Art Works Blog

Postcard from Baltimore

Baltimore, Maryland

It was wonderful to speak at AFTA to an audience of folks who I know really just get it when it comes to the arts. Photo by NEA staff

It was great to be back in Baltimore this weekend for Americans for the Arts Half-Century Summit.

On my last trip to Baltimore as Chairman, I came with Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Shaun Donovan to visit the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, where a number of arts and community nonprofits had come together to create an affordable housing development using HUD stimulus tax credits. I didn?t have the chance to get back to visit Area 405 or the theater collective on that block, but this theme of other federal agencies supporting the arts as part of their everyday business was one of the key messages in my remarks to Americans for the Arts.

As a whole, this administration is committed to investing in livability, supporting smart and sustainable design, and growth of sustainable communities. And the arts have a natural role to play as a fulcrum in that. The arts can express shared values. They can be fun or challenging occasions for us to come together. They inspire and educate us.

But as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is fond of saying, ?in God we trust; all others bring data.? So when I am making the case for the arts as a vital component of livability and sustainability, I bring with me research from Jeremy Nowak at The Reinvestment Fund and from Mark Stern and Susan Seifert at the University of Pennsylvania. They have longitudinal data sets that show that the arts increase civic engagement and participation; the arts improve child welfare; and the arts fight poverty. Those are three elements that every livable community needs. 

And we are getting traction: the Department of Education has included arts language in their Promise Neighborhood program, and HUD---along with the Department of Transportation and the Department of Environmental Protection---has made funding available for regional planning grants that also explicitly calls for submissions from the arts.

As we come up on the end of my first year at the NEA, I have to say I am very proud of our team and the traction we are getting.  Art Works. And other federal agencies are starting to notice.

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