Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts!

Posted by Americans for the Arts, Jan 05, 2012 10 comments

Happy New Year 2012

In 2012, Americans for the Arts resolves to invigorate political discourse and the nation by continuing to spotlight the importance of the arts in America. Artists, teachers, arts managers and professionals, lawmakers, administrators, and advocates are integral to this mission.

This election year, the urgency is growing to have political candidates and office holders understand how arts are vital to our communities. We ask that you make your own resolutions this year by responding to this question:

How can the arts energize the political dialogue in your community this election year?

Here are some insightful responses to get you thinking. Add yours in the comments below!

First I want the political dialogue to be in part about the arts themselves. That only happens if we ask related questions of the candidates whether in person at events or in writing or online. For example does a local, state, or federal candidate know that there are 5.7 million jobs created by nonprofit arts organizations in America? What is that candidate going to do to keep advancing that arts industry? Or does the candidate know that support for the arts is a very conservative model in the United States, where public money, federal, state, and local combined, is less than nine percent of the income of the nonprofit arts in America? That nine percent, however, stimulates an industry with $187 billion of economic impact, so what is the candidate going to do to keep that conservative job-producing model going by maintaining or advancing the small bit of leverage investment that is made with public dollars?
-Robert Lynch, President & CEO, Americans for the Arts

With redistricting, a lot is changing for state and federal representation. There will be many contested races. The arts community should be ready to talk with candidates and get them on the record with positions on the arts. Arts leaders and arts supporters should get involved personally with campaigns and bring their creativity with them to spice up campaign events, communications, and fundraisers. 
-Barbara Schaffer Bacon, Animating Democracy Co-Director, Americans for the Arts

Just ask the question: What is your stand on supporting the arts? This has created quite the conversation among our political and business groups!
-Meri Mass, Executive Director, Polk Arts Alliance

If approached the right way this could send a positive message -- not a cap in hand or entitled one. I think refocusing the perspective towards arts nonprofits as small business as opposed to charities is essential. To do this efforts have to be made to give the business community and the politicians tools for the conversation. If investment (as opposed to donations) can be given a foothold using job creation and downtown, economic, community development examples -- we can stay in the conversation and make progress. Small business, for-profit creative industry projects, and arts nonprofit collaborative efforts with results will make an impact with a receptive audience. Not everyone is receptive, but those who are when given examples of growth and success will begin to champion at least at a base level.
-Jim Sparrow, Executive Director, Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne

I resolve to use my personal Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels to ensure that my friends and colleagues understand how critical it is during an election year to advocate for the arts. Whether it’s tweeting at politicians or getting a dialogue started on Facebook, social media is a potent way to share the value of the arts and help politicians and government officials see that the arts create jobs, contribute significantly to the economy, and make our communities better places to live.
-Graham Dunstan, Director of Marketing & Communications, Americans for the Arts

Energize and expand greater commitments from arts advocates to participate in the political dialogue. Effectively engage ourselves and others to pay closer attention to candidates and their views. Listen, reach out, inform, and build more meaningful relationships with candidates and those already in office about the substantial economic and qualitative value of the arts. Assess the best access points for us to participate in the political dialogue; be prepared to share reliable and powerful messages, facts, and our personal stories about the arts; engage, where appropriate, in candidates and campaigns; determine who are the best candidates on issues important to us; and vote. Our voices, our votes matter.
-Sherron Long, Chair, State Arts Action Network/President, Florida Cultural Alliance

10 responses for Happy New Year from Americans for the Arts!


Mr. Gregory Fiedler says
January 09, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I totally agree with this. I know many republicans who support the arts. (They are not from Flint, Michigan as we don't elect republicans here).

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January 11, 2012 at 9:40 am

To help keep your message clear, make a fact sheet with information for your community to give to other arts advocates...How many arts groups? total funds raised in the community for arts activities? How many performances given? etc.. Just some way of getting real information that shows the scope and vitality of the arts so each person who speaks to a policy maker can have statistics that provide the policy maker with facts ... then each arts advocate can add their own story. Stories with facts give the policy maker a way to support the arts and to be persuasive with his or her colleagues. Give them some ammunition!!!

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January 11, 2012 at 3:15 pm

I am interested in how arts experiences/events/performances create opportunities for everyone to "practice" civic or political participation. In this was participation in the arts models and encourages productive/positive participation in society. How often do we have a values-based conversation with more/less a community of strangers (e.g. an audience)? So how can the arts energize the political dialogue in your community this election year? By reminding us the power is in our hands, we can control the conversation, and it doesn't have to be evasive surface-level conversations.

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January 06, 2012 at 10:53 am

I totally agree with Meri Mass: just ask the question! Ask it at candidate forums. Ask it on candidate surveys. In addition to the main question ("what is your position on public support for the arts?") - ask if the candidates have attended any arts or cultural events in their communities. (If not, they need to be invited.) Finally, the election process provides a great opportunity to educate elected officials and candidates on what the arts bring to their districts.

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January 06, 2012 at 11:42 am

Like me, many participate in the arts through community theatres, church choirs, garage bands, etc. I feel it is my responsibility as an informed member of the arts community to pass key information forward to other members of my community arts groups so they can feel empowered to advocate and talk about the arts to not just the political community but to their friends, co-workers, and family. Greater numbers will help get the message across to that the arts are vital to our communities.

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January 06, 2012 at 11:52 am

Know what else I would like? I would like to encourage artists to get involved in the political dialogue in my community whether it is through poetry, drawing, performance pieces, music or storytelling. The voice and images created by artists are powerful, encourage people to think in new ways and can spark a response from politicians that may not be achieved any other way. And I don’t just mean celebrities. I think the artists and arts leaders in our communities can initiate dialogue in meaningful ways and in engaging spaces. Open your theatres, museums, public spaces and invite the politicians to listen and share.

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Mr. Gregory Fiedler says
January 06, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I finished 2011 by finding out where Dan Kildee stands on public funding for the arts. I belong to the Genesee County Democratic Party Club 225. We meet monthly for lunch with an average attendance of 75. Dan Kildee was our guest speaker at our Dec. meeting. Dan Kildee is the front runner for the house position being vacated by his uncle, Dale Kildee. Dale has been an exemplary supporter of public funding for arts/cultural programs in the house.

During Q&A, I asked Dan where he stood on public funding for arts/cultural programs including education.

Dan maintains the position that public funding for the arts is necessary to create access for all people regardless of their socioeconomic status or any other factor that would otherwise stand between an individual and artistic/cultural experiences.

Dan has a long history of holding political offices dating back to the Flint School Board when he was a teenager. He deserves all the support we can give him. Once elected, he will support the arts.

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Jill says
January 06, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Know the back stories of your politicians!!! Aren't back stories important to what a creative approach to education is all about? I am a C&I doctoral candidate focused on art(s)integration. Last semester I contacted, interviewed, and most importantly, made contact with a politician who could make a difference. I chose the republican representative of my district because, at the time, I thought needed convicing. Through the interview I found out that she served as chairman of the state arts commission, currently serves on the education committee, has a degree in speech and drama,and voted to allow a state fine arts charter school to be established. The bottom line, learn the politicians. Art is non-partisan.

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January 07, 2012 at 1:03 pm


I would love to learn more about your research. I am a director of a community arts school in florida with a 12 year partnership program in arts integration with our school district.

Your comment is so true and it goes both ways, learn how they vote as well I have been told by some that they are pro but their voting record does not show it.

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Jill says
January 07, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Joyce, as I am nearing ABD in C&I - Language, Literacy, and Culture, my dissertation (at this point in time) will focus on my project with special needs teens and young adults and the impacts of theater on learning. Please visit my blog, "Communication for All" at http://melojill.blogspot.com/to learn more about this project. I will be posting more information as my experiences evolve into research. Thank you for your interest and I would like to learn more about your experiences. Jill

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