Chairman Chu’s Introduction to In Pursuit of the Creative Life Convening

A woman at a podium speaks into a microphone. On the wall behind her a large slide projection with the title: National Endowment for the Arts.

NEA Chairman Jane Chu kicks off In Pursuit of the Creative Life: The Future of Art and Creativity in America, a national convening that closed the NEA’s 50th anniversary celebration: Photo by Yassine El Mansouri.

There’s a reason that the convening is called, “In Pursuit of the Creative Life: The Future of Arts and Creativity in America.”
When we began to plan for the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts two years ago, we wanted to focus upon two aspects. Celebrating the achievements made by the arts in the United States and the National Endowment for the Arts over the past five decades was certainly one of them. We also wanted to look forward and examine in what ways the United States has changed over the past 50 years, and if any of those changes have affected the cultural landscape.
We had seen research and experienced on our own that some of the needs and practices of artists had shifted. How people participated in the arts had expanded and ways that the arts bring value to communities and our everyday lives had broadened. And, we wanted to make sure that the National Endowment for the Arts was playing a relevant role in supporting artists the creativity in the U.S.
That’s why we launched the initiative called Creativity Connects. We’ve focused this initiative on three main areas. The first is a published report that looks at how the work environment for artists has indeed changed in the last decade, what factors influence their work, and what we can do to better support them. The second component is an interactive bright spots graphic that showcases successful projects across the country where arts and non-arts organizations collaborate to achieve common goals. And the final component of Creativity Connects is a pilot grant opportunity that will support collaborative projects between arts and non-arts organizations. The first round of grants will be announced in just a couple of weeks, and guidelines for a second round of grants will be posted by the end of December.
So today’s convening acknowledges what we have learned through the Creativity Connects initiative so far and it celebrates the work you do and have been doing, some of you for decades. And it is an opportunity to share your insights with others today about what works for you and your community as a creative leader in the arts. Each of you here today was invited because you leverage creativity on a daily basis, each in your own way. You all represent an incredible and diverse creative community that goes beyond just this convening and so it’s important that you take back what you hear today and share it with your communities. How do you approach and employ creativity in your professional lives, regardless of whether your industry is art, government, transportation, economics, technology, or community development? What pieces have to be in place in order to empower creativity? Where are the bright spots within your community? How do you envision making the creative sphere more inclusive, diverse, and equitable?
Our goal today is for as many of you to form connections with one another as possible, so that a free flow of creative ideas and exchange can take place. We can conceptualize bigger ideas better together than we can alone, and are more likely to turn these ideas into sustainable realities when we share our knowledge. We are hoping that the conversation that takes place today will lead to a bigger and stronger network tomorrow that will benefit communities, industries, and individuals who wish to pursue creative careers.  Because together you all have the power to connect this diverse and complex nation. The arts give us the tools to discover and celebrate our assets, and to transform our challenges into advantages. The arts can connect us with our neighbors, and give us an opportunity to celebrate our differences rather than automatically viewing them as a means of division. And when arts are in our communities, we all do better. So at a time when some people do not have the same opportunities as others, the arts can level the playing field socially, economically and academically.
Art for art’s sake. Art for the sake of celebrating beauty in our lives. And art for the transformational power of connecting us to so many other aspects of our lives. The arts are a source of empowerment and enrichment, and by leveraging their power, you are giving all of us a better place to call home.