Time to Celebrate—and fight for—the Arts and Culture!
Recognizing Counties for their Work in Promoting the Arts and Culture
Did you know that NACo (the National Association of Counties), along with Americans for the Arts, recognize counties for their arts and culture achievements?
Beginning in 1999, Americans for the Arts, in partnership with NACo, began presenting its Public Leadership in the Arts Award to a county or county official who has worked to advance the arts and arts education within their county and whose vision and leadership provide heightened visibility to the value of the arts. Our first awardee was former NACo Chair Betty Lou Ward of Wake County, NC. Over the past 18 years, we have honored both individuals and counties for their outstanding and unique work.
Further, NACo presents its own award. The NACo Arts and Culture Award is designed to recognize county governments for their efforts to enrich American cultural and intellectual life, promote lifelong learning, and protect our national heritage. These efforts include activities from arts education to historic preservation to the support of local museums, cultural institutions and nonprofit arts organizations.
The awards are presented at the NACo Annual Conference (this year’s event will be held July 21-24 in Franklin County, Ohio) and nominations are currently open. You can nominate yourself or your colleague for the Americans for the Arts Award here; or submit a nomination for the NACo award here.
2016 Arts Awardee Profile—Dow Constantine, King County Executive
Dow Constantine has been an avid supporter of arts and culture for his entire political career in King County (WA), not just through words of support, but in actions that have enhanced the position of the arts and culture as a critical element of a healthy society, an important factor in civic engagement, and a key part of King County’s economic development strategy. Without the leadership of Executive Constantine, the state legislature would not have voted to extend the use of lodging taxes for cultural programs in King County.
When Executive Constantine became county executive in 2009, he joined the long state legislative effort to preserve funding for arts and culture in King County, which comes primarily from a portion of lodging taxes (hotel/motel) originally authorized by the state in 1967 to construct a major-league baseball stadium in Seattle (the Kingdome). The use of these tax revenues to support cultural programs in King County was scheduled to sunset at the end of 2012. Without action by the state legislature before the end of 2012 to extend the use of lodging taxes for cultural programs in King County, arts and cultural organizations would lose funding and many would have to shut their doors. Executive Constantine made numerous treks to Olympia, the state capitol, to testify at committee hearings, meet with state legislators, and spend political capital to persuade the state to continue arts funding in King County, the economic engine of the entire state. He succeeded at the very end (last bill passed, last day) of the 2011 extended legislative session. More recently, in June of 2015, Executive Constantine announced a partnership between the county and 4Culture to back a $28 million bond financed through future lodging taxes to support cultural capital projects in every corner of the county. It is the largest investment in arts and culture ever undertaken by King County.
From his volunteer work in historic preservation, to his service as an ex officio member of the 4Culture Board of Directors, to his use of the executive office to champion arts and culture in the Washington State legislature, Dow Constantine embodies leadership at the county level.
Advocating for the Arts—Now more important than ever!
Following with Executive Constantine’s work to advocate for arts funding at the state level, today more than ever we must all take action to advocate for the preservation of arts funding at the federal level. As we all know, President Trump released his “skinny budget” on March 15. As NACo has pointed out, the proposal includes massive budget cuts (more than $54 billion in cuts to domestic programs in one year alone). As you might also know, the administration’s proposal calls for termination of funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). This is the first American President in history to propose zeroing out all funding for the nation’s federal cultural agencies.
Luckily, Americans for the Arts had scheduled Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill for the next Tuesday. In other words, the timing was perfect for 711 advocates from almost all 50 states to converge on Congress to express their strong support for the NEA and NEH. Further, in the two weeks after the announcement of the proposed elimination, advocates have sent over 157,000 emails to Capitol Hill reaching every Senate and Congressional office. Both the 711 advocates for Arts Advocacy Day and the 157,000 emails on a single topic are not only records, but they have smashed the previous high water marks.
Americans will continue to lead the fight to #SavetheNEA and we encourage you to checkout our Arts Mobilization Center where you can get up to date information such as position statements and read opinion pieces such as Governor Mike Huckabee’s letter supporting fully funding the NEA.
This post originally appeared on the National Association of Counties blog.