February 5, 2016
Prime Time to Advocate
With the primary season officially under way, I think it is fair to say that the nation is officially “hooked” on the presidential election—and understandably so. The results in Iowa reinforced what we’ve all thought would be the case, that the race for the U.S. presidency will be extremely close, and totally unpredictable.
While the race for the White House is at the forefront of our minds, it is far from the only election of significance for the arts. In addition to the presidency being on the ballot this November, 34 U.S. Senate seats are up for election, as are all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Beyond those, 12 governorships are on the ballot as well as countless state and municipal positions.
A great number of these elections have some bearing on the arts and deserve our attention and focus. As the passage of the landmark education bill last year indicated, state legislators and policymakers are going to have a significant role in setting arts policy in the years ahead. So as elections season intensifies, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our elected officials are committed to supporting the arts. Candidates running for office—whether for state, local or national positions—need to know that voters are serious about public support for the arts.
I urge you to take advantage of the opportunity that the campaign season presents to let the candidates know who you are, why the arts are important to you and how the arts contribute positively to your state. Depending on your position, you may face some limitations on the types of activities you are eligible to participate in, but under any scenario it is wholly appropriate to be present at public events and to take the opportunity to educate the candidates on the vital role the arts play in their communities and the life of the nation. Further, it is permissible to ask the candidates to describe where they stand on questions of public arts policy.
While engaging campaigns is very important, there are other ways you can help shape future political leaders’ views about the arts. The nation’s focus on the election means that most legislative staff of incumbent elected officials are less busy than usual—so whether you are coming to D.C. for Arts Advocacy Day next month, or just are interested in working more closely with your elected officials’ local offices, the next few months are an excellent time to build new or enhance existing relationships with staff. Schedule some time to brief them on what your agency has been working on and how you might be able to collaborate over the coming year. Include a plug for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), urging support for the federal-state partnership that allocates 40% of the NEA’s grant funds directly to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations.
If you have questions about any legal limitations you may face, or would like state-specific data about the arts in your community, please do not hesitate to reach out to NASAA for further information. As 2015 demonstrates, when arts advocates participate and engage, the results are overwhelmingly positive.
In this Issue
State to State
- North Dakota: Creative Aging Program Leveraged with Foundation Support
- Vermont: Vermont Creative Network
- Texas: Texas Association of Business Partnership
More Notes from NASAA
From the CEO
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