Tag: Americans for the Arts

5 Ways to Get Involved With Your Community

Where to start?

This month, with elections looming in the future and lots of important issues that affect individual artists in Atlanta, including a LOT of complicated issues with urban development, I’m fired up to give other artists the resources to get out and be of greater impact in your community.

If I’m perfectly honest, I would be remiss to have you believing that I’ve been the most active and vocal participant in my community. Before working for C4 Atlanta, there were many issues that I cared about, but time and a lack of knowledge of resources hindered my ability to get myself involved with the things I cared about. It’s only been over the last two or so years that I’ve become a more active part of my community. That’s why I’m excited about today’s blog post. Anyone with limited time and resources who wants to be a part of what’s going on with advocacy for artists can do at least one of these things.

So if you’d like to be more active in finding out what’s going on and helping to inform the decisions made in our community, here’s some simple tips to get involved:

1. Go to things

C4 Founder and Executive Director at a Fulton County Budget Hearing
C4 Founder and Executive Director at a Fulton County Budget Hearing

Seriously, get off your butt and go to stuff. The best ways to find out what’s going on is to be present when it’s going on. Social Media is a great resource for finding out what is going on and where things are happening.  Go to your neighborhood association meetings, your NPU (neighborhood planning unit) meetings, Beltline planning meetings, county budget hearings, school board meetings, panels with city officials, and literally anything else that impacts your career and life as an artist in Atlanta that interests you. Angry about big box stores being built in your neighborhood or lack of affordable housing and studio spaces? Show up in the places where people decide these kinds of things. Your presence in the community is important, and elected and community officials take notice of who comes and who votes for them. Make it a point to go to things and be seen, and others will take notice of your efforts. Better yet, bring your artist friends, too. There is power in numbers. Not sure where to go or what to attend? Start with your local NPU or Neighborhood Association Meeting. A lot of local city planning and ordinances are discussed in these meetings, and it’s a great way to meet other folks who do important things within the community and find out about other goings on.

2. Speak Up

Recent Beltline Network Meeting featuring a panel that included artist Neil Carver
Recent Beltline Network Meeting featuring a panel that included artist Neil Carver

When you attend community functions and meetings, speak up. Say your name, where you live, and ask questions about things you want to know. Don’t feel intimidated to let your voice be heard and ask about things you don’t understand even if you know there are others in the room who may have a greater understanding of all the factors involved. Elected officials will also want to know whether or not you vote, so if you do, they are more likely to take greater notice of your participation. If you don’t voice your thoughts, no one else will. As both a member of an arts organization and an independent creative professional, I can tell you that organizations and artists have very different issues that they care about and very different power in the community. Advocating for the ARTS is not necessarily the same as advocating for ARTISTS and arts professionals. Issues like affordable housing, education and health care apply as much to individual artists as they do to everyone and can be even more important to the sustainability of our lifestyles and careers. The only way people will know what you care about is if you tell them.

3. Be A Joiner

Too often we artists feel like the employees who put up this tip jar.

If you really want to be of greater impact in your community, consider joining your neighborhood association, school group, or a nonprofit who’s mission lights a fire in your heart (C4 ATLANTA!). Facebook and Google can help you find groups to connect with if you aren’t sure where the causes you care about are located in the community. Connecting with other people who are united together for a cause has impact, and will also connect you to other resources so that you can become more involved and in the know. Again, individual artists and arts workers have different issues of interest than organizations. Even if the entity join is not arts related, your presence as an creative professional within their mission has weight and validity.  You also don’t have to commit to being president of the committee in order to volunteer or join and organization. Every organization has different needs, and most have many different ways to get involved.

4. Read and Educate Yourself

My community. Mural by unknown artist.
My community. Mural by unknown artist.

A voice is only as powerful as the truth it speaks. Educate yourself on issues within your community, your industry, trends, economy, politics, etc. Know your worth as an artist in the community! Americans for the Arts has some great research regarding the economic impact of artists. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also provides a wealth of wage data for every profession in the U.S. based on census data. If fair wage for artists is important to you, check out the organization W.A.G.E. which certifies producing/presenting arts organizations who pay artists a fair living wage for their work. They will soon have an individual certification available for artists who vow to only work for fair wage. With the plethora of presidential candidates in the mix at the moment, it can feel overwhelming to try educate your self on the platforms of different candidates. Arts Action Fund presents a snapshot of each current presidential candidate and their views on the arts. The information is easily digestible to anyone and provides key data about each candidate’s state artistic economy for comparison. The Arts Action Fund uses the #ArtVote2016 on social media to highlight key issues and questions during debates. They have also compiled reports regarding congressional voting records for arts related legislation and included a grading system for lawmakers. ArtsGeorgia is a local Georgia advocacy group that offers information and helps to promote issues related to arts and culture in the political sphere. There is a wealth of information related to the arts available on their website.

5. Vote!!!!

As much as you can talk and act and join and show up in your community, without actually voting for the people responsible for making larger decisions, you are heavily limiting the scope of your individual power to affect change. And if you don’t vote, elected officials are far less likely to take your presence seriously. Elected officials have to speak to you if you ask. It might not be timely, but they’ll do it. Because that’s their job. Having greater efficacy in your talk can depend on whether you are an active voter in their constituency. And if you don’t know who your elected officials are, especially those at the local level, go find out.

C4 Atlanta keeps our members and stakeholders abreast of interests and issues in arts advocacy and advocating for arts workers. If you’d like to learn more about these issues, join our monthly newsletter and indicate your interest in arts advocacy.

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Lisa Tuttle – C4 Atlanta’s Featured Member, July

July’s featured member is none other than the fabulous Lisa Tuttle. Lisa is a wonderful person and I am honored to call her a colleague. Lisa participated in C4 Atlanta’s Ignite class several months ago. She brought so much to the seminar in terms of experience, insight and encouragement. During the day, Lisa works for the Fulton County Arts Council’s Public Art Program. All day long, Lisa is an artist.

Lisa and project collaborator, Alice Lovelace, just received a very

Left: A panel from Harriet Rising. Right: Alice Lovelace & Lisa Tuttle.
Left: A panel from Harriet Rising. Right: Alice Lovelace & Lisa Tuttle.

prestigious nod from Americans for the Arts for their project, Harriet Rising. AFA named Harriet Rising as one of the nation’s top 50 public art projects.  Harriet Rising is public art installation located above ground at Underground Atlanta. The project launched during Elevate /Art Above Underground presented by the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program and Underground Atlanta. The Tuttle/Lovelace collaboration celebrates women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian.

In the United States, there are many women who embody the spirit of Harriet Tubman, working everyday to make life better for women (and therefore entire families) and working for a better world.  The lives of these women are not as transparent as Tubman’s.  They should be. 

View of columns at Underground - "Harriet Rising"
View of columns at Underground – “Harriet Rising”

I am not the first to feature the work of Lisa and Alice. Google (used here as a verb) Harriet Rising and you will find a wealth of information about these two artists. However, I am personally very proud of their work. I am very proud of Lisa.

Here is a little more about Lisa Tuttle in her own words...

JH: Type of art – description AND what are you currently working on? 

LTInterdisciplinary projects and mixed media works.  I’m in a three person show at Kibbee Gallery August and September, where I’m showing some mixed media pieces. Also I am continuing to work on the artist book for Harriet Rising which I hope to have complete by October.  Alice Lovelace is also applying for some Elevate support for poetry readings at Harriet Rising during this fall’s presentation of Elevate: Art Above Underground.

JH: Are you originally from the Atlanta area?

LT: No, a child of a journalist, so born in Little Rock, Arkansas, but grew up in Charlotte, NC.  My dad was born and raised in Atlanta, though, so although that’s not why I’m here, there have always been some interesting discoveries of how our lives have crossed.  I moved to Atlanta in the late 70’s and found it to be a good fit for me at the time – It was Southern and familiar, but more metropolitan, progressive and sophisticated than anywhere else in the South…NYC seemed unmanageable to me at the time.  When I moved here, I thought I was just going to try it out for a while…but it has continued to be a really good fit for me…

JH: How long have you been practicing your art?

LT: As a child, I wanted to be a writer.  But in college, a professor was really impressed by my painting, and when I committed to that, I went full force.

JH: Who inspired you to create? 

LT: Teachers, friends, my creative, brilliant and irreverent father

JH: Who or what inspires you today?

LT: Reading, films, and my fellow artists here in this creative Atlanta community.

JH: What is the greatest challenge facing Atlanta artists today?

LT: Courage. Also, not enough affordable studio spaces. Or opportunities for international travel/collaborations.

JH: What does Atlanta have to offer artists like you?

LT: The possibility to live affordably, but create and collaborate in the most surprising ways. I particularly like working at a place like the Arts Exchange where it is multi-cultural, multi-disciplinary, and inter-generational. 

JH: Do you have a local favorite (artist)?

LT: Too many to count. I would like to give a shout-out to MOCA GA…!!!

JH: What advice do you have for a young person thinking about being an artist? 

LT: Go for it. Be resourceful. Get to know some working artists. Do some internships and apprenticeships, so you don’t get all of your ideas about artmaking from books and the internet. 

JH: Do you have a favorite quote? What is it? 

LT: Lots of them but off the top of my head: “Every person is a different kind of artist; an artist is not a different kind of person.” – The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

Thank you, Lisa, for sharing your thoughts with us! Get to know more about this Atlanta treasure.

Harriet Rising: Composite Portraits
Harriet Rising: Composite Portraits