Reflection and Revolution: AFTACON 2016 State of the Arts Address
Below is an excerpt of Americans for the Arts President and CEO Robert Lynch’s annual State of the Arts speech given June 17, 2016, at our Annual Convention. The full text can be downloaded here, and we also recommend that you view the speech on our YouTube channel. Except for small quotations, this speech may not be reproduced elsewhere without permission.
Risk. Controversy. Action. Vision. Vibrancy. Equity. Accessibility. Power. Innovation. Failure. Design. Community. Leadership. These are the concepts you’re grappling with now, and we hope you’ll find sessions that help you as you do that grappling, and takeaways that you can bring back to your home.
You are here, in your work and success, fulfilling what John Adams, our former president who lived just 10 miles from here, prophesized. He said:
“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy … to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain …”
That is a vision of you, your great work. That is a vision for a better America.
We try to help you with that. Through professional and leadership training, information and research, advocacy, and strategic partnership and support, we help you succeed. I’ve seen your great work in places all across the country.
John Adams believed in you, as we do. We believe that you are America’s secret weapon in moving us toward the joy and value of the arts for everyone. You are creating better communities—communities that are built upon justice, equity, and inclusion throughout our nation.
I have seen your great work in the places I have visited this year. I’ve seen your work in the wake of disaster—and we have too much of that today. Whether that’s here in Boston, Baltimore, Ferguson, San Bernardino, Charleston, Orlando, or across the sea in Paris and Brussels. And I see the great work you’re doing to bring the arts as a healer and a joy—you, arts leaders, have gone to bat in the aftermath of terrible things to provide the arts in moments where they are needed. You are helping people deal with the issues and problems of the 21st century in your own communities. You are heroes, all, nowhere more than now, in this year of reflection and revolution.
The arts reflect us. They tell us who we are and how we got here. And perhaps provide a pathway to go forward.
“All the arts, all the people” has been our steadfast declaration about equitable access to the transformative power of the arts. It is an aspirational phrase—and one we all must strive to meet.
Access to a full creative life is essential to a healthy and democratic society. And where there are systems of power that grant privilege and access unequally in a way that creates inequity and injustice, we must all stand up to change them.
Our core belief that all people should have equal access to the arts has never wavered, but the political, social, and economic circumstances in which we carry out our mission are constantly evolving. We all must evolve, too.
Read the full speech here.