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CAA Letter to Barack Obama

posted by Christopher Howard — Jan 15, 2009

On January 14, 2009, CAA President Paul Jaskot and CAA Executive Director Linda Downs sent a letter to Bill Ivey of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, discussing the needs of artists and scholars in the coming years.

CAA has signed onto letters with many other nonprofit organizations urging full funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and the Institute for Library and Museum Services (IMLS). However, CAA felt that it was necessary to have a separate voice on issues of importance to its members.

CAA will have a presence in Washington, DC, in March 2009 at the Humanities Advocacy Day and Arts Advocacy Day. Jaskot and Downs will be making separate appointments to visit the new chairs of the NEA, NEH and IMLS once they have been appointed.

CAA Letter to President-elect Barack Obama

January 14, 2009

President-elect Barack Obama
President-elect Transition Team

Dear President-elect Barack Obama:

College Art Association, representing over 16,000 artists, art historians, scholars, curators, collectors, art publishers, universities, and libraries, looks forward to working with you and your administration to ensure the revitalization of support for professional artists and art historians in America.

College Art Association:

  • Promotes excellence in scholarship and teaching in the history and criticism of the visual arts and in creativity and technical skill in the teaching and practices of art;
  • Facilitates the exchange of ideas and information among all people interested in art and the history of art;
  • Advocates comprehensive and inclusive education in the visual arts;
  • Speaks for its membership on issues affecting the visual arts and humanities;
  • Publishes scholarly journals, art criticism, and artists’ writings;
  • Fosters career development and professional advancement;
  • Identifies and develops sources of funding for the practice of art and for scholarship in the arts and humanities;
  • Supports and honors the accomplishments of artists, art historians, and critics; and
  • Articulates and affirms the highest ethical standards in the conduct of the profession.

As the leading association in the world that represents professional visual-arts practitioners, CAA endorses your campaign platform’s support of the arts. We strongly agree that in order to remain competitive in the global economy America must reinvigorate the creativity and innovation that has made this country great.

CAA would like your Administration to include not only community arts organizations in its arts program of support but, also, to give greater focus to professional artists and art historians in academia, art museums, and independent professional visual-arts practitioners. Visual art must be reinstated as a respected and esteemed profession in America.

CAA advocates that professionally educated artists and art historians teach K–16 students. To meet this end we must offer all students, K–16, equal access to visual-arts education taught by professionally trained instructors in studio art and art history.

We also believe that public/private partnerships should expand not only between schools and communities but also among the academic community within colleges, universities, and art schools.

We endorse the creation of an art corps comprised of professionally educated artists and art historians who will work with students in urban schools on community-based projects that raise the awareness of the importance of creativity and professional artists. CAA would also like to see an emphasis on visual arts in government-sponsored projects such as AmeriCorps, in both urban and rural areas that address job preparation as well as environmental issues. Professional artists are eager to work on environmental programs that involve community-organized design projects.

CAA would like to emphasize that, in order to publicly champion the importance of arts education, America needs to support the proper preparation and training of artists and art historians who teach at the primary, secondary, and college/university levels. Visual arts need to become part of the core curriculum in each grade and at every stage of education.

CAA fully supports increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Library and Museum Services. Specifically, professional artists need to be supported on an individual basis, and we strongly recommend reinstatement of the Individual Artist Fellowship program to enable our best artists to pursue and develop their work. We have found that grants to other areas of the arts and humanities far exceed federal and private foundation grants to professional visual artists. It would be an outstanding legacy of this administration to again make federal support of the arts a priority in defending the promotion of our nation’s cultural heritage.

CAA supports legislation that will allow scholars to publish so-called orphan works, which are copyrighted works—such as books, pictures, music, recordings, or films—whose copyright owners cannot be identified or located. This legislation has been introduced in prior Congresses, and we hope it will be passed during the new Congress. Due to the risks of publishing copyrighted material without obtaining permission, many art historians and scholars are unable to publish orphan works, thereby causing great detriment to scholarly publishing, research and public access to these works. At the same time, orphan works legislation must be carefully crafted in respect to the legitimate interests and concerns of visual artists, including photographers.

CAA supports your platform for cultural diplomacy by enhancing international opportunities offered through agencies, such as the United States Information Agency, for exhibitions, teaching, research, and lecture tours by professional visual artists and art historians. CAA’s international membership testifies to the promotion of cultural understanding that occurs through international cultural exchange. Every year CAA seeks funding to support travel of international artists and art historians to its Annual Conference. Current Homeland Security laws and a lack of government funding make it difficult for foreign artists and scholars to present their work and research at conferences of their peers. CAA endorses streamlining the visa process and providing government support for international exchanges of graduate students and professional artists and art historians.

CAA supports providing health care to professional artists and art historians. This is a major concern for professional artists and art historians who are not associated with a college, university, or art museum and attempt to work independently to support themselves. As you are aware, each state has its own laws on insurance. Professional organizations such as CAA would like to offer national healthcare coverage for artists but are prohibited from offering insurance to its members due to differences in state laws. CAA endorses the creation of a National Health Insurance Exchange as one step in the direction of coverage for artists. In the meantime, we encourage you to press for government reforms of insurance laws so that professional organizations such as CAA will be in a position to assist its members to obtain universal coverage.

CAA endorses tax fairness for artists. We have worked hard—and will continue to work hard—to support the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which was introduced in the prior Congress by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The Act amends the Internal Revenue Code to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of their work, rather than just the costs of the materials, when they make charitable contributions of that work. Not only has the current tax law been harmful to artists, the creative legacy of a whole generation of professional visual artists has not been donated to our great public institutions because of disincentives to donate created by the current tax laws.

CAA realizes that change takes the support and involvement of every member of society. CAA is committed to promoting the support of professional visual artists and art historians in all areas of American society. We stand ready to help provide information on visual arts professionals, suggestions for specific programs, or any other aid that you may find helpful in promoting a better world for artists and art historians in America.

With your leadership and the groundswell of support for activism, we can reestablish the professional visual-arts practitioner as a contributor to positive cultural change in America.

Sincerely yours,

Paul Jaskot, President, CAA, and Professor of Art and Art History, DePaul University; and Linda Downs, Executive Director, CAA