in Washington, DC — At a symposium hosted by the White House on Tuesday, participants discussed methods to include the arts and humanities into environmental problem-solving. As part of this new initiative, the Environmental Protection Agency will pair artists with nationally recognized bodies of water.
"Healing, Bridging, Thriving: A Summit on Arts and Culture in our Communities" brought together influential figures in Washington from the realms of government, the arts, academia, and charity. Using the arts and humanities as a tool to address health disparities and other societal problems was a common theme across the panels.
The one-day gathering was a result of an executive order signed by President Joe Biden in September 2022 and was held by the National Endowment for the Arts in collaboration with the White House Domestic Policy Council.
Neera Tanden, who provides domestic policy advice to the Democratic president, told The Associated Press in an interview conducted before the summit that the arts had the power to "mend the social fabric of the country" by allowing "people to see each other and understand how we're connected."
In an interview on her own, NEA chair Maria Rosario Jackson described the conference as a "unprecedented opportunity for people from different sectors to come together and lift up and explore some of the things that are possible when one thinks of the arts as not being confined to a narrow sector, but woven and integrated into other things we care about.
The arts and humanities as a means to better health care, infrastructure, and democracy were the main topics of discussion. Soprano Renee Fleming and actress Anna Deavere Smith were among the participants. Also taking part was Vice President Kamala Harris's husband, Doug Emhoff.
The inaugural artist-in-residence program was unveiled by Radhika Fox, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water, with the goal of "unleash the power of arts and culture to support water restoration and climate resilient efforts around the country.
To begin, artists will be integrated into government collaborations pertaining to urban waterways and national estuaries in six different locations throughout the nation: the New York–New Jersey area, greater Philadelphia, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and New Mexico. Each watershed will get $200,000 to help fund the artist's work.
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