Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation, delivered the Americans for the Arts 30th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy entitled “The Art of Democracy: Creative Expression and American Greatness.”

On the eve of National Arts Advocacy Day in the Concert Hall of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Darren Walker inspired arts advocates with unique perspectives on the absolute need to maintain a federal investment in the arts. As the head of the second largest foundation in the nation, he also put to rest the notion that private sector funding can make up for cuts in federal funding or even serve the same role government plays in supporting the arts in America.

Darren Walker is President of the Ford Foundation, the nation’s second largest philanthropy, and for two decades has been a leader in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. He led the philanthropy committee that helped bring a resolution to the city of Detroit’s historic bankruptcy and chairs the U.S. Impact Investing Alliance.  Prior to joining Ford, he was Vice President at the Rockefeller Foundation where he managed the rebuild New Orleans initiative after Hurricane Katrina.  In the 1990s, as COO of Harlem’s largest community development organization, the Abyssinian Development Corporation, Darren oversaw a comprehensive revitalization program of central Harlem, including over 1,000 new units of housing. He had a decade long career in international law and finance at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and UBS.  He is a member of the Commission on the Future of Riker’s Island and serves on the boards of Carnegie Hall, New York City Ballet, the High Line, the Arcus Foundation and PepsiCo.  Educated exclusively in public schools, Darren received the “Distinguished Alumnus Award,” the highest honor given by his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.  In 2016, TIME magazine named him to its annual list of the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the recipient of ten honorary degrees and university awards.

The Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy is a leading national forum for arts policy intended to stimulate dialogue on policy and social issues affecting the arts. It is held each year on the evening before Arts Advocacy Day at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. The annual lecture is named for Nancy Hanks, former president of Americans for the Arts and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, who devoted 15 years of her professional life to bringing the arts to prominent national consciousness.

Read the transcript of the lecture.