The third meeting of the annual Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable at Sundance took place in September 2008, where 29 leaders gathered (pdf, 67 KB) to consider the topic and theme of the Roundtable, "The Arts and Civic Engagement: Strengthening the 21st Century Community."
The topic is an outgrowth of the imperative given to us by participants in the inaugural 2006 Roundtable, which focused on the future of private sector giving to the arts. Participants were unanimous in their belief that in order to create the society we envision, it is imperative for all citizens across all sectors to work together in support of "advancing a cultural climate in which civic life may thrive," stating that
"The Arts provide solutions to many of our most pressing social problems...the arts are—and need to be understood as—a valuable part of strategies to address a variety of social issues, and build vibrant, healthy communities." (2006 National Arts Policy Roundtable)
We believe that civic engagement—that is, the active commitment by individuals to participate and contribute to the improvement of one’s neighborhood, community, nation, and world—is vital to healthy communities, healthy business environments, and a healthy democracy. We believe that the arts can and do play a unique role in fostering citizen engagement—by bringing forth new ways to view an increasingly complex world, and providing the creative space in which difficult issues can be addressed and solutions can take form.
Our goal in examining this topic was to better articulate how the arts can help catalyze a more vital and participatory civic culture in our communities, workplaces, and nation.
The annual National Arts Policy Roundtable is the culminating event following a year long investigation of the topic by Americans for the Arts. This has included the conducting of literature reviews and engaging with experts and stakeholders in a meaningful exploration of new ideas around the topic.
Through the generous funding of the Kellog Foundation's Connect Fund, we welcomed new partners to this dialogue well known for their work in civic engagement: Public Agenda, American Public Media, and Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement (PACE). The staff and leaders of these groups have worked closely with this year's advisors to the Roundtable, Co-Directors of Americans for the Arts Program Animating Democracy Barbara Schaffer Bacon and Pam Korza, in helping to bring different perspectives and shed new light into our investigation.
Each year our goal for the Roundtable is to generate specific, actionable policy recommendations during at Sundance gathering, and to proffer them to the appropriate leaders in both the public and private sectors. In keeping with the spirit of this year's topic, our work was deeply rooted in dialogue and engagement with the arts and with each other. We were pleased to welcome the artists and community leaders from the City of Charlotte, who shared their experiences in attempting to bring about change in their community through a groundbreaking arts and civic engagement initiative, Crossroads Charlotte.
The full report on the 2008 Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable (pdf, 1013 KB) represents the results of this dialogue.
We are pleased to share with you the results of our efforts, and hope that this report serves as a launching point to a new national dialogue between the public and private sectors and within our communities on renewing civic life through the arts.