Saying Goodbye, and Thank You

 

It’s a little bit bittersweet to write this as I step down from my role at the Arts Alliance after more than two and a half years on board. I’ve learned so much since I began, and I’ve truly loved meeting artists, educators and arts supporters in our region and beyond.

During my time with the Arts Alliance, I’ve happily embraced our marketing & social media work, and developed our pilot youth arts program. I’ve learned from incredible teaching artists like Deborah Stuart, Lida Winfield and Stuart Paton (of Burlington Taiko), and I’ve been honored to share stages in Littleton, Gorham and Plymouth with my theater company. I’ve also spoken with business owners and local leaders about ways to support and sustain arts and education, and I’ve seen the power of the arts in our communities more times than I can count. Hopefully if you’ve participated in our artist residencies during this time, you’ve experienced improved marketing and curriculum materials & strong communication across the board. I’ve recently worked on refining our program plans for the 2016-2017 season – it should be a great year!

I am such a believer in the work of the Arts Alliance, and I will continue to be an advocate for arts in the region. Although I’m ready to return to the world of the performing arts and try my own hand working as a teaching artist & performer in music and theater, it is still just as important for arts educators, innovators and advocates to come together in our region. Fight the isolation and connect with one another & get the word out about your work. Work with the Arts Alliance to hold gatherings, spread best practices and offer artist residencies. The Arts Alliance is an incredible resource, whether you need help with grant-writing, promoting your event or finding a mentor in your field or an artist to present at your site. Please continue to support the work of the Arts Alliance so that it can continue to support you and represent you regionally, at the state level and beyond.

Thank you so much to everyone who has made this time so special for me. As a newcomer to the region, I appreciate the work you’ve done to welcome me (and Not Your Mom’s!). I am especially proud to have been able to contribute to the growing arts scene in the Bethlehem/Littleton region, and I look forward to staying a part of it and seeing it grow in new ways. Thank you also to all of the businesses and individuals who’ve donated their time, money and opened their homes to make our residencies as successful as possible. I hope you’ll continue to do so. You make it such a welcoming place for our artists, and the arts world is small – we know for a fact that some of our artists have said yes to working with us because they heard from other artists about what a great residency they had in northern New Hampshire.

As of June I’ll be the musical director at Jean’s Playhouse in Lincoln. If you’d like to keep in touch moving forward, you can find me on Twitter at jamiefeinberg and at jamie (dot) feinberg (at) gmail (dot) com. I’m also maintaining an ice cream travel blog if that combination interests you! I anticipate this Arts Alliance blog will be quiet for a couple of months, but hope you’ll stay connected with the Arts Alliance and contact Frumie Selchen, our Executive Director, by email at frumie(at) aannh (dot) org or at 603-323-7302 with any ideas or questions.

Thanks and all the best,
Jamie

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Takeaways from the National Arts Marketing Conference

Last fall I spent three days in Salt Lake City at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference, which attracts arts marketing professionals of all backgrounds, from small organizations like ours — where just one or two staff members handle everything from programming to fundraising to marketing — to large, well-known theaters and museums, local and regional arts councils, plus artists of all stripes on their own.

The Arts Alliance doesn’t have much of a budget for professional development for its employees, but in this case, that didn’t really matter. Americans for the Arts, the organization that puts on this conference (and does incredible work on arts advocacy, communication and much more throughout the year) makes it a priority to offer scholarships, including some full rides, to arts professionals that need them. I submitted an application, just in case I qualified for a full ride – and I was chosen! This particular scholarship was given for individuals who work with underserved populations, including the rural, isolated communities that we represent throughout northern New Hampshire.

Since my return I’ve continued to think about all I learned there, and before I leave (I’m stepping down on May 27th), I wanted to reflect back on my experience. Here’s what I came up with as three major takeaways from the conference.

First: the importance of finding your authenticity. This was a prominent theme, beginning with Jad Abumrad’s brilliant opening keynote and continuing in smaller sessions on branding, audience engagement and marketing. Having an authentic voice is what makes people trust you, is what makes your emails and your promotional materials compelling, and it is also what tells you if a program is right for your mission. It informs your website and makes your social media interactions feel genuine and real. I think it is especially beneficial for a diverse organization like the Arts Alliance, with many branches of programming and many members to represent, to distill its authenticity, whether from the existing mission statement or through future work, and use that as the benchmark moving forward. It’s equally important for all of our member organizations and really any community organization. And for me as an individual, my work as an arts leader and maker should always come from my own genuine, honest self.

My second takeaway: the importance of taking calculated risks. When we are caught up in the day to day responsibilities of our work – and there are a lot of them! — it can be hard to do this.

Just staying one step ahead is a challenge, but building in the time to not only research options, but to actually take risks is really important. I can especially see this in my email campaigns -rather than doing the same old thing, why not build in riskier new ways of promoting? Some will work, some won’t, but we should make space for experimenting, and then follow it up with tracking. The same is true for programming risks. We need acknowledge that some of our programs are risks –  and we need to accommodate that fact in our planning, perhaps pricing higher to cover ourselves when we don’t break even. This approach can strengthen programming for the long term and give us room to try new things that might not lead directly to success. It’s hard for me to think of an artist or arts organization that this message wouldn’t apply to!

My final takeaway is a bit broader: it’s about the importance of putting the audience, and audience engagement, at the center of everything we do. I was very familiar with Audience Engagement as a topic, and in my theater work it was always on my mind. But I hadn’t realized that an entire organization or major project could be driven from this perspective, even in more complex nonprofits with disparate audiences. As I sat in on sessions on this subject, I realized how it connects to our efforts to broaden our audience base, focus on inclusion, and demystify the arts we’re presenting. All of these efforts are related. Being audience-centric doesn’t mean dumbing down programming. It means making sure we are genuinely reaching out to and connecting with people. And if we can use this concept to frame all our thinking, it clarifies our mission and the purpose of all our work: the point of supporting, promoting and sustaining arts programming in a region is to build, hold and communicate with the current – and potential – audience in that region.

So there you have it – authenticity, calculated risks and audience engagement. How do you think these concepts relate to you, whether in your work for an organization or as an individual artist? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And if you’d like more details from my notes on branding, marketing on a small budget, surveying and more, let me know about your interests and I’ll be glad to share my notes on specific topics.

Thanks for reading and I hope you’ll share your thoughts!

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Developing Perspective Through the Arts

Perspective – the capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance

– Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

 We all have our own perspectives through which we view the world.  Our perspective on any given issue is influenced by our upbringing, our education, the people we encounter, the advantages we’re born with and the stumbling blocks we face as we grow. During adolescence, we begin to consciously develop our own perspectives, as we learn about moral complexity and encounter the often conflicting views of those around us.

The more isolated we are, geographically, economically and socially, the less likely it is that we will be exposed to – and learn from — perspectives different from our own.  Yet this exposure is a critical part of growing up.

At the recent Carsey Institute conference on Coos Youth at White Mountains Community College, a session was dedicated to the importance of out-of-school experiences for young people in Coos County.  The data from the Coos Youth Development Study shows that involvement in structured activities outside of the classroom — from clubs to extended learning classes, outdoor excursions to volunteering — is a key indicator for success beyond high school. This finding seems to me to be directly connected to the importance of diverse experiences as opportunities to gain new perspective.

With this idea in mind, the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire is launching a new regional youth arts initiative.  The goal of this program is to help students find their voice – and their views. Arts education, as Matt D’Arigo, founder of A Reason to Survive (ARTS) recently put it, is the perfect place to “[help] youth express themselves and to find their voice in creative ways…the art instruction comes secondarily and intrinsically as youth strive to hone their voice by learning a chosen medium and wanting to express themselves.”

Our pilot youth arts project in July was a partnership with “Girls of Summer” in Lincoln. This wonderful program, which brings middle- and high-school girls together to hike, read and write, was broadened this year through an Extended Learning for Youth grant from the NH State Council on the Arts to include time with a photographer, painters, a poet and an eco-artist.

When we interviewed “Girls of Summer” participants on the culminating day of their program, they reflected on the benefit of connecting outdoor experiences with the arts. The resounding theme of their conversations was, in fact, “perspective.” One girl said that photographer John Anderson “gave me new perspective…taking pictures or out in nature,” and another mentioned that each of the “different artists had different perspectives… different views than our teachers had.” A third student talked about how something simple, like a rock, that most people would overlook, could become a really important focal point for an artist — it “made you look at something way different than you would” ordinarily. Each student was able to see the land around her in a different light, framing the world through the perspectives modeled by the artists, combined with her own individual interpretation and flair.

As one participant explained, “One of the big things we learned was how your perspective changes [depending on] what you’re doing. We were accustomed to just hiking and writing. When you’re writing, you’re given a prompt, and then you find your perspective, and what you want to connect that to, whereas in painting you have this much smaller picture: You already have a focus and you’re adding in your characters and other things… And then in photography you’re given this landscape, this big beautiful picture and you slowly start taking things away to come to a much smaller focus — but it turns out to be actually much bigger! So we learned how to look through the world and the woods in these three different perspectives that each of our different teachers and hikes taught us.”

We can all benefit from experiences that offer us a different lens through which to view our surroundings.  Learning through nature and the arts offers youth perspectives – both literal and metaphorical – that expand their horizons and make them think about the world in fresh new ways and share their discoveries through paintings, poems, photographs, sculpture, music, dance, and more. We are excited about offering youth throughout northern New Hampshire the opportunity to learn from respected professional artists and also to provide community service through volunteering for local cultural organizations. I hope you’ll send youth interested in the arts (from Coos and the rest of northern NH) our way to get involved during the upcoming school year.

What opportunities do you see in your own communities? Where do you see the greatest need for youth arts in northern NH?  What partnerships should we pursue?

We’re looking for a few students from each high school in the region, as well as adult advisors, mentors and volunteers. You can contact us at programs@aannh.org with names, ideas or suggestions, or learn more about the program here.

Note: a version of this post recently appeared in the Coos Networks site. 

Updates from the Arts Alliance of Northern NH – plus, I’m blogging nationally!

Hi friends!

With the craziness of moving, I’ve been negligent in posting, but I wanted to give you a few quick updates.

1. We’ve created a regional Program Book, and it isn’t too late for your business (or for you) to advertise while supporting quality arts programming across northern NH and beyond. Learn more here! We’re also offering discounted ads as a new member benefit.

2. We’ve got some wonderful events coming up, from professional development opportunities to great artist residencies – visit our website to learn more! I’m particularly excited that Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem will be performing and hosting a community jam (location TBA any day now)!

3. I was asked to contribute to blogs to the Americans for the Arts Rural Arts Blog Salon! One is on Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern NH, and the other is about cultivating a sense of place and environmental literacy in northern NH.

I’m honored to have been a part of it, and hope you’ll check it out if you have a moment – there are some great blog posts and discussion on their website.

p.s. Personal plug – I’m performing with my fiance and a couple of talented theater friends on Friday, March 7th in Bethlehem as a part of First Friday at my fiance’s new music studio (in the WREN Central offices behind WREN local works). If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by! Open house with tea and treats starts at 5 p.m., with music from 6-8 p.m. It’s a great night out (gallery openings, etc.) if you haven’t visited yet.

Snowy Days in Piermont, NH And Beyond!

What a snow-filled week it’s been! I hope you’re staying warm!

Amidst the snowdrifts and chilly temperatures, we’ve been busy at the Arts Alliance. Friday I spent the morning at Piermont Village School, where traditional Andean musician Sergio Espinoza of Inkas Wasi was in residence with workshops and an all-school assembly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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The students learned about the history, culture, and (their favorite part) music of the people of the Andes, and in the afternoon they enjoyed an assembly full of traditional music and dance.  One of the most fascinating things for the kids was the variety of sizes of Andean flutes – they ranged from one that fits in the palm of your hand to a pair of flutes more than five feet tall that must be used together to play a scale!

We’re planning to bring Sergio back — along with three other musicians and two dancers — for a regional residency this spring, as part of our “Experiencing the World” multicultural programming. In addition to Inkas Wasi, we will be presenting dance, theater, mime, music and poetry residencies this winter and spring with renowned artists from all around New OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEngland.   Get involved by reaching out to me at Jamie@aannh.org.

I wonder what arts programs you remember from your own childhood – I’d love for you to share! My favorites included poets, inspiring talks –including one about the Gullah people that I especially  loved. I also enjoyed field trips to see theater performances and experience museums.

Finally, we’re always looking for stories about why the arts — and the Arts Alliance! —  are important to you. We’d love to hear from you.           Arts in Education

p.s. If you have a story about rural/small-town America, maybe you should share it with NPR. Learn more here.

Oops! Why I Finally “Get” The Arts-Based Classroom

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the arts in education. As a music and theater instructor, I love to teach the arts, and I’ve taught the arts in plenty of preschool and kindergarten settings. But it wasn’t until recently, in my work with AANNH, that I started to get excited about all of the ways that arts permeate good classroom teaching. I didn’t think, for instance, of using a fifth grade classroom as a setting for arts-based learning.  Now, I’m not saying I didn’t know it could happen – but it was never something I articulated,  and much as I love the arts, perhaps an arts-based classroom seemed like a luxury…not something that everyone could afford.

And yet, when I think about it, what sticks out from fifth grade? The autobiography we had to write – which I got WAY too engrossed in. I think the final product is 120+ pages, and yes, I still have it. And our writing journals – I remember a lot of poetry writing and journaling. My poor writing instructor let me write backwards, so you  had to hold it up to a mirror to see it, for many weeks before saying, “Jamie, I just don’t want to have to keep getting out of bed to go hold your journal up to a mirror when I do grading. Sorry.” Or I think of the awesome talent show we had around the holidays, where one of my friends sang a Mariah Carey song and I recited a Robert Frost poem with a puppet.

Or fourth grade? I remember acting out Aesop’s Fables with puppets in a series of songs and skits. And my first money-making venture was in fourth grade, when I made photocopies of my original stories (based on fictional versions of my classmates) and sold them for $1 each on the playground. Memory says I made about $20! (I also wrote a rap to remember the 10 NH counties.)

You might be thinking that the only reason the arts were so memorable in my education is that I am an “arts person”, but it turns out that arts experiences, whether integrated into a class by the classroom teacher or during special events where an artist comes into the classroom, tend to be what we remember most about our education. And some of the “arts” aren’t things we’d commonly recognize that way, so the creativity we often learn through the arts can translate in ways you wouldn’t expect. Arts jobs can include writers, architects, museum curators, graphic designers, translators, engineers and museum technicians and conservators…and of course without creativity, it’s hard to imagine scientists, computer programmers, or all sorts of other fields! And part of what makes educators so effective is their creativity – great teachers know that the “arts”, in all of its forms, make for excellent teaching methods.

So if the most memorable parts of our education generally involved the arts, it’s pretty clear that if you want your students to remember what they learn for the long term, the arts are an integral piece of that puzzle. Some of you probably think this is common sense, but I think a lot of us, including most of society, either aren’t aware of the importance of the arts in classrooms, or are aware of it but haven’t taken the time to articulate it, like I just did. I’ve been preaching the importance of the arts forever, but had I ever sat down and tried to imagine my education without it? Nope.

What would your education have looked like without the arts? I bet we all have a favorite moment or two, probably for every year we were in school, that involved the arts. (I’d love for you to share an anecdote with me in the comments section!) And if by chance for you they really, truly, weren’t a part of your education, how might your experience have been different if a teacher had encouraged you to act out a story, to create a timeline or write a poem?

I think one of the best things about the Arts Alliance is the quality programing it supports. If AANNH is going to hold an event, it will showcase folks who are the best in their field, with the best training and knowledge of the best resources. Not that there aren’t a lot of great organizations in NH, but you really can’t go wrong in attending one of our conferences, at least from what I can see.

They’re inexpensive. They’re thoroughly researched and well-executed, driven by evidence and the latest thinking, combined with experienced instructors with practical knowledge to share. And they’re fun!

So yes, if I was a teacher needing some professional development credit or a few new ideas for my classroom, I wouldn’t hesitate to sign up for something interesting.

Coming Soon:

We’ve got a few awesome events coming up. The first is one of our Arts in Early Learning conferences, and this one focuses on the well-loved book Where The Wild Things Are. You can learn more about it here. And if you need any more convincing on how the arts offer great tools for teaching, check out this inspiring article and/or video.

If incorporating environmental literacy through the arts is more relevant to what you do, our second workshop in this series is coming up on November 18th.

And after that, we’ve got a free workshop on Integrated Arts on November 19th with Trisha Lindberg at 4 p.m. From 3-4, we’re having a meetup for anyone interested in the NH Arts Learning Network – please stop by and meet me!

So between that and a bunch of networking events to spread the word about us and our members, I’ve got a lot on my plate this week, but I’m thrilled to dive in.

Final note? If you’re an Arts Alliance member, on November 13th we’ll be at the Coos County Business Expo. We’ll have a table set up to showcase the programs/services/art/events of our members, so whether you’re in Coos or not, please connect with me ASAP so that we can promote you!