Creative minds were out to support art advocacy at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia on Wednesday night. The Creative Coalition, which helps artists promote First Amendment rights, hosted a star-studded gala with guests from the Democratic National Convention.
But big art doesn’t only happen in big cities.
Centre County has art initiatives like the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts in State College, which attracted 125,000 people this year. Finding organizations to promote art outside the college town, places with smaller populations, can still prove difficult.
“Through the success of the grants and expansion of the NEA, probably 65 to 75 percent of what’s deemed art exists in second tier cities and suburbs and rural areas, far more rural than State College,” said actor Billy Baldwin, who also attended the gala.
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Baldwin noted his relationship with Joe Paterno and his daughter, Mary Kay Paterno-Hort, as well as to the State College area.
“Probably 80 percent of what was deemed art in America existed in all major urban hubs,” said Baldwin, “and it wasn’t even in State College prior to the National Endowment of the Arts.”
Actress Ashley Judd, who attended last night’s event and lives in a rural county in Tennessee, understands the trouble of getting art programs in areas outside more populated.
“My county is a representative of the wealth disparity in America,” Judd said. “There was one individual who cares and has money, who started a summer program, found artists and musicians, and people who had instruments.”
Judd said it was that one benefactor who helped the community through old-fashioned philanthropy.
“It may not be hip, it may not sound progressive, and it may sound like all the right stakeholders are exercising their own agency, but it worked,” Judd continued.
“Pretty Little Liars” star Troian Bellisario attended the event and noted fans tell her they’ve been inspired by her work in theater, trying out for school plays and community theater.
“We need to do our best,” Bellisario said. “If I want to continue to keep telling stories and live this incredible life that I am lucky enough to be here for, we have to protect our arts.”
Baldwin also recognizes the importance of protecting and promoting the arts.
“There are symphonies and there are dance troupes, and there’s museums where they never existed before because of the success of the NEA,” he said.
Louis William Finley is a journalism student at Temple. He is covering the Democratic National Convention for the CDT.