CAA News Today
Report from Washington: Arts Advocacy Day and Jefferson Day
posted by admin — Mar 16, 2001
CAA cosponsored Arts Advocacy Day (March 19�20), hosted by Americans for the Arts, and Jefferson Day (March 26�27), hosted by the National Humanities Alliance, in Washington, D.C. Both events brought together a broad cross-section of national cultural organizations, academics, and grassroots arts leaders to promote the arts, arts education, and humanities to Congress through increased support for the federal cultural agencies.
In addition to increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), advocates at Arts Advocacy Day focused on two key policy issues championed by President George W. Bush�s administration–taxes and education. Advocates urged elected officials and their staffs to support tax legislation that will encourage private contributions to all nonprofit organizations by expanding the charitable gift deduction to those who do not itemize on their tax returns. Other proposals include the retention of some charitable giving incentives in the estate tax, and permission to direct IRA gift rollovers and withdrawals to charities without penalty. Another tax change could allow artists to deduct contributions of their artworks at full market value. For the first time, Republican legislators and staffers said that they definitely can agree with the arts community on this and were excited to hear about this issue. It is important to note that should Congress enact any charitable tax legislation, the resulting financial benefits to the nonprofit community�and specifically the cultural and education communities�could easily surpass any federal funds currently available through the NEA, NEH, or IMLS. Indeed, some estimates put the amount at $14 to 16 billion.
Advocates also urged members of Congress to support legislation that ensures a place for arts education in all public elementary and secondary education programs, including professional-development opportunities for arts teachers, funding for afterschool arts learning, and support for arts-education partnerships between schools and community cultural organizations. The message was reinforced at the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. Frank Rich, an op-ed columnist and theater critic for the New York Times, spoke about the need to develop audiences for the arts through education and improved access to cultural events.
CAA representatives Marta Teegen and Paul Skiff visited the offices of Senators Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Thad Cochran (R-MS) on Arts Advocacy Day. CAA learned that the general tone regarding an increased level of government funding has stabilized�and overall pessimism has softened�as a result of the benefits museum and visual-arts organizations have emphasized during the past several years on education programs, and because of tangible financial impact on communities served by cultural organizations. To representatives from both parties and legislative branches, however, individual-artist grants continue to be neglected by key arts lobbyists and members of Congress. This year, they were at least willing to discuss reinstating these grants, but, as the office of Senator Cochran acknowledged, these grants have become a political liability for the NEA rather than a substantive flaw in the endowment’s mission. Senate staffers found it easy to consider arts advocacy issues relating to tax questions, but it seems that a more ideological initiative, such as grants for individual artists, is still not something our elected officials have the outspokenness to treat.
One person who was outspoken�though on a different issue�was Arthur Miller, the thirtieth annual Jefferson Lecturer. He targeted the role of “acting” by politicians, and gave a scathing analysis of the recent presidential election. Not only did Miller find fault with President Bush and the Supreme Court, but he also expressed disappointment with Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Attended by more than one thousand people, Miller�s lecture drew loud cheers and applause from many in the audience who shared his opinions.
On Jefferson Day, a humanities advocacy day scheduled in conjunction with the Jefferson Lecture, CAA representatives Marta Teegen, Rachel Ford, and Deirdre Barrett visited the offices of the following senators: Conrad Burns (R-MT), Ted Stevens (R-AK), Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Byron Dorgan (D-ND), all of whom sit on the Senate Subcommittee on Interior and Related Agencies�the group that deals directly with funding for federal cultural agencies. After explaining that NEA and NEH Challenge Grants have allowed CAA to offer Professional Development Fellowships to individuals from traditionally underrepresented populations at the professional level in museums and universities, CAA was encouraged to hear that, at the very least, Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee members currently have no plans to make further cuts to federal cultural agency budgets in the coming year. Similarly, President Bush presented his first budget request to Congress in mid-April that included level funding for all federal cultural agencies, with an additional request for cost-of-living salary increases for 2002. Neither the Senate nor the president, however, has committed to a specific timetable for budget increases to the NEA, NEH, and IMLS.
�Marta Teegan, CAA manager of governance, advocacy & special projects, and Paul Skiff, assistant director for Annual Conference