Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Straight No Chaser's "The 12 Days of Christmas"

Hey there,

So on this Christmas Eve, just thought I'd share this.

Hope everyone is enjoying their holiday!!


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Mi arts casa es su arts casa

For all my DC artist friends,

This post is about something I've always offered in passing, but wanted to really, intentionally put out there, as 2014 comes to an end.

I have a pretty awesome space in the +Brookland Artspace Lofts. One of the perks of being the first resident to move in. In fact, check out this video I took from when I and my roommate initially moved in, back in 2011!!

So granted there is furniture here now, but the living space set-up is very modular. Even with the furniture in, when it is all pushed to the sides, one is still left with a clear space to play in of 25' wide by 15' deep, with a ceiling just a little over 9' high.

I, myself, have had dance and theatre rehearsals in my apartment. And this is what I'm offering to my friends and arts colleagues. My space should you need it, and it's available.

Beyond the space, there would be a few additional perks:
  • Food & drink: I would at least have bottled water stocked and available. Any other snacks, let's talk.
  • Tech:
    • I have a video camera and Google Glass for you to help document and record your process, if you want. With the video, I could probably even edit and send you highlights, of bloopers and breakthroughs in your process.
    • I also have a blue-tooth speaker in case you need to play an audio/music.
    • There is Wi-Fi.
What would I want in return, if anything? I'm honestly not sure yet. Maybe access to your social media analytics, so I could do an audit of your organization, which I would obviously share with you, but would also add to my own personal body of knowledge and data. Maybe permission to ask to interview and blog about you and the other artists you're working with, for my own social media channels. Would there be a monetary component for the space, food, tech, or my time at all? I'm going to leave that completely up to you.

But first things first. Let's just figure out if you could use the space at all.

The location's convenient, it's barely a 5 minute walk from the Brookland/CUA metro station.

And if you're driving, there's plenty of street parking as our street has not been re-zoned as a residential one yet. Bad for residents, but good for non-residents.

Time-wise? I just need to be here, so that limits it to 6:30pm and after on weeknights, and then weekends. Otherwise, it's just pending availability with any other commitments I might have.

If you want to put in a request, you can do that here:

I think that's about it for now. But, like I said, I'm trying to be more intentional about putting this out there as something I want to give back to the community I've received so much from. Especially as I've transitioned to doing more administrative things.

Because after my space was included this past week as one of the stops on a tour that included Dance Place and the Arts Walk on Monroe Street, one of the attendees' reaction and shock and awe reminded me of just how much of challenge space can be, in this city.

And if/when I move out of here (hopefully not anytime soon), I would hate to think that I didn't try to take full advantage of my apartment, even if only providing it as a place for others to help their own artistic visions manifest.

Just to reiterate, this is definitely a one-degree kind of thing right now. If I don't know you personally, I'm sorry. But if we know someone in common that you're working on something with, just have them ask.

- JR

Sunday, November 30, 2014

In case you missed it

Hey there,

So I thought I'd try doing a new kind of blog post. I share so much on various social networks, but the half-life for content on any of those, just have to get over the fact that you will miss things and can't see everything.

That being said, here are highlights of links I've posted over the past week for one reason or another, all in one place. In case you missed it, in no particular order.
One more video, the one that I thought would break the internet, the Star Wars Teaser Trailer for Episode VII.

And a mix of a DJ I saw last night at Echostage, Rob Garza of Thievery Corporation.

That's it. Curious to see what you think, what you missed, what you saw.

Or if we're not connected at all and you just happened to come across this post.

Let me know what you'd like to see more of!!


Monday, November 24, 2014

If you could see privilege...

...what would it look like?

For some reason, that is a question which my Facebook news feed has answered twice over the past week. The timing is particularly eerie as I am helping with a video project on exploring the topic of diversity at Burning Man, and privilege being one of the issues and topics that comes up.

Regardless, I wanted to share several examples in order of increasing effectiveness for me.

The first one is one that actually came up when I google'd "cartoon privilege" for one more example to round out the other two.

The only problem is that as it's oversimplified history and groups of people into a single interaction between two people, the challenge is how to have an engaging dialogue about a multifaceted and complex issue, which leads to definitive actions with measurable outcomes.

By the way, if anyone knows the artist of the cartoon above, please let me know? The image is used so much that trying to google its creator was not yielding any results.

This next comic, while a bit better, still has an illogical statement. I don't want to repost it without permission, but you can see the cartoon with some context at Everyday Feminism.

My problem is the supposed conclusion of the exchange is with the "white male" pointing out his own burden, and it seemingly the conclusion that there's no way for the others to convince him of the fact that their own backpacks are considerably bigger, by virtue of the fact that he doesn't even notice the difference himself; the mere presence of his own backpack to bear is enough.

And this leads me to the third visualization...less of a cartoon, and more of an exercise. This one, I have to thank Buzzfeed for, "This Teacher Taught His Class A Powerful Lesson About Privilege".

The gist of it is that everyone sitting in a class can move up from their own class if they get a crumpled piece of paper into a bin at the front.

Human nature unfortunately leaves us relatively aware of our backspace, much less anything behind it. So folks from the front of the class, while they have their own challenge to make the shot, don't realize much less think about how much more difficult it is for those farther and farther back to do the same. But it is painfully obvious for those towards the back and especially those in the back of the advantage others have and their own disadvantage.

You can read about the exercise more in depth Buzzfeed. But what I appreciate about that exercise is that while physically demonstrating the challenge of working with different privilege, it also illustrates the challenge of having a conversation about it as everyone isn't coming to the table from the same perspective.

Anyway, just wanted to share. Are there any favorite visualizations, from comics to exercise, that you think have helped you and others understand and talk about privilege?

Please share in the comments,


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Modern dancing with the pop stars

Hey there,

So as someone who majored in modern dance (which isn't always what some people think it is), I love seeing contemporary choreography in the music videos of pop stars.

While I used contemporary and modern somewhat interchangeably, here is a definition of modern dance, from Wikipedia:
Modern dance is a style of western concert dance which began loosely in the late 19th century and early 20th-century. Modern dance, which has birthplaces in the United States as well as Germany, was a direct response to ballet as the primary form of concert dance. Modern dance refused aspects of classical ballet and broke away from codified movements and balletic narrative structures. Because of early pioneers like Martha Graham, modern dance now encompasses a wide range of styles, many of which are associated with renowned schools and masters. There are over a thousand Types of Modern Dance including the Graham and Horton techniques. Eventually, postmodern dance would reject the formalism of modern dance and include elements such as performance art, contact improvisation, floor work, release-technique, and improvisation.

So for me, the choreography in these videos stands out from other music video choreography because it's less literal and more abstract in it's movement vocabulary and motifs. It's less of a direct visualization of the music, and rather works in conjunction with the song to create meaning, rather than being dictated by rhythm, melody, and lyrics.

That being said (and I share this with the caveat that I don't watch many music videos to begin with), here are three that have stood out in the past several years. And, weirdly enough, I'm going to share them in the order of the Choreography track at UMD's Dance program, three semester long classes, choreographing for solo, duet, then group.

So first up, a solo. It's the music video for Sia's Chandelier:

The  choreography is by Ryan Heffington, and the dancer is Maddie Ziegler (who was born in 2002!!). If you haven't seen the video, you might've seen a Saturday Night Live skit referencing it this past Halloween. And this year, it won the MTV Music Video Award for Best Choreography.

The second video is a duet, the music video for Pink's Try.

The choreography is a collaboration by the Golden Boyz and stunt choreographer, Sebastien Stella. The dancer/love interest is Colte Prattes, who is on the faculty of the Broadway Dance Center. Colte is actually touring with Pink, but as soon as he's back I think I'm going to be planning a road trip up to NYC.

Third and not least is a group piece, the music video for Carrie Underwood's Something in the Water.

The choreography is by Travis Wall, a former So You Think You Can Dance competitor, and the dancers are company members of his dance company, Shaping Sound.

What's HUGE about this is the challenges dance has as an art form, in the south. And the majority of pop music videos tend not to help. You can check out the comments on YouTube for a clear example of this. I remember talking about it in undergrad, and how in many parts of the U.S. south, dance had to be coded as physical activity, just to even be considered as programming, particularly in educational settings.

Which it is, very intense and strenuous physical activity, don't get me wrong. But that's the subject for a whole other post.

What I thought was interesting was that the three pop artist who came to mind were all female. And I wonder how many male pop artists incorporate contemporary and modern dance into any of their music videos.

That being said, if you have any music videos which features modern choreography, please share them in the comments,


Thursday, November 20, 2014

Grantmaker resources, working in the DC arts scene

Hey there,

Just a quick share about three resources for grantmakers which we take advantage of, at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities:

Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers:

  • "The Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers is a membership association composed of grantmakers in the Greater Washington region - Northern Virginia, suburban Maryland, and the District of Columbia. Our members represent a vibrant cross-section of philanthropy, including family, community, corporate, and independent foundations, as well as corporate giving programs, governmental grantmakers, grantmaking public charities, and individual philanthropists. We provide a variety of services to our members to facilitate more effective, strategic, and efficient grantmaking, thereby making the Greater Washington region a better place to live and work."

Grantmakers in the Arts

  • "The mission of Grantmakers in the Arts (GIA) is to provide leadership and service to advance the use of philanthropic resources on behalf of arts and culture. GIA is the only national association of private and public funders making grants to artists and arts organizations in America. GIA’s strength is in its diversity of members: private, family, community and corporate foundations, national, state and local governmental agencies, nonprofit national, regional and local service organizations. What they all have in common is a belief that America is a better place to live and our communities are stronger when the creativity of artists is prevalent in all aspects of society."

  • "For more than 15 years the GEO community has advanced smarter grantmaking practices that enable nonprofits to grow stronger and more effective. As a result, GEO members consistently outpace other funders in terms of making productive changes to help nonprofits achieve more — such as providing support for grantee capacity building, engaging external voices in decision-making, giving multiyear grants, forming strategic partnerships and funding collaboration among grantees."

Just thought I'd share, for any other grantmakers out there, hopefully you'll find at least one of these useful, if you're not already a member.

And as new members to the latter two, I'm looking forward to taking advantage of their programs and learning more.

Any other similar organizations you'd recommend? Please share in the comments!!


Friday, August 01, 2014

Fun facts about DCCAH's FY14 grantees

Hey there,

As we're getting to wrapping up FY14 and prep for FY15 at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, there were some things that I was curious about, not just as a grants manager, but as an arts administrator in general as well as a board member of a small arts organization.

In reviewing organizational profiles, several data points piqued my interest: founding year, board size, and when an organization's fiscal year ended

So check this out, from data about 115 organizational grantees:

  • The average founding year is 1987
    • The median founding year, however, is 1991
    • The oldest organization was founded in 1918
    • The youngest organization was founded in 2010
  • The average number of board members an organization had was 16
    • The median number of board members, however, was 12
    • The smallest board had 3 members
    • The largest board had 59 members
  • The most popular dates for when fiscal years ended were:
    • 12/31 for 37.4% of grantees
    • 6/30 at a close second for 33% of grantees
    • 8/31 at third for 13.9% of grantees
    • 9/30 at fourth for 7.8% of grantees

There it is. Just thought it was interesting.

I was surprised to see that half of the FY14 grantees were organizations that were less than 23 years old. I guess I assumed that organizations were generally older than that. Board member wise, 12 made sense to me, as a median, because to me that seems to be an ideal number of board members.

And date wise, I wasn't surprised that many organizations aligned their fiscal year with the calendar year. I was surprised that the next most popular date was June 31. I am very curious why some organizations chose that. I was surprised that September 30 was fourth, because it is the DC Government's fiscal year end, and thought more organizations would have aligned their own fiscal year with it.

Anyway, there you go. What do you think? How does your own organization compare?

Let me know in the comments!!

JR aka Nexus

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bookland in Brookland

And no, I'm not talking about Catholic University's Barnes & Noble that looks like it's getting close to opening.

I'm talking about Bookland (if you're on Foursquare, here's the page), studio of artist Caitlin Phillips. She's among a number of artists that have studios on the ground floor of the Monroe Street Market, a mixed use development. You can like them on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter here.

Caitlin is a wonderful person I've had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know as I've become more active in the DC Burners community. And Bookland is home to Caitlin's shop, Rebound Designs.

Rebound Designs mission?
A second chance for well-loved books!
What does Caitlin mean by this? Well I'm not a fan of paraphrasing things when folks already say it so well themselves. So, from her Facebook page:
Rebound Designs is a novel approach to accessories. I combine rescued and discarded hardback books with beautiful fabrics to become functional, one of a kind Book Purses. Paperbacks are turned into durable wallets, vinyl covered, and lined with pages of the books. Book lovers, I’ve got you covered!
And if you're on Etsy, favorite her shop here.

Bookland is located at 716 Monroe St NE (right up the street from my place at the Brookland Artspace Lofts!!).

And you can also find Caitlin at Eastern Market on the weekends. You can find her Eastern Market Vendor page here.

Also (like I couldn't love her even more) she interviewed in 2009 on NPR's All Things Considered, Judging a Book (Bag) By Its Cover.

And the thing is, I have multiple book shelves in my library at home. I treasure books in their physical form, and before I knew Caitlin and what she does and WHY she does it, I probably would've had the same reactions others have undoubtedly had.

But when I think about how much the book is more of a reminder of its story after I've read it, rather than how much I've actually reread any of the books in my library, I have no doubt I will be going to Caitlin soon, to give my own books a second-life, instead of one that's just gathering dust on my shelves.

- JR aka Nexus

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Term limits: Worth it or worthless?

Hey there,

So in a number of various situations, term limits is one of those given circumstances to any nonprofit governance situation, particularly arts nonprofits. But for the purpose of this particular post, I am referring to term limits regarding nonprofit board governance, not for-profit, and not elected government officials, which isn't to say that the conversation isn't at least related.

And to answer my own question before you've even read the rest of this blog, I would say it depends. That being said, I put the question out there and received some replies I wanted to share from colleagues.

Here's a reply I received on Twitter from Jess Solomon (thank you!!):
And if you'd like to see the the responses my inquiry received on Facebook, well, check out the post here:

So as not to rely solely on anecdote and personal experience, although all those who replied are professionals whose input I certainly appreciate, respect, and recommend, I Google'ed "nonprofit governance term limits" and thought I'd highlight excerpts from some of the results on the first several pages.

From On Board For Term Limits, The NonProfit Times, 10/1/11:
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has endorsed term limits, according to Bruce Hopkins, a partner in the Kansas City, Kan., law firm of Polsinelli Shalton Flanigan Suelthaus. “It’s certainly recommended in many quarters, but there’s ongoing debate whether it’s appropriate or not. Limits can force new blood on a board, which can be a good thing but sometimes organizations lose people who are competent, who can serve and want to serve, but can’t. There’s a valid debate on both sides of the issue,” Hopkins said.
From Five Reasons Board Leaders Should Have Term Limits, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, 1/18/11, specifically having to do with a Board Chair's term limit:
Term limits provide a painless way for people who aren’t doing a good job to retire gracefully and automatically. Admittedly, this is a pragmatic argument—and the downside is that a chair who is doing a fantastic job may get forced out early. But I’ve never heard a real-life complaint about term limits. And I’ve heard many complaints about their absence. 
And from Principles for Good Governance and Ethical Practice, Independent Sector, regarding the core concepts of "Principle 17: Board Member Term Limits":
  • Term limits provide natural turnover on the board. 
  • Staggered term limits prevent the entire board from changing at the same time, providing a way to preserve institutional memory. 
  • Term limits should be enforced in a systematic manner.
One quote from Alyson Ball, President of BoardWorks, LLC, from Term Limits - Critical to Your Nonprofit Board's Success:
Term limits are critical to a board's health because they prevent a single individual or group from monopolizing the spirit of the organization. They ensure that new ideas and approaches are explored - something that's essential to the success of every organization. Everyone is forced off the board eventually. If your board doesn't have term limits, I recommend you start thinking about them now.
And in conversations I've had, the main argument against term limits seems to be worry about loosing great board members, particularly regarding institutional knowledge. But that seems to be more a matter of engagement rather than governance.

But it's all related, because if you don't have a robust process for recruiting and onboarding new board members, of course one would be worried about loosing current ones.

Regarding the institutional knowledge, that not only seems to be more about how new members are onboarded, but also resides largely in the domain of the staff, more so than the board members, who are on the ground working Monday through Friday, 9 to 5, and often times more.

But again, the best answer is "It depends", because this is not a one-size-fits-all kind of question. With that being said, what is your own experience, and where along the spectrum of "Worth it" to "Worthless" would you say term limits lie for you?

- JR

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Artists and members and dues, oh my!!

Hey there,

So after procrastinating for a bit, I finally renewed my Theatre Communications Group membership today. I had an individual membership, which had lapsed, and which you can find more information here.

And how much was it? $35.

Part of my impetus to renew was personal, as theatre artist in general. But part of it had to do with my role as a Grant Manager at the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, handling the individual fellowships for the performing arts and literary arts. And so in addition to wanting to take advantage of resources for myself, but I also want to be a resource for the individual artists who will apply and eventually be awarded.

So that means staying involved and informed in the artistic disciplines I and the fellows are trained and work in.

And that took me to sign up for an individual membership with Dance/USA. Again, just as much for myself, as I received my B.A. in Dance from the University of Maryland.

Membership due for a year? $100. But as the membership year begins in July, the due which is..."due" when you sign-up is prorated quarterly, so it only cost me $50.

And in case you were wondering, yes, I am a bit of a triple threat. I sing with Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, and it was actually the performing art I started out with soonest. I was a Washington National Cathedral chorister, singing soprano in 5th grade.

And so of all the music membership organizations that are out there, it seemed to make the most sense to sign up for an individual membership with Chorus America.

To be a singer member? $20.

In case you would like to see what other service organizations there are, if you're involved in the performing arts, check out the Performing Arts Alliance Member Organizations.

And last, but definitely not least, I updated my Fractured Atlas membership. And while the Individual rate is definitely affordable, at $9.50 a month, if you don't need to take advantage of their fiscal sponsorship or insurance, the community level membership provides you all the other benefits of the individual one, and for free!!

Sooo...all my membership dues at the end of the night? $105.

And let's say I did take advantage of the full individual ones for Fractured Atlas and Chorus America, as well as signed up at the beginning of the year for Dance/USA? That would still only be, let's see... $95 (CA) + $100 (DUSA) + $95 (FA) + $35 (TCG) = $325 total. Less than $1 a day.

Me with contact staff
Anyway, I say all this to suggest that no matter how busy working arts professionals get, that they maintain connected, informed, etc. with their discipline's service organization(s), whether it's local, regional, or national. Make the time, budget the money.

Side note: I'm going to see if, as an added benefit to being awarded our fellowship grant, we (at the local arts agency level) can actually take care of the fees for each artist's respective service organization and offer them a membership for the duration of the grant cycle.

We shall see.

Anyway, that's it. Just thought I'd share. Anyone have thoughts to share? Other tips for other artists? Challenges and/or solutions to taking advantage or even just finding resources like these?

Any questions?

Please leave a comment,


Monday, March 17, 2014

A birthday gift, for SpeakeasyDC

Hey there,

As I write this, it is the eve of my 33rd birthday. I don't normally want much of anything, during such times. Pretty content, in general.

Nevertheless, I thought I would ask for people to help support an organization whose work I am involved with, SpeakeasyDC.

And I've never done something like this before, so it's a bit of an experiment.

Just thought I'd put it out there, see if anyone else, board member (which I am) or not, have used non-programatic events other than your usual end-of-year campaign, to raise funds for an organization.

Let me know in the comments,


Monday, March 03, 2014

Non-profit DOESN'T equal "NO"-profit

Hey there,

So this post was inspired by some comments that have already been left at the Burning Man blog, regarding the post Burning Man Transitions to Non-Profit Organization. The post starts off:
BIG NEWS! It’s been a long time coming: we’re excited to announce that Burning Man achieved an historic milestone in January with the successful transition of the 24-year-old organization to a non-profit organization! The process has taken nearly three years, and now more than ever we’re positioned to support the global cultivation of art and community based on the 10 Principles.
I do recommend reading the rest. But one of the comments was:
...all of the for-profit stuff will continue to be for-profit.. calling burning man non-profit is sort of disingenuous
And another was this:
So burning man actually continuing as a for profit..and will remain for-profit in the foreseeable future.. it’s just owned by a non-profit
Now I will immediately say that I may be attributing information from other similar conversations working the mission driven arts world, but the comments seem to come from a perception the "non-profit" means "no-profit", or the idea that a non-profit organization isn't allowed to make ANY profit.

I'm going to refer to Wikipedia's definition of nonprofit organization, which starts of:
A nonprofit an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals rather than distributing them as profit or dividends.

So no, the revenue mechanics of Burning Man aren't going to change drastically, if at all. Becoming a non-profit simply dictates what the organization is legally allowed to do with excess revenue, which is a pretty big deal. And, to my understanding, part of the reason for this transition came because some members in the community were concerned that there were people who were unscrupulously profiting from the endeavors.

Transitioning to a non-profit was a way to be publicly and legally accountable for how the finances of the organization were managed. Yes, the blog does mention that the LLC will continue to operate the event itself, but the non-profit now has oversight responsibility.

Not only that, as board members of the non-profit, those individuals are fiscally and legally responsible for anything that happens, for better or for worse. Which, for me, is just another indicator of how much those people are dedicated to and invested in the work they obviously love to do, for the community.

So I'll stop beating a dead horse. I will say that the very confusion regarding what being a non-profit means is why you will sometimes hear folks refer to them as "not-for-profit".

Anyway, this post might be a gross oversimplification of the subject. But I just wanted to make sure that the misperception that a non-profit isn't allowed to make any profit was addressed. Non-profit organizations are ABSOLUTELY allowed to make a profit. Any profit must then be spent in a way which moves the mission of the organization forward, rather than any individuals profiting directly.

Any questions or additional thoughts? Leave' em in the comments,


Sunday, March 02, 2014

Twighlights from the Black Theatre Symposium

Hey there,

So yesterday was the 1st Black Theatre Symposium at UMD's Clarice Smith Preforming Arts Center. Here's part of the description:
How does Black theatre fit into the framework of our nation’s history and culture? Who are the dominant voices in Black theatre today? What can we expect from Black theatre in the 21st century? 
This symposium will challenge assumptions about the boundaries of race and allow a diverse collective of students, scholars and professionals to engage in a spirited dialogue about the past, present and future of Black theatre.
The event was co-presented by UMD's School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies & the African Continuum Theatre Company (ACTC). Here's a clip of ACTC's Producing Artistic Director Thembi Duncan at the Symposium's welcome:

It was a really great day of dialogue, knowledge sharing, and networking. So I wanted to share some of Twitter highlights from the hundreds of tweets which paralleled the discussions happening in real life. And these are not necessarily the best, and are not in any particular order.

For more of the tweets from the day, I've Storify'ed a more (but not completely) comprehensive selection here, Tweets from the 1st Black Theatre Symposium.

Just some other interesting links which popped up by Google'ing "Black Theatre":
So I'm very excited!! Still processing a lot of yesterday, especially as someone of mixed race (my dad's Black and my mom's Filipino). And very much looking forward to continuing the conversation and next year's Symposium.

Have any thoughts, regardless of whether you are black or not, involved in theatre or not? Please share in the comments below,

JR aka Nexus

P.S. If you are on Twitter, +Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center created a Twitter list, Black Theatre Symposium.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Metro escalator fear and hope

Well...I just saw my worse metro escalator features manifest for someone else.

Young woman tripped and did a face plant right at the top, as she was running trying to catch the train at the platform, her face and hands landing just about where the stairs feed into the platform.

But contrary to some stereotypes about Washingtonians, especially at rush hour, about two of the closest people immediately rushed to help her up :-)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Busboys and Poets: A DC Institution

Hey there,

So...Busboys and Poets (B&P). While the title of my post says it all...I'm a bit stumped as I sit here, at the 5th & K location, trying to further elaborate.

And I stated the whole "DC Institution" thing as someone who was born and raised IN Washington, DC.  So while I wouldn't necessarily call myself an authority, I'd like to think that a lifetime perspective (of almost 33 years, as of the time of this post) adds a bit of context that is unique in what is perceived by many as a transitory city.

But I digress. I guess a good place to start might be B&P's 'tribal statement' (from their About page):
Busboys and Poets is a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted...a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body and soul...a space for art, culture and politics to intentionally collide...we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.
A bit of a disclaimer...having been recently exposed to and involved in the Burning Man community and its Ten Principles (which I'm producing a Capital Fringe show about this summer, more details to come later), this tribal statement resonates with me on a number of levels.

Another good place to start might be their Art page.

Personally, one of my favorite memories here, which I would say is a great example of the intersection which B&P provides on multiple levels, was an event co-presented by then Social Media Club DC (now Digital District) and TheatreWashington: #DCArtsUp. You can read about it in a great wrap-up written by one of the organizers, Jason McCool.

So Culture? Check. Community? Check. Cuisine? DEFINITELY Check! My personal favorite dish is the Rustic Pizza.

And as I'm writing this blog, I am waiting for An Evening of Inspirational Music at 7:30pm, with SongRise, an all women social justice a cappella group.

Because if that doesn't say DC, I don't know what does. And if you're on Twitter, yes that is their profile/header picture, and you should absolutely follow them and/or subscribe to their events email list.
And speaking of community, life imitating a blog imitating life, I just ran into a fellow DC thespian, Connor Hogan, who is in the middle of rehearsals as director a production of "As You Like It" with Half Mad Theatre, playing at the Shop at Fort Fringe in March.

So it's almost 7pm, and several friends are about to arrive. On that note (no pun intended with tonight's event), I believe I'll wrap up this blog post. One thing I'm not saying is that this intersection or model is necessarily unique to Busboys and Poets as an institution, either in the area, around the country, or the world. But I would say that it is one of the best ways that this model has manifested itself in DC and become a nexus of sorts for the area's multitude of communities.

That being said, any thoughts about Busboys and Poets, for better or for worse, let me know in the comments. Especially your thoughts regarding B&P as a 'DC' institution.

JR aka Nexus

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Still learning more about Arts Education

Hey there,

So at work, a colleague shared the orientation page for the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards final Public Review. (And for those who'd like to participate and submit your review responses, you have until March 1st).

And although I've been directly and indirectly working in Arts Education ever since I finished grad school at American University (for Arts Management), I still have so much to learn about the field, especially regarding the state of arts education in our schools and communities.

Fortunately, there are a number of great organizations and resources, like the Kennedy Center's Arts Edge, the Arts Education Partnership, the National Art Education Association, and Americans for the Arts' Arts Education Network, among others that do great work locally, regionally, and nationally.

So with all that being said, I just wanted to share some relatively recent news and thoughts regarding arts education, for anyone else who might also be pursuing a better understanding of its importance, its power, and ultimately its necessity.

The first is an article from almost a couple of years ago, up at the Huffington Post, "How Theater for Young People Could Save the World", written by Lauren Gunderson. The second is actually a selection of articles shared in an email from, "Why is arts education important". And the third is a blog up at Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog, "What is Art Education for? An Assessment Checklist".

And so, all that being said, I only have the following to put out there, for both the newcomers and veterans in Arts Education. What are your most pressing questions? What are the most difficult challenges? What have been the best resources for assisting you in your work? Who are some of the people you consider thought leaders?

Please answer any or all of these questions in the comments, and feel free to leave any questions of your own,


P.S. Also feel free to live links to any recent news that have been particularly informative for you.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

When trust isn't there...yet

Hey there,

So...I have a friend who's pursuing a serious relationship, the first serious relationship in years. And while he and the other are just at the 'dating' phase, they're pretty in deep emotionally. But they're having a trust issue, which just surfaced. And quite bluntly said, "I can't trust trust you right now. And we can't say we're never going to hurt each other. I'm not that naive".

Time out: "trust" according to Wikipedia (if you click the hyperlinked word above) means: "reliance on another person or entity". Also, trust is an issue that affects everyone everywhere, regarding relationships on every level, like this blog piece in the Washington Post Why don't Americans trust the government. But I digress; back to our regularly schedule blog post.

So the other guy doesn't trust my friend honestly can NOT take personally. Because it's not a judgement of character, it's not one saying the other is untrustworthy. At least one would hope the other guy would come out and say that. And to his credit, the other guy said that he wasn't sure whether the perceived lack of trust was necessarily from any thing my friend did, or whether it was actually the other guy not trusting himself.

It's hard because it's not a matter of one doesn't trust the other yet, but for any number of reasons, because of any number of previous experiences, one simply can't trust the other yet. While it's also been a while since the other guy's pursued a serious relationship, there's only so much baggage you can unpack and deal with on your own. Often times, it takes a second party to make you realize that there were some issues still left in the overhead compartment.

But what my friend reminded the other guy was that one of the reasons that made dating...appealing was the promise of working "it" out together. Which isn't to say it was a matter of desiring a codependent situation. Part of the challenge is figuring out what "it" is, working things out together that are their own personal challenges to overcome and defining something new together.

My friend said he was tired of figuring out his own shit on his own. Not that he needed perspective, but it was more to say he'd had sufficient alone time to not second guess his reasons for wanting to be in a relationship. He's never been afraid of being alone. And I don't blame him. I've seen enough "couples" who seem to settle for a relationship with someone because it's comfortable, but not necessarily because it's happy or loving. So while one doesn't trust the other...he doesn't trust my friend yet.

Just one more thing which, like others, will come with time.

Any thoughts, please share 'em with a comment.

JR aka Nexus

P.S. And no, this will definitely NOT be the last post about trust.

P.P.S. Any favorite songs about trust or the lack of?

P.P.P.S. And while I ask that last question, let me answer it with one of my own: Janet Jackson's "Let's Wait A While", which I'm listening to with completely new ears because of my friend's experience growing with someone I already know means a lot to him. Some people think this is about a couple's first time having sexual congress. And while meanings aren't exclusionary to each other (that's the great thing about great art, right?!) I would say the song could easily be addressing another thing that sometimes couples move to fast on...expectations, trust, the boundaries of their relationship with each other. And sometimes it's too easy caught up in feelings of love, that it can be quite easy to stop and check in, make sure you're both still on the same route to the same destination.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

City Paper's Best of D.C. 2014 & the arts

Hey there,

So I thought I'd just pull these out to save anyone interested the time of looking for the arts specific categories in the City Paper's Best of D.C. Reader's Poll!!

Here they are:

Arts & Entertainment

  • Best Art Class
  • Best Art Gallery
  • Best Arts and Culture Non-Profit
  • Best Arts Blog
  • Best Arts Festival
  • Best Commercial Art Gallery
  • Best Concert You've Seen in the Last Year
  • Best Cultural Festival
  • Best Dance Company
  • Best Emerging Theater Company
  • Best Exhibit
  • Best Festival
  • Best Film Festival
  • Best Go-Go Band
  • Best Graffiti
  • Best Mural
  • Best Jazz/Blues Venue
  • Best Local Band
  • Best Local Hip-Hop Artist
  • Best Museum off the Mall
  • Best Museum on the Mall
  • Best Music Festival
  • Best Music Venue
  • Best New Venue
  • Best Open Mic
  • Best Outdoor Venue
  • Best Performance Artist
  • Best Performing Arts Venue
  • Best Place to See Local Music
  • Best Play
  • Best Recording Studio
  • Best Singer
  • Best Theater Company
  • Best Theater Festival
  • Best Visual Artist

Goods & Services

  • Best Arts & Crafts Supply Store
  • Best Dance Class
  • Best Photographer

People & Places

  • Best Mix-Used Development
  • Best Non-Profit
  • Best Twitter Feed
Not comprehensive, and definitely subjective in terms of what's art, so I might have included some you wouldn't, and I might have omitted some you would've mentioned. Say so in the comments.

Also, some aren't explicitly "arts" (a.k.a. People & Places), but you could NOMINATE an arts related candidate.

And if anything, just go here and vote!!


P.S. If you'd like to share whom you've voted for and why, you are more than welcome to do so in the comments here :-)

Saturday, January 18, 2014

D.C., you're exhilarating

So some friends shared an opinion piece in the Washington Post, titled D.C., you're depressing, on Facebook.

This is my response:

It'll be just a couple of months until I will have been in the District of Columbia for thirty three years, and the city and its people constantly remind me: D.C. is amazing.

Look no further than Metro's timely SmartTrip passes, like the one about the Van Gogh Repetitions Exhibit at the Phillips Collection (until January 26, 2014), for a bit of insight into the city's artistic and cultural values. Pass by and volunteer at Martha's Table, one of a number of amazing local nonprofit "dedicated to fulfilling the needs of low-income and homeless children, families and individuals". The public art as you enter some of the stations inspires you to connect with the piece and often the people in the area, lest they become just a forgettable backdrop to another mundane commute. Community.

After getting into a car accident on my way to work in December (my car is probably totalled), the metro has been an affordable alternative for my weekday commute, especially when you take into consideration the cost of gas, parking, insurance, and the like. And while most people are in their own world, you can sometimes bear witness to some pretty heartwarming experiences.

Like the time I saw a mother reading to her baby in the stroller. Or the other time when a woman hadn't gotten her grip when the train started. She apologized profusely to me and the other guy she had fallen into, after we somewhat caught her and helped her on her feet again, all the while smiling and saying no problem.

There was the time, a commuter who had obviously woken up on the wrong side of the bed, believed there was a conspiracy in the car not to make more room when we were already packed like sardines. And the gentleman by the door stilled made the effort to look around and edge in. But then the doors closed, he looked around and said I tried, and a gentle laugh was shared by some in his immediate vicinity.

And when you exit the metro, at least at the Navy Yard, the Washington Express distributor relentlessly greets each commuter, reminding them that they are here, their day is starting, and here's some morning news to help.

Oh, and at least every other day I run into one acquaintance or another on the metro. Because this really is a small city. And even if you don't know the people right next to you, chances are more often than not, you probable aren't more than two or three degrees separated.

Because there are amazing and intelligent people doing work in every sector imaginable, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

There is no irony here. Unless it's the fact that you can't judge a city based solely on a mindless, daily commute that is only the beginning of some incredible work. It's the lowest common denominator in a wonderfully diverse city that I am still getting to know more and deeper every day.

The capital of America the Beautiful is, in fact, beautiful AND inspiring. And I'm not just talking about our national memorials & monuments or the wonderful saturation of local art & artists in all forms we have here. The city houses elected officials who occasionally work here and might be more visible in the national media, but the citizens who work around them, who cannot be judged by appearance (especially before many of us have had coffee)...well our work speaks for itself.

D.C. is exhilarating, keep your eyes open, find a place to stand with your lever, and move the world.

- JR aka Nexus aka First Resident of the Brookland Artspace Lofts aka D.C. Lifer

P.S. I acknowledge that in situations like these, one's perceptions are directly related to their intent and experiences (among other factors), which make it possible for D.C. to be both depressing for Mr. Huntmann and exhilarating to me. That being said, I am always open to helping those who experience the city which he has unfortunately described get to know the city which I have loved (particularly in my adult life) and call home.

P.P.S. I'm not a writer by trade, and this was written to somewhat parallel the original work. That being said, it is what it is, and if you don't have anything nice to say? Well, I encourage you to still leave a comment. Just know that if it's about style or technique, I'll probably agree with you. If it's about content, then we can talk :-)