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President Obama joined the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in celebrating the agency’s 50th anniversary, with the message that “The arts and humanities have always been central to the American experience.”

See a PDF of the White House message.

The full greeting reads as follows:

September 28, 2015

I am pleased to join in marking the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act of 1965.

The arts and humanities have always been central to the American experience. Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson helped lift up this legacy by establishing the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, affirming: “The arts and the humanities belong to the people, for it is, after all, the people who create them.” Today, President Johnson’s vision—of a society that honors its artistic and cultural heritage and encourages its citizens to carry that heritage forward—endures as an essential part of who we are as a Nation.

Through their efforts to shape a future of opportunity and creativity for all, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities reflect a notion that has always driven America’s promise—that ours is a country where all things are possible for all people. If we join in common purpose and continue believing in the possibilities of tomorrow, I know that groundbreaking explorations and innovations—in the humanities, in the arts, and throughout our society—will always lie ahead.

As you reflect on a half century of progress, you have my best wishes.

—Barack Obama

About the National Endowment for the Humanities

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the National Endowment for the Humanities and its grant programs is available at:

During a conference call on July 9, 2015, with representatives of learned societies, auction houses, and government agencies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) confirmed that looting of antiquities in Syria and Iraq has taken place. They have also received confirmation from informants and found evidence of industrial levels of looting from satellite photos. The FBI asked the participants on the call to ask their constituents to follow due diligence and to reach out if anyone suspects objects to have been looted. They emphasized that most of the art market is relatively “clean,” meaning that most objects bought and sold have not been looted or illegally sold. However, it usually takes two years for looted items to begin to flood the market.

The FBI requested expert cooperation. Trafficking in cultural property is covered by the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property and by the US Criminal Code, in which it is considered criminal to “providing material support” if an expert in antiquities even suspects that objects have been looted and a report is not made to the FBI. The FBI tips website is; one can also call 855-835-5324.

The responsibility of the FBI is to dismantle illegal trafficking networks, not to provide data or set policy. The FBI is currently working on outreach that will better inform the public, create more awareness, and address reporting procedures.

CAA has invited FBI to address CAA members at the 2016 Annual Conference in Washington, DC, on February 4, 2016, on what antiquities experts should be aware of if they suspect they have found looted objects, and if reporting to the FBI would involve antiquities experts in legal processes and disclosure to the public. The FBI will also provide an update of the sites that have been looted in Syria and Iraq, and they will address current criminal law and international treaties related to sale, purchase, and possession of antiquities.

The CAA Board of Directors has approved its support of the following notice.

Improve Opportunities for International Cultural Activity

Support the Arts Requirement Timely Service (ARTS) Act

We write to urge your support for the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, which improves processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations by simply ensuring enforcement of current statutory requirements.

Action now will ensure that the U.S. visa process for artists is reliable, efficient, and affordable. Congress recognized the time-sensitive nature of arts events when writing the 1991 federal law regarding O and P visas, in which the USCIS is currently instructed to process O and P arts visas in 14 days. While USCIS has made recent efforts to observe this timeframe, there is a history of extreme unpredictability in the timing of the artist visa process, with wait times of up to six months.

The ARTS Act would consistently reduce the USCIS processing times for nonprofit O and P arts-related visa petitions to a total of 29 days—twice the current statutory requirement. USCIS would be required to treat any nonprofit arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within the current statutory 14-day timeframe as a Premium Processing case (an additional 15-day turn-around time), free of additional charge. Previous consideration of the ARTS Act has had strong bipartisan support.

American nonprofit arts organizations and artists—in communities large and small across our country—provide an important public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events, and cultural programs in communities across the country. Only with consistent improvements over time, will confidence in the U.S. visa process continue to be re-built among U.S. petitioning organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange.

Enactment of this provision will make enduring improvements to the visa process. Please support the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act.

American Alliance of Museums
American Association of Independent Music
American Federation of Musicians
Americans for the Arts
Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Chamber Music America Dance/USA
League of American Orchestras
Literary Network
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education
National Alliance for Musical Theatre
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
Network of Ensemble Theaters
New Music USA
North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents
OPERA America
Performing Arts Alliance
The Recording Academy
Theatre Communications Group

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on June 24, 2015.

Call On Your Member of Congress to Support the NEA!

This week, key decisions affecting arts funding are getting made.

Last night, the House Rules Committee met to set parameters for floor debate on legislation that funds the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and other cultural agencies, including the Smithsonian and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Congressional Arts Caucus co-Chair Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) serves on that committee and spoke at length about arts funding, noting its impact on our economy, student achievement, and health. She made sure the committee knew that 4.7 million Americans work in the arts and that it makes up 4.3% of our U.S. GDP—more than $698 billion!

The House is scheduled to consider this legislation next on the House floor, beginning tomorrow.  It’s been a while—the last time there were floor votes on this bill was back in 2011!

We urge every arts advocate to join Rep. Slaughter and help remind your member of Congress about the importance of the arts and arts funding as this key funding bill is debated.

Right now, the bill proposes sustained funding at $146 million. Last week in committee, efforts to increase funding by $2 million to the President’s request failed. Now on the floor, efforts to cut or even eliminate the agency are a possibility.

Arts advocates attending 2015 Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill this spring You know better than anyone the top 10 reasons to support the arts; make sure your representatives do, too. Take two minutes to urge your representative to support at least level funding for the NEA, and reject any effort to reduce it.

Thank you for your support of the arts! Help us continue this important work by becoming an official member of the Arts Action Fund. If you are not already a member, play your part by joining the Arts Action Fund today—it’s free and easy to join.

Stephen Kidd, executive director of the National Humanities Alliance, sent the following email on June 20, 2015.

Preparing for Possible Anti-NEH Amendments in the House

Hello All,

I am writing with an update on challenges NEH and NEA may face in the House in the coming week. As many of you know, the Interior appropriations bill has been scheduled to be considered on the floor of the House on Thursday. We are preparing for the possibility that an amendment cutting or eliminating funding for NEH and NEA may be introduced. The Rules Committee is scheduled to meet on Tuesday at 5 pm, so we should know more after that.

In preparation. we are priming our members for a possible action alert and reaching out to specific organizations with ties to higher education institutions in strategically important Republican-held districts. We are asking them to be prepared to call on these institutions to reach out to the Members in support of NEH. I am attaching the list of 50 districts in case anyone has strong contacts to pursue if needed.

I know that many of you are already looped in through CAG and are already poised to act.

We’ll be in touch early in the week, and please let us know if you have any information.

Hopefully this will be much ado about nothing!

Hope you are all enjoying the weekend.

Najean Lee, director of government affairs and education advocacy for the League of American Orchestras, sent the following email on June 18, 2015.

Senate Approps Cmte approves FY16 Interior bill

Senate Approps debated the Interior bill for around 3 hours this morning and they’ve passed their funding bill which includes $146 million for NEA and NEH.

Udall proposed several amendments, the first of which included an increase for the cultural agencies’ budget to the President’s request, but the amendment was not adopted.

More details here:

Allison J. Cywin of the Visual Resource Center at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth sent the following email on June 15, 2015.

Govenor proposes closure of the Illnois State Museum

I thought I would share the following concern.  The Govenor of Illnois wants to closed the state museum. Please express your concerns and sign the petition (
to  support the museum.
and spread the news.

The American Historical Society prepared the statement below regarding the Wisconsin legislature’s actions to, in effect, eliminate tenure at the University of Wisconsin. The CAA Executive Committee has approved endorsing this statement. Since this statement was crafted two days ago, U of W Faculty Senate voted to reject the proposal in order to maintain control over the university budget and the tenure system.

American Historical Society Statement on the University of Wisconsin

The American system of higher education is the envy of the world. It’s not perfect; few things are. But at a time when many Americans fear their nation may be falling behind competitively, U.S. colleges and universities continue to be universally regarded as the best in the world. The University of Wisconsin system, in particular, is noted for its standards of research and teaching excellence, with the Madison campus recognized among the top fifteen of American public universities by U.S. News and World Report. The University of Wisconsin is a critical contributor to the state’s economy that provides exceptional value with its thirteen campuses serving over 180,000 students. With $1.2 billion of state investment, the system generates over $15 billion of economic activity.

The undersigned associations of scholars across a wide variety of disciplines are gravely concerned with proposals pending in the Wisconsin legislature that threaten to undermine several longstanding features of the state’s current higher education system: shared governance, tenure, and academic freedom.

By situating the locus of control inside the institution, in a partnership between faculty and administrators, the U.S. system of higher education has generated an unmatched diversity that enables students to find the educational environment that works best for them. And by granting faculty tenure after an appropriate period during which their work is rigorously evaluated, we have ensured the continued intellectual vitality and classroom independence so essential to innovation, dynamism, and rigorous scholarship.

Academic freedom is the foundation of intellectual discovery, including in the classroom. It nourishes the environment within which students develop critical habits of mind through encounters with diverse perspectives, experiences, and sources of evidence across disciplines. Our democracy depends on the educated citizens that this system is intended to produce: wide-ranging in their knowledge, rigorous in their ability to understand complicated questions, and dedicated to the public good.

Wisconsin in fact helped pioneer the concept of academic freedom for the entire United States when its Board of Regents declared in 1894 that they would not terminate the employment of economist Richard Ely even though his research and teaching on the benefits of labor unions had offended one of its own members. The Regents’ report in the wake of that controversy remains one of the most ringing endorsements for academic freedom in the history of American higher education: “Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere,” they wrote, “we believe the great state University of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.”

The policies recommended by the Joint Finance Committee and included in the 2016 budget pose a direct threat to academic freedom by expanding the circumstances under which tenure can be revoked (beyond dire financial emergencies and just cause) while simultaneously removing its protection under state statute. Tenure is a linchpin of vigorous shared governance and independent rigorous scholarship. This assault on the structure of Wisconsin’s model arrangements poses a threat to the university’s stellar reputation and international leadership in research and education—and it betrays a celebrated Wisconsin tradition that began with the Ely case in 1894.

Since 1904, the “Wisconsin Idea” has stood as an inspiring educational model for the entire nation, demonstrating the immeasurable benefits of a robust partnership between the state university and state government predicated on intellectual independence and active engagement by students and faculty members with the wider world. An earlier draft of the current budget bill sought to remove language about the Wisconsin Idea from the mission statement of the university. This most recent draft now poses no less a threat by undermining several of the most important practical pillars of shared governance and academic freedom that have made Wisconsin a beacon among its peer institutions around the world.

Rather than making the University of Wisconsin system more fiscally nimble, the Joint Finance Committee recommendations threaten to damage, possibly irreparably, the distinguished educational system that has justifiably been the pride of Wisconsin residents for more than a century and a half.

Filed under: Higher Education

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Letter

posted by Linda Downs

CAA sent the following letter on April 9, 2015.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Letter

Daniel Ashe, Director
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
1849 C Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20240

Dear Mr. Ashe:

We are writing on behalf of the 11,000 art historians, curators, artists and conservators who comprise the membership of the College Art Association, a learned society for higher education professionals in the visual arts, regarding the changes suggested by the Association of Art Museum Directors to the proposed regulations, “Endangered Species Listed Objects and Objects with African Elephant Ivory (“Objects”).

CAA supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s and the Association of Art Museum Directors’ efforts to end the poaching of elephant tusks throughout Africa and to end the commercial gain from these slaughters. At the same time we also understand the difficulties that import and export regulations impose on museums, collectors and conservators to traveling exhibitions, loans of individual art works, bequests of works of art, donations of art works and importation of art objects that contain ivory.

We support the Association of Art Museum Director’s suggested changes and respectfully request that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife adopt these changes to the Endangered Species Listed Objects and Objects with African Elephant Ivory.

Sincerely yours,

DeWitt Godfrey, CAA President

Linda Downs, Executive Director

Cc: Judith McHale
Chair Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking
c/o Cane Investments, LLC
3 West Main St.
Suite 101-1
Irvington, NY 10533

Report from Arts Advocacy Day 2015

posted by Advocacy Administrator

Hillary Bliss is CAA development and marketing manager.

Last week CAA sent two representatives to participate in the twenty-eighth annual Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC. Anna Cline, CAA development and marketing assistant, and I joined 550 grassroots advocates representing forty-eight states to lobby for strong public policies and increased funding for the arts. CAA also supported the event, which is organized by Americans for the Arts, as a national cosponsor.

Monday, March 23

Cline and I attended a full day of training that included legislative and political updates, in-depth briefings on our three primary “asks” (more on those later), and facts and figures to make a compelling case for the arts. We also heard an inspiring keynote address by Jane Chu, the recently appointed chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). A role-play demonstration for congressional visits was incredibly helpful in illustrating how advocacy teams can manage the varying personalities and political agendas of senators, representatives, and their staffs to communicate clear messages and secure commitments of support in the form of caucus enrollment or letters addressing particular funding levels or policy positions. The most important takeaway was to strategically couple facts and figures—whether they be economic impact reports, matching-fund statistics, or art education’s effect on drop-out rates and SAT scores—with personal stories to create memorable and meaningful visits with legislators.

The three primary issues for Arts Advocacy Day were:

NEA Funding: We sought support for a $155 million budget for the NEA in the fiscal year 2016 Interior Appropriations bill. The broad reach and impact of the NEA can not be overstated: the agency awards approximately 2,300 grants per year to organizations in every US congressional district, reaches more than 38 million people through live art events, and helps to leverage roughly $600 million in matching funds from other state, local, and private sources. Closer to home, CAA has received support from the NEA every year since 2010 for ARTspace, a free and open component of the Annual Conference.

Arts in Education: We urged Congress to support $30 million for the Arts In Education (AIE) programs in the fiscal year 2016 Labor-Heath and Human Services-Education appropriations bill and retain it as a distinct grant competition for programs that strengthen the arts as a core academic subject of learning. Consolidation into an appropriations bill would risk compromising the program. We also sought support for retaining the arts in the definition of core academic subjects and for strengthening equitable access to the arts in the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

Tax Reform: Since many arts organizations operate as nonprofit entities, tax reform regarding charitable giving is a critical issue. We asked Congress to preserve incentives for donations by protecting full value tax deductions for all forms of charitable gifts; we also advised against the adoption of “caps” or “floors” for deductions. We also urged Congress to make the IRA charitable rollover permanent so that donors can achieve the greatest impact with their planned giving. We also asked representatives to support the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which would allow artists to take an income tax deduction for the fair market value of their work when they donate it to charitable collecting institutions.

There was no shortage of issues this year: advocates addressed arts in health, net neutrality, protection of wireless technology for the arts and media, and visa processes for foreign guest artists in short training sessions throughout the day. You can download American’s for the Arts’ 2015 Congressional Arts Handbook for facts and figures on all of these issues.

Closing the prelude to Arts Advocacy Day was the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, this year given by the television writer and producer Norman Lear at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. You can view Lear’s moving lecture, introduced by the hip-hop recording artist Common, on YouTube.

Tuesday, March 24

The packed Congressional Arts Kick-Off on Tuesday marked the official start of Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill and featured speakers such as Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and Representative Leonard Lance (R-NJ), cochairs of the Congressional Arts Caucus. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico received the Congressional Arts Leadership Award in recognition of his distinguished service on behalf of the arts.

Cline and I were on separate advocacy teams representing the New York City area that included undergraduate and graduate students and representatives from arts organizations such as Actors’ Equity Association, Fractured Atlas, POV, and others. We met with the offices of Representatives Carolyn Maloney (NY-12), Grace Meng (NY-6), Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), Lee Zeldin (NY-1), Peter T. King (NY-2), Steve Israel (NY-3), Kathleen Rice (NY-4), Gregory W. Meeks (NY-5), and Hakeem Jeffries (NY-8). Overall the meetings went extremely well. Our groups were able to address the key public policy and funding issues mentioned above, as well as to communicate the work of CAA and its members.

In a visit with Nadler’s office, Cline thanked the congressman for his vigorous efforts to pass the American Royalties Too (ART) Act, which would ensure that visual artists are compensated when their original artwork is resold; she also offered CAA’s continued support for this legislation. Though a meeting was originally scheduled with a member of his staff, Rep. Israel met with my team to discuss the NEA budget. As a member of the House Committee on Appropriations—and more specifically, the Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which covers the NEA budget—Israel spoke about the budget process and stated that its current proposal includes $155 million for the NEA. Time will tell what the final approved NEA budget will be.

Visiting the congressional office buildings reinforces the fact that senators and representatives work for you. I noticed a marked difference in visits to representatives for whom we had a constituent on our team. Multiple staffers told us that they needed more vocal support for the arts to pass the legislation and public-funding increases we were requesting, so I encourage you to contact your legislators and express your support. Americans for the Arts has a useful site that includes not only information on issues and supporting materials like facts and figures, but also links to tools for finding and contacting your legislator.


The US Capitol Building in Washington, DC (photograph by Hillary Bliss)

Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico accepting his Congressional Arts Leadership Award at the Congressional Arts Kick-Off event (photograph by Hillary Bliss)

My advocacy team after meeting with Representative Steve Israel. From left to right: Lawrence Lorchack, Actors’ Equity Association; Lynn Koos, New York University; Representative Steve Israel; Alison Ribellino, Towson University; Mary An, POV; and Linni Deihl, Andrew Anzel, and Haven G. Mitchell-Rose, New York University (photograph by Hillary Bliss)

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