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Honoring Nancy Hanks - Our Annual Lecture on Arts and Public Policy

Nancy Hanks

Americans for the Arts is proud to announce that 2012 marks the 25th anniversary of the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy.

The lecture itself is dedicated to an impressive and influential individual — Nancy Hanks, former president of Americans for the Arts (then known as the American Council for the Arts) and chairwoman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).

Chairwoman Hanks was appointed by President Nixon in 1969, four years after the founding of the NEA, and served two four-year terms.

Under her tenure, the NEA’s budget grew by a staggering 1,400 percent! This budgetary expansion is demonstrative of the critical role Chairwoman Hanks played in the development of the NEA and the arts in America.

Hanks proved to be an articulate and effective advocate for the importance of federal arts support during an especially vulnerable time. As members of Congress continued to dispute the very existence of the NEA, she was able to personally persuade dozens of legislators to vote for increased appropriations.

Her intelligence, conviction, and passion enabled her persuasion.

In her words, “It is part of the essential idea of our country that the lives of the people should be advanced in freedom and in comprehension of the tough and soaring qualities of the spirit. This is not possible without the arts. They are not a luxury; they are a necessity.”

Today, the NEA offices are fittingly housed in the Nancy Hanks Center, formerly the Old Post Office Pavilion, a historic building that Chairwoman Hanks fought to preserve from demolition.

The annual Nancy Hanks Lecture is an opportunity to recognize her legacy, and to reaffirm the importance and necessity of the arts in America at the highest levels of public discourse.

During this 25th anniversary year of Arts Advocacy Day and the Hanks Lecture, when the arts are being threatened amid debt limit debates, it is crucial for arts advocates to look back into the past to help preserve the future for the arts.

That being said, we are excited to have actor and arts advocate Alec Baldwin presenting this year’s Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall on April 16, 2012.

Mr. Baldwin joins an impressive list of past speakers that includes Wynton Marsalis, Robert Redford, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Maya Angelou, Kevin Spacey, and many others.


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