January 26, 2017
Dear Americans for the Arts Members and Friends,
I am writing to you today about the status of federal funding for the arts in the new Administration and U.S. Congress and about what you should do right now and over the coming months.
Last week on Thursday, January 19, I sent our Americans for the Arts members, stakeholders, and constituents at the local, state, and national levels an alert calling attention to an article in The Hill newspaper which reported that two Trump transition team advisors are recommending elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and privatization of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. I was asked to respond to this troubling news and gave interviews in the following publications: Washington Post, Variety, The Hill, and Paste Magazine among others.
Also last Thursday, Nina Ozlu Tunceli, executive director of our affiliated grassroots advocacy organization Americans for the Arts Action Fund, sent an action alert outlining four quick action steps to its members. The Arts Action Fund website www.ArtsActionFund.org will continue to have the most up-to-date information about ongoing advocacy efforts and actions to take regarding federal funding for the arts. The Arts Action Fund is also working with state arts advocacy groups on a coordinated campaign that will be released next week.
Today, I sent a letter to President Trump asking him to preserve federal funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. But I would like the next letter that I send to the President to be accompanied by a petition signed by 100,000 Arts Action Fund members which can be found here. Over the coming weeks, I expect that there will be a number of opinion articles and targeted attacks regarding public funding for the arts. To help further explain what is—or isn’t—happening right now, Americans for the Arts has prepared a few FAQs from questions the staff have already fielded. We also need to organize and galvanize our forces. Please sign the petition and get at least five of your friends to do the same so we can raise our collective and individual voices with precision and in a unified manner.
I believe our collective job in the arts community is to tell our story and make our case again and again at the federal, state, and local levels. Below are the action steps I hope you will take as soon as possible:
- Take two minutes to contact your two Senators and your House representatives now.
- Join the Arts Action Fund (for free) so we can get alerts to you as quickly as possible and you can respond to decision-makers fast.
- Work to get other colleagues to join the Arts Action Fund. We ask that you pledge to reach out to at least five board, staff, members, or audience members. Two national partners, the Association of Writers & Writing Programs and Blick Art Supply, brought in 42,000 members and 37,000 customers respectively to become arts advocates for our cause.
- Register to attend National Arts Advocacy Day on March 20–21 in Washington, DC where you can add your voice in person.
- Inform us of any specific actions impacting the arts in your community as a result of the President’s new executive order on sanctuary cities. Please send an e-mail to Ruby Harper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is what you can do now, but we will circle back to you at several points along the timeline below to customize and target messages as the process unfolds.
We’ve created a Rapid Response Team here and put together a general timeline of what to expect:
- The White House will issue dozens of sweeping executive orders and form new policy positions within the first 90 days.
- Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund will release a coordinated petition, grassroots advocacy, social media, and advertising campaign in early February.
- The President will address a joint session of Congress on February 28, 2017, and will likely present the Administration’s FY 2018 budget around this time.
- Americans for the Arts is set to present National Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill on March 21, 2017.
- The U.S. House of Representatives and specifically the House Appropriations Subcommittees will set initial FY 2018 funding levels for every federal agency in the Spring (March–May) of this year.
- The federal government’s current FY 2017 Continuing Resolution Appropriations expires April 28, 2017, and we need to keep a watchful eye on continuation of federal funding for the arts through the entire fiscal year ending September 30, 2017.
- The U.S. Senate and Senate Appropriation Subcommittees will finalize their positions by July 4.
- A final conference committee agreement between the House and the Senate will be reached by leaders from these committees by September/October.
At the national level, Americans for the Arts will continue to coordinate with national, state, and local arts groups on advocacy efforts through:
- Ongoing strategizing with our national arts service organization colleagues, especially the 85 national partners of National Arts Advocacy Day, on direct lobbying.
- Ongoing strategizing with our local arts, state arts, and arts education advocacy colleagues, including the 50+ members of our State Arts Action Network, on grassroots lobbying.
- Expanding and re-targeting our national advertising strategy.
- Continuing press and interview pursuits such as the interviews from over this past weekend.
- Strategizing with, and involving, key pro-arts leaders from business, government, and the arts who connect well with the new Administration.
- Identifying incoming White House staff liaisons to the arts sector.
Just yesterday, President Trump signed an Executive Order that could potentially deny certain cities, such as sanctuary cities, billions of dollars in federal grants, including NEA funds, if they do not follow new immigration enforcement protocols. Americans for the Arts is already developing strategies about a number of issues related to federal arts funding, and we are proactively investigating new opportunities for arts funding in the coming months; an example is legislation regarding expanding our nation’s infrastructure.
Finally, we are seeing that the current efforts to eliminate the NEA seem to be based on old Heritage Foundation arguments formulated more than two decades ago. Even though these arguments are dated, that does not mean they won’t have weight with new legislative listeners. The argument to eliminate or slash federal arts funding comes up every year, and your collective efforts have stopped that from happening in the past. But in the current political environment, it is critical that all of us redouble our efforts.
I think it is good to know what claims might be put forth so that we are all prepared with locally based strategies and answers. To help with this, our team is preparing rebuttals to each of these potential arguments which will be posted on the Americans for the Arts and Action Fund websites and forwarded to Arts Action Fund members. This information can help you make a case for federal funding with your congressional representatives.
Americans for the Arts is committed to working with you to ensure that all Americans have access to the arts and that we protect and cultivate funding for the arts on the local, state, and federal level.
Thank you for your hard work.
Robert L. Lynch
President and CEO
Americans for the Arts