"And the beat goes on................"
Continuing with the ABBA Blog Forum with Local Arts Agency leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area (see yesterday's blog for the introduction and participant list).
Working in the arts probably means we understand the intrinsic value/ transformative power that the arts can provide or tap into. How is your department or arts organizations in your county building public will for the arts across it's residents, so we aren't always pitting arts against every other important experience?
Connie Martinez: We are working closely with the City of San Jose on their Building Public Will initiative and are using the language and messaging that the research has deemed important to building public will. As for pitting the arts against others, we use a collaborative approach in all of our work and see arts as a value add to many other sectors: health, education, urban development, etc. To that end, we bring the arts to the table to contribute to the strength of other sectors when we can and avoid an "us vs them" acknowledging that we are part of same community and share the goal of strengthening the common good.
Michele Seville: Two ways: a) the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission is proposing a Percent for Art in Private Development ordinance – which will bring even more public art to our environment; and b) the commission has decided to embark on a project called “Community Conversations” where we invite unlikely partners to the table to discuss what they want to see in their community, and how to achieve it together through the arts.
Kerry Adams Hapner: The San Jose Office of Cultural Affairs is participating in a multi-phase national initiative called Creating Connection to build public will for the arts and culture. Through aligning the arts with the existing closely-held values of San Joseans, the goal is for the arts to be recognized as a vital and essential part of the daily fabric of life.
Conceived and led by Metropolitan Group and Arts Midwest, this initiative is supported by multiple local, regional and national funders in the public and private sectors who understand that a thriving arts and cultural environment is essential to sustain strong communities. Because of its diverse population, vibrant neighborhoods and thriving cultural community, San Jose was selected by our partner the California Arts Council as the pilot community to represent the State of California for this growing national initiative. The Packard Foundation has been a wonderful supporter of the three phases of this project to date.
This public will-building approach coalesces support for social change by connecting an issue to existing, closely held values of individuals and groups. Through this connection, new expectations can influence long-term changes and achieve positive community outcomes. This approach has a proven track record in other public policy areas, having catalyzed significant change in community expectations regarding now-commonly accepted practices as smoke-free public space, library support and improved water quality.
Phase 1 focused on national surveys, supplemented by focus groups in local communities, to uncover the core, shared public values and behaviors around community, education, self-expression, and family. The research found that the value of connection - with ourselves, the people closest to us, and the world around us - is the most strongly aligned with arts and culture. Entitled Creating Connection, the research report for Phase 1 can be found at www.artsmidwest.org. Key findings for the San Jose and other pilot areas include:
- Connection is a key motivation driving personal behaviors.
- “Creative expression” has a greater resonance with the public than “arts and culture.”
- Engaging in or experiencing creative expression is associated with a beneficial personal outcome.
- People under 40, women, parents of younger children, and people of color are key audiences for whom creative expression is a priority.
- Barriers to creative expression and activities exist, but, not insurmountable.
The research findings in Phase 1 informed the development of a national message framework which serves to communicate the connections between the inherent benefits of the arts and existing community priorities. Recently completed, Phase 2 equipped a cohort of diverse arts organizations to take the research findings and messages to a broader audience. Organizations in the implementation cohort received message training with tools, programmatic recommendations, and funding to implement the framework. An exciting outcome of the cohort is that the organizations chose to adopt a hashtag called #408Creates that serves as a means to develop critical mass. A third phase is being launched now, which will offer another cohort and funding opportunity to San Jose groups, a social media campaign, as well as a convening of cross sector leaders to provide input on the building pubic will initiative.
In addition to working through arts partners, the OCA has designed a complementary programming initiative entitled San Jose Creates & Connects, which is designed to build a more vibrant San Jose by connecting San Jose residents across communities and within neighborhoods through creative, participatory experiences in arts and culture.
In supporting cultural activity within neighborhoods across the city, OCA’s objective is for residents to view the arts as integral to their everyday lives. Residents will celebrate their neighborhoods, connect with their neighbors, and have their voices heard through the arts. This initiative also supports the local employment and financial viability of artists and artist-run business as cultural producers, teachers, neighborhood anchors, and community organizers.
Specific initiatives being considered for inclusion over the course of two years are:
- micro-grants and investments in place-based arts-businesses;
- city-wide public art initiative connecting across communities, such as murals at underpasses or participatory art projects in parks, libraries and community centers; and
- participatory arts festivals in non-traditional venues.
Working synergistically, Creating Connection and San Jose Creates & Connects help ensure that San José’s robust cultural environment continues to thrive now and in the future. These efforts serve to strengthen the local arts and cultural sector - by providing organizations with proven messages and strategies that demonstrate the connection between their offerings and the public’s existing values.
To speak of will – there’s the political will, public will and poetic will that I encounter that enliven the city. The political will of elected officials, lobbyists or get out the vote drives; the public will of a Women’s March, or the Save the Bay movement and the Poetic Will of how we imagine our plurality via images, the lyric, the story, or gestures, through acts of cultural citizenship that make a claim on civil society are woven together in my job as a civil servant.
I pay attention to the poetic will at play in civil society and how it moves in society, not so much as the I, but the we. The poetic will of art often unhinges the rational world of empirical reasoning with its images – images of freedom, beauty, possibilities, the abject, morals, or ethics as opposed to facts as definite, scientific, and absolute. The composing, the dreams, vision, utopia or dystopic energies that animate the secular, the interconnectedness that governs daily life via the promise of the city - expressive life a locale which is woven together through an interplay of people, land, arts, culture, and engagement that is a form of aesthetic ordering that roots a city in its development, its identity and creates the space and place called home. It is a form of ordering and speech that sources the work we do.
- Act as liaison between the arts community and policymakers to increase understanding of how artists can contribute to creative problem solving of larger policy issues.
- Over the past three years the SFAC has received over $2.5 million in special ‘add-back’ funding from the SF Board of Supervisors to support neighborhood arts projects that improve the quality of life for San Francisco residents and visitors. Examples of projects from our most recent Request for Proposals can be found here.
- Collaborate with other city agencies to understand the intersection between arts and support for children, youth and families, public health, environment, etc.
- The SFAC currently has partnerships and work order funding from several peer City departments including the SF Department of Public Works, the SF Public Library, the SF Planning Department, the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development and the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families.
- Participate in national research projects that highlight the importance of the arts in the local economy and improving the quality of life for San Francisco residents and visitors.
- Current research includes participation in the Americans for the Arts’ Arts & Economic Prosperity Study V and the World Cities Cultural Forum culture report.
- Support small, grassroots organizations that serve the community directly through grants and capacity building.
- The SFAC’s Cultural Equity Endowment Fund received an ongoing annual increase of $1 million in Fiscal Year 2016. These new funds represent a 50% increase to the Cultural Equity Endowment Fund and have supported increased grant amounts to grassroots arts organizations for artmaking and capacity building.
- Connect arts to other social sectors and issues.
- The SF Arts Commission Galleries has recently expanded into a new space at the Veterans War Memorial Building. The current show, Not Alone addresses the experiences of veterans and their families and has received significant press coverage including a recent feature in Hyperallergic.
Funding varies from area to area, across disciplines and organization size - and remains one of the key challenges to every arts organization. Is there any kind of tax or dedicated revenue stream that might have a chance of voter passage that would include all nine Bay Area counties? Is that kind of approach viable? Are there other ways the funding issue might be addressed from a cooperative approach?
Have a nice day.