June 2, 2022 | Allyson Damante, Program Coordinator, Member Services, American Art Therapy Association  

“We are not broken, just unfinished.” These words, paraphrased from Amanda Gorman’s 2021 Presidential Inauguration poem, served as a recurring theme at Americans for the Arts’ 2022 Annual Convention. 

As the center of the arts sector in the United States, Americans for the Arts (AFTA) works to build recognition and support for the extraordinary and dynamic value of the arts as well as lead, serve, and advance the diverse networks of organizations and individuals who cultivate the arts in America.   

Americans for the Arts’ 2022 Annual Convention touched upon the connections between the arts and social impact, building, and creating empathy. Several sessions were also dedicated to AFTA’s Strategic Realignment Process, the impact of Covid-19 on creative workers, and the future of the arts sector as it stands today.  

Being a non-profit professional with a bachelor’s degree in Arts for Social Change, I was excited to have the opportunity to attend this convention as a representative of the American Art Therapy Association and participate in key discussions regarding the crossroads of the arts and social justice.  

Speakers at the convention ranged from playwrights, poets, and dancers to CEOs and U.S. Representatives. At the smaller roundtable presentations, I met fellow creatives in the fields of art education, public art, and youth programming.  

President and CEO of AFTA, Nolen V. Bivens, spoke about the organization’s Strategic Realignment Process and the six core principles of strategic change. Principle one focused on how we value the arts as a society. Bivens emphasized the idea of treating the arts as a national asset, something that should be everywhere and for everyone. In addition, he spoke about the ways in which the arts make a difference in communities and foster connections amongst people. These points really struck a chord with me, personally and professionally. 

As a representative of AATA, Board Member Raquel Farrell-Kirk presented research from “We Are Bound: What Is Needed to Improve Treatment of Creative Workers”. Her panel focused on the impact Covid-19 had on the creative economy and creative workers and how the pandemic exacerbated the systemic inequitable treatment of creative workers.  

A few statistics to note:   

  • The creative sector contracted by 58% between January and June 2020 – more than twice as much as other hard-hit industries like transportation and hospitality.  
  • 63% of creative workers became fully unemployed because of Covid-19, vs. 15% of the general population. Black, Native American/Pacific Islander, Arab/Middle Eastern, Hispanic, Indigenous, and Asian/Asian American creative workers all experienced higher rates of unemployment than white creative workers.  
  • 34% of creative workers entered the pandemic without health insurance, vs. 15% of the general population.  

To see the full research report, visit https://www.americansforthearts.org/sites/default/files/pdf/2022/So_Far_Past_the_Brink_FINAL.pdf  

The pandemic and a nationwide racial reckoning are by no means behind us as there is much work to be done regarding equity and justice in the arts sector. However, after meeting inspiring creatives from across the country, I am hopeful that the arts sector can and will bounce back and bring us a brighter future. After all, artists are futurists; they are able to envision a future that does not exist yet.