Some days you remember forever. On March 16, 2018, a dear friend, tireless advocate, and arts leader passed away: U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter.
Today on April 18, we take a moment to remember her arts leadership. Through several events planned today on Capitol Hill, where Louise represented her constituents for over 30 years, Americans for the Arts joins her family, friends, and colleagues to celebrate Louise’s life and arts advocacy contributions.
I am proud to be a part of these events and remembrances of an amazing arts leader. It is with that reflection that I want to share some of the events in which I am privileged to participate today.
If you knew Louise, you knew she loved to sing, and she loved Broadway. I hope she may hear everyone singing for her today.
At 4 p.m., members of Congress will join U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in a special service in Statuary Hall. With the help of our partners at The Actors Fund, we were able to bring John Lloyd Young to sing at the official memorial service. John won the Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical for his role as Frankie Valli in Broadway’s Jersey Boys. He was also appointed by President Obama to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. John will be accompanied by Grammy-nominated music producer, composer, songwriter, singer, and arranger Tommy Faragher. They will perform Amazing Grace, a beautiful tribute to an amazing person.
Later at 6 p.m., Americans for the Arts is hosting a special reception in conjunction with the Congressional Arts Caucus in the U.S. Capitol as a celebration of Louise’s life in the arts. Members of Congress and guests will have a chance to once again chat over her famous Finger Lakes wine and share memories. Twenty members of her family are expected. We’ve assembled a collection of 50 photos [PDF, 11 MB] through the years of Louise’s leadership in support of the arts to show at this event. John and Tommy will perform a dedicated musical tribute of Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You and Only You.
These two congressional events follow a very moving service held earlier this month in Rochester, New York, Louise’s hometown, where over 2,000 people came to remember her life, including former U.S. Senator, Secretary of State, and U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis. This coming Sunday on April 22, the ad seen here will run in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in Louise’s home district (view larger here), saluting her legacy as we celebrate her life, spirit, and leadership in the arts. A similar ad is running today in Roll Call, a preeminent Washington paper read by members of Congress and their staff.
Louise’s work on behalf of the arts in America was exemplary. Today, her fellow co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ), is submitting Americans for the Arts’ tribute letter to the Congressional Record, further memorializing her work and accomplishments—and hopefully inspiring many more to carry on her arts legacy.
I have known Louise for 32 years. We’ve partnered in nearly that many Arts Advocacy Days. It has always been my honor to stand with Louise. I’ve stood with her on over 100 occasions in the last 23 years while she co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus. We’ve chatted over her famous grits and rhubarb pie. I’ve joined her in testifying in support of federal arts funding and helped connect her to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to meet with veterans using the arts as part of the healing and recovery from war.
The day we got word from her dedicated congressional staff that she had passed, I wrote to our members. Many shared reflections as well, including artists, colleagues, news reporters, and arts leaders. In the days since, we have worked with our partners and friends to come together to celebrate her life and her contributions to the arts.
Americans for the Arts and the nation’s arts community owe a debt of gratitude to Louise. There has never been an arts advocate with more tenacity, fight, humor, and spirit of generosity than Louise Slaughter. May she rest in peace knowing that she made the world a better place through the arts, and may her trailblazing pave the way to more arts leaders recognizing the transformational power of the arts on our lives, communities, economy, and nation.