Art in Politics: Why Both Matter
I was bad at marching band. I would sometimes pretend my instrument was not working because freshmen could play circles around me, and I was embarrassed by my inability to create music and walk at the same time. But there was something magnetic about it. There was something magnetic about a community of people who simply loved music. That energy translated to the dusty halls of my high school’s theatre department and my English teacher’s class after school when I would return books I had borrowed. Art has shaped my entire childhood and now, I am a senior graduating American University with a dual degree in Political Science and CLEG (Communications, Law, Economics, and Government), and a minor in Literature. As I leave school to figure out my life a little more, art continues to shape everything that I do and every part of who I am.
When I found the internship at Americans for the Arts, I was beyond excited. I could not believe an internship existed that combined my two passions: art and government. As their Government and Public Affairs intern, both my appreciation for reading a new book and reading a new piece of legislation are regarded with equal importance. While I love issues in public policy, my Literature minor has created some of the most important space for me to grow and learn while attending school. Both passions connect with each other in a way I was not expecting. And while I am happy to have found something that combines what I love, that is not the only reason I intern at Americans for the Arts.
Every day at work, I am reminded that the intersection between art and government continues to grow in importance. Funding, allocation, and government spending is essential to developing our education system. While I had access to be bad at marching band, not everyone does. I intern for Americans for the Arts because advocating for equitable access to art and arts education vastly improves our education system. Research shows that marginalized communities consistently have little to no access to arts education in schools. Some of the most diverse voices are being shut out of conversations and art creation. We are left with an education system that refuses to elevate some of the most integral voices in diversity for our dialogue and our art. I had the privilege of art shaping my entire childhood, but there are some places youth have no access to art at all due to systemic inequality in our education system. Not only should art include all identities; it should celebrate them.
Next month, Americans for the Arts is hosting Arts Advocacy Day, where hundreds of arts advocates gather together to share why art is important to them. Some will share stories of how art has helped family members suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in the military. Others will talk about creative jobs fueling a local economy. Artists may come with photos of how their public art has brought a community together. Others will talk about how grants received from the National Endowments for the Arts have provided spaces for creatives to give back to their neighborhoods.
I love Arts Advocacy Day because it puts the people in front of the years of research indicating that art brings people together, heals, and transcends boundaries. We get to see advocates promote their passions, self-care, afterschool programs, projects, and the millions of other ways art bleeds into everything we do.
Funding and supporting art projects elevates creative, diverse voices. And those art projects can even change public policy, whether that be through provocative protest art or dialogue shifting after a local dance class performs their work in a community center. Art and advocacy are not two separate forces coming together for this event. They are one in the same, and our advocates know that better than anyone—after all, the force behind arts advocacy is the people.