Why Project Create?
I decided to start a nonprofit because I wanted to encourage more people to be creative. To achieve that goal, I needed to understand the underlying reasons why people did not participate in the arts. To figure this out I did what any other educated person would do: I Googled it.
I started researching art education and participation in the arts, and I came across the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This is the agency that is largely responsible for federal support of the arts. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector.
The NEA periodically surveys American involvement in the arts, with the most recent survey taken in 2008. Since then, the NEA has released a number of reports based on the 2008 survey data – all of which, unsurprisingly, indicate a decline in art education and art participation.
For example, the survey indicated that less than 50% of 18 year-old Americans have any art education (compared to 67% in 1982), and only about 10% of adults created art within a 12 month period. The reports showed, without a doubt, that the most significant factor in adult participation in the arts is art education both as a child and as an adult. This means that as funding for art education in schools declines, the number of adults likely to participate in art will also decline. (If you have spare time and a lot of coffee please browse through these reports to understand how serious the decline in American art participation is).
Looking at these numbers, I realized I wanted to create a space that encouraged art participation for the entire community. I wanted to provide art education that was accessible to ALL members of the community, regardless of demographics.
My research also gave me the sense that art participation meant more than just creating art or going to museums. With a little more digging, I came across another NEA report that presented 5 distinct modes that a person can use to participate in art:
Inventive Participation is the act of artistic creation that is unique and idiosyncratic, regardless of skill level (i.e. painting).
Interpretive Participation is a creative act of self-expression that adds value to pre-existing works of art or engages one in arts learning (i.e. learning to paint).
Curatorial Participation is the creative act of purposefully selecting, organizing, and collecting art to the satisfaction of one’s own artistic sensibility (i.e. collecting art).
Observational Participation occurs when you see or hear works of art created, curated, or performed by other people (i.e. visiting art museums)
Ambient Participation includes encounters with art that the participant does not select (i.e seeing architecture and public art)
I thought about these modes and how I am lucky enough to participate in all of them. The NEA reports clearly indicate that a major portion of Americans do not participate in any modes, and this is truly unfortunate. Then it hit me – why not create a space that served as an outlet for all members of the community to participate in all 5 modes. I know this is a tall order, but this is the direction Project Create is going to take. This is why Project Create exists.
It won’t be easy to implement, but stay tuned while I figure out how to make this work logistically. Until then, please send along any comments/questions/suggestions. This is a work in progress and I would appreciate any feedback I can get.