“Raising the funds for those programs is an important as each note that is played.”- Alec Baldwin
Last night we returned home from what was an exhausting and amazing experience. For many of the first year students, it was our first time to advocate for an issue. Learning through such a hands-on event like Arts Advocacy Day gave us the skills to present our message loud and clear to the Senators and various representatives we met with.
The first day presented us with TONS and TONS of facts and figures. As past attendees know, this day really presents all of the facts and figures to make your case the next day. It was really interesting to hear from so many passionate people about how restoring the NEA budget meant to them. It was also great to meet so many passionate arts leaders and hear their story.
Highlights of the day for me were hearing Nina Ozlu, Chief Counsel of Government and Public Affairs & Executive Director, Americans for the Arts Action Fund give insight about the work she has done as well as any insight she could offer to us for the next days events. Nina's passion for arts advocacy is electric and you definitely see how much she loves advocating for the arts. It was also wonderful to hear from NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman talk about the NEA's newest program OUR TOWN which will help bring arts into the community and transform them into sustainable places with arts at the core. The program seems like a great idea that will really bring arts to various communities across the United States.
The highlight of day one was the annual Nancy Hanks lecture. It was widely known that noted actor and arts advocate Alec Baldwin would give the key note so it was very exciting knowing you would hear him speak. We all arrived at the beautiful Kennedy Center early to make sure we got the best seats possible for the lecture. The vibe in the room was amazing. So many passionate arts advocates who care deeply about their beliefs sat together to see powerful celebrities share their stories about how important the arts were to them. After a great into by AFTA President Bob Lynch, CSI Actor and Arts Advocacy Co-Chair Hill Harper spoke about the importance of the arts. Ben Folds played two great numbers and Pulitzer Prize Winning Journalist Maureen Dowd gave a wonderful into to the Baldwin speech.
Of course, we all know that Alec Baldwin has a problem of being completely incapable of expressing his feelings or sharing his emotions. He lives with the pressure of having a name associated with “being smokin’ hot.” -Maureen Dowd
Then it was time for the man to take the stage. Alec came out and immediately did a yoga pose (Referencing Dowd's mention of his engagement to recent yoga teacher Hilaria Thomas). Alec's speech was powerful and passionate. A fun fact he mentioned was that he donates all the money he makes from the Capitol One commercials to arts organizations.
An excerpt from the lecture:
"Despite what I do for a living, despite the potential to be surrounded by creativity with what I do every day in my field, I get my art the way you get your art; as a ticket holder, as an audience member, as a patron. And although I may eventually get in a shorter line than some of you, my love of the arts and for the artists is no different than yours. And I want as many people as possible to experience that regardless of income, where you live, or whether or not we elected representatives who get it."- Alec Baldwin
Day Two started off with a great kick-off in the Cannon Building with the Advocacy celebrities talking about the importance of the arts to them. It was great to hear from Alec again as well as Producer and Dancer Nigel Lythgoe. Here is a sampling of their thoughts (from artsblog)...
After the kick-off it was time to start the meetings, so all of the arts advocates took over Capitol Hill. We met with so many different representatives. My favorite being Stan White who serves as the Chief of Staff to Representative Bob Brady. Stan was interested to hear what we had to see and it was clear the Brady is a friend to the arts. The meeting made me feel empowered and that the work we were there to do was well-worth it. Stan talked with us about how the arts were really shaping the community in Philadelphia and how things such as the Mural Arts programs are really transforming areas of the city and the community. It was a great meeting and was refreshing to speak with someone who was really in-tune with what the arts community has done for the city of Philadelphia.
.In what seemed very fast, the meetings ended and we headed back to Philadelphia. Arts Advocacy Day is an all-around amazing experience. It is necessary for first year students to learn about advocacy in a hand's on setting like this conference presents. This experience will be one I will never forget and one I will speak about for years to come. Thanks so much to all our supporters and donors from the auction who afforded us the possibility to send 25 students to this event. Also, major thank you to Amy Gibbs, the AAGA Advocacy Director for her guidance and planning and AADM Alum and Cultural Alliance Government Relations Manager April Williamson for scheduling the meetings and guiding us through them.
Thanks for following along and I look forward to hearing next year's class tales of their time in Washington, D.C.
originally written my Eric Mathew Colton