Liaising with colleagues in the United States @ Americans for the Arts

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By Todd Lester


June 2014—Nashville, Tennessee

Big conferences.  There are often too many exciting sessions to fully attend and I find myself winded as I try to get a taste of two concurrent panels that are happening at opposite ends of the convention center. Chock full of new and compelling ideas and people to meet, the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee was no exception.  One of the best things about going to a big conference is seeing old friends.  I met Matthew Mazzotta several years ago in Boston.  It was nice to see him in Nashville and to witness all of the positive feedback that his 2013 Open House project in York, Alabama garnered (from a Public Art Award to individual conference-goers stopping him to chat).  We got to talk about making works in public and how to get paid as an artist; Matthew turned me onto a database for sharing pay rates called Who Pays Artists? … which reminds me of another forum, called ArtLeaks, in which artist compensation and other critical topics are discussed.  I also got to catch up with some Facebook friends like Favianna Rodriguez, a California-based artist and activist, and Roberto Bedoya, the Executive Director of the Tucson Pima Arts Council.  I loved hearing Roberto talk about a counter-narrative to creative placemaking called ‘place keeping’, which comes from some of his colleagues in Detroit … makes sense, right? Roberto co-authored this important report called People, Land, Arts, Culture, and Engagement: Taking Stock of the PLACE Initiative that is published by the Tucson Pima Arts Council.  There was a robust discussion on the pros and cons of cultural plans by cities.  Some people felt that plans by the creative industries are empowering and others felt that creativity and culture should be included in the overall city (organizational) plans so as not to be sidelined.  And an audience member added poignantly, “Culture plans are expensive”.














It’s all quite a blur really and I’m still processing the business cards and site-specific references, such as How the Arts Transformed Starksboro, Vermont; the Portland Art Tax; a pilot project for the National Coalition for Arts’ Preparedness and Emergency Response in Southern California; and how the Dodge Foundation Gives $5.2 Million Boost to Arts Groups in order to mitigate the impact of state budget cuts in its home state of New Jersey.  There were some concrete takeaways that refer back to the topic of my first post on the role of the intermediary—such as the talk by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Director of the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, on the document Living Theory of Change, which explains the guiding principles of the Life is Living festival.  I think that the information in Artists Engaging in Social Change: A Continuum of Impact by the Animating Democracy unit of Americans for the Arts is very useful.  And Making Waves: A Guide to Cultural Strategy, a publication by The Culture Group (of which Favianna Rodriguez is a member), is also worth a read and easy to download.  Let’s see … what else:  I learned something new from Jason Das who told me about the global movement of Urban Sketchers; was encouraged to meet Michael Rohd, the founder of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice; met some artists from Canada who made it all the way to Nashville for the conference; and heard a whisper of a possible collaboration between ArtPlace (US) and Artscape (Canada) in the future.  Good stuff, all in all … thanks for reading!

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100 Ways to Make Ideas Seem Possible

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CityScapes: The Natural & Built Environment

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With more than 80 percent of Canadians living in cities, the need for resilient and livable cities has never been greater. Our economic, social and environmental success depends on the quality of life provided by cities.

And yet, our cities face unprecedented challenges- from aging infrastructure and increased traffic congestion to inefficient energy systems to urban sprawl. Our cities need to work better.

Innovation is a key driver of our prosperity, but our urban centres seem to struggle to find ways of encouraging and adopting innovation. Nowhere is this more evident than in our built and natural environments- our parks, public transit, energy and housing.

Smart planning, innovation, experimentation and investment will be a determining factor in the resiliency of our urban centres. We cannot build the next 100 years of infrastructure using the concepts and methods of the past 100 years.

CityScapes will be a platform for driving innovation that tackles our critical infrastructure issues and advances our economic, social and environmental prosperity. It will bring together the public, innovators and decision makers to accelerate the shift to more livable and resilient infrastructure in cities across Canada and beyond.

Transformative change can happen when Canadians are engaged with new ideas, in ways that are relevant to them.


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100 in 1 Day banner

What if hundreds of people united, each putting in place the changes they wish to see in their city, all on the same day?

100in1Day is a citizen-driven festival that unites people across the city by engaging them in a common city-wide project to transform their community—raising awareness of urban and social issues, inspiring new ideas and solutions, and motivating leaders to consider new approaches to old problems.

100in1Day began as an idea and quickly became a global movement. Launching in 2012 in Bogota, Colombia with 250 urban interventions and over 3000 participants, it has since inspired citizen-driven transformative change in 15 cities around the world. On June 7, residents in Toronto, Vancouver and Halifax will join the movement and re-imagine how they live, work and play in their city.

What is an intervention?

An urban intervention is a one-day community-based project, led by an individual, group of like-minded residents and neighbours, or an organization. These projects, be they whimsical and fun or advocating for social justice and change, are a simple, low-cost way for people to showcase their ideas for a better city. Not only do they transform the city, they inspire and engage participants and onlookers alike—fostering a strong sense of community and positive change.

How do I get involved?

You can volunteer to help co-create the event, or visit!

You can also check out this great video by Legato Productions highlighting Montreal’s 100in1Day event: 100in1Day Montreal