By: Kelley Luckett, Boys & Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana Site-based Director

Our NeXt November meeting was held at the Brown Forman offices, where we started our day with an Arts in the Workplace tour of the building. All of the ambassadors were impressed with BF’s commitment to the arts, as was reflected in the 3,000+ original works of art in their collection. I for one was envious that upon hiring, BF staff meet with the curator to pick out the art that will don their office walls.

After the tour, we were introduced to Robert Lynch, the President and CEO for Americans for the Arts, and it was impressed on us what a treat it was for our class to hear from him directly. Mr. Lynch engaged the crowd in his personal story of a writer turned arts advocate, while at the same time telling the history of American for the Arts and arts advocacy in the US. Mr. Lynch explained that Americans for the Arts focuses on three major areas: Arts Leaders, Casemaking, and Resources.

Mr Lynch then started talking about the impact of the arts on the community, and I was struck by the magnitude of impact that American for the Arts has shown. Not the least of this impact is on my own sector of the community, working for Boys and Girls Clubs of Kentuckiana, I know firsthand that arts has an impact on at-risk youth and education.

Tying into both the community impact of the arts and the resource development of American for the Arts, Mr. Lynch spoke about the 2017 Top 10 issues as voted on by mayors across the country. The top 3 issues were: Economic development, Public Safety and Infrastructure. Mr. Lynch stated that as part of the resource development it is important to keep these issues top of mind when asking for dollars. He further explained that many cities who had subscribed to the 1% Rule (in that 1% of Public Works funding was reserved for public art) have seen a positive impact of the art on their community.

He went on to review data of Arts impact nationally and locally on the economic development of a community, much of which we reviewed last month with Kat Abner. He continued to impress the impact of the Arts with a 2016 study by the American for the Arts in which 82% believed that art is important to economic and 87% believed art is important to quality of life. He stated that there are 100,000 arts organizations nationally and 40% of these are in deficit. He noted that unlike other businesses arts organizations are fueled by the mission and not the dollars coming in.

Mr. Lynch left quite an impression on the NeXt Ambassadors and we were given time to work with our groups on our projects. I know that our group was very inspired by the discussion and the atmosphere at Brown Forman. We ended the session with a Brown Forman bourbon tasting, which was a great end cap to the day.

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