Each year, Americans for the Arts presents a series of Public Leadership in the Arts Awards to elected officials at all levels of government and artists who speak out in favor of the arts and arts education.
We just recently presented the first of the 2013 awards at The United States Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting in Washington, DC. The USCM is Americans for the Arts’ oldest public partnership going back more than two decades.
Each year, we also sponsor the “Mayor’s Arts Breakfast” were we present awards to two mayors, a governor, and one or more nationally-acclaimed artists. This event is very important as more than 350 of the country’s most powerful mayors gather to hear about how the arts are important to their cities.
I am happy to report that over the years, our nation’s mayors have become vocal advocates for arts funding as we provide them with a front row seat to learn the importance of arts and culture and the economic value the sector provides.
At this year’s breakfast, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Santa Fe Mayor David Coss were recognized for their support of the arts and culture in their cities. Both of these mayors, one from a fairly large city and the other of a fairly modest size, understand the importance and value of supporting their local nonprofit arts community and how that support generates substantial economic impact.
Mayor Landrieu has had arts and culture at the center of his platforms for office for the past 24 years. As Lt. Governor of Louisiana he created the Cultural Economy Initiative for which he received the 2006 Lt. Governor Public Leadership in the Arts Award. In 2012, Mayor Landrieu hosted the World Cultural Economic Forum as an initiative of the city in partnership with the USCM.
Mayor Coss presides over the oldest capital city in the United States, known internationally for its unique historic, cultural, artistic, and creative heritage. With a population of 68,642, Santa Fe has more cultural assets per capita than any other city in the United States. Under his leadership, the city invests $1.7 million annually in arts related funding for an impressive $24.35 per person.
In addition to the two mayors, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley was presented an award for his constant support of the creative economy in Maryland. The day before the award ceremony, Governor O’Malley surprised many by adding $2 million to fund the Maryland Arts Council in his annual budget to the legislature. This would bring the total budget of the Maryland Arts Council to $15 million per year.
Finally, Public Leadership in the Arts Awards were presented to artist John Legend and hip-hop group The Roots who were given our Citizen Artist Awards.
In 2007, Legend created the Show Me Campaign, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty using solutions that have been proven to improve people’s lives and to give them the opportunities to survive, thrive, and succeed.
Legend has testified before Congress in support of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and is a member of Americans for the Arts’ Artist Committee. In 2007, he received the Young Artist Award for Artistic Excellence at our National Arts Awards.
The Roots (Black Thought, ?uestlove, Owen Biddle, James “Kamal” Gray, Frank “Knuckles” Walker, “Captain Kirk” Douglas, Damen “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson, and James Poyser) currently serve as the house band of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, but they have been active with Philadelphia-based foundations such as the GrassRoots Foundation, Triple Threat Foundation, and D.A.S.H. for many years.
Annually, they organize and perform at the Roots Picnic Festival in Philadelphia and at the Philly 4th of July Jam concert. The Roots have been strong advocates for arts education and support the work of the VH1 Save the Music Foundation.
Upon receiving the award, ?uestlove
Events like these help Americans for the Arts advance the cause of the arts through important connections to thought and field leaders alike who join our grassroots efforts in trying to make the arts accessible to all.