National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman delivered a keynote address this week to close the 2009 national Grantmakers in the Arts conference: Navigating the Art of Change.
In his remarks, Chairman Landesman laid out the guiding principle that will inform his work at the agency, which can be summed up in two words: "Art works." Chairman Landesman explained that he means this in three ways:
"Art works" is a noun. They are the books, crafts, dances, designs, drawings, films, installations, music, musicals, paintings, plays, performances, poetry, textiles, and sculptures that are the creation of artists.
"Art works" is a verb. Art works on and within people to change and inspire them; it addresses the need people have to create, to imagine, to aspire to something more.
"Art works" is a declarative sentence: arts jobs are real jobs that are part of the real economy. Art workers pay taxes, and art contributes to economic growth, neighborhood revitalization, and the livability of American towns and cities.
Chairman Landesman announced that he will spend the next six months learning and highlighting the ways that art works in neighborhoods and towns across America.
This national tour will begin on Friday, November 6, 2009 with a visit to Peoria, Illinois, at the invitation of Kathy Chitwood, executive director of the Eastlight Theatre, and Suzette Boulais, executive director of Arts Partners of Central Illinois. The Chairman's visit to Peoria will begin with a round table discussion about the impact of the arts that will be moderated by Carol Coletta, president and CEO of CEOs for Cities, and will include Peoria's political, civic, business, and arts leaders. It will also include a tour of Peoria's "warehouse district" and a performance of Eastlight Theatre's production of the musical Rent.
The "Art Works" tour will continue on to St. Louis, Missouri, the week of November 23, 2009; to Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, the week of November 30, 2009; and to other states, including California, Idaho, Kentucky, and Washington over the next months.
To help inform this tour, the NEA is hosting a blog at www.arts.gov where Americans can post examples and stories of how art works in their own communities. Chairman Landesman will also post dispatches from the "Art Works" tour on the website, beginning after his visit to Peoria on November 6.
"In the coming months, I look forward to seeing downtown sculpture gardens, art walks along waterfronts, public performances and exhibitions, adaptive reuse of abandoned buildings, and subsidized work spaces for artists," said Chairman Landesman. "Despite the economic realities we are all confronting, art continues to work."