Artists For The Arts: How One Voice Became a Movement
It was January 19, 2017, and news had just broken that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and Humanities (NEH) could soon be at risk of elimination. As an opera singer and creative entrepreneur, I knew how crucial arts funding was for society at large. The arts enrich the human experience by sparking creativity, collaboration and powerful returns on investment in education and economic growth.
I knew that inaction was not an option, so that night I turned to change.org and created a petition (change.org/SaveTheNEA). I’m not sure what I hoped would come of it, but I knew that this was an issue near and dear to my heart, and perhaps, if enough everyday Americans realized what was at stake, the community could have a fighting chance.
Within days we had surpassed 10,000 signatures and would soon reach nearly 50,000 with our petition being shared across social media by the likes of Sarah Silverman, Josh Groban, Perez Hilton, Betty Buckley, Chelsea Clinton and countless others. The supporter comments (13,000 of them) were overwhelming and told stories of how the arts had helped in immeasurable ways. They included stories of how the arts had helped military veterans cope with post war PTSD, the power of the arts in education and development, and how the NEA had allowed disadvantaged girls to take dance classes in rural America. Whereas the arts often are seen as elitist, the responses proved to me that this was a national, bipartisan issue; that arts matter and that they define so much about what makes America great.
I was empowered and felt that as artists, we could do more. I began a fundraiser through Change.org and Fractured Atlas and reached out to my network with the idea of bringing together a diverse group of singers, actors, dancer, writers, artists and others to record an “Anthem for the Arts” and to film a video which would bring awareness of the importance of arts funding. In addition, the goal of raising funds was to help advocate for the NEA and all that the agency does. Emails turned to cold calls and countless tweets, but within a few days I had amassed a list of supporters, organizations, artists, PR and marketing firms, and production crews, including Americans for the Arts, all moved by the mission and eager to help.
This past Tuesday, a “who’s who” of Broadway, Hollywood, theatre, dance, and music artists came together at the legendary Avatar Studios in New York City to record and film a single of the iconic Beatles song “A Little Help From My Friends” to inspire support for the arts in America. 100% of net profits from this recording will go towards Americans for the Arts and their work to protect the NEA, support arts education and advocacy, and continue to fight for our beautiful industry and all that it does to foster community, creativity and economic growth.
Here are just some of the artists involved:
Broadway: Nick Adams (Chicago, A Chorus Line), Aaron Lazar (The Last Ship, The Light In the Piazza), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins), Liz Callaway (Cats, Miss Saigon, Hair), Bryan Terrell Clark (Hamilton), Carmen Cusack (Bright Star, Les Miserables in West End), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins, Beauty & the Beast), Julie Benko (Fiddler on the Roof), Lillias White (Fela!, The Life), Lexi Lawson (Hamilton, Rent), Liz Callaway (Cats, Miss Saigon, Baby), Telly Leung (In Transit, Allegiance, Glee), Ryan Silverman (Side Show, Chicago)
Television: Annie Golden (Orange Is The New Black), Forte Tenors (America’s Got Talent), Chris Mann (The Voice, Phantom of the Opera)
Viral: Peter Hollens (YouTube)
Singer (Opera/Rock/Choral): Chris Mann (The Voice, Phantom of the Opera), Cass Dillon, Lauren Jelencovitch (Yanni vocalist), Noah Stewart (Metropolitan Opera), Yale Glee Club
Spoken Word: Taylor Mali (TedTalk), Shanelle Gabriel (HBO’s Def Poetry Jam)
Cabaret: Natalie Douglas, KT Sullivan
The video and single will be release on March 21, 2017, after premiering at the opening ceremony of Americans for the Arts’ 30th Annual National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C.
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