The Significance of Arts Advocacy: A Graduate Student Perspective

Posted by Jerelle Jenkins, Feb 24, 2017 1 comment

W.E.B. DuBois once said that we should “begin with art, because art tries to take us outside ourselves. It is a matter of trying to create an atmosphere and context, so conversation can flow black and forth and we can be influenced by each other.” As I read this quote during the final stretch of my undergrad years at Saint Louis University, I had just became an art history minor. Though I held a deep admiration for visual arts as well as the critical analysis of the work, I had absolutely no idea where I would end up with a liberal arts degree. It was not until I was perusing the internet that I was drawn to American University’s Arts Management program. I enjoyed reading about the reputation of the program, the significance of cultural policy, leadership in a non-profit arts organization, and what it meant to be an arts advocate in today’s society. By the end of that week, I had applied to the program in pursuit of a Master’s Degree.

Now, a little over a year later, I have been fortunate enough to not only be a full-time student of the Arts Management program but also the Government and Public Affairs intern at Americans for the Arts. Interning for Americans for the Arts was at the top of my list for two reasons. For starters, I knew that I would exit the internship opportunity a more confident and holistic arts advocate. Art and history museums hold a very special place in my heart. I am passionate about their continued operation as well as sustainability, their accessibility to all people, and the collections entrusted within them. Therefore, I am dedicated to improving upon cultural heritage preservation (for all ethnic cultures and indigenous peoples worldwide) and K-12 education programming, preserving charitable giving incentives, as well as figuring out reasonable and fair solutions to state or federal funding.

However, like DuBois stated, art is meant to take us outside of ourselves so that we can create context and eventually engage in conversation with each other. What this means to me is that a good arts advocate is aware of the issues faced by other artistic disciplines such as theater, music, and dance, and is determined to enact necessary and effective change. Americans for the Arts has exposed me to numerous non-profits that produce wonderful art for their audience members and visitors who consult with Americans for the Arts to further their own arts advocacy work in their local communities.

The second reason why an internship with Americans for the Arts was a priority for me is that working in the Government and Public Affairs division of a large, non-profit organization has afforded me a change of perspective about the arts, one that I could not gain simply in the classroom. I have begun to learn that there are innumerable artistic professions and fields, some that I had absolutely no idea existed before this internship. Though I personally have a deep love for museums, there is someone else who may be incredibly passionate about art therapy and its power to heal post-traumatic stress disorder in military veterans. That same person or organization is most likely fighting for more support for creative arts therapy interventions in behavioral health treatments and services under the Department of Health and Human Services Programs.

Americans for the Arts has revealed to me that the arts are forever impactful and life-changing. It is a field that we can apply to almost every part of our lives, and without major arts organizations like the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, our lives would be less colorful, less vibrant and lack serious amounts of diversity.

On that note, Americans for the Arts’ upcoming Arts Advocacy Day is sure to foster unity and cohesion which will encourage hundreds of people to fight to maintain their favorite and most cherished arts and humanities programs. Though this will be my first time attending the two-day event, I am confident that I will gain the tools that I need as an arts management student and as future museum professional to advocate for the arts. To paraphrase DuBois, art was designed for its viewers/recipients to influence each other; and as an arts advocate at Arts Advocacy Day, it will be our time to strongly guide each other toward a future where the arts is efficiently cultivated, abundant, and creating change in all pockets of the world. 

This post is part of a series of advocacy blogs leading up to Arts Advocacy Day 2017. Read more advocacy blogs here.

1 responses for The Significance of Arts Advocacy: A Graduate Student Perspective

Comments says
February 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm

Ms. Jenkins, I really enjoyed this article and as I read it, I am reminded of the importance of our work. Needed that push today, thanks.
Jason Vasser - Missouri Arts Council

  • Please login to post comments.