NLC Selects Nine Cities to Participate in One Nation/One Project, A National Arts and Wellness Initiative

April 14, 2022 - (5 min read)

One Nation/One Project – to Address COVID Recovery and to Improve Well-Being and Social Cohesion 

Washington, DC – The National League of Cities (NLC) Institute for Youth, Education, and Families (IYEF) has competitively selected nine sites to participate in a pilot peer learning cohort for its newly-launched initiative, Improving Community Health and Resilience through the Arts.

The Arts & Health pilot cohort includes the City of Gainesville, Florida; the City of Chicago, Illinois; the Town of Utica, Mississippi; the City of Winston-Salem, North Carolina in partnership with Forsyth County; the City of Providence, Rhode Island; the City of Rhinelander, Wisconsin; Harlan County, Kentucky; the City of Edinburg, Texas; and Phillips County, Arkansas.

The initiative will be carried out in partnership with One Nation / One Project (ONOP), a national arts and wellness project with the goal to amplify the proven benefits that arts engagement has in fostering holistic recovery, well-being and social cohesion in communities. This social impact venture is inspired by the work of the 1936 Federal Theatre Project that worked to reinvigorate America after the Great Depression.

“The One Nation/One Project initiative is an opportunity for local leaders to spotlight the critical role that arts play in bringing residents together and improving our communities’ overall health, well-being and resilience.”, said Clarence Anthony, NLC’s CEO and Executive Director

A key facet of the effort supports cities in leveraging American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) resources to improve community conditions related to impacts of COVID-19. The pilot cohort of nine cities will work to build partnerships between municipal leadership, Community Health Centers and safety net providers, local artists, and the communities hit hardest by the pandemic, with particular attention to working with and investing in Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. While building sustainable partnerships between the health and arts sectors and implementing ongoing local participatory arts activities, each city will work to develop an artistic project in response to the prompt “There’s no place like home ” towards simultaneous presentations in 2024.

“The arts play an integral part in the health of our communities,” said Dr. Robert Blaine III, Senior Executive and Director of the Institute for Youth, Education, and Families at NLC. “The National League of Cities is proud to work with these nine cities through the One Nation / One Project Arts & Health initiative to build innovative local partnerships and harness the arts to drive recovery efforts from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“Creative practice in the context of deep partnerships and community leads to striking improvements in physical and mental health for individual people, and for our society at large,” said Clyde Valentin and Lear deBessonet, Co-Artistic Directors of One Nation/One Project.  “We are honored to partner with the National League of Cities on this historic collaboration between artists, municipal leaders, and health workers.”

With support from NLC, cross-sector teams involving mayors, city staff, arts councils, Community Health Centers, community-based organizations, county-level leadership, and independent artists will work to build effective cross-sector relationships and carry out community-led projects. The participating partners will work to create economic opportunities and holistically improve community wellbeing through their arts investments. The NLC is excited to build out this area of work that will help cities, towns, and villages address public health and wellness by investing in the arts.

“We are thrilled to participate in this national cohort with the National League of Cities and One Nation / One Project. Artistic creation in its many forms is in the fiber of Phillips County culture and history. A collaborative creative endeavor will help anchor communities in Phillips County, improving health outcomes and enhancing physical and mental wellness in our rural county. We who live in Phillips County agree, “There is No Place Like Home”.  We are confident that the more people learn about the good things going on in our county, they too will want to call Phillips County “Home”.” -The Honorable Clark Hall, Phillips County Judge, Phillips County, Arkansas

“In Providence, we greatly value and recognize the importance of both the arts and healthy communities, and the connection between the two,” said Providence Mayor Jorge O. Elorza. “Our residents asked us to deliver a portion of our ARPA-allocated funds to supporting artists and the arts, and participating in NLC’s groundbreaking initiative will surely contribute to the health and vibrancy of Providence as the Creative Capital.”

“With rural and urban communities both facing serious declines in mental, physical and social wellbeing, it is a perfect time to be chosen for such a transformative work. Using the universal language of art to transform spaces and restore community cohesion could be the most creative and collaborative opportunity we have had to promote healing in the most vulnerable of communities”. Carla Lewis, CEO of First! Community and Development Corporation, Gainesville, Florida

For more information about NLC’s Improving Community Health and Resilience through the Arts initiative , contact


The National League of Cities (NLC) is the voice of America’s cities, towns and villages, representing more than 200 million people across the country. NLC works to strengthen local leadership, influence federal policy and drive innovative solutions. Stay connected with NLC on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

ONOP is a sponsored partner of the Tides Center and is currently funded by the Apollo Theater Foundation, Anne Clarke Wolff and Ted Wolff, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Katie McGrath & J.J. Abrams Family Foundation, The Tow Foundation, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.Their advisory board includes prominent supporters Sara Fenske Bahat, David Berlin, Andi Bernstein, Megan Beyer, Anurima Bhargava, Renee Chatelain, Jason Cooper, Deborah Cullinan, Diana DiMenna, Kamilah Forbes, Katie McGrath and J.J. Abrams, Stacey Mindich, Liza Montesano, Eva Price, Fiona Howe Rudin, Mara Burros Sandler, Jeffrey Seller, Jean Tom, and Anne Clarke Wolff.