“As a secular American living in Manhattan, I’m a stranger to the senator’s world of church and picnics. I worry that religion may be as much divisive as binding in America’s map of red versus blue. My professional world is one of orchestras (with which I work) and cultural history (about which I write). My perspective suggests another opportunity for healing—regaining a lost “sense of place” and shared American identity via our history and culture. And, yes, I mean high culture.” – The Weekly Standard
Cecilia Olusola Tribble of metro Nashville’s Office of Arts and Culture writes about the Restorative Justice + the Arts program, which trains artists to teach and work with inmates at a Nashville juvenile detention center. — Americans for the Arts
“A group of disabled theatre artists have announced the creation of National Disability Theatre, a company that will produce fully accessible live performances. The company will exclusively contract actors, designers, directors, and staff who have disabilities.” — American Theatre
The Community Engagement Training offered by ArtsEngaged is also preparing new trainers. As a culminating part of their work, they prepare a case study critiquing a project they know well. Here are the first four: Classical Roots, an ongoing program of the Cincinnati Symphony with choirs from the city’s African-American churches; a partnership between the Segerstrom Center for the Arts (Orange County, CA) and the service organization Alzheimer’s Orange County; the Cincinnati Arts Association’s production of a concert with the Urban Appalachian Community Coalition; and the productive merger of two film festivals, one larger and of general interest and the other smaller and LGBTQ-focused.
The Detroit-based Sphinx Organization, which for 22 years has run education programs and competitions to develop black and Latinx classical music performers, “is launching a leadership development program with educational and mentorship components aimed at cultivating black and Latinx candidates for leadership positions in orchestras, conservatories and music schools across the country.”
The site-specific New York company On Site Opera, which has already staged productions at a mannequin showroom, Harlem’s Cotton Club, the Bronx Zoo, and Madame Tussaud’s, is presenting Gian Carlo Menotti’s Christmas opera at the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen, with the chorus recruited from the clients of Breaking Ground, which provides permanent housing and services for the homeless.
“Project 440 is the brainchild of Joseph Conyers, assistant principal bassist with the Philadelphia Orchestra, who often explains to people that yes, he does operate a music organization that doesn’t teach music.” Says Conyers, “The arts can play a pivotal role in underserved communities, giving kids opportunities, giving them things that they keep for the rest of their lives.”
“Our mission is simple: to serve as an amplifier within the music community, and to advance the music economy through shared learning, collaboration and partnerships. I believe that music is important to the future of Detroit because it captures and elevates the city’s legacy and community voice through song, and it can also serve as a significant economic driver for the city.”
The Atlanta-based organization currently holds more than 1,000 works, by artist ranging from the self-taught Nellie Mae Rowe (whose materials include old egg cartons and chewing gum) to the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama. Along with collecting work themselves, the staffers of Souls Grown Deep are working to place pieces by their artists in museum collections.
The plethora of reports and investigations drawn together in the review reveal that people with higher incomes attend arts events in disproportionately high numbers, but they are less likely to actively participate in cultural activities. Participatory arts activities are more popular among those with flexible working schedules and more disposable time than among “those who are both objectively and subjectively ‘busy’”, who opt for less time-consuming forms of leisure.
“When an institution does not evolve with best practices that include parent support, it risks suppressing, isolating, and driving out the most socially vulnerable regardless of their high professional capability and artistic potential. Our organization, Parent Artist Advocacy for the Performing Arts, is creating a National Handbook of Best Practices for institutions to support parent artists, collecting interviews with individuals alongside testimonies from institutions … to gain full perspective of harmful or healthy practice within the context of employment and caregiving.”
The David Herrera Performance Company is one of nine artists at ¡FLACC! — The Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers — “[a] three-day festival exploring how political, economic, racial, and religious tensions impact Latinx communities, and how they can survive them. Pointedly, the event takes place in [San Francisco’s] predominantly Latinx Mission district, a neighborhood currently enduring a wave of gentrification, and in a venue trying to stay afloat with increasing rental costs.”
Nearly 40 applicant teams of directors and designers each created a production concept for an opera chosen from a curated repertoire list. Submissions included visions for staging, scenery, props, costumes and required personnel. These are the four team finalists.
“Allyson Esposito, the director of arts and culture for The Boston Foundation, … says the grant is meant to fund genres and artists who have been chronically ignored by funding institutions in the past. ‘There’s been just this great divide along racial lines and genre specific lines around what has and has not been getting support.'”
Notching up a series of small wins is a common concept in change management discussions and a fairly self-evident one. Still, I’ve been struck by the number of community engagement professionals leading organizational transformation to community engagement who have cited it as a critical factor in the process.