Our Creative Community Celebrated the NEA Chair’s Visit

Hosted by Senator Reed and our Executive Director, Lynne McCormack, Maria Rosario Jackson, Ph.D., Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, had an inspiring day-long visit to Rhode Island. She met with leaders of our creative community to discuss arts opportunities, key issues and learn more about Rhode Island’s evolving arts landscape.

The day kicked off at Rhode Island College with a breakfast featuring the new cohort and alumni from the R.I. Expansion Arts Program, a partnership with Rhode Island Foundation, Rhode Island Humanities and RISCA. Speakers included Lorén M. Spears, Executive Director, Tomaquag Museum; André Herrera, President, Centro Cultural Andino; and David Cicilline, President and CEO, Rhode Island Foundation.

After the breakfast reception, the renown djembefola Sidy Maïga and RAÍCES Dance Troupe performed, and then the group joined the Community Conversation at RIC’s Roberts Hall.

RIC's Provost, Carolynn Masters brought greetings on behalf of the school, and Thawn Harris, Narragansett storyteller, shared a land acknowledgment. On stage, McCormack led the conversation with Chair Jackson and Sen. Reed. Chair Jackson told the crowd about several NEA programs, shared her Artful Lives philosophy and discussed ways the NEA is partnering with other federal agencies. Senator Reed shared his thoughts on why the arts are important and focused on education, health and social connectedness.

Other highlights from the day-long visit included:

  • A roundtable discussion on the intersection of arts and health where Sen. Whitehouse joined the group along with Steven Boudreau, Chief Administrative Officer, R.I. Department of Health; Anisa Raoof, Arts and Health Program Manager, RISCA; Stacey Springs, Ph.D., Director of Research Integrity, Harvard University; Sussy Santana, poet, performer and cultural organizer; Joe Wilson Jr., Director, Art, Culture + Tourism, City of Providence; Lauren White Carpenter, Occupational Therapist and Program Specialist of the Healing Arts Program at Butler Hospital; Dr. Cary Donaldson, DSW, MSW, LICSW, RIC; and Jose Menendez and Tatiana Gomez, Buena Grafica Social Studio.
  • A stop at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley in Woonsocket to visit the Mill Race District, an artist housing development currently under construction. Additionally, we learned about the arts and cultural strategies NeighborWorks has used to create social cohesion and economic opportunities for residents and small business owners.
  • A tour of Riverzedge Arts in Woonsocket, where the Chair, Senators and Woonsocket Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt heard from Kristen Williams, Ph.D., the Executive Director, and met with student workers.
  • A visit to Mixed Magic Theatre in Pawtucket where the group was joined by Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien. The theater's co-founders, Bernadet and Ricardo Pitts-Wiley spoke about the theater's long history and its role in the community.
  • A final stop at the Providence Art Club where Sen. Reed and Chair Jackson viewed the Edward Mitchell Bannister National Exhibition: Celebrating BIPOC Artists. And, the group visited with RISD's President, Crystal Williams.

View the video of Chair Jackson's visit.