Our government needs to hear from you. At this critical time of federal budget reductions—cuts are scheduled for both the NEA and NEH—it is more important than ever that you let your congressional representatives know of your support for the visual arts, humanities, and art museums.
Between President Barack Obama’s budget proposal, released last month, and its approval by Congress later this year come three crucial events in Washington, DC: Humanities Advocacy Day, March 8–9; Museum Advocacy Day, March 22–23; and Arts Advocacy Day, April 12–13. Organized to assist those interested in visiting their representatives in the House and Senate in person, these advocacy days are timed so that our voices can be heard before funds are allocated to the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). CAA is a sponsor of these three advocacy events.
Previous lobbying experience isn’t necessary. Training sessions and practice talks take place the day before the main event—that’s why, for example, Arts Advocacy Day is actually two days, not one. Advocates are also prepped on the critical issues and the range of funding requested of Congress to support these federal agencies. It is at these training sessions where you meet—and network with—other advocates from your states. The main sponsoring organization for each event makes congressional appointments for you.
You may have mailed a letter or sent a prewritten email to your congressperson or senator before, but legislators have an algorithm of interest for pressing issues, in which a personal visit tops all other forms of communication. As citizen lobbyists, it’s also important to have a few specific examples about how arts funding has affected you: don’t be afraid to name-drop major cultural institutions—such as your city’s major museum or nonprofit art center—in your examples of why the visual arts matter in your state.
If you cannot attend the three advocacy days in person, please do send an email or fax to your representatives expressing your concern about continued and increased funding for the visual arts. If you don’t know your representative or senators, you can look them up at www.congress.org.
Through the Office of Management and Budget, a federal agency, President Obama has requested $161.3 million for the NEA for fiscal year 2011, a decrease of $6 million from the previous year. (The fiscal year begins on October 1.) The same amount, $161.3 million, is requested for the NEH, with the agency receiving a larger cut of $6.2 million (4 percent). The proposed budget for the IMLS, $265.9 million, remains the same as last year.
Humanities Advocacy Day, March 8–9
The eleventh annual Humanities Advocacy Day, presented in conjunction with the National Humanities Alliance’s annual meeting, will take place March 8–9. Both events are a unique meeting ground for both alliance members and others interested in humanities policy and advocacy, including higher-education leaders, college and university faculty, teachers, students, museum professionals, librarians, and independent scholars.
Annual-meeting activities will primarily take place on Monday, March 8, at the Marvin Center at George Washington University. That evening, the action will move to Capitol Hill for a reception with members of Congress and their staff. Advocates will return to the Hill on Tuesday morning, March 9 for visits to your senators and representatives.
The fee to attend Humanities Advocacy Day and the NHA meeting and activities is $50. This includes the luncheon and keynote address, legislative and policy briefing materials, advocacy training, and the Capitol Hill reception. The deadline for registration has passed, but you can still call Erin Mosley at 202-296-4994, ext. 150, if you’re interested in participating.
The NHA website has tips for congressional visits and other resources, including a map and schedule. Its Legislative Action Center can also assist you in defining the current issues for Humanities Advocacy Day.
Museums Advocacy Day, March 22–23
CAA invites your participation in Museums Advocacy Day, sponsored by the American Association of Museums (AAM) and taking place March 22–23. This event is your chance to receive advocacy and policy training and then take the case to Capitol Hill alongside fellow advocates from your state and congressional district.
AAM is working with sponsoring organizations, including CAA, to develop the legislative agenda for this year’s event. Likely issues will include federal funding for museums, museums and federal education policy, and charitable giving issues affecting museums. The entire museum field is welcome to participate: staff, volunteers, trustees, students, and museum enthusiasts.
March 22 will be a critical day of advocacy and policy training, to be held at the National Building Museum, featuring: a briefing on the museum field’s legislative agenda; tips on meeting with elected officials and the stats you need to make your case; instruction on how to participate in year-round advocacy and engage your elected officials in the ongoing work of your museum; and networking with advocates from your state. On March 23, advocates will take their message to Capitol Hill, gathering in groups by state and congressional districts to make coordinated visits to House and Senate offices.
Participants are asked to cover the cost of their meals and materials: $75. This includes: two breakfasts, one lunch, one evening reception on March 22 with members of Congress and their staff, and all training materials and supplies. Registration has closed, but you can still call 202-218-7703 with questions on how to participate.
Arts Advocacy Day, April 12–13
The twenty-third annual Arts Advocacy Day, sponsored by Americans for the Arts, brings together a broad cross-section of America’s cultural and civic organizations, along with hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.
Legislative training sessions take place on April 12. Afterward, attend the twenty-third annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Speaking will be Joseph P. Riley, Jr., mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, and founder of the Mayors’ Institute on City Design.
On April 13, hear from members of Congress and acclaimed artists at the Congressional Arts Kick Off on Capitol Hill. Then, join other arts advocates from your state to make the case for arts and arts education to your members of Congress.
Registration costs vary, so please visit the Americans for the Arts website for details. The advance registration deadline is March 29. The organization’s Arts Action Center also provides updates on arts advocacy issues.