Improve Opportunities for International Cultural Activity; Support the Arts Requirement Timely Service (ARTS) Act
posted by CAA — July 10, 2015
The CAA Board of Directors has approved its support of the following notice.
Improve Opportunities for International Cultural Activity
Support the Arts Requirement Timely Service (ARTS) Act
We write to urge your support for the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act, which improves processing for visa petitions filed by, or on behalf of, nonprofit arts-related organizations by simply ensuring enforcement of current statutory requirements.
Action now will ensure that the U.S. visa process for artists is reliable, efficient, and affordable. Congress recognized the time-sensitive nature of arts events when writing the 1991 federal law regarding O and P visas, in which the USCIS is currently instructed to process O and P arts visas in 14 days. While USCIS has made recent efforts to observe this timeframe, there is a history of extreme unpredictability in the timing of the artist visa process, with wait times of up to six months.
The ARTS Act would consistently reduce the USCIS processing times for nonprofit O and P arts-related visa petitions to a total of 29 days—twice the current statutory requirement. USCIS would be required to treat any nonprofit arts-related O and P visa petition that it fails to adjudicate within the current statutory 14-day timeframe as a Premium Processing case (an additional 15-day turn-around time), free of additional charge. Previous consideration of the ARTS Act has had strong bipartisan support.
American nonprofit arts organizations and artists—in communities large and small across our country—provide an important public service and boost international diplomacy by presenting foreign guest artists in performances, educational events, and cultural programs in communities across the country. Only with consistent improvements over time, will confidence in the U.S. visa process continue to be re-built among U.S. petitioning organizations and foreign artists alike, greatly enhancing international cultural exchange.
Enactment of this provision will make enduring improvements to the visa process. Please support the Arts Require Timely Service (ARTS) Act.
American Alliance of Museums
American Association of Independent Music
American Federation of Musicians
Americans for the Arts
Association of Art Museum Directors
Association of Performing Arts Presenters
Chamber Music America Dance/USA
League of American Orchestras
Local Learning: The National Network for Folk Arts in Education
National Alliance for Musical Theatre
National Assembly of State Arts Agencies
National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures
Network of Ensemble Theaters
New Music USA
North American Performing Arts Managers and Agents
Performing Arts Alliance
The Recording Academy
Theatre Communications Group
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.
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)
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.
Adam Habib, a researcher at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was deported upon his arrival in the United States in October. Part of a group en route to meetings with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Columbia University, the National Institutes of Health, and the World Bank, Habib had his visa revoked for suspected ties to terrorism. He directs a program on democracy and governance at the Human Science Research Council and holds an honorary research position at the university.