Bridging the Arts and Tech Sectors

Bridging the Arts and Tech SectorsBy Becky Neil

After a rousing and candid keynote panel on defining open systems, participants in the Emergence 2013 Networked Approaches track moved downstairs at SPUR for our first breakout session. Moderated by Maura Lafferty, independent PR consultant, this session’s topics focused on practical suggestions to improve collaboration between the arts and technology sectors. Maura gathered a balanced panel featuring Brianna Haag, marketing manager at Eventbrite; Emma Leggat, head of corporate social responsibility at StubHub; and Allison Murdock, organizer of Silicon Valley Rocks and VP of Marketing at GigaOM.

Maura began the conversation by asking the panelists to share how their organizations are currently involved in the arts, and it was both heartening and revealing to see how each company used the passions and interests of their employees to direct their efforts in the arts.

Emma shared how StubHub began their Rising Stars philanthropic program by identifying ways their employees and company assets were particularly well-suited to make a difference. Because StubHub is an event ticket resale platform, they discovered that music, youth development, and local organizations resonated particularly well with their employees.

As Emma put it, “Our employees are fans themselves!”Roots of Music, a New Orleans teen music program, was the perfect match to align with these interests, and received one of the initial Rising Stars grants in addition to leveraging the StubHub platform for their event ticketing.

The theme of shared values emerged as a key point of discussion as the conversation continued.

Emma Leggat and Brianna Haag by Kegan Marling

Emma Leggat and Brianna Haag by Kegan Marling

What values are shared between technology organizations and arts organizations? How can these shared values be leveraged to the mutual benefit of partner organizations?

Brianna urged arts administrators to think beyond funding when approaching a technology company, and consider the full spectrum of ways to partner and support mutual goals. She suggested in-kind sponsorship — such as free use of the company’s software — volunteer days, and workshops.

Allison agreed, saying, “You need to create opportunities to engage. Writing a check is nice, but create an opportunity to do something; an afternoon of engagement can lead to money later.”

Emma built on this, describing a holistic approach to working with tech companies: “Think of it as a funnel: a well-constructed program leads to volunteers leads to money.”

So put your brainstorm caps on, fellow arts managers, because these tech companies really want to hear innovative ways that they can build a lasting partnership with you!

If you are an arts organization looking to secure funding, sponsorship, or other support from a technology company, you may want to think about the following as you build your program:

  • Business strategy, marketing, and other expertise: Do you have an organizational challenge that the technology company’s employees may have the expertise to help with? Allison recommended that you think about ways they can advise you on improving processes, strategies, and plans.

  • Software, real estate, and other physical or digital assets: Does the technology company have a great location? Maybe you can use their grounds or conference room for a donor event. Do they have access to a wide channel of advertising? Maybe they can donate space for a week to your cause, like Emma did at StubHub for Roots of Music.

  • Opportunities to teach and learn: This goes both ways! In addition to sharing knowledge on specific computer tools, technology employees might want to learn to paint, dance, sing, or whatever skills and talents your organization offers. Brianna shared how excited her employees got when they were able to interact during a workshop with artists: they talked about it for months afterwards!

Of course, these relationships need to start somewhere.

Maura asked panelists, “What suggestions do you have for starting the conversation and initial outreach?”  Here, it became clear through their anecdotes that startups look their employees for leadership.

Brianna explained how Eventbrite created an employee-led impact team that makes philanthropic decisions for the company on a quarterly basis. “So,” she said, “identify the people who are passionate [about your mission]. They will be your advocates from within the organization.”

To get past the email filter and initial blockade, “do your homework!” Allison urges. “You really have to research. Find those people and reach out to them directly.” Once you have an advocate on the inside, the word will get back around to the decision makers that this cause is important to their employees.

In all there is tremendous potential for cross-industry collaboration between technology and the arts. With this insider’s scoop in mind, arts professionals should be able to identify natural ways to align both organization’s missions and approach the right people to make those programs happen. I, for one, was pondering for days after of ways that I can get a tech expert to help me with my art project!

About Becky Neil

Becky Neil is a project lead at Bottlecap Gazebo, where she builds community through big art.

Defining Open Systems: Diversity, Representation, and Equity

Defining Open SystemsBy Sunshine Lampitoc

As part of Emergence, Emerging Arts Professional’s daylong annual convening on June 3, 2013, a panel discussed what it means for a system to be open and healthy.

Defining Diversity and Open Systems

Defining and creating open systems involves many components but, for some reason, “diversity” has become the catch-all term for discussions about changing population demographics, inclusion, equity, and representation.

However, Lynn Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Glitter & Razz Productions points out that “diversity can’t be the only component, and it can’t be the lead component.” Each of these aspects requires unpacking on their own, both on individual and systemic levels, before any type of movement or change can be planned or enacted.

Defining these potentially loaded terms and concepts is the first process dancer and organizational equity consultant Tammy Johnson goes through with organizations.

“Let’s get clarity,” she states. What is the definition of diversity? Inclusion? Equity? What does all this stuff mean when the rubber hits the road?” To enact systemic change, it is immensely important for everyone to be starting on the same page and speaking the same language.

Parsing the diversity of thought that exists within diversity conversations is the first step in addressing how a truly open system can be created.

Showing Up for Your Community

Showing Up for Your CommunityBy Masha Rotfeld

At Emergence, Emerging Arts Professional’s annual daylong convening on June 3, 2013, a daring and complicated group discussion facilitated by Arielle Julia Brown and Ernesto Sopprani centered on the participants’ viewpoints regarding failures and successes in community engagement.

Brown, teaching theater artist at Destiny Arts Center and artistic director of The Love Balm Project, hailed the community engagement “shero” of our time, Kemba Shakur. City greening activist Shakur founded and directs the Oakland tree-planting project Urban Releaf. In late 2011, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) took a stance by spotlighting Shakur, along with five others, as a Modern Day Muir. This served Brown’s point that more arts organizations ought to reach out across the community to honor women, especially those that have started community organizations.

I found myself brainstorming with a striking group of individuals: Quinn Associates’s Jessica Johnson, recent John Hopkins graduate Glennis Markinson, OMCA’s Lisa Silberstein, and EAP’s Ernesto Sopprani. Peers were eager to sound off successes: ProArts and Youth Speaks, organizer of the National Youth Poetry Slam, as well as SOMArts, which got an instant in to a community.

While approximately ten small group discussions focused on the binary question of community engagement failure and success, the ensuing shared conversation evolved into a wider set of topics:

1. Working definitions of community vs. network

2. What it takes to get an “in” to a community

3. How to keep a network meaningful and vibrant, not unlike a personal relationship

As the small groups opened up to the room, Brown urged caution as she also invited participants to divulge what struck a chord with them. “Community engagement is one of the grant buzzwords. Glorified interactive audience surveys, and other questionable work.”

Community vs. Network

Silberstein, a visitor engagement specialist at OMCA and brain behind In-The-Mix programming, shared: “Everyone else’s community is your network” and urged others to “understand how they are related to you in the bigger network.”

Some slogans that could be heard floating around the room as participants were grappling with the assignment were:  “One is giving, one is taking,” “A network literally is multi-directional,” “Engagement is outward facing,” and “A network could help you expand your community.”

The following gave me pause, “Before we used to just have our communities, but now we have all the others.” Indeed, the law of attraction is still at work.

The ever-pertinent question of funding resurfaced when the quandary came up about having numbers over meaningful experiences in reporting back to granters. Through a topical example Silberstein incorporated “network” to discuss the difficulty of community engagement within a framework when a major funding partner restricts the use of a formerly flexible account.

How does one balance the desire for meaningful interactions while reaching a large numbers of people?

“A very minor qualitative questionnaire,” suggested another participant, who thought that having a high response rate to a yes/no and one open-ended question would do the trick. Qualifying and quantifying audience participation really does become an opportunity to educate the funders. Facing the truth is not for everyone, but knowing what works, rather than what should, will get arts professionals out of dated reporting processes.

Photo by Kegan Marlking

Photo by Kegan Marling

A Ticket Into a Community

The energy in the room reflected a consensus that the following rhetorical questions could serve as a fertile ground for not only opening up discussion but also catalyzing future considerations.

“What community are you in? What community are you engaging? Is engaging a synonym for organizing, getting grants, or just taking a photo with someone?”

In essence, the speaker exhorted the room think about what tactics one would be willing to use to get in.

A well-heard qualifying response was: “You need to show that you are passionate about being involved in our communities. Do not lose focus about why you started in the beginning.” Be mindful of institutional power around the community you live in or the one you are going into.

A board member of the Zaccho Dance Theater sketched out some interesting subtleties: what are the peculiarities regarding getting “into” East Los Angeles versus San Francisco’s Mission District, or an African-American entering Detroit, while never herself having been there prior.

Sopprani made an example of a community’s engagement around queer performance, which he says involves curating work in their spaces, activating them. Make a community around whatever the problem may be and finding a solution.

Emphatically, regret was voiced and seconded about a kind of involvement that is here and gone, leaving the place at the heart of the project without lasting transformation.

For instance, everyone wants to fund a project in the Bayview, which while “local,” deserves the same weight as international or global endeavors. Questions of sustainability and establishing expectations ought to be front and center.

Network Upkeep

Our third point, regarding hands-on networking, was divulged by the Zaccho board member. Calling it the “elephant in the room,” she was speaking directly to the individuals gathered, prompting them to really connect to others at the Emergence 2013 event.

“The people in attendance, are they going to show up? If we don’t take advantage of our new acquaintances, we will move further and further away from each other,” she urged.

Sopprani echoed that to maintain such ecosystems, arts professionals must have one-on-one conversations.

It is really about the personal relationships. We care what we do to each other, but we must make an effort to stay in touch and connected.

He reminded the group to document knowledge on EAP’s Hackpad, a source of resources and grants that has just opened to the network. Via Hackpad, EAPers can share contact info and what they do.

Community Engagement at Large

To quote Gore Vidal, “We are permanently the United States of Amnesia. We learn nothing because we remember nothing.” We are in an era of perpetual forgetfulness, whether about new acquaintances or social and cultural phenomena at large. An art historical “moment” — a tremendous story — will pop into public consciousness and disappear immediately.

It is difficult to hold onto any one string, but we must find different strategies for paying attention and approaching situations with a desire for continuity. Such strategies include: getting permission for fair use of artwork or use of space, asking (theater) participants to bring their friends, and having daily conversation with people who share our interests.

Sustaining community engagement comes in after initiating contact in events such as Emergence 2013 by continuing to build those relationships intentionally. Such success can be attributed to the network of European Burning Man followers, who find ways to communicate year-round, such as with mixers in a “burning pub” in London. People have branched off into new communities to pursue emerging international projects, while opportunities to get to know each other tangibly increase interpersonal and inter-organizational support.

And, keep experimenting! You are more likely to bring successes to mutually beneficial processes if you are. Arts community members ought to try new things, for they are already doing something they are good at. The question is now, how does one push at that. A failure could be skewed into a success, but not before action is taken.

“Seeing how things are interconnected as well as what else is going up around makes you run better,” observed Sopprani.

And one participant voiced the takeaway at the heart of the session: “If you show up for your community, they will know that you are authentic and will be there for you too.”


Masha Rotfeld is a personal fitness trainer and holds a master’s degree in art history from the University of California, Riverside.

An Intergenerational Fishbowl

By Margot H. Knight

An Intergenerational FishbowlA fishbowl marked the finish of Emergence 2013, Emerging Arts Professional’s daylong annual convening on June 4.

Keeping the Talkative Fish Swimming

Even though they can discriminate against the shy, I like fishbowls.  I like fishbowls because they provide a focal point for condensing experiences and thoughts. Fishbowls are round and provide a welcome break from the we-talk-you-listen square or oblong formats that stubbornly cling to the most innovative of conferences.

Fishbowls focus on the learner. As teacher and then as learner again, I particularly liked the Emergence 2013 fishbowl because as moderator (the key to any successful fishbowl), Adam Fong did a great job of keeping the talkative fish swimming.

So what did we learn?  Here are my takeaways.

Struggling for Cultural Equity

The struggle for cultural equity ’twas ever thus whether the issue is art creation, arts audiences, arts organizations, or arts advocacy. All of which rolls back around to the roles privilege, power, and money play in the cultural sector. By the same token we are, each in our own way, blind to our own advantages in the world.

We would all do well to take our own inventories and be as self-aware as our selfish, self-involved selves can muster.

More important, each generation’s progress towards a more just and inclusive society stands on the risk-taking shoulders of its predecessor generation. Each generation has to find its own language, its own attitude and its own solutions.

Each generation creates new barometers to assess progress, along with its own versions of what Hewlett Foundation program officer Ron Ragin called “the uncomfortable conversation.”

The cultural sector must also contribute to the definition of diversity, cultural equity, and cultural pluralism because sometimes, as Frances Phillips of Arts & Creative Work Fund/Walter and Elise Haas Fund noted in the opening panel, funders can screw things up by defining them.

photo by Kegan Marling

Uncommon learning with Margot Knight (center) by Kegan Marling

What if We All Worked Together?

I felt a lot of “versus” undertones (we vs. they, big vs. small, new vs. old, old vs. young) and not enough if-we-all-work-together strategies. It sometimes felt like a convention of overwhelmed, put-upon people.

Without whitewashing the economic climate for those new to the job market and emerging arts professionals specifically, the challenge is to find ways to stay in the field and not abandon it for greener for-profit pastures. I heard loud and clear that it’s not just about money when choosing a job—it’s about passion and principles.

But the lack of a clear path to jobs with a desirable salary was a dilemma expressed over and over again in public and private conversations.

Who’s at the Table?

Obstacles to more Bay Area collaboration within the sector are inherent in a field that encompasses varying disciplines, organizational structures, and umbrella organizations. It’s unclear who has the power and who uses it to convene the cultural community at large. It’s unclear who has the trust to represent the cultural community at economic development, policy and planning tables.

Where should that kind of leadership come from? Only the designated heads of big budget organizations? Or can it come from the ranks of groups like Emerging Arts Professionals?

If we don’t take the arts seriously and ask others to do so, whose fault is it that the arts are considered a frill? If we are not serious about our work, we might be unconsciously training other people how to treat us.

An Invitation to Keep Listening

For me, the conference’s promise of a day of uncommon learning was realized. I walked away buoyantly awash in the dedication of conference attendees to take on some pretty big personal, industry, and societal issues.

The tension between the “longing for love and struggle for the legal tender,” as Jackson Browne sings, did nothing to diminish the passion and belief that the arts and artists matter.

All we need to do is keep on listening, talking and taking action.  The leadership of Emerging Arts Professionals is providing an open invitation to do that.


Margot H. Knight is executive director of Djerassi Resident Artists Program.

Personal Regenerative Practices in the Age of Information Overload

personal regenerative practicesBy Lucy Claire Curran

I am so grateful to have been able to take part in the morning breakout session on personal regenerative practices at Emergence, the Emerging Arts Professionals daylong annual convening on June 3, 2013. Facilitated by Emma Bailey, associate producer at Citizen Film; Carrie Blanding, former executive director of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players; and Yesenia Sanchez, coach and consultant, this session explored how we can rest and regroup as arts professionals in the age of around-the-clock email and social media.

How can we make time for the creative work that most inspires us when we barely even have time to do laundry?

That’s Just How We Roll: The Balance Wheel and Beyond

Emma Bailey started us off with an exercise called The Balance Wheel.

The guiding question for the Balance Wheel exercise was: “How do you

Emma Bailey by Kegan Marling

Emma Bailey by Kegan Marling

spend your time and energy?” We were to choose eight areas of our life that we felt took up a significant amount of our time and energy. Next, we divided a circle into eight pie-wedge sections of equal size, each representing a different area of our life. We then drew a line across each section to indicate how fulfilled and satisfied we felt in that area of our life.

The closer the line to the middle of the circle, the less satisfied we were; the further out towards the outside of the circle, the more satisfied.

When we were done, Emma asked for us to share what we had discovered. We then spent a few minutes teasing out why our wheels looked the way they did and how we could make them more balanced. Many of us in the room felt that we spent most of our time trying to catch up with the necessary tasks of daily living. As a result, studio time or creative time or regenerative time – or any sort of time that allowed us to feel rested, rejuvenated, or inspired – was liable to be lost in the crush of “getting more pressing things done.”

The end result? All of us often ended up feeling depleted, frustrated, and discouraged.

Artists without Borders: The Importance of Boundaries in a Creative Life

Carrie Blanding by Kegan Marling

Carrie Blanding by Kegan Marling

After this lopsided time-allocation has been identified, what in the world is an artist supposed to do? It’s one thing to become aware of the problem, but it’s a whole different matter to begin to use our time more effectively.

Carrie Blanding followed up the Balance Wheel Exercise by leading a discussion about the importance of carving out time for recreation, and even time for doing nothing. We talked in particular about setting healthy boundaries at work and with family members and friends.

Setting boundaries, Carrie explained, might be as simple as telling family members, friends, and coworkers: “This is when I’m available, and this is when I will be busy with my creative work.”

Carrie also shared her technique of “managing expectations.” In other words, it helps to be straightforward and upfront with coworkers and others about when to expect that a particular project will be completed. All in all, the conversation was constructive and helpful, yielding several pragmatic and common sense approaches to achieving more balance in the face of the daily “to dos.”

Practice, Practice, Practice

yesenia sanchez by kegan marling

Don’t give up! Yesenia Sanchez by Kegan Marling

To wrap up the hour, Yesenia Sanchez spoke to us about positive practices and empowering beliefs that can support us  in achieving more balance and fulfillment in their lives. She started out by focusing on common ways we deplete our energy and creativity. The list included cramming our days and nights with obligations (gulp!) and indulging in people-pleasing to the extent that we give away our personal power (oh, dear, this one’s familiar, too!).

But don’t worry, says Yesenia. There’s hope!

She introduced a series of practices to help regenerate and rejuvenate on a daily basis:

  • Getting clear on what you want to be creating in your life, and then checking in daily with yourself on whether or not you are living your vision is empowering.
  • “Unplugging” in a very literal way is not only important, it’s essential. Try turning off your cell phone, perhaps just for a couple of hours at first. If you get really ambitious, you could even try it for a whole weekend. (Gasp!)
  • Doing things differently is very good for the brain, and it can also help us to regenerate and keep things fresh. This could mean taking a different route to work or even brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand.
  • Practice having necessary conversations, even if they are difficult or uncomfortable. Voicing concerns right away, instead of waiting until resentments have reached a boiling point, can go a long way toward smoothing out difficulties in relationships.

To wrap up her time, Yesenia reminded us that we all usually have more power than we think to turn any situation in our lives in a more positive direction. And

She left us with an empowering belief that she encouraged us to take on as our own to drive us forward in our development as artists: “Your life,” said Yesenia, “is precious. It’s worth it to pursue the life you want to lead.”

All in all, it was an inspiring and informative hour. Having talked through common stumbling blocks and shared frustrations with the others in the room, I felt much less alone. In addition, I was equipped with a new set of inspiring tools and practices that I could use to achieve more balance in my life as an arts professional.

About Lucy Claire Curran

Lucy Claire Curran is a freelance writer living and working in San Francisco, CA. A recent graduate of Harvard College with a degree in English, Lucy Claire is currently at work on the manuscript of her first novel, titled The Third Hit. In addition to writing poetry and prose, Lucy Claire loves reading, painting, laughing, and going on adventures.

Emergence 2013: A Day of Uncommon Learning with EAP

Emergence 2013Join Emerging Arts Professionals / San Francisco Bay Area on June 3 at 10:00 a.m. at SPUR Urban Center  for Emergence, our daylong annual convening.

Emergence provides a collaborative platform for Bay Area arts and culture workers to connect, share ideas, and elevate their work and voices.

This, our third year, revolves around three overarching themes calling for attention: open systems: talking diversity beyond butts-in-seats, networked approaches: the power of collaboration, and regenerative practices: how individuals and organizations sustain themselves.

We’ve reached out to our community to gather thoughts on these topics — thoughts informing the flow of conversation throughout the day. Shaking up the typical conference model, Emergence presents an experience to engage and energize. Learning will unfold in many directions, demanding your input while sparking new ideas.

From the interactive morning keynote to an afternoon yoga break to the final session — a “fishbowl” exercise to synthesize the day’s ideas and lessons — you’ll be stimulated and renewed. Reflecting the very themes we’ll discuss during the day, sessions are designed to be multi-perspective, participatory, and restorative. As a group, we’ll capture emerging ideas to inform our plans for the year ahead while reflecting on and celebrating the work of our outgoing fellows.

Register today! Space is limited.
Tickets are $40 with 50% discount volunteer rate available. To inquire about volunteer opportunities, email adam [at] emergingsf [dot] org.


Emergence Schedule 



Frances Phillips, program director, Arts and the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
Favianna Rodriguez, artist and organizer
Ernesto Sopprani, EAP director of community engagement, founder director of the [ABC] Consortium and THEOFFCENTER
Gregory Stock,  public programs educator and event specialist, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco



Brianna Haag, SF marketing manager at Eventbrite
Emma Leggat, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at StubHub
Alison Murdock, VP of Marketing at GigaOM and board member at Music in Schools Today
Facilitated by Maura Lafferty,  independent PR consultant


Lynn Johnsonco-Founder/CEO, Glitter & Razz Productions
Tammy Johnsondancer and organizational equity consultant
Ron Ragin, program officer for the arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Clare Wintertonexecutive director of the International Museum of Women
Facilitated by Karena SalmondEAP fellow & program director, Performing Arts Workshop


Emma Bailey, Associate Producer, Citizen Film,  Co-Host, Spokespeople
Carrie Blanding, former executive director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Yesenia Sanchez
coach and consultant



Facilitated conversation


Awele Makeba, producer of free performance series by Magic Theatre at Laney College
Rebecca Novick; director of the Triangle Lab (Intersection for the Arts & Cal Shakes)
Facilitated by Arielle Julia Brown, EAP fellow & theatre teaching artist, Destiny Arts Center & artistic director, The Love Balm Project

Facilitated conversation

Yoga with Julie Potter, Senior Program Manager at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Facilitated by Adam Fong, director of EAP & executive director of Center for New Music



Speakers and Facilitators

Carrie Blanding, former executive director of San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Arielle Julia Brown, EAP fellow & theatre teaching artist, Destiny Arts Center & artistic director, The Love Balm Project
Adam Fong, director of EAP & executive director of Center for New Music
Brianna Haag, SF marketing manager at Eventbrite
Clara Hatcher, president & co-founder, Bay Area Emerging Museum Professionals
Lynn Johnson, co-Founder/CEO, Glitter & Razz Productions
Tammy Johnson, dancer and organizational equity consultant
Maura Lafferty, independent PR consultant
Emma Leggat, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at StubHub
Lex Leifheit, executive director, SOMArts Cultural Center
Awele Makeba, producer of free performance series by Magic Theatre at Laney College
Alison Murdock, VP of Marketing at GigaOM and board member at Music in Schools Today
Rebecca Novick, director of the Triangle Lab (Intersection for the Arts & Cal Shakes)
Frances Phillips, program director, Arts and the Creative Work Fund, Walter and Elise Haas Fund
Julie Potter, program assistant, Community Engagement and Performing Arts, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Ron Ragin, program officer for the arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
Favianna Rodriguez, artist and organizer
Karena Salmond, EAP fellow & program director, Performing Arts Workshop
Yesenia Sanchez, coach and consultant
Ernesto Sopprani, EAP director of community engagement, founder director of the Arts Building Consortium and THEOFFCENTER
Gregory Stock, public programs educator and event specialist, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
Sean Waugh, assistant to the director of artistic administration, SF Opera
Clare Winterton, executive director of the International Museum of Women
Tyese Wortham, program associate, cultural equity grants, San Francisco Arts Commission

To see what Emergence is all about, read the recaps from last year’s convening.

SPUR Urban Center
654 Mission Street (between 2nd and 3rd)
San Francisco, CA 94105

Join our collaborative Notepad by clicking the image below


Emergence Recap: Equity in Placemaking

Equity in PlacemakingBy Tyese M. Wortham

What is placemaking?

Emerging Arts Professionals (EAP) 2011-12 Fellow Katie Fahey opened the Equity in Placemaking session at the Emergence annual convening on June 4, 2012, by explaining that there is a consensus surrounding the term placemaking. In my mind, I’m thinking, “A general consensus among whom?’ By the end of the session it was clear that placemaking was still trying to find its “place” in the disparate worlds of arts and urban planning. Even after the question and answer period, it was apparent that each of us has our own understanding of the meaning of placemaking.

As co-moderator with EAP Fellow Katherine Canton Titus, Fahey’s initial questions to guest panelists Karen Chapple of the Center for Community Innovation and Michele Rabkin (sitting in for Shannon Jackson) of the Arts Research Center included the following:

  1. Where does cultural competency fit into placemaking?
  2. What are the demands and roles of artists in placemaking?
  3. How do community revitalization and nonprofit efforts relate to placemaking?

To be an artist is a privileged PLACE

When questioned about her experience as an administrator with Pro Arts and Rock Paper Scissors Collective, Canton Titus exposed our relationship to art and place. You have to have the time, the money, and the space/place to create art, which is a privilege.

As one audience member sought understanding, she shared with us Wikipedia’s version of cultural competency. She further added that race and class seem to be the underlying issues of placemaking.

Audience member (and keynote panelist of another session) Ann Markusen passionately explained that her understanding of the session revolved around the inequity in placemaking for community arts organizations. Markusen sparked a brewing conversation specific to gentrification, privilege, race, and class.

Why do we arts professionals continuously forget to include privilege in the conversation? How do we discuss placemaking, neighborhood revitalization, or community development without understanding cultural competency and first addressing race and class?

Whose perspective? The urban planner vs. the artist

With her background in community and economic development, Karen Chapple clearly laid out three examples of the varied perspectives and values of the artist and planner. Considering outcomes, Chapple asks how equitable are these models, whom do they (really) serve, and are they sustainable?

  1. She calls the Berkeley Arts District the “trickle down” equity model. The hope? The benefits of building an arts district would eventually “trickle down” to artists.
  2.  The “equitable moment” model exemplifies Oakland’s Uptown/Art Murmur. Though the neighborhood/arts district is thriving culturally, artistically, and economically at this moment, over time sustainability is a concern.
  3. With built in equitable mechanisms and community benefits in place, Chapple considers the Mid-Market Arts District of San Francisco as the “equity-for-the-few” model. Businesses, artists, and community arts organizations seem to be at the mercy of the City Administrator, still creating winners and losers.

Though Chapple questions who is really being served, it is clear that the focus of this session is limited to the relationship between the planner and the artist. Is it not our responsibility as administrators to include our neighborhoods and local residents in the conversation of placemaking as equal partners?

The seven recurring puzzles

The Arts Research Center shared its “Seven Recurring Puzzles.” These questions surfaced as part of Shannon Jackson and the Art + Neighborhood Research Group’s investigation on placemaking’s various artistic stakeholders. Jackson’s blog, ARC Muse, has a complete listing of these puzzles. In the meantime, here are a few puzzles that piqued my interest:

  • Can a city planning language on the role of the arts in urban vitalization be joined to an artistic language of social engagement in the arts?
  • As more artists begin to identify themselves as “research-based” artists, how can urban planning research be conducted as part of the art process itself?
  • Can the Creative Class discourse think more about class difference?
  • How can equity in ‘placemaking’ also mean equity among arts organizations?

I see the importance of forming a common language and validating the artistic process as “research.” Can we also address the accessibility of the discourse? How can we create language that is inclusive for all stakeholders?

Impact, measurement, and community benefit
How are arts districts being evaluated? Culturally? Economically?
Which metrics are being used to measure outcomes?
Who benefits from placemaking?
Which communities are being served?
What is the role of neighborhoods in placemaking?

All of these questions were touched upon in some form throughout the session. I appreciated Chapple’s suggestion of using Northern California Community Loan Fund as a resource. She said it was important to think about shared spaces, such as schools and churches, to generate revenue for neighborhood-based spaces and to create natural collaborations.

What is equity in placemaking to you?

It is possible that this session has left us all with many unanswered questions. Placemaking is a new concept for study and exploration but has been occurring for years. Several conversations are taking place and considering the various viewpoints of placemaking as well as each individual’s PLACE in privilege. For me, you cannot speak of placemaking without addressing the challenging issues of race, class, and culture. Is placemaking not a new, fancy, PC, feel-good term for neighborhood revitalization, gentrification, and community development?

You tell me. How do you define placemaking? Where is placemaking taking place in your city or town? What are the costs and benefits of placemaking? Where is your PLACE in privilege?

About Tyese M. Wortham

As a passionate and community-based administrator, artist, and teacher, Tyese M. Wortham aspires to accomplish two goals as part of her lifework: First, she strives to advance the presentation, preservation, and innovation of local artists’ traditions and art forms. Secondly, Tyese strives to increase the presence of arts administrators of color. She has acquired over 20 years of dance experience from hip-hop to modern, from West African to Afro-Cuban. Currently, Tyese is a principal dancer with Emesè: Messengers of the African Diaspora and De Rompe Y Raja Cultural Association. She has had the pleasure and honor of working closely with her teachers and mentors: José Francisco Barroso, Carlos Carvajal, Teresita Dome-Pérez, CK Ladzekpo, and Gabriela Shiroma. Tyese has served as a program manager, panelist, consultant, facilitator, and committee member for various Bay Area arts organizations including San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival, Arts Council Silicon Valley, San Francisco Carnaval, Alliance for California Traditional Arts, Dance Discourse Project, Black Choreographers Festival, and the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards.

Emergence Recap: Collaborations in Situ

collaborations in situBy Leora Lutz

Talk is, in fact, not “cheap” as they say: it gets ideas going. When the mission statement loses its voice that is the time to start walking again – to walk the walk. And that is what the three panelists at the Collaborations in Situ discussion at the Emergence Conference on June 4, 2012, have been doing.

At the round table were Renee Baldocchi, Curator of the de Young Museum’s Artist Fellows Program; Lex Leifheit of SOMArts; and Ernesto Sopprani of The *OFFCENTER. Moderated by Julie Potter, EAP Fellow, the panel casually yet passionately discussed the objectives, achievements, and challenges of creating and sustaining a residency program in the City.

Urban residencies stimulate collaboration

Stepping outside of the comfort zone and taking risk became a starting point that each speaker mentioned when reviewing their various program models. New thinking is the key to a residency, from a curatorial standpoint as well as for the artist who will be the resident. Symbiotic to the process of collaboration is creating innovative, engaging, and important experiences for not only the artists but for the public, too.

One particular model of an artist residency is the retreat, or the intensive workshop. Many of them are pastoral retreats, where the artist resides on site in the company of others of like-mind. The residencies range from one month to longer, and are designed for the artists to make work without the distractions of daily life that would normally take away from their studio practices.The residencies in discussion on this day are not pastoral retreats. They are in the heart of San Francisco, and are geared toward not only an extended period of time for intensive art making, but also involve a commitment to engage with the pubic in compelling and innovative ways. All three of the programs support interdisciplinary models of making, incorporating social practice, performance, and exhibitions.

In a sense, the residency helps propel the artist from the solitary position as maker and into the active role of engagement with audiences in innovative ways. The innovation is two-fold as the projects grow between the curators and the resident artists, but also often becomes multifold depending on the additional artists or collaborators that the artist may invite to join them and expand their ideas.

Collaborations in Situ drawing by Todd Berman

Drawing by Todd Berman

Taking it beyond

A key to innovation with all three of the panelists’ programming is the balance between experimentation and developing a final outcome through rigorous (and fun) exploration and incubation of new ideas. Activating space is part of the final outcome goal in order to impart cultural learning, and to question the role of institutions and their “obligation” to the public.

Through a reciprocal sharing platform, the programs can become sustainable, and be resilient engines for taking risk and being spontaneous. The artist is the centralized idea-generator and the institution or organization works closely with them to develop their concept and bring it to full fruition for the public. Because of the interdisciplinary structure of the work, and the malleability of performative works, the projects can travel – decentralizing the static position of the institution. It gives flexibility to literally drop the art at any location, even exploring new modes of exhibition through the internet, and thus removing the preciousness of site-specificity.

As the round-table continued, new topics came up as the discussion morphed into its own version of a professional performance. One of these nuggets of collective genius brainstorming was the topic of a “Road Map” for artists. In asking themselves out-loud, one has to wonder about the countless other artists that are not being represented or being accepted into their programming. There is not enough funding to include every artist, so how could they help the ones who are left out? The passion and concern to do more is there…what exactly that is will have to happen over more discussions.

Collaborations in Situ photo by Robbie Sweeny

Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Collaboration in situ: it’s meta!

An ongoing challenge of the programs was to address traditional definitions head-on and find solutions every time the word “no” comes up from partnering or governing entities. Reaching out and constantly bringing new people into the mix allows for fresh voices and new perspectives to achieving goals. This drive also creates a dynamic ripple effect throughout the community. It is a continuous learning process – one that requires constant reassessment, revisiting, changing and adjusting with each passing year as the economy changes, and as the artists’ desires change, and the wants of the public changes.

Keeping artists in the forefront of the creative environment and supporting them is the basis for keeping change fluid and vital. Collaborations are an exciting, rewarding business and social model that empowers everyone involved and ultimately extends passion and vitality to the public and the greater community – it is win/win. Seek out mentors, get hands-on, dig in and don’t wait for funding to get started – find a way to do it, and most importantly talk to others.

About Leora Lutz

Leora Lutz is an interdisciplinary artist with an extensive history as a curator, gallerist, and art administrator. Her practice in all aspects grabs onto historical context, alters it, and re-presents it as a way to shift previous understanding into flux. Her work has shown at galleries, institutions, and museums, including MOCA, Palm Springs Museum of Art, UCR Sweeney Gallery, Riverside Art Museum, and the Henry Project Space in Seattle. Her art and professional bibliography includes numerous critiques and profiles from The Los Angeles Times, NBC news, White Hot Magazine and LA Weekly to name a few.

Todd Berman’s work can be found at The Art Don’t Stop. Robbie Sweeny’s photography can be found at In Gutters and Stars.