Our History

For nearly 60 years, Americans for the Arts has convened an annual convention for arts and community leaders to network and discuss strategies for building stronger towns, counties, and cities through the arts. As our professional field has grown, so has our gathering. What started as a small group of 45 people in 1955 has now grown to nearly 1,000 each year.

Together we’ve shared the successes and challenges of using the arts as core to community development, and we’ve heard expert advice from an impressive list of keynotes including Ben Folds, Richard Nixon, Harry Chapin, John Lewis, Tony Kushner, Arianna Huffington, and Robert Redford. Our Annual Convention is also an opportunity for peer groups interested arts education, cultural diversity, emerging leaders, public art, and more to meet each year to connect and share their work.



2017 Annual Convention

For the 2017 Annual Convention, Americans for the Arts and our members are heading to San Francisco to explore this iconic arts destination and to discuss the pressing issues of equity, accessibility, and community building. With a vibrant culture and history of experimentation, San Francisco has long been a haven for artists and innovators. During the tumultuous summer of 1967, thousands sought out San Francisco for refuge in expression, community and art.
On the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, join us in helping transform our communities and organizations, and discover what makes San Francisco such a culturally vibrant and creative city!

This year’s Annual Convention will explore the role of the arts in creating and sustaining healthy, vibrant, equitable communities. Talks will revolve around five core themes:

Engaging Equity: How do we learn and lead in pursuing equity inside and outside the arts?
Inspiring Activation: How can we support activist and experimental spirit in the arts?
Embracing Reinvention: How can we be proactive in moments of transformation?
Celebrating Optimism: How can we raise up the creativity and hope within our communities?
Building Skills: What are the primary skills needed for individuals to succeed in the arts today?

Looking for additional information? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions page or take a look at our Past Highlights page.