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In 2017, A Blade of Grass and Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, began their own partnership to create this guide with the support of an Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. It reflects our interest to understand what good municipal/artist partnerships look like, from the experiences of practitioners who have effectively done good work together. Our goals were to communicate the artfulness, dynamics, best practices and common challenges of these partnerships and their resulting creative projects; and assist those who want to integrate creative practices to advance civic goals and improve the workings of municipal government.
Our research centered on interviews with partnering municipal agencies and artists, third-party partners, and administrators from some two-dozen projects and programs. We also reviewed a large amount of related material including articles and reports. Our process aimed for a strong but by no means comprehensive scan. And, as fundamental as community participants are in these projects, the scope of our research did not allow for full articulation of their roles and perspectives. It is an important subject for the future.
This guide is also grounded in work that we have done with municipal/artist programs in New York, Portland ME, and Boston. These cities’ programs place artists in multiple city agencies, tapping their creative thinking and skills to generate new approaches to urban issues and municipal agency concerns.
We hope you find the knowledge and experience about municipal/artist partnerships reflected in these pages as inspiring and promising as we do.
Jan Cohen-Cruz and Pam Korza, Authors
Jan Cohen-Cruz was Director of Field Research for A Blade of Grass from 2015-2019, and co-founder of ABOG Magazine. She is the author of numerous books on performance art and experimental theater including: Remapping Performance: Common Ground, Uncommon Partners (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2015), Local Acts: Community-Based Performance in the US (Rutgers U. Press, 2005) and Engaging Performance: Theatre as Call and Response (Routledge 2010). With Mady Schutzman, she co-edited Playing Boal: Theater, Therapy, Activism (Routledge, 1993) and A Boal Companion (Routledge, 2006). From 2007–2012, she directed Imagining America: Artists and Scholars in Public Life, a consortium of colleges and universities committed to civic engagement, and co-founded its journal, Public. A longtime professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Cohen-Cruz initiated its minor in applied theater. She received the Association for Theatre in Higher Education’s Award for Leadership in Community-Based Theatre and Civic Engagement (2012). Jan was evaluator for the US State Department/Bronx Museum’s cultural diplomacy initiative smARTpower; as well as for seven projects of New York City’s Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) program. She received her PhD from New York University in Performance Studies.
Pam Korza co-directs Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, with Barbara Schaffer Bacon. They advised and learned from the Art At Work (AAW) program in Portland, ME for nearly a decade. They supported evaluation for AAW, the Boston Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program, and the Center for Performance and Civic Practice’s Catalyst Initiative. Pam has consulted and offered workshops and presentations on arts and civic engagement for artists, cultural organizations, funders, and at cross-sector gatherings across the country and internationally. She co-wrote Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture, and the Arts & Civic Engagement Tool Kit, as well as the five-book Case Studies from Animating Democracy. Her writing and editing on assessing arts and social change work includes: the Continuum of Impact Guide; Aesthetic Perspectives: Attributes of Excellence in Arts for Change; “Evaluating Impact/Appreciating Evaluation;" and a chapter in the book, Arts and Community Change (Routledge, 2015). Pam previously worked with the Arts Extension Service/UMass where she coordinated the National Public Art Policy Project and co-wrote and edited Going Public: A field guide to developments in art in public places.
A Blade of Grass believes in the power of art and artists to participate meaningfully in creating a more equitable and compassionate future. We provide direct financial support to artists who collaborate with communities to generate exchanges, experiences, and structures that enact social change. We also create greater visibility for the socially engaged art field by producing multimedia content, public programs, and research about this work.
Animating Democracy is a program of Americans for the Arts that inspires, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to civic and social change. Working locally, nationally, and across sectors, Animating Democracy creates useful resources for artists, cultural, and community leaders, and funders; builds knowledge about quality engagement and evaluation; and brings national visibility to arts for change work.
Lyz Crane, Deputy Director, ArtPlace America
Nicole Crutchfield, Director of Planning & Development, City of Fargo, ND
Jennifer Erickson, Arts & Culture Director, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Boston, MA
Maria Rosario Jackson, Urban Planner, Senior Advisor, Arts & Culture, Kresge Foundation
Gulgun Kayim, Director of Art, Culture, & Creative Economy, City of Minneapolis, MN
Shirley Levy, Chief of Staff, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Lynn Osgood, Executive Director, Civic Arts (formerly GO collaborative)
Rad Pereira, 2017 Public Artist in Residence with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Marty Pottenger, Artist and Former Director of Art At Work, City of Portland, ME
Diya Vij, Associate Curator of Public Programs, Friends of the High Line, Formerly Co-Director of the Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) program at NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
The Municipal/Artist Partnership Guide is made possible with support from Our Town, the National Endowment for the Arts’ creative placemaking grants program, and the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation. We wish to thank Jen Hughes, Director of Design and Creative Placemaking, NEA, and Heather Pontonio, Senior Program Director, Tremaine Foundation, for their valuable guidance and feedback, as well as funding support.
We also extend gratitude to our national advisors who provided invaluable insights at the conceptual stage and critical review and comment throughout development of the guide. Thank you to Mallory Rukhsana Nezam for her thought partnership in the development of the Structuring Your Partnerships section.
Finally, deep thanks to all the artists, municipal staff, arts agency leaders, community partners, and others whose work on the ground has informed this guide and who shared their stories and resources so generously.