Home News & Events Quarterly Newsletter Quarterly Newsletter - July 13, 2012

Quarterly Newsletter - July 13, 2012

We are excited to share the following updates on our programs and events.

Midwest Arts Conference

We are thrilled to be returning to Michigan to hold the 25th annual Midwest Arts Conference in Grand Rapids, September 12–15. The last time the Conference was in Michigan was in 1990, when we were hosted by the city of Detroit. Everyone at Arts Midwest is excited to be in such a creative city, which has a rich design background, too — Grand Rapids was once the worldwide leader in the production of fine furniture, and is now home to five of the world’s leading office furniture companies. Registration for the conference is now open, and we have a lot of great programming planned for our four-day event.

Photo of Russell Willis Taylor Russell Willis Taylor, president and CEO of National Arts Strategies, will deliver the keynote address at the Conference, titled: Why the Arts Matter Now: Meaning Before Markets. In this talk, Taylor will look at how our values and economic conditions have evolved over the past 30 years, and why the arts matter now more than ever. The address will seek to engage leaders and artists in finding possibilities and seizing opportunities within a rapidly changing environment.

We are also looking forward to offering attendees in-depth seminars, high-quality live performances, a variety of workshops and discussions about the performing arts field, and ample time to connect and discuss their touring seasons.


In March, the final tour of Caravanserai’s first season brought two prominent Pakistani musicians to communities across the United States. Pakistani folk-pop star Arif Lohar and U.S.-based Pakistani singer/songwriter Arooj Aftab visited communities, sharing their unique sounds of South Asian traditions mixed with contemporary musical styles. The six-week tour concluded with a short residency in New York City and a final concert at the Asia Society on April 28.

In total, the 2011–2012 Caravanserai season included 187 events and reached more than 20,000 individuals, over half of whom were students.

Music workshop in an elementary school
Caravanserai workshop. Photo by Lindajoy Fenley.

In New Jersey, one first grade class at the Mahala F. Atchison School in Tinton Falls was particularly captivated by the artists’ performance. After the performance, teacher Ed Morrows shared that as the children’s enthusiasm for Caravanserai continued, he found more ways to involve it in his classroom. He and the students transformed their room by creating a structure to be their own caravanserai — a place where they could come together to share stories through writing and artwork. The students created desert murals on the classroom walls, and have been continually asking questions and wanting to learn more about Pakistan and its culture.

It was an amazing experience, but it wasn’t until I got back in the classroom that I realized the full impact of Caravanserai upon my first graders. My students could not stop talking about it. They asked me if they could write about what they had just seen and that surprised me. As I walked around and read their work I was impressed with what they took from the performance. They wrote about how even if people are different they can teach us new things. They wrote about Arooj and Bhrigu [Ms. Aftab’s accompanist, from India] and how they can teach everyone about peace. They wrote that they loved what they had heard and wanted more. – Ed Morrows, Mahala F. Atchison School, Tinton Falls, NJ

At Arts Midwest’s request, Morrows turned his experiences into a post on the Caravanserai blog.

Lastly, Caravanserai is pleased to announce that we recently received a $25,000 grant from the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and the MetLife Foundation’s All-In: Re-imagining Community Participation grant program. This support enables us to share our successes with the performing arts community and deepen our relationship with program audiences—we look forward to the work ahead.

Arts Midwest World Fest

In May, the Yamma Ensemble from Israel completed their second tour as part of the 2011–2013 Arts Midwest World Fest. In Wausau, Wisconsin after a week of public performances and workshops, the ensemble spent a special Shabbat with the congregation at the Mt. Sinai Synagogue. E. Daniel Danson, Rabbi of the Mt. Sinai congregation, later wrote:

As a small, rural congregation, having an Israeli band spend Shabbat with us was a treasured experience. Before our eyes the band members worked up a set of songs that touched on Shabbat musical tradition from around the Jewish world. It was a moving and intimate Shabbat experience. As for the music, we sat in awe as we were enveloped by Yamma’s artistry.”

Musician showing a child an oud
Examining the oud during a middle school workshop in South Dakota. Photo by Eric Young Smith.

From Wausau, the group moved on to Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. They held a number of workshops for school and community groups, and also had the opportunity to speak and play at the White Earth Reservation. During a workshop there, the band was treated to a traditional drum and singing demonstration by students of Circle of Life Academy. Read more about Yamma Ensemble’s recent tour on the Road Stories Blog.

In the fall, we’re excited to welcome back Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers to Arts Midwest programming. You may remember their tour with Caravanserai last year, during which they visited six communities and shared their centuries-old Sufi music traditions. The group was so successful last year that we invited them to join the Arts Midwest World Fest season. During the tour, the ensemble will tour to seven communities for residencies and performances, including a special engagement at the Kauffman Institute’s 2012 Conference at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This performance will be part of the anniversary of the founding of World Fest, which started in 2003 and has since brought 18 ensembles to the U.S., who have toured 46 Midwestern communities.


ArtsLab has recently selected 15 organizations to participate in our two-year Peer Learning Community. These organizations were selected from a competitive pool of applicants and are diverse in artistic discipline, audience, and region. Through this shared learning program, Arts Midwest encourages new, cross-sector collaborations, builds management skills, and strengthens operational resiliency.

In addition to the Peer Learning Community, ArtsLab is gathering artists, innovators, and leaders across Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota for a conversation that covers strategic questions facing our organizations, and the role of creativity in building resiliency in our communities. This program, the Leadership Idea Exchange, launches this July with a session titled: “Living in an Uncertain World: What stories do we weave to sustain us?” We anticipate a lively discussion about new approaches to our work and the importance of the arts in our constantly evolving environment.

ArtsLab has recently embarked on a new funding collaboration with the United Arts Fund. The United Arts Fund, a program of St. Paul, MN-based COMPAS, is supporting the two-year Peer Learning Community component of ArtsLab. Both the United Arts Fund and ArtsLab have impressive histories of strengthening our arts and culture sector and we are thrilled that their support is enabling us to offer more opportunities to gather and support the broader arts community

Arts Midwest News

At Arts Midwest, we’re excited about everything we’ve accomplished this past fiscal year, and everything we have on the horizon for next season. This year, we were once again voted one of the “50 Best Nonprofits to Work For” by the Nonprofit Times. This is the third time we’ve been recognized by the Nonprofit Times, and we are honored to work in such an open and creative environment.

We also continue to be impressed by the work and accomplishments of our colleagues. For the past several months, Assistant Director Susan Chandler has been participating in the James P. Shannon Leadership Institute, a project of the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. This program provides opportunities for personal and professional renewal for experienced leaders of philanthropic, civic, and community service organizations. Through her participation in the institute, Susan is working with other experienced community leaders to clarify the purpose of her work, identify the core values she wants that work to exemplify, and to enhance her focus and effectiveness.

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