Friday, August 21, 2020

ArtsVote - A Call to Action to Artists and Arts Advocates

by Patricia Frischer
Poster by Shepard Fairey

Having a plan to vote and voting early is the most important thing we can do in America right now.  I attended a live stream organized by Americans for the Arts (AFTA) on this subject. They are tasked with advocacy for the arts and it was an interesting panel that was convened. The arts contribute $763.6 billion to the US economy—4.2 percent of the GDP—more than agriculture, transportation, or warehousing.

You can watch this recorded version for yourself and or join in with the next ArtsVote live virtual event on Thursday, August 27, 2020 

Nora Halpern explained that all are participants of the panel were part  of the AFTA arts committee or board. Americans for the Arts are 430,000 members strong

Robert Lynch: Americans for the Arts, President and CEO, told us how the Democratic National Committee has an art plank in their platform. AFTA works to make sure that all the candidates for the presidency are educated about the arts. Many of these candidates will be part of the next administration or are high ranking elected officials.  There are 16 Platform points designed by 85 different organization with needs including Creative Economy, Education. Charity Giving, Veterans, $1 per capital, Funding, and the COVID response.  Biden declared this week that, “The Future of who we are lies in the Arts “. The Democratic platform on the Arts, "The arts are essential to our free and democratic society, to our culture, and to our local economies. Democrats are proud of our support for arts funding and education, and will continue policies and programs that promote the creative arts. We support public funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and for art and music education in public schools. We recognize that federal grants supporting nonprofit cultural organizations, artists, scholars, and state and local governments help increase participation in the arts, enhance appreciation, and strengthen our nation's cultural heritage. We value the arts and art education for developing imagination, creativity, innovation, and critical thinking skills in students and for building bridges between people and communities across the country and around the world." Republican were contacted but they said there was no change in their platform from last year. However, the word “arts” appears nowhere in the 2016 Republican Party platform. 

Ben Folds: Singer/Songwriter became an activist for the arts with the idea not so much how we can help the arts, but how to put the arts to work for us. We in the arts industry are ideas animals. That makes us cool. Arts and Entertainment is a massive part of the economy. We have unique voices as citizen. Arts for Healing is vital. American reputation for ideas and creativity is still alive and well. His message to young people through music is: don’t assume that this privilege will always be there. He is in Australia right now where it is required to vote. He urges everyone to Vote and do it now! Time is now speeding by. His latest songs conveys the message that If you create something in June, 2020 is it already old fashion in August. 

Nina Ozlu Tunceli: American for the Arts, ED. We need to make sure everyone can vote to assure federal arts funding is increased and that the arts are recognized.  There is a complicated and varied process to vote state by state and you need to know the requirements in your state. So, follow the steps as soon as possible. Don’t wait.
1. Make the pledge to vote.  You can check California (or your state) requirements on the Americans for the Arts website. Check on the status of your voter’s registration.  2.Request your Absentee Ballot information.
3. Cast your vote: by mail, or drop off, or go to the poll in person on the day.  4. Spread the word by social media using free Shepard Fairey art work.

Shepard Fairey: an artist activist, who believes that beautiful things comes out of the arts and out of passionate feelings. Making his work accessible and free is important. as he feels open access to art is a national right. His work is not just for the elite. His art does not have to recognized as art, as long as the message is heard. He started as an outsider but he now also works from within the system.

Brian Stokes Mitchell: singer, leads a variety of artist convenings and is a survivor of COVID-19. A recording of his song of thanks to First responders went viral. He views the arts as Second responders. He formed Black Theater United during this time. We need to realize how important the arts actually are as they can connect us to our joy. The performing arts are a $9.6 billion theater industry, which affects airlines and transportation industry as well restaurants and hotel/motels.  Large and small concerts give a boast to a whole area.  This industry and its economy have been devastated by the pandemic. The arts are the first to shut down, last to recovery. Coming out of this isolation and being able to gather in large numbers might not happen until there is a vaccine. There are definite challenges of working at this time, but it is a collaborative challenge that the entertainment industry always has had. The needs of our arts community are vital to the community as a whole. The Arts has to be seen as an economic sector. Census is so important as it is about money and power and how it is distributed. So, fill in your Census!

Annette Bening: Actress, It is important to have an understanding that artist and art educators are at the core of the economic value of the arts. It is crushing that so many jobs have been lost. The Arts knit us together and reveal us to ourselves. Voting is non-partisan and is when we are at our best. Make your voice heard so make a pledge to vote. It is a privilege to vote. First responders are the backbone of the country but the Arts are the heart and soul. Arts Education needs to serve everyone including the underserved who need the arts so much. All children need to be able to know themselves and the arts helps them to define themselves.

Megan Beyer: part of the Obama National Arts Policy Committee and will be part of Biden committee. Her husband is in the house of representative. America now has a crisis of Identity. But that is an opportunity for the Arts. There are 200 people on this advocacy committee who are helping to face a moment of racial reckoning. WPA programs are needed to put artists back to work perhaps by integrating Art and Design in the rebuilding. Plus, we need the arts for healing and we need the tax laws to make it easy to fund the arts not more difficult. In 17 battleground states they are removing postal services which is another reason to know exacting how to vote. It will have to be a very decisive vote because even with a 6 million majority of votes, the balance could be wrong. Art and Artists should provoke us…wake us up.

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