Justine Roberts, Principal
Americans for the Arts released a statement today from President and CEO Robert L. Lynch. The intent is to position the arts as part of the economic development and job creation platform on which many members of Congress successfully ran and to begin coordinating that message at the grass roots level.
This message is very consistent with that from the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, including the point that artists themselves are underemployed so that investing in arts education and art projects offers the opportunity to put people back to work AND stimulate tourism, urban redevelopment, and workforce development all with the same investment.
In his statement, Lynch identifies Senate and House members who have been advocates for the arts, as well as governors who have made a commitment to incorporating support for the arts into their local development efforts. And if you haven't read the Congressional Arts Handbook it is a great primer to the issues and people involved. Lynch also reminds us that Americans for the Arts is about the begin research on the Arts and Economics Prosperity IV study (you can sign up to participate on their website). His statement reads:
“Frustration with the nation’s lack of economic recovery is clearly top of mind among voters and candidates. Likewise, nonprofit arts organizations have also felt the sting of the recession with state and local government arts funding dropping as much as 16 percent, and private charitable gifts to the arts declining $1.2 billion in just two years. Additionally, individual artists have been experiencing unemployment at twice the rate of other educated, professional workers.
For the past four years, the House of Representatives initiated several hearings to spotlight the role of the arts in both the economy and in workforce development, yielding more than $100 million in new public investments in the arts and culture. Americans for the Arts looks forward to working with the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus and Senate Cultural Caucus on Capitol Hill to continue educating freshman members on how the arts fuel our nation’s economy. We want to congratulate three of the four Caucus members who were up for re-election on their convincing win last night and look forward to working closely with them in the 112th Congress. They are Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Representative Todd Platts (R-PA), and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also look forward to working with Representative Jerry Moran (R-KS) and Representative Mark Kirk (R-IL), both already champions of the arts in the House, as they move into their newly elected Senate seats.
At the state government level, several arts champions— based on their record in other public offices or platform statements—have been elected as Governor. They include Governors-elect Jerry Brown (D-CA), Dan Malloy (D-CT), Tom Corbett (R-PA), Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Lincoln Chaffee (I-RI), Mark Dalton (D-MN), John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Rick Snyder (R-MI).
Locally, there were 232 Mayoral elections in cities with a population of over 30,000. Among the many new promising arts champions, Providence, RI Mayor-Elect Angel Taveras and Louisville, KY Mayor-elect Greg Fischer identified the arts as a way to harness local talent and creative energy to power the economy.
Americans for the Arts will soon begin conducting the next installment of national research to document the size, impact, and trends of the nonprofit arts industry for its Arts and Economic Prosperity IV study. The previous study demonstrated that the nonprofit arts industry generates $166.2 billion of economic activity annually, which supports 5.7 million full-time equivalent jobs.”
What you can do
American's for the Arts has identified a number of steps that they feel are useful at the start of the new Congress, and especially for new member of Congress to, as they put it, "welcome and educate". Their suggestions are geared both for individuals and for organizations. These include (and below I am quoting from their email):
- Send a letter of congratulations to each elected leader representing your community (federal, state, and local levels) and identify yourself or your organization as a resource on arts policy issues.
- Ask all freshman members of Congress to begin thinking about joining the bipartisan Congressional Arts Caucus or Senate Cultural Caucus. We will be sending more information about this in the coming weeks.
- Work with your state and local arts advocacy organizations to develop a unified message to your newly-elected state and local leaders.
- Save the dates of April 4-5, 2011 to come to Washington, DC for National Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill. We especially need grassroots advocates representing the districts and states of newly elected Congressional members.
We'd love to hear how your museum, or arts organization is working locally to make the case. Do you have support at the State level? How about your national representatives - do they get it? Are you optimistic about federal funding and where do you see the priorities heading, is there likely to be increased emphasis pushing in a particular direction - STEM? STEAM? Art Education? Community organizations?