Creative Placemaking & Cultural Entrepreneurship

One of the perks of working at NAS is the number of incredible leaders we get to talk with on a regular basis. The last several weeks have been no exception. In fact, we've been talking and listening quite a bit. Part of the recruitment for our Creative Community Fellows program has been a series of conversations with young cultural entrepreneurs about their work and their communities. It's been an eye-opening experience. Next week we will begin to share some of the stories of these amazing leaders. Today we want to share what we learned from … [Read more...]

Creative Placemaking: A Conversation


Let’s talk about creative placemaking. In those five words, I’ve probably lost the attention of 40% of our field. It’s likely about 25% are now busy rolling their eyes. Another 15% might be asking, “What is left to discuss?” Yes, in many ways creative placemaking has become an often-cited cultural sector panacea. And yes, it’s a great phrase for grant proposals (and who doesn’t relish a good grant proposal?). But seriously, let’s talk about creative placemaking. Forget for a moment the capital C, capital P proper noun. Let’s talk about … [Read more...]

Arts as an Engine of Unrest
Or, How the Arts Ruined a Perfectly Good Childhood

Art makes people happy. Lots of individuals and institutions are now looking at proving and understanding this link. To some it’s the holy grail of arts impact. Who doesn't want to feel good? Well… I don’t. Or, at least I don’t think that’s where the real power of the arts lies. For me, the arts matter because of their ability to do just the opposite. I was raised in a tiny farming community in Northern Arkansas. We didn’t have a symphony. We didn’t have a museum. We didn’t have much “Art” to speak of. If forced to name the town’s cultural … [Read more...]

Why the Arts Matter


In honor of Arts Advocacy Day, we at NAS wanted to pull back the curtain a bit and share our own thoughts on why the arts matter? Throughout the week, we will add posts by members of the team. We invite you to add your thoughts as well. … [Read more...]

Solving Field-wide Problems Together

How do we engage collaborators in shaping our institutional agendas? How do we create 21st century boards? How do we develop transformational employees and systems? How do we maximize the field’s value in the eyes of the public?   Answer: Together.   Last year, NAS brought the participants of The Chief Executive Program together at an ideation conference to collectively work on solutions to the four problems listed above. We shared our framing of those issues here in hopes of starting a conversation about them. Now, we want to … [Read more...]

Raising the Tide of Value

Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll feature posts around the final convening of our Chief Executive Program, The Summit at Sundance. We invite you to participate in an online discussion of four major issues facing the cultural field. In this post, Dallas Shelby introduces the last of the problem statements. Why do the arts matter? Why does creativity matter? Why do you matter? What value do we create? We should all be able to answer these questions, and the easier it we can make it to do so the better off we will be.  We may be … [Read more...]

Placemaking: Leverage, Alignment and Moving Mountains


Leverage. “Give me a place to stand and I shall move mountains with it.” This was Archimedes’ take on it back in the 3rd century B.C. Given that arts and culture organizations are in the business of moving mountains, leverage and a place to stand (alignment) are the keys to their success. In physics a lever amplifies an input force to provide a greater output force. That lever pivots on a fulcrum and where you place that fulcrum makes all the difference. As does finding the right lever, ideally one that produces no friction. To think … [Read more...]

Training ourselves to see the invisible gorilla

Trafton Drew & Jeremy Wolfe

Earlier this week, NPR ran a story about some interesting research into the concept of inattential blindness that I think is incredibly instructive for arts leaders. The study went like this: an image of a man in a gorilla suit was superimposed upon a series of slides that radiologists typically use to look for cancer (see the image to the left). A group of radiologists were then asked to review the slides for cancerous nodules. The result? 83% did not see the gorilla.   “When you ask someone to perform a challenging task, without … [Read more...]

What’s your mandate?

What is your mandate?

My fellow cultural leaders, I am here today humbled by the task before me, grateful for the trust bestowed by ArtsJournal and mindful of the sacrifices borne by my predecessors. We live in a time of unprecedented challenge. And, as we navigate the rough seas of uncertainty, we must set our course toward a guiding light:  the will of the people – our mandate. (Applause.) There have been many conversations here in the U.S. in recent weeks about mandates. What is President Obama’s mandate? What is Congress’ mandate? It’s a feature of every … [Read more...]

Stories from the Field: The Walters Art Museum

Art Bytes

For centuries, museums have been places folks go to see important stuff. (Museums are full of stuff.) That stuff has always been carefully chosen by experts – folks with information – in the museum. (Museums are also full of experts.) Digital technology has made information readily available to folks outside of museums. Now, not only can folks see stuff online, but they also consider themselves experts. What’s a museum to do? I went to Baltimore to talk with Dr. Gary Vikan, director of the Walters Art Museum and the museum’s manager of … [Read more...]