Americans for the Arts Mourns the Passing of Representative John Lewis


Without the arts, without music, without dance, without drama, without photography, the civil rights movement would have been like a bird without wings.”

These were the words the late Representative John Lewis of Georgia shared the many times he addressed crowds of arts advocates of all ages at Americans for the Arts’ annual Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

Americans for the Arts feels deep loss at the passing of Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero and a true champion for the arts, and we celebrate the vast contributions he made to our country. A recipient of the 2009 Americans for the Arts’ Congressional Arts Leadership Award, Rep. Lewis was a vocal and active member of the Congressional Arts Caucus. He also introduced The Artist-Museum Partnership Act making it easier for American artists to share their work with the American public and inspire future generations. Advocates are still pushing Congress to pass this touchstone piece of legislation. 

“Our nation has lost a true hero and the arts have lost a dear friend. His lifetime of work to advance civil rights and justice helped change the course of our nation,” said Robert L. Lynch, President and CEO of Americans for Arts. “His decades as a national arts advocate, speaking at our national conferences and advocacy events, have been an ongoing inspiration for several generations of arts activists. John Lewis told us: ‘When we were surrounded by an angry mob, beaten, gassed, and trampled it was the music that lifted us and made us strong. … Go out there and find a way to get in the way, to disturb the order of things, make some noise, speak up, speak out. … I never gave up. You must not give up.’ Americans for the Arts will always hold dear his stirring words of support and the tireless work he showed toward ensuring every American had better access to the arts.”

Rep. John Lewis leaves behind a powerful legacy, and Americans for the Arts will miss him and the energy and passion he brought to Arts Advocacy Day over the years. His speech from Arts Advocacy Day in 2015 can be viewed below.

Photo above of John Lewis speaking at Arts Advocacy Day 2017 by Maria Bryk.





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