Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT)
Each year, in cooperation with the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Americans for the Arts recognizes elected officials and legendary artists who have exhibited outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts at the national, state, and local levels. The recipient of the 2005 National Award for Congressional Arts Leadership is Representative Christopher Shays (R-CT).
Congressman Shays has demonstrated an outstanding record of advocacy and strong support for the arts. First elected to Congress in 1987, he has co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus since 2003, annually cosponsoring successful floor amendments to increase funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In the 108th Congress, Representative Shays helped lead efforts to educate Members of Congress about the economic and intrinsic value of the arts to communities and their citizens. He has sponsored research briefings, spearheaded Dear Colleague letters and floor amendments, and recruited high profile artists such as Carole King to speak to his colleagues about the importance of the arts and arts education in our society. Shays has personally led briefings in his Connecticut home district on how local arts agencies and arts groups can access federal funds. As Vice Chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and Chairman of its Subcommittee on National Security, Shays has consistently pushed for increased attention to the use of public cultural diplomacy and exchange programs at the international level. On a more personal level, Congressman Shays family has been directly involved in the arts. His grandparents owned Hedgerow Summerstock Theater outside of Philadelphia, where his parents first met. His father acted on Broadway in Red, Hot and Blue with Jimmy Durante, Ethel Merman and Bob Hope. Rep. Shays served seven terms in the Connecticut House of Representatives prior to his service in Congress. He earned his MBA and MPA from New York University and his undergraduate degree from Principia College.