WyAA Blog


To all our arts enthusiasts and advocates:  Check it out! Following is a summary by Bruce Richardson about a new book by Tricia Tunstall. Cheers! -Jennifer

How about an instrument and top and extensive music education for every poor child? This happens in Venezuela right now. Described as “a project of social action” that is not “exposure to the arts,” but “life change” through immersion in music and playing in an orchestra, not every so often, but every day.   And the program has swept the nation through broad and deep support. As one person says “there is no better way to build the life of a community than children playing together.” And the orchestras are terrific, the music enthralling.

Like many, you may not believe it, but observer after observer reports their amazement at this program and return to the U.S. and work on their own version. You can get a report on all this in Tricia Tunstall’s lively new book Changing Lives: Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema, and The Transformative Power of Music (Norton, 2012). Much of this is old news by now and Gustavo Dudamel, El Sistema’s most famous graduate and in his second year as conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic is helping spread the word and start similar programs in the U.S.

OK, I have been a fan ever since I heard Jose Antonio Abreu, the founder of and philosopher of El Sistema speak in Denver. You don’t have to be a true believer, but I bet you will find this story inspiring and a stimulus to our efforts to make the arts central to daily life in Wyoming.

Bruce Richardson

Board Member, Wyoming Arts Council

Senior Lecturer in English, The University of Wyoming


This morning I received an email from Bruce Richardson (who, I am quickly learning, is an invaluable resource for any arts enthusiast in Wyoming) that contained an article citing an arts study done in Portland, Maine.  The study was put out by Americans for the Arts and gave hard-number-evidence tying the arts to economics in Portland.  The results are impressive.  The nonprofit arts and culture industry there supports the equivalent of 1535 jobs and is a $49.1 dollar industry between organizational and audience spending.

This kind of information is buoyant for all of us trying to convince our legislators, elected officials, schools, donors and patrons of the essential role of the arts in the economy.  And in a time of budget cuts and prioritization in funding allocations, our need to be persuasive on this point gets more and more crucial.

It can be kind of disheartening for the art purists among us, however.  After all, shouldn't the argument for support of the arts be the inherent value of the arts?  Self-efficacy, enlightenment and quality of life seem to be more intuitive as advocacy arguments than the whole "economic engine" approach, right?

Not necessarily.  In fact, students of history will quickly conclude art and commerce have gone hand-in-hand since ancient times.  Show me a city where the arts really flourish, and I'll show you a city thriving with trade and retail, booming in hospitality and tourism, teeming with innovation and entrepreneurialism.

In the Golden Age of Greece, Athens was the intellectual and cultural center of not only the country, but arguably the world.At the same time, it was the international hub of trade and commerce.  During the Italian Renaissance, cities like Florence and Milan excelled in sculpture, painting, drawing, music and science. Inland cities and port towns also flowed with economic activity. The formula hasn't changed.  Today, cities like Santa Fe, New Mexico, have turned creative tourism and cultural arts into their leading economic activity. 

Tying the arts to robust, healthy economies shouldn't be an unpleasant task for which we grit our teeth and hold our noses in order to get the funding to fulfill our "true purpose".  Rather, arts and commerce are a natural and proven partnership wherein they enhance each other and help assure mutual growth and prosperity. 

For more information on how to successfully highlight that partnership, visit the Wyoming Arts Council site at www.wyoarts.state.wu.us (and click on the Community Development and the Arts link) and Americans for the Arts at www.artsusa.org (and click on information and services, economic impact) as great starting resources for facts and figures in making your case.

Thanks for stopping by the blog.  Here's to a creative week, and to building great partnerships for a long time to come. 

-Jennifer Lasik


One of the most powerful tools we have in advocating for the arts is information.  Whether the case we are trying to make is based upon statistics, narratives or anecdotes, the more knowledge and understanding we can foster, the more influence we have on decisions that are made which affect our work, our children, our communities and our lives.

This week, thanks to an arts educator in Lincoln County, Wyoming, the WyAA Board was introduced to a great site and program for arts education, the Turnaround Arts Initiative (TAI).

TAI is a public-private partnership that works to narrow the achievement gap among students and increase educational engagement through the arts.  The initiative is through the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities (Michelle Obama is the honorary chair), which makes it a great reference point and resource for advocates and supporting legislators.

On the website, educators, artists and advocates can read about the program, look at examples of pilot schools, and get lots of great information about arts education through extensive reports in the site's "Resource" section.

Whether you are looking for help in building a case for arts in the schools or looking for ideas to incorporate the arts for better student engagement, this is a site worth visiting.  The site's web address is: http://turnaroundarts.pcah.gov/

Thank you for stopping by the blog, and have a wonderfully creative week!


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