Thursday, March 10, 2011

Art and The Cherokee Tradition

Principal Chief Michell Hicks of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians

“There is no word for art in the Cherokee language because art was such an integral part of our way of life it was incorporated into every aspect of our existence. Our state has also realized that vibrant art communities create jobs, invite tourism and give our people a higher quality of life. I believe it is important for the state to continue funding arts projects for the well being of our residents and visitors alike.”

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

On Our Minds: State Arts Funding

There is little use in pretending we have anything on our minds but the impending battle for state arts funding. 

A recent blog by Seth Godin reflects what we all know: that the most powerful form of persuasion is person-to-person. Maybe you don't know a Legislator. No matter, you can write a letter to the editor. Maybe you are intimidated by a political call. Come to Arts Day and see for yourself that this game is fun. Think it is no use and that minds are made up? Think again of the individual that had to convince another that the world is not flat.

Our fight is for $6.6 million in grants funding that is allocated to all 100 counties through the North Carolina Arts Council's grants programs. This is .0003 of the state budget, and yet the money reaches 9 million+ attendees. For every $1 of state funds, local arts organizations leverage an additional $17 that multiplies throughout the economy. And half of the $6.6 million is returned to the state in the $3.3 million of income tax paid by the 2,266 employees of arts organizations directly funded by the Arts Council.

We have the facts. It's your stories and passion we need, plus your attention and willingness to take action.
  • Like us on Facebook
  • Write a letter to the editor between now and March 22
  • Follow all Call to Action alerts
  • Get informed. Check out updated information on the Advocacy and Arts Day pages at (new website launch coming this month!)
  • Register for Arts Day

The North Carolina nonprofit arts sector provides essential services more effectively, efficiently, and with greater accountability than can be provided by government. These services include jobs creation, skilled workers, improved public education, revitalized towns and communities, and a thriving cultural tourism industry.

Our position: Arts North Carolina believes legislators should make informed and responsible decisions in the current budget process based on the fact that a small investment in the arts yields a high return. We also believe that the proposed 10% reductions to grants programs in Governor Perdue's budget is reasonable, but that any additional cuts will deeply affect arts infrastructure in our state. If you are willing to work with us, we could sure use your help.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Love and Other Games

If you love the arts you need to come to Raleigh. That is a statement of fact, not opinion. Arts Day 2011 is Tuesday, April 12, and you need to be at your Capital. Do you think tax dollars should be invested in non-profit arts organizations? Do you believe North Carolina should have a statewide policy for arts education? How strongly do you believe? What are you willing to personally put forth to in support of your beliefs?

We all know the nature of change. It happens and it’s hard. The combination of economic and political change in North Carolina has created a tsunami on Jones Street. New leaders and new philosophies are in control, and while most elected officials have the best intentions, some are bent on adhering to campaign promises that could have devastating impact on the arts. And yes, Virginia, there is a rumor floating that a committee may be appointed to consider eliminating all state funding to non-profits.

But change can also work in our favor. We have the opportunity to make new friends and solidify existing relationships. We have a remarkable moment in time to move the arts from “nice to essential” in the minds of our state leaders. Do we expect to be affected by the state budget? Absolutely. Are we willing to see our arts industry crippled by short view thinking? Absolutely not.

Arts Day is a celebration and gathering of advocates who are willing to sit across from their Legislators and talk about the essential services provided by arts non-profit agencies. Services like jobs creation, goods and services, improved public education, small business development, community revitalization, and tourism growth. Our numbers and our energy tell our story when people come from all over the state to participate in democracy.

You do not have to be experienced to be effective. We provide advance information, assistance from regional captains in organizing the legislative visits, and training on how to deliver the message. Very few of us started down this road with any advocacy experience, but we’ll share what we’ve learned.

So put the excuses on the sidelines and enter the game. In this sport, individual action becomes a powerful movement. And we will need quite a lot of power to answer this tsunami.

More information, schedule, and registration available at

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Déjà Vu

This is not déjà vu.  During the culture wars of the ‘80s, bashing art and artists became political sport.   Wikipedia describes the state of things: “Members of the religious right often criticized academics and artists, and their works, in a fight against what they considered indecent, subversive, and blasphemous. They often accused their political opponents of undermining tradition, Western civilization, and family values.”

What is beginning today is a much more fundamental question and provides the opportunity for civil discourse about what are essential services of government as prompted by the economic crisis.  I’d rather have this conversation than to defend myself as a good person doing good work as we had to in the ‘80s.  Why, I knew many artists who went to church and prayed to the same God as Jesse Helms.

Yes, Virginia, there are boogey men who are suggestion complete elimination of the NEA, NEH, and public radio and TV.  And in North Carolina, rumors are flying that the General Assembly is considering appointing a committee to consider elimination of all grant funding to all non-profit organizations.  If an undertow picks you up and you panic, you stand a much greater chance of drowning.  Swim parallel to the shore and you just might work your way out of the great downward sucking motion.  Urgency, friends, not panic. 

Mitch McConnell has proposed that when President Obama uses the word “investment,” he really means spending more money.  Oops, there went a good message… invest in the arts.

But as the LA Times Points out in their Culture Monster blog article, federal support pays for itself 18 times over.  That’s sounding a little like investment rhetoric, so let’s try the following message:

The arts contract with government to provide the following essential services:
  • Create jobs
  • Improve public education (might just save a life or two along the way)
  • Provide a high standard quality of life, essential  for attracting new and existing businesses
  • Enliven the “vibe” of cities who want to attract a young, skilled workforce
  • Train workers for 21st century jobs
  • Attract tourists (NC’s number 2 industry)
And, oh, by the way, did we mention that we will provide these essential services AND we will go find an additional $18 per $1 of your contract fee through private sources and earned revenue?  Mr. Committee member, stop and think for one moment about eliminating funding for one of our nation’s most thriving small business enterprises.  In case you missed the statistics, North Carolina’s creative industry provides $40 billion in goods and services.  Keith Crisco, NC Secretary of Commerce, compares that to North Carolina’s number one industry, agriculture, which is responsible for $70 billion in goods and services.  And how about those 300,000 creative sector jobs in North Carolina, 5.4 % of our workforce?

We can do one of two things.  We can roll over and stick our heads under the covers of “this will never happen” as we watch the dismantling of the non-profit arts sector, or we can enter the debate in wholesale numbers.  ARTS North Carolina needs you to leave the sidelines if you aren’t already in the game, and bring lots of your friends with you.  We must get ready quickly, very quickly, and be proactive in proposing the role of arts as an essential government service. 

Join ARTS North Carolina if you are not currently a member.  You need us more than ever, and we need your financial support.

Join our list serv.  Oops, if you are reading this, you are probably on our list serv, so do MORE.
Contact your local arts council and ask if they are forming a delegation to come to ARTS Day on April 12.  If not, make your own plans.

Write your legislator and begin or grow a relationship.  Schedule a visit when they are home and talk about your concerns.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Committee's Work Is Never Done

The Arts Education Comprehensive Task Force had its final meeting on November 10, or so they thought. How would we describe the people who have and will continue to help shape arts education policy in North Carolina? The members of the Arts Education Comprehensive Task Force are a disparate group of devoted individuals who labored for and achieved consensus because North Carolina children remained at the center of their discussion. The Committee met their legislative goal of a final report that will be presented to the North Carolina State Board of Education on December 1 and to the North Carolina General Assembly Joint Education Oversight Committee on December 2.
The basic framework of the plan has been approved:
• Implement the Basic Education Plan for Arts Education in grades K-12
• Require a unit in arts education for high school graduation
• Support and expand A+ Schools
However, the Committee understandably ran out of time to complete an implementation plan (time frame and funding), and so a sub-committee will convene to finish their recommendations by March 1. The timing will give arts education advocates plenty of time to have the answers to lots of questions we will surely get from our own industry and from the Legislature when we move forward on arts education policy.
In the meantime, a hearty “bravo” to co-chairs Mary Regan (North Carolina Arts Council) and Helga Fasciano (North Carolina Department of Public Instruction) for brilliant organizational practices that made the impossible a reality.

When Work Is Fun

ARTS North Carolina is scheduling Advocacy Workshops across North Carolina.  To follow is a list of locations and dates; contact the sponsoring organization or ARTS North Carolina for more information. 919-834-1411. All workshops are free but participants should rsvp to

February 8  Seagrove
3pm - North Carolina Pottery Center

February 10 Mt. Airy
12 Noon - Surry County Arts Council

February 16 Concord
5:30pm  Arts Council of Cabarrus County

February 18 Charlotte
9am  Arts and Science Council offices
sponsored by Community School of the Arts

February 24 Lumberton
5:30pm Carolina Civic Center
301 West 17th Street
Lumberton, NC 28358
Contact: Richard Sceiford

February 28 Chatham County
Chatham County Arts Council and Northwood High School Education Foundation
7:00pm (note new time)
Northwood High School

March 2 Wilmington
5:30 pm Cameron Art Museum

March 3  Goldsboro
5pm Arts Council of Wayne County

March 8  Raleigh
12 noon - United Arts of Raleigh/Wake County
110 South Blount Street
Raleigh, NC  27601
rsvp to
limited capacity - first come, first served
byo lunch - water provided

March 10 Greensboro/Guilford County
noon - Greensboro downtown library
contact:  United Arts of Greensboro - Altina Layman

4:30 - Ben Smith High School
contact:  Nathan Street

March 11 High Point/Guilford County
12 noon  High Point Arts Council

March 14 Durham
11:30am Durham Arts Council
Contact:  Margaret Demott

March 28 Chapel Hill
2:00pm Center for Dramatic Art/PlayMakers Repertory Company
Room 105
Contact: Shane D. Hudson -
rsvp to

Want to tell someone about the workshops?  We encourage you to promote the "fun", but the official description is:

The economic conditions of the past two years changed life as we knew it, and through it all, the arts have been essential to sustaining community life and in positioning creativity as necessary for economic recovery and a global economy. But in order for the arts to thrive, individuals must join together in a common message of arts value. Advocacy Workshops presented by ARTS North Carolina explore how advocacy is “mission critical” to grow arts support. Executive Director Karen Wells and ARTS North Carolina Board members bring knowledge, skills, and inside information on how to navigate local and state government resources.
While the calendars are out...

ARTS DAY 2011 - APRIL 11 & 12 - Send us your "picture perfect" and we'll feature you on your own advocacy materials.  (Send to

Make New Friends, but Keep The Old

There are some songs that never leave your head. As we prepare for a change at the helm of North Carolina’s Senate and House, we would be well advised to follow tried and true principles.

Make New Friends:
• Write letters of congratulations to individuals who won their elections.
• If you are an organization, publish short bios of the newly elected Senators and Representatives, with photos, and encourage your supporters to speak to the elected officials about the arts and economic recovery.
• If you are an artist or organization, make sure the newly elected are on your mailing list.
• Plan to attend the January 26th Swearing In Ceremony at the General Assembly to support and congratulate your Senators and Representatives.
• Use any opportunity (Food Lion check-out, soccer practice, etc) to tell your elected official that you would like to visit with them about arts and economic recovery…then do it!

Keep The Old:
• Write letters of appreciation to individuals who have supported the arts but lost their election.
• Ask the individual if you can meet to get their advice on how to best advocate for the arts…then do it! Use the experience of supporters who have “retired”.

Need contact information on your new Legislators?