EPA announces inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts in Puerto Rico | US EPA

EPA announces inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts in Puerto Rico | US EPA

Puerto Rico – The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox announced on Tuesday EPA’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence Program in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts. Assistant Administrator Fox made the announcement at Healing, Bridging, Thriving: A Summit on Arts and Culture in our Communities, which was co-hosted by the White House and National Endowment for the Arts to recognize the profound impact that arts and culture play in shaping our lives, communities and nation.

By launching this program, EPA is investing in arts and culture to boost engagement, awareness and participation in critical water challenges ranging from aging infrastructure to climate impacts like flooding and storm surge to investment in safe drinking water. The San Juan Bay Estuary Partnership is one of the six chosen locations to participate in this first-of-its-kind program.

“Across America, EPA is working hand-in-hand with local partners to ensure drinking water is safe, and to restore and maintain oceans, watersheds and their aquatic ecosystems. Incorporating arts and cultural strategies into our work can reveal new ideas, unlock opportunities, and help us find new and enduring solutions to pressing water challenges,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. “Through this partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, local water leaders from the Puget Sound—to the San Juan Bay Estuary—to the Delaware River watershed, will have new tools and resources to support water restoration and climate resilience.”

“EPA is proud to engage with our partners in developing innovative ways to link the arts and our precious waters,” said Lisa F. Garcia, Regional Administrator. “Puerto Rico is a center for the arts and culture of all kinds.  This exciting new effort will fuse multiple creative disciplines in highlighting our community’s relationship to our shared waters.” 

Water is essential, yet the water challenges faced today are pervasive and mounting. Many communities suffer from poor water quality, too much or too little water, and aging water infrastructure that is in urgent need of replacement. Overburdened water systems are further stressed by climate change—unpredictable weather, sea level rise and flooding. These challenges require engagement at every level. Water leaders are increasingly turning to artists and culture bearers to help bring visibility to water issues, create more inclusive planning processes, and leverage infrastructure investments to provide additional benefits to the communities they serve. EPA is establishing an Artist-in-Residence program to continue and expand these efforts in the water sector. In 2024, EPA will support artists and culture bearers in six long-standing National Estuary Program (NEP) and Urban Waters Federal Partnership locations that are doing critical work on water restoration and climate resilience.

“I believe that the integration of arts and culture can help to strengthen several aspects of our lives and communities, which is why I’m excited by the Environmental Protection Agency’s artist in residence program,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “This is an opportunity for EPA to deepen its community engagement while also expanding an understanding of how artists can contribute to multiple sectors.”

EPA’s Artist-in-Residence Initiative was developed in response to President Biden’s Executive Order on Arts and Humanities, designed to spur investment and alignment of arts and culture across the federal government, make art more accessible to people from underserved communities, elevate new voices through the arts and humanities, and expand opportunities for artists and scholars. 

EPA’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence program will focus on opportunities to advance the goals of the National Estuary Program and the Urban Waters Federal Partnership, long standing programs that have restored and protected treasured water bodies across America.

The San Juan Bay Estuary Partnership (SJBEP) is delighted to be selected in the Artist-in-Residence program,” said SJBEP Executive Director Brenda Torres. “In the past the SJBEP has hosted artist-in residence projects focused on enhancing water quality and healthy ecosystems while facilitating culturally competent community engagement. With this Artist-in-Residence project we are looking forward to supporting a pilot project to reverse channelization of a portion of the Juan Mendez Creek that complements key infrastructure projects in the region, such as the dredging of the Caño Martín Peña (Martín Peña Channel). This initiative is part of an engagement strategy launched by the SJBEP immediately after Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.”

Public and community engagement, outreach, and education are vital components of both the NEP and Urban Waters programs. Incorporating arts and cultural strategies into EPA’s place-based programs will support innovative approaches and create lasting impact.

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