Caitlin Bellet and Amanda Matta are students in the Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program.
Was this your first time to Washington, D.C.? Did you have any advocacy experience/ knowledge before the trip? This was my second time visiting Washington, D.C.! This trip and my previous visit were very quick - so I fully intend to go back for a longer amount of time. In regards to having advocacy experience/knowledge prior to attending Museum Advocacy Day, I have only ever learned about and discussed advocacy, its effectiveness, and value to the arts while taking courses in the Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program. It was a great experience to take what I have been learning about, advocacy for the arts, and applying those skills at a conference that is specific to advocating for museums.
What ultimately made you decide to take this trip? I chose to attend Museums Advocacy Day because I am passionate about museums and their cultural and economic impacts across America. As an emerging arts professional, I think it is important for the next generation of arts/culture leaders to be on the front lines in Washington, D.C. meeting with politicians and expressing the significance that museums have to ALL of their constituents. I also chose to take this trip in part because Drexel’s Arts Administration & Museum Leadership program is a big supporter of sending its graduate students to valuable conferences such as Museums Advocacy Day in order to gain practical administrative experience.
What was your favorite part of the trip, overall? My favorite part of Museums Advocacy Day overall was getting to network and connect with other museum professionals/advocates from all across the country, and learn about their advocacy experiences over the years. I also really enjoyed getting to visit the various congressional offices and meet with representatives and staff who were also very passionate about the importance of the arts and museums.
What is your favorite learning experience from the trip? My favorite learning experience from this trip was being able to participate in a conversation about the post-midterm election climate on Capitol Hill and hearing from current politicians and congressional staff that the political climate in both the House and the Senate are not as awful as the media makes it seem. It was very empowering to learn that a majority of the newly elected politicians on Capitol Hill are eager to listen to constituents and participate in advocating for issues that the American people find significant.
What will you take away from your advocacy experience and apply to the future? This experience taught me that having conversations and taking action really go a long way in expressing the importance of the arts to all Americans. After attending Museums Advocacy Day, I have learned that I can always be an advocate for museums and the arts industry regardless of where I am!
Was this your first time to Washington, D.C.? Did you have any advocacy experience/ knowledge before the trip? This wasn’t my first time to D.C. but it was my first time advocating for anything.
What ultimately made you decide to take this trip? I decided to go to Museums Advocacy Day because I wanted to be part of the action and learn from people who have a real grasp on the issues we’re facing in the field. I also couldn’t pass up the chance to spend time with my very talented classmates who are all going to be changemakers in the field someday soon.
What was your favorite part of the trip, overall? I remember thinking as we walked to Capitol Hill, “I can see how people would get addicted to this.” There’s something powerful in going to the center of power in this country and making your voice heard. I thought that this would be something way out of my depth, but I’m so glad that I’ve had this experience.
We also saw Joe Kennedy III in a coffee shop first thing on Tuesday morning and it really set the stage for what would become a great day on the Hill.
What is your favorite learning experience from the trip? Before going to meet with our representatives, we discussed some very real problems that museums and nonprofits are facing. I learned that there are also very real solutions to be found, but somebody needs to bring those issues to our lawmakers before we can see any improvements.
In addition, simply learning how to have these conversations was a great addition to my toolkit as a future museum leader. We learned to ask for what you want and lay out your rationale in a concise and convincing way.
What will you take away from your advocacy experience and apply to the future? I am definitely going to use some of those conversational tactics when talking to my managers and directors. I have also already become more in tune with how the legislative system is operating, not just in regards to museums but on the whole.