Why the Head of a Federal Arts Agency is Touring Rural Ohio?

Maria Rosario Jackson, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), is touring Ohio to better understand and support the state’s rural communities.

Over the past five years, the NEA has allocated more than $23 million to arts organizations in Ohio. Jackson’s tour aims to connect with local arts initiatives and assess their impact on community health and economic vitality.

Significance of the Tour

Jackson’s visit starts in Athens at Passion Works Studio, a creative space where people with and without developmental disabilities can make art together.

She will also visit the Mount Zion Black Cultural Center, which is being preserved and transformed into a space to celebrate Black history and culture.

Jackson emphasizes the importance of these community spaces in fostering a sense of belonging and pride. “Part of having a healthy existence in any place includes feeling like you belong there, feeling like it is a significant place for you,” she said. “

Being able to point to something and understand that there’s a family legacy or that it was built by a community you’re a part of instills a sense of stewardship and pride.”

Art’s Role in Community Health

Jackson highlighted research showing the positive effects of art on physical and mental health, particularly for those who have experienced trauma. “The arts allow us to be fully present, to express our humanity, and to see the humanity in others,” she explained.

Additionally, the arts contribute significantly to the economic vitality of communities. The NEA has found that the arts and cultural sector adds hundreds of billions of dollars to the nation’s GDP, including $72.8 billion to rural states’ economies.

Public Engagements

Jackson’s tour will end with two public meetings. The first is a town hall at Stuart’s Opera House in Nelsonville on Thursday, June 27, from 6:15–7:15 p.m.

Attendees can RSVP or watch a live stream at arts.gov. The second is a public meeting of the National Council on the Arts at the Lincoln Theater in Columbus on Friday, June 28, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a meet and greet. This meeting will also be live-streamed at arts.gov.

At these meetings, Jackson will discuss with art and design leaders how art in rural areas can create stronger, healthier communities. “The arts allow us to express our humanity and see the humanity in others,” she reiterated, emphasizing the transformative power of the arts in community building.


Maria Rosario Jackson’s visit to rural Ohio underscores the NEA’s commitment to supporting the arts in these communities. By engaging with local art projects and leaders, Jackson aims to foster a deeper connection between the NEA and rural communities, highlighting the arts’ vital role in enhancing community health, pride, and economic prosperity.

Leave a Comment