Mayor Thomas Roach (White Plains, NY) Honored by Americans for Arts

Americans For The Arts And United States Conference Of Mayors Honor Elected Leaders From
Missouri, New York, and Colorado and Poet Honey Bell-Bey For Their Steadfast Support of The Arts

WASHINGTON, DC, January 19, 2024]Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors today presented the 2024 Public Leadership in the Arts Awards to three elected officials and an American poet at The United States Conference of Mayors 92nd Winter Meeting in Washington, DC.

Award receipts were:

  • Jared Polis, Governor of Colorado, will receive the National Award for State Arts Leadership.
  • Tishaura O. Jones, Mayor of St. Louis, was presented the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population of 100,000 or more.
  • Thomas Roach, Mayor of White Plains, New York, was presented the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population of fewer than 100,000 and
  • Honey Bell-Bey, Poet Laureate, (Cuyahoga County, OH) – was presented with the National Citizen Artist Award.

“It’s an honor for Americans for the Arts to recognize the unwavering dedication and impact that Governor Polis, Mayor Jones, Mayor Roach, and Ms. Bell-Bey have had in their respective communities, where they have championed the availability of arts for all,” said Nolen V. Bivens, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “Their visionary leadership serves as a shining testament to how elected officials can make a real difference in their home cities and states. By prioritizing arts funding, they have inspired community pride, ignited creativity, and driven economic success, contributing to the nation’s $151.7 billion in economic activity. Their achievements serve as inspiration for leaders to come together in pursuit of a brighter future. Honey Bell-Bey’s remarkable and transformative poetry work in the realm of social justice within the community deserves special recognition and admiration.”

Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors have been awarding these honors to elected officials for their work to support the arts in their communities since 1997. A list of previous award winners is available on Americans for the Arts’ awards page.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is pleased to recognize the exemplary work of Mayor Jones, Mayor Roach, Governor Polis as they use the arts and culture to not only promote their city/state, but to grow their economies,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Mayors understand the inherent value of the arts to bring people together, promote cultural understanding, and make cities safer places to live, work and play.”

About the 2024 Public Leadership in the Arts Awardees

Colorado Governor Jared Polis

Governor Jared Polis’ investments in the creative sector in partnership with Colorado Creative Industries, a division of the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, have pushed arts and cultural production to account for $16.9B and 3.9% of the Colorado economy, contributing to 102,383 direct jobs. Colorado ranks in the top five of all states regarding the number of people performing and creating art, and it leads all other states for the number of people attending performing arts events. Governor Polis believes that art and creativity make Colorado memorable and help small businesses thrive. He has demonstrated this through unprecedented support to the arts, culture, and creative industries. In 2020, the Governor signed HB21-1285, providing $7.5M in relief funding to the arts, culture, and entertainment sector. In 2021, he approved a second round of funding, bringing the total relief funds to $23M. The Community Revitalization bill provided over $100M in relief funding to Colorado’s creative sector, stabilizing one of the state’s largest, fastest growing, and hardest-hit industries in the state. Colorado’s total arts relief funding was more than any other US state.

Governor Polis has appointed two state Poet Laureates during his term; Bobby Lefebre (2019), Colorado’s youngest and first Poet Laureate of Color, and Andrea Gibson (2023), Colorado’s first queer Poet Laureate. His commitment to poetry and the arts runs in the family, as his mother, Susan Polis Schultz, is an accomplished poet and filmmaker. In 2020, Governor Polis appointed Colorado’s second Music Ambassador, Stephen Brackett. These appointees serve as active advocates for poetry and music and embody the spirit of a ‘Colorado for All’ where everyone is included. Under the Polis administration, the Space to Create program, the nation’s first state-led initiative for affordable housing for creative sector workers in rural areas, has completed two successful projects, providing a combined 71 units of affordable live/work housing and 22,000 square feet of community space for the creative sector.

Governor Polis is doubling down on his commitment to the arts and creative economy through the inclusion of funding in the FY25 Governor’s budget proposal that would provide a budget increase for Colorado Creative Industries to expand community investments in arts, culture and creative industries and funding for the existing creative districts program. This effort shows a deep commitment to advancing arts and cross-sector issues, from public health to transportation and youth resiliency. Additionally, the Governor’s office has included a request for a $16M innovative tax credit program to support capital projects within the arts and culture sector, including affordable live/workspace for artists.

“In Colorado, we prioritize creativity and recognize the importance of creating more ways for people to learn and be involved with art. The arts have always been an important part of my life, and I am honored to be one of the 2024 Public Leadership in the Arts award recipients,” said Colorado Governor Jared Polis. “I look forward to continuing to uplift the arts industry and celebrating all the incredible artists living and working in Colorado.”

St. Louis, Missouri Mayor Tishaura O. Jones

Mayor Tishaura O. Jones is a true champion of the arts in St. Louis, Missouri. A native of St. Louis, her steadfast love of the arts started when she was a teenager, and her first job was serving as an usher at The MUNY the nation’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theatre that produces seven world-class musicals and welcomes over 350,000 theatre goers each summer.

Informed by her personal and professional experience, one of her first public acts of support for the arts and culture sector as Mayor was to create an Arts Liaison position in the Mayor’s Office and is a member of the Mayor’s Cabinet. The Arts Liaison’s role is to promote and uplift local artists and art organizations as well as develop opportunities for the City’s artists to find career fulfillment in their craft.

St. Louis boasts more than 700 arts and culture non-profits organizations that generate nearly $868 million in economic activity and 12,000 full-time jobs. In 2022, more than 8.1 million local and out-of-town tourists attend theater performances, concerts, art fairs, festivals, and more.

Recognizing the economic and social contribution of the arts and culture sector in St. Louis Mayor Jones, created several community opportunities to hear from artists and arts organization that were devasted by the COVID-19 pandemic. On November 1, 2022, Mayor Jones, with unanimous support from the City of St. Louis’ Board of Aldermen, signed Bill #66 into law allocating $10.6 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to the Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. This historic investment in the St. Louis arts community was one the largest direct municipal allocation in the United States.

Also under the Mayor’s leadership, the City of St. Louis is investing significant economic development dollars into the St. Louis Art Place Initiative, a regional trend setter in the affordable housing landscape and in arts-based community development that creates homeownership opportunities for local artists.

“The City of St. Louis has an incredible arts ecosystem that promotes not only a wide array of talent and vision, but also accessibility and immersive experiences that bring our communities to life,” said Mayor Tishaura O. Jones. “While I am proud to receive this recognition, I am more proud to represent a city that deeply values the arts. St. Louis is a better place because of the creators, writers, performers, and producers that call our city home.”

White Plains, New York Mayor Thomas Roach

The success of a city is a result of its leadership, and the City of White Plains reflects that success. Mayor Thomas Roach is the essence of White Plains, where he was born. His children are the fifth generation of his family to call White Plains home. While a practicing attorney, he assumed the office of Mayor in 2011 and has accomplished great things for the city since then. Some think Mayor Roach has a ‘double’ because he attends every business opening, cultural event, farmers’ market, and ribbon cutting. He and his City agencies have been instrumental in the success and growth of the annual five-day JazzFest White Plains festival over the past twelve years and have supported the presentation of live music and public art in the City’s streets and parks.  JazzFest White Plains presents free and affordable live jazz music to city residents and visitors, becoming an annual favorite event in Westchester County.

Most recently, Mayor Roach encouraged ArtsWestchester to mount its 2022 five-day Serious Fun Arts Fest that brought the joy and vibrancy of the arts to downtown White Plains with two days of concerts and 18 new mural and sculpture installations. New visitors and residents enjoyed live music and public art topped off with a soaring six-story contemporary art installation on ArtsWestchester’s building, making White Plains a destination to view the artwork by internationally renowned artist Amanda Browder. This technically complex art installation would not have been possible without the enthusiastic support of Mayor Roach and his leadership team.

Thanks to Mayor Roach’s vision, White Plains is booming with new development and construction. Mayor Roach has embraced the arts as a fundamental component of the city’s future. Arts venues, cultural activities and public art figure heavily in the city’s proposed comprehensive plan which will be adopted later this year. The plan prioritizes the development of new cultural assets within the downtown such as galleries, a museum and performing venues.  ArtsWestchester is proud to nominate a generous public servant who not only takes care of the city’s health and safety but also fosters community-building through the infusion of arts and culture in the public domain. The City of White Plains is more prosperous for having Mayor Thomas Roach as its leader, and ArtsWestchester is fortunate to have his partnership that has embedded arts and culture into the City of White Plains.

The arts are an integral part of what makes White Plains a special and economically vibrant city.  Our active and robust art scene is the result of our work with partners throughout our community who help us explore new ways to engage our diverse community in art and culture unleashing exceptional creativity and imagination. I proudly accept the Local Arts Leadership award on behalf of our strong arts and business partners, and residents who collaborate with city officials to invigorate an art community that is enjoyed and valued by everyone who lives, works and visits the City of White Plains.  – Mayor Thomas Roach

Poet Laureate, Honey Bell-Bey

A motivational poet, writer, educator, and community advocate, Honey Bell-Bey is an Ohio Certified Substance Abuse Professional who utilizes performance and visual arts to impact, women, youth and families. Her platform, P.O.E.T (Power Over Emotional Trauma), gives voice and transformative power to communities, often marginalization by high risk factors. In 2020 she was awarded the National Poet Laureate Fellowship by the Academy of American Poets. She has performed, directed, and choreographed Spoken Word performances internationally and received numerous awards and accommodations for her service and activism utilizing poetry to unite communities around issues in social justice and equity. She is the founder and director for The International Distinguished Gentlemen of Spoken Word, a character-based performance troupe for adolescent males who perform on topics of disparities and social injustices.

She was appointed Poet Laureate of Cuyahoga County in January 2020. In 2022, the city of East Cleveland renamed a street (Honey Bell-Bey way), in honor of her more than 25 years of dedicated service to arts, and community. Honey Bell-Bey is currently pursing a Masters in Public Health at the prestigious, Case Western Reserve University, and is a trainer for the Ohio Coaching and Mentoring Network.

Art transforms lives! May it be said that I used the power of artistic voice to create, cultivate, captivate, inspire and impact social change. If I can not do those transformative things with voice, may I remain silent the remainder of my days. – Honey Bell-Bey.

“I am delighted to honor Honey Bell-Bey not only for her incredible talent but her dedication to lifting up our communities and fighting for social justice through her platform and her work” said Cleveland Mayor Justin M. Bibb. “Ms. Bell-Bay’s unique ability to engage community members who do not traditionally see themselves as writers has opened doors of opportunity and of healing for so many. Words truly can change the trajectory of a life—and our poet laureate exemplifies that in every way.” 

Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that advances the arts and arts education advocacy in America. Based in Washington, D.C., it has a record of more than 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at www.AmericansForTheArts.org.

The United States Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are more than 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

For more information, follow us on social media @Americans4Arts

# # #

MEDIA CONTACT: Mariaesmeralda Paguaga | mpaguaga@artsusa.org

About ArtsWestchester

For more than 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest, private, not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to provide leadership, vision, and support, to ensure the availability, accessibility, and diversity of the arts. ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County. ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts, exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations, and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue.

For more than 50 years, ArtsWestchester has been the community’s connection to the arts. Founded in 1965, it is the largest, private, not-for-profit arts council in New York State. Its mission is to provide leadership, vision, and support, to ensure the availability, accessibility, and diversity of the arts. ArtsWestchester provides programs and services that enrich the lives of everyone in Westchester County. ArtsWestchester helps fund concerts, exhibitions and plays through grants; brings artists into schools and community centers; advocates for the arts; and builds audiences through diverse marketing initiatives. In 1998, ArtsWestchester purchased the nine-story neo-classical bank building at 31 Mamaroneck Avenue which has since been transformed into a multi-use resource for artists, cultural organizations, and the community. A two-story gallery is located on the first floor of ArtsWestchester’s historic building on Mamaroneck Avenue.