#RIproclaimsthearts: Celebrating Arts Power to Create Change

RISCA Staff with Governnors Proclamation.jpg

A Message from Randy Rosenbaum, Executive Director of RISCA:

I am happy to announce that Governor Raimondo has declared October as Arts and Humanities Month in Rhode Island! We’re grateful to all of you – our artists & arts and culture organizations – for your important contribution to the cultural life of our State, and hope you’ll join us in a month-long social media celebration of the arts in Rhode Island.

Here’s our plan:  at some point in the month take a picture of yourself – or someone associated with your work – holding up a copy of the Proclamation (also attached at bottom of page) in front of some kind of arts making or arts learning. Post that picture on social media – Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Be sure to tag RISCA, and to use the hashtags #RIproclaimthearts #artistheanchor #NAHM.

Also consider participating in the #showyourart2018 campaign on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. This is a social media campaign coordinated by American for the Arts that is designed to engage arts advocates on the local, state, and national level, and to bring awareness of National Arts and Humanities Month to the public. Check out some of the postings here, and then post your own stuff. This year’s campaign features a unique theme every day in October, including rural art, spoken word, arts & religion, dance, creativity at work, and more. Download the theme graphic here and share widely on the web and social media. Challenge yourself and your community to join in the fun using the hashtags #showyouart2018 #artistheanchor #NAHM.

Finally, join us on October 26 for a closing event with Ruby Lopez Harper, Director of Local Arts Services at American for the Arts, and RISCA staff. Details to follow!

So, October is the arts and culture’s chance to shine. Please consider being part of this month-long celebration!

Best,

Randy

Sherry Brown and Retirement…

sherrySherry Brown and Retirement are two words I never expected to put together in the same sentence. Sherry was here before I arrived twenty-three years ago, and I fully expected that she would be here long after I left.  She is, after all, made of hearty Norwegian stock, with a quick and facile mind that can grasp the intricacies of education policy better than most mortals.

But, for reasons best known to her and her benefits counselor, Sherry has decided to retire after thirty-plus years with the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. We’re delighted to welcome Maggie Anderson as RISCA’s new Education Director starting Monday morning, January 22nd, but more on that later. Now is Sherry time.

I can’t begin to describe how empowering it is to work with a person like Sherry.  Arts administrators, by definition, believe they are the best and most creative problem solvers. And we are, for the most part. But if people like me pretend to think in three-dimensions, Sherry is always there to help you look into a fourth dimension, and sometimes a fifth. In her quiet and unassuming way, she will suggest another way to address an issue, phrase a response or diffuse a crisis. There are literally more times than I can count where Sherry Brown has gotten me (and, by extension, our agency) out of a jam.  If I have an important document to write, Sherry is the first person I ask to read through it. Thank G-d she was always there to do it.

2018-01-19 16_44_21-riaea _ 2017 RIAEA Award WinnersSherry Brown as been the Patron Saint of Arts Education in our state. The relationships Sherry has built over the years — with the State Department of Education, the major arts education associations, the Alliance for Arts Education, VSA arts of Rhode Island, all of our major and small to medium size arts organizations, the list goes on — has been the foundation of our work to ensure that “all kids have access to quality arts education” in the home, school and community. Sherry’s work has brought forth a number of important programs and organizations, such as the Arts Talk program for teacher professional development, the Rhode Island Teaching Artist Center, the Rhode Island Arts Learning Network, and now an extensive media education program called Give Me 5 in cooperation with our Rhode Island Film & Television Office.

Sherry’s latest effort is the one that – Thank The Stars! – will keep her collaborating with us. Sherry has helped to organize a major Arts and Healthcare initiative in cooperation with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the State’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services, and the Brown University School of Public Health, among others. Sherry will be a volunteer Co-Chair of this effort, which allows us to keep her RISCA email active and her seat warm.

But for now, it’s literally the end of an era. Thank you, Sherry Brown, for all you have done to elevate Arts Education (writ large) in Rhode Island, and we will do our best to continue this important work. “Fair winds and Following Seas.”

Randy Rosenbaum, Executive Director, Rhode Island State Council on the Arts

After You Hit Submit

Here’s what happens in that murky time after you hit the submit button on your RISCA grant application and before you get a letter in the mail with the results (and why it takes so long).

Each program’s process is a little different, so this is what happens in the Fellowship and Project Grants for Individuals programs.

Step One: Screening for Eligibility

Staff start by reading every single application- for the April 1st deadline, about 215 applications were submitted for the fellowship and PGI programs alone, this week I am working my way through 187. At this point, I just check that each application meets our eligibility requirements and is complete, and I take some notes about content, genres represented, and style for step two.

Step Two: Central Casting

For the April deadline, I gathered nine grant review panels with 31 total panelists from six states. We recruit panelists that are working in a wide variety of art forms and styles. Our panelists are artists, arts administrators, and people working in arts-adjacent fields or serving artists. With the exception of the Fellowship program, they are Rhode Islanders. This is similar to casting a play- we need specific skills, experience, and knowledge and each person fits together like a puzzle piece. We gather totally new panels for each deadline, you can only serve on a RISCA panel once every three years, so we are constantly updating spreadsheets and making notes about people we think would be great panelists.

Step Three: Panelists Evaluate Applications

Panelists for all of the grant programs, except a few of the fellowship categories, then review the applications at home, and give them a preliminary score. So, your applications and supporting materials are first viewed by panelists at home, on their personal computers. We estimate that panelists spend about 30 minutes reviewing each application, so, depending on the number of applications, this is a 12-18 hour time commitment before the in person panel review day. We try to give panelists at least a month to do this work. At this point, in addition to submitting a numerical score via our online grant system, they also take notes and make comments about each application in preparation for the panel review day.

Step Four: Panel Review Day

The panelists come to RISCA offices in Providence for an all day panel review meeting. This is the big day for your application. Facilitated by the program director, the panelists discuss each application in detail, returning to supporting materials, asking questions of each other, and looking at each project’s budget. Each panelists updates their score for each application, and once we have discussed each application, the program director ranks the applications by their total score. The panelists then make funding recommendations for each application, based on the total amount of money available to award.

Step Five: Distilling Feedback

During the review day, both the program directors and other staff take notes on the feedback from the panelists. Then, the program director distills this feedback into a concise paragraph for the applicant. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide feedback or critique in our fellowship programs, partly because of the number of applications.

Step Six: Council Approval

Our council, which is the governor appointed group that oversees RISCA’s activity, reviews the panel recommendations and comments, and then approves the grants. We do our best to give them at minimum a week, usually two, to review the comments before the council meeting.

Step Seven: Notification

Once the grants have been approved, we send out notifications via mail to each applicant. With the exception of the fellowships, each applicant receives feedback on their application regardless of whether they were funded. From submission to notification typically takes about 2 and a half to three months, and a lot of spreadsheets.