Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Creative Industry Workforce Grants announced

In the interest of getting something up on my blog right away, following is the entire press release issued at the press conference and awards ceremony just held at City Hall. Very exciting announcement of new grants to support creative industry jobs and neighborhood revitalization in Philadelphia. Thanks to the Mayor, City Council, the panelists, and to all the City colleagues who helped make this possible.


Philadelphia, March 31, 2010— Today Mayor Michael A. Nutter awarded $500,000 in Creative Industry Workforce Grants to eight arts-related organizations. The awards ranged from $20,000 to $100,000 each. This funding will be used for specific capital projects that will yield both temporary jobs (including construction, installation, architectural and engineering jobs) and permanent jobs in the creative sector. Funding for the Creative Industry Workforce Grant program comes from the Community Development Block Grant program of the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA). Created through a partnership of the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy and the Department of Commerce, the goal of the unique program is to nurture and develop the creative sector while fostering neighborhood development, business attraction and job creation.

“These grants are all about providing more jobs for Philadelphians. This funding will not only offer new construction opportunities, but will deliver lasting jobs in the creative economy,” said Mayor Nutter. “These awards will support distinctive, cultural programming in diverse neighborhoods in the years to come.”

The Creative Industry Workforce Grant program was open to the nonprofit arts and culture community as well as for-profit arts, entertainment and creative businesses.  These awards reinforce the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy’s larger strategy to nurture and develop this sector by providing specific programs and resources to the creative industries. This grant program also intersects with the Commerce Department’s business services, neighborhood development, business attraction and job creation efforts.

"This is a very exciting - and ground-breaking - program for the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, and for the City of Philadelphia.   By investing Community Development Block Grant funds in capital projects that help foster our creative enterprises and generate jobs in our low and moderate income communities, we help support both this important industry and also nurture healthy neighborhoods," said Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer.

In order to qualify for the grants, applicants needed to demonstrate that their project could start within three months from the award date. The projects also must have met federal CDBG eligibility including but not limited to serving low to moderate income customers creating low to moderate income jobs, or being located in a low to moderate income neighborhood. Eligible applicants included nonprofit arts and cultural organizations, community development corporations, for-profit creative businesses, microenterprises and others. The award winners were selected by a five-person panel comprised of Chief Cultural Officer Gary Steuer, Commerce Department’s Chief Operating Officer Kevin Dow, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown, President of the Reinvestment Fund Jeremy Nowak, and CEO of The Burd Group Nancy Burd.



Connection Training Services - $60,000
2243 W. Allegheny Street (North Philadelphia)
Creation of the North Philadelphia Creative Arts Center and Gallery at the Allegheny Business Center, an arts incubator for ex-offenders

Crane Old School, LP - $100,000
1425 N. 2nd Street (Kensington)
$1.7 million conversion of an historic school into multi-tenant artist and commercial arts space, including the new Pig Iron Theater School

Octo Enterprises Incorporated - $100,000
2214-14 Alter Street (Point Breeze)
Industrial building renovation and expansion for new artist workspace

Olney Cultural Collaborative - $20,000
An initiative of the North 5th Revitalization Project, a program of the Korean
Community Development Services Center (Olney)
Office renovation for neighborhood cultural programming initiative

Revolution Recovery         - $40,000
7333 Milnor Street (Northeast)
Artist workspace and office space at recycling facility for a new artist in residency program.

Underground Arts at the Wolf Building - $50,000
340 N. 12th Street Associates, LP (Callowhill)
Creation of a Multi-disciplinary Arts Venue

Vox Populi - $30,000
319 N. 11th Street (Callowhill)
Creation of multi-disciplinary performance venue and additional artist studios

2215 East Tioga Street Gallery & Studios        - $100,000
2215 East Tioga Street (Kensington)
Rehabilitation to create an art gallery and sculpture garden

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art

Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art is a new arts education study just recently released and summarized well by the Arts Education Partnership in their AEPWire publication. Seems to be a problem on their Web site now - maybe too many people trying to access the study! - so I would suggest also going to their Facebook page for more info.

The study, by James S. Catterall, is essentially a continuation of the research he (along with some colleagues) contributed to the landmark "Champions of Change" study, released in 1999. This new study looks at 12,000 young people who were studied as high school students in that earlier study. Ten additional years of data have now been gathered to follow these young people through the age of 26. The bottom line is that arts learning is found to be strongly connected to both general academic success and "pro-social outcomes."

Most significant about this study for me is that it attempts to look specifically at the impact an "arts rich" learning environment has on socio-economic-status (SES) challenged students. An example - 37.1% of those studied from arts-rich high schools went on to earn a BA, compared with only 17.3% of those who went to arts-poor schools. Similarly dramatic results were seen for English Language Learners.

The study finds significant advantages for arts-engaged low‐SES students in college going, college grades, and types of employment, e.g. jobs with a future—and strong advantages in volunteerism and political participation.

All research is imperfect, and I am sure one could find holes in this as well, but it seems to me to be pretty powerful and persuasive stuff. If policy makers need proof that investing in arts learning must be an important component of efforts to ensure our most challenged young people have a chance at success in life and as citizens, they need look no further than this research.

Thanks to Eric Booth for passing this along to me!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Musings on The Barnes

A few months ago (in October of 2009) I wrote about the Barnes move and included two videos of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien describing the new building on the Parkway. The new movie, The Art of the Steal, which I have now seen, motivates me to share some thoughts on the issue.

One important point of clarification. This was a "done deal" by the time I came to town, and by the time Mayor Nutter took office, so I cannot speak with any knowledge about things that took place before my arrival. What I can share are my reactions to the movie, and my involvement in this debate for the past 18 months.

First, as has been widely reported, the movie is distinctly one-sided. Because it was clear that the filmmakers and producer had a point of view that opposed the move, all the leading players on the other side of the issue - with the exception of Governor Rendell - refused to participate. Nobody viewing the movie should be under the illusion that they are getting a balanced representation of the issues and facts.

A few points to note, responding to some of the points made in the film and related articles and blogs:

  • If Dr. Barnes's commitment was to education and the use of the collection to educate people about art - especially the underserved - isn't there a great value to being located in a facility that is much more easily accessible to exactly those people the institution was intended to serve?  The current Merion location is in a wealthy community and difficult to access by public transportation. I don't think it is a coincidence that I don't believe a single teacher or student interviewed in the film is a person of color - ironic given Barnes' relationship to Lincoln, a historically Black college. and the prominence of Julian Bond and Richard Glanton as interview subjects in the movie.
  • If Dr. Barnes was committed to the artworks being exhibited in  precise orientation to one another, in rooms of specific dimensions, that desire is fulfilled by the new building which maintains the exact same arrangement of art in rooms of the same dimension, with windows and doors in exactly the same locations, and even with view through the windows onto a bucolic landscape being replicated. The prohibition on lending work or removing it other than for conservation, will also be maintained.
  • Because the intimate dimensions of the rooms will be preserved, there will still need to be limitations on the volume of visitors that can be accommodated per hour, but because the new building will be open many more hours than the Merion site, and because the new temporary exhibition spaces will spread people out through a larger complex, many more people will be able to access the Barnes collection than are now able to.
  • The new building will create gallery space for temporary exhibitions, which the current building lacks. As Barnes was an avid collector of what was THEN contemporary art, who knows what work he would have continued to collect had he not died so suddenly?  How might the work on display changed had he lived another twenty years? Temporary exhibition space will allow for fascinating curatorial exploration of the Barnes collection, mounting of exhibits that might illuminate the context of the man, the art and the times, exhibition of contemporary art that might put help us view the collection in light of artists who are the "Cezannes of today" as the PMA's Cezanne and beyond show did so brilliantly.
  • The current building and gardens will be maintained as part of the The Barnes Foundation and will be accessible as a horticultural and study center.
  • There is also information disseminated that seems to imply the City is investing significant funding into the new building. In fact the City is putting no capital money into the project, and has made no commitments to providing operating funding. Once it is operating in the City, the Barnes can apply to the Philadelphia Cultural Fund like any other cultural group. All the City did was make the land available. Trying to place a value on the land were it sold for commercial development is inappropriate, as given the prominence of this site on the Parkway the site would ONLY have been utilized for public benefit.
  • Yes, the Barnes may need to increase the fundraising needed to program and operate the new facility, and one could argue this does add an additional stress on the funding environment in the arts sector in the City. On the other hand, I do believe a rising tide raises all ships, and the excitement of the new Barnes on the Parkway, I believe will attract more donors to the marketplace, and encourage them to increase their philanthropy rather than dividing up a static pie more thinly.
Would a solution to the problem of limited access at the existing site be the creation of a visitor orientation center on the Parkway that could shuttle visitors to the Merion Barnes and back? Perhaps, if this had been suggested many, many years ago, when plans for the move were first put into place, and such a solution could have garnered support form the funders of the move. But the time is long past for this debate. Ground is broken, the building and landscape is fully designed - which I for one believe is stunning, construction is well underway, and the building is going to open.

Isn't it time to come together and figure out how the legacy of this quirky, ecccentric, brilliant collector, Dr, Albert Barnes, can best be honored and celebrated in the context of the Barnes on the Parkway?

Friday, March 12, 2010

An Arts Event from Another Planet?

One of the events in Philadelphia that I knew pretty well before arriving here in 2008 was the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia's annual awards luncheon. I had attended the event several times as the national CEO of the Arts & Business Council Inc., now part of Americans for the Arts. I can personally attest that there is no event like this in the entire country, bringing together so many arts leaders with so many business leaders, celebrating business support for the arts, business voluntarism, and the role the arts play in building a healthy community in which people want to live, work and play. The event attracts as many as 1,700 people. Most other cities - even cities much larger - are lucky if they can get 400 or 500 people at similar events.

The theme this year is "Planet Art" - every such event must have its theme, hence the title of this blog posting. I think this year is a time when perhaps more than ever we need opportunities to come together and celebrate these values. The thing I have always liked about the event is the way it brings together a broad cross-section of the arts sector - all disciplines, all sizes, so many different communities represented; as well as bringing together so many different types of business - small, medium, large. And not just the CEO's but the employees who are serving on boards, volunteering through VLA and BVA, etc.

I think if we want more businesses and business leaders to value the arts we need to recognize and celebrate those businesses and individuals that already get it, and use events like this as a vehicle for shoring up the support we have, and making new friends for the arts. 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Americans for the Arts ARTSblog Private Sector Salon

The Americans for the Arts ARTSblog is now featuring a Private Sector Salon blogathon featuring contributions from twenty diverse guest bloggers opining on an array of issues related to the private sector and the arts. I am one of those contributors and thought I would share with my followers that this Salon is now going on.  I encourage you to visit the Salon and read the many thoughtful and provocative posts. You are also invited to join in the dialogue by posting comments.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rocco comes to Philly

Yesterday was a jam-packed day, with NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman's whirlwind visit to the City of Brotherly Live and Sisterly Affection. The visit was documented in an article in today's Philadelphia Inquirer. It was great to be cited as "a model arts city."  After a morning meeting with the staff of The Reinvestment Fund, Rocco and the rest of the NEA visitors, which also included Deputy Chair Joan Shigekawa, our little band went on a quick tour of the City's cultural sites, but with a special emphasis on the role of the arts in neighborhood transformation. Rocco has been a big fan of the work done by Jeremy Nowak and the Reinvestment Fund in partnership with Mark Stern and his Social Impact of the Arts groip at University of Pennsylvania. In fact that work was funded by The Rockefeller Foundation when Joan was there before moving to NEA. We drove by Painted Bride and had a stop at Asian Arts Initiative before ending up at Crane Arts for a tour and a group conversation with about 25 invited arts and civic leaders. Despite his crazy budget-address-week schedule the Mayor was even able to stop by for a bit, which was a great emblem of the kind of importance he places on the arts and creative industry in the City.

The lively conversation touched on many issues, such as: The role of the City in fostering cultural revitalization of communities. How to avoid the gentrification which so often follows. Whether to invest in communities where there are naturally developing clusters of activity, or focus on neighborhoods where there is a virtual absence arts of activity. How to engage the many areas of local, state and federal budgets that are not arts-specific but should be investing in the arts as part of achieving their goals (transportation, HUD, commerce, etc.). This is something Landesman has been really working on at the national level, and I hear he has been making real headway building dialogue with Cabinet members that should lead to some concrete initiatives.

Then we had more touring - a stop at the site of the future home of Taller Puertoriquenno, a quick visit to Please Touch, and then ending with a stop at the public-private partnership of World Cafe Live with WXPN. Throughout Landesman was truly engaged, attentive and curious. Very impressive!  And of course along the entire trip we saw MANY murals and Jane Golden was along to give a little background on each of them. And we learned in the course of conversation that Rocco's grandfather was actually a muralist who emigrated to St. Louis from Europe to paint murals here.

The day ended with a panel discussion put together by University of Pennsylvania at the University Museum. The panel conversation was preceded by a tribute to Peggy Amsterdam by David Thornburgh of the Fels Institute of Government at Penn, and a keyonte address by Rocco. The diverse panel featured the directors of Ballet Austin and the National Council on Traditional Artsl, Mark Stern from Penn, Greg Rowe from Pew, and musician Donald Harrison. The panel was moderated by Nick Spitzer, host and producer of the NPR program "American Routes."

I think a big take-away of the day was that here in Philadelphia people often see the glass as half empty. We are acutely aware of what we are not doing, what we could do better: the neighborhoods that have not yet benefited from having a vital cultural infusion, the usual tug between supporting our cultural jewels and supporting emerging arts, and community-based arts, the challenge of better supporting the entrepreneurial creative community, the need to support the culture of our immigrant populations. (just to name a few...) It is refreshing and gratifying to be reminded that viewed objectively from the outside, we have been doing a lot really well and need to be proud of that. This is what drew me to Philadelphia in the first place. It was great to see that Rocco looks at Philly through the same eyes that I do, and really likes what he sees.

Listening to music does not make you smarter - playing it does

The LA Times had an interesting article by Melissa Healy in their Health section on March 1 about the impact of music on the brain.It basically repeats recent research that debunks the so-called "Mozart effect" that listening to music somehow strengthens or improves brain function.  "The Mozart effect? That's just crap," says Glenn Schellenberg, a psychologist at the University of Toronto who conducts research on the effect of music and musical instruction.

She then goes on to discuss other research that does seem to show that the PRACTICE of music does have a demonstrable effect on the brain. Here is link to an article from the Dana Foundation (a leader in this research) that reports on new research from Boston. This also is in keeping with research on aging that shows the practice of an art form - playing an instrument, learning a dance - increases brain plasticity, delaying or diminishing the deterioration of brain function.A monograph supported by MetLife Foundation can be found here that goes into this area in some depth.

I guess since I don't play an instrument - just listen to music fairly obsessively - I will have to make do with my unimproved brain. Listening to music will help dull the pain of not benefiting from the brain-sharpening effect of playing music.

But it is important to not use the diminished support for the Mozart effect as an excuse to find less value in arts education and arts participation. Arts experiences for all people, young and old (not just the practice of art or music or dance) have a host of other measurable beneficial effects on learning and wellness. To quote the conclusion of the LA Times article:

In the end, music listening may come in a distant second to learning in a brain-building contest. But one thing we know beyond a doubt is that it brings pleasure — and few psychologists scoff at the power of that. It promotes well-being. It enhances attention. It protects against the depredation of age. It can even ease pain. "Music is one of those things out there that people enjoy," says Robert Zatorre, a neuropsychologist at McGill University who researches music's effects. "That's already a lot!"