CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Throughout West Virginia, community leaders are engaging arts organizations, artists, government leaders and economic development organizations in activities that will help establish their towns and cities as creative cities. On Dec. 13 and 14, 2016, the West Virginia Division of Culture and History will host “Arts In Our Communities,” a statewide conference at the Culture Center in Charleston featuring national and state experts who will focus on creative community development.

“Around the state, we have cities and towns that are seeing positive growth as creative communities thanks to grassroots programs and support from local government, economic development and tourism organizations,” said Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith of West Virginia Division of Culture and History. “This conference will be a forum for speakers and attendees to share their ideas and learn from each other.”

Jane Chu, chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts, will be the keynote speaker on Tuesday, Dec. 13. She will present a national vision for the arts and talk about the National Endowment for the Arts’ work with state arts agencies.

That same day, Leonardo Vasquez of the National Consortium for Creative Placemaking will talk about new ways to make communities more livable and prosperous through the arts and making communities better places for the arts.

Local government leaders and grassroots activists will talk about how their communities are incorporating more arts and what it has meant for their cities, residents and visitors.

Kelly Barsdate, chief program and planning officer for the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA), will discuss effective advocacy on Wednesday, Dec. 14, and Laura Smith, chief advancement officer for the NASAA, will share ideas for contemporary fundraising.

Also on Wednesday, James Denova, vice president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, will speak about the value and importance of encouraging STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) education programming in schools.

Workshops on grant writing and breakout sessions focusing on communications will round out the program.

The “Arts In Our Communities” conference is free. Online registration and information about special hotel rates at the Holiday Inn Express Civic Center are available at

For more information about the free arts conference, contact Robin Jones at (304) 558-0240, ext. 155 or

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History is an agency within the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts with Kay Goodwin, cabinet secretary. The division, led by Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith, brings together the past, present and future through programs and services focusing on archives and history, arts, historic preservation and museums. For more information about the division’s programs, events and sites, visit The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.