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.