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Photo design by One Nation/One Project.

Arts for Everybody Launches Nationwide Campaign

Lear deBessonet, Nataki Garrett, and Clyde Valentin will lead the public works project, which will culminate with site-specific arts projects in July 2024.

NEW YORK CITY: One Nation/One Project and arts leaders Lear deBessonet, Nataki Garrett, and Clyde Valentin have announced the creation of a new initiative called Arts for EveryBody, designed to show how the arts can lead to healthier people and communities.

Inspired by the 1936 Federal Theatre Project’s 18-city presentation of the anti-fascist play It Can’t Happen Here, Arts for EveryBody will bring together communities across the country with simultaneous premieres of site-specific participatory arts projects on July 27, 2024. Local artists will lead public works projects that respond to the prompt “No Place Like Home.”

“Arts for Everybody aims to create an electric new awareness around the value arts can bring to the physical and mental health of people and their community,” said founder and co-artistic director Lear deBessonet, a Tony-nominated director, artistic director of Encores! at New York City Center, and the founder of Public Works. “Many sites are piloting cross-sector partnerships among local artists, health care providers, and municipal leaders to bring Arts for EveryBody to the larger community. My hope is that this trifecta of support is the start of more collaborations, increased investment in local artists and a flourishing of creativity and better health across the U.S.”

DeBessonet, Garrett, and Valentin see Arts for EveryBody as a breakthrough moment in the relationship between the arts and health in the U.S., to which end they commissioned a large-scale research study led by Jill Sonke, Ph.D. a leading advocate for the integration of arts and health and founding director of the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University Florida. Dr. Sonke will study the impact of arts participation on the overall social cohesion, connectivity and health of a community.

Said Nataki Garrett, a director and arts leader who most recently helmed Oregon Shakespeare Festival, in statement, “No matter the type, the arts are a powerful unifier, a guiding force for humanity and a reflection of who we are as a society. When the pandemic closed the doors of performing arts venues, museums, and community arts centers across the country, we experienced an enormous void and isolation. We now understand that art is integral to our society because it plays a critical role in community health and wellbeing. When we invest in making the arts accessible to all, we invest in the fabric of our society. Arts for EveryBody is not just a name—it is a necessity.”

The Arts for EveryBody sites include Chicago; Edinburg, Texas; Gainesville, Fla.; Harlan County, Ky.; Hilo and Honolulu, Hawaii; Kansas City; Oakland; Phillips County, Ark.; Providence; Rhinelander, Wisc.; Seattle; the South Bronx; Tucson; Utica, Miss.; Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Washington, D.C. A few examples of how these communities plan to address local issues with their participation:

  • Phillips County, Ark., is facing the worst water infrastructure crisis in the county’s history. Its Water Stories Project will put a spotlight on stories of resident and municipal struggles with water through a variety of art expressions.
  • In Harlan County, Ky., artists, municipal, and public health leaders will seek to integrate the arts into rural healthcare delivery through a partnership between Cloverfork Clinic and community arts organization Higher Ground.
  • In Kansas City, three nonprofits will come together to host “Celebrate AMERI’KANA,” a music and arts festival bringing together youth performers in a celebration of Black, Indigenous, immigrant, and Latino musicians and the diverse Kansas City arts community.
  • Urban Health Plan in the Bronx, one of the state’s largest federally qualified health centers, will offer one of the first arts-led social prescribing prototypes, where patients will be able to take part in provider-prescribed art experiences.
  • Local artists, city leaders in Providence aim to enhance mental and behavioral health for public housing residents and staff through artist residencies at public housing sites.
  • The arts education organization Word, Beats & Life will collaborate with a consortium of local artists in Washington, D.C., to host an event on the National Mall featuring hip-hop, punk, go-go, and performance poetry.
  • Edutainment 4 Equity, in Oakland, Calif., will bring together more than 100 artists, activists, and organizers to create a multi-modal, Black-led arts and culture festival that reflects the struggles residents face around the cost of living in the area.
  • In Rhinelander, Wisc., ArtStart Rhinelander will create an arts skatepark, designed by local youth, providing an oasis of creativity and gathering to support mental health for teenagers.

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