NASAA Notes: February 2024


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Pam Breaux

February issue
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February 6, 2024

Cross-Sector Collaboration with Arts and Culture

On January 30, I was honored to address the nearly 3,500 in-person and online attendees at “Healing, Bridging, Thriving: A Summit on Arts and Culture in Our Communities,” cohosted by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. The first-of-its-kind gathering brought together leaders from across sectors, from government officials and policymakers to artists, advocates, academics and civic leaders—including about 35 state arts agency leaders. The agenda allowed us all to examine ideas, policies and actions that will move forward a broader understanding of how arts and culture can contribute to other fields and can unlock new opportunities for artists and arts and culture organizations. In addition to my remarks, which I share with you below, I circulated three new policy papers that reinforce the value of partnerships with arts and culture: Why Cross-Sector Collaboration Now.

Hello, everyone. It’s a real honor to be here with you today. As you heard, I’m from the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, where we work in service to the 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies of America. We are proudly the other NASAA, and this year we will have the pleasure of turning 56 years old, so we’re very much looking forward to celebrating 56 Years, 56 Strong with 56 state arts agencies. You’re invited to celebrate with us.

I am standing here nourished and inspired by the ideas and artistry that have already been shared today. This morning we witnessed enlightening contributions that personified the power of the arts in health and healing. We heard about practices from Ashé Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans, for example, where the city’s deeply rooted cultural traditions ground the work of the organization; it promotes a culture of wellness in a very tangible way, walking with and in support of its community. Ashé is a remarkable model of cross-sector collaborative work, where artists, artists as community health workers, alongside traditional health workers, unite as one team to make life and health better for their community.

During our more recent segment on the arts and physical infrastructure, the inspiration continued to flow from our presenters. Perhaps you were struck, as I was, by the deep authenticity that is the foundation of Appalshop‘s work in Kentucky. This organization lives its mission by engaging the power of the arts to empower Appalachian communities to see their own assets (sometimes hidden in plain sight), write their own narratives (rejecting stereotypes assigned to them by others), and leverage their best assets and narratives toward building community wealth.

All of today’s contributors have made quite tangible the spirit, the power and the great potential of the President’s Executive Order on the Arts and Humanities, and I’m grateful to the White House Domestic Policy Council and the National Endowment for the Arts for assembling us for these conversations today.

State governments are also an important part of today’s conversations. We know much of the physical infrastructure across the country is funded by the federal government, with dollars flowing through states to help meet local and statewide needs. As a handy example, state departments of transportation, of course, live at the heart of planning, design, construction and maintenance of our many modes of travel. Arts in transportation touch that entire life cycle of that work.

The arts enhance transportation in a host of ways. We most easily see this when our public spaces are transformed, becoming stimulating environments, making transportation a better experience. Just as important, the arts help provide solutions to transportation-sector challenges, like engaging communities meaningfully to improve transportation experiences and outcomes. We have seen examples of the arts enhancing safety outcomes, and artists helping to fuel agency transformation using creative practices to advance experimentation to address complex problems in new ways. Certainly, all sectors could benefit from employing creative practices to fuel new solutions.

State arts agencies are critical partners in this work. Facilitating connections to communities and artists is in their DNA. Their public engagement practices and their community-driven art selection practices bring stakeholders to the table, ready to engage. I’m pleased to be here today with a number of colleagues from state and jurisdictional arts agencies. If you’re here today from a state arts agency, would you please stand? I’m certain these folks would be happy to be in conversation with any of you later in the day.

To help make more tangible the work of state arts agencies in cross-sector collaborations, I’ll briefly share examples.

In Pennsylvania, the Turnpike Commission and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts developed a partnership to create and install large-scale artworks in service plazas across the state. With lots of community involvement, including students and families, artworks now enliven those spaces. We all know that highways and turnpikes can feel pretty impersonal, and in some cases they divide communities, or create a reason to pass some communities by completely. Pennsylvania’s projects offer a solution by working with communities to help make spaces that evoke what’s important to the people themselves.

Related to health and well-being, state arts agencies are critical developers and partners in programs that address health challenges. Creative aging partnerships, for example, are happening in a number of states; they support good overall health and bring purpose, social connection and joy to the lives of older adults, a real antidote to the negative impacts of isolation experienced by too many.

The Nebraska Arts Council‘s artist residency program, in partnership with the state library, serves older adults at libraries, senior centers and assisted living facilities, improving lives across the state.

The Indiana Arts Commission is building its state infrastructure to serve older Hoosiers by providing creative aging training for artists and health practitioners who specialize in caring for older adults. They’re creating the capacity for in-state providers to offer beneficial creative aging services today and in the future.

In a broader approach to arts and health, the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and the state department of health developed a state arts and health plan, an actual public health roadmap to integrate the arts and health to benefit all Rhode Islanders. The plan is fueling new work, like supporting nonclinical arts programs with health related goals to take place in health based and community spaces.

Certainly, today’s inspiring comments by U.S. Surgeon General Murthy remind me of important work happening in Massachusetts, where Mass Cultural Council‘s CultureRx program personifies his comments, connecting the arts as prescriptions for wellness and good health.

And now, I come bearing gifts. I’m incredibly pleased to offer you new resources, unveiled today, to assist with your own cross-sector conversations at home. In honor of this historic convening, and with generous support from the Mellon Foundation, NASAA is issuing three new policy briefs designed to help us all advance cross-sector conversations and work. Already embedded in your summit app, you’ll find a link to new papers on Arts and Health for Social Cohesion, Arts and Transportation, and Arts and Infrastructure.

Mellon’s generosity enabled NASAA to work with four policy fellows last year to advance this work. Fellows were: Milly Hawk Daniel, Amanda Lovelee, Mallory Rukhsana Nezam and Johanna Taylor, all of whom are here today. Lovelee, Nezam and Taylor cofounded CAIR Lab, that’s C-A-I-R for Cross-Sector Artists in Residence Lab, and the CAIR Lab founders authored the papers we’re so pleased to provide for you today. The papers are also available on NASAA’s website.

I have a message for you from the CAIR Lab team … because they love every chance to model creative engagement and collective future dreaming. When you enter the lunch room today, you will find a postcard on your chair where you can fill in your wildest dream for the future of cross-sector collaboration with the arts. Dream big! After writing your visionary idea, please scan the QR code to add it to our collection. CAIR Lab will share back all the ideas they collect. I’m sure they’ll inspire us all to consider how we can make these dreams reality.

Finally, in the spirit of cross-sector collaborations and in the spirit of embodying the great potential of this work, I understand that the other NASA has joined the NEA as a participant in today’s summit. To colleagues at NASA, either in the room or online, please know that this NASAA would love to be in conversation with you. Please call anytime, and perhaps we can explore ways to make some NASA-to-NASAA magic.

In this Issue

From the President and CEO

State to State

Legislative Update

The Research Digest

Announcements and Resources

More Notes from NASAA




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