An Op-ed originally appearing in Louisville Business First

We are a community united by the Arts.  It hasn’t always been that way. Over the last 65 years we have grown, struggled and evolved into who we are today.  The Arts define us.  They are a reflection of every citizen, an inspiration to our youth, and a call to action for our economy.

Fourteen years ago I met a young man who has come to embody the mission of the Fund for the Arts.  With a father incarcerated, a mother struggling to put food on the table, he was a child desperate for engagement and support. He found that engagement through the work of the West Louisville Performing Arts Academy. He found his support structure because of you.

You gave him the resources to discover his talents.  You gave him the resources to achieve. You even gave him the resources to travel to places his circumstances otherwise would never have allowed. You did that.

This summer I had the distinct honor of watching that young man, Cormac Parker Jr., graduate from college.  Just ten percent of young men with an incarcerated parent graduate from college. Those are staggering odds, yet they were odds beaten through the Arts.

We are impacting the quality of life of every member of our community not by redefining ourselves, but by elevating those things that make us who we are. It really is evolutionary! We are embarking on a generation of creativity made possible by the work of the Fund for the Arts and by the 20,000 donors who give every year.

It has been an honor to be a part of this sixteen year journey to become a city of the Arts. Though every dispensation has seen great advances in the Arts, I am most inspired by the changes that have taken place over the last three years.

First we entered a new dawn of communication!  Transparency and innovation manned the wheel and steered the Fund for the Arts into new territory; engaging new donors and reinvigorating the base.

The launch of our online giving platform, power2give, has expanded the reach of the Fund for the Arts beyond the Metro area to encompass southern Indiana and the Commonwealth of Kentucky, funneling more than $2 million of new money into the Arts economy. From Covington to Capito, Pikeville to Paducah we are empowering Arts organizations and giving them the tools they need to succeed.

And now we are just beginning to see the results of what has been our greatest labor of love in the Arts community;  a new spirit of collaboration! Arts organizations no longer see one another as competitors for patrons and donors.  They have become champions of one another’s Art forms seeking new ways to be relevant in an ever changing economy.  It’s a new Arts ecosystem!

Is there more to be done? Absolutely! When I look back on what we have accomplished I am even more excited about what is to come. Aren’t you? We have created an outstanding succession plan for our future – investing in our youth, energizing our workforce, and engraining a lasting culture of innovation!

As this retirement parade has come to a close, I get to say I am profoundly happy! After all, I’m not going anywhere.  I’m still here; a part of the very community I helped make a little better.  I get to watch my incredibly talented successor, Christen Boone, dream big and exceed all expectations.

And I get to say our battle cry with even more passion because I know without a doubt, “Together through the Arts we create a great American city!”