Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) is celebrating its 50th year of ensuring more art for more people—strengthening and supporting artists, cultural organizations, and communities throughout our region and beyond. Founded in 1972, M-AAA has awarded grants to artists and arts organizations, helped to bring cultural programs to communities urban and rural, and empowered creatives throughout Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas; across the nation; and internationally. As part of its anniversary recognition, M-AAA is pleased to share 50 Stories | 50 Years, a weekly series of stories and statements submitted by colleagues, program participants, and others that speak to M-AAA’s profound impact on their lives, creativity, communities, and the region.
Pam Breaux, President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, explains how M-AAA strengthens Mid-America:
The National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA) and all regional arts organizations share a common bond: we work in partnership with and in support of state arts agencies. That work pays dividends across the country.
Since 1994 I’ve had the pleasure of orbiting and/or working in the state arts agency (SAA) network. I have seen immense drive and creativity by SAAs advancing their work, and that continues to inspire me.
Our work at NASAA matters because state arts agencies matter to America. They invest significantly in bringing the benefits of the arts and creativity to all communities. This matters because the arts make us all stronger as individuals and families and as communities. There are hundreds of ways this is personified across communities. For example, during the pandemic lockdowns the arts helped us manage isolation. Artists and arts organizations went virtual, and by doing so they helped keep people connected while we were all so distressed from being kept physically apart. They brought us joy and connection when we needed these most. Just as inspirational is the tenacity demonstrated by SAAs in response to the pandemic. Agency workloads doubled and tripled, and team members stepped up daily to serve an arts community beleaguered and in crisis. This work demonstrated the deep level of commitment SAAs have to serving their states and the artists and organizations within them.
This year NASAA’s work with M-AAA has taken on special meaning. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, NASAA will convene state arts agencies and regional arts organizations for what will again be our annual conference. We’re so excited to head to Kansas City, Missouri, and join our host, M-AAA, to reconnect the SAA/RAO community in 3-D! It has been a privilege to work with Todd Stein and the M-AAA team on this conference and reunion for our members. All of the Mid-America SAAs have joined in to make the conference special and authentic to the region. It’s a bonus that we can enjoy this event in concert with M-AAA’s 50th anniversary. The Mid-America region is stronger because of M-AAA’s work, and we’re all delighted to help mark and celebrate this special year.
In FY2022, State Art Agencies (SAAs) invested an all-time high of $792 million, and are projected to continue to invest over $760 million in FY2023. As SAAs are strengthened, their investments in communities all across the country produce important results: strengthening economies through the arts; helping communities thrive because their arts investments support community connections and shared experiences. SAA investments are also contributing to good health, facilitating healthy aging and creative arts therapies for injured military personnel. Their grants improve educational outcomes and chart the course toward innovation for workplaces of all kinds.
—Pam Breaux, President and CEO, National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
photo: George Long