ELOISE BLOG: This past Friday and Saturday I participated in meetings with 40 people who lead local arts agencies in large cities across the country. Top in everyone’s minds, of course, is the tornado roaring through national government. The participating leaders represent blue cities in blue states, blue cities in red states, and red cities in red states, so responses and actions vary accordingly. Adding to this political variety the opaque nature of the new administration’s decision making, the constant shifting of communications, and the day to day policy vacillations – charting a sensible set of responses and actions seems next to impossible. But we cannot wait.
The meetings were organized by Americans for the Arts, the leading arts advocacy organization based in DC, with participation also by our liaison to the National Endowment for the Arts. Since there has been so much focus on a recent article from The Hill, which reported that Trump plans to shut down the NEA and NEH and privatize NPR, I will start with comments from the NEA. The article is not ”news.” It mimics a position espoused by the Heritage Foundation in the 1970’s and which has popped up often. Obviously since these venerable institutions still exist the proposal has failed every time. Even staunch conservatives value what they are about. I don’t mean to suggest that Trump won’t try to cut costs this way, but reasonable experts are not yet convinced he would get his way with Congress on this one. Also troubling, though, is that the arts are funded through a number of other federal agencies beyond and richer than the NEA and those programs will also be under intense scrutiny.
Americans for the Arts is not in a position to aggressively advocate against the administration for fear of major retaliation, but is reaching out to influential people within current leadership who might be allies. It’s a political dance they are well qualified to do. They also have been calling out to everyone to strongly advocate for the values and beliefs this country was founded on and the important role arts, culture and humanities play in supporting these values. To learn more please visit http://artsactionfund.org/page/s/trump-arts-petition and sign the petition.
Our group talked at length about the many and varied ways to respond, resist, and reset. Leaders in solidly red states and cities in mixed situations have challenging opportunities for responses, but we all live and work in cities where individuals are still completely free to speak out, reach out, act out. We discussed the benefits of peaceful and positive voices and actions. Since we all stress the importance of equity and inclusion in our work, we agreed upon a core commitment to create a culture of “belonging”. We are all in this together. We need to publicly and prominently create displays of cultural unity slicing through the fear and negativity and focusing on the nation we want to be. After all our constitution opens with “we the people.”
Over the coming days, weeks and months RACC will meet with our local officials to discuss how we as a city and region will move this vital work forward. Please share with us what you as individuals want to do/are doing, how your networks, organizations and associations are responding, what questions need asking, and how together we can ensure that at least our part of this vast nation stays firmly on a positive path for all people. Thank you.
For six valuable action suggestions please see “Here’s What You Can Do To Protect National Arts and Culture Funding,” courtesy of Claire Fallon and The Huffington Post.