The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America, and to return the arts to the center of the Aspen Institute's "Great Conversation." Directed by Damian Woetzel, it brings together artists, advocates, educators, managers, foundations and government officials to exchange ideas and develop policies and programs that strengthen the reciprocal relationship between the arts and society.
Our Union cannot be truly perfected until the problems that exist on account of race—the skewed levels of opportunity, the barriers of bias, and the alienation of misunderstanding—are finally erased. The arts have a unique capacity for assisting in the achievement of this goal. This initiative of the Aspen Institute Arts Program examines opportunities for progress by bringing to the table voices who can contribute, including: artists, creators, and presenters—all of whom bear responsibility for what and who appear on stage, page, or screen; educators and critics—who share and elucidate for our citizens the value of, and the values in, our arts; and policymakers and funders—whose actions shape, sustain, and nourish our artistic communities. We look forward to a creative dialogue that can connect to the national conversation, striving for improvement on this vitally challenging problem that our country continues to face.
Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie in conversation with Damian Woetzel one of the Institute's most popular videos of 2014.
“I’d call prisons before anybody knew about the work and say, ‘Hey would you like us to come to your prison and put makeup on your guys, and do, you know, four hours of what we call the theater of sweat with no breaks?’ They were kind of like, ‘Well, that’s so crazy you should really come and try it.’”
The Arts Program staged its latest ArtStrike in conjunction with the announcement of Chicago's “Be Creative: The Campaign for Creative Schools” at Benito Juarez High School in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago. It took place in Benito Juarez’s recently remodeled performing-arts wing, where Damian Woetzel, Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, and 2014 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence Lil Buck visited with band, chorus, and drama students. In less than an hour, with the help of Chicago Shakespeare Theater, they arranged a performance that served as the finale to the Creative Schools announcement. Interpreting the end of Midsummer Night’s Dream, drama students and CST performers recited Puck's last monologue, while Lil Buck was transformed into “Lil Puck,” and Fleming, members of the Benito Juarez chorus, and Ma performed the finale of Felix Mendelssohn’s score to Midsummer.