The past few months have been turbulent to say the least. COVID-19 has brought unprecedented change to how people live, work, and play with no end in sight. Further, the murder of George Floyd was a catalyst to call for society to re-evaluate the idealized social compact that all people are treated equal and all people should have equal access to prosperity, safety, and happiness. Let us work to make this shift in public opinion permanent and with lasting, systemic change.
Americans for the Arts partners with a range of associations of elected officials at all levels of government to promote the arts and culture as solutions to cities’ various issues or problems. The National League of Cities (NLC) is one such partner. NLC represents mayors and city council members of approximately 2,000 cities of all sizes in the United States. Recently, the League reached out to Americans for the Arts to write an article on how the arts can help cities through this time of social and civil change and the need for racial equity and healing. We work with NCL and similar organizations to promote arts and culture at the national level in order to get the attention of elected officials, which allows you, the local advocate, to follow up. In other words, the elected official hears our message from their national association (at conferences, through blog posts, and other channels), and then hears it again from their local residents. This two-pronged approach shows the elected official that the arts are indeed a powerful tool and an organized political constituency.
At the League’s request, my colleague Ruby Lopez Harper and I wrote Racial Equity and Embracing Healing Through the Arts on NLC’s CitiesSpeak blog. As we wrote in the post: We have all experienced the power of the arts to heal and unite—from joyful tears of listening to emotional poetry readings, to the discomfort of watching a one-act play depicting domestic abuse. In both cases, and everything in between, the arts have the power not only to educate but also to steer us to action and to crystalize what must be done. Artists are powerful community leaders. They know and feel the emotional pulses of their neighborhood, and they can translate that to a mural, a play, a protest song, or a poem that calls people together, gives hope, and provides a path forward.
As an arts advocate who understands the power of the arts to transform and heal, I urge you to share this blog post with your mayor or city council members, ask them to read it, and offer to follow up with arts and culture related ideas or programs which will not only help your city, but provide much needed jobs to artists.
2020 has been a struggle so far, and it will continue to be so. But, as always, the arts and culture offer a path forward to help heal and bring some joy back into our lives.
Stay safe and healthy.