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Behind the Curtain

Arts Advocacy Day 2016
By Susan McGreevy-Nichols
Posted on 5/10/2016 4:18 PM
Guest Blogger Sabrina Francis, NDEO Spring 2016 Intern
Earlier this month NDEO has been all about advocating for the arts on Capitol Hill. Arts Advocacy Day is hosted by Americans for the Arts and is all about getting the word out there about how to expand the funding for arts education. Advocacy is defined as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy,” which is not to be confused with lobbying. I have never been to Arts Advocacy Day and I was a little nervous going into it. I learned a lot about the funding for the arts and how we are trying to get the right amount of funding to support the arts programs across America. As advocates we are asking congress to up our budget for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) from $148 million to about $155 million for the year FY17. The National Endowment for the Arts helps fund arts programs around the country. There are many benefits in supporting arts programs in schools. Americans for the Arts did a survey last in which 98% of the people surveyed believe that the arts are part of a well-rounded education. The arts also provide a good amount of economic stability. This is the reason we need to increase funding: we need to focus more on the arts to better our country academically and financially.

The arts are a growing industry; it is one of the only industries that is keeping up with inflation rates. As inflation rises the income and salaries for individuals involved in arts jobs rises. For example the median wage for 2014 was approximately $44,000 with an inflation rate average of 1.6%. This means ever year when the inflation rate raises so does the income for arts. There are 4.1 million jobs in the United States at the end of 2016 that are arts related. That accumulates to about 22.3 billion dollars in local and state government revenue. Wow that’s a lot. Another thing to think about is how tourist attractions are all arts related such as museums, concerts, Broadway shows, and much more. On average tourists spend about $24.00 a person on arts related activities, not including ticket prices for each event. The arts are bringing in even more revenue than you know. I found all of these facts surprising considering I was always told there aren’t a lot of jobs out there for artists.
Sitting through these classes was almost an information overload. Being a young college student, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, but I’m glad I attended. Even though I was overwhelmed I wasn’t alone; there were many college students there and they all felt the same way, especially if it was their first time here. After all, we are the future leaders of the world. We need to be informed. After being overwhelmed from all of the classes I took a deep breath and let all the information soak in so I could have the knowledge and skills to advocate on the Hill the next day.

Nancy Hanks lecture:

After the full day of lectures I attended the Nancy Hanks Lecture series at the Kennedy Center. I have never been to the Kennedy Center and I was so excited to be there. Walking up to the huge building I was just in awe! The building was absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I was in awe with everything about it, from the amazing art work to how high the celling was, the comfortable seats, even the lighting fixtures. Walking into the Eisenhower Theater for the first time ever gave me chills; seeing the big stage and all the seats in it was just an experience of a lifetime. After the overload of information all day it was great to sit back and enjoy the lecture and let it all sink in.
The lecture was all about how to turn STEM learning (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) into STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). This is an important transition that needs to be made to better our schools and economy. United State Representative Suzanne Bonamici from the first district of Oregon started the Congressional STEAM Caucus and is trying to get as many people on board as possible. She is truly dedicated to this program and making it come to life. She is well spoken and connected to everything that has to do with STEAM. The Keynote Speaker was John Meada, another strong advocator for STEAM. John Meada is a technological designer who believes that arts shouldn’t be frowned upon. If it wasn’t for arts he wouldn’t be where he is today. Being a creative artist isn’t a bad thing; some if not all of the most successful people in the world are creative artists. He is an artist as well as a technological entrepreneur. He believes all kids need to be exposed to the arts I agree. After all the arts offer a well-rounded education that lets kids engage on a different level.

The Day on Capitol Hill:

After a full day of lectures and a special performance we finally arrived on Capitol Hill to speak to Congress about arts funding. In the morning we attended a breakfast and heard a few Congressmen talk about their view on the arts and why they support us. I was surprised that some in Congress agree that the arts improve learning and promote better learning environments. We also heard some amazing young artists tell their stories about how the arts helped them become who they are today. It was reassuring to hear those great stories and it was a great start to the day. Educating the younger generations about the issues that are happening regarding the arts is almost more important that informing Congress. We are the next people to be in the Congressional offices; we need to spread the word to the younger generation as well as Congress.
After the breakfast we were sent on our way to talk to Congress and begin advocating and educating. I would say that the day was very successful and we definitely got our facts out there. Talking to Congress was scary to me at first; they are the most important people in the country when it comes to funding and budgeting. I though they weren’t going to listen to a thing we said because they didn’t care, but they proved me wrong. Surprisingly, Congress is more open to the arts than I thought. Yes, there are the stubborn ones who don’t like the arts and want to cut our funding, but a lot of them were really open to the idea. This made me think to myself, if they are so supportive of the arts why aren’t we getting the funding and support we need? One would think that with all this support behind the arts it would be better taken care of.
Overall, being in that environment was rewarding; everyone there was there for the same reason. We all want to increase arts funding so that we can better the country. I would say we successfully got Congress thinking about the importance of the arts community and why it needs to be better funded!
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