The New Albany Community Foundation recently reached some important milestones relating to support for arts and cultural opportunities in New Albany.

Foundation endowments for the arts recently reached $9 million. And although that is notable, what is perhaps more impressive is that the foundation has awarded grants surpassing $6 million in support of the arts in our community.

Some might ask why arts and culture matter in communities.

The president of Americans for the Arts, Robert Lynch, might have said it best: "The arts empower. The arts give a voice to the voiceless. The arts help transform American communities. The result can be a better child, a better town, a better nation and certainly a better world. Let's champion our arts action heroes, emulate them and make our communities everything we want them to be."

We are fortunate in New Albany to have passionate people committed to advancing the arts. They established such organizations as the New Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New Albany Arts Council and a number of dance and ballet groups. And they work hard, often with little or no compensation, to nurture these organizations.

The New Albany Arts Council serves as the umbrella organization for several groups, such as Broadway Beginners, which introduces the theater to children; Rose Run Players, which focuses on middle school students through the junior-musical program; New Albany Winds, which features adult musicians and high school band students; Center Stage Singers; and the New Albany Chorus and the New Albany Community Band.

The Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts also celebrates its 10th anniversary this month. The facility was made possible through an extraordinary collaboration between the New Albany Community Foundation, the New Albany-Plain Local School District, the city of New Albany and Plain Township. It provides a beautiful venue for school and community performing-arts groups, with more than 300 performances and events each year. Thousands of residents perform there, and even more attend performances.

And at a time when many schools were reducing arts offerings, they were expanded locally by partnerships with community organizations. Foundation endowments, established by generous donors, support and sustain cultural and educational programs made available to all students and residents of the community. The foundation has awarded more than $4 million in grants to the McCoy Center.

Looking to the future, an outdoor amphitheater is being planned. It will provide another venue for residents to perform or attend performances. The amphitheater will be next to the McCoy Center, so it will be readily accessible to students.

The arts have the power to transform communities, to enrich lives and to connect people. All of that and more is happening in New Albany.

Charlotte Kessler is a member of the New Albany Community Foundation board of trustees.