My Woodstock

Posted by Robert Lynch, Aug 14, 2019

Fifty years ago this week I was at Woodstock, among the “half a million strong” that Joni Mitchell sang about. I arrived in a much-mended 1963 Rambler with my girlfriend Karyl. I was 19 and it was the summer of my sophomore year in college. My brother Roger arrived separately with a bunch of his high school friends on the back of a pick-up truck held together with duct tape and band-aids. Neither of us knew the other was there. Our parents, like many other parents, didn’t learn about our trip until later, and they weren’t all that happy about it. The first news reports portrayed a chaotic, dangerous, and lawless image of the three days. The county had declared a state of emergency and reports were that the National Guard was about to be called in at any moment. Eventually, each of us would take life-changing, year-long adventures on the road—my brother on a motorcycle, me and Karyl in a VW bus. We all were English majors and were, of course, inspired by Jack Kerouac’s On the Road; but for now we had arrived at Woodstock. Even after all these many years, being at Woodstock was inspirational and significant. 

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Recognizing Leadership and Innovation in the Arts Happens Every Day

Posted by Robert Lynch, Oct 17, 2018

Each fall, many of us in the arts world look forward to hearing the names of the National Medal of Arts recipients for the year. Awarded annually since 1985, this highly anticipated honor seems to have been put on hold beginning in 2016. Similarly, the National Humanities Medal ended a 26-year-long streak with their slate of 2015 honorees, and October’s National Arts & Humanities Month—which expanded from a week-long celebration proclaimed by President Reagan in 1985, to a month-long celebration of the arts and humanities in 1993—has yet to see a presidential proclamation since October 2016. Americans for decades have appreciated nationally recognized awards and a presidential proclamation every year as a show of support and encouragement to unleash creativity and reach for new heights. This year that hope was no different and I have been asked again and again for my thoughts on what has become of these high-profile awards.

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The Arts Say Thank You to Our Veterans and Active Duty Military

Posted by Robert Lynch, Nov 20, 2018

As we celebrate both Thanksgiving and National Veterans and Military Families Month this year, we honor the service and sacrifice of America’s more than 18 million veterans across the country. Arts and humanities events and programs remind us of the contributions that veterans and active duty military and their families have made and the power of joining together through the shared experience of art. We recognize the growing number of state and local-level arts and military initiatives that are creating greater access and more opportunities across the country. These programs unite us, bridging the civilian/military divide in a non-partisan way that only the arts can, in communities both large and small. And these efforts aren’t just one-time events; they represent long-term commitments from artists and arts groups to serve those who have served.

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An Artist at the Table Means Hope for a Better World

Posted by Robert Lynch, Dec 20, 2018

2018 was a year of some highs, but many lows. Controversy and anger and fear still seem to swirl around us in large supply, and more often I find myself sitting at my piano, my energy source and antidote for when I am feeling low. I imagine how all of us can better convey the power of the arts as a unifying force—as a solution for our country—during these difficult times. Our need for the arts is apparent. We have needed and sought the healing and teaching power of the arts for a long time. Robert Redford once said, “I’ve long believed we could move toward solving some of our biggest problems if there were an artist at every table.” Woven through the events of this year were artists who are making a tremendous difference in communities across the country, and their diverse voices are animating conversation and giving us hope for a kinder and more compassionate world.

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Mapping Our Progress Toward Cultural Equity

Posted by Robert Lynch, Mr. Clayton W. Lord, Jan 28, 2019

Since 1960, Americans for the Arts has worked to ensure equitable access to a full creative life for all people. While the type and quantity of work may have varied over time, the commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion has not. In 2015, our Board of Directors encouraged a more specific, strategic, and long-term commitment to cultural equity. As a first step, we spent a year working with board, staff, and membership to develop a new Statement on Cultural Equity. Formally adopted in April 2016, it honed our commitment and goals around cultural equity, articulated our definitions and areas of measurement, and delineated bodies of work for the organization: internal capacity and competency, funds generation to underwrite the work, external education, professional development pipeline transformation, dedicated research, and investments in equity-related public and private sector policy. We pledged, in the statement, to evaluate and report out on our progress and learnings over time. Today, we are happy to share the first of those reports, which covers April 2016 to August 2018. The report is called Mapping Our Progress Toward Cultural Equity, and it is the result of a collective effort from over 60 staff members at Americans for the Arts.

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The Federal Government’s Shutdown and Its Impact on the Arts – It’s a Bigger Deal Than You Think

Posted by Robert Lynch, Feb 14, 2019

The effects of the shutdown are widespread. The good news about the National Endowment for the Arts (the NEA, a federal agency that receives its annual appropriation from Congress) is that it funds the arts across the country, reaching every Congressional district in all 50 states plus U.S. Territories. The bad news is that any negative impact becomes equally widespread. The American public values the arts and wants access to more opportunities, not fewer. Whether people engage in the arts or not, 90 percent of Americans believe that cultural facilities improve quality of life, and 86 percent believe that cultural facilities are important to local business and the economy. The arts benefits to the community are formidable, and they are to the individual as well. The arts help us address so many challenges in education, health and healing, military, community development, among many others, and the effects of a shutdown are felt not just in the arts organizations, but also in the industries and organizations that are helped by the arts. The benefits of the arts are numerous, but still the ecosystem is fragile and should be cultivated, not endangered.

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Advice for Arts Advocates Everywhere

Posted by Robert Lynch, Mar 27, 2017

At a time of volatile change, we must be relentless in voicing a strong and clear message. Learning more about our elected officials and then actively engaging with them will serve to advance pro-arts policies that will impact our society and communities for years to come. 

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Robert Lynch Responds to Wall Street Journal Commentary Calling for an End to the NEA

Posted by Robert Lynch, Feb 03, 2017

Thank you to Patrick Courrielche (“Save the Arts by Ending the Endowment,” Jan. 25), who made an excellent case for protecting the National Endowment for the Arts and even increasing its appropriations. However, his letter needs to be read from the bottom up. Mr. Courrielche’s summary called for Congress and President Trump to create a robust, expanded national arts council, but that is in fact what the NEA is. 

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Goals Worth Fighting For

Posted by Robert Lynch, Jan 27, 2017

We now know that some of President Trump’s transition team advisors are recommending elimination of federal arts and humanities funding along with many other non-arts related cuts. The arguments are old and tired and fly in the face of some of the very things our new President wants like building new infrastructure, jobs, a stronger economy—all areas where the arts are proven allies. As we wait for more clarity, Americans for the Arts will continue to celebrate those who are making a difference, and work with arts advocates across the country toward goals that could strengthen our country through the arts.

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Sometimes the Budget Pie is Big Enough for Everyone

Posted by Robert Lynch, Apr 26, 2017

It’s the late 70s and I’m standing in the rotunda of the Massachusetts State House with a 10-foot-wide Boston cream pie. A pencil-thin line of white frosting drawn from the center outward like the minute hand of a watch is punctuated by a tall cardboard flag that says, “A piece of the pie for the arts.” This might get us some curious onlookers, maybe some pictures, I think. But before I know it, every elected official and staff member in the entire statehouse is drawn to the spectacle and descends into the rotunda not only to view it, but to get a piece. My fellow advocates and I served a lot of pie that day … and we also got an increase to our arts budget. 

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Robert L. Lynch Speaks of Hope, Unity, and Resilience at the End of This Presidential Election

Posted by Robert Lynch, Nov 09, 2016

President-Elect Trump has said, “…supporting and advocating for appreciation of the arts is important to an informed and aware society. As President, I would take on that role.” Americans for the Arts hopes for a White House and administration that supports the nonprofit arts community, the local and state arts support infrastructures, as well as independent artists and creative entrepreneurs. We will work hard to advance pro-arts policies and strengthen our efforts to transform communities through the arts. It is more important than ever that we use the arts to help the economy, our communities, families and children, and our nation to seek hope, opportunity, and ultimately to come together.

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Celebrating National Arts and Humanities Month with an Eye to a New Cast of Characters

Posted by Robert Lynch, Oct 05, 2016

We are at the edge of a changing political tide, whereby elected leaders and administrations will change and support mechanisms for the arts will necessarily evolve. We have one last shot in 2016 to show our future elected leaders the importance of the arts in America.

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The Future of Arts Education is a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy at the Podium

Posted by Robert Lynch, Sep 12, 2016

Today when I think about back-to-school time, I worry. Will the teachers be prepared to reach every student—and reach them in the poorer corners of cities as well as rural areas? Are the schools welcoming and enticing to students and parents? Will creativity be a daily activity in the lives of our country’s next generation of thinkers, leaders, and artists?

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Who Gets Your Vote This Election Season? The Arts!

Posted by Robert Lynch, Jul 19, 2016

Getting the word out to elected leaders about the inherent and practical value of the arts is critical. As Americans for the Arts has done for the last three political conventions, we will make the case at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia for better policy and support for the arts and arts education in America. 

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The Arts Add Powerful Voice and Vibrancy to Corporate America

Posted by Robert Lynch, Apr 29, 2016

Fifty years ago, David Rockefeller, Chairman and CEO of the Chase Manhattan Corporation, gave an address to the National Industrial Conference Board (now The Conference Board). It was The Conference Board’s 50th anniversary, and his words changed how the business community viewed the arts world.

Rockefeller has always been a visionary who understood a half century ago that the arts could go a long way towards helping businesses as well as humanity. He called for businesses to assume a much larger role in supporting the arts for the many ways that they improve both the business and the community. He helped lead the formation of the Business Committee for the Arts (BCA)—since merged with Americans for the Arts—which has encouraged, inspired, and paved the way for businesses to support the arts in the workplace, in education, and in the community.

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My Experience at the 2016 Political Conventions

Posted by Robert Lynch, Aug 31, 2016

This July, I was excited to help deliver the Arts Action Fund’s message to both Republican and Democratic audiences through ARTSSPEAK, the public policy forum series that is a core part of our ArtsVote2016 campaign. ARTSSPEAK discussions were centered around the transformative power of the arts on people’s lives, schools, and communities, with the ultimate goal of electing candidates that support doubling arts funding to $1 per capita for the arts. 

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Robert Lynch Responds to Hill Commentary Calling to End Funding for the NEA

Posted by Robert Lynch, Apr 24, 2017

In his op-ed (“The case for cutting National Endowment of the Arts funding,” April 2), David D’Amato states that “Government-funded art is publicly-funded art only once government is lazily conflated with the public. It is not the public (whatever indeed that may mean) that decides which art projects are to be supported with taxpayer dollars.” That statement is simply inaccurate. Mr. D’Amato must be unaware that the public is embedded in the entire grantmaking process at the NEA. This in part is why the NEA has received wide support from both Republicans and Democrats for half a century. 

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From Blues to the “Peanutcracker,” Government Support for the Arts Helps Create Access for All

Posted by Robert Lynch, May 25, 2017

It’s easy to rattle off numbers, but what does this increase in funding really mean? Great projects across the country will now get to continue. Last year, the NEA recommended more than 2,400 grants in nearly 16,000 communities in every congressional district in the country. A review of NEA grants shows that the majority go to small and medium-sized organizations, and the diversity among these grant recipients is unmatched by any other U.S. funder. One grant program, “Challenge America,” is dedicated to reaching underserved communities—those whose opportunities to experience the arts are limited by geography, ethnicity, economics, or disability.

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The Arts Don’t Just Heal, They Also Unify and Inspire Action

Posted by Robert Lynch, Dec 15, 2016

I have been playing a lot of piano lately—my antidote for when I am feeling low, or my energy source for when I am working through challenges. This election season has brought to light challenges in our country, divides that I have always believed the arts can bridge. And so I find myself sitting at the keyboard and playing tunes by artists I admire like Bob Dylan, or trying out some dark Leonard Cohen pieces on guitar, or writing some of my own poetry in order to help me get from one state of mind to another. It also makes me imagine how to better convey the power of the arts during these difficult times as part of the solution for our country, much like my own art does for me.

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Advancing Diversity by Empowering the Arts in Our Nation’s Education Decision-making

Posted by Robert Lynch, Sep 10, 2018

As young people around the country return to school, educators take the helm of their classrooms, and educational leaders build learning communities that inspire creative and innovative teaching and learning, the arts education community along with public and private sector leaders join together once again to celebrate National Arts in Education Week. As this school year begins, local school districts and state education leaders have more resources and policies under their supervision than ever before. Our job is to encourage, enable, and empower advocates to get to the negotiating table to strengthen arts education! They need to hear from us. Starting this week, we should get arts education leaders at every table for every decision impacting education and certainly arts education from here on out! 

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The Battle Wages On for the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch, Apr 18, 2018

Our field collectively high-fived recently when Congress passed the long-delayed budget for fiscal year 2018. Together we beat back the Trump Administration’s proposals to terminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, funded now through September 30. Each will receive a total of $152.8 million, $3 million more a piece than last year. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who passed away last month, was a fierce champion for the arts for decades, and this win is a very fitting tribute to her longtime leadership. It took the unified, tireless, and persistent work of the arts community and grassroots advocates nationwide to achieve this win. Strong activism resulted in a powerful bipartisan message that arts and humanities funding strengthens and enriches our communities and grows local economies. 

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Remembering Louise (1929 – 2018)

Posted by Robert Lynch, Apr 18, 2018

On March 16, 2018, a dear friend, tireless advocate, and arts leader passed away, U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter. I have known Louise for 32 years. We’ve partnered in nearly that many Arts Advocacy Days. It has always been my honor to stand with Louise. I’ve stood with her on over 100 occasions in the last 23 years while she co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus. Americans for the Arts and the nation’s arts community owe a debt of gratitude to Louise Slaughter. There has never been an arts advocate with more tenacity, fight, humor, and spirit of generosity. May she rest in peace knowing that she made the world a better place through the arts, and may her trailblazing pave the way to more arts leaders recognizing the transformational power of the arts on our lives, communities, economy, and nation.

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Eight for 2018: New Obstacles and Opportunities in the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch, Mar 08, 2018

Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.

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We Should All Value the Artists and Their Vital Role in Our Communities

Posted by Robert Lynch, Dec 14, 2017

As we celebrate the holidays, I encourage you to think of all the ways artists have helped your company, organization, place of worship, community. How have artists bettered your family and your life? Think about the artist behind the public art mural as you pass by while running errands. Take a moment to listen to caroling. Take family and friends to galleries, a live music venue, or small theater production. Let’s all support these artists and community change-makers this holiday season. 

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Looking Back and Moving Forward—Supporting Our Veterans Through the Arts

Posted by Robert Lynch, Nov 21, 2017

November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.

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Artists’ Voices Ring Through Civic Dialogue and Municipal Engagement

Posted by Robert Lynch, Oct 31, 2017

The role of the artist is changing. In the midst of these challenging times, civic engagement has become the focus of attention across many sectors and fields. More than ever, the arts are promoting greater awareness and understanding of community issues, contributing to shifts in thinking and in attitude. I see artists and arts organizations across the country being integrated into practices of civic engagement, and applying the power of artistic imagination to inform, inspire, engage, and motivate social action. And I continue to applaud state and municipal governments across the U.S. for embracing such collaborations.

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Arts Education Transforms Teaching, Learning, and the Lives of Our Young People

Posted by Robert Lynch, Sep 11, 2017

During this week of celebration, advocates in every state are working to secure equity in access to arts education and articulate the role of the arts as a pathway to academic success, specifically in the education of students of color, students in rural communities, students who are classified as low-socioeconomic status English Language Learners, or those who require special education. Former Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has stated, “This is absolutely an equity issue and a civil rights issue.” We recognize this issue. We stand against the barriers that cause this issue. And we are working to overcome this issue.

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The Arts and Veterans: A Mighty Force

Posted by Robert Lynch, Jun 30, 2017

The Fourth of July is a time to honor and reflect on the determination and sacrifices of our service members in making our freedom possible. Over the years, stories have emerged of how veterans across the country come back—and what they give back—after overcoming sometimes decades of struggles with combat and service-related illness and injuries. Many of these veterans say that the arts saved their lives—but in finding their creative voice, they are also enriching our lives too.

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