National Arts Advocacy Day (Jessica Wilt)

On April 8-9, 2013 over 600 arts advocates from big cities and small towns across the country converged on Capitol Hill for National Arts Advocacy Day. Co-sponsored by Americans for the Arts, over the course of two days advocates experienced workshops and panel discussions led by experts who taught attendees how to utilize arts-focused talking points and Issue Briefs as effective lobbying strategy with elected officials on Capitol Hill.

Each advocate was armed with the 2013 “Facts & Figures at Your Fingertips” Congressional Arts Handbook. Attendees also met with respective state delegation captains who assigned advocates into groups with appointments scheduled to meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill. Representing the districts of arts and cultural organizations from across the state, New York was well represented!

Three main areas of advocacy that took focus on Capitol Hill:

  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • Strengthening Arts Education
  • Tax reform

The Federal Sequester took effect March 1st and with it came proposed cuts to arts, culture and education.  With the President Obama’s latest FY14 budget release on Wednesday, April 10th major funding continues to hang in the balance.  This year’s Arts Advocacy Day gathering was incredibly important.

With arts education talking points in hand, Arts Advocacy Day lobbyists urged Congress to “Appropriate $30 million for the Arts in Education (AIE) programs in the FY 2014 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. The Arts in Education program is authorized under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act” and “Retain the Arts in Education program as a distinct grant competition in FY 2014 appropriations.”

Funding contests like Race to the Top Fund have traditionally left the arts out of the funding equation.  Focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) has also become a greater concern for those who work within the arts education field both inside schools and within cultural organizations who often times are left to subsidize critical arts education programming.

Forging ongoing relationships with elected officials who participate in the Congressional Arts Caucus, the newly formed Congressional STEAM Caucus (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math) and the Senate Cultural Caucus were also critical to the Arts Advocacy Day dialogue not just once a year in April, but must continue throughout the year.

The Nancy Hanks Lecture held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts was especially exciting as this year’s speaker was master cellist and arts education advocate Yo-Yo Ma. You can visit the Americans for the Arts’ YouTube channel to listen to a recorded version of Yo-Yo Ma’s incredible lecture.  Yo-Yo also participated in an arts education focused Google Hangout moderated by Americans for the Arts’ CEO and President Bob Lynch.  Visit the Americans for the Arts’ Google Hangout page to review this exciting conversation about arts education advocacy with experts from all over the country.

 

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