At a time when many of us are wondering what the future holds for the arts, it brings me great pleasure to stop and recognize elected leaders who already do extraordinary work to champion the arts.
Last week, Americans for the Arts and The U.S. Conference of Mayors celebrated two elected leaders—Martin Walsh, mayor of Boston, and Satish Hiremath, mayor of Oro Valley, Arizona—who have demonstrated immense dedication to the development of arts programming within their communities, and have enriched the lives of citizens of all ages and backgrounds through a variety of cultural initiatives.
The day after we celebrated these leaders, Donald Trump was sworn in as 45th President of the United States. Uncertainty remains—in the questions we helped develop for the Washington Post during the presidential campaign, he was positive about the value of the arts but deferred to Congress on supporting increased federal funding of the National Endowment for the Arts and other federal funding for culture in general. He also deferred to state and local school districts on maintaining or increasing support for arts education funding. While he does express appreciation for arts education and the arts in his own life, and said he will be an advocate, specific policy positions have so far remained unknown or undeveloped.
We also now know that some of President Trump’s transition team advisors are recommending elimination of federal arts and humanities funding and privatizing the Corporation for Public Broadcasting along with many other non-arts related cuts. The arguments are old and tired and fly in the face of some of the very things our new President wants like building new infrastructure, jobs, a stronger economy—all areas where the arts are proven allies. As we wait for more clarity, Americans for the Arts will continue to celebrate those who are making a difference. We will work with arts advocates across the country—community leaders, elected officials, artists and arts professionals, educators, business leaders and more—toward goals that could strengthen our country through the arts such as the following:
1. Every person in the United States deserves to have access to the broad range of arts in his or her life. The way to do that is increase federal funding for the arts to $1 per capita for a more creative America;
2. Every child in the United States deserves to have access to every art form, grades K-12. The way to do that is fully fund and implement the Well-Rounded Education provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act to close gaps in access to arts education for all students;
3. Our country needs to be competitive and the arts provide a great opportunity for economic development, including tourism and support for small arts businesses run by entrepreneurs. One way to get there is by establishing a cabinet-level position to advise President Trump on the $704 billion arts and culture economy;
4. The creation of millions of jobs would be helped by boosting economic and community development programs, like those proposed in Senator Tom Udall’s CREATE Act, which promote the role of the arts in serving the American public through federal agencies such as the Small Business Administration, Rural Development Administration, FEMA disaster recovery centers—to name just a few. The job numbers speak loudly: the nation’s arts and culture sector employed 4.7 million wage and salary workers in 2013, with a total compensation of $339 billion;
5. Our military service members and veterans deserve to be fully supported during and after valiantly serving our country. Two ways to do that are to support the arts as they are integrated into health and wellness programs, which has shown much success in the past, and to increase access to arts therapists and artist-directed programs to help provide a pathway for re-entry and re-integration of our service members and veterans into the workforce. The NEA’s Creative Forces program is a shining example of this work;
6. Preserve or expand charitable tax deduction incentives;
7. Support creative youth development by strengthening community-based organizations working in youth development and the arts; and
8. Promote cultural exchange programs that advance diplomatic objectives and cultural cooperation through the exchange of art and other aspects of culture among nations.
As President Trump settles into the White House, Americans for the Arts and arts advocates across the country (including 300,000 members of the Arts Action Fund) will remain engaged with his administration and urge them to advance pro-arts policies that will impact and improve our society and communities. While we make our voices heard, you, the artist and arts advocate, can take advantage of advocacy opportunities. Seek out, and support arts advocacy organizations. Partner with trusted allies, and share your information with elected leaders at every level. We all have a role to play.
This blog was also posted on The Huffington Post.