Arts & Culture are integral to a community’s well-being—from its social fabric to its economy. They can provide a window of opportunity into issues counties tackle every day, including economic and community development, public health and justice and public safety. Starting this year, NACo will integrate the NACo Arts & Culture Awards into the Achievement Awards: Arts & Historic Preservation category. To commemorate this merger, the Arts & Historic Preservation category has been renamed the Arts, Culture & Historic Preservation category.
Since 1994, through the Achievement Awards Program, NACo has recognized innovative Arts & Historic Preservation programs in county government. Former winners have included San Diego County, Calif. for the creation of professional art galleries in a county library (2009) and Russell County, Ala. for the historic preservation of a 1848 masonic lodge (2017).
In addition to recognizing arts through the Achievement Awards, NACo has recognized the arts in a number of ways. In 1997, then NACo President Commissioner Michael Hightower focused his Presidential Initiative around Arts and Culture, with a particular interest in arts programs for at-risk youth. Building on Commissioner Hightower’s momentum, Commissioner Betty Lou Ward established the NACo Arts Commission in 1998 during her tenure as NACo president the following year.
Since its inception, the NACo Arts & Culture Commission has worked to showcase that the arts are more than just paintings on a wall or performances at a theatre. The arts can be used by county officials to promote economic development and provide solutions to local challenges.
In 2003, the NACo Arts & Culture Commission created the Arts & Culture Awards to recognize county governments for their efforts in enriching American culture and intellectual life, promoting lifelong learning and protecting national heritage through innovative programs and projects.
Over the past 15 years, some great programs have been recognized. Recent winners include Mobile County, Ala. for its efforts to preserve the Mobile Symphony Orchestra’s strings programs in the county’s public schools (2014), Monterey County, Calif. for its Arts as Healing Intervention program for incarcerated youth in the Monterey County Probation Department (2015) and Hennepin County for its robust arts and culture programming within its library system (2016).
If you would like to submit your arts-related program or project to the Achievement Awards: Arts, Culture & Historic Preservation category for review, click here to learn more and apply.