Sunday, May 29, 2016

Robert Lynch and Americans for the Arts

I was only vaguely aware of Americans for the Arts until Robert Lynch, President and CEO of for the last 30 years came to speak in Santa Fe a short while ago … and people want to know what you can do with a BA in English from Amherst!

Robert Lynch and Sophia Loren

In the middle of its 6th decade Americans for the Arts, in their own words, “Our mission is to serve, advance, and lead the network of organizations and individuals who cultivate, promote, sustain, and support the arts in America. Connecting your best ideas and leaders from the arts, communities, and business, together we can work to ensure that every American has access to the transformative power of the arts.”

Americans for the Arts launched the New Community Visions Initiative last year.  It is a two-year program to explore the future of local arts in America and the role of community-based arts in enabling organizations, funders, cultural institutions, and artists in shaping that future.  This fits in very well with the effort that Estevan Rael-Gálvez and his group under the auspices of the Mayor, Javier Gonzalez, and the City Arts Commission is making to map culture in Santa Fe.  I wrote about this a few weeks ago.

The evening was sponsored by the National Endowment and came to Santa Fe through Creative Santa Fe, the City of Santa Fe Arts Commission and New Mexico Arts.  My wife being on the Arts Commission we had seats reserved in the sold out auditorium.

It is easy to sum up Lynch’s talk: the purpose of his organization is to convince the world that ART IS IMPORTANT.   They work to help communities understand the importance of the arts in culture with an emphasis on encouraging using the arts in the schools.

Robert Lynch turns out to be a wonderful lecturer and the audience stayed totally with him.  I can easily tune out when I am sitting in a talk but Lynch kept me interested.  He clearly had a “stump speech” but it was not read but spoken from a true belief in what the arts can do for society.  They have done the statistics and it shows that it represents 704 billion dollars a year and makes up 4.7 percent of the U.S. Economy!  Also, I have known for sometime that the disciplines in the arts can be helpful to children’s school grades but I did not know that they are important in crime reduction as well.

Mr. Lynch confirmed something that I had long suspected but never heard articulated by a professional, the main reason people don’t contribute to the arts is because they are never asked.  I remember the first Mrs. Henry Ford II after her divorce from the auto magnate moved to Los Angeles.  She complained to me that she had been “out there” for some time and nobody from the Los Angeles County Museum had been in touch with her!

Lynch’s first trip to Santa Fe was in 1974 so he is well acquainted with our town. He spoke of the great cultural resources here, through our residents, and spoke of the contributions that Robert Redford has made and that he has worked on projects with Americans for the Arts often in the past.

Robert Lynch & Robert Redford

Someone asked Lynch how technology was affecting the arts and I had the impression that the questioner expected a negative answer but Lynch without missing a beat said it is enhancing the arts and the example he gave which we could all relate to was the Metropolitan Opera’s “Live from the Met” series which many of us enjoy at our very own Lensic Performing Arts Center.  It keeps us in classical music all winter long until the Santa Fe Opera is here live in July and August.

Lynch had a wonderful turn of phrase.  We all know that promotion is vital for arts organizations and he defined that marketing as “the creative framing of the truth! 

How wonderful that there is such an organization as American for the Arts that can proselytize for what many of us believe is so vital to life!

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