October 8, 2023—This is National Arts & Humanities Month (NAHM), an opportunity to expand the dialogue in our workplaces and communities about the value of arts and culture to our collective well-being, and the necessity of equitable access.
President Joe Biden’s 2023 Executive Order comes at a critical juncture in America—amidst a culture war that seeks to ignore the rich diversity of the American people and its cultural heritage, while whitewashing the truth out of history. NAHM is an opportunity for us to reboot and remember that those of us working in the arts and culture sectors are on the frontlines, and we must remain our boldest, strongest, and, if necessary, loudest advocates.
In her statement in celebration of NAHM, Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, reminds us of our mission: “We cannot tell the complex story of our nation without the arts and humanities, nor envision or achieve a more just, equitable, and hopeful future without them. We celebrate not just the arts and humanities this month, but the imaginative and creative spirit that animates our democracy and makes better American—and global—citizens of us all.”
To be an artist, culture worker or scholar requires commitment, conviction, and numerous skills. They must be self-starters, masters of their craft, creative problem solvers, innovators, project managers, and facilitators. I believe NAHM is an important platform to celebrate and support them and their work, which illuminates the truth of who we are and reminds us of our common humanity.
Unfortunately, these “creative spirits” are often undervalued and under-compensated members of our community. They are often targeted or dismissed because of their ideas, despite the generosity of their work and the healing powers spread through their efforts. However, there is a growing wave of community-based programs that are leading the effort to change how arts and cultural workers are regarded. These programs include the Guaranteed Minimum Income for Artists program created by Springboard for the Arts; the “Hope Corps” in Seattle, which pays unemployed and underemployed artists to create public art, and the Minneapolis Creative City Making program, which partners community artists with city staff to redesign city services and practices to better serve its diverse communities.
We also can support artists by encouraging them to check out Artists THR!VE, a resource-rich platform developed to help artists create an action plan. Established in 2016 with a grant from the Emily Tremaine Foundation, the organization offers an Artists Thrive Assessment for artists and people who work with artists. Its goal is to raise the value of artists in every community, and that includes helping artists see their own value.
Research is always important when it comes to validating the impact of the arts. Americans for the Arts (AFTA) will release the results of its study, “Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6),” on Thursday, October 12, in which it will share its latest economic and social impact findings on how the arts have been building stronger communities in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. You will find more details about the release of the report and can register to attend the free virtual event at this link.
How will you commemorate National Arts & Humanities Month? In what ways will you encourage, support, or promote the artists, culture workers, or scholars in your area? As always, I want to hear about what you’re doing. I invite you to share your comments below.