Inspiring Creativity, Guest Blog by Lisa Canning

As part of the festival we welcome guest bloggers to share their perspectives on the value of creativity and creative labor.  We are delighted to share the insights of Lisa Canning, Executive Director of The Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship™. In addition, To Art & Profit is partnering with the IAE.  Buy your tickets to the April weekend of To Art & Profit and get in to Produce IT!, a professional development workshop, for free. Contact Jess Kaswiner via to redeem!

Arts Advocacy Day: Focus on the Bright Spots

This past Monday and Tuesday, April 4th-5th, we celebrated the 24th annual Arts Advocacy Day. Organized by Americans for The Arts, Arts Advocacy Day is the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations and grassroots advocates from across the country to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.

Although these two days of recognition are a great achievement for the arts, your advocacy efforts do not have to end on April 5th.  Why not make it Arts Advocacy month? I hope every To Art and Profit reader will get involved by underscoring where you see the arts currently thriving. With actors Kevin Spacey, and Hill Harper at the Congressional kick off in DC this week, and Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey providing testimony at a special hearing of the house appropriations subcommittee, I hope these days are filled with bright spots and not the depressing news about funding cuts for the arts, and our fear, in some cases, of survival. None of this will help us make our point, really.

I know as an artist or an arts administrator it is pretty easy to focus on “the problem.” In fact, our arts training taught us well to quickly recognize “what’s broke”, and to ask and answer “how do I fix it?”  Except when the problem continues to grow in size, despite our focusing on it, like now, we need to change our approach.  So when you contribute your ideas and thoughts about what Arts Advocacy means to you on facebook and twitter, focus on providing the answer to this question alone: ‘What’s working and how can we do more of it?’

This question is rarely the one we ask first in life because it’s far more easy to focus on the problem. And yet, by focusing on the bright spot(s) we have a far greater chance of  transforming impossibly difficult situations.  If it seems hard for you to believe that this really works, read Chip Heath & Dan Heath’s book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. It is loaded with real world “bleak and seemingly hopeless” examples of how the impossible becomes possible when we do.

This past weekend I attended and presented two workshops for Linda Essig, Arizona State University and P.A.V.E. Creating Infrastructure for Creativity Innovation Conference in Tempe, AZ. (P.A.V.E by the way stands for: performing arts venture experience)

Ben Cameron from the Doris Duke Foundation was the keynote and he both figuratively and literally illuminated beautifully the inherent undeniable power of focusing on a bright spot.

While it might be easy to imagine that this photo of Ben was “altered” to illustrate my point, it was not. I took 5 different pictures of Ben on stage, as he spoke, and in every one he only appeared surrounded by bright white light.  And the bright spots that exist in the arts right now are indeed this bright, magnetic and hard not to want to pay attention to. Here are a few of Ben’s bright spots that he mentioned in his speech: The Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Bill Rauch and The Cornerstone Theater Company in LA and The Trey McIntyre Project in Boise Idaho. And here are a couple of other things Ben shared that really jumped out at me–  The first was ” What in the arts are we going to stop doing to change our circumstances?”  He went on to remind us all that the only constant in life is change itself and that we must learn how to, like hockey star Wayne Gretzky said about his success,  “skate to where the puck will be to score.”

So, where is your puck going that you need to skate to? What’s working for you artistry or arts organization? What artistically is resonating well within your community? How can you create more of the same?

I hope you will share your ” bright spot” ideas today. Get involved in upcoming panels and contribute to the conversation, April 16th for “Produce It!” with The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship for To Art and Profit’s “Quit Bullshittin’ Recognizing Division And Building Solidarity in the Arts on April 17th.  Join in the conversation.

It’s Arts Advocacy Day.

Lisa Canning, Executive Director

The Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship™

*Picture caption: Ben Cameron, Doris Duke Foundation aka a Bright Spot


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