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Arts Advocacy: Four Easy Steps
Haley Gordon, Director of Government Affairs, OPERA America
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Opera America Magazine6/1/2008

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Hundreds of arts advocates traveled to Washington, D.C. at the end of March to lobby Congress to support federal policies that would benefit the arts. As part of Arts Advocacy Day 2008, OPERA America members expressed their concerns in House and Senate offices about the President’s FY09 budget request, which proposes significant cuts to arts and cultural programs. They also described the multitude of issues that affect the opera field — from federal funding and visa processing for foreign guests artists to international cultural exchange and charitable giving incentives.

Advocates also responded to recent press accounts and public comments that have questioned the value of the arts in comparison to other parts of the nonprofit sector in America. While there is no direct legislative proposal under consideration in Congress, it is clear there is a lack of understanding both among the general public and on Capitol Hill of the value of our field.

Arts Advocacy Day is a wonderful opportunity for the performing arts sector to gather and demonstrate the importance of arts in their lives. However, truly effective advocacy requires year-round efforts from stakeholders across the country — artists, administrators, trustees and volunteers.

What YOU Can Do: Four Easy Steps
1. Learn about the federal policies that affect the performing arts. Visit the American Arts Alliance (www.americanartsalliance.org) for advocacy tools and resources.
2. Connect with your local and state arts advocacy organizations. Your voice is stronger in coalition.
3. Learn about the Presidential candidates’ arts policy platforms. Visit the ArtsVote2008 Web site at www.artsactionfund.org/artsvote.
4. Communicate the public benefit of the arts:
  • Nonprofit arts organizations improve the quality of life by contributing to lifelong learning, preserving our cultural heritage and fostering the creative expression that tells the story of our personal and collective histories.
  • In communities large and small across the country, nonprofit arts organizations engage the public in a diverse array of cultural and artistic experiences. Arts organizations offer communities a significant number of free events and provide public access to the arts through online resources and distance learning opportunities.
  • Ticket sales and admission fees alone do not come close to subsidizing the artistic presentations, educational offerings and community-based programming of nonprofit arts organizations. A significant percentage of direct financial support for nonprofit arts organizations is derived from charitable giving. Without this support, public access to the arts would be greatly diminished.
  • Diverse types of charitable giving comprise support for arts organizations large and small: individual contributions; planned giving; family, business and corporate foundation grants; in-kind contributions; and gifts of art.
  • Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry generates $166.2 billion in economic activity every year — $63.1 billion in spending by organizations and an additional $103.1 billion in related spending by their audiences.
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