Clyburn feted by AFTA

Leadership award latest recognition for long-time representative

Dignitaries on stage at the 35th Nancy Hanks Lecture March 12, 2024 at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Left to right: Nolen V. Bivens, president & CEO of Americans for the Arts; Tanya Lombard, VP of Global Public and External Affairs at AT&T; actor and 2024 Nancy Hanks lecturer Jeffrey Wright; U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn; singer Ben Folds; and Edgar Smith, AFTA board chairman.

Congressman James E. Clyburn of South Carolina’s sixth congressional district was honored during Americans for the Arts’ 35th Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy in Washington in March.

Established by AFTA in 1988, the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy is the leading national forum for arts policy intended to stimulate dialogue on policy and social issues affecting the arts. Prior speakers have included poet Maya Angelou, the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and actors Rita Moreno and Robert Redford among others.

During the event, Rep. Clyburn was honored with the 2024 Congressional Arts Leadership Award from Americans for the Arts and the United States Conference of Mayors. The award recognizes an elected official who has consistently advocated for expanding federal support for the arts and culture and arts education. It was presented by Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-New York), House minority leader.

In his remarks, Clyburn said, “We’ve got to figure out how to make this great country’s greatness accessible and affordable for all of its citizens, and one of the best ways I know to do that is to recognize the artistic nature of the cultures that exist in this country.”

Award-winning actor and Academy Award nominee Jeffrey Wright delivered the 2024 lecture.

During the lecture, Wright addressed his recent film and Academy Award nomination for American Fiction, discourse about racial equity in the U.S., and the start of his acting career. He also talked about his production We Are Not Done Yet, which tells the stories of veterans who discover the healing power of the arts as they find resilience in the face of post-traumatic stress through arts workshops at Walter Reed National Military Hospital.

“I think the scarcest resource, not just here but in many places, is vision of the way forward. Artists can provide that because everything is born of the imagination,” Wright said.

AFTA President and CEO Nolen Bivens said, “The arts are the most important asset that we have in our nation—they are necessary for our economy, our education, and our cultural identity.”

The audience included members of congress, Bivens and AFTA board members, musician Ben Folds, and cable news personality Symone Sanders Townsend.

You can watch the event on-demand here.