Author Archives: annmariemiller

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Public Service IS an Art Form

If you haven’t read this, you MUST!  Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation President Chris Daggett delivered the commencement speech last week to the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.

Considering the toxic tone of political discourse that is evident most everywhere lately, Chris talks about how the call to public service is a high calling, worthy of the best and brightest of our students and citizens.

He is spot on.  And one part sounds like it was written for NJ arts advocates.  Read this slowly. 

Your voices matter. You can reframe how the “public commons” functions. You can build community and consensus. You can take advantage of the new forms of social networking – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and many more, to collaborate and to change our political climate. You can awaken those who are sleeping. You can serve a larger purpose than partisan or personal victories. You can recognize and embrace diversity. You can improve our democracy.

Yes YOU can.  Now get to it!  And if you’re scratching your head about “how to” go here for some inspiration!


Yes, it’s a new year. There are bills to be paid, contracts to complete, but first the brain needs to be cleared out.  A new year’s resolution?  Perhaps!

On Sunday I attended a memorial service for a colleague whom I have know for nearly 30 years–hard to believe all by itself!  Berda Rittenhouse was my “roomie,” which is the way I’ve lately described her.  First at 109 West State Street when the NJ State Council on the Arts was located there–I roomed with Berda and Cecily Laidman who was the Crafts Coordinator, a position long gone.  Berda was the Arts in Education Coordinator and an inspiration.  Lively, entertaining, madly disorganized, but an overachiever who defined the phrase “mover and shaker.” Berda brought people together all in the name of arts education, and an amazing group of people were in her circle–from Martha Clarke to Stephen Dunn to Lenwood Sloan to Horacee Arnold to Jacob Landau to Carolyn Dorfman to numerous other artists I can’t remember (anyone is welcome to help me remember), all involved in the Council’s Artist Teacher Institute.

This blog post could go on forever citing Berda’s contributions and accomplishments.  Apparently she was an actress (I had no clue!), but most of all she will be remembered for her enthusiasm, joyful approach to life and work, and for her generous spirit.  I will miss her phone calls that always began, “Hi, dear!” and for her companionship on our advocacy visits to Washington, DC.  Her spirit will live on through her many contributions to life and through the many relationships and friendships she nurtured lovingly throughout her life.

NJ @ World Creativity Conference

There are 14 arts reps at the World Creativity Conference being held in Oklahoma City right now through Wednesday.  Creative Oklahoma is leading the way with big minds sharing thoughts (Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Pink, Andrew Zolli, David Pogue and more!  We’ll be sharing the blogging goin on from our colleagues…Here’s the first entry from Bob Morrison.   Follow #wcf2010 on Twitter!

Why Creativity Matters

On November 15-17, 2010 leaders from around the world will converge in Oklahoma City for the 2010 Creativity World Forum. This global event will explore how creativity and innovation drive commerce, culture and education, and will feature some of the world’s greatest thinkers in this area such as The New York Times best-selling author Daniel Pink (“A Whole New Mind;” “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”) and the noted international advisor on arts in education, creativity and self-fulfillment, Sir Ken Robinson. It will include business leaders who “walk the talk” like Blake Mycoskie (founder and chief shoe giver of TOMS Shoes Inc.) and Erik Logan (President of Harpo Productions). There will be a CEO session on innovation, giving back and creative capitalism (hosted by Forbes Magazine). David Pogue, Andrew Zolli and Robert Tercek will be there to push the technology envelope.

When I talk about this forum with people, the first question I hear is, “Why does creativity matter?” And then, “Why Oklahoma?”

Why does creativity matter?

The short answer is because the future of our country depends on it. Our country’s creative capacity will determine our economic success or failure for the next several generations.

Recently in the United States the volume level has been rising around the topic of “The Creativity Crisis.” As a matter of fact, in a July 2010 Newsweek cover story using that exact title, the authors explored the issue from a variety of viewpoints. None was more jarring to me than the work of Kyung Hee Kim at the College of William & Mary whose research on Torrance scores is leading the way.

Since 1958, the “Torrance score” or “CQ” has been used to measure children’s creativity through a series of 25 creative activities. There is a strong connection to childhood creativity and one’s creative output as an adult: childhood CQ’s correlation to lifetime creative accomplishment is three times stronger than childhood IQ. Dr. Kim’s analysis of over 300,000 Torrance scores of children and adults shows that American CQ scores steadily rose until the 1990s and have since been trending downward, particularly among elementary-school aged children.

Some may say, so what? Well, let’s see what our business leaders have to say about it. According to a recent survey of 1,500 chief executives, conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, CEOs identify “creativity” as the most important leadership competency for the successful enterprise of the future.

So, our students are showing a decline in creativity while our business leaders are saying this is THE most important leadership competency. This is what I call a conundrum. Something will have to give.

Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity as “ the process of having original ideas that have value.” This then leads us to the larger point: How do we develop an environment where the process of generating original ideas that have value may flourish? If creativity is what our businesses want – and our educational system is not addressing this as a need – we have to make a change.

As advocates, we know that finding the right solutions to this conundrum will have many ramifications for the future of quality music and arts education programs in our schools.

Oklahoma…..and then the rest of America?

The answer to the question of “Why Oklahoma?” is simple although it may not be obvious.

Leaders in Oklahoma have been pushing an intentional strategy to address creativity in their state. Led by the non-profit group Creative Oklahoma, this initiative has brought together leaders from business, government, non-profit, culture and education to develop an intentional strategy to create an environment where creativity may flourish.

Creative Oklahoma’s relentless focus on the intersection of commerce, culture and education has either been directly responsible or been a catalyst to advancements in the state’s creativity and innovation efforts as well as in positioning the state to be competitive on a global basis in the future. Leaders from creative districts around the world will gather at the World Creativity Forum to learn some of the lessons from Oklahoma as well as to share their own strategies and knowledge about how to intentionally plan, nurture and grow successful regional efforts to spur on creativity and innovation.

Leaders from emerging regions here in the United States will attend with the aim to establish the first network of creative districts in our country. I am part of a 15 person delegation from New Jersey.

Susan McCalmont, of the Kirkpatrick Foundation and one of Creative Oklahoma’s founders, says, “This Forum brings together entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, knowledge workers, educators, cultural leaders and policy makers from across the globe and provides opportunities for learning and sharing ideas to help propel us all to the next level.”

Let’s hope she is right. Because the more our country focuses on our “creativity crisis,” the more it will illuminate the important role that music and the arts play in the development of our young people.

When There are Clouds, You’ll Get By if you just…

Another year, another NJSCA annual meeting on a hot summer day.  This year arts administrators were smiling, but we’ve been trained through the MFA Program in Hart Knocks to be happy with whatever we receive in government support.  This year, in yet another tough budget cycle, the new administration and legislature supported the minimums specified in the law, namely the Hotel/Motel Occupancy Fee of 2003.  What wasn’t emphasized was that the cultural community (read arts AND history) lost $4 million in principal for the NJ Cultural Trust.  That money (instead of the Cultural Projects or NJ Historical Commission appropriations) was doled out in earmarks to major arts/cultural destinations like Battleship NJ, The Newark Museum, and the Old Barracks Museum. The net result will be less Cultural Trust grants awarded for “stability.” Is there an irony here?

Certainly, these institutions are worthy of state support at the levels they require. Even with this support, these major facilities are facing curtailed hours and significant layoffs.  All cultural groups, large and small, north and south, rural, urban and suburban, are having to re-invent how they are perceived by the general public, how they do business, attract patrons/clients, etc.  We’re all in this together.

Let’s not fool anyone, though.  We’re all still hurting.  We’re all still being as creative as we can with relatively less money and trying to swim instead of treading water.  The money still isn’t where it needs to be in total (doesn’t the same law say $22.68 million for arts support?) , and we still have a big job to do to make sure the public understands that the arts are business, and to be successful everyone has to “play their part,” from the artists, audience members and donors, trustees, to the vendors/suppliers to the (for the most part) underpaid staffers.

Hang in there and keep reminding everyone that the only reason “The Jersey Shore” isn’t the bottom line, the final word about NJ culture, is because there’s great work being done by non-profit arts groups on pennies and prayers!

The Ties that Bind

So what is it that really ties us together?  In crisis, which the arts are no stranger to, I am often revived by feedback from the field that reinforces the value not only of the arts to society at large, but how it finds a truly unique way to bind us together.

Emotionally and spiritually–in friendship as colleagues–by shared experiences and challenges. And always by the art on our stages, in our music halls, on our pages, vessels, canvases, and now on our digital computer screens.  With thread, sand, clay, paint, instruments of all sorts including our voices, and video cameras.

Hang in there New Jersey arts community.  Better days are yet to come, and we  ARE bound together rather tightly.  All thoughts are welcome!

Arts Education in 2020?

On Thursday morning, June 24, 2010, I arrived at the Americans for the Arts Arts Education pre-conference.  It was my first time at AFTA, so I arrived early and with a little apprehension. I met another attendee; we were the first to arrive.  As we waited together we discussed why we came and what we hoped to get from the experience.  By the time the pre-conference started, I had really made a new friend!

We received homework ahead of time.  We were going to work on the seven identified trends in arts education.  Jeanne Schulze of Jeanne Schulze & Associates and members of the AFTA Arts Education Council facilitated our World Cafe discussions.  Jeanne asked us, “What can a student/constituency-centered arts education be in 2020?”  I thought, “How could we accomplish that in two half-days?  Where do we want to be?”

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