What arts advocates in Washington DC are working on now

Lara Pellegrinelli, NPR's The Record blog, 1/9/12

According to some estimates, there are as many as 40,000 lobbyists in Washington, D.C., but you don't even need all of your fingers to count how many work on behalf of artists and arts communities (record labels, broadcasting and other corporate interests in the entertainment industry aside). A handful of those arts advocates [recently] convened in New York City as part of the annual APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) conference. Here's what some of the tiny number of people who lobby for arts in America have been up to:


Heather Noonan, Vice President for Advocacy, League of American Orchestras

Name an issue you're working on which will have a significant impact on the musical community

NOONAN: Charitable giving incentives. Charitable giving - actually private contributions of all kinds - constitutes around 40% of orchestra revenue on average. In the Congressional supercommittee on tax reform that was convening over the last several months, there were numerous proposals being considered with around 13 possible changes in the deductibility of contributions. Throughout that discussion we worked very closely with the broader non-profit community, making the case that charitable giving is very different than the other deductions taxpayers make because it's not about returning money to the taxpayer. It's about returning money to the community. Ultimately, none of the specific proposals have gained traction, but certainly discussions about tax reform will continue in the coming year.

Give us another example where you've also hit some serious challenges

NOONAN: Disaster relief for non-profits. All the way through Hurricane Katrina, arts organizations and centers were ineligible for disaster relief from FEMA. It's a little murky as to why that ban was put in place. But back in 2006, together with our fellow national performing arts organizations, we were able to work with Congress to amend FEMA policy so that arts organizations would be eligible for assistance. Working on policy can be slow going, so the hope was that there'd be eligibility in the future but not an occasion on which an organization would need to avail itself of that relief. When Nashville flooded [in 2010], places like the Nashville Symphony's orchestra hall were severely damaged, but they were able to take advantage of FEMA support to help with their substantial repairs.



Name an issue you're working on which will have a significant impact on the musical community 
DURHAM: White spaces - frequencies in between broadcast channels of the broadcast spectrum in which wireless equipment can operate. There are certain broadcast bands that are used by performing arts centers for wireless microphones, but some of them have been sold, given away, or are in use or other purposes [in particular for unlicensed television band devices (TVBDs)]. This effects the very nuts-and-bolts work theaters are doing in their own houses. We're in discussions about how those frequencies are allocated as a member of the Performing Arts Alliance, a coalition of performing arts advocates.

Give us another example where you've hit some serious challenges

DURHAM: Foreign guest artists' visas. Generally the trend has been toward improvement, but I still have individuals who tell stories of last minute delays and the inability to bring legitimate artists to this country. It's been extremely frustrating for arts organizations when they've done everything they can and have still someone held up. Sometimes it's unpredictable as to when they'll get the approval. And since many projects are planned years in advance, the timing can really put people on edge because you're not sure until it's absolutely done. I think visas will continue to be an issue because they're tied into the larger issue of national security.


ROBERT LYNCH, President and CEO of Americans for the Arts

Name an issue you're working on which will have a significant impact on the musical community

LYNCH: Healthcare for artists, but also advancement of the arts as integral to healthcare and the healing process. We wanted to find ways to reform healthcare so that artists and workers in the arts industries could find less expensive ways of getting coverage. But more and more we are partnering with organizations like the Society for the Arts in Healthcare, which focus on the benefits of the arts in healing. We co-sponsored a two-day seminar "Arts in Healing for Warriors" with the Society and Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center]. One music therapist talked about the use of music to heal brain dysfunctions -- she was also the woman who helped in Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford's recovery. Right now I don't have any specific legislation in front of me, but we've been asking Congress for more funding for research to look at increasing access to the arts for older Americans and those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Give us another example where you've hit some serious challenges

LYNCH: The arts in cultural exchange and diplomacy. I think it is hugely valuable for America to be represented by its artists so that the rest of the world can get to know the best of America better. In terms of our federal government, they don't invest nearly enough in that, even though it has a proven track record going back to the days of Louis Armstrong, Paul Taylor and others traveling the world and being great cultural ambassadors [for the U.S. State Department starting in the 1950s]. The slightly good news is that as we advocate for money, there has been slightly more money over the years.


25th annual national Arts Advocacy Day will be held this April

Americans for the Arts website

The 25th annual Arts Advocacy Day is the only national event that brings together a broad cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations, along with hundreds of grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.

  • LEARN new ways to make the best case for the arts to decision-makers.
  • NETWORK with other attendees from your state and across the country.
  • BE HEARD by your members of Congress when you visit them to make the case for the arts and arts education.

[You can register to participate here.] Find the official Arts Advocacy Day page on Facebook.
Follow Arts Advocacy Day on
Twitter. Use #AAD12 when spreading the word.

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