Animating Democracy May 2012 E-News
Animating Democracy News and Updates

New Webinar! Reclaiming the F-Word: Folk Arts, Shifting Populations, & Civic Engagement
Thursday, June 14 at 2:30 p.m. (EST)

In this hour-long webinar, leaders in the field—Director of the American Folklife Center Betsy Peterson; Executive Director of the Alliance for California Traditional Arts Amy Kitchener; and Senior Research Associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center and Director of the Urban Institute’s Culture, Creativity, and Communities Program Maria Rosario Jackson—will explore the importance of folk and traditional arts, highlighting how they connect individuals to their communities, foster dialogue between groups, and build cultural and civic capacity. Presenters will offer examples of folk and traditional arts as a method for creating civic engagement and social change and show how they are key to both preservation and participation.

Registration is not yet open for this webinar, but check back on the Americans for the Arts webinar page in the next couple days to sign up for this dynamite session.

For some background reading on the incredible role that folk art can and does play in preserving culture and cultivating civic engagement, check out Betsy Peterson’s Trend Paper on Folk and Traditional Arts and Social Change.

It’s Not Too Late to Check Out Animating Democracy’s Blog Salon!

In case you missed last week’s thought-provoking blog salon on evaluating the social impact of the arts, here’s the link to those posts.

Drawing from the diverse perspectives of public art veterans, arts educators, researchers, and thinkers from outside of the field, the salon asked the question, how can we validate the benefit of the arts and culture in terms of social impact? Nuanced and insightful responses helped push conversation about evaluation forward and in new directions with thoughts around:

  • the use of storytelling in qualitative evaluation
  • the need for evaluative practice to reflect the work, and
  • the opportunity for evaluation to play a crucial role at different points in a project’s progression.

Work backwards and start with a summary of the salon by Animating Democracy Program Coordinator Joanna Chin. Here are some highlights:

Neuroscientist and consultant for Global Giving, Marc Maxson’s post shares some of the innovative work being done outside of the arts field using storytelling to capture trends and how NGOs work is cultivating change. He also provided an excellent recap of the salon.

Principal Investigator for the Social Impact of the Arts Project at UPenn Mark Stern’s post spoke about the capabilities approach, the idea that social well-being is a product of people’s opportunities to be and do in certain ways, which could serve as a framework to evaluate the arts within a healthy cultural ecosystem that includes all the dimensions of social well-being.

Executive Director of the Fairmount Park Art Association Penny Bach’s fantastic blog post focuses on Museum Without Walls: AUDIO, an interactive audio platform that allowed people to use cell phones to access stories about the public art they were viewing while also providing the program with quantitative and qualitative data showing the increase in public engagement.

Animating Democracy grad assistant Renan Snowden wrote a thought-provoking post about how art can actually strengthen and make more accessible evaluative practice.

Inspired by this discussion?
The Public Art Network Blog Salon will continue exploring the topic of evaluation May 14–18, specifically addressing work in public space. Public art administrators and artists will share their ideas on how we measure public art programs, projects, or a combination of the two. Don’t miss innovative thinking from leaders experimenting and finding solutions for the challenge of measuring a complex art form that eludes traditional evaluation tools.

On the Road

Co-Director Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Director of the Center for the Study of Art and Community Bill Cleveland led an interactive session entitled Mapping the Landscape of Arts for Change at Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads Arts-Based Community Development, which took place May 12-14 in St. Louis. Barbara, along with Co-Director Pam Korza, and in cooperation with the Regional Arts Commission, held a forum for regional funders. Twenty-six people attended, representing family and private foundations, state and local arts agencies, and arts practitioners and researchers. A rich discussion revolved around issues of language used to describe “arts for change” work—from both funder and public points of view as well as understanding the impact, including through lenses of scale and cumulative effect.

Global Connections

Barbara and Pam met with program officers Fay Lim and Melissa Tam of the National Arts Council of Singapore to share ideas for the creation of community arts programs called for in Singapore's new national cultural plan. The meeting took place at the Rustbelt to Artist Belt: At the Crossroads Arts-Based Community Development Conference in St. Louis.

In addition, Joanna and Barbara welcomed four artists from Iraq to Americans for the Arts' office in Washington. While under the auspices of the U. S. State Department, they participated in a workshop and exchange about how the arts promote civic engagement and social change in the United States. Theater artist and Artistic Director of Sojourn TheatreMichael Rohd also joined the meeting.

Events on the Horizon

Americans for the Arts Annual Convention
June 8-10, 2012
San Antonio, TX

The 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this June 8–10 in San Antonio, TX will bring together 1,000 arts and community leaders to focus on how the arts field can function, change, and thrive in The New Normal. Great speakers, educational workshops, and networking opportunities will abound. Sessions of possible interest for civic engagement and social change artists and arts professionals include:

Social Engagement as Public Art: New Models for Programming (PAN Pre-Conference)
Thursday, June 7, 11:15 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Impactful Philanthropy: Grantmaking in Support of Cultural Vitality
Friday, June 8, 2:30 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Civic Engagement Peer Exchange
Sunday, June 10, 8:30 a.m.–9:30 a.m.

The New Mainstream: How Changing Demographics Are Shifting Your Community
Saturday, June 9, 4:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Boots to Brushes: The Arts Serving Veterans’ Needs
Saturday, June 9, 11:00 a.m.–12:30 p.m.

Arts Education as Social Reform
Saturday, June 9, 4:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Backyard Diplomacy—New Strategies for Supporting International Cultural Engagement in Local Communities
Saturday, June 9, 4:30 p.m.–6:00 p.m.

Crescendo Cultural: Adapting to the New American Arts Landscape
Sunday, June 10, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 am

New Pathways to Innovation in Your Community
Sunday, June 10, 10:00 a.m.–11:30 am

Community Built Association 2012 Conference
May 30–June 2
Portland, OR
The Community Built Association’s 2012 Conference: Community Building in the Urban Village seeks to expand and deepen the practice of community engagement through the lenses of art, play, nature and the built environment. The conference is intended for anyone who is interested in engaging their community in collaborative works, from experts in the field to those exploring this way of working. Artists will come together with architects, playground builders, gardeners, and place-makers to share ideas, learn from each other, and get inspired to bring community building to our own cities and neighborhoods.
The conference has a rich line-up of community engaged artists working in a variety of media and will feature hands-on workshops, tours of public art sites, and discussion groups.  For more information and to register, visit

Americans for Community Development Annual Conference
May 21–22, 2012
Washington, DC

Americans for Community Development is hosting its second annual conference on May 21–22, 2012 in Washington, DC to explore the role and possibilities of L3Cs (low-profit limited liability companies). Featuring education, professional development, and networking around L3Cs, this is unique opportunity for arts organizations looking to explore an alternative business structure that bridges nonprofit and for-profit ventures. To register, visit

Arts of Conscience: Art for Social Change Symposium
June 11–16
Vancouver, BC

In partnership with the Vancouver-based nonprofit Instruments of Change and VanCity Theatre, the Vancouver International Song Institute invites participants to an intensive six-day workshop designed for artists from all disciplines and for community members interested in the growing field of Art for Social Change. The course comprises lectures, workshops, forum films, discussions, and group projects. Some events are open to the public, while a central portion of each day is designed for registered participants only. Topics include Cultural Diplomacy, Arts in Conflict Prevention, and Arts Therapy. Additional training includes workshops in facilitation skills, incorporating arts for social change curriculum into university settings, and working with trauma populations.

For more information and to register, visit

With support from the
Ford Foundation
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