Community-Based Arts Organizations

A New Center of Gravity

Ron Chew

2009, Americans for the Arts, 21 pages. Americans for the Arts, 1000 Vermont Avenue NW, 6th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20005, (202) 371-2830,


   Community-Based Arts Organizations (1.5Mb)

Amid changing demographics, a new political climate, technological advances, and globalization, small and mid-sized community-based arts organizations offer artistic excellence and innovation, astute leadership connected to community needs, and important institutional and engagement models for the arts field. As value-based organizations, they are purposeful and have a sustained commitment to fundamental values related to cultural responsibility, ethical practices, and respectful relationships. Attuned to significantly changing demographics, they honor both cultural legacies and future possibilities, understanding them as a continuum, not a contradiction. They often work in partnerships that cross silos and sectors to connect art organically with other areas such as health, community development, humanities, and social justice. They are multilingual in more ways than just language, and their social networks run broad and deep.

This essay by Ron Chew, Principal, Chew Communications and former long-time director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, makes the case for greater support of this important segment of cultural organizations, exemplified by such organizations as Arte Publico Press in Houston; East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Oakland, CA; Ma-Yi Theater Company in New York City; and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. Chew underscores their crucial contributions to the cultural ecosystem, to civic culture, and toward achieving healthy communities and a healthy democracy. This essay was developed for and supported by the Exemplar Program, a program of Animating Democracy in collaboration with the LarsonAllen LLC, with funding from The Ford Foundation.