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Arts Build Communities

Feb 20, 2020

Music, theater, photography, dance – the arts enrich our lives in lots of ways.

Turns out, they can also help solve some of society’s most difficult challenges, from housing to health care to the environment.

Clayton Lord, vice president of strategic impact for Americans for the Arts, will take a turn in the Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series to discuss some surprising ways the arts can build stronger, more inclusive communities. His presentation is set for noon March 6 at the State Historical Building of Iowa, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines.

“Foundations, government agencies and private donors want community impact, but they can be skeptical that the arts are – and always have been – instrumental in community cohesion and transformation,” he said. “We need to compel their embrace of a different narrative.”

Lord recently helped Americans for the Arts develop an online tool called the Arts and Social Impact Explorer, which shows examples of art projects that have helped seniors stay active and engaged, military veterans adjust to civilian life, struggling communities attract new residents and visitors – and much more.

The arts can’t solve everything, he said, but they can spark new ideas and open up collaborative conversations.

“The arts are an essential element in any community. They boost a community's quality of life and help define its sense of identity in ways that help that place thrive,” said Chris Kramer, director of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, which oversees the Iowa Arts Council and helps organize the Tomorrow Plan Speaker Series.

Lord’s upcoming visit is presented by the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines and Bravo Greater Des Moines, which leverages community resources to advance regional cultural priorities across central Iowa.

“Arts and culture are not separate from achieving the region’s goals,” Bravo Greater Des Moines Director Sally Dix said. “Research shows how the arts and culture are integral to many different parts of the community in many vital ways, and that intersectionality is so important.”

If you go

WHEN: March 6. A preview about local arts initiatives begins at 11:45 a.m., followed by the keynote address at noon.

WHERE: State Historical Building of Iowa, 600 E. Locust St., Des Moines.

ADMISSION: Free, online registration is encouraged at Pre-ordered sack lunches from Café Baratta’s are available for $10.


The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its divisions – the State Historical Society of Iowa, State Historic Preservation Office, Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, the state office of media production – empower Iowans to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting to the people, places and points of pride that define our state.