Join the Conversation: Citizenship and the Arts


Use the hashtag #ArtsFwd to join Jessica and Virtual Summit participants from around the world for a conversation about this topic on Tuesday, October 22 at 11:00am EST. Learn more and register for the free Virtual Summit here

When I think of “Citizenship and the Arts,” the first word that comes to mind is community. From my early years growing up with a passion for dance and music enhanced by my family’s interest in the arts, to my college years studying dance education and choreography or professionally working in the education and arts nonprofit sector, art has always been the center of my life – it’s been my community. The arts are not this separate “thing” for the elite, or a by-invitation-only experience, but experiences that should be accessible for all. Art reminds us of what it means to be human.

A few weeks ago the Aspen Institute held a similar conversation around the idea of citizenship and the arts at Hunter College in New York City.  Although the discussion was engaging, there was one missing piece: the voice of community members. Damian Woetzel (former principal dancer with the NYC Ballet), the conversation’s moderator, raised thoughtful questions that I would also like to ask of my arts community – and I’ll have the chance to do that on October 22, during the discussion I will lead alongside the livestreamed Citizenship and the Arts Talk series in the National Innovation Summit for Arts & Culture. These questions include:

  • How does exercising one’s right as a citizen create power, and how do arts and culture contribute to that work?
  • What responsibility do arts leaders have to foster a sense of shared national culture, identity, and responsibility?
  • What are the roles of the arts and cultural institution, the K-12 education system, and higher education’s learning environments in harnessing the benefits of “art for life’s sake?”

During this online discussion, Virtual Summit participants and I will together explore how arts organizations and leaders can work from their unique point as citizens to advance broader civic agendas. I’m looking forward to hearing from Summit speakers John Davis (Executive Director, Lanesboro Arts Center), Lisa Hoffman (Director of Environmental Program and Community Engagement, McColl Center for Visual Art), and Howard Shalwitz (Artistic Director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), who will share the ways that their organizations have mobilized their communities to become active citizens through the arts for life.

Join Jessica and Virtual Summit participants from around the world during the Citizenship and the Arts Talk series on Tuesday, October 22 at 11:00am EST. Learn more and register for the free Virtual Summit here

Speakers in the Citizenship and the Arts Talk Series

Howard Shalwitz, Artistic Director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company
Finding Your Itch and Scratching It

Howard Shalwitz is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, DC. He has been the visionary force behind the company for 32 seasons, steering its adventurous play selection, guiding the development of dozens of new works, building a renowned acting company, and leading Woolly Mammoth in the creation of an award-winning new downtown theatre which opened in May 2005. Howard has directed new plays by Jason Grote, Sheila Callaghan, Doug Wright, and many other provocative American writers, at theatres including New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, Arena Stage, Studio Arena, Milwaukee Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, and the Kennedy Center. In 2011 he was a Distinguished Finalist for SSDC’s Zelda Fichandler Award and winner of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Director for Bruce Norris’ Clybourne Park.

Lisa Hoffman, Director of Environmental Program and Community Engagement, McColl Center for Visual Art
Artist-led Ecosystem Interventions

Lisa Hoffman is the McColl Center for Visual Art’s first Director of Environmental Program and Community Engagement. Prior to joining the McColl Center, Lisa Hoffman served as Director of Charlotte Nature Museum. Hoffman is committed to nature-based education, the improvement of schools in underserved communities and the convergence of art and science as a vehicle to improve lives and the environment. She has held positions as a science educator and mentor with the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County Public Schools and has worked in collections for the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. She is a recipient of Charlotte Business Journal‘s 40 under 40 Award, served on the board of North Carolina Association of Environmental Education Centers, North Carolina Play Alliance, local advisory boards and tasks forces, and has been a keynote speaker at many community events.

John Davis, Executive Director, Lanesboro Arts Center
Small Town, Big Vision

John Davis is the founder and Executive Director of the Lanesboro Arts Center. His work in Lanesboro, Minnesota resulted in its selection as one of the top 12 Small Town ArtPlaces in America for 2013. His creative placemaking work in New York Mills, Minnesota has been recognized as a national model for rural economic development in the arts. His work has been featured on National Public Radio, the NBC TODAY Show, and in USA Today.

A professional tap dancer from Ohio, Jessica is founder of ArtsEdTechNYC and works as an arts administrator and communications professional in NYC. A passionate educator, advocate, entrepreneur and writer, Jessica enjoys telling a good story with words and her feet.