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Report from Arts Advocacy Day 2015

posted by March 31, 2015

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.

Images

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)

Today is Arts Advocacy Day!

posted by March 24, 2015

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on March 24, 2015

Today is Arts Advocacy Day!

Today, Americans for the Arts and its affiliate the Arts Action Fund celebrate National Arts Advocacy Day, part of the National Arts Action Summit, with thousands of arts advocates across the country and hundreds of partnering state, local, and national arts and arts education organizations.

If you can’t join us in Washington, DC, today, then join us by letting your member of Congress know that you support the arts!

Today, more than 550 dedicated arts supporters from 48 states will come together in Washington, DC, for the 28th annual Arts Advocacy Day, the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations.

  • Participating in events are actor and Turnaround Artist Doc Shaw; actress, writer, dancer, and Americans for the Arts Artists Committee Member Victoria Rowell, American actress and playwright Holland Taylor, musicians Marc Roberge and Richard On from the American rock band O.A.R, and singer and performer Grace Weber
  • Last night, multi–Grammy Award winning artist COMMON introduced the 28th Annual Americans for the Arts’ Nancy Hanks Lecturer on Arts and Public Policy and groundbreaking television producer, author, and social activist, Norman Lear, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

These hundreds of arts advocates represent a united effort to tell Capitol Hill how important the arts are to our communities, how much arts education means to our future, and how the arts improve our daily lives. With 87 national cosponsoring organizations, Arts Advocacy Day helps shape this united arts message to Congress.

Ways You Can Take Part

Ask your members of Congress to support the arts. Visit our E-Advocacy Center and you’ll be able to send a message in less than two minutes directly to your representative and senators telling them why the arts are important to you and your community. Take two minutes and send your message to Congress today!
Join the discussion on the Arts Advocacy Day Facebook page.

On Twitter? Tweet your proarts support, follow @Americans4Arts, and track all the action in Washington, DC, at #AAD15 and #ArtsVote!

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.

Thank you for your support of the arts.

Arts Victory in Congress!

posted by January 15, 2014

Nina Ozlu Tunceli, executive director of Americans for the Arts, sent the following email on January 14, 2014.

Arts Victory in Congress!

Victory – your voice was heard on Capitol Hill.

Late last night, Congress released the details of its massive FY 2014 Omnibus spending bill. I am pleased to share that the online petition that you and 40,000 other arts advocates signed this fall helped lead the way to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) being allocated $146 million for the year. We cannot thank you enough for taking the time to sign and share our petition.

Because of members like you, arts advocates successfully prevented a proposed 49% budget cut from taking place!

In fact, this new funding level is, in effect, an increase over last year’s since Congress is suspending the automatic sequester cuts that began last year. NEA will now have the full spending power of $146 million to invest in community-based arts programs across the country.

Together, we provided a strong voice for the arts. We now need your support to continue this momentum with the 2014 midterm elections right around the corner. With so many Members of Congress retiring, please consider contributing today to help us educate the next generation of elected leaders.

BREAKING: Govt Shuts Down the Arts

posted by October 01, 2013

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on October 1, 2013.

BREAKING: Govt Shuts Down the Arts

October is National Arts and Humanities Month and how does the federal government celebrate? By closing the doors of federally funded museums, parks, zoos and delaying the distribution of NEA grants that enrich our communities.

Today is only a snapshot of what the 49% cut to the NEA could mean for our communities. As arts advocates, we cannot stand by and let this happen! In response, the Arts Action Fund is extending our petition to deliver even more names to Congress. This means we need YOU to take a stand and tell Congress that these drastic cuts are unacceptable.

Will you add your name to our petition?

You have until October 31st to sign this petition and tell your friends to sign as well. The Arts Action Fund has a goal of adding 10,000 new signers by the end of this month to keep the pressure mounting on Congress to not only oppose the 49% cut, but make sure it gets the funding it deserves for 2014.

Please consider adding your name now. We need you!

Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Executive Director

In Less Than 24 Hours…

posted by September 10, 2013

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on September 10, 2013.

In Less Than 24 Hours…

Over 17,000 advocates signed our online petition for Congress to oppose the 49% cut to the NEA!

Now that Congress has returned from recess to resume debates over these budget cuts, we need to increase our number of petition signers to have an even bigger impact before the proposed cuts hit the House and Senate floors.

Will you lend your voice to the 15,000 who have already signed?

Today also kicks-off National Arts in Education Week. Did you know that over 18 million kids in every single state benefitted from the ripple effect of the NEA’s investment last year alone? These grants create a lasting impact by inspiring kids across the country, regardless of socio-economic status, to think of music and art as relevant to their own lives.

Please sign the petition and ensure all kids have access to arts education!

Nina Ozlu Tunceli
Executive Director

P.S. Have you had a chance to view the #BeTheARTbeat Crowd-Sourced video? See why others are inspired to be a part of the Arts Action Fund.

Major NEA Cut Frozen until Fall

posted by August 01, 2013

Americans for the Arts sent the following email on August 1, 2013.

Major NEA Cut Frozen until Fall

Yesterday the US House Appropriations Committee began consideration of legislation that would devastate the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) with a 49 percent cut to its budget. An amendment to restore the funding to the NEA was defeated along a party-line vote of 19–27. With rising tempers over this cut and many others, the committee has now suspended its consideration until mid-September.

This legislation began its journey as a subcommittee proposal last week and the full committee is the middle step before it goes to the House floor for final consideration. Arts advocates are outraged and have sent more than 22,000 messages to Capitol Hill this past week calling for a rejection of these cuts.

If you have two minutes, please contact your member of Congress, or you can use our powerful media alert tool to send a Letter to the Editor to your local newspapers calling for Congress to reject this cut.

As stated in yesterday’s committee meeting by members of Congress from both parties, the cuts to our cultural resources are misguided and disproportionate. Not only will they impact the NEA, but the millions of Americans working in the creative industries that are boosted by the strategic grants made by the NEA.

  • Senior Democratic appropriator Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) described the bill as the “worst bill considered during this appropriations cycle”
  • Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) said, “We’d be better off passing a blank piece of paper”
  • Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME) noted how many communities in her state have been revitalized because of NEA support and how critical it is

The Road Ahead

As members of Congress head back to their home districts shortly for a five-week recess period, the appropriations process will be put on hold until their return on September 9. Americans for the Arts will continue to build our advocacy efforts, looking ahead to later in the fall when the committee will try again to complete its work and move consideration of the bill to the House floor, where amendments to restore funding, and unfortunately reduce funding even further, could be offered.

The steps beyond that are unclear as the appropriations process this year appears to be heading toward a dysfunctional ending. As the Senate and the House have vastly different appropriations levels on a variety of bills, it is unlikely that they will find a compromise position. The most likely outcome would be a “continuing resolution” that would maintain the current NEA funding level into the next fiscal year.

If you have two minutes, please contact your member of Congress, or send a Letter to the Editor to your local newspapers calling for Congress to reject this cut. Americans for the Arts has further details and will be providing updates on our ARTSblog here.

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

The National Humanities Alliance sent the following email on August 1, 2013.

Speak Up Now! 49 Percent Cut to the NEH Stalled in the House

By acting now, you can help to ensure that this devastating cut doesn’t move beyond the committee room.

Yesterday, the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee considered a 49 percent ($71 million) cut to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). After a lengthy debate, the committee adjourned for the August recess without acting on the proposal but with the intent to take it up again in September. We must use this recess to make our voices heard in order prevent these devastating cuts from being enacted. Please send messages to your elected officials today by clicking this link.

If you sent a message last week, please send this new message to both your Senators and Representatives. Click here to send a message today.

This battle will continue into the fall, as this bill moves toward a vote of the full House of Representatives and as the Senate considers its own spending bills. During this period it is important that your elected officials hear from you and your friends and colleagues. Click here to learn about six steps that you can take to oppose these cuts and preserve the NEH during this time. Please take these steps and circulate them widely.

This drastic cut would end programs that provide critical support for humanities teaching, preservation, public programming, and research and result in positive impacts on every community in the country. Programs supported by the NEH teach essential skills and habits including reading, writing, critical thinking, and effective communication that are crucial for ensuring that each individual has the opportunity to learn and become a productive member of society. Further, NEH’s programs strengthen communities by promoting understanding of our common ideals, enduring civic values, and shared cultural heritage.

Please share this message with your friends.

Click here to download “Six Steps to Oppose cuts to NEH.”

The NEH desperately needs your help.

Click here to send a message to your elected officials.