Remaking America Through the Arts

Every year, Americans for the Arts and The Sundance Institute host a very special gathering of leaders from government, business, the arts and social sectors in the beautiful mountains of the Sundance Resort and Preserve in Utah. Those participating differ from year to year, but the goal is always the same: Envisioning new ways to engage in action to advance the arts and their significance to our American society.

The annual gathering is The National Arts Policy Roundtable, and since its inception in 2006 more than 175 decision-makers and thought leaders have convened at the Sundance Resort for spirited discussion and debate. And every year the group yields a series of recommendations on public policies and private sector practices that are necessary to move the issue from thought to action. These recommendations have resulted in significant and measurable policy achievements and advancement strategies at the national, state and local levels.

We have taken on the future of private sector funding for the arts; the role of the arts in building a creative and internationally-competitive workforce; fostering civic engagement; and strengthening global communities. The 2012 topic, Leveraging the Remake: The Role of the Arts in a Shifting Economy, explored how the arts survive and thrive in this era of dramatically accelerating change.

2013-06-10-lynchandredford.jpgBut more importantly, this gathering proposed that the arts can serve as both a model and catalyst for change for a number of the pressing societal challenges which face our nation. But it will require new ways of thinking and engaging with the opportunities and challenges of a more diverse, technologically-driven and entrepreneurial world.

It became clear to the 2012 Roundtable at Sundance that the way forward is through creative, even contrarian, thinking and nontraditional problem solving: all of which are inherent in -- and often developed through -- the arts.

So, how best to navigate "The Remake" through the lens of the arts, and develop a set of actionable steps to put the arts to work in providing sustainable, creative and innovative answers? The recommendations include: 1. Understand our nation's demographic changes and build better partnerships across the breadth of diverse America, including ethnic, gender, age, preference, income and all kinds of diversity; 2. Give artists the tools and training to be leaders in their communities and part of the brain trust that helps the country move forward in this new economy; 3. Better utilize design thinking in problem-solving for communities and for the arts themselves. 4. Develop a consistent "brand" message for the multiple values of the arts, so when we do speak to decision makers and stakeholders we speak with a common set of principles; 5. Convene a national dialogue around technology and how it can be better utilized by the arts and involve: creators of technology, funders, artists, curators and policy leaders; 6. Create a central database for research and case-making information about the arts and categorize it easily, including: economy, education, society, quality of life and more; 7. Establish a searchable online database for cultural tourism opportunity in America; 8. Study the viability and potential options for at-risk legacy organizations; 9. Identify outstanding success stories in the arts and arts education and create a best-practices guide.

The arts continue to hold a unique place in our society -- both revered and resisted. But it is imperative that the arts assert their essential role in the midst of a shifting economy and society, because that shift spans far beyond the narrow scope of economics and ranges from demographics to technology to values and beyond. As such, the core of this changing world is not strictly tied to dollars; rather, The Remake opens the door to a whole new conception of what it means to engage with the world around us and how the powerful ideas that come out of the creative community can help lead the country toward creative solutions in a way that no other sector can.