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Arts Advocacy (Day 1–A-Z Blog Challenge)


Enjoy all of these A-Z Blog Challenge posts.  Spanish versions of our posts are still planned.  Also look forward to the Story Crossroads crowdsourcing campaign May 1, 2015.

“A” is for Arts Advocacy.

Advocacy makes connections with other people and declares why something is important.  Some of those people could be legislators who influence or pass laws to make it easier to function as an artist or as an arts administrator.  See what I experienced followed by advice from Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Utah Cultural Alliance Executive Director.  

My Arts Day on the Hill Experience—My palms pooled with sweat for my first Arts Day on the Hill on February 4, 2014.  I waited an excruciating 30 minutes so I could see a legislator for 1 minute and state why the arts are important.  Oh, I wished for the stage to tell a story rather than make an introduction and statement on this marble floor of the Utah State Capital Building.

Thankfully, being Arts Day on the Hill, many other artists surrounded me.  We had a purpose.    We stood for the arts.

I sent a paper slip to the legislator:

I would love to meet you.  Our Utah Storytelling Guild recently moved to Cache Valley.  Plus, we have a new festival for storytelling kicking off in May there.  Let’s share a story.

I was not a constituent of this particular legislator; I wanted proof that his area mattered to me.

In the meantime, I was coached by a lady from the Utah Festival Opera.  She said I would have about one minute to introduce my organization and then ask for certain bills or programs to be supported.

My note from the legislator came back and said, “I would be available to meet with you here by the door when we break for lunch.”

I wrote, “I will plan on it.” That was when my excruciating 30 minutes started.

I held my sign with the legislator’s name on it.  I prayed my palms were not too sweaty as I knew there would be the required handshake.  I did my introduction to the Utah storytelling scene, mentioned some successes in the form of specific examples (mini stories, really), and asked for the Professional Outreach Program for Schools (POPS) program to continue and supporting and legislature that strengthened that program.  Whew!  All within a minute.  It was such a blur.  The legislator even gave me a contact in the schools to boost support for the storytelling festival.  I turned to my friend from the Utah Festival Opera and asked with my eyes how I did.    She beamed and congratulated me.  Double Whew!

I still was nervous for my second Arts Day on the Hill on February 17, 2015.  This time I talked about Story Crossroads.  I met a different legislator and left a tri-fold with him as well as asked him to watch and support two bills that would make a difference for Story Crossroads.

Advice from Crystal Young-Otterstrom, Utah Cultural Alliance Executive Director—

Due to Crystal’s full focus on advocacy, she defines what she does as “speaking publicly to elected and business leaders about the issues that matter to you.”  She exclaimed, “Let people know where you stand.”  As for those legislators, she said, “It is all about being a constituent.  Unless you are a constituent, you do not really have their attention.”

Crystal talked about what the average citizen can do for Arts Advocacy:

  1.  Get to know your legislators.
  2. Once in office (after elections), continue that conversation.
  3. Keep yourself informed with groups following issues and advocating on a regular basis.

As artists and arts administrators, we have an extra responsibilityWe need to follow all three steps twice—once for us as an individual artists and another for our connection with an arts group or organization.  For example, if you live in a certain area of the neighborhood, then you are linked to certain legislators.  If your arts organization is housed and holds events or projects in another area, you could have a different set of legislators to know and keep in contact.

Get to Know Your Legislators

The best way to know your legislators is to help them during the campaign.  She said, “Let them know you care about the arts and humanities.  As their constituent, you want them to represent the arts positively.”  She added, “If you do not like your current representative, then support the person running against them.”

Once In Office, Continue that Conversation

Crystal urged that notes be sent to your legislatures regularly.   I have a friend who sees his legislator all the time at the grocery store.  I have yet to have that skill in picking out my legislator from a crowd.  I also would have no idea where they shop, and perhaps that is for the best.  I do know how to email and to mail a message.

Keep Yourself Informed with Groups Following Issues and Advocating

Laws affect the arts in positive and negative ways.  The Utah Cultural Alliance and the Utah Nonprofits Association both have newsletters to find out about the bills and actions that affect the arts.  On a federal level, you can support the American for the Arts and the National Humanities Alliance.  These advocacy groups can let you know about important days held each year  “on the Hill” such as:  Arts Advocacy Day (or Arts Day on the Hill), Nonprofit Day on the Hill, Museum Day, Tourism Day, Multicultural Day, and Volunteer Day (as many arts organizations rely on volunteers).

So know you can make a difference.  Go get sweaty palms with those feet planted, ready to stand for the arts.

Thank you to the Utah Cultural Alliance for giving permission to post the pictures on advocacy such as the trio of advocates on top as well as the state senator wearing the “arts YES!” pin.

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