Friday, January 23, 2009

Yes We Can!


It seems a bit brighter these days, winter always turns to spring. Particularly with this new government leadership comes great opportunity for individual responsibility. As President Obama stated in his Inauguration speech, "What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."

So again I ask what is our responsibility to dance? I would love to think that just creating the art is enough, but alas now more than ever our jobs (particularly the artists themselves) extend beyond "creators" and "doers".

I read a story in Newsweek recently about a governmentfunded abstinence campaign in the schools created by former President Bush. The campaign has received more than $1 billion dollars in government allotments. For 2008, according to Medical News Today , the Community Based Abstinence Education which "gives grants to groups that teach abstinence but not how to use contraception" received an allocation of $141 million. Yet according to the National Endowment for the Arts page, for the same fiscal year the government appropriated $144.7 million for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Comparing the two numbers the NEA only receives $4 million more, yet its programs cover both education and private non-profit arts organizations in a variety of disciplines.

Again what can we "doers" do? The first and easiest thing is to join the current campaign through the Performing Artist Alliance and petition your local legislators to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. I just sent a letter to my sentaors and house representatives that reads,

"On behalf of my performing arts organization, I am writing to express our strong support for the inclusion of $50 million in funding for the National Endowment for the Arts in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. Among the numerous benefits included in this bill, support for the arts is an essential part of our nation's recovery and investment in a vibrant and creative economy-based future. I urge you to support the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009."

It was online, easy and free!

There is also recently a petition, driven by Quincy Jones, that has already complied over 76,000 signatures advocating for a cabinent level postion for the arts (sign up here). An article in the Washington Post cites a few top arts leaders in response to this momentum:

"Whether you call it a minister of culture or not, it would be wonderful to have someone with a policy role to coordinate arts education, cultural diplomacy and support for arts organizations. Those activities are not coordinated but divided among many offices," said Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

"We need a voice that looks broadly," said Robert Lynch, president of Americans for the Arts, a national lobbying group. He is advocating a senior position, not necessarily a Cabinet post. "We are calling for a person at the executive office level who understands there is a National Endowment for the Arts, but also understands the arts portfolio in the Education Department, the State Department -- and in addition to the nonprofits arts, is looking at cultural tourism, broadband access and trade through records, movies and videos."

No matter what it is our responsibility and the time is now. Advocacy is a great tool. With the momentum of a new day it is time for us "doers" to move advocacy to the top of our to-do list!

1 comment:

Matthew said...

Well said. the other thing is the role that the arts can play in economic stimulus. Dollars invested in local arts organizations come back many times over in increased economic activity. The arts can revitalize communities and provide jobs that extend well beyond the artist. This administration gets it -- let's hope a real, sustained investment in the arts community is part of this stimulus package!