Americans for the Arts presented the 31st Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy on Monday, March 12, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. in the Eisenhower Theater of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Battle Wages On for the Arts

Our field collectively high-fived recently when Congress passed the long-delayed budget for fiscal year 2018. Together we beat back the Trump Administration’s proposals to terminate the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, funded now through September 30. Each will receive a total of $152.8 million, $3 million more a piece than last year. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who passed away last month, was a fierce champion for the arts for decades, and this win is a very fitting tribute to her longtime leadership. It took the unified, tireless, and persistent work of the arts community and grassroots advocates nationwide to achieve this win. Strong activism resulted in a powerful bipartisan message that arts and humanities funding strengthens and enriches our communities and grows local economies. 

Remembering Louise (1929 – 2018)

On March 16, 2018, a dear friend, tireless advocate, and arts leader passed away, U.S. Representative Louise M. Slaughter. I have known Louise for 32 years. We’ve partnered in nearly that many Arts Advocacy Days. It has always been my honor to stand with Louise. I’ve stood with her on over 100 occasions in the last 23 years while she co-chaired the Congressional Arts Caucus. Americans for the Arts and the nation’s arts community owe a debt of gratitude to Louise Slaughter. There has never been an arts advocate with more tenacity, fight, humor, and spirit of generosity. May she rest in peace knowing that she made the world a better place through the arts, and may her trailblazing pave the way to more arts leaders recognizing the transformational power of the arts on our lives, communities, economy, and nation.

Arts Caucus co-Chair Rep. Leonard Lance Receives 2018 Congressional Arts Leadership Award

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

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Before a crowd of 650 arts advocates from every state, including a delegation of 30 from his home state of New Jersey, Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors recognized and thanked U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) for his congressional arts leadership during the 31st Arts Advocacy Day.

House “Dear Colleague” Letter in Support of Federal Funding for the NEA

New Record Support!

Monday, March 19, 2018

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For the fifth consecutive year, a new record number of U.S. Representatives has signed the annual “Dear Colleague” letter, led by the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus co-chairs.

Americans for the Arts Remembers the Powerful Advocacy and Tireless Work of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter

Friday, March 16, 2018

Americans for the Arts mourns the loss of Congresswoman Louise Slaughter of New York, who died March 16, 2018 in Washington, D.C. at the age of 88. Louise has been a champion of the arts for decades and our organization and its members are profoundly saddened, but still spirited in her honor and grateful for all she has given in service to her constituents at home and nationwide through her passionate support for the value of the arts and arts education.

Eight for 2018: New Obstacles and Opportunities in the Arts

Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.

Americans for the Arts to Convene 550+ Advocates for Arts Advocacy Day 2018

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

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Americans for the Arts will be joined by more than 550 grassroots advocates from across the country on March 12–13, 2018, as they meet with their members of Congress to encourage support for arts funding and education. Now in their 31st year, the events are presented by Americans for the Arts and co-sponsored by 85 national organizational partners representing arts, culture, business, civic, and education institutions and individuals nationwide.

Art in Politics: Why Both Matter

Every day at work, I am reminded that the intersection between art and government continues grow in importance. Funding, allocation, and government spending is essential to developing our education system. I intern for Americans for the Arts because advocating for equitable access to art and arts education vastly improves our education system. Research shows that marginalized communities consistently have little to no access to arts education in schools. Some of the most diverse voices are being shut out of conversations and art creation. We are left with an education system that refuses to elevate some of the most integral voices in diversity for our dialogue and our art. I had the privilege of art shaping my entire childhood, but there are some places youth have no access to art at all due to systemic inequality in our education system. 

Understanding, Connecting, and Seeking the Common Good

Talking with voters, framing issues, raising money. What’s happening to me and how can it feel so natural? For the past 20+ years I’ve been an arts administrator. For the past three, I’ve led our state’s arts advocacy organization, Oklahomans for the Arts. Now, I am running for State Senate in Oklahoma’s District 30. We focus so much attention on elected officials in arts advocacy. Now I’m striving to become one and it feels like just the right conclusion. I felt pushed off the sidelines into running for office from my experiences advocating for arts and education. We’ve led the nation in state cuts to education, and arts funding has been cut almost 50% in the past eight years. Marking this more-than-year-long marathon transition, here are some ways I’m finding that advocacy compares to and differs from running for office.

Maggie and Melvin—Generations of Advocacy

Sitting down for a documentary interview the day before the unveiling of a monument to Maggie L. Walker in Richmond, community leader Melvin Jones Jr. was bubbling with joy in anticipation of seeing a project he had fought so tirelessly for finally come to fruition. A humble man in his early sixties, Jones felt familial to me. Never taking too much credit for accomplishments and always speaking with a smile, he wore his passion on his sleeve for all to see and had an arsenal of Maggie L. Walker wisdom that could supersede any textbook. His energy was contagious and he carried a binder full of documents he had collected. What I assumed would be a nuts and bolts interview about process turned into a conversation around history, legacy, and the diligence of a man who would go from a concerned citizen with an idea to public art proponent over the course of a decade.

Step into the Fear

Above the door of my theatre teacher’s classroom is the saying, “Step into the fear.” This saying has become a motivation of mine during this turbulent environment where support for arts education is more important than ever before. As a theatre student, history and human behavior jump off the page and come alive, forming an ensemble of different perspectives from a wide range of characters. These characters help me better understand the evolving world in which I live and inspire me to make a difference. Theatre has taught me to speak up, and this skill is not lost on me as an advocate. As I learn more and more about the world through plays, art, and music, I find myself with a greater efficacy and understanding of the value of arts advocacy.

Strength in Numbers

In advocacy, there’s enormous value in the large numbers of voices coming together, unified around an issue. Arts Advocacy Day brings together more than 500 individuals who are passionate about the policies that support artists and audiences in their communities. Those who visit Washington, DC each spring roam the halls of Congress, meet with Congressional members or their staff, and follow up with thank you letters and stories. We bombard lawmakers with a lot of information, facts, and anecdotes, bringing a wave of enthusiasm for pro-arts policy-making. But what happens throughout the rest of the year in DC?

Arts Advocacy Day Is Coming

Although years may really just be a number, in its 31 years, Arts Advocacy Day has seen six different U.S. presidents spanning both political parties. It’s witnessed sixteen different congressional sessions and eight different Speakers of the U.S. House. Through it all, every year, attendees hear that “the arts are bipARTtisan.” Because, no matter who’s in office, arts advocacy matters. Funding decisions are made every year. Who’s deciding this year may not be deciding next year. Who’s to remember what happened before? Who’s to know why it matters? Who’s to learn from each other? The answer is us. All of us. All of us together.

Robert L. Lynch Submits Congressional Testimony in Support of the NEA

Thursday, May 25, 2017

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With Congress now turning to work on the next fiscal year’s budget (FY2018), Lynch provided testimony in support of $155 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). This funding amount is the position taken by the 88 national partners of Arts Advocacy Day and reflected in the numerous advocacy efforts being pursued currently by Americans for the Arts and dozens of other arts organizations.

Artists For The Arts: How One Voice Became a Movement

It was January 19, 2017, and news had just broken that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH) could soon be at risk of elimination. As an opera singer and creative entrepreneur, I knew how crucial arts funding was for society at large. Inaction was not an option, so that night I turned to change.org and created a petition to save the NEA. I’m not sure what I hoped would come of it, but I knew that this was an issue near and dear to my heart, and perhaps, if enough everyday Americans realized what was at stake, the community could have a fighting chance.

Empowering and Inspiring Student Voices

As a senior in high school, I will be attending my third National Arts Advocacy Day this year. For many students, the words “arts advocacy” make us feel small. Upon hearing that phrase three years ago, it sounded like something I was not old enough to know about. How can my voice matter in changing things so far above my power as a teenager? In school, we are taught to get the best education possible to become someone who can affect change, but often we aren’t told that, as kids, our opinions matter. When policy makers shape decisions about arts education, they are making decisions about us, the students. Yet for some reason, it is the students who feel as though they are out of place in a Senator’s office.

Action Both Today AND Tomorrow

There are a lot of bases to cover when preparing people to be effective arts advocates—especially when those aspiring arts advocates are undergrads. This isn’t work to be done alone. We have the distinct pleasure of working together, a boomer and a member of the Oregon Trail generation preparing arts advocates of the future. We met through ArtPride New Jersey, the state arts advocacy organization and member of Americans for the Arts State Arts Action Network. It was kismet. One had suffered through too many save-the-state-arts-council and save-the-NEA crises, the other through the inherent trials and tribulations of strategically navigating academia.

There’s No “I” in “Arts Advocacy”

While a presidential election season is the most intense time of political engagement for most citizens, advocates who dedicate themselves to a particular issue or set of issues know that there is seldom a defined starting or stopping point to our work. This is especially true for the arts, which encompass a wide range of policies in addition to federal funding (for example, improving the visa process for foreign guest artists to perform in the U.S., or protecting the ability of musicians to travel across international borders with instruments that contain protected species material). Happily, speaking up for the arts and our many policy concerns is easier to manage thanks to the work of coalitions such as the ad hoc Cultural Advocacy Group, which my organization—the League of American Orchestras—has been a part of for decades.

A State Captain’s Final Log: The Future is in Our Very Creative Hands

One of my first trips as Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA) was to the small, western Maryland industrial-town of Cumberland. Known as “Queen City,” Cumberland was Maryland’s second largest city in the 19th century thanks to the three R’s: roads, rails, and rivers. Arriving, one might expect to see a typical forgotten rust-belt town. Well, not this town! Cumberland became an Arts & Entertainment District in 2002, one of Maryland’s first. The management team targeted artists looking for affordable space and great proximity to major markets. The downtown felt as vibrant as any I’d seen, and there was a provincial feeling in the air—in the best sense of the word.

The Significance of Arts Advocacy: A Graduate Student Perspective

W.E.B. DuBois once said that we should “begin with art, because art tries to take us outside ourselves. It is a matter of trying to create an atmosphere and context, so conversation can flow black and forth and we can be influenced by each other.” As I read this quote during the final stretch of my undergrad years at Saint Louis University, I had just became an art history minor. Though I held a deep admiration for visual arts as well as the critical analysis of the work, I had absolutely no idea where I would end up with a liberal arts degree. It was not until I was perusing the internet that I was drawn to American University’s Arts Management program. Now, a little over a year later, I have been fortunate enough to not only be a full-time student of the Arts Management program but also the Government and Public Affairs intern at Americans for the Arts. 

Darren Walker to give 30th Annual Nancy Hanks Lecture

Annual Lecture is held the evening before Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Ford Foundation president will speak March 20, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are free, but seating is limited.

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