Rocco Landesman, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, will be in Macon on Tuesday to give the keynote speech at the Georgia Arts Network annual conference. His address “How Art Works at the NEA,” in the 1,030-seat Grand Opera House at 651 Mulberry St., is free to the public.
Landesman is on a quick three-state tour, with stops in Greensboro, N.C., Jackson and Port Gibson, Miss., Macon and Atlanta. In each, he’s meeting with arts and civic leaders to learn about local efforts to encourage “vibrant, livable communities” through the arts, according to a news release from NEA spokeswoman Elizabeth Auclair.
The public program including Landesman’s speech starts at 12:30 p.m., said Jim Coleman, executive director of the Macon Arts Alliance. It’s expected to last an hour, including questions from the audience.
Landesman, the 10th NEA chairman, has held the position since 2009, said Jhai James, Georgia Council for the Arts spokeswoman. This is his first visit to Georgia as NEA chairman, she said.
After conferring with Coleman, James said she expects at least 200 people to hear Landesman’s speech in Macon.
“We are doing a similar event in Atlanta on Wednesday, and we already have gotten an RSVP list of around 500,” James said.
Coleman said Landesman’s visit is a rare chance to draw national attention to Macon’s art scene.
“This won’t happen again in our lifetime, probably,” he said.
Perhaps 150 people will attend the entire Georgia Arts Network conference, for which there is a fee, Coleman said.
But Landesman’s speech, which is open to the public and will close the conference, is scheduled to draw people from as far as 100 miles away, Coleman said.
After his speech, Landesman is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Tubman African American Museum and Macon Symphony Orchestra, which have received federal arts funding, James said.
Coleman is coordinating the visit, but he credits the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with bringing Landesman here as part of its consistent support of local arts.
“We are eternally grateful to the Knight Foundation,” Coleman said.
Beverly Blake, Macon program director for the Knight Foundation, is among the local leaders scheduled to meet with Landesman.
“I think he’s going to bring a message of the importance of the arts to communities -- quality of life, of course, but also how the arts are an economic driver,” she said.
The businesses emerging most quickly from the recession are those driven by the “creative class,” and attracting those people can be a key part of revitalizing urban Macon, Coleman said. The arts alliance and government can create a local environment where private entrepreneurs -- graphic designers, ad agencies, film editors -- can thrive, he said.
“Arts and culture are a business,” Coleman said. “It’s a huge business. It attracts hundreds of thousands of people, and it pays taxes.”
James said that according to GCA Director Karen Paty, more than 12,000 arts-related businesses employ almost 200,000 people in Georgia.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.