CHUCK HINMAN: Lynne McCormack thanks for joining us here at The Public’s Radio. You're the new executive director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Congratulations.

LYNNE McCORMACK: Thank you, Chuck. It's a pleasure to be here with you today.

CHUCK: And why don't we start there: exactly what is the state council on the arts?

McCORMACK: We work closely with the National Endowment for the Arts. The State Arts arts agency system was established when the National Endowment for the Arts was established in the mid 1960s. And actually, our Senator Pell was really instrumental in establishing the National Endowment for the Arts in this entire system. We support individual artists and organizations, as well as run the state's public art program.

JAMES BAUMGARTNER: I see that one of your previous roles was in creative placemaking. What is creative placemaking and how will this influence your role at RISCA?

McCORMACK: It's the integration of arts and cultural strategies to drive community development outcomes. So: social cohesion, economic prosperity, physical changes to the physical environment, and then also systems change. So how do arts and culture inform all of these different systems.

CHUCK: Have you got some new initiatives that you have in mind for implementing at RISCA now? Or are you just going to wait a while and get used to what's going on there before you launch off into something else?

McCORMACK: Yeah, so luckily, Chuck, I'm inheriting a really great strategic plan that the community created last year, in collaboration with the organization, that really centers equity in all of our grant making. And so the amazing team here of program directors has already done a terrific job, overhauling all of our grant programs to reflect that strategic plan, with really explicit goals of recruiting black, indigenous and bipoc organizations into our grantmaking. in terms of like the future, I think that we all want to be thinking about how we can really work more closely with cities and towns in the coming years and think about the needs that they might have in terms of cultural development. And think together with possibly other state agencies on how to kind of build those programs out and collaborate also.

JAMES: What do you see are some of the biggest challenges facing artists, individual artists, and arts organizations in Rhode Island?

McCORMACK: So, I think, you know, we're still coming out of the pandemic. That's been a really hard time for individual artists and organizations, particularly the organizations that rely on ticket revenue. We're still in a rebuild process with with those folks and with, with individual artists that have kind of lost opportunities for, for income. So I think that's the biggest challenge is just continuing to support local artists and organizations as they reopen as they they reenter the world. I think the other piece is just advocacy and getting the word out about what the arts and culture economy is to the state. We have one of the largest arts and cultural economies in the country in terms of a per capita basis. And I think it's underrecognized. And I'd love to be able to elevate that in terms of advocacy.

CHUCK: We can look and see all the damage done by the pandemic to the arts and the rest of society. Do you see anything positive coming out of that in terms of different ways to work that you had to go to because of the pandemic that you might want to keep now, after it's kind of lessened?

McCORMACK: I think that the role of arts and culture at this moment in time is to reconnect people. Even just recently at the PVD Fest in June, earlier in the summer, people were just, you know, incredibly grateful to be celebrating together again. When we talk about these big events that these organizations are on or even smaller ones, it's really about this human connection and learning about each other's differences. And so I think there's a new appreciation for that. I think it always happened here. But I think because we were on lockdown for – and having to be isolated for two years. People are appreciating it in a different way. And possibly there are ways to leverage that appreciation.

JAMES: Lynn McCormack, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, thanks for joining us today.

McCORMACK: Thank you, James. It’s been a pleasure, I hope it’s just the first of many conversations to come.