Sunday, January 8, 2012

Arts Advocacy in the Politics of 2012

In 2012, Americans for the Arts resolves to invigorate political discourse and the nation by continuing to spotlight the importance of the arts in America. Artists, teachers, arts managers and professionals, lawmakers, administrators, and advocates are integral to this mission.
This election year, the urgency is growing to have political candidates and office holders understand how arts are vital to our communities. We ask that you make your own resolutions this year by responding to this question:
How can the arts energize the political dialogue in your community this election year?
Here are some insightful responses to get you thinking. Add yours in the comments below!

First I want the political dialogue to be in part about the arts themselves. That only happens if we ask related questions of the candidates whether in person at events or in writing or online. For example does a local, state, or federal candidate know that there are 5.7 million jobs created by nonprofit arts organizations in America? What is that candidate going to do to keep advancing that arts industry? Or does the candidate know that support for the arts is a very conservative model in the United States, where public money, federal, state, and local combined, is less than nine percent of the income of the nonprofit arts in America? That nine percent, however, stimulates an industry with $187 billion of economic impact, so what is the candidate going to do to keep that conservative job-producing model going by maintaining or advancing the small bit of leverage investment that is made with public dollars? 

With redistricting, a lot is changing for state and federal representation. There will be many contested races. The arts community should be ready to talk with candidates and get them on the record with positions on the arts. Arts leaders and arts supporters should get involved personally with campaigns and bring their creativity with them to spice up campaign events, communications, and fundraisers. 
-Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Animating Democracy Co-Director, Americans for the Arts
Just ask the question: What is your stand on supporting the arts? This has created quite the conversation among our political and business groups!  -Meri Mass, Executive Director, Polk Arts Alliance
If approached the right way this could send a positive message — not a cap in hand or entitled one. I think refocusing the perspective towards arts nonprofits as small business as opposed to charities is essential. To do this efforts have to be made to give the business community and the politicians tools for the conversation. If investment (as opposed to donations) can be given a foothold using job creation and downtown, economic, community development examples — we can stay in the conversation and make progress. Small business, for-profit creative industry projects, and arts nonprofit collaborative efforts with results will make an impact with a receptive audience. Not everyone is receptive, but those who are when given examples of growth and success will begin to champion at least at a base level.  -Jim Sparrow, Executive Director, Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne

I resolve to use my personal Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels to ensure that my friends and colleagues understand how critical it is during an election year to advocate for the arts. Whether it’s tweeting at politicians or getting a dialogue started on Facebook, social media is a potent way to share the value of the arts and help politicians and government officials see that the arts create jobs, contribute significantly to the economy, and make our communities better places to live. 
-Graham Dunstan, Director of Marketing & Communications, Americans for the Arts

Energize and expand greater commitments from arts advocates to participate in the political dialogue. Effectively engage ourselves and others to pay closer attention to candidates and their views. Listen, reach out, inform, and build more meaningful relationships with candidates and those already in office about the substantial economic and qualitative value of the arts. Assess the best access points for us to participate in the political dialogue; be prepared to share reliable and powerful messages, facts, and our personal stories about the arts; engage, where appropriate, in candidates and campaigns; determine who are the best candidates on issues important to us; and vote. Our voices, our votes matter
.  -Sherron Long, Chair, State Arts Action Network/President, Florida Cultural Alliance
-Robert Lynch, President & CEO, Americans for the Arts

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