This year’s National Arts Advocacy Day in Washington, DC had an undercurrent of energy that came from word that the President had proposed, just days earlier, elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts for FY2018. Over 700 people attended National Arts Advocacy Day sponsored by Americans for the Arts, and New Jersey’s delegation of 40, coordinated by ArtPride NJ, was the largest in NJ history. There were veterans who had attended previous years with of training and visiting the offices of NJ congressional representatives, and many who were first timers, learning facts and figures and understanding how best to make the case for federal support of the arts and humanities. We learned about how NEA funding affects the arts in New Jersey, and from each other we learned not to fear the short time allotted for advocating, but how to make the best use of that time with fresh approaches to storytelling.
In advance of the convening, ArtPride held a webinar for attendees to answer questions and explain the two-day event that included intensive advocacy training along with the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy, this year presented by Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. Mr. Walker’s powerful remarks were compelling and portrayed how he became familiar with the arts as a child, perusing art magazines that his mother brought home from her job as a domestic in a wealthy household where attending cultural performances was a part of life, far removed from his own experience. He emphasized what we all felt deeply as arts advocates–that the arts are not a special interest, but a national interest that strengthens who we are.
Besides saving and increasing funding for the national cultural agencies, policy issues included arts education and support of all arts disciplines as part of a “well-rounded education” stipulated in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Representatives who are not currently part of the Congressional STEAM Caucus were invited to show their support for the arts in STEM by joining over 75 other members. The fact that arts programs are now eligible for through ESSA for Title 1 funds and other federal resources, was also stressed to elected officials.
If you were not able to attend National Arts Advocacy Day, there is still action you can take to help #SavetheNEA. The federal budget process is a long one that extends throughout the summer months to come. Visit ArtPride NJ’s online NEA toolkit for data on NEA grants in New Jersey, and information that will inform your personal communication with members of US Congress. From email to postcards to phone calls to social media, there are plenty of ways to keep this message alive and assure that federal funding remains in the budget and will help New Jersey arts programs continue to grow and thrive.
Ann Marie Miller
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy
ArtPride New Jersey Foundation