September 11, 2018
NASAA Advocacy: Responding Today, Planning for a New Tomorrow
As you know, the 2017 and 2018 political climate in Washington, D.C., compelled NASAA to amplify our advocacy efforts. In response to the need, we stepped right up, alongside many of you, and deepened our policy, strategic communications and political strategies. We employed our time-tested approaches and we engaged in new activities, all focused on maintaining federal support for the arts. These efforts garnered the short-term results we needed. They also fueled new thinking about the future and about opportunities to significantly move the needle to advance federal support for the arts.
During the last year and a half, you’ve heard from NASAA about the component parts of our amplified advocacy strategies. To enhance your understanding of the full strategy, I’ll share below many of our latest advocacy activities and the results we achieved with them. I’ll also share how these activities are inspiring new thinking about our future work.
We Activated Influential Messengers to Congress
Guided by our panpartisan approach, NASAA engaged in a highly targeted strategy to activate individuals who are uniquely influential messengers with Congress. These contacts included business leaders, governor-appointed state arts council members, donors, state political leaders and others. NASAA’s congressional outreach helped to ensure a stable budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in fiscal years 2017, 2018 and (pending) 2019.
Amplifying those efforts, NASAA organized a day of strategic Capitol Hill visits for the CEO of Kickstarter that included a meeting with Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), then chair of the House Budget Committee. As a direct result of that meeting (and some great follow-through by NASAA Legislative Counsel Isaac Brown), FY2018 and 2019 House budget resolutions no longer contain troublesome language that they had carried forward for several years. The language stood in opposition to federal funding of the cultural agencies: “Federal subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting can no longer be justified.” This is definitely not a statement we believe Congress should make, as Americans benefit from public investments in the arts and culture every day. That language is now gone, and this is a meaningful change as congressional appropriators continue their work. We’re very thankful to Representative Black for this welcome deletion.
Our Advocacy Efforts Fueled Success
- For FY2017, the administration proposed a $15 million cut to the budget of the NEA. Instead, Congress increased its budget by $2 million to $150 million.
- The House removed the anti-cultural-funding clause in its FY2018 budget resolution, as referenced above, with leadership from Rep. Diane Black.
- The administration proposed elimination of funding for the NEA for FY2018. Congress rejected the termination attempt and appropriated a budget of $153 million—an increase of $3 million.
- For FY2019, the administration again recommended elimination of the NEA. Our advocacy strategies continued to deploy effective messengers and messages to members of Congress. Since then, both the House and Senate have passed bills approving a $155 million funding level (an additional $2 million). We await the FY2019 budget, which is currently in conference committee. Should the recommended appropriation come to pass, we will not only have protected the NEA from elimination, but we will have increased its budget by $7 million since the new administration arrived. As always, NASAA will keep you informed as developments occur.
We Sharpened Our Policy Messaging
On a new journey of understanding, NASAA commissioned a national GOP poll last summer. The survey evaluated conservative views of government priorities, federal spending and the arts. NASAA continues its time-tested nonpartisan work, yet the poll helped us better understand conservative voters. This in turn allowed us to frame our case making to better resonate with more people across the political spectrum.
Some tangible products that grew from this work:
- Informed by our research, NASAA advocacy tools and related policy documents have been updated to be more effective in today’s political climate. We believe our messaging now resonates better with people across the political spectrum.
- Necessarily, we also gave good attention to how state arts agencies can better manage arts controversies. This was a big challenge for the entire arts community last year, so NASAA provided new guidance on how to effectively manage responses to controversy and supplemented it with training during the 2017 Leadership Institute.
We Shared Stories of Human Impact at the National Press Club
On January 23, 2018, NASAA convened a briefing at the National Press Club. The Arts & America’s Bottom Line highlighted the impact of public arts funding in America. We shared stories of human impact by bringing powerful storytellers to the stage.
- A military healing arts story was told by young veteran and Purple Heart recipient Sebastian Munevar. He shared his deeply moving account of the arts bringing him back from the horrors of war and the ongoing guilt of his friends dying in battle while he survived. The arts helped heal Sebastian, and he kindly agreed to join us to tell his story.
- A rural community revitalization story from South Carolina also was presented. Susan DuPlessis, program director of the South Carolina Arts Commission, along with Matthew Mardell, director of the Colleton Museum, Farmers Market and Commercial Kitchen in Walterboro, South Carolina, told their story of revitalization. Their can-do spirit was shared with the audience as they told the story of six rural South Carolina counties using creative placemaking to reclaim and revitalize their communities.
- The briefing was live-streamed on Facebook and the video continues to garner attention. To date, more than 26,000 people have been reached through the video. Separately, a special Memorial Day posting of Sebastian Munevar’s story reached more than 15,000.
Business Leaders Shared Their Stories of Arts Impact at Our Capitol Hill Briefing
NASAA convened a second briefing on April 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C. The Creative Industries Briefing on Capitol Hill was designed to reach members of Congress and their staffs and to highlight the contributions of the cultural sector to America’s economy. A cooperative venture with the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and the NEA, NASAA shared new state level BEA data about arts jobs and the direct impact of the arts on the nation’s gross domestic product.
- The briefing also showcased prominent business leaders who shared their stories about how the arts and design drive product innovation, community connections and work-force development.
- Remarks were offered by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Idaho’s Laurel Sayer, president and CEO of Midas Gold Idaho; Wisconsin’s Laura Kohler, senior vice president of Kohler Co.; Jane Chu from the National Endowment for the Arts; and economist Mauricio Ortiz from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.
We Went Viral with Whiteboard Animation Videos
NASAA developed a series of short whiteboard animation videos to propagate arts messages and make the information accessible to more people. We partnered with TruScribe, a whiteboard animation company with a proprietary methodology for creating whiteboard videos based in neuroscience and behavioral psychology research.
- We crafted each of the following hand-drawn whiteboard animations to tell a unique story about how America’s communities thrive through the arts:
- Most recently, NASAA partnered with the arts television network Ovation TV to create 30-second television spots from the American Ingenuity and Student Success whiteboard videos. Please stay tuned for an announcement about the release date; Ovation TV has nearly 50 million subscribers, and we look forward to extending NASAA’s reach through this partnership.
- In the meantime, our four advocacy videos continue to be shared through NASAA’s social media (Facebook and YouTube) channels nationally, and through them we have reached 151,000 people.
The combined components of our on-line advocacy strategies have reached more than 244,000 people, and the numbers continue to climb. These figures demonstrate great reach and a strong foundation upon which to build.
Moving Forward: Let’s Change the Game Long Term
Responding to the political environment, all the strategies described above helped sustain the NEA. We amplified our advocacy efforts and saw important successes. This work will continue. However, it’s equally important to take a longer view if we seek something more than maintenance of the status quo. What are our best opportunities to advance political will for federal arts funding? How can the arts not be subject to “target practice” as the political winds shift? How can we build political will deep enough to fuel a quantum leap forward for the NEA and its budget?
These are the questions we’re asking now. These are the questions we’ll answer to fuel long-range strategies to really move the federal policy needle. While we continue to respond to the current environment, let’s also work on a parallel track to reshape the policy landscape and significantly advance political will for arts investment.
To move this new thinking forward, we convened a think tank this summer to jump-start the work. Designed and facilitated by our friends at Metropolitan Group, the think tank:
- included politically astute thinkers from both sides of the aisle;
- sparked conversations about political movements from other sectors that resulted in substantial policy successes;
- explored how we can build greater success for federal support of the arts;
- envisioned how we can fundamentally shift the national conversation about public investment in the arts;
- provided ideas to shape new strategies to affect significant change.
I’m grateful for our short-term wins, yet excited to plan and implement a long-term, parallel track to something bigger. Let’s do this!
In this Issue
From the President and CEO
Announcements and Resources
Research on Demand
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