The Aspen Institute Arts Program was established to support and invigorate the arts in America, and to return them 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 to develop policies and programs that strengthen the reciprocal relationship between the arts and society.


Making Arts Work: Ideas Festival 2015 Highlights

2015 Harman-Eisner Artist in Residence Cameron Carpenter: The Organ is "Steeped in Science"

Carpenter explains to Michael Eisner why, for him, the choice between organ and piano as primary instrument was a simple one.

Aspen Young Poets Read Their Collaborative Renga

Each year the Arts Program convenes a group of award-winning student poets to take a modified version of the Aspen Seminar called "Leadership, the Arts, and the Good Society." As part of their work, the young writers collaborate on a renga, a Japanese form in which each person contributes two lines, referencing only the two lines written before them. The performance was part of our "Poetry, Justice, and Alienation" Panel with poets Claudia Rankine and Elizabeth Alexander, moderated by Eric Liu.


Harry Belafonte: His Life, Art, and Activism

“I’d watch [my mother] come home night after night, with no income, with no success in looking for work, and one evening she came, and… she says, ‘Harry, let me tell you something. Never ever in your life go to bed at night knowing there was something you could do to fight injustice and never do it.’ And with that instruction, I had my marching orders at the age of seven.” Read More...

Watch the video of Mr. Belafonte's full conversation with Damian Woetzel:

Veterans Phil Klay and Timothy Donley on Art in the Aftermath of War

"Writing this book didn’t make me feel happier about the Iraq War. Writing it at points made me very angry.” Read More...

Timothy Donley of MusiCorps sings the Leon Helm song "Wide River to Cross"

New Initiative: Race, Arts, and America

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.

Read more…

Lil Buck in Conversation with Keith Haring

On January 30 we were hosted by the Keith Haring Foundation for a private, one-time workshop of "A Conversation Between Lil Buck & Keith Haring: Exploring the Intersections of Words, Art, and Movement." Keith Haring's untimely death in 1990 has not stopped his art's ability to awe and inspire, which was proved by Lil Buck. In the space Haring used for his studio between 1985 and 1990, framed in walls bearing the palimpsests of old paintings and limited edition prints, Lil Buck used Haring's art and words as a vehicle to ignite his own movement. This private performance was restaged publicly for one at San Francisco's de Young Museum on February 15.

1 in 99 Adults in the US Lives in Prison. Can the Arts Help Reduce That Number?

“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.’” Read More...