Evaluation Action Area
I co-direct Animating Democracy, launched in 1999 as a program of Americans for the Arts, that informs, promotes, and connects arts and culture as potent contributors to community, civic, and social change. Animating Democracy centers its efforts to bring visibility to and demonstrate the public value of creative work that contributes to social change; and to inform public and privates sector leaders about this work.
Animating Democracy works in four areas: 1) Resource Development, 2) Research, 3) Evaluation and Casemaking, and 4) Strategic Alliances. Our goals are to: advance field and cross-sector knowledge; generate greater visibility for how arts-based strategies fuel community building and problem solving; promote joint endeavors between the arts and other sectors of public life; and advocate for public and private sector policies, practices, and funding that integrate the talents of artists and cultural organizations toward healthy and equitable communities. We place high value on learning from practitioners and regularly connect and collaborate with organizations and field leaders working on the ground to draw on their expertise and different perspectives in the planning and implementation of our programs and services.
My early work with the Arts Extension Service at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (AES) fostered a commitment to cultural development in communities and community development through arts and culture. I have worked regionally and nationally in festival production, public art, arts and special needs, and community cultural planning. In the late 1990s, I began working with Barbara Schaffer Bacon on a study commissioned by The Ford Foundation about the role of arts in civic dialogue. This work launched Animating Democracy, which is now part of Americans for the Arts. Animating Democracy engages in leading edge community arts approaches and practices that support opportunities for artists and community cultural development. My work focuses on documenting and disseminating best practices through publications and training.
I’m proud of the action-based research Animating Democracy has done including regranting three million dollars in support of arts and civic dialogue projects across the country and deep documentation of learning from these projects and other initiatives. These include three books: Civic Dialogue, Arts & Culture: Findings from Animating Democracy and Critical Perspectives: Writings on Art & Civic Dialogue co-edited with Caron Atlas. She is also co-editor of Case Studies from Animating Democracy.
Animating Democracy’s Arts & Civic Engagement IMPACT Initiative works to advance understanding of the social impact of arts and social change work through Field Labs engaging arts practitioners, evaluators, and funders, and a dynamic online storehouse of evaluation resources. In this way, I am connecting IMPACT initiative work to ACSJN’s Evaluation Action Area. The Arts & Social Change Mapping Initiative documents the spectrum of ways arts and culture are being activated to make change.
I live in Amherst, MA where I like to walk the farm and woods at the end of my street and sing badly but with abandon in an awesome community rock chorus.