Counties poised to pursue solutions through Creative Counties Placemaking Challenge

Posted by Jack King, Apr 29, 2022

The National Association of Counties (NACo) and Americans for the Arts are pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 Creative Counties Placemaking Challenge, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. NACo and Americans for the Arts invited small- and medium-sized counties to assemble a team of county leaders, local artists and community stakeholders to imagine how art can be used to solve local challenges. From Potter County, Pa.’s “Highway to the Stars” through Cherry Springs State Park to the storied and breathtaking beaches of Hawai’i County, Hawai’i’s Puna district, the winners represent the geographic and social diversity of the nation as a whole. The teams will seek to address a wide array of challenges confronting their local communities, from drug addiction to climate resilience. Over the next 10 months, Americans for the Arts experts will provide virtual training and mentoring of these teams as they explore the arts as an applied strategy for meeting policy objectives. On July 25, the counties will participate in an in-person convening in Adams County, Colo., in conjunction with NACo’s 2022 Annual Conference.

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From the Elected Official’s Perspective: Why Arts Advocacy Matters

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Mar 25, 2022

There is a great deal of information on arts organizations’ websites about why and how arts advocacy is important, along with suggestions for best practices for advocates. Here is an opportunity to switch up the perspective from the arts advocate and learn about the elected officials’ thought process. I recently interviewed Iowa Lieutenant Governor Adam Gregg (R), whose relationship with Americans for the Arts through the National Lieutenant Governors Association has helped him understand that the arts are everywhere in our economy, how they play a huge role in education and rural development, and the ways they can support other areas such as health care and community cohesion. We discussed the importance of building relationships with elected officials in order to educate and advocate for issues that matter, how the arts make an impact in all 99 of Iowa’s counties, why it’s crucial for advocates to come together and work toward a common cause, and more.

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Why the Arts Matter to Counties (now more than ever!)

Posted by Mr. Jay H. Dick, Apr 13, 2021

Why do the arts matter? If you ask 100 people this question, you will most likely get 100 different answers, but each of these answers will be authentic and personal to that responder. This is what makes the arts so powerful and diverse. There are over 5 million people employed in the creative economy in America. The arts, along with tourism and restaurants, are some of the hardest hit industries as a result of the pandemic. Even after incredible federal, state, and county assistance, 27% of musicians are still unemployed, along with 52% of actors and 55% of dancers. Every county in America, large or small, urban or rural, has the arts as part of its collective experience. Artists live everywhere and their work seeks to engage their fellow humans to ask questions, to look at a topic in a new way, to foster dialogue, or to bring people together. As an arts advocates, it is up to us to recognize and educate others about the value that the arts bring to any county, to encourage it, to highlight it, and even to help support it. The arts will always be there to be part of our nation’s narrative—we just need to listen and to act.

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Introducing Americans for the Arts’ Inclusive Creative Economy Plan

Posted by Jessica Stern, Feb 25, 2021

For the last two years, we at Americans for the Arts have spent significant time listening, learning, planning, and in consideration to engage in a multi-pronged, multi-year effort to support inclusive creative economies at the local level, encourage stronger unification between the for-profit and nonprofit arts sectors, and pursue federal-level policies that support creative workers. With encouragement from current and former members of the Private Sector Council, a broad cross-section of local, state, regional and national advisors, and through consistent commitment from the Board of Directors, we sought to identify our unique role and where we can effect change alongside the many organizations, coalitions, and individuals doing this work. COVID-19, and its irrefutable disproportionate effect on communities of color, has only increased the urgency of these efforts. We know that we must, with intention and alongside new alliances and relationships, design strategies for the aspiration of an inclusive creative economy—recognizing that our current economy does not equitably support all people to reach their creative and artistic potential. This is an exciting and critically important journey. I’m pleased to share our plan on behalf of my colleagues, and to invite participation and feedback in it. 

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Strengthening Mental Health through The Arts (Including Mine!)

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Feb 03, 2021

Americans are stressed—the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, polarizing politics, remote learning for students, unemployment, a fragile economy—so it is no surprise that mental health issues are spiking across the country. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that one-third of the population is showing signs of anxiety or depression—a tripling over just the previous year. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that nearly half of Americans believe the pandemic is harming their mental health. As community leaders seek to maintain the wellness and mental health of their residents amidst challenged budgets, new research shows the arts are an effective resource in reducing depression and anxiety and increasing life satisfaction—improving both quality of care and the financial bottom line. The arts are a proven contributor in keeping us mentally healthy, helping us heal when we are not well, and reducing healthcare costs. The NEA as well as local and state arts agencies support arts programs that address a vast array of mental health and personal well-being issues. With those benefits, it is no wonder that 73% of Americans favor government funding for arts in healthcare programs and 68% of Americans agree that the arts improve health and the healthcare experience.

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Strengthening Healthcare Systems Through the Arts

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Oct 29, 2020

The Ancient Greeks anointed Apollo as the god of both the arts and of healing—a hefty portfolio even by early mythology standards. As different as those areas may seem, new research suggests this was a prescient choice. When the arts are part of our healthcare experience, we have shorter hospital stays, less depression, and take less medication—all of which adds up to reduced healthcare costs. In recent years, there has been a growing understanding of the benefits, and prevalence, of arts in healthcare programs. When hospital administrators were asked, “Why the arts,” chief among the responses were that they aid in the mental and emotional recovery of patients (80%) as well as their physical recovery (41%). Many programs extend beyond the patients in order to strengthen the entire healing system: 80% of programs serve patients directly, 58% include the patient’s family, and 42% are for staff to help them deal with the stress of working in the healthcare environment. With these (and many more) benefits, it is no wonder that 68% of Americans agree that the arts improve health and the healthcare experience—and 73% favor government funding for arts in healthcare programs.

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