India Pinkney, general counsel for the National Endowment of the Arts, visited Fort Worth last week during the Lone Star Film Festival and attended a showing of Alive Inside, the documentary about the powerful impact of music on people dealing with dementia.

The James L. West Center for Dementia Care hosted her visit and she toured the center on Friday morning…

Pinkney toured the James L. West Center for Dementia Care on Friday morning and then was a featured speaker at the Downtown Fort Worth Rotary Club. At Rotary, she shared how arts impact our society by stating, “It brings about job creation and economic growth and integrates factors of livability – I see so many just driving through this beautiful city of Fort Worth – and city design. Equally important, creative arts therapies and arts-and-health programs support healing and health.”

She added that the NEA is prioritizing the impact of creative arts therapies: “When we at the NEA reference creative arts therapies, we mean music therapy, visual arts therapy, dance-and-movement, drama and other arts space forms.

“Over the past several years, we have committed significant resources to awarding grants, researching, partnering and building capacity around creative arts therapy. For example, Creative Forces is an arts program that began offering creative arts therapy programs to service members with traumatic brain injury and other psychological issues as a result.”

Pinkney said that in fiscal years 2016 and 2017, Congress appropriated roughly a $2 million increase each year to the NEA to specifically focus on that type of work.

She was followed in her Rotary talk by Michael Rossato-Bennett, the documentary filmmaker from New York who made Alive Inside. The documentary, Alive Inside, won two awards, including the audience award for U.S. documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014.

In the film, we meet a series of elderly people with serious dementia issues. Some have barely said a word in years. They don’t recognize their own children. But something happens and it often happens like a light switch has been turned on as these patients become, as the title suggests, alive.

“Music creates connections in the brain,” Rossato-Bennett said during a TEDTalk available on YouTube. “And it creates connections to the past and it creates connections between people.”

Following her Rotary presentation, the NEA executive participated in four additional engagements:

• Spoke at Downtown Fort Worth Rotary Club

• Met with TCU Arts & Entrepreneurship faculty & students

• Met at ArtSpace 111 discussion about Women & the Arts

• Lone Star Film Festival

She also attended the formal showing of the Alive Inside film at the Modern Museum of Art.

Cheryl Harding, CEO of the James L. West Center, said “We are so delighted that India was able to join us for this special series of events. She is an amazing leader in the arts space, and she is an inspiration to us all. He was very impressed with our approach to music therapy and the impact it has on those we serve.

“She left Fort Worth with great respect for the health of the arts community and how the arts are playing a valuable role in the creative arts therapies.”