Anderson’s Bookstore - every kid’s favorite Indie bound bookseller - greeted us with the nice surprise of Clifford and Curious George. Later that evening on the way home from a Halloween kid fest, I decided to bring my 20 bucks to the Glancer tent at Potter’s Place, the local
Okay. How about that economy? What the heck, right? Seems like there’s no good news anywhere. But ... maybe there is.
The Arts Alliance Illinois partnered with the Americans for the Arts Action Fund and the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago to host a conversation about artists and cultural nonprofits sticking together, getting out the vote, spreading the word and working hard - relentlessly, actually.
Robert Lynch, Americans for the Arts Action Fund CEO, said there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the arts, as a public good, is a great public policy investment for community development. The bad news is that, if you believe in the arts, you have to constantly make the case - through visibility, research, advocacy and leadership. This is not something artists are typically used to doing nor do they want to do - they want to be in the studio. You see, there can be conflicting information sometimes. Some policy makers say that arts education funding should be handled by the schools and, since it is, government should not fund arts and cultural nonprofits. But then on the other hand, you have folks - policy makers - that say we should cut arts education for the schools. I want to take a moment to clarify that this comes from people of a variety of parties - same party, different message - therefore it’s a people issue, an education issue and an opinion issue.
Either way, you, as an art appreciator.. you, as someone who values education, can see why you need to keep your head up.
U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky was the first panelist to be asked a question by Ra Joy, Art Alliance Illinois Executive Director. The question was what she thinks we can do in this time of perceived political apathy. She said that the “idea we can stand back and be in a state of apathy is out of the question.” Schakowsky didn’t agree that we are in a place of political apathy at all, but rather a rebirth of activism.
She says she’s taking the Food Stamp Challenge - she’s eating on $31.50 per week. I decided I would do it too. My personal challenge is to try to make that a healthy $31.50 per week. She says there are 48 million people, a quarter of which are children, that have been designated as “food insecure”. The government has cut the SNAP budget by $127 billion over ten years “all in the name of deficit reduction... and today’s conversation should be about creating jobs. About stimulating the economy.”
The House Interior Appropriation Bill passes a 20% cut over two fiscal years for the NEA. FY12 funding funds both the NEA and NEH at $135 million - when spread out over state by state, that equates to about $2.7 million. “Budget dust”, according to Schakowsky, in a time when John Kline, chairman of the ESEA, eliminated over forty education programs, arts programs included.
Education and invention are key to growth.
Commissioner Boone says to have someone as high profile as Rahm Emanuel, it doesn’t have to be how Washington influences us (here in the Chicagoland area), but how we can influence Washington. Boone has been attending the Arts Advocacy Day for years and recommends attendance. “Make a commitment to participate... Demand to be heard... Go there and be a force. I learn something every time I go,” she says.
To this point, there were many great ideas that were presented. Schakowsky says artists have star power. Joy applauded Lynch for bringing in people like Kevin Spacey and Alec Baldwin among others. People power can be as strong a force as dollar power. They all encourage artists and cultural nonprofits to band together, create conversations, talk to legislators and get creative.
To find out more about how people are voting and how your legislator feels about the art, you can be a part of the conversation by joining the Americans for the Arts who grades legislators on their participation and voting record on arts and culture issues. Lynch commented that you can pretty much divide things up into thirds: those who get it, those who need something else too such as jobs and education benefits and, finally, those who will never “get it” - they will never see the benefit to being educated in art and culture. He says he started just pointing out everything around us that is art. The purple heart was commissioned by an artist. The advertising and designs we see every day is art. Architecture is art. Your clothing is art. Art is history and sound and natural and we will use it to represent our future as well. Art... is everywhere. It is science. It is math. It is literature. It is culinary. It is even in the aesthetics of the car you drive. It is a documentation of our human existence.
“America is at a crossroads,” says Schakowsky. “The decision about what kind of country are we going to be. What are our core values really are at stake.”
Good to know people are out there not only fighting for it, but dancing and painting and rockin’ out for it too. People young and old. People from all walks of life.
For more information about this on going conversation, visit www.artsalliance.org and www.artsusa.org.