NASAA Notes: February 2017

February
2017

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Pam Breaux

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February 8, 2017

Productive Advocacy Today

Recent headlines about the “recommendation” to eliminate the federal cultural agencies have understandably left many arts stakeholders panicked. This month’s Legislative Update recaps the current facts. Here I offer some thoughts about the opportunities and hazards inherent in this time of uncertainty.

Arts advocacy is required every day of every year, not just when there’s a scary headline. Recent weeks offer an opportunity to reinforce good habits: establishing contact with elected officials, making the impact of our work broadly visible and promoting the facts about government arts support. To assist you in this work, NASAA’s The Practical Advocate series is designed to encourage grass-roots constituents to become advocates and educate public officials about the impact of their work. I’m pleased to share three new editions in that series (see box).

Five Essential Arts Arguments summarizes key talking points that are especially timely in today’s policy environment.

Fact vs. Fiction: Government Arts Funding debunks common myths regarding public support for the arts.

You Can Shape Policy provides advocacy action recommendations along with useful advocacy dos and don’ts.

Please make your network aware of these new materials. Link to them in your e-mail bulletins, propagate them via your social media channels, and reference them during conversations with your state and federal legislative members.

Our political environment is highly polarized, and people of all political persuasions are vulnerable to heightened animosity. Arts advocates must resist the temptation to bash those who hold different views. This is good strategy: sustaining the arts and culture will require individuals on both sides of the aisle to feel proud of committing their votes. This is also good psychology: As our colleague from Idaho, Michael Faison, is fond of saying, “When your elected officials see you coming, you want them to get a warm, fuzzy feeling, not run from the room.” We have potentially fierce policy and budget debates ahead of us, and we’ll weather them best if we cultivate a truly panpartisan base of support.

With all the attention being paid to federal arts funding, let’s not forget the necessity to advocate for STATE resources, which are, in fact, a much larger part of the arts funding pie. State arts agencies are receiving $368.2 million in legislative appropriations this year—for the latest info, see our hot-off-the-presses report on FY2017 State Arts Agency Revenues. And this money is put to incredibly good use. State arts agencies:

  • make arts programs more accessible to rural and low-income communities
  • are at the vanguard of transformative programs such as arts and military, diversity and inclusion, creative aging, and rural leadership initiatives
  • support every artistic discipline
  • offer an incredible bang for the buck: for every $1 in state arts agency grant funds, an additional $27 is generated in earned income, matching funds and private contributions (source: state arts agency FY2016 Final Descriptive Reports submitted to the National Endowment for the Arts)

Clearly, state arts agencies are a worthy advocacy cause!

NASAA is your partner in advocacy at all these levels. We’re your eyes and ears in Washington, your best source for reliable information, a reservoir of credible research, and a hub for practical advocacy tools. We’re also here when you need a friend. Recent heightened fears about public arts funding mean that we’ve heard from a number of you lately, and we appreciate the opportunity to assist. But whether times are tough or terrific, please remember that we’re always eager to hear from you.

In this Issue

From the CEO

Legislative Update

State to State

Research on Demand

More Notes from NASAA

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