Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Historic Visit to Art Station and Main Street Arts Venues

By Doc Lawrence

Dr. Jane Chu
STONE MOUNTAIN, Georgia-Dr. Jane Chu, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, draws upon what she calls a “bok choy and corn dog approach,” a subtle confirmation that diversity is second nature to her. Growing up in Oklahoma and Arkansas with Chinese parents became an advantage, a beneficial background that provided a world view incorporating everything she would experience in her arts overseeing position today including the folkways and customs of rural America. This works very well for her as she ably demonstrated recently during a whirlwind tour of the arts in metro Atlanta.
Karen Paty (L) with Jane Chu and David Thomas

Topping off her visit, Dr. Chu, accompanied by Karen L. Paty, executive director of Georgia’s Council for the Arts, came to Stone Mountain’s Art Station and was welcomed by Stone Mountain Mayor Patricia Wheeler and City Council member Susan Coletti for an introduction to ART Station led by the facility’s artistic director and president David Thomas. The entourage also met with artists at two arts incubators, a project supported with a 2012 NEA Our Town grant.

Jane Chu on Stage at Art Station
The Art Station tour reviewed the heralded cultural center’s ongoing arts contributions that extend well beyond Stone Mountain’s city limits, from its impressive gallery featuring a number of works by many local artists, to the live stage where a full season includes a panoply of critically-acclaimed theatrical productions to a unique cabaret regularly showcasing big names like Atlanta’s legendary song stylist Theresa Hightower.

 President Obama, who selected Dr. Chu to head the NEA, has praised her grass-roots approach contributing to her reputation as “a powerful advocate for artists and arts education.” According to Mr. Obama, Dr. Chu “knows firsthand how art can open minds, transform lives and revitalize communities, and [she] believes deeply in the importance of the arts to our national culture.” Committed to honoring the ways different people think about the arts, Dr. Chu told the Stone Mountain gathering that “one community is just that: one community.” She believes this approach frees her to view receptively the distinctions among different people in different regions, thus avoiding any appearance of elitism.

While the NEA has just turned 50, it has evolved under Dr. Chu’s leadership into an agency where harmonious relationships are de rigueur. Congress may be hopelessly divided along party lines, but her agency works cooperatively with Congressional leadership, finding common ground of agreement that transforms into workable projects. One glowing example is the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership, a collaboration with the Department of Defense that supports music, writing, and visual art therapy at military care facilities, a healthcare model where creative arts therapists work closely with a diverse team of healthcare professionals that include physicians, neurologists, nurses, psychologists, physical therapists, and others to share information and advance patient healing. For military service members who have been affected by post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other combat-induced psychological health conditions, this program offers new and promising treatment.

Not surprisingly, the program garners congressional praise and official support.

The NEA under Dr. Chu, has committed to other pioneer projects including a partnership between the NEA and the National Park Service and the establishment of Creativity Connects, which will demonstrate how the arts contribute to the country’s creative ecosystem; investigate the ways support systems for artists are changing; and, explore how the arts can connect with other sectors that want and utilize creativity.

Walking along Main Street in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain may have recalled childhood memories for Jane Chu. The arts embrace all cultures, ideally favoring no person or group over others, and always providing the potential for transformation and betterment. One member of the group said that Dr. Chu’s visit and joining the walking tour made her see possibilities for the city she thought would take years. “Now, these are not just dreams but something we can accomplish soon.”

Historic Stone Mountain Village by Olivia Thomason

1 comment:

  1. Love the Art Station, especially the annual Tour of Southern Ghosts.