Governor Bill Anaotubby, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Mayor Gavin Buckley Understand Important Role That Arts and Culture Play in Society

WASHINGTON, DC—Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors today presented the 2022 Public Leadership in the Arts Awards to three elected officials at The U.S. Conference of Mayors 90th Winter Meeting. The honorees include:

  • Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, was awarded the National Award for State Arts Leadership – the first elected leader of an Indigenous nation being awarded a Public Leadership in the Arts Award;


  • Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston, Texas, received the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population of 100,000 or more;


  • Gavin Buckley, Mayor of Annapolis, Maryland, was awarded the National Award for Local Arts Leadership for cities with a population fewer than 100,000.

“Governor Anaotubby, Mayor Turner, and Mayor Buckley embody the best of what civic leaders can do to support the arts,” said Nolen V. Bivens, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts. “They understand the important role that the arts play in advancing equity, uniting communities, preserving culture, and boosting the economy. I am particularly pleased that we are honoring our first elected leader of an Indigenous nation with the Public Leadership in the Arts Award. I applaud Governor Anaotubby, Mayor Turner, and Mayor Buckley for relentlessly working to support and promote the arts and equity in their regions.”

“The U.S. Conference of Mayors is pleased to recognize the exemplary work of Mayor Turner, Mayor Buckley, and Governor Anoatubby as they use the arts and culture to not only promote their city/state, but to grow their economies,” remarked Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director of The U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Mayors understand the inherent value of the arts to bring people together, promote cultural understanding, and make cities safer places to live, work, and play.”

About the 2022 Public Leadership in the Arts Awardees

Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anaotubby

Governor Anaotubby began his 44-year career with the Chickasaw Nation in 1975 and was elected Governor in 1987. The Chickasaw Nation is a federally recognized Native American nation headquartered in Ada, Oklahoma. Its jurisdictional territory includes 13 counties in south-central Oklahoma. Currently there are roughly 70,000 tribal members located in Oklahoma and across the United States.

As a leader with a strategic vision, Governor Anoatubby set out to develop a sound economy for the Chickasaw Nation and to celebrate the tribe’s rich heritage. Under his leadership, he has led the Chickasaw Nation to exponential growth in economic development as well as a comparably rapid expansion of tribal services. Currently, the Chickasaw Nation supports more than 22,000 jobs and $1.2 billion in wages and benefits as part of a $3.7 billion annual economic contribution to the Oklahoma economy. Part of this economic expansion includes a significant focus on celebrating Native art and artists as a means to enrich its communities, as well as preserve and strengthen the Chickasaw Nation culture. Governor Anoatubby understands the importance of the arts, its connection to preserving and sharing culture, and how it serves to bring diverse cultures closer together.

These beliefs and this vision have resulted in the creation or expansion of numerous programs, services, capital projects, event, and organizational sponsorships, all focused on strengthening the arts and culture for the Chickasaw Nation as well as all Oklahomans: establishment of the Chickasaw Nation Division of Arts and Humanities; creation and operation of the Chickasaw Arts Academy; creation of Exhibit C Gallery in Oklahoma City, an art gallery and retail space highlighting the works of First American artists; creation of the ARTesian Gallery in Sulphur, Oklahoma; creation of the annual Artesian Arts Festival; creation of the Southeastern Art Show and Market; and, in 2009, creation of Chickasaw Nation Productions which produces feature films and documentaries as a means to educate audiences about Chickasaw history and culture and to preserve the stories of its people.

Into his fifth decade as the leader of the Chickasaws, Governor Anoatubby continues the tribe’s remarkable support for art and artists. He displays an unwavering understanding that art is quintessentially important to preservation of culture, and that art in all its forms and expressions is deeply intertwined with the heritage, culture, and the future of Chickasaw people.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner

Mayor Turner has demonstrated outstanding support for the arts in Houston, a genuine love of art forms of many kinds, and has been a proud advocate for the rich and diverse cultural character of the city. His terms are marked especially by commitments to equity, community development, and urgent response to disaster relief. As a standard practice, his teams engage Houston’s thriving creative community based on leadership that values art and art-making as foundational to the wellbeing of individuals and neighborhoods.

In 2017, Mayor Turner established his Complete Communities initiative to address the 10 most underserved communities in Houston. Through creative partnerships, he has increased the presence of art in each through engagement, targeted funding, increased grant-making arts programs, the city’s Mini-Murals program, and civic art commissions seeking Houston artists, among other efforts. Partnerships have resulted in projects like the Gulfton Story Trail—a series of 12 murals highlighting the neighborhood’s ethnic and cultural diversity, made possible by the city’s Visit My Neighborhood pilot program.

To date, under Mayor Turner’s leadership, seven cultural districts were designated in Houston with contributed leadership, city personnel, and funding to each through the city’s initiative grants funded by the hotel occupancy tax. Two cultural districts were designated in 2020: Third Ward Cultural District and Fifth Ward Cultural District.

Among many accomplishments, Mayor Turner contributed $25,000 to the Greater Houston Area Arts Relief Fund to assist over 400 artists and arts workers needing financial assistance with basic needs; issued micro-grants to support creative opportunities to develop virtual/streaming art activations; advanced over $4 million in civic art opportunities to acquire over 100 artworks from Houston/Texas artists; released “Equity Review of Houston’s Civic Art Collection” in 2020, which determined that the collection overrepresents white and male artists and led to advocacy for immediate change and efforts to address equity in collecting practices; and funded the creation of a Virtual Indigenous Cultural Center—a virtual space celebrating Indigenous groups in Houston. Under Mayor Turner’s leadership, City Council voted to recognize the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day and hosted proclamation celebrations outside City Hall with blessings from Houston Aztec Dance.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley

When Mayor Buckley first ran for mayor, he was being challenged by the City’s Historic Preservation Commission for a mural he had placed on the front facade of one of the restaurants of which he is part owner. He won this battle which increased the conversation of public art in a historic district—and he also became the new mayor of the City of Annapolis.

After being elected, Mayor Buckley’s transition team included members of the arts community that created a “Soul of the City” report on how Annapolis could better support the arts. He took on some of their suggestions and increased funding to the City’s Art in Public Places Commission, and followed this by creating the first Poet Laureate position in the City of Annapolis. Mayor Buckley filled the empty seats on the Annapolis Arts in Public Places Commission and this energized group became active in supporting more events like the Chamber Park Concert Series and active on social media to let locals know about other arts events.

When the community newspaper, Capital Gazette, was attacked, the City used music to help start the healing process. The City of Annapolis, in partnership with the Annapolis Arts District, hosted a concert called “Annapolis Rising” to bring the community together to start the healing process. “Mayor Gavin Buckley has known from the very beginning of his administration the importance of embracing the artists and creatives in the community in order to bring people together and uplift the community,” says Erik Evans, Executive Director of the Annapolis Arts District and the Downtown Annapolis Partnership.

Over the past four years, the arts community has continued to grow in Annapolis. Local nonprofit Future History Now has collaborated with professional and student artists to put up several murals throughout the city including the Breonna Taylor Mural that has received national attention. During the COVID pandemic, the City of Annapolis created Recovery Zones to expand restaurant dining into the streets, which also allowed for more live music in the streets and employed musicians outdoors five nights a week at events like Dinner Under the Stars. Outdoor monthly Sunday art festivals continued to safely operate all through the pandemic as they have for 20 years. The Annapolis Arts District created an outdoor sculpture exhibition this past year of works by David Hayes that are in four different wards of the city, including neighborhoods where public art has not regularly appeared. This has allowed more people to enjoy diverse public art displays outdoors and in their community.

A list of previous award winners is available on Americans for the Arts’ awards page.



Americans for the Arts is a nonprofit organization that advances the arts and arts education advocacy in America. Based in Washington, D.C., it has a record of more than 60 years of service. Americans for the Arts is dedicated to representing and serving local communities and creating opportunities for everyone to participate in and appreciate all forms of the arts. Additional information is available at


About the United States Conference of Mayors The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are more than 1,400 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.