New Community Visions Initiative

Transforming America’s Communities through the Arts

Clay Lord

The United States has reached an important inflexion point; we are, together, reimagining America. The time of transformational change ahead holds great possibility for artists, arts advocates, arts administrators, and allied practitioners that we serve — but only if we are able to step fully into our roles as active, equal partners in facilitating the healthy, vibrant, equitable communities of tomorrow.

Americans for the Arts has identified thirty linked, but separate, sectors that together combine to contribute to — and impact — healthy, vibrant, equitable communities. Whether looking at culture and heritage, faith, social justice, economy, education, health, military, infrastructure, or the environment, by encouraging the “Arts and…” integration of the arts into the vital work of all of these contributing components of a community, we can help transform America’s communities into healthier, more vibrant, and more equitable places over time. With significant support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and in partnership with over forty local, state, and regional agencies, funders, and producing institutions, Americans for the Arts’ New Community Visions Initiative ( is a two-year effort to determine how to best pursue that integration.

New Community Visions is divided into three phases: (1) research and visioning, (2) feedback and translation, and (3) tools, resources, and educational opportunity development. We will conduct ten visioning forums throughout the United States for people both inside and outside the arts to articulate visions and systems for arts-integrated community development. In the end, we will translate that work into a blueprint for action and a set of resources, trainings, and research designed to help agencies, funders, institutions, and artists turn vision to reality. And then, over a ten-plus year timeline, we hope to — with the field — act. Publications will include Arts & America: Arts, Culture, and the Future of America’s Communities, reviewed in this issue of the Reader, new editions of Robert Gard’s The Arts in the Small Community (1965) and Americans for the Arts’ Community Vision (1990), blog posts, interim reporting, and more.

Americans for the Arts is pursuing this project in collaboration with Michael Rohd of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice and Margy Waller of the Topos Partnership, and with the guidance of a volunteer advisory committee, including Jennifer Cole, Metro Nashville Arts Commission; Deborah Cullinan, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; Carla Dirlikov, opera singer; Randy Engstrom, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture; Floyd Green, Aetna, Inc.; Jamie Hand, ArtPlace America; Tatiana Hernandez, Hemera Foundation; Maria Rosario Jackson, The Kresge Foundation; Michael Killoren, National Endowment for the Arts; Jeremy Liu, PolicyLink; Ron Ragin, composer and artist; Bahia Ramos, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Holly Sidford, Helicon Collaborative; Nick Slie, performing artist with Mondo Bizarro; Regina R. Smith, The Kresge Foundation; Katie Steger, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; Carlton Turner, Alternate ROOTS; Nella Vera, Serino/Coyne; and Laura Zabel, Springboard for the Arts.

The collaboration is ongoing, complex, and exciting. As the country changes, so must our sector. We hope to foster the creation of resources, funding mechanisms, partnerships, policies, and programming to make impactful, sustainable change over time.