CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
CONNECTING PEOPLE TO IDEAS AND TO EACH OTHER
The Arts Don’t Need New Audiences. They Need Communities. The Arts Don’t Need New Audiences. They Need Communities.
*Illustration by Celia Jacobs.

In Spain, a Path to Artistic Discovery (on Foot)

A "Grand Tour" Through the Pyrenees Connects Artists and Audiences on a Cultural Pilgrimage

It must not be imagined that a walking tour, as some would have us fancy, is merely a better or worse way of seeing the country. There are many ways of seeing landscape quite as

STORY
STORY

The Magic of Speaking Poetry Out Loud

A National Contest Makes Verse More Social Than Solitary

Last year, approximately 365,000 high school students participated in Poetry Out Loud—memorizing and reciting poems in organized competitions held across all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. By almost any standard, Poetry Out Loud constitutes …

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Can Museums Serve Distinct Groups While Also Building a Cohesive Community?

Social Bridging Is Challenging for Arts Organizations and Patrons, But It's Good for Both

Like many organizations, my museum, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History, struggles with two conflicting goals.

The museum should be for everyone in our community.

But it’s impossible to do a great job being for everyone. We’re more successful when we target particular communities or audiences and design experiences for them.

How do you reconcile the desire to be inclusive with the practical …

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STORY

Bringing Shakespeare and Shaw Live from the Stage to the Screen

The National Theatre's Cinema Simulcasts Have Used Tech to Build Global Audiences

Since its founding in 1963—with Laurence Olivier as artistic director and Kenneth Tynan as dramaturg (plus a rep company that included new faces Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Derek Jacobi, and Lynn Redgrave)—the National Theatre has been one of the jewels in Britain’s cultural crown.

As an American arts journalist living in London, I have always appreciated what a luxury it is to have access to a repertory …

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STORY

Can Engaging with Art Turn a Bunch of Selfie-Takers into Citizens?

Changing Audiences Are Making Creators and Institutions Rethink Art Itself

If the essence of art is necessarily elusive and hard to define, so too is the essence of arts engagement. As audiences grow more diverse and demanding, and new digital …

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Killing Your Audience Members Really Keeps Them Engaged

From Australian Sci-Fi to Music, Making Readers and Listeners Part of the Narrative Is an Underutilized Tool

One of the most common pieces of advice given to new writers is “Kill your darlings.” The Australian writers Jay Kristoff and …

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Just Leave That Botticelli Near the Bike Rack

"Inside | Out" Makes Art Inescapable by Placing Major Works on the Street. Literally.

The phone rang in the office of Salvador Salort-Pons, then Curator of European Paintings at the Detroit Institute of Arts. “I found a Van Gogh painting outside the public library, and I don’t want someone to steal it!” said the woman on the other end of the line. “Don’t worry, though, I’ve deployed my husband to protect it.”

Six years later, Salort-Pons is now the Director of the Detroit Institute of Arts, the museum that left that Van Gogh outside the library—on purpose. The painting was part of its Inside|Out program, which places high-quality reproductions of masterpieces around …

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STORY

California Can Reconceive the Arts by Offering More Choices and Ways to Participate

Demographic and Technological Shifts Could Let Arts in the Golden State Better Serve Communities

California is undergoing massive changes in technology, demography, the nature of work and, thus, in leisure activity. So is its cultural sector, with consequences for how Californians experience art and for how California organizations and artists deliver the arts and engage their audiences.

Over the last three decades, the term “arts participation” has essentially …

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STORY

Singing Complaints Aloud, and Other Tips for a Harmonious Society

Finland's Tellervo Kalleinen Tells How Participatory Art Can Be Both Serious and Playful

A little more than 10 years ago, someone emailed me a video of the Helsinki Complaints Choir, a group of people very seriously singing about complaints that were both mundane and funny and large and significant. I watched it over and over. A few years later I saw a film about the artists behind the group, Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kalleinen, who were organizing Complaints Choirs in other countries, including Singapore. Their work took on a profound and even political

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In an Ancient Indonesian City, Art Is Abundant–and Inclusive

How a Community Built a Thriving Cultural Scene on Cooperation, Cheap Tickets, and Affordable Merchandise

The city of Yogyakarta, which sits between the Indian Ocean and the volcanic mountain Merapi at the heart of Java island, has long been known as one of the arts and …

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By Engaging Our Emotions, Art Can Strengthen Our Democracies

Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Cinema Help Us Shape Debate and Bolster Citizenship

Can the arts be a stimulus for democracy? The question may seem strange because, in principle, there does not seem to be a relationship between the arts …

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STORY

Dancing in New Orleans to Overcome Division

A Crescent City Transplant Creates a Diverse Non-Profit, and Finds a New Home

Five years ago, I moved from New York to New Orleans. The reasons included a need to escape from the New York grind, a lover’s terminal brain cancer, and a best friend from Philadelphia’s presence here.

I didn’t fear much about the transition. I felt confident that I could find a job in the education world, make new friends, and build a new personal community. My biggest fear: Could I find a place to dance?

Dance has always been my health and wellness strategy. Without regular dance classes, I would go insane. And in online searches before I arrived in New Orleans, I couldn’t find any regular classes in the genres I had studied and loved: hip hop, jazz, modern, and contemporary. …

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STORY

Rescuing the Vanishing Sounds of Central America's Garifuna People

In Tiny Belize, Old and Young Artists Unite to Reclaim a Musical Heritage

What reggae is to Jamaica and samba is to Brazil, Garifuna music is to my country of Belize, a small Central American nation wedged between Guatemala and Mexico.

This vibrant music was brought to Belize by the Garifuna, or Garinagu, people, descendants of shipwrecked African slaves and Carib and Arawak Indians who were uprooted from their homeland in the Caribbean island of St. Vincent in 1796 …

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Turning Low-Income Housing into Art

In Houston's Third Ward, 'Shotgun' Houses Provide Homes for Artists, Mothers, and Anyone with a Vision

Project Row Houses is an art space in Houston’s historically black Third Ward. Its success, going on a quarter of a century, is a powerful argument for committing first to your neighborhood and community, and then to art lovers at large—rather than …

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The Great Thing About Art? It Isn't Just About You

Culture Frees Our Empathic Imagination by Letting Us Step Outside Our Selves

A decade ago, arts leaders faced a crisis in America. National data indicated significant declines in attendance at venues for virtually every art form—classical music, dance, theater, opera, jazz, museums. Bill Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment …

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STORY

The Happy Accident of San Jose Jazz

A Festival Had the Good Luck to Start with Few Resources, and That Allowed It to Stay Close to Downtown and Its Community

San Jose is the tenth largest city by population in the country, but its downtown became sleepy after retail moved to the malls in the 1970’s. In 1991, a group of community members decided to help bring some life to the downtown.

We formed a board and thought that we would run a jazz festival. The city encouraged us to use the newly-minted convention center. From this vague wish, a good idea and an even better music festival, now in its 26th year, was born.

Our group was completely grassroots, but we had the enthusiasm necessary to mount a festival. Though we planned the event for mid-August, we were …

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Can the Literary Arts Thrive in an Open Book?

A Minneapolis Collaboration Between Three Book-Minded Nonprofits Created a Home for the Arts—and Lots of Other Things

When it comes to music or theater, community-building happens right in front of your eyes. Crowds surge forward to see a band, or settle together into rows of seats as the lights go down and the curtain comes up. What does community look like, though, in the literary world? The logo for the Kindle app says it all about the classic image of a reader: a lone figure sitting under a tree.

It’s possible, though, to create a physical space that brings writers and readers …

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STORY

Is That a Soviet Soldier—or Superman?

In Bulgaria, a Collective Called Destructive Creation Illegally Remakes Old Monuments to Start Discussion

The sun rises above Sofia’s skies. It seems like an ordinary day in 2011. But as people pass near the centrally-situated Sofia University, they forget their hurry and come to …

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STORY

Spin the Wheel and Land on Community

As a Performer and Arts Consultant, I Learned That Arts Should Serve People—Not the Other Way Around

Recently, as I was walking home and mulling over what to write for this essay on arts engagement, I saw a multi-colored pinwheel stuck to a signpost on a street corner, titled “Hidden Fortune Wheel.” Underneath, a sign gave the following instructions: …

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How We Brought a Pan-Latin Flavor to Portland Theater

For the Milagro/Miracle Company, Being a Cultural Minority Has Been a Boon

It may appear surprising or counter-intuitive to operate a bilingual, Latino-centered theater company in a city that is less than 10 percent Latino.

But for me, my wife Dañel Malán, and our colleagues at Milagro, establishing our artistic home in Portland, Oregon, has afforded creative and community-building opportunities we might not have had if we’d settled in Texas, California, or some other state with a more pronounced Spanish accent.

In one way, I think the organization’s success may be directly related to not being in the center of a major or a significant Latino population. We have articulated a universal approach to Latino stories, as opposed to just identifying with one country (say Mexico) or one ethnic identity (Chicano, for example). …

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STORY

Can a Small Slovenian Innovation Democratize the Art World?

A "Tinder for Art" Can Take Power from Critics and Gallerists—and Return It to the Masses

The art trade broadly, and art criticism more specifically, badly need a Reformation. The institutions of art are too much like the medieval Catholic Church. …

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Seeing Art from a Local Perspective in Hyper-Global Hong Kong

On an Island Connecting East and West, Our Stories Can Speak to the World

The Hong Kong Museum of Art, where I work, is 55 years old this year. Though we have changed a lot over the years, we still hold to a special “hybrid” vision that fits our city and dates to the museum’s founding on the top two floors of City Hall.

Since that time our location has …

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