Waving the Annual Arts Advocacy Day Flag

Abstract American Flag by Brent Godfrey
Abstract American Flag by Brent Godfrey

With Washington, DC’s cherry blossoms in bloom, every year over 500 arts advocates from big cities and small towns across the country converge on Capitol Hill for Arts Advocacy Day, this year held April 8-9. Co-sponsored by Americans for the Arts, this is the one event out of the year where I put all my political views, disappointments and frustrations with our federal government aside and show up offering my support for arts, culture and arts education related policy.

Over the course of two days advocates will experience workshops and panel discussions led by experts who teach attendees how to utilize talking points and Issue Briefs as effective lobbying strategy with elected officials. Each advocate is armed with the 2013 “Facts & Figures at Your Fingertips” Congressional Arts Handbook. Attendees also meet with his or her respective state delegation captain where people are assigned in groups to meet with elected officials on Capitol Hill representing the districts of arts and cultural organizations or a person’s home district.

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The Federal Sequester took effect March 1st and with it came proposed cuts to arts, culture and education. With major funding hanging in the balance, this year’s Arts Advocacy Day gathering is incredibly important.

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Three main areas of advocacy that will take focus:

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  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA)
  • Strengthening Arts Education
  • Tax reform
Abstract American Flag by Brent Godfrey
Abstract American Flag by Brent Godfrey

According to Americans for the Arts research, “The NEA budget has been reduced in previous years to a level that threatens the agency’s ability to make grants in every congressional district.” Lobbyists will request elected officials to “support a budget of $155 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the FY 2014 Interior Appropriations bill to preserve citizen access to the cultural, educational, and economic benefits of the arts and to advance creativity and innovation in communities across the United States.”

With regard to arts education, Arts Advocacy Day lobbyists will urge 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 traditionally have left the arts out of the funding equation. Focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) have 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.

Additional areas where Arts Advocacy Day attendees will lobby:

  • Office of Museum Services Within the Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Supporting Public and Community Media
  • Cultural Exchanges Through the U. S. Department of State
  • Improving the Visa Process for Foreign Guest Artists
  • Improving our Nation’s Health Through the Arts
  • Statements of Concern for Protecting Performing Arts Technology, Network Neutrality and the National Service and the Arts

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

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If you can’t make it in person, there are many ways you can participate as an advocate and support the arts online.

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Yo-Yo Ma

Share in two events featuring Yo-Yo Ma:

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The Nancy Hanks Lecture at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and an arts education Google chat with this year’s speaker and master cellist Yo-Yo Ma will take place next week. You can visit the Americans for the Arts’ YouTube channel on Monday, April 8 at 6:30 PM EDT to listen to the Nancy Hanks lecture live. To participate in the Google Hangout, visit the Americans for the Arts’ YouTube channel on Tuesday, April 9 at 10:30 AM EDT and ask Yo-Yo an arts education question via Twitter using the #AskYoYo hashtag.