Thanks and Gratitude for My Arts Advocacy Village

Posted by John Schratwieser, Jun 12, 2017 0 comments

A few weeks ago, I attended a gala for a nonprofit arts organization. At the start, the director of this organization stood up to talk about the need for community support and about some of the accomplishments of the organization. This person then went on to thank the paid staff and talk about how hard they work, and how much time and energy it takes to run this organization. All the while, the volunteer board chair stood to the side—about a dozen volunteers had taken tickets, ushered patrons, served drinks, etc., etc. … I think you get my point.

In my seven years as Director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts (MCA), and my five years as Director of the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theater, Chestertown, MD, I have worked with hundreds of volunteers, be they board members, letter stuffers, wine servers, budget testimony panelists, and more. We do not achieve status as members of the “beloved community” by singing our own praises, and ignoring the commitment and dedication of those who volunteer their time with us. We do not achieve this by saying “our doors are open to all” and then sitting inside those open doors and waiting for “them” to come.

The role of a nonprofit arts organization is fairly unique, and yet critical to the quality of life and economic vitality of a community, town, city, or state.

Americans for the Arts has graciously bestowed upon me the 2017 Alene Valkanas Award for State Arts Advocacy for my work at MCA. I am grateful, but I share this award with every board member, volunteer, member organization, donor, and advocate who took time out of their own day to help me do my work and achieve MCA’s goals.

We must remember the catch phrases: “no man is an island,” “it takes a village,” “we are stronger together.” Without these, without those who give of their time and resources freely, we are nothing but another cog in a wheel. As I embark on my next chapter as Director of the Kent County Arts Council, I am grateful for the honor of receiving this award, but I proudly share it with all those people who connected to this cause, and made it possible for us to be successful!

Since 2007, the Alene Valkanas State Arts Advocacy Award has honored an individual whose arts advocacy efforts have dramatically affected the political landscape at the state level.

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