A crowd of more than 350 arts workers, arts advocates, high-school students, performers, legislators and government officials celebrated the power of the arts to transform individual lives and stimulate the state’s economy at the first CT Arts Day in 20 years. Kristina Newman-Scott, Director of Culture for the State of CT, pushed for the concept of this gathering and rallied the indefatigable team at the Office of the Arts to make it happen. The Office of the Arts collaborated with other organizations, including the Connecticut Arts Alliance and the nine regional cultural councils in the state.
“One of the outstanding and unforgettable aspects of this day-long gathering was hearing passionate testimony from our elected representatives about the transformative power of the arts,” stated Kristina Newman-Scott. From DECD Commissioner Catherine Smith to Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman, who declared March 2nd CT Arts Day permanently, to Senators Beth Bye, Bob Duff, Tony Hwang, Representatives Robyn Porter and Matt Ritter – all testified to the power of the arts in their lives, to the arts being significantly instrumental in the state’s economy, and to the critical importance of intensifying the presence of the arts in our schools. Representative Roberta Willis also spoke up during a panel discussion, emphasizing the importance of the arts and how the regional cultural councils keep their communities connected with the arts. Lt. Gov. Wyman in particular strongly endorsed the concept of STEAM (adding the arts to STEM curriculum).
Jay Dick from the Americans for the Arts in Washington DC spoke to the crowd about the economic impact of the arts, pointing out that the arts sector is the second, only to government, in Connecticut regarding number of employees. Artist Titus Kaphar shared his story of struggling through the educational system only to bloom later as a successful artist graduating from Yale. Theo Edmunds, co-founder of Ideas XLab, gave the keynote address, which was sponsored by Cigna, at the end of the day, relaying instances when artists have made an impact in various non-arts industries and sectors.
Two workshops – one on advocacy and one on economic impact – were standing room only. There were performances sprinkled throughout the scheduled gatherings, including dance, poetry, song, and theater. There were different speed-presentations given by artists and organizations in three groups of six from throughout the state, telling with slide-shows, stories of how they approached transformative community projects and programs. In addition to the scheduled activities, attendees networked with one another and found information about the Office of the Arts, the Office of Preservation, the CT Arts Alliance and the nine regional cultural councils.
Connecticut Arts Day was presented by the CT Office of the Arts in collaboration with the Connecticut Arts Alliance, Arts Council of Greater New Haven, Arts & Culture Collaborative of Waterbury, Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, Shoreline Arts Alliance, Southeastern Connecticut Cultural Coalition, and Windham Arts.
OP-Ed piece from the Danbury News Times