Creativity Connects: A New Initiative of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Chairman Jane Chu

By: Judy Anderson, Project Director

Jane Chu, the 11th Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), is celebrating the 50-year anniversary of the agency with a ten-city roundtable research tour designed to launch a new initiative – Creativity Connects.  With her populist approach and vision for the NEA, Creativity Connects is a three-tiered effort to look into the future for the arts around the country.  One stop on her tour was a visit to Atlanta between Jan. 12-14 where she met with artists, cultural leaders, and civic leaders as well toured some of my favorite cultural destinations: Spelman College (www.spelman.edu/about-us/museum-of-fine-art), True Colors Theatre Company (www.truecolorstheatre.org), Stone Mountain Arts Station (www.artstation.org), the Woodruff Arts Center (www.woodruffcenter.org), and Goat Farm Arts Center (www.facebook.com/TheGoatFarmArtsCenter).  A cultural community roundtable discussion was held at Atlanta Contemporary Arts Center.  Chairman Chu explained Creativity Connects’ three pillars:

  • An investigation of the artistic infrastructure for the arts: who works in the arts, what are the resources needed to keep arts communities vibrant, who attends the arts
  • Mapping the nation’s creativity: taking the pulse of how art is created, where art is created and consumed, what kinds of art is being created and by whom
  • A new grant program that will support connecting the arts with traditionally non-arts sectors: funding to encourage cross-collaboration between arts, for-profit entities, technologists, and other beyond the arts thinking (www.arts.gov)

In hearing about the meetings and in listening to some of her interviews, one statement struck me as being a mantra for what we can expect from her and the NEA under her leadership: “When you have seen one city, you have seen one city.” The next city, the next arts group, the next audience will be different, unique in its own way. This implies, at least to me, that she understands and values the differences that can be found and celebrated in every community.  It means, as artists and consumers of the arts, staying true to what is authentic about our community and to the work that emerges from that authentic place.