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The geographic divide in American creativity

From The Washington Post Article by Christopher Ingraham

Urbanist Richard Florida popularized the term "creative class," describing the millions of workers in fields such as the arts, sciences and technology whose work largely involves coming up with new ideas and innovating on old ones. The creative class has, for better or worse, primarily been associated with big American cities along the coasts: out of Richard Florida's top 20 creative-class cities in 2015, only one — Dublin, Ohio — was located in a non-coastal state. But new data recently released by the National Endowment for the Arts suggests that there's an awful lot of creativity happening far inland from America's coastal tech and arts hubs. Among other things, the NEA worked with the Census to poll residents of all 50 states on their participation in the arts, particularly whether they performed or created works of art in 2014. Those data reveal a somewhat surprising pattern: America's Great Creative Divide isn't between the coasts and the center, but rather between North and South. Take a look. Nationwide, 45 percent of American adults said they personally performed or created artwork in 2014. "Art," in this case, was defined by a wide variety of activities. Rather than recite all of them, I'll just leave the definition, from the NEA's report, here: As you can see from the map, the study found a surprisingly wide range of arts participation between states. At one end of the spectrum, folks in places such as West Virginia, Oklahoma and Florida seemed to have little interest in doing art — participation levels there hovered around 30 percent. By contrast, people in states such as Colorado, Vermont, Montana and Oregon were roughly twice as likely to personally create or perform artwork. You can see that the states are heavily sorted by geography, with the dividing line at parallel 36°30' (by chance, the line that delineated the boundary between new slave and free states in the Missouri Compromise). In no state to the south of that line do a majority of people say they personally create or perform art. Conversely, in only three states above that line — Kentucky, Delaware and West Virginia — do fewer than 40 percent of residents create or perform art.
What's driving these differences? A separate analysis by the NEA has some answers. Education is a big part of it. The percent of state residents with a bachelor's degree or higher is positively correlated with creating artwork: in other words, more education, more art. This relationship is even stronger in some of the other categories the NEA looked at, such as attendance at art exhibits or performing arts events. Conversely, poverty rates are a strong negative driver of arts participation. If you're working three minimum wage jobs, you're probably not going to have a lot of time to indulge in crochet or creative writing. Of course, education and poverty are big drivers of each other, too. States with more money can spend more on better education, which leads to higher wages, which leads to more education, in an ongoing virtuous cycle. Unfortunately, the reverse holds true as well. Rates of participation in the arts are a powerful and under-appreciated proxy for human well-being. "Self-actualization," including creative activities, are all the way at the top of Maslow's famous hierarchy of needs. If you're able to spend the time and resources necessary to, say, practice with the local theater group or join the local community band, it's highly likely that you've got all the basics like food, shelter and safety taken care of. The NEA numbers suggest that a lot of folks in Southern states are falling behind their Northern counterparts on some of those measures. This mirrors what researchers see in other domains too, such as child well-being. Geography, again, is destiny. Statistically speaking, a kid born in a state such as Florida is likely to have a harder time reaching the pinnacle of Maslow's pyramid than one born in, say, Minnesota.

SC artist blacksmith wins NASA’s spacesuit testing contest

From Inverse.com Article by Jacqueline Ronson

[caption id="attachment_25665" align="alignright" width="250"]John Holler, Vinland Forge John Holler of Vinland Forge[/caption] NASA wants to get people to Mars, and the organization needs all the help it can get, which is why the agency enlists the help of the public through design contests. This week, John Holler, a Batesburg-Leesville-based blacksmith with a private forge, won $5,000 for devising a new testing protocol for spacesuit materials. The idea was to develop a way to assure astronauts their Mars suits would make the trip in one piece. In order to do that, Holler created a machine that supplies intense abrasion while simultaneously evaluating tensile performance. Although he’s a self-described builder and problem-solver, Holler went in not knowing much about aeronautics or space or textiles for that matter. He just likes solving problems. Tell me a little bit about your background. When you’re not a de facto NASA engineer, what are you doing? [caption id="attachment_25666" align="alignleft" width="250"]Holler's more traditional work Holler's more traditional work[/caption] I have been a professional blacksmith for three years now, and have been doing it for seven. You could spend your whole life in this trade and still have a thousand things to learn by the end of it. I’m just at the tip of the iceberg but have had the good fortune to have been given a head start by some of the best master smiths out there. My state, South Carolina, has a rich history of artist blacksmiths and I’m trying to do my part to uphold it. Before that I traveled around and went to school for seemingly unrelated things such as computer science and anthropology. I realize now that the mix of technology and humanities has brought me to where I am today. People should try to use both sides of their brain if they can get away with it; it’s really what we were meant to do. What’s your reaction to the news that you won this contest? I was very surprised! The morning after I was told, it snowed here, which is rare. I took it easy that day and just enjoyed that good feeling of having your hard work rewarded. I told one friend, because you have to celebrate these kinds of things. We like to downplay competitiveness nowadays but the truth is that it feels really good to win — to be recognized. Sometimes we need to be told by others that our efforts are worth something, and not just out of a sense of fairness but because they truly did make the cut. Of course prize money helps a lot. This was an incredible experience and NASA deserves a huge thanks for giving the public a shot with this challenge. There are a lot of great minds out there. Right. That is all totally gracious, but how the hell did you decide to do this in the first place? For one thing, contests are fun. People should just go for it. I had entered plenty of contests before just for the thrill, mostly art contests, and I always lost. Some things are out of your hands, such as judges having a bad day and personal tastes, or sometimes your work is just straight up not great. When I heard about this contest something about it immediately caught my attention. I just decided “why not?” but I promised myself I would not let it consume me because chances would be low that I would actually win. Whatever would happen would happen and I wouldn’t get emotionally invested in the outcome. The way I work in blacksmithing is to build a project completely in my mind before I put anything down on paper, and I did the same thing here. When I found out about the challenge, it had already been announced for some time, but I still had a few months, I think, to figure it out. To be honest it all happened in the shower; Countless hours of shower-thinking went into this. That’s when our best thoughts come to us. Finally, when I had “built” a test rig that would work and I had worked out all of the kinks, I hammered out my submission. I actually ended up holding off until the last minute to submit everything, to give myself as much “building” time as possible. Of course I had the fear that the server would be clogged on the final day of the contest or something equally catastrophic and full of you-should-never-wait-till-the-last-minute I-told-you-sos, but NineSigma [the contest host] came through and it went smoothly. What was your approach to the problem of materials testing for astronaut suits? First, I made sure to read everything that I could get my hands on that I thought would be relevant. NASA was good enough to make the previous test method information available. My goal first and foremost was to streamline things and make the whole process less time consuming. The assumption I had was that there had to be a more straightforward way to do things than spending hours looking at abrasion damage in a microscope and cataloging all of this data on materials that would eventually be weeded out anyway. It’s nice to have extra data but it’s nicer to be able to run more tests. I also wanted to make sure that the testing was as realistic as possible. People would be relying on future suit designs to keep them alive, and I wanted to make sure that they had the best materials to choose from without a doubt — without having to rely on extrapolation and guesswork. What were the biggest challenges you faced, or surprises along the way? There were many designs that ended up not making the cut. It’s hard to not emotionally invest in your ideas and to just cut them out when you know they aren’t the best. Beyond that, usually it is writing things down that poses a problem for me. I often struggle to communicate ideas effectively when they are important. With this, though, I ended up really blasting through it. Every word seemed to come out right, and I worked on it continuously from sun up to sun down, full throttle. I don’t think I edited much of anything. My entire proposal was stream of consciousness. On the next-to-last-day, I was already working at maximum capacity, but I got it in my head that if I had a visual, I could probably stand out from the pack a little bit. I re-learned SketchUp and made a rough design with just barely enough time to spare. The other risk I took was more or less ignoring NASA’s request to refine their existing cataloging process. I bypassed it entirely. I knew that the judges would either disqualify me completely for that, or see that there was a promising reason for me making that choice. Sometimes in order to serve the needs of another best, you have to look at the bigger picture and try to give them what will best fit their needs in the end. Thankfully, taking a few risks on this seems to have worked out! What was the solution you came up with? Without getting too specific: I came up with a machine that would do all of the abrasion testing, as well as make a decision simultaneously whether the material was a good candidate for planetary environments or not. I wanted to eliminate subjectivity. The machine is just a combination of existing technologies: various ones that I have had prior experience with. I didn’t want it to be some exotic mechanism. I wanted it to be robust, simple, easily upgradeable and repairable, and built with off-the-shelf parts. How does this research relate to your ironwork? What do you do when you don’t have the things you need? That’s when you have to get creative and MacGyver your way out of the situation. I always carry the assumption that there is a solution to the problem at hand, it’s just how far are you willing to go and how much can you squeeze out of your limited resources. Do you have any indication from NASA on what will happen with your design from here? It seems as though NASA is open to the idea of working with the most promising idea and having the creator involved on some level, even if it is just advisory. I really don’t know. They haven’t followed up with me about that aspect. They may have their hands tied with a government mandated bidding process on contracted work. Who knows? If this is the end of the road then I’m happy with that, although it would be incredible if this opened some doors for me, or at least landed me some free astronaut ice cream like you get at space camp. I told them that I was on board to help in any way beyond just a proposal and I actually designed this with the thought in mind that someday I might be the one having to build the rig and run the tests. NASA completely owns the intellectual property on this now so I don’t really have any leverage, but I cross my fingers that if they do use my design that they are kind enough to name the test after me.

How improv can open up the mind to learning in the classroom and beyond

From Mind/Shift:

By Linda Flanagan; illustration by Bauke Schildt Long before Amy Poehler became famous for her comic roles as Hillary Clinton on “Saturday Night Live,” and as indefatigable bureaucrat Leslie Knope on “Parks and Recreation,” she was a college freshman looking for something to do outside class. During her first week on campus, she auditioned for the school’s improvisational theater group, “My Mother’s Fleabag,” and discovered a passion. “Everyone was getting to act and be funny and write and direct and edit all at the same time,” she writes in her memoir, Yes, Please. “My college life sort of exploded in happiness,” she adds. What Poehler found liberating as a performer — the free-wheeling, creative and judgment-free nature of improv — is what makes it an appealing way to learn. Improvisation is well-known as comedy and entertainment, but during the past decade it has grown as a method of teaching and learning as well, says Robert Kulhan, adjunct professor of business administration at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and CEO of Business Improvisations. Today, improv is offered in the theater departments of many colleges and some high schools, according to Kulhan. As well, improv troupes around the country offer short workshops to school kids on specific subjects, and teach the basics of the art form in afterschool programs and summer camps. ImprovBoston, a 30-year old nonprofit comedy theater, sends staff into local schools to perform assemblies and share the fundamentals of improv to teachers and students. The first rule of improvisation is “yes, and,” meaning that anyone’s contribution to the group discussion is accepted without judgment. “We always talk about the four ‘c’s of improv: creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication,” says Deana Criess, director of ImprovBoston’s National Touring Company, about how she teaches the form to seventh-graders. To persuade students to abandon their fear of mistakes, she insists on unconditional support to all answers, then works to build trust among the group and invite risk-taking. “Once we have confidence in our ideas and in our teammates, we can free ourselves up to have fun,” she says. “So support, trust, risk, confidence and fun. That’s what improv is all about,” Criess says. Improv enthusiasts rave about its educational value. Not only does it hone communication and public speaking skills, it also stimulates fast thinking and engagement with ideas. On a deeper level, improv chips away at mental barriers that block creative thinking — that internal editor who crosses out every word before it appears on a page — and rewards spontaneous, intuitive responses, Criess says. Because improv depends on the group providing categorical support for every answer, participants also grow in confidence and feel more connected to others. “It’s one of the few opportunities they have to truly create something, and have a voice that isn’t prescribed for them,” Criess says about students engaged in an improv exercise. And the form’s imperative to be fully “in the zone,” as Kulhan puts it, is a rebellion against the interruptions and distractions of our modern, high-tech lives. Improv is especially beneficial for atypical kids, no matter their stripe. It helps children with learning and physical disabilities develop a sense of play, and enables the socially awkward intellectual to socialize more easily, Kulhan explains. Run-of-the-mill introverts, who might be reluctant to raise their hands or audition for the play, also gain from the experience, Criess says. When they know they’ll be supported no matter their answer, introspective kids thrive. “Introverts give improv its richness,” she says, adding that many improv instructors identify themselves as introverts. [caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"]Big Ideas Fest Facilitators at ISKME’s Big Ideas Fest 2014 conveyed the improv mindset for solving problems and learning new ideas.[/caption] And improv is liberating for those in fields like science, where emotional detachment is critical for success. The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University offers a graduate course on improv to help emerging scientists convey their ideas without resorting to textbook speak or one-sided lectures. “Improv helps the scientist re-engage with their own passions in their work, get out of their head and connected to the needs of the listener, be able to respond more freely, spontaneously and flexibly,” says Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, the improvisation coordinator at Stony Brook. A Student’s Perspective Lilly Hartman, now a junior at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts, took her first improv class in eighth grade, and remembers thinking it seemed cool but kind of nerve-wracking. Her first few times on stage she felt anxious about what her peers would think of her, worrying that she might do something foolish or embarrassing. But the more times Hartman did it, the less self-conscious she became, and the quicker she began to trust her own ideas and to think on her feet. “It’s about deciding to go with the flow and acting on what’s around you, and making decisions based on that,” she says. “And then feeling good about those decisions,” she adds. Unlike the classroom, where the learning environment is often tense and competitive, an improv setting builds enthusiasm among the participants, Hartman explained. “When you’re performing, it’s not competitive,” she says, and the trust that the performers build with one another is rewarding in itself. Acknowledging that math and English classes teach important skills, Hartman says that her improv work has been more personally transformative. “Improv helps you change on the inside,” she says. Without it, “I would be a more scared and quiet person,” she says. In fact, she adds, “I wouldn’t be the same person.” Improvisation Exercises Improv works cumulatively, so that a group ordinarily starts with a simple task and moves on to more challenging assignments once they’ve loosened up and begun to trust one another. Kulhan offers these two simple introductory examples: One-Word Story: In this exercise, a group of individuals tells a cohesive story one word at a time. It starts when one person says a single word, and unfolds when someone else in the group offers up another word. Groups can do this in circles, so the participants know when it’s their turn to talk, or at the will of the teacher, adding a randomness to the exercise. The improvising continues until the group has created a story. “It takes a lot of focus, concentration, adaptability, flexibility, attentive listening, etc., just to create a single sentence … let alone a whole story,” Kulhan says. Conducted Story: This is more advanced than the one-word story. Here, participants form a line with the teacher up front, who behaves like the conductor of a line orchestra. When the conductor points to a student, that person talks for as long as the conductor remains pointing — perhaps just a couple of words, or maybe a few sentences. But as soon as the conductor turns to another student, the first talker must stop immediately and allow the second speaker to take over the narrative. The conductor moves haphazardly, forward and back through the line, lending even more unexpected twists to the story. Variations of improv are also useful in helping revitalize a sleepy or distracted class or to introduce more proactive kinds of learning: Shakeout Exercise: Together, the teacher and class stand at their desks and count backward from eight to one — then seven to one, and six to one, etc. — saying the number out loud as if it’s the most important word they’ve ever heard. While counting, they also shake their right hands in keeping with the number. Then they do the same series of countdowns while moving their left hand, then their right leg, and finally their left leg. “It’s superpowerful,” says Criess, “and doing it together can teach kids and adults it’s OK to look foolish in front of each other.” Living Wax Museum/Historical Talk Show: Students pick an important historical figure to research, and later “become” that person, improvising answers to questions posed by fellow classmates, visiting parents or the talk-show “host”. An Aid for Teachers and Schools Inviting kids of all types to engage together in improv exercises reinforces the values that most schools seek, Criess says. With its emphasis on support and acceptance of all ideas, improv’s “yes, and” code penetrates social tribes and teaches kids to see the positive in their peers, creating a healthier climate at school. “It helps kids be positive community members,” she says. Big Ideas Fest Training in improv may help teachers be more effective as well. Criess began learning improv while working in a preschool for children on the autism spectrum, and found herself applying the lessons from theater to the class. “What I was doing there with adults is exactly what these kids needed,” she says. Improv class helped her work with the kids on their level rather than according to a preconceived idea about what they needed to know. It also reminds teachers that listening and responding to students, and adapting to their needs, is more educational than obeying a rigid teaching plan, Kulhan explains. “It’s communication based on observation, collaboration, and not teaching with blinders on,” he says. Teachers might also find that kids are energized and more attentive after engaging in simple improv exercises that induce everyone to look ridiculous together. But does “yes, and” diminish one’s ability to think critically? Are there limits to all the right answers? “Improv says yes to the idea of ideas,” Criess says. Not every original thought will turn into the next invention, but offshoots of that first idea may lead to better ones, she explains. “Let’s agree to have ideas,” she says. “And set up a culture where risks are encouraged, and greeted positively and with respect.”

“Creativity is as essential as literacy”

From the Summerville-Journal Scene: Article & photos by Monica Kreber Image: Talon Pinion does a little dance while playing the steel drums.

When a visitor walks into Kurry Seymour's music class, students greet the visitor with a chorus of, “Welcome to our community.” Seymour teaches multicultural music and arts at Joe Pye Elementary and, according to Seymour, it is the only school in the country that has a “world music” room with instruments that expose students to the cultures and practices of more than 15 different countries. Seymour is taking his own approach to teach community, focus, purpose and life skills to DD2 students through multicultural music. “The focus on community and how everyone matters is the guiding principle in my room,” Seymour said, adding that teachers from within DD2 and across the state come to observe the room and “community” regularly. Seymour's room is adorned with instruments from all over — such as steel drums from Trinidad and Tobago, and the taiko drums from Japan. “All the instruments are authentic — they're from all over the world,” Seymour said. Seymour said at Joe Pye Elementary there are two music rooms; one that is more vocal and choral-based, while his is instrumental. The biggest thing, however, that he is trying to teach is community. The classroom is set up in such a way so students sit in a U-shaped assembly. They start with a “focus time,” where they look to each other and welcome their peers into the community. In Seymour's classroom it is important that students know everybody matters. “I use a lot of stuff that I do with them to teach them how to focus and have purpose,” he said. “There's a really unique flow.” Seymour said more people are taking to this approach because it is all fun for the students; it still covers state standards but students find it more exciting. “They have to learn to read music, and they have to read and play because they find it exciting to play it on the drums,” he said. “The whole concept is if you don't get a child excited young enough, like everything — science, math, music — then why would they go to middle school and do it?” Seymour said he pushes them the same way he would with college students, but said it is not anything out of the students' capability. They learn songs and hand signals from their teacher. All grades get to interact with the instruments, on various levels. Seymour uses a tactic called whole brain teaching, which is based on call and response — an idea from Africa. “It changed the way my classroom operates,” he said. “The teachers are starting to use more of it. Our whole school uses it. They're using it in other schools because the hardest problem is keeping a kid engaged. The whole brain teaching thing keeps them engaged, with hand gestures and things to keep them moving.” Seymour praises the Fine Arts Department at Joe Pye Elementary, saying all teachers try to connect their lessons in order to better help students. “I probably couldn't really duplicate this job anywhere else,” he said. “I've never seen a district embrace the arts like this one. “I believe creativity is as essential as literacy,” he said. “If a kid can't read we have a problem with it, and if a kid can't be free to be creative — and feel safe in an environment to do that — then I have a problem with that. I want them to be creative. Whether it's in my room, or the dance room or the art room or the P.E. room, this is their opportunity to be free and have a good time.”

#1Spark! to celebrate all things entrepreneurial and creative

Chapman Cultural Center is calling all creative and entrepreneurial people, including artists, inventors, business start-ups, craftsmen, food vendors and others, to participate in its #1Spark! festival Saturday, Sept. 6, in downtown Spartanburg. #1Spark! -- where creativity and innovation collide  -- is a festival of ideas bringing together all the creative forces of the community, especially those associated with business and the arts. The goal is to ignite creativity and innovation by connecting people and ideas. Chapman Cultural Center is seeking artists, entrepreneurs or inventors who are looking for opportunities to interact with the public or who desire feedback from potential customers in a low-risk environment in product/service development. Jennifer Evins, Chapman’s president/CEO, said: “Spartanburg is already known throughout the region as a vibrant arts community. We are known nationwide as a pro-business community. What better way to celebrate two of our most valuable assets than to combine them into a single concept and event? It will be a unique experience, and one that I’m sure the general public will find informative, creative, and fun.” To be a creator (entrepreneur, artist or inventor) and to have a booth to demonstrate and/or sell goods or services there is a simple application process and a $30 fee. To apply, please call (864) 591-5604 or email jPickens@SpartanArts.org. The outdoor festival will start at 11 a.m. and end at 5 p.m. between Chapman Cultural Center and “The George,” along North Liberty Street. Major partners in the festival include USC Upstate’s The George (the Johnson College of Business and Economics) and the Iron Yard, the downtown business accelerator. “We are about entrepreneurship. We’re about art. We’re about education. We’re about ideas. What better way to encourage innovation and creativity than to bring arts and business together?” Evins said. Via: Chapman Cultural Center  

The arts: the private sector’s secret weapon

In a recent Huffington Post blog post, Americans for the Arts CEO Robert Lynch weighed in on why companies seeking new ways to build their competitive advantage are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation and ultimately reaching business goals.

The Conference Board recently released their 2013 CEO Challenge Report, which outlined the top five global challenges for CEOs:
    1. Human Capital
    2. Operational Excellence
    3. Innovation
    4. Customer Relationships, and
    5. Global Political Economic Risk.
As a CEO, these challenges obviously resonated with me. But they also struck a chord with the arts advocate in me. I know that the arts industry can feel very foreign to the business community. But as companies seek new ways to build their competitive advantage, they are increasingly finding that the arts are the key to driving true innovation, ultimately reaching their business goals. So in fact, the arts can play a tremendously important role in helping CEOs address each of the challenges outlined in the CEO Challenge Report. Human Capital The way we do business is rapidly changing every day. With the advent of new technologies and younger generations' tendency to be more on the move in their professional lives, the squeeze is on from all sides to actively engage and retain top talent. Here, the arts can be a secret weapon. In my conversations with business executives across the country they have told me that the arts are an effective tool. Further, the arts play a significant role in attracting and retaining a skilled and educated workforce by ensuring that employees have a vibrant life outside the office. In fact, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas recently conceded that Dallas lost its bid for relocation of the Boeing Headquarters to Chicago because it could not compete culturally--a high priority for Boeing in attracting executives and their families. At the end of the day, if we want the best employees, we have to provide them with the best opportunities to become artistically and culturally involved in and out of the office. Operational Excellence The ability to work across boundaries is an enormously significant skill that will allow organizations and businesses to better operate in an increasingly interconnected world. By embracing the arts, businesses can produce exciting new methods of achieving goals institutionally and affect the output of work in a positive, growth-oriented manner. According to Americans for the Arts' BCA National Survey of Business Support for the Arts, business leaders believe that the arts promote team-building and better collaboration across departments and disciplines, teach different ways of seeing the same issue, and allow for new kinds of strategies to be embraced. Innovation Innovation and creativity are among the top five applied skills sought by business leaders according to Americans for the Arts' and The Conference Board's "Ready to Innovate" report. Likewise, IBM's Global Leadership Survey also says that creativity is the number one quality of successful leaders. So how can we best develop creativity in our workforce? According to "Ready to Innovate," study of the arts is at the top of the list for both business leaders and school superintendents. Innovation, creativity, business--all require a level of fearlessness and a desire to push beyond the walls. And the arts can be a powerful tool for acquiring the confidence, skills, and mindset to transform seemingly impossible ideas into reality. Customer Relationships Engaged, creative employees who are encouraged to think in new, innovative ways are likely to be both productive and actively improve both the company and their own business skills. Business leaders have told me they have seen the arts help facilitate their employee's engagement and fuel their creative juices. It is not just an indirect result, either: the arts build empathy, observation, and problem-identification and problem-solving skills, which translates to better customer service and a deeper understanding of the constituency. Global Political Economic Risk Cultural diplomacy is increasingly being used as a strategy to promote mutual understanding across cultures. On a practical level, arts exchanges build markets and strengthen economic relationships between cultures through sharing of artistic goods--something that is beneficial both financially and culturally. The arts also help us to grasp cultural realities in places where language, religion, politics--and, perhaps more apropos, business practices--may be completely unfamiliar. Many companies have already recognized the value the arts can bring to their bottom line and started strategic partnerships with the arts. And according to Americans for the Arts' BCA Survey, more are cluing in to the valuable contribution a strong arts partnership brings to their sector. Still, there is a strong need to make the case for how partnering with the arts can benefit the business sector. The survey shows that 73 percent of companies that actually support the arts consider them to be a moderate to low priority. To ensure more businesses understand the value of partnering with the arts, Americans for the Arts launched the pARTnership Movement in January 2012. The arts are connectors. They help us connect to our own potential by igniting a creative, bold, and innovative mindset. They help us connect to others by encouraging engagement, empathy, and the understanding that there are many ways of seeing the same thing. The arts connect people to the communities in which they live, the businesses at which they work, and the people with whom they interact. Without the arts, these five issues are challenges, indeed. But with the arts, I believe we can make a difference in our businesses and in our lives.
Via: The Huffington Post

Gibbes Museum of Art launches Distinguished Lecture Series

Founded with the generous support of Gibbes Museum of Art board member and philanthropist Esther Ferguson, the Gibbes is launching The Distinguished Lecture Series to bring outstanding, world-renowned artists, art collectors, museum leaders, philanthropists and art historians to Charleston to stimulate public discussion about the visual arts and creativity. The inaugural speaker is philanthropist and cosmetic executive Leonard A. Lauder (pictured right), who recently donated his collection of Cubist art to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. This collection includes premier objects by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris and Fernand Léger and is considered one of the foremost collections of Cubism in the world. Lauder will share his illustrious experiences in the art world. The lecture is scheduled for November 20 at 6 p.m. at Memminger Auditorium in Charleston. Tickets are $35 members, $45 non-members, and $20 students. “We are thrilled to bring Mr. Lauder to Charleston," says Gibbes Executive Director Angela Mack. His expertise as an art collector is unparalleled, and his role as a leader in American industry will inform and inspire the audience." In addition to his activities with The Estée Lauder Companies, Lauder is involved in the arenas of education, art, politics and philanthropy. Lauder became a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1977 and currently serves as its chairman emeritus. He is co-founder and chairman of the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a trustee of The Aspen Institute, chairman of The Aspen Institute International Committee, and a member of the President’s Council of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Hospital. Most recently, the Lauder Family received the esteemed 2011 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy in recognition of their longstanding commitment to philanthropy and public service. Visit the Gibbes' website for more information or to purchase tickets. Via: Gibbes Museum of Art  

Celebrating 20 COLORful years

COLORS—an outreach program by Spartanburg Art Museum (SAM)—might be 20 years old, but it is still a kid at heart. To recognize and celebrate this coming of age for a program that provides free art instruction to at-risk children, an art exhibit of their creative efforts will be at SAM June 11 through July 27. At no cost, the public is invited to view what kids can do when given a little instruction, encouragement, and supplies. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 1-5 p.m. at Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg. (Poster image, right by Maddie Davis, 8th grade, Cowpens Middle School.) Since 1993, COLORS has reached thousands of children (ages 6 to 18) from low-to-moderate income families. It has provided a safe place where kids can go after school and have the creative freedom to paint, draw, make ceramics, work with the digital arts and do countless other forms of visual art. They are provided with a studio, professional supplies and professional instruction. The main studio is at Chapman Cultural Center in Spartanburg and is open year-round, Monday through Thursday, 3-6 p.m. However, the need and interest have both grown during this time, and now there are 10 other COLORS satellite studios throughout the county in churches, schools and other community gathering places. One of the biggest challenges has always been transportation: getting the kids to the downtown studio. The solution: create more studios in their micro-communities. The program’s mission and purpose were obvious: provide the ways and means for kids to be creative. The end result has been art that has stunned the world and children who grew up to be better citizens. “Every child is a success story at COLORS,” Laura Pinkley, the program’s founder said. “Each participant who comes to COLORS, rather than going home after school to watch television or play in an unsupervised environment, is safer in our studios. But we also have more long-term success stories: Former students who are now in their 20s and 30s have become professionals in our community, some even in the field of art.” [caption id="attachment_6509" align="alignnone" width="600"]Michael Smith, Skeet Michael Smith, "Skeet"[/caption] The program was modeled after a similar one in Harlem in New York City. It was a success there, and when it came south, the success followed. In the early years, the program was cited in Time magazine, it was plugged twice on national television, and the kids’ artwork made its way into showplaces around the country. One piece even hung in the White House for a year after winning the national Congressional Art Competition. It was produced by Michael Smith when he was a high school student. He was later hired as an instructor in the program. The image in this piece is of an older, African-American man standing on a street corner, holding a liquor bottle. “It was one of those pieces of art that was both technically amazing and conceptually mind blowing,” Pinkley said. “The impact of the artwork was tremendous. It was amazing to realize that this student had that much insight into his environment and that he could convey the emotion and sense of place.” After its year in the White House, the Museum purchased the art, entitled “Skeet,” to add to its permanent collection. Even though Pinkley has retired, she still supports the program financially and with time and effort. She works on a regular basis with Angie Shuman, the current director of COLORS, who is responsible for its continued success. Together, with a committee, they are now heading up the 20th anniversary celebration activities. Saturday, June 15, the Museum will host a fundraising cocktail party in its gallery, where guests will be surrounded by children’s art. All proceeds from this event will go to the COLORS program. The cost is $25 per person. Thursday, June 20, during Artwalk, there will be a free public reception 5-9 p.m. Both events will be in SAM and will include the exhibit. To make reservations for the fundraiser or for more information, please call Shuman at (864) 278-9673.

Steve Wong

Columbia Mini Maker Faire set for June 1

The Maker Faire is coming to Columbia! The first Columbia Mini Maker Faire is scheduled for Saturday, June 1 at EdVenture Children's Museum. Maker Faire is a festival of invention, creativity and resourcefulness and an all-ages gathering of all kinds of "makers," including tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, hobbyists, engineers, authors, artists, students and more. Makers will show what they have made and share what they have learned. Some of the participating makers:

  • Laser Light Graffiti - lasers moving in time with long-exposure photography to create simple drawings
  • Outside the Box Guitars - musicians collaborating on handmade, hand-illuminated cigar box guitars
  • Re-assembled Strays - old metal junk transformed into abstract sculptures, whimsical items and silly creatures
  • DoodleSculpt - 3D printer designer objects created from 2D art
  • Marble Roller Coasters - North Springs Elementary School STEMS magnet students design and build roller coasters from found materials.
DoodleSculptThe Columbia Mini Maker Faire is modeled on Maker Faire, which hosts 90,000 visitors in San Mateo, California, in May. The Columbia Mini Maker Faire will be a smaller, community-focused event, but will follow the Maker Faire model of celebrating do-it-yourself creativity and tinkering. Admission is the cost of regular admission for EdVenture Children’s Museum—$11.50 for adults, $10.50 for military (with ID) and seniors. Children under 1 are free. Parking is free. Find more details on the Columbia Mini Maker Faire website. Via: Columbia Mini Maker Faire