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Page last updated on January 25, 2019 at 10:54 am

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Sean Starowitz
Assistant Director for the Arts

Mayor John Hamilton Receives 2019 National Award for Local Arts Leadership

Bloomington, Ind. - Americans for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors today awarded Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton the 2019 National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population of fewer than 100,000 people. The presentation of the 2019 Public Arts Leadership Awards took place this morning during the mayors’ Winter Meeting in Washington, DC.

“Mayor Hamilton understands the important role that the arts play in advancing the economy and uniting communities,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, a leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts and arts education in the US, “and his ability to motivate and organize others has had a lasting effect on his community and the surrounding region. I applaud Mayor Hamilton for his commitment and leadership worthy of this recognition.”

Since taking office in 2016, Hamilton has increased public investment in the arts as part of the City’s economic and sustainable development agenda. The award recognizes Hamilton’s initiative in fostering private investment and collaboration in the arts, multiplying the impact of the city’s hallmark arts events and institutions -- including the Lotus Festival, Cardinal Stage Company, and the Buskirk-Chumley Theater -- increasing access to the arts and arts education, and broadening the scope of public art projects to represent a more inclusive sample of artists. Having issued ten public RFQs for arts and culture projects since 2016, the City has awarded commissions to artists 60 percent of whom are new to the public art landscape, and more than 50 percent of whom are women.

“Art is the antidote to apathy, division and fear,” Hamilton remarked upon receiving the award in Washington. “Now is the time to double down on funding the arts.”

During Hamilton’s administration, Bloomington’s One Percent for Arts program has generated its first six-figure commission. With the support of City Council, Hamilton has also doubled the Bloomington Arts Commission Arts Project Grants Program. In 2018, the program provided funding to 17 local arts and culture organizations, supporting more than 630 artists in turn. The events made possible through these grants host more than 15,000 audience members each year. Additionally, the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association supports arts and culture through project grants and awarded $40,000 to 13 artists and arts organizations.

“Mayor Hamilton’s commitment to the arts in Bloomington has been essential to maintaining the essential link between the arts and quality of life,” said Indiana University Associate Vice Provost of Arts and Humanities Edward Comentale.

To amplify the impact of the Bloomington Entertainment and Arts District (BEAD), Mayor Hamilton supported the first arts and culture summit in the city’s history, convening more than 75 attendees who workshopped a new strategic plan for the cultural district.

Under the mayor’s auspices, in 2018 Bloomington added two new festivals to its annual line-up: the inaugural Black and Brown Arts Festival in May supported more than 30 artists of color and attracted more than 500 attendees; April’s Bicentennial Street Fair transformed Kirkwood Avenue into a promenade where more than 6,000 students, community members and visitors sampled cultural programming along with the wares of local food purveyors, launching another annual event.  

Additionally, the mayor worked to create a city-owned cooperative work space for entrepreneurs, start-ups, and innovative artists. The Dimension Mill is in a reimagined 19,000-square foot historic furniture factory, which now provides critical workspace for the tech, start-up, and creative innovation community.

“Every year, The U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the exemplary efforts of mayors who believe as much as we do that the arts are an integral part our society,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Mayors understand the connection between arts and business, and the significant contribution the arts make to the local economy.”

“Bloomington's cultural life is world-renowned, and we are committed to nurturing it,” said Hamilton. “That involves investing in the organizations and the people who produce the music, literature, visual art, theater, and other art forms that contribute so richly to our city's quality of life. At the same time, it's a priority to ensure that the City's investment in the arts gives expression to underrepresented groups and provides maximal access to art and culture to those from all backgrounds and at all income levels.”