kinds of business systems and marketing will help us meet our needs over the long term.

“We’re also always talking with artists and arts professionals about what’s going on in the field, since as with many fields, so much is changing, and we will all benefit from working together”.

Kristin Muller is also a passionate ceramic artist and writer.  She grew up in both South and North America attending schools in Argentina, Chile and the United States.  She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Studio Arts from Southern Connecticut State University and a Graduate Certificate in Ceramics from Hood College where she is completing a Master of Fine Arts degree.

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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Arts Initiative Sends Bronx Kids to College Free

Neil Waldman, Illustrator and Arts Educator for Change

13 Nicholas Flachsbart art1

Take motivated students from a low-income area, add art instruction, benchmarks for high grades, and the prospect of a ticket to a first-tier college and, if you’re author and illustrator Neil Waldman, you’ve got The Fred Dolan Art Academy in Bronx, NY. Founded seven years ago and recognized by The New York Times and New York Daily News for its innovation and success, Waldman’s initiative has just gained a new revenue stream, Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit children’s publishing house founded by Waldman, and which is publishing its first picture book, Al and Teddy.  Here’s the latest on his education art initiative:

What prompted you to start the Fred Dolan Art Academy?

I grew up in the blue-collar neighborhoods of the east Bronx. It was a world of factory workers, plumbers, and shopkeepers. But my love was for drawing and painting, and I soon came to realize that if I wanted to do those things for the rest of my life, I’d have to go to college. I managed to do just that, and eventually became a writer and illustrator of children’s books.
It was during that time that a dream began rising within me – to return to the neighborhoods of my youth, find young artists there, and help them go to college. With this in mind, I created the Fred Dolan Art Academy, named after a recently departed friend. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hTy6rqgV9oY&feature=em-share_video_user. The Fred Dolan Art Academy is a free Saturday school whose mission is to help young Bronx artists to build their portfolios, while encouraging them to raise their grades, so that they can be accepted to college. To date, 23 students have graduated from the program, all going to college with scholarships.
We’ve done this by giving the kids hope for a better future. Teaching them art has served as a bridge to academic success because they now understand that if they work on their art and raise their grade point averages, they’ll be eligible for scholarships to college.
Were they kids who had interest or particular talent in art?
The students who join the program are lovers of art, but we don’t require any art background or skill set to be accepted.
I think that talent is overrated. I believe in commitment and passion for art (or any other field). If people work hard and diligently, there’s no reason they can’t succeed . . . And we’ve never rejected a single youngster. All we require is that they attend classes every Saturday, and work steadily while they’re with us. In most cases, our graduates choose art as a career, but some have decided to pursue other fields in college. Some are now majoring in architecture, finance, creative writing, and theatre.
Do you think you’d have gotten similar results with other subjects?
Yes. I think it could happen with any subject. But our expertise is in art. The academy’s teachers are all successful artists and art educators, capable of teaching the skills necessary to succeed in the art field. But our kids come from families where no one has ever gone to college. And so there’s no understanding of the importance of a college education.
We’ve been doing this for 7 years now, and the data bank is growing. Every one of our 23 graduates is now in college with a scholarship. Our success is proving that hope is the most powerful tool. Without hope, there’s no reason to succeed in school. With hope, the goal of a college education becomes real, and our students have begun to realize that it’s possible to spend their lives doing what they love most.
What are your thoughts about future of arts funding?
Unfortunately, when school budgets drop, art and music are first to be cut. That’s a shame . . . and a concern. I’m hoping that through programs like ours, people will begin to realize that art can be a vehicle that leads to academic success, career fulfillment, and ultimately, the transformation of one’s life.
Who has stepped up to the plate to help?
We’ve had wonderful people offering their help and services, and we are very grateful to them.
We started with a Kickstarter campaign and received donations ranging from $10 to $1500. That provided seed money for Dream Yard Press, which is our new publishing venture. Our first book, Al and Teddy, (audio book, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCwJikL7BGg&feature=em-share_video_user) will be published in December. All proceeds will go to supporting the Fred Dolan Art Academy.
Cornelius Van Wright, Robert Casilla, and other artists are serving as teachers there; a lawyer named Mitchell Pines has volunteered to help set us up as an independent not-for-profit corporation; Bill and Beth Johnson have donated their time writing the teacher’s guide for the book, and setting up an educational outreach program, where we’re hoping to get donations of $250 from individuals who want to gift a carton of 28 Al and Teddy books to a teacher of their choice.
This all makes a big difference because we can make more profits on book sales, and use that to support our students. We’ve found that it costs about $1000/year to support each student in the program.
What’s surprised you most about doing this?
Everything has come together in a seemingly effortless manner. One after the other, people have continually come forward and volunteered their time and expertise. I’ve been amazed at how much they’ve done to help us further the program.
What are your dreams for this project?
My dream is that we can help all the kids who want to be part of the program. So far, we’ve helped 23 Bronx kids go on to some of the top colleges with full scholarships, and the schools they’ve gone to – Dartmouth, the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU, USC, SUNY Purchase, and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Now, word of the program’s success has begun to spread. This year for the first time, we’ve had to turn kids away. Looking at the faces of those kids was sadder than anything I’d ever imagined So I’ve created Dream Yard Press, a not-for-profit publisher of children’s books in the Bronx. All the proceeds from sales of our books will go to the academy.”AL and TEDDY” is our first picture book. It’s the story of love and friendship between 2 brothers, and the power of art to transform their lives. I’ll attach 2 images from the book, and “A Bronx Diary,” the story of the Genesis of the academy.
We’ve had articles so far in The New York Times, the New York Daily News and others in recognition of this as an important model for what can be done via arts education to make a difference. My goal is for the academy to grow. I’d love to have “AL and TEDDY” considered for awards, so we can help more and more kids. In the long run, it would be great to have our own facility, and to show what’s possible to make a difference in the lives of kids who need help breaking out of what can seem like dead-end situations.
How can people help?
We’d welcome hearing from people who can help as teachers; in fundraising, non-profit and publishing advisors. We also particularly need help in creating an “AL and TEDDY” website.
Individuals can help us to by:
  • Purchasing a copy of “AL and TEDDY” http://raabassociat.es/14e2Rbh
  • Gifting an “AL and TEDDY” book box to your favorite middle school teachers.
Neil Waldman has been writing and illustrating children’s books for 40 years. His books have won the Christopher Award, the National Jewish Book Award, the A.L.A. Notable Award, the School Library Journal Best Book Award, and many others. Notable among these is a gold medal from the United Nations in a closed international competition in which Waldman was chosen to represent the United States. The world body selected his entry as the official poster for the International Year of Peace. Today it hangs in the halls of the U. N. General Assembly. He has designed postage stamps for thirteen nations, written and illustrated more than fifty books for young people, and has illustrated the covers of seven Newbery Award winners
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Born of Two Hurricanes: ArtsReady Helps Gird Against Disaster

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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 https://www.artsready.org.

 

 

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