Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’

“If you’re in an arts program, it keeps your mind occupied and keeps you on a positive train of thought.”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Our last testimony came from Claire Schwadron, Director of Project Youth ArtReach of Class Acts Arts. Here’s what she said about Project Youth ArtReach’s work with incarcerated youth:

Good Evening.  My name is Claire Schwadron, and I am an arts administrator, art teacher and 23-year resident of Montgomery County.  I am director of Project Youth ArtReach of Class Acts Arts. I am here to thank the council for its on-going support for the arts, and in particular, for the council’s funding support of the Arts and Humanities Council.

Many of us know the power of art to touch lives, but art also has the power to change lives, especially the lives of people on the margins of society: adults with disabilities, senior citizens, homeless children, and teens at high-risk for academic failure or gang violence.

Funding for the Arts and Humanities Council supports the work I do to deliver positive intervention programs to incarcerated young people, a group of youth who are predominantly of color, poor, suffer from learning disabilities and mental health issues, live with substance abuse and violence, and feel disconnected to the greater community.

At the Alfred D. Noyes Children’s Center in Rockville and the Montgomery County jail in Boyds, young offenders – both male and female – can participate in poetry, theatre, drumming, drawing and painting workshops through Project Youth ArtReach.

Our skills-based arts programs are taught by master artists who offer youth a chance to learn new skills, to work as team, to take “healthy risks,” to share ideas and concerns, to experience positive thoughts about themselves and others and thereby raise their self esteem. By focusing on the strengths and assets of teen-agers, rather than their deficits and problems, youth have a chance to increase their cognitive, linguistic, social and civic development.

Research shows that the arts are a positive and cost-effective means of intervention in correctional settings. Inmates enrolled in arts programs “demonstrate reduced infractions, reduced racism, increased cooperation and reduced rates of recidivism.”[1]

After designing and painting a mural, it is then donated back into our community — like the one in your conference room, or the one at Northwood High School, or Wheaton Ice Arena. Through our mural projects, these youth are connected to their community, and can experience a sense of altruism – often for the first time.

I want to quote from two letters from young men at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility:

“In jail, you’re around people that were doing things they shouldn’t have been doing.  You feed each other negative ideas.  But if you’re in an arts program it keeps your mind occupied and keeps you on a positive train of thought.”

“I have been incarcerated for 17 months and during that time I have participated in both of the mural painting programs . . .  I have found that these programs have provided a wonderful means by which to express myself in a highly constructive and creative manner . . . it is a great relief for both the mind and the soul.”

Arts programs are efficient, cost-effective and can have a great impact on the lives of traumatized and estranged young people.  Most incarcerated teens will return to their communities, and to the streets. Arts programs improve their chances for success in life.

I urge you to maintain the level of funding for the Arts & Humanities Council as recommended for the FY12 budget.

Thank you.

[1] Susan Hill, “This is for Anthony Beard,” in Teaching the Arts Behind Bars, ed. Rachel Marie-Crain Williams (Boston: Northeastern University Press, University Press of New England, 2003).

After this testimony, Council President Valerie Ervin spoke very positively about the mural in the Council conference room. “Whenever we have the opportunity to use the room with that amazing mural, which is so powerful, every time I see it I just cannot tell you how proud we are to have that here…We are reminded of what it is that you do for the youth and how powerful that is…we’re here talking about schools, but the forgotten youth in our community are what you all uplift, and we really appreciate that.” Go Claire!

“In order to meet the demand for innovation in the marketplace, we must continue to teach the skills of imagination in the classroom.”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Our second testimony on April 5 came from Mark Drury, Vice President of Business Development for Shapiro and Duncan, a Rockville-based mechanical contracting company. We met him last year, when we produced the IGNITE! Conference on Transforming Business With Creativity. Here’s what he had to say about the role of creativity and innovation in the workforce:

Good evening President Ervin and honored Councilmembers:

Thank you all for the great work you do every day for the citizens of this County and for your perseverance and effort in long days like today.

My name is Mark Drury, Vice President of Business Development for Shapiro and Duncan, a 35th year Rockville mechanical contractor. We employ locally 435 individuals who help support their 435 families putting a lot of meals on the table every week.

We take a great deal of pride in the workforce we assemble and the quality of the work that they do.  Our workforce is extremely diverse and includes a broad range of skills; abilities; and levels of training and education.

When we are hiring for any position we look at qualifications but the differentiator in whether or not the position is offered is for the most part based upon an evaluation of that individual’s attitude toward life.  Are they confident? Do they take pride in their work? Are they problem solvers? Do they work well in a team environment? Those who can present those attributes are most often offered a spot on our team.

Through in-school and after-school programs, the arts and humanities sector nurtures creativity and imagination in our youth and these experiences foster the development of the abilities and characteristics that are so valued in our business: innovation, perseverance, team work, creative problem solving and the ability to entertain new possibilities thinking outside of the box.

We believe that creativity is one of the most important leadership qualities and that a creative workforce is better prepared to break with the status quo of industry, enterprise and revenue models, and that innovation is a “crucial capability.”

In order to meet the demand for innovation in the marketplace, we must continue to teach the skills of imagination in the classroom.

As citizens of this great nation we are concerned that America, a historic leader in innovation, is falling behind as it devotes less attention to developing the essential skills of imagination and innovation. All around us matters of national and international importance cry out for creative solutions, from saving the Chesapeake Bay to containing the nuclear crisis in Japan.

We provide innovative solutions to complex and demanding construction projects in this area everyday.  We know how critical the creativity of our workforce is to our success, so we constantly search for that as an attribute which separates an individual from the masses and ask that they join our successful team. We see firsthand how creativity fosters tomorrow’s innovative workforce and how the spirit of entrepreneurship is characterized by boldness, risk-taking, and, above all, creativity.

We know that you have difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks as you finalize the FY12 Operating Budget and balance County expenses and revenue.  We understand that cuts must be made and that they must be across the board.  We ask for your continued support of the creative sector in Montgomery County ensuring the ready availability of a creative workforce for businesses in Montgomery County which helps maintain our competitive advantage.

Thank you for your time, your patience and your understanding.

Updated December 6, 2011: Support the development of the 21st century workforce by contributing just $12 to AHCMC’s 2012 Overture! Your donation will support AHCMC’s work in supporting arts integration residencies, capacity-building workshops and other services for Montgomery County’s cultural community and creative workforce.

“The arts and humanities are a good public sector investment.”

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

On Tuesday night, Montgomery County’s arts and humanities community came together to meet and greet County Councilmembers at the Advocacy Potluck and to support our three speakers at the public hearing. The public hearing had an an incredible turnout (more than we had ever seen before!), so if you weren’t able to grab a seat, we’ll be posting the testimonies here.

Our first speaker was our very own Suzan Jenkins, CEO of AHCMC. Here’s the written testimony she submitted:

Good Evening. I am Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County and a twenty-two year resident of Rockville. I begin my testimony this evening by simply saying Thank You.

Thank You for your past support for funding the arts and humanities in previous Montgomery County Operating Budgets.

Thanks for considering support of the FY12 budget recommendation which includes a 15% decrease in funding for arts and humanities grants.

Given the severe financial climate in the County and the nation, we appreciate that all areas of the budget are under close scrutiny. We understand that by making tough choices in this budget year, County Council is paving the way for a more secure and prosperous future.  And in a severe recession, perhaps government is even asking why the arts and humanities should receive funding when there are so many other pressing needs? Well, the answer is simple.  The arts and humanities are a good public sector investment.

Here are six reasons why:

#1. JOBS! Over 2800 jobs in Montgomery County that can never be outsourced. The arts and humanities sector puts people to work.  Not just artists and scholars, but electricians, marketers, technicians, teachers, designers, carpenters, parking staff, caterers and workers in a wide variety of other trades and professions. Like other industries, the staff we employ pay mortgages, local taxes, and purchase goods and services right here in Montgomery County.

#2. The arts and humanities sector is a magnet for business. The Montgomery County Department of Economic Development’s web page notes that “…with our world-class conference and performing arts venues …it’s easy to see why Montgomery County, Maryland is “The SMARTBusiness Location.” Our sector attracts companies that want to offer their employees and clients a creative climate and an attractive community with high amenity value.

#3. The creative sector attracts a highly-skilled and desirable workforce. Companies’ decisions about where to locate their businesses often are influenced by factors such as the ready availability of a creative workforce and the quality of life available to employees.  Certainly the County’s burgeoning biotech industry is looking for that creative workforce to give their business that competitive edge. The most desirable high-wage jobs require employees with creativity and higher order problem solving and communications skills.

#4. The creative sector increases a community’s prosperity as well as its quality of life. The arts: make neighborhoods attractive places to live, work and play; help to develop, redevelop and revitalize blighted areas and strengthen both commercial and residential housing markets. This is evidenced in our three Arts & Entertainment Districts – Bethesda, Silver Spring and soon, Wheaton. The creative sector fuels the tax base, the economy and enhances property values.

#5. Return on Investment. Right now, today, the arts and humanities industry is pumping over $52 million annually back into our economy through direct expenditures on everything from paper clips and cans of paint to employee compensation ($29.7 Million), to contracts for services and supplies uniquely spent by this sector.  For every dollar the County gives AHCMC in grants, arts and humanities organizations match it with an additional $14.26 in city/state/federal/ donated and contributed income.

#6. We innovate. We leverage significant private and public investments to deepen our impact.  The Nonprofit Energy Alliance, a partnership with Nonprofit Montgomery, Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light, the Nonprofit Roundtable, and the Department of Environmental Protection saves its 26 participating organizations annually about $250,000 in fixed utility expenses, allowing organizations to reduce expenditures on electricity and free up resources for their core missions while significantly reducing their carbon footprint.

There’s no doubt about it, Montgomery County’s arts and cultural resources are an economic asset. The creative sector provides jobs, attracts investments, and stimulates local economies through tourism, consumer purchases, and tax revenue. Perhaps even more significantly, the creative sector prepares workers to participate in the contemporary labor force, create communities with high appeal to residents, businesses, and tourists, and contribute to the economic success of other sectors.

I urge you tonight to continue to recognize the arts and humanities in Montgomery County as your partner in economic recovery and thank you for your continued support.

Arts & Humanities Advocate Spotlight: Sharon Ann Holt

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

We’ve made today the day for the cultural community in Montgomery County to voice their support for the arts and humanities to the County Executive and County Council! Here’s what Sharon Ann Holt, Executive Director of Sandy Spring Museum sent:

You have shown in past years the wisdom to keep investing in the arts and humanities, and we thank you for that visionary leadership. As you know, those investments have a profound positive REVENUE impact beyond their cultural and social positives.

In 2009, arts and humanities organizations provided 2852 jobs and engaged 6435 volunteers or a total workforce of 9217. Moreover, every $1 invested by Montgomery County in the arts and humanities was matched by $14.26 in city/state/federal and private dollars.

As we face the future as an increasingly diverse community, the arts and cultural organizations will be ones holding it all together and teaching people how to cherish and respect their neighbors. To be able to do that while supporting jobs and multiplying the impact of the county’s support FOURTEEN TIMES means the arts and humanities are a superb investment in even the hardest economic times.

Sharon, thank you for stepping up and taking action!

As we’ve said before, YOU are the best advocate for the arts and humanities. If you’ve sent an e-mail to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council through their online form (I hope you have), feel free to send us a copy. You may see it here on our blog!

Need a place to start? Visit our Take Action page for sample text for your e-mail to Montgomery County.

Why, hello.

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

So this blog has been pretty quiet for the past couple of weeks, not because we have nothing to blog about but because we’re just so darn busy!

Here’s some of what we’ve been up to and what we’re working on:

  • Advocacy Potluck Supper and County Council hearing: On Monday, April 5, we held an Advocacy Potluck Supper with Montgomery County Councilmembers. Over 100 representatives from the arts and humanities community showed up in green garb to ask the Council to Give the Green Light to the Arts and Humanities — thanks to all who came!
    Three representatives from the arts and humanities community spoke at the public hearing: our CEO, Suzan Jenkins; artist Lauren Cook; and Strathmore artist-in-residence Christylez Bacon. All did an excellent job of representing the arts and humanities, and Council President Nancy Floreen even told Christylez after his testimony, “I think you just gave everyone in this room hope.”
  • Marketing Managers Networking Breakfast: We had our monthly Marketing Managers Networking Breakfast on Friday, April 16 and were joined by Tonya R. Taylor of Rising Star Ideas, LLC. She spoke to us about leveraging Twitter for business success, and it was a really great session — look out for an upcoming workshop offering!

  • Legal Issues for Creative Entrepreneurs workshop series: Our Legal Issues for Creative Entrepreneurs workshop series is well underway! There are two sessions left: Negotiation Skills and Tax Strategies. Click here for details and registration.
  • Afternoon of Traditional World Music: Montgomery Traditions will be presenting a stage on Saturday, April 24 from 12:00 to 2:00 pm for the Amnesty International Human Rights Art Festival. This free program will feature Hindustani vocal music and El Salvadorian folk music from Samia Mahbub Ahmad and Lilo Gonzalez. Check out the event’s listing on DOandGO.org for more information.
  • Ignite! Conference: This is the biggie! On Friday, June 4, we’ll be presenting the Ignite! Conference on transforming business with creativity at the Universities at Shady Grove in Rockville, MD. Join keynote speaker Seth Kahan, pioneers in business creativity and 200 fellow entrepreneurs, business leaders and creatives for a day of innovation and fun! For more information, visit the website. We hope to see you there!

Miss us and having AHCMC withdrawals? Be sure you’re following us on Twitter and liking us on Facebook!

Census 2010 begins in March. We all need to be counted!

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

By now, you might have received your Census 2010 form in the mail. (Don’t worry if you haven’t received yours — it’s on the way!)  Forms were mailed for March delivery to households throughout the country. When you receive the form, just take a moment to complete the form and return it.  A complete and accurate count of the population is important as the Census 2010 data will be used in allocating Federal resources, including seats in the House of Representatives. With economic resources and representation at the Federal level at stake, it’s easy to understand why this is important. Since the Census 2000, Montgomery County’s population has grown and is more diverse, so it is crucial that County residents respond to the Census 2010 to assure a complete and accurate count.

So don’t procrastinate when you receive your Census 2010 form in mail — fill it out and return it by mail.  The Census 2010 form contains only 10 questions and can completed in about 10 minutes. How simple is that?

April 1, 2010 is National Census 2010 Day.
Use this date as a deadline for sending your completed census form back in by mail.

Here are a few FAQs about the Census 2010:

Why is the Census 2010 important to Montgomery County?

  • Because Census 2010 data will be used to parcel out $400 billion annually in Federal funds – including funds for education, health care, and other social services.
  • Because Census 2010 data will be used to apportion seats in the House of Representatives and shape Congressional Districts.
  • According to the Brookings Institution the national average for federal funds allocated on the basis of the census is now $1,415 per-person.  So every person counted will “bring in”  $14,150 over the next decade.
  • Census 2010 data will be used to guide State and local apportionments of budget resources.
  • An under count of County’s population will have a detrimental effect on the schools and crucial social services infrastructure.

Who needs to be counted in Census 2010?

  • Everyone who is a resident of the United States Montgomery County.
  • You need to be counted even if you are currently homeless.
  • Your immigration status is not a factor, if you reside in Montgomery County and the United States you need to be counted.

What you can do and what is involved in responding to Census 2010?

  • Talk to your neighbors, co-workers, and friends and tell them to complete the Census 2010 form and return the completed forms by mail.
  • If you know people who are reluctant to respond, encourage them to complete and return the form.  Invite them to look at some of the information online at the links below.
  • From late April through July census workers will make in person visits to addresses that have not responded.  The census workers will have official ID tags.

Who has access to the Census 2010 data?

  • Your private information is never published, your privacy is protected by law.
  • Title 13 of the U.S. Code protects the confidentiality of all your information and violating this law is a crime with severe penalties.
  • By law, the Census Bureau cannot share an individual’s personal information with anyone, including other federal agencies and law enforcement entities.

Where should you be counted?

  • Most people should be counted in the residence in which they live most of the time.
  • People living in group homes, shelters, emergency and transitional shelters for homeless should be counted at those locations
  • Military personnel should be counted: on base in the barracks in the United States, if off base at the residence where they live most of the time. If stationed or deployed overseas the count will use the military’s records for home address.
  • College students should be counted at home if living with parents while attending college.  If living on campus or in off-campus housing students should be counted at their respective residences.
  • Foreign citizens living in the United States should be counted at their residence in the U.S.  Foreign citizens visiting for vacation or business trips are not counted.

The following are web site links for the official Census 2010 web site and online information:

Census 2010 information in select Languages

* There are additional language translations on the Census 2010 web site.

Why YOU’LL be missed on Arts Advocacy Day

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I’ve thought, “No matter, no one will notice if I don’t make that event.” But on Tuesday, February 9, 2010, Maryland Arts Day, that thought could not be further from the truth.

On February 2, 2010, The Community Arts Network (CAN) noted that the Obama Administration released its FY 2011 budget request to Congress which included cuts to the NEA, NEH, IMLS and the Department of Education’s Arts in Education program. In a press statement, Americans for the Arts President & CEO Robert Lynch noted (2/1/10), “The Administration’s FY 2011 budget request of $161.3 million for the National Endowment for the Arts–while just a fraction of the $6.3 billion of direct expenditures for all arts nonprofits in the United States–is unfortunately a $6 million decrease from what Congress appropriated for FY 2010. Also, the consolidation of the Arts in Education (AIE) program within the Department of Education’s new ‘Effective Teaching and Learning for Well-Rounded Education’ category puts us at unease and could lead to a diminished focus on arts education.”

At the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, we’re worried that these federal cuts will send a message to state legislators that it’s ok to cut the budget for the arts and humanities. Our anecdotal research tells us that in 2009, many of our large organization grantees noted changes in marketing strategies, program plans and fundraising strategies to adjust to decreases in contributed and earned income from ticket sales, subscriptions, and camp programs. With one exception, all organizations we interviewed reported declines in corporate and foundation giving. Recognizing the current economic situation, organizations noted that they are focusing their energies on maintaining current relationships with funders and not spending limited staffing resources pursuing new relationships. That means that business development is slowing for these organizations and we all know that it takes much longer to grow when you slow development.

So if there has ever been a time that we’ve needed your support to send the message that it is critical to hold the line on the budget for the arts and humanities at the federal, state and local levels, that time is NOW! YOUR presence, YOUR voice, YOUR testimony is critical. Remember,  legislators are in place to serve  their constituents. Our every vote, our every voice counts.

Know that if you don’t come to Annapolis next Tuesday for Maryland Arts Day, you’ll be sorely missed.

We look forward to seeing your face in the place.

Registration for Maryland Arts Day is being handled through Maryland Citizens for the Arts. Visit their website to register: mdarts.org