Monday, July 27, 2009

Remarks at Press Conference Announcing Stimulus Funds to Rhode Island Arts Organizations

July 27, 2009
Press Conference Announcing Stimulus Funds to Rhode Island Arts Organizations
Carter Center for Music Education & Performance
I was invited by Randall Rosenbaum to speak on behalf of 18 grantees that received grants from RISCA through the NEA through the ARRA (American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, AKA, the stimulus bill). It was an honor to speak to so many great Rhode Island arts groups and nearly the entire Rhode Island Congressional delegation (only Jack Reed couldn't be there) and Governor Carcieri. Thank you Randy for the honor of asking me to speak. Thank you to our entire Rhode Island team for securing these funds for the arts in Rhode Island.

Here were my remarks, enjoy:

Thank you for inviting me to speak on behalf of the grantees.

I'd like to thank Governor Carcieri, the RI General Assembly, the RI State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the RI Foundation for making this support possible. In addition, I'd also like to thank Rhode Island's congressional delegation for their tireless support of the arts.

I'm the Executive Director of New Urban Arts. We're a community gallery and art studio in Providence for emerging artists and high school students. Our goal is to nurture in everyone a lifelong creative practice they can sustain for their lives. We recruit and train artists from a range of backgrounds to mentor high school students in free after-school and summer programs.

I came to Providence from NYC in 1998 to attend RISD. In 2001, during my senior year, I worked as an after-school mentor at New Urban Arts.

It was then a tiny storefront on what could be called a depressed urban street. Tyler Denmead, a Brown graduate who had given up a medical career, had started the program just two years earlier. As a mentor, my students and I never followed a script, we just followed our creativity. The idea was that by using the arts to put young people in the driver's seat of their learning, we would develop the citizens and leaders we needed for the 21st century.

I loved every minute of it. I probably spent more time at New Urban Arts than my own RISD studio my senior year. I moved back to New York in 2001, stayed in touch with the folks at New Urban Arts. A year and half ago, I moved back to Providence become our Executive Director.

In the time since, New Urban Arts has grown while remaining committed to the same spirit of partnership between artists and young people. Since I've been back, I never cease to be amazed at the development of our Westminster street location. There is no doubt in my mind that New Urban Arts has been instrumental in helping our block become a thriving business and social center. Where there were vacant storefronts there is now a busy intersection with small businesses. Down the street from us, a bubble tea cafe has become another popular spot for young people after school. Two 20-year olds, former New Urban Arts students, opened the cafe last year.

Our block is dotted with neighborhood businesses, many that have sprung up in the last few years. The local pizza shop, the book store, the bubble tea, and the coffee house. Like New Urban Arts, our small business neighbors also serve as community spaces where people can gather, stop and talk and forge connections.

Every day, I see firsthand how the arts make our communities better places to live and strengthens our local economy. This grant will help us continue to contribute to that development. We won't have to reduce the number of students or artists we serve this year.

This is precisely the time to invest in the creativity of young people. We are learning that sustainable wealth isn't built by exotic financial instruments that no one understands or loose credit. While I don't know the path to a sustainable new economy, I do know that won't get there without the creativity and leadership of our young people.

In closing, I again express my deepest gratitude for this support. I'd also like to emphasize the importance of arts and cultural groups across this entire state. I urge you all to please support the arts in in any way that you can. Donate. Buy tickets to a show. Visit. Support local artists. Volunteer. Do something.

Supporting the arts is investing in our shared future as a state.

Thank you.

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