News from the Lincoln Arts Council
Cities are in trouble. A new report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities—The Economy and Cities: What America’s Local Leaders are Seeing—shows that effectively every city, county, and town in America is expecting a budget shortfall this year. “[The] coronavirus will have a staggering impact on municipal employment,” notes the report, with about half expecting layoffs or furloughs. Depending on population size, 50% to 75% of municipalities will cut public services—and more than half expect that to include police.
With cities facing their most severe budget headwinds in generations, every sector of government can expect to be scrutinized to gauge impact on the community, including the nation’s 4,500 local arts agencies (LAAs).
Local arts agencies—arts councils, arts commissions, cultural affairs departments—lead, cultivate, and support an environment in which arts and culture can thrive. They ensure vibrant and accessible arts experiences for all. LAAs are an essential tool for local leaders as they work to rebuild their economy and promote social cohesion in the wake of COVID-19.
The arts are kindling for the economy—small investments with big returns. They get people out of their homes and spending money. Every time we attend a festival, visit a museum, or see a concert, we spend an average of $31.47 per person beyond the ticket cost on event-related items such as meals, retail, parking, and lodging. This provides vital income to local merchants, energizes our downtowns, promotes visitation to different neighborhoods, and puts people to work.
Arts Organization are taking a terrible blow during the pandemic, but many are finding creative solutions. The Lincoln Community Theatre has taken a creative 'if they can't come to the play, take the play to them' approach. They are beginning Parking Lot Plays in July. “We are headed to the parking lot to begin to ease our way back into performances," stated Morrie Enders, Executive Director. The theatre will present a combination of cabaret performances, old-time radio, and a melodrama throughout July and August in the parking lot.
I attended my first political rally while still in high school at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Earlier that year, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated, many cities were in flames, and antiwar sentiment raged. The convention site was locked down, but I jumped right into the street protests. Television news cameras filmed the police riot that bloodied and bruised us as we chanted, “The whole world is watching.”
Amidst the civil unrest of that decade, an aesthetic revolution was also percolating. Peter Brook’s The Empty Space and Jerzy Grotwoski’s Towards a Poor Theatre called for reimaging a stripped down essentialism. Their credos echoed Anna Halprin’s task-oriented movement and Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto. John Cage, Terry Riley, and Ornette Coleman deconstructed compositional notions. Amiri Baraka’s plays called out white racism, New Wave filmmakers embraced quirky realness, and visual artists tossed out all the rules, as art performed life.
Our Spring Pathfinder residency at the Lancaster County Youth Detention Center had to be cancelled when LPS shut down due to Covid-19 -- just when the kids needed art the most. So teaching artist Nancy Konrardy and Principal Randy Farmer put their heads together and came up with the idea for an all-virtual summer session. And what a success it's been! Here's a note we received from Randy about Daria, one of the students in the program who was especially moved by the experience:
Unprecedented … resilient … essential … are words we have heard much about during the COVID-19 crisis. These words, in fact, describe every artist, arts educator, and arts organization—and not just during an emergency. Each of us as human beings are heard, healed, uplifted, and empowered by and through the arts. In both unprecedented crises and unprecedented times, ART is essential. With a growing understanding of the vital role the arts play in successful communities, Baton Rouge Area Chamber has sought to better understand and formalize its relationship with the arts sector.
For the safety of our winners, arts community and Mayor's Arts Awards guests, the Lincoln Art’s Council recently decided to host our 2020 Mayor's Arts Awards virtually on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.
We had hoped to celebrate with you in person, however Covid-19 remains a very real part of our everyday lives. The Lincoln Arts Council (LAC) Board of Directors decided that to ensure the safety of everyone involved, the Mayor's Arts Awards will be presented live online.
When fellow artist and friend Tom Sullivan sent 2019 Lincoln Arts Festival Emerging Artist Danny Reneau a link to the Lincoln Billboard Art Project about a week before it was due, he was already thinking about making a sign for his front yard just to bring color and encouragement to his neighbors. So, he had already been in the mindset to make something similar. “But having the opportunity to instead create a sign to encourage our city is really incredible and I’m thankful,” says Reneau.
During this time of physical distancing, local nonprofit Blixt Locally Grown went to work to develop a special virtual project created for children and their families, called Captain Soapman. It was released on May 15. Produced entirely via Zoom video-conferencing platform while actors and crew maintained social distancing, Captain Soapman embraces humor, heart, and hope to honor the experience of children everywhere who are processing the big changes that come alongside COVID-19.
Because of your generosity, we will be able to continue to make our community a better place through more access to the arts. “Bringing people together, inspiring, soothing and sharing: these are the powers of art, the importance of which has been made emphatically obvious during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Those are the words of Audrey Azoulay, from the United Nations.
Buy a T-shirt to support the Lincoln Arts Council
Local Lincoln business Shirts101 has launched a fundraising project to support other local small businesses and non-profits during this trying time. For $20 plus tax and shipping you can order a T-shirt with our logo. Shirts101 will send $8 of the purchase back to us.
April is National Poetry Month.
Are you ready to tap your inner bard?
Like so many, we at the Arts Council are working from home. We check in every morning on Zoom to coordinate plans for the day. We think of each of you: artists, arts organizations, loyal friends and donors and wish you good health and safety in your day. We also share stories and amusing things that we find online.
As time passed we began noticing something. Most of what we were sharing were inspiring and innovative things that people around the world were creating at home. The world seems to have suddenly discovered art and is creating it with abandon.
You may have seen our recent Facebook post about the wonderful mural that Tom Meyers is painting at Campbell Elementary as part of our UpstArt program. The theme of the mural is Joy, and the word Joy in all of the 20+ languages spoken at Campbell appears all throughout the mural.
The Lincoln Arts Council could not carry out our mission of championing the arts, connecting people, changing lives without the support of corporate partners like Ameritas. Although Ameritas has 2,500 employees and 4.5 million customers across the U.S., Lincoln remains their hometown and the site of their corporate headquarters, as it has been for 133 years. Those relationships run deep – 1,100 Ameritas associates help provide services to one in three Lincolnites.
We work with so many wonderful and dedicated teachers and principals. Every now and then we like to throw a spotlight on one of them, and this month it is art teacher Amy Allerheiligen at Calvert Elementary. Amy worked with visiting UNL scientist Doug Golick this Fall to explore the ways that the scientific method can be applied to art. Fifth graders studied how different chemical solutions and reactions colorize paper, and how patterns reveal information about the liquids and the paper.
The Lincoln Arts Council is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2020 Project Grants. These grants are awarded to qualifying arts nonprofits to support their efforts to develop new audiences, reach under-served groups and increase arts access for all.
Sculpture artist David Manzanares led a series of Alebrije classes for adults in collaboration with South of Downtown this past summer. Alebrije are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. There was lots of fun and learning -- click the link in the story to watch the video.