Mayor wins national arts leadership award

Mayor Greg Nickels is among this year's recipients of the Public Leadership in the Arts Awards. The awards honor elected officials and artists or arts organizations that have demonstrated outstanding leadership in the advancement of the arts.

Nickels accepted the 2009 Award for Local Arts Leadership Jan. 19 at the United States Conference of Mayors' annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C. The awards have been given annually since 1997 by Americans for the Arts and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

"Now, more than ever, we must show the value of the arts in our community. Arts and culture are key to economic development and vital to our quality of life in Seattle," Nickels said. "Innovation and creativity will fuel our economic recovery. The arts are good for the community, good for the economy, and good for the soul."

Nickels comments echo the call of cultural leaders to include arts and culture in the nation's economic recovery package. A recent article in The New York Times highlighted the role of culture in the nation's recovery.

Nickels was recognized along with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received the Award for State Arts Leadership, and actors and activists Kerry Washington and Hill Harper who each received a 2009 Award for Artist-Citizen.

"Mayor Nickels' and Gov. Schwarzenegger's unparalleled commitment to supporting arts and arts education programs exemplifies how investment in the arts translates into community growth, economic prosperity and student achievement," said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. "Their leadership in the arts should be an inspiration to all those serving in public office."

Nickels invested in the city's innovative partnership with Seattle Public Schools to put the arts back in education. He is a champion of public art, supporting a successful court appeal in 2005 to reinstate Seattle's 1% for Art ordinance as it applied to city utilities.

Since taking office, Nickels has invested approximately $18 million in cultural facilities, including the Wing Luke Asian Museum and The Vera Project. In 2008, he increased the arts budget by $1 million. Recently, he unveiled the Seattle City of Music™ initiative—a 12-year strategy to promote Seattle as home to musicians, live music and music business.

Other mayoral initiatives include the annual Mayor's Arts Awards to honor local achievement in the arts and Seattle OnHold—an innovative program that treats people calling city offices to a broad selection of local music when they are placed on hold.

"Every year, the U.S. Conference of Mayors recognizes the efforts of those who believe as much as we do, that the arts are the heart of our society. Arts and culture help shape a city's quality of life, but mayors also understand the connection between the arts and business and the arts' impact on the local economy," said Tom Cochran, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

In Seattle, nonprofit arts generate $330 million in direct spending each year, and the city has more arts-related businesses per capita than any other city in America, according to national studies by Americans for the Arts.

Recent recipients of the Award for Local Arts Leadership are Mayor Oscar Goodman of Las Vegas, Nev. (2008); Mayor Manuel A. Diaz of Miami, Fla. (2007); and Mayor Bill Purcell of Nashville, Tenn. (2006). View a complete list of previous winners click here.

Americans for the Arts is the leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America. With offices in Washington, D.C., and New York City, it has a record of 49 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for every American to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Miami Mayor Manual A. Diaz, serves as president. Nickels currently serves as vice president and will become president in June.

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