Wednesday, July 2, 2014

What I Brought Back: 

Americans For The Arts 2014 Annual Convention

Rock God & All Around Nice Guy Ben Folds posing with Kelley

On June 11th, in the midst of a planning frenzy for the Impact Arts Conference on June 27th and other events coming fast and furious that same week, Cultural Alliance President Mary Anne Winkelman and I left York for the sunny, music-soaked streets of Nashville, TN to attend the Americans for the Arts 2014 Annual Convention (AFTACON14). Thanks to the scholarship I received from AFTA, we were both able to go. Though on the plane ride out, while I was feverishly updating to-do lists and writing scripts, I thought to myself; "What was I thinking? I don't have time for this! I have our conference in two weeks! I have a board retreat coming up! What about the Litter Letter Project?" If it hadn't been for the scholarship and having to go to honor that agreement, I would have backed out. And our events would have been the worse for it.
Not only did I gain professional knowledge and inspiration, but AFTACON14 gave me so many ideas to help our Impact Arts Conference and other events better serve the needs of our community. Below are three takeaways I received at AFTACON14 that I brought home to York & immediately put into practice at our events:

Takeaway One: People working in the arts need & feed off of time spent with others doing exactly what they're doing. 

Learning so much from my counterparts across the country
I didn't realize how extremely important it was to meet and talk with other people from outside my town/region who are working day in and day out, like me, on making their communities better through the arts. And not just my fellow colleagues at United Arts Funds such as Louisville, KY, Cincinnati, OH, and Chattanooga, TN, but those doing projects and programs on a scope I cannot even begin to imagine, such as Graham Beal, Director, President & CEO, Detroit Institute of Arts; and Tamara Mozahuani Alvarado, Executive Director, School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza. Just having a chance to hear their struggles and successes put so much of what we are doing here in York into perspective. And you realize that there's a support network of professionals all over the country that champion what you do & want to hear what's next in your community. 

After AFTACON14, making sure our attendees at the Impact Conference would be able to network with one another and feed off of each other's experience in the sessions was made a priority. And we encouraged attendance by creatives outside of our region's borders and brought in speakers from across state lines to help broaden the view of what's happening in the arts past our own community.

Takeaway Two: Thinking creatively & creative thinking are two different things. 

I think creatively. My mind works a little differently, so my thought processes follow a less beaten path on occasion. But I made the mistake of thinking I was using creative thinking, which I discovered at AFTACON14 is not the same thing. Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective that suggests unorthodox solutions (which may look unsettling at first). Creative thinking can be stimulated both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, and by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

When Tamara Mozahuani Alvarado, Executive Director of the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza told me to draw planets in my notebook during her "Leading From The Edge of Your Authority" session, I really didn't get it.  "It's not a to-do list!" she commanded. "You make too many to-do lists!" and she was right about that. "This is your worlds. Organize them like planets, in order of importance. Then you'll have an image of the important places to you, and where you need to visit in order to keep in touch with them."  I now have a list of ten circles, rotating around one another. At the center is my family, then the Cultural Alliance, and then my other commitments such as my York College teaching and volunteer work. My solar system, right in front of me. It really helps re-organize my perspective on what's important, and what I have time for. All of the planning I was feverishly worrying over for our Cultural Alliance events got much more manageable once put in that perspective. I can do this; I've got planets.

My Planets
In "Planning & Facilitating Community Meetings" with Kirstin Weigmann of Forecast Public Art, there were big white easel pads and doodling. I'm not a doodler. It's not in my wheel house. But I realized that the more I was encouraged to write down whatever words and ideas popped into my head, the more the ideas and thoughts on our topics flowed. My table mates and I fed off one another, and at the end we had some really thought-provoking answers among our drawings of curly cues and seagulls (I did the seagull!) We implemented this method of capturing feedback at our Board to Boards retreat with our eight partner organizations the very next week.

Takeaway Three: Hearing thank-you from someone you admire can take you from burnt-out to brand-new.

When we attended the lunch-time Keynote of AFTACON14; "The Power of Art To Transform People;" I hadn't looked closely at my program to know who was scheduled to speak. That is, until I looked up from my plate and saw the back of Ben Folds' head at the next table.  

My heart made a sound I can only describe as "Sqeeeee!" BEN FOLDS. HERE. Amazing musician, a huge advocate for the arts, and a personal hero. I was so excited; was he scheduled to perform? But little did I know that his musical performance would be the icing on the cake.

Robert Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts, introduced Ben Folds, who came up to talk to us about what the arts mean to him. "Up until 5th grade, I was a pain in the ass.  I didn't get good grades, and I didn't get along with the other kids.  I didn't have a lot of confidence. And as soon as I started playing music, I can see what I learned from that, and how it got me where I was.  It was on the backs of so many people.  And if it wasn't for what you do, and for the people that did that before you, I wouldn't be here."

That one sentence was so galvanizing.  Could it be possible that there was someone, out there, that someday might find what I did valuable? Could I be responsible for helping to move the next Ben Folds forward? It was enough to make me feel a renewed belief in my work, and that was worth all the time away from the office to be in Nashville. (That, and getting my picture with Ben Folds. SQUEEEE!)

When we returned to York, I knew that I wanted to give the attendees at our Impact Arts & Culture Conference the same experience. We were fortunate to have Patrick Dahlheimer, bassist of the multi-platinum rock band LIVE and native Yorker attend to welcome everyone. He spoke of the influence that his middle-school music teacher, Mr. Carn, had on him, and how that interaction opened his eyes to the world of music. Then, he put a challenge to our attendees. "One person dared me to dream. My question for you today is 'who are you going to dare to dream?'"

As one attendee put it; "That challenge was just what I needed. It re-ignited my light." It was the perfect way to begin the day, and set the tone for the rest of the conference.

Thank you to the Americans For The Arts Scholarship Committee that provided me the means to attend AFTACON14. Without that time spent with my peers absorbing new ideas in new ways, our community events and conference the following week would not have been as effective.  

Can't wait to meet up with all my new friends in Chicago for AFTACON15 and bring back even more to York!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Impact Arts Conference Speaker Spotlight


Impact Arts & Culture Conference Speaker Spotlight:

Jason Konopinski, JMK Media
We are thrilled to feature a wonderful array of expert presenters at the Impact Arts & Culture Conference on June 27, 2014 at York College of Pennsylvania, a one-day regional conference providing professional development and networking opportunities to creatives, designers, and those in the arts & culture sector. Today, we spotlight Jason Konopinski, a local talent with global credentials, who will be the moderator of our "Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing Solutions" Panel.

Jason is a digital marketing and communications professional with over ten years experience working with data, web analytics, and marketing automation products. Over the course of his career, he has worked with boutique PR, marketing, and advertising agencies to develop strategy, create cross-platform and cross-medium content, and help clients tell better stories about themselves and their products.

Crowdfunding is the aggregation of small amounts of capital from a large group of people, usually via the Internet, in order to fund a business, project or organization. Crowdsourcing is the completion of a task by a large group of individuals, usually previously unknown to you and typically through the internet. Jason will share his expertise on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing, and lead a panel discussion with organizations and individuals from our region that have launched successful campaigns. 

Meet Jason and join in our "Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding" panel discussion by registering for the Impact Arts and Culture Conference. To learn more about our scheduled speakers, sessions, and ways to save, please visit ImpactArtsConference.org

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


Impact Arts & Culture Conference Speaker Spotlight:

Takenya LaViscount, National Endowment for the Arts
We are thrilled to feature a wonderful array of expert presenters at the Impact Arts & Culture Conference on June 27, 2014 at York College of Pennsylvania, a one-day regional conference providing professional development and networking opportunities to creatives, designers, and those in the arts & culture sector. Today, we spotlight Takenya LaViscount from the National Endowment for the Arts, a member of our "Meet The Funders" panel.

Takenya LaViscount manages the Challenge America Fast Track (CAFT) grant program for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). CAFT is one of the few national funding sources that enable eligible entities, particularly those organizations that are small or mid-sized, to extend the reach of the arts to underserved populations—those demographics whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability. In 2013, CAFT awarded 150 grants totaling $1.5 million dollars.

Meet Takenya and our other funders at the "Meet The Funders" panel discussion by registering for the Impact Arts and Culture Conference. To learn more about our scheduled speakers, sessions, and ways to save, please visit ImpactArtsConference.org



Tuesday, March 25, 2014


"Valley of Light" By Linda Sommer

What Art Does

Today is the 27th annual National Arts Advocacy Day, the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations. These arts advocates represent a united effort to tell Capitol Hill how important the arts are to our communities, how much arts education means to our children, and how the arts improve our daily lives. It inspired me to share a recent story of how the arts impacted me.

I lost my father three weeks ago, and even though I was back to work, I was having trouble seeing people. At meetings and on phone calls, everyone wanted to tell me how sorry they were, and though it was comforting, it was also very painful.  Anyone who has dealt with a death knows that each person that remembers it to you cauterizes the wound; it’s part of the healing, but it really hurts.

I was avoiding just such an exchange; people gathering for a meeting at the York Art Association and all of them wanting to give their consolations and; buying some time,  I was slowly ambling through the gallery pretending to be engrossed in the show when something happened. A painting by an artist named Linda Sommer reached out from its place on the gallery wall among many others, wrapped its hands around my heart, and squeezed. Tears welled in my eyes as I stood transfixed in front of it; watching the dark brown and gray paint turn to cream and ivory at the top of the canvas. It was like watching my father’s spirit rise up from the darkness into the light.  The piece was titled; “Valley of Light” and I had to have it. I purchased the work, and walked into the meeting feeling buoyed by the condolences rather than burdened; it comforted me in a way that nothing before or since has been able to do.

When the arts have this power to grab us, to hold our hearts and squeeze them in a way that is very personal and profound, why do we feel that we have to justify its existence with other reasons? Why must every arts organization feel compelled to hold up the economic impact of the arts in their community as a reason for their importance? Why must we talk about the arts in the education of children and youth development as to why the arts matter?

I don’t disagree that these are very critical roles for the arts. As this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, arts and culture ARE a strong driver of economic impact; the arts contributed $504 billion to U.S. economic output in 2011, or 3.2% of gross domestic product. And yes, the arts are an integral part of education; a 2012 report from the National Endowment for the Arts, entitled “The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth,” concluded that students “who have arts-rich experiences in school do better across-the-board academically, and they also become more active and engaged citizens, voting, volunteering, and generally participating at higher rates than their peers.”   These are important reasons to support the arts, and we should talk about them.

But none of that mattered when my heart was hurting and I was missing my dad. I didn’t care what the arts do for our economy or for education; I just wanted something to make me feel better. The painting I found by Linda Sommer did that for me. And that’s why I bought it.  I wasn’t trying to better the economy, I didn’t plan to use it as a teaching experience; I just felt I needed it to begin healing. That is what art does; it heals, it helps, it raises deep feelings that are hard to describe and completely personal, and we should celebrate it for that as much if not more so than for its economic and educational benefits.

Do you have a story to share about when an arts experience reached out to your heart and moved you? Then make sure to tell members of Congress by sharing your story of what art does for you on our Facebook page or on Twitter and tag it #AAD14 in honor of Arts Advocacy Day 2014.
-Kelley


P.S. If you’d like to see the painting; “Valley of Light” in person, join me at YorkArts one-night only art show “Art In Residence-Black and White Night” at the Bon-Ton Corporate Center on Saturday, April 26th. You can get your tickets here.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bringing Our Theme Of "Create Community" To Life

Gary and Ryan of Hayman Studio with Kelley Gibson and David Kennedy (center)
at the voice-over recording for the 2014 campaign video

When I joined the Cultural Alliance of York County as the Director of Communications & Engagement a few months ago, my main task at hand was to take the message of "Create Community" for our 2014 Annual Campaign and bring it to life. Who is the Cultural Alliance? What do we do to benefit York County and its residents? How do we illustrate the ways that our eight partner agencies and the Creative Impact Awards develop lively neighborhoods, new jobs, and smarter kids? And how to we show our volunteers, donors, and the public that each and every one of them is vital in this effort to create community in York?

Instead of spelling it out in numbers and figures pointing to the impact that the Cultural Alliance and its partner agencies make on York County, we instead posed the bigger question; "What Makes A Community?" What are the pieces that are needed to turn a group of people into a true community, one that thrives on creativity and new ideas? We didn't want to tell people, we wanted to show them. To do that, we needed help.

We turned to Ryan Hayman and Gary Gearheart of Hayman Studio, gave them creative control, and asked them to tell our story. With their wealth of artistic talent, production know-how, and amazing skills they shot footage of our partner agencies and Creative Impact Award projects to illustrate how the Cultural Alliance creates community, piece by piece, project by project. These images are truly worth more than words; they get to the heart of what we do. We are honored to have worked with such great partners who truly captured what it means to create community.

We hope you enjoy this watching this video as much as we did making it. After viewing, please share it to spread the word and do your piece to help us Create Community in York!


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How stARTSomething Invests Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Gifts To Transform Our Schools-BIG and SMALL.
As we near the end end of year, your company may be looking for options to donate their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) gifts. I wanted to share with you how those gifts enable stARTsomething Arts In Education to transform our schools through artist residencies.

THE BIG 













Talented multi-media artist Justin Ayala and the supportive staff at West York High School came together in a 65-day artist residency to create a mobile mosaic mural embedded with technology-the first of its kind.  Almost 1,000 students and 90 faculty members used content from 14 classroom disciplines and 16 different art forms to design, construct and execute the mobile mosaics and the digital content.



THE SMALL










Andrew Steed, gifted storyteller and teaching artist, joined the Central York High School student journalist team for a 10-day residency. The student writers were stuck, rigid, in their approach to  newswriting.

As Andrew led them through highly untraditional exercises, the students brainstormed new strategies to make the formerly “ho hum” school paper into a more interactive platform.  Students abandoned their traditional news gathering techniques and experimented with new ways of thinking/ writing.  After ten days, the paper added several new sections and the students reported new attitudes. “He was inspirational. He put a positive twist on everything—even some of our concerns,” said senior Prowler editor, Kayla Smith. “He helped us open our minds—not just with the newspaper, but with life in general,” said public relations editor Jordan Nittinger. 
 

EITC gifts enable us to make this difference in students’ lives – whether they are BIG or SMALL. Please donate your end of year EITC gifts to the Cultural Alliance of York County and its stARTsomething Arts In Education program!
 


Monday, January 7, 2013

Create Community

While I am excited to announce our 14th annual campaign "Create Community" I am even more excited that Joe Crosswhite and George Hodges are chairing it.  Their enthusiasm and strategies have energized us AGAIN.

We have a public community celebration on January 15 at 6:00PM at the Strand.  Our partners will be there and our Creative Impact Award winners from last year and this year (hint hint we will announce them from the stage).  It will be a true celebration of how far we have come in 14 years.  Not only are we still raising money and in-kind services for our partners, but we've expanded to designing the Creative Impact Awards that serves any artist, arts organization, or non-arts organization with a creative project throughout York County.  We funded projects all over York including the Hanover Lancers and New Freedom Heritage.  What a thrill for us to be able to fund in all corners of the county.

We are also an official partner with the Pa Council on the Art - that means we help grant state funds in four counties - York, Adams, Franklin, and Fulton counties.  We are also the Pa Council on the Arts' Arts in Education partner funding artists' residencies in the same 4 counties.  Gayle Cluck manages that program and has been recognized by the state for her distinct and effective residencies.

So - here we go - and it is not a "oh, here we go, ugh" it is a true "HERE WE GO".  Come to our celebration of our creative community on Tuesday January 15 at 6:00 PM.  We have an awful lot to celebrate!