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Posted at 2:30 PM ET, 01/20/2011

Gray asks cultural groups to keep the arts accessible

By Jacqueline Trescott
Vincent Gray. (Marvin Joseph/Post)

In his first speech as mayor to arts groups, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the city's financial struggles are difficult but the local arts groups should continue to help make Washington a world-class city.M/p>

"We have some very significant challenges facing us, and that is the best euphemism I can find. We are going to have to figure out how to live within our means. The money that comes through the door is all we are going to have," Gray said in a Thursday morning talk to a meeting of Cultural Tourism DC.

That said, he urged the arts leaders, many who struggled to survive the recession and the decline in private and public funding, "to keep alive those things we have worked so hard to build and frankly help us get to the next place."

He outlined a vision of partnerships between the cultural institutions, some as established at the 100-year-old National Museum of Natural History, where he gave the speech, and the city's agencies. He suggested working with the libraries, the recreation centers and economic development offices, as well as the schools. "You know what, not everything takes money. Frankly it often times takes a committment to be able to share history and culture," he said.

The role of the arts as a catalyst in neigbhorhoods that have turned fringe places to destinations was firmly applauded by the mayor. He described the impact of the Studio Theater in Logan Circle, Lincoln Theatre and African American Civil War Memorial on U Street and the Harman Center for the Arts across from the Verizon Center in Gallery Place.

"We need to protect that," he said."It isn't the bulding or edifice but what goes on inside there and the contribution to the quality of life in the District of Columbia.

Gray, a native Washingtonian, discussed the importance of arts education, even for the pre-kindergarten age. "When I was in junior high, 432 years ago, at Langley Jr. High, we got exposed to the arts. You wonder what happened to those opportunities. We need to restore that" he said.

The work of the museums, theaters, heritage associations, as well as the embassies,he argued, add to Washington's vitality and reputation.

"I want people in London, I want people in Paris, I want people in the world-class cities to say 'you know what-they've got it going on in Washington, D.C.'

By Jacqueline Trescott  | January 20, 2011; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Jacqueline Trescott, Local Arts and Culture  | Tags:  Cultural Tourism DC, Vincent C. Gray, Washington mayor on the arts  
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