Three Good Things (And One Bad Thing) We Learned At AFTA 2019
SmartSimple recently exhibited at the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) 2019 Annual Convention in Minneapolis. For over 60 years, the AFTA Annual Convention has brought together the movers and shakers of the arts industry, including advocates and funders. This year, the four-day, more than 1,000 arts professionals and funders participated to discuss arts education, cultural diversity, developing arts programs and events in local communities and more. Daily learning sessions focused on a series of core themes, including the value of inclusion, accessibility, and investing in the arts.
There are few things were learned during our time at AFTA this year.
The arts are good for community health
Medical research indicates that arts participation has broad wellness benefits, particularly during hospitalization and ongoing treatment. According to an American Journal of Public health meta-analysis of more than 100 studies, personal engagement in music, visual arts, movement-based expression, and creative writing has been shown to reduce heart rates, respiratory rates, blood pressure, pain, fatigue, cortisol levels, anxiety, depression, preoccupation with illness, and physical and emotional distress during treatment. Through these studies, it’s proven that art plays a vital role in improving the mental and physical health of communities.
The arts are good for inclusion and cultural understanding
According to polls conducted by AFTA in 2017, 87% of Americans believe the arts are crucial to their quality of life. Meanwhile, 62% feel the arts help them better understand other cultures, and 67% believe the arts unify communities, regardless of age, race, and ethnicity. During the convention, there was an emphasis on inclusion in the art sector. There were several discussions on how there’s a critical need to make art more accessible to artists from all identities and backgrounds.
However, the news wasn’t all good.
Federal funding for the arts is decreasing
Based on a 2019 report by the National Endowments of the Arts (NEA), anindependent federal agency whose funding and support give Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, their budget isn’t keeping pace with inflation and has been losing its share of federal spending. If adjusted, their 1992 budget would be more than twice the 2019 budget, $771.5 million instead of $152.8 million.
The need for impactful arts funding is essential
As federal funding for the arts is dwindling, the need to ensure a greater impact is made with fewer dollars is critical to long-lasting change, resilience, and growth in localized art communities. Finding the right technology and tools is vital to making sure funds are being invested in the most impactful ways. Using the right technology also saves money in administrative time spent in processing and reviewing grant applications. Dan Katona of Ohio Arts Council writes in his article, How Technology Supports Becoming a More Resilient, Innovative Arts Funder, “Review panels convened in person and devoted about one-third of our time to closed pre-session reviews of submitted audiovisual and paper materials, [this would be] often a half or full day long. But no more. [With a grants management system], we still hold in-person public meetings, but with panelists reviewing materials at home, meeting lengths have been shortened considerably—meaning reduced panel expenses.”
We believe that the creative nature of art requires creatives means of funding it. Organizations should be able to fund the arts more creatively, efficiently, collaboratively, making art more accessible to everyone. Our solutions are uniquely tailored to arts funders needs, making every system personalized to track, review applications, and report their impact story how they want to. Our goal is to help arts grants administrators more easily manage applications, adjudications, and awards.
We had an amazing experience at AFTA and enjoyed all the wonderful speakers and engaging performances and are looking forward to coming back next year.