Specific notes from Kevin Spacey’s Nancy Hanks lecture April 4, 2011

Here are some points from Kevin Spacey’s Nancy Hanks Speech delivered last night at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. It’s a mix of quotes, links, and other things I added after reviewing notes in hotel room. (Omni Shoreham, you do room service very well. I highly recommend the Crab Cake Sandwich)

Governments have long agreed in the value of the arts. It’s not just Kennedy and Johnson in the 1960. He read a quote from Margaret Thatcher, “…like health, education. The arts are universal goods to which all should be… ” I made a note to research more of the conversation of arts advocacy back in the 1970s. I found this transcript of a standing committee on education for the House of Commons, March 24, 1970.

Art. Does it matter? Spacey then spoke of how the arts mattered to him as a young boy. How the arts, and a renowned artist changed his life: Jack Lemmon. It’s a great story. I hope the transcript will also include the delightful historic photograph of Spacey as a 13 year old boy. Adorable!.

Twelve years later, he got the role of Jack Lemmon’s son in a Broadway production of “Long Day’s Journey Into Night. By O’Neill. (review) They also did film together, Glengarry Glen Ross.  Alec Baldwin is in that film, too. And he’s another staunch arts advocate.

Art and creativity is one of the most significant ways that humanity lifts itself out of hatred, intolerance and cruelty. He cited examples of previous Nancy Hanks speakers. As an actor, he had to research his role.

Referring to President Kennedy, “there is a connection, hard to explain logically, but easy to feel…” inspired by the poems of Robert Frost, [“When power corrupts, poetry cleanses.] Art is not a form of propaganda, it is a form of truth. [Get full quote from Kennedy’s speech ]
But also find these quotes all over the building we’re in….. The idea for this center began in 1933 by Eleanor Roosevelt, during great depression. The Bill was finally introduced in 1958, by then president Eisenhower.

The creative industries is this nations more powerful national resource. Economic downturn will be felt for years, arts cuts or not. We still need to act. Now.

Higher arts will only become available only to those who can afford it.

President Nixon said, “the attention and support we give the arts, enhance the quality of life for all Americans… And like our teachers, artists are an invaluable national resource.”~1970

Knute Rockne: The famous four horse defensive line formation idea came from watching a dance performance.

World War I military camouflage patterns were based on Picasso design

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill’s finance minister said Britain should cut arts funding to support the war effort. Churchill’s response: “Then what are we fighting for?”

Let’s be patriotic about our arts, building a better nation.

Spacey then talked about his work at Old Vic in London. And his coming Middle East Academy. And the Kevin Spacey Foundation

Why [do I do this]? To repay the debt I owe Jack Lemmon.
“Jack Lemmon had a phrase that he used all the time, that I’ve now adopted as my own. He believed that if you’ve been successful in your chosen path, then ‘sending the elevator back down’ is your obligation.”

Theatre creates a sense of family, learn to collaborate, whether or not they have a career interest in the arts. He shared a trailer of a documentary premier at TriBeCa film festival next. “Shakespeare High”

Here’s a link to the actual program.

Are artistic endeavors are luxury items? No, they are a necessity. Culture provides the magic of our experience. Countries may go to war, but culture unites us. Read Maya Angelo’s Nancy Hanks speech (1990). She quotes Langston Hughes in hers.

Writers are silenced by dictators because they know the artists who can move people and inflict pain on tyrants. these artists are being killed for the right of their voices to be heard.

On community development of buildings or civic centers, “Focusing on bricks and mortar instead of heart and soul of community development when all you think about are condos, coffee shops and retail. There must be an arts place where people gather.”

Spacey points out that it was Lincoln’s love of theatre, music and poetry which gave him this balance. His relationship w/ arts according to Doris Kearns Goodwin, “Lincoln’s ability to retain his emotional balance in such difficult situations was rooted in actute self-awareness and an enormous capacity to dispel anxiety in constructive ways.”

…Sending the elevator back down. No matter what floor we’re on, there’s always someone just below waiting to be invited up.

Can we afford not to support the arts?

And finally, to paraphrase a famous Kennedy quote, “Ask not what your country can do for the arts, and what the arts can do for your country.” (*)

Standing ovation.

*Most tweeted quote from the night. Please stay tuned to the Americans for the Arts websites for updates on Arts Advocacy issues. Get involved in the grassroots efforts.

Follow anyone from the AAD11 Twitter Team.



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