College Art Association

CAA News Today

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)

CAA is the principal national and international voice of the academic and professional community in the visual arts; the organization was founded on the principle of advocating the visual arts and actively continues that engagement today (see The Eye, The Hand, The Mind: 100 Years of the College Art Association, edited by Susan Ball). The principal goal of CAA advocacy is to address issues of critical importance in the visual arts that benefit artists, art historians, and museum workers and to inform the public.

CAA specifically advocates change and improvements in these areas:

  • Government funding for the arts and humanities
  • Freedom of expression and against censorship
  • Intellectual-property rights
  • Preservation of the artistic integrity of public spaces
  • Higher education and technologies to facilitate distance learning
  • Philanthropy for the arts and humanities
  • Tax policy as it applies to CAA members
  • Conditions in universities, museums, and other workplace environments of CAA members

CAA cosponsors and regularly sends representatives to the annual Arts, Humanities, and Museum Advocacy Days in Washington, DC. Email petitions are requested of CAA members throughout the year when legislation is being considered in Congress related to specific issues. This year’s advocacy message to Capitol Hill focused on maintaining the funding levels of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Recent issues related to freedom of expression and censorship on which CAA has taken a public position include:

  • Incarceration of the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei
  • Removal of David Wojnarowicz’s video from the Hide/Seek exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery
  • Proposed removal of the John T. Biggers mural at Texas Southern University
  • Removal of the Department of Labor mural in Augusta, Maine
  • Adrian Piper’s placement on the Transportation Security Administration Watch List
  • Supreme Court amicus brief in support of petition for review regarding artists whose vehicular artwork was removed by the City of San Marcos, Texas
  • Supreme Court amicus brief asserting the unconstitutionality of a federal law criminalizing the depiction of animal cruelty in United States v. Stevens

In addition, CAA has been involved in intellectual-property rights, as described below.

Orphan Works

CAA participated actively in US Copyright Office proceedings to study orphan works and, thereafter, actively supported legislation—yet to be passed by Congress—that would require users to conduct work-by-work, due-diligence searches to identify and find the copyright holder. If that search failed to identify or find the copyright holder, the work could be used without the threat of injunctive relief or statutory damages. If the copyright holder emerges after the work has been researched and used, he or she could still sue the user for copyright infringement, but a losing defendant would only be required to pay the normal license fee; the proposed legislation includes a safe harbor for museums that removed works expeditiously. It is unclear if any orphan-works legislation will be reintroduced in this or subsequent Congresses. After the March 2011 decision of Judge Denny Chin of the US Court of Appeals Second Circuit rejecting the settlement of the Google Books litigation, CAA’s counsel was approached by Public Knowledge (“a D.C. public interest group working to defend citizen’s rights in the emerging digital culture”) asking if CAA remained interested in orphan-works legislation and, if so, to sign a letter to Congress requesting that orphan-works legislation be reintroduced.

Cost for Reproducing Images of Artwork in Museum Collections

In recent member surveys, one of the most critical issues articulated was the high cost of reproduction rights of works in museum collections that are not under copyright. CAA has requested formal attention to this issue from the Association of Art Museum Directors.

Fair Use

CAA’s Committee on Intellectual Property, chaired by Doralyn Pines and Christine Sundt, is reviewing and proposing revisions to the Intellectual Property in the Arts section of the CAA website. The committee will also review a draft set of fair-use guidelines being prepared by the Art Law Committee of the New York Bar Association and the Visual Resources Association; after such review, the CAA Board of Directors may be asked to endorse the updated guidelines.

Extension of Copyright Term

CAA signed a Supreme Court amicus brief regarding the retroactive application of the extension of copyright term in Eldred v. Ashcroft. The Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was challenged with the original complaint filed on January 11, 1999. CAA was an amicus when the case was brought to the Supreme Court, which held on January 15, 2003, that the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 was constitutional (see the March 2003 CAA News).

Artist-Museum Partnership Act

CAA actively supports the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, which establishes fair-market-value tax deductions for works given by artists instead of the current limitation to cost of materials. Information on the progress of the Artist-Museum Partnership Act is published in the weekly CAA News email, posted in the Advocacy section of the website, and communicated to the Services to Artists Committee. If and when a bill is subject to a vote in Congress, CAA will urge all members, affiliated societies, and committees to contact their representatives.

Coalition on the Academic Workforce

CAA is a member of the Coalition on the Academic Workforce, which recently prepared a survey of contingent faculty. Over 30,000 individuals completed the questionnaire—many were CAA members—and the results will be tabulated this spring. Information on all aspect of working conditions is included in this survey and will assist in informing future standards and practices. CAA’s Professional Practices Committee and Education Committee are kept informed of the survey and its tabulation and will analyze the results and determine action to take that will benefit CAA members. Contingent faculty is currently responsible for 76 percent of teachers in American colleges and universities. CAA supports equitable hiring, representation, and benefits for this growing segment of the faculty.

How It Works

How does advocacy work at CAA? CAA both monitors advocacy issues and is approached by universities, colleges, organizations, and individuals who raise issues via CAA’s counsel, officers and members of the board, executive director, deputy director, affiliated societies, or other partner organizations such as the National Coalition Against Censorship, the Association of Art Museum Directors, or the associations of the American Council of Learned Societies. If an issue warrants action and is consistent with the advocacy policy, CAA will prepare a response. Depending on the importance and complexity of the issue, CAA will prepare an email, letter of support, or statement; cosign a letter with other organizations; or, in exceptional circumstances when legal action is required, prepare an amicus brief or support proposed legislation. All advocacy issues brought to CAA’s attention are reviewed by the counsel and the executive director. Consistent with the organization’s Advocacy Policy, the Executive Committee and, if necessary, partner organizations also review the issues. Important matters where legal action is involved will be brought to the board.

At the February 2011 board meeting, Andrea Kirsh, then vice president for external affairs, volunteered to work as CAA’s advocacy coordinator. She has since actively assisted in carrying out research and drafting letters and statements. CAA members who would like to be informed of the organization’s advocacy efforts—and spread the word—can send an email to nyoffice@collegeart.org.

At Arts Advocacy Day 2011, CAA representatives from five states—Connecticut, Georgia, Pennsylvania, New York and Texas—will meet congressional staff to advocate for the visual arts in higher education. Organized by Americans for the Arts, of which CAA is a member institution, the annual event will take place April 4–5, 2011, in Washington, DC. CAA delegates will address the following issues of critical importance and invite you to register and get involved.

As the leading association in the world that represents professional visual-arts practitioners, CAA endorses government support of creativity and innovation that has made this country great.

CAA seeks support for artists and art historians who work in colleges, universities, and art museums, as well as for independent artists and scholars. The federal government must support professionals in the visual arts like it does for practitioners and scholars in other arts, such as dance and music. The professional practice, study, and teaching of the visual arts deserve further support because of the power these disciplines have to educate, inspire, and stimulate independent thinking.

CAA also believes that public and private partnerships should expand not only between schools and communities but also among the academic community in colleges, universities, and art schools.

CAA fully endorses the creation of an art corps comprising professionally educated artists and art historians who will work with students in urban schools on community-based projects, raising an awareness of the importance of creativity and professional artists. CAA also encourages government-sponsored projects such as Americorps and Vista to emphasize the visual arts. Young artists are eager to work on environmental programs that involve community-organized design projects such as, for example, mine-reclamation endeavors in which community recreation centers are established near cleaning pools for toxic mine runoff to help redevelopment the land.

CAA would like to emphasize that, in order to champion publicly the importance of arts education, America must support the preparation of artists and art historians who teach on a primary, secondary, and college/university level. The visual arts are integral to core curricula 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 must supported on individual bases. CAA strongly recommends that the NEA reinstate Individual Artist Fellowships, so that visual artists can pursue and develop their work. Similar grants in other areas of the arts and humanities far exceed federal and private foundation grants to professional visual artists, who are often forced to abandon their own work to support themselves and their families. Professional artists desperately need government support.

CAA supports legislation to change tax laws for artists. The organization has worked hard—and will continue to work hard—to support the Artist-Museum Partnership Act, first introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in 2005. The proposed act would amend the Internal Revenue Code to allow artists to deduct the fair market value of their work, rather than just the costs of materials, when they make charitable contributions. Not only has the current tax laws been harmful to artists, the creative legacy of a whole generation of American visual artists has been lost.

In addition, CAA supports legislation that would 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. The House of Representatives and Senate has previously introduced orphan-works bills, and CAA hopes Congress will pass one in the coming session. The lack of clear laws and procedures regarding the issue has prevented many art historians from publishing orphan works, causing a great detriment to scholarly publishing and research.

CAA supports cultural diplomacy by enhancing international opportunities, through agencies such as the United States Information Agency, for professional visual artists and art historians to exhibit, teach, research, and lecture. CAA’s international membership testifies to the promotion of cultural understanding that occurs through international cultural exchange. Every year CAA seeks funding to support the travel of international art historians and artists to our Annual Conference. Current Homeland Security laws and a lack of government funding make it difficult for foreign art historians and artists to present their work and research at conferences, symposia, and exhibitions. 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 healthcare to independent artists and scholars—a major concern for those professionals who are not associated with a college, university, or art museum and who attempt to work on their own to support themselves. Each state creates its own health-insurance legislation, and thus differences in laws regulating insurance companies prohibit professional organizations such as CAA from offering national healthcare coverage.

An untitled bill introduced last week in the US Senate may loosen recent government restrictions on fractional gifts of works of art to museums, reports Shelly Banjo of the Wall Street Journal. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), whose state contains many important art museums, patrons, and philanthropists, is sponsoring S 1605, which would reform the rules regulating fractional charitable donations of tangible personal property.

Fractional gifts—which allow Americans to give partial ownership rights of an artwork to a museum or charitable organization and take an income-tax deduction for the donated portion of its value—were common practice in the museum world until 2006, when provisions put into the Pension Protection Act of 2006 by Senator Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) made partial gifts less attractive for donors. (Namely, that work must be fully donated within ten years of the initial fractional gift, and that the value of the artwork is capped when the first gift is made.) Since then, museums noticed that the practice of fractional gifts has nearly disappeared.

Here’s more background information on fractional gifts in the New York Times in 2006 and 2008.

Andrea Kirsh, an independent art historian based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and a member of the CAA Board of Directors, was one of several CAA delegates who attended Humanities Advocacy Day and Arts Advocacy Day, both of which took place in March 2009 in Washington, DC.

In an article for the forthcoming May issue of CAA News that is also posted online, she writes about her experiences advocating for increased funding for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities, among other government programs and legislation.

Photo: The Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Josh Groban (center) advocates for the arts with CAA board member Judith Thorpe (left) and Jean Miller at the Congressional Breakfast during Arts Advocacy Day

The Artist-Museum Partnership Act of 2009, legislation introduced in both houses of Congress, would allow a fair-market-value tax deduction for charitable contributions of literary, musical, artistic, or scholarly compositions to collecting institutions such as museums, libraries, and archives. At present, a donating artist, writer, or composer can only deduct the cost of materials used to create the work, which is not a fair incentive to donate and also hurts the missions of public and nonprofit institutions nationwide to increase public access to these unique creations.

The sponsors of the bill—Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Robert Bennett (R-UT) for S 405 and Representatives John Lewis (D-GA) and Todd Platts (R-PA) for HR 1126—hope that past enthusiasm for such legislation will grow in the current 111th Congress. Although similar Senate bills have passed five times in previous years, the House version of the bill in the 110th Congress had 111 cosponsors. Now that a new Congress is underway, more cosponsors are needed to help advance the bill.

The American Association of Museums has worked with the Association of Art Museum Directors to provide a draft letter that you can use to encourage your federal lawmakers to cosponsor the bill. With your help, this important legislation for both artists and institutions can move forward.