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Arts Matter LansingA Story of Art and Advocacy
by Jessica Carter, Arts Council intern

Art has always been an integral part of my life. My father taught music at a public high school for over thirty years. My mother is a self-taught artist. Three out of five of my siblings are arts educators or administrators of some type. Growing up, art of any medium was always there, always present. I vividly remember interacting with the arts from a young age, whether that was creating a construction-paper masterpiece with my local Girl Scout troop or tinkering with the instruments my dad had handy at home.

Arts Identity
I've since realized the value of that early arts introduction. Through art class and band, I cultivated problem-solving skills, time management and innovative thinking. In my time volunteering for arts organizations, I experienced how art and service converge to bridge diverse communities and bring people together for a common purpose. In both my undergraduate and graduate degrees, I pursued a creative field: first art history, then arts management.

I could go on and on (and on)---but I’ll stop. Firstly, I haven’t even introduced myself. But, mostly, because we each have our own important arts stories to tell, whether we were born into them, or not.

My name is Jessica Carter, and I am currently an arts and culture graduate student at Michigan State University. I came here from Georgia in August, 2016 and am still navigating my way around Michigan and learning where my place is in #LoveLansing. It has been a fun adventure of attending classes, festivals, concerts and breweries, and discovering, little by little, Greater Lansing's identity. In January 2017, I joined the Arts Council of Greater Lansing in response to a new advocacy initiative: "Arts Matter Lansing," which took place during "Arts Advcacy Month."

Many Voices
For 51 years, the Arts Council has committed to representing a strong voice in support of arts, culture, and creativity at the local level. During the month of March, the Arts Council—its staff, board members, and advocates—journeyed to over twenty municipal and school board meetings around the tri-counties to speak in support of the arts in our communities and schools.

At these meetings, our advocates delivered a three- to five-minute presentation based upon both their personal stories with the arts and data that connects the arts to what is important to our leaders and schools: the economy, tourism, education and sustainable communities.

We were many voices telling one story: the arts are everyone’s business.          

As a student of arts and culture, it was encouraging to see people from all fields come together in support of the arts. I want to personally thank our advocates who took time out of their schedules to speak out at the meetings: Craig Mitchell Smith, George Orban, Jeff Magnuson, Kathie Feldpausch, Emily Sutton-Smith, Meegan Holland, Michelle Carlson, Alice Brinkman, Arnold Weinfel, Julian Van Dyke, Larry Grudt, Dionne O’Dell, Debbie Mikula, Dawn Gorman, Taylor Rupp and Meghan Martin.

Arts Matter
Leading this project showed me that the arts matter everywhere and all the time. To learn how you can become an advocate, visit the the advocacy tab on the Arts Council’s homepage! To become more involved in ways that arts and culture are connected to our community and economy, the Arts Council invites you to attend our third annual Creative Placemaking Summit, October 11, 2017, which features prominent speakers from across the country and a day full of workshops presented by people across trades who affect change through the arts in their communities.