Linda J. Snyder, NATS President
There is an old Chinese saying: "May you live in interesting times."
These are indeed interesting times for the Arts as once again this country's National Endowment for the Arts, along with other federal cultural endowments, are threatened to be eliminated from the federal budget.
I am pleased to report that at its mid-year video conference meeting, the NATS Board of Directors reaffirmed that NATS' role related to arts advocacy is to inform our association's members and direct them to resources. Therefore, you will see regular updates on the latest arts advocacy news in our weekly Intermezzo and in our biennial Inter Nos newsletter. (See our Executive Director's timely and informative column in the latest Inter Nos. If you or your students are feeling the stress of these "interesting times," please check out our recent Journal of Singing, noting World Voice Day on April 16, and in particular Lynn Helding's column, "Emotion and Empathy: How Voice Can Save the Culture."
On Capitol Hill. With this message I would like to share reflections on my recent visit to Washington, D.C., where I represented NATS at this year's Arts Action Summit and annual National Arts Advocacy Day on March 20-21. As part of a record crowd of 700 attendees/lobbyists, we were briefed on current issues and received training from the outstanding national advocacy group, "Americans for the Arts," that organized this two-day event.
The National Music Council, of which NATS is a member, was one of the 100-plus national partners for these events. Over 70 state and grassroots partners were also represented. I now have a bundle of business cards from advocates from all over the USA - connections made in meetings, in the House cafeteria, in the security lines, and even on the subway.
We were assigned to small groups and armed with materials of facts and figures with which to lobby our legislators or their staff to advocate for the arts, and in particular to request their support for the National Endowment for the Arts, and for the Assistance for Arts Education (AAE) programs in the FY2018 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill. On March 21, each U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator office received a personal visit on Capitol Hill.
It was an encouraging, exhilarating, and inspiring experience. And, it was comforting to see that there is strong leadership advocating for the arts. However, though there may be bi-partisan congressional support for the arts, I saw firsthand the critical need for consistently educating our legislators on the fundamental importance of the arts to our humanity.
As part of this report to our membership, I am including a link to highlights of the Arts Advocacy Day events from the Americans for the Arts Action Fund. When you have a moment, please read the lecture from Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, delivered to 2000 advocates at the Kennedy Center - I found it especially inspiring.
Americans for the Arts. A few highlights from AFTA Advocacy Handbook:
* The NEA is America's chief supporter of the arts and celebrates the arts as a national priority, critical to America's future. The arts have the power to transport audiences, unite communities, promote empathy and understanding, and humanize difference.
* Jobs and Economy: 4.8 million Americans go to work in Arts and Culture industries. The Arts contribute $729 billion to the GDP - which is larger than the Construction, Transportation, and Travel & Tourism industries. (Statement on Arts Jobs and the Economy)
* The NEA supports America: the Arts generate $22.3 billion in federal, state, and local government revenue.
* Health, Military and Veterans: the Arts improve healthcare. The NEA recently expanded the "Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network," which is a collaboration with the Department of Defense that supports music, writing, and visual art therapy at military care facilities.
* Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts - by Randy Cohen, AFTA
The Americans for the Arts website includes many links to resources, facts and figures, and ways to become more involved. If you decide to contact your legislator, please know that calling or sending a personal note with your own "story" will carry more weight than signing a petition, etc.
World Voice Day. In advocacy as in most large endeavors, we are most effective by working together. Yet, every voice does count. As we approach World Voice Day on April 16 with its theme "Share Your Voice," I want to thank you for your personal commitment to and individual expression of arts advocacy - in whatever way you may choose. I thank you for sharing your voice.
As Darren Walker so eloquently stated in his lecture, "Without the arts, there is no empathy. Without empathy, there is no justice."
May we, our children, and our children's children, continue to "sing for a lifetime."
Linda J. Snyder, President
National Association of Teachers of Singing