Taylor Rogers | Staff Writer
A musician who also is a writer who also is a wood carver who also is a CEO — that’s Robert Lynch.
Lynch is the president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, a national organization that promotes the arts in communities and education. In the last of Week Four’s lectures, Lynch will discuss the current state of the arts in America, the state of support for non-profit arts organizations and what direction the art world should go in the future.
The lecture, titled “America at a Cultural Crossroads,” will be at 10:45 a.m. today in the Amphitheater.
Lynch launched his career in the arts as a musician, though he also carved wood and maintained a passion for poetry. But five years after getting his degree, he said he realized it wasn’t just the arts that interested him but politics and business as well.
Lynch then joined the organization that would lead him to Americans for the Arts. He spent 10 years with that group, promoting creativity in New England communities. The movement spread, he said. This job felt right.
“I just became excited about that kind of work,” Lynch said.
Through this organization, Lynch connected with the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies, which now is Americans for the Arts.
He began as a volunteer, was promoted to a board member and then, in 1985, Lynch was asked to be the agency’s executive director.
The next 25 years became a period of significant growth for the non-profit organization. When Lynch began, Americans for the Arts was a several-hundred-thousand-dollar operation with a few staff people, he said. It now is a $14 million organization with 5,000 organizational members and a network of about 300,000 citizen activists.
Lynch said the growth came from a variety of sources.
Americans for the Arts merged with seven other organizations devoted to the awareness of creativity, including the American Council for the Arts and the National Assembly of Local Arts Agencies.
The new organization herded arts councils and commissions together, causing information about the arts and education to spread through communities across the country. They also lobbied for the creation of the National Endowment for the Arts, which has furnished the art world with billions of dollars. The NEA then assisted in creating more state arts councils by offering a matching grant to any state that had a council.
“It was a combination of a good idea, people nurturing and informing and helping one another and then some incentives like the NEA and the state governments,” Lynch said of the growth.
And though much of what the organization is doing is part of a national movement, Lynch said he most appreciates knowing the work of Americans for the Arts is having a local impact.
“Hearing stories of what organizations are doing at the local level against a lot of odds, without a lot of resources and the benefit that it brings to the local people — that’s probably the most rewarding thing,” he said.
But the growth of Americans for the Arts isn’t enough for Lynch. He said art education has a long way to go. The economy’s current condition has caused poorer communities to have less access to creative instruction.
Those communities are missing out on a chance to offer lessons in creativity, discipline and divergent and convergent thinking through the arts, Lynch said. And arts programs simply draw more students.
“We see business leaders saying that,” he said. “We see government saying that, but we don’t necessarily see that reflected universally in policy at the local level.”
But Lynch has some thoughts on how to improve, and he said he’d share them today.