Wednesday, March 5, 2008

March 05, 2008


Hello everyone. Just back from a month in S.E. Asia (don't worry I won't bore you with any travelogue this issue).

"And the beat goes on................................."


As most of you know I have long beat the bushes for an increased political involvement for the arts as an essential element in an overall strategy to advance our agenda in the areas of arts education and public funding (among others)(click here for a link to my book: HARDBALL 


NOTE: I will be conducting a half-day workshop on Advocacy and Lobbying for Nonprofits at Compasspoint in San Francisco on Tuesday, March 18th - click here for information:

Finally, after many years I believe we have begun to move towards more meaningful political clout. With rising election fever this year, the environment seems ripe for the arts to position itself for candidate support at all levels, with Presidential candidates taking a lead in responding to demands from the arts community. Click here for Americans for the Arts links to individual candidate platform and position papers on the arts:

Much of the progress that has been made on the federal level is because of the efforts of the Americans for the Arts Political Action Fund. I asked Bob Lynch and Nina Ozlu Tunceli to sit for an interview.

As background, consider this article yesterday in the Los Angeles Times:

From the Los Angeles Times

The arts of the campaign trail

Arts organizations are becoming aggressive in getting candidates to talk about funding. 
By Allan M. Jalon

March 4, 2008

When it comes to campaign themes, the arts can't compete with healthcare reform, national security, the sluggish economy -- just about anything you might name.

But this presidential primary season, people who work at the crossroads of politics and culture say the arts have attained a higher profile than usual -- and the push for an arts agenda has established a foothold in the campaign landscape.

Linda Frye Burnham, well known in Los Angeles arts circles for starting High Performance magazine and co-founding Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, began hearing in January about Barack Obama's support for the arts.

Along with thousands of other arts figures, she received an e-mail detailing how Obama would increase support for the National Endowment for the Arts, embrace arts education, strengthen cultural diplomacy, advocate an artist-friendly tax law and propose an Artist Corps to send young artists to teach in low-income areas.

In Ohio, meanwhile, Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign worked to arrange a gathering at which her advisors hoped to win arts-interested voters with her commitment to the same ideas. Mike Huckabee has promised that should he be elected, he'd follow through on his devotion to arts education, especially. And last March, John McCain answered a New Hampshire theater manager who said he hoped the senator would support the arts by sending the man a personal check for $500.

The statements and promises, as it turns out, reflect an initiative called ArtsVote2008 mounted by the political arm of a group called Americans for the Arts, or AFTA.

In advance of the Iowa caucuses, ArtsVote gave all the candidates then running a 10-point plan for the arts in public life. No. 1 stresses NEA grants to the sorts of local arts agencies and groups that AFTA represents. No. 6 urges candidates to enhance healthcare coverage for arts groups and artists. (The complete text is available at ArtsVote then urged the candidates to address these points in public.

Such political pressure "is pretty common among other advocacy centers, but for the arts it is somewhat new," says Rindy O'Brien, director of the American Arts Alliance, which represents opera, ballet and orchestra groups in Washington. "I come out of the environmental realm, and they would do a lot of that electoral work -- and Planned Parenthood does -- but, for the arts, you haven't seen it."

One reason it's visible now is a matter of resources. In 2002, AFTA received a $127-million gift from Ruth Lilly, heiress to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical fortune.

The money, given in annual installments and spread across the group's political, educational and service activities, lifted its yearly budget to $14 million from about $8 million. And those extra millions helped give clout to ArtsVote, a part of AFTA's political arm, the Arts Action Fund.

With its 10-point plan in place, ArtsVote tracked candidates' responses by giving a $40,000 grant to a group called New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts so it could hire Suzanne Delle Harrison, who runs a theater in the state. She, in turn, put candidates and their staffs on the record by asking them about their views before the state's primaries. On the ArtsVote website are both the campaigns' arts statements and a diary of Harrison's lobbying adventure:

The diary alludes, for example, to a lecture Huckabee gave ArtsVote volunteers that Harrison described in an interview as a "fascinating" evangelistic interpretation of human creativity as a conduit for the creative role of God.

Beyond his $500 gift, McCain doesn't appear in the log. His silence, arts advocates say, is already framing a clear difference on public financing for the arts between whichever Democrat runs and the Republican front-runner. "It would be a stark contrast, especially since Sen. McCain hasn't responded in any way about supporting the arts," says Narric Rome, director of federal affairs for the Arts Action Fund.

An issue of particular interest on the ArtsVote agenda is arts education, which, arts advocates say, became a casualty of the test-driven No Child Left Behind Act.

Obama, Clinton and Huckabee all extol exposing students to the arts. Speaking before the Virginia primary, Obama declared: "I want our students learning art and music and science and poetry and all the things that make education worthwhile."

Pollsters have not attempted to measure the power of a national arts vote, and it's hard to know how such stands will sway the public.

But the Arts Education Partnership, a coalition of 140 organizations, recently commissioned a poll of 1,000 likely voters from Lake Research, a Democratic polling firm. It showed that 57% of the respondents would more likely vote for a candidate who supported the development of the imagination in schools.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, also found that 57% of voters would be less likely to pick a candidate who voted to cut funding for arts education.

Current and former Clinton and Obama campaign staffers speak of the candidates' self-driven support for the arts. But they also credit former Americans for the Arts officials and members of other arts organizations for helping AFTA develop its 10-point plan. O'Brien of the American Arts Alliance says it was consulted. And Rachel Lyons, the Clinton campaign's deputy political director in New Hampshire, is a former director of the American Arts Alliance, which ArtsVote's Harrison believes won her a particularly "open and knowledgeable" hearing with the campaign.

Last spring, a key Arts Action Fund official gave an extensive briefing calling for more funding for arts education and its other priorities to the Obama campaign's Arts Policy Committee, a growing volunteer group of arts professionals, researchers and artists that both considers arts policy and works politically.

In addition, novelist Michael Chabon has written a statement of principles for the campaign called "Thoughts on the Importance of the Arts to Our Society".

Clinton advisors, for their part, speak of the ArtsVote proposals as one of several influences. The Clinton campaign exchanged e-mails with Rome about arranging the arts gathering in Ohio.

According to Clinton officials, the campaign has no arts policy committee but instead has opted for what domestic policy advisor Catherine Brown calls "a more organic approach" of reaching out to "Hillary Clinton's many friends who know about her passion for the arts."

Overall, the Democrats' formal responses to ArtsVote are similar in how they parallel the ArtsVote priorities.

The Clinton campaign has outlined nothing comparable to Obama's Artist Corps, but it has proposed a Putting Arts in Reach initiative, which would "offset the cost of musical instruments, art supplies, drama equipment, and other things used in arts education for children from low-income communities."

Will such words actually produce programs?

Says Burnham: "I've lived long enough to know that platforms mean relatively little when people get in there and find out what is going on. They give a sense of whether the candidate gets it or not -- the value of the arts to the American public. I know that Americans for the Arts will keep rattling their cage for change, whether it is Obama or Hillary.

"What I wonder is what would happen if McCain got in and Huckabee were vice president. What would happen to the arts then? I think about that a lot."

And consider too this recent polling finding released by the Arts Education Partnership


Evidence Points To New Values Coalition Of Swing Voters Ready to Act to Keep America Competitive

Washington, D.C. (Jan. 24) – Results from a national poll were released today by Lake Research Partners identifying a new strand of swing voters poised to support candidates and policy that ensures building capacities of the imagination in schools.

The new national survey of 1,000 likely voters, with a 3.1% margin of error, identifies that 30% of American voters are not only dissatisfied with public education’s narrow focus on the “so-called” basics but that they also believe developing the imagination is a critical, but missing, ingredient to student success in 21st century schools and moving students beyond average.

“These are surprising results that indicate a strong set of shared public values are not being detected by public leaders,” said Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners. “A significant number of voters believe that today’s educational approaches are outdated, impair critical capacities of the imagination, and stifle teachers and students alike, blocking potential for innovation. These data show a large population we call the “imagine nation” are hungry for imagination in education and are going to take action accordingly—both in their local schools and at the voting booth, so that children are prepared for the world in which they will live.”

The majority of voters surveyed believe that it is extremely important to have good public schools nationwide, but there is also concern that public education in the United States is behind what is offered to students in other parts of the world and that we devote less attention to developing the imagination, creative skills and innovation than other nations.

Among the key findings of the poll:

• Almost nine in ten voters (89%) say that using the imagination is important to innovation and one’s success in a global knowledge-based economy and essential to success in the 21st Century.
• 69% of American voters believe that, when compared to other nations, America devotes less attention to developing the imagination and innovation.
• 88% of respondents indicated that an education in and through the arts is essential to cultivating the imagination.
• 63% of voters strongly believe that building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation is just as important as the “so called” basics for all students in the classroom and that an education in and through the arts helps to substantiate imaginative learning (91%) and should be considered a part of the basics.

Lake’s data suggest that a new “imagination constituency” will take action to ensure support for building the capacities of the imagination among students in public schools.

In particular,

• 56% percent of voters say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who came out in support of more funding.
• The electorate is even more willing to punish a candidate who votes to cut funding for building capacities of the imagination. 57% of voters say they would be much less likely to vote for such a candidate, and 36% percent of voters say they would be much less likely. Independent voters prove especially reactive to a candidate’s decision to cut funding for building the capacities of the imagination.

Richard J. Deasy, director of the Arts Education Partnership, offered, “What is very clear in recent public opinion polling and our own research is that people across the country want a much more engaging and broadened education for students. They want schools to help students set high standards for themselves, have ambition and aspirations for success, and develop the skills to fulfill their dreams and meet the demands of the 21st century world in which we live. 
And, the majority of voters (88%) believe that an education in and through the arts is essential to developing the capacities of the imagination that empower students to achieve these goals. We have never seen this clear or strong an indication of public support for arts education.”

“Voters react very strongly to the idea of combining the basics with the arts for the cultivation of the imagination. They also feel an education in the arts makes a major contribution to participating in a group or being a team player, learning to set goals and respecting multiple values and perspectives,” said Lake.

Results from this poll echo findings from current research and poll data. According to a national poll released in November 2007 by the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, a majority of survey respondents indicated that schools need to do a better job of keeping up with changing educational needs. This mirrors earlier findings released by the Conference Board in 2006 citing that nearly three-fourths of business leaders surveyed ranked “creativity/innovation as among the top five applied skills projected to increase in importance for future graduates…”

Other key findings of the poll include:

• More than half of voters think that it is extremely or very critical to incorporate building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation into core courses.
• While almost two thirds of voters think that it is extremely or very important to have imagination and creative skills taught in school, most do not think that these skills are being taught very well.

“Americans are concerned that we are falling behind as a nation and that imagination, innovation, and creativity have been the foundation that moved the United States into a world leadership role,” said John Wilson, executive director of the National Education Association. “In today’s economy, an education focused only on the “so-called” basics may not be providing students with the skills essential for success and continued world leadership in the 21st century. To maintain our competitive edge, we need to balance instruction, encouraging our children to be creative and develop their imaginations.”

A broad coalition of national leaders has joined with national, state, and local organizations on an agenda to restore imagination and innovation as key outcomes of learning. This coalition includes the National Education Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, NAMM, the International Music Products Association, the Ford Foundation, the George Gund Foundation and the Arts Education Partnership, representing over 100 educational and arts related national organizations.

The growing coalition also includes three successful models for building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation with an education in and through the arts: The Dallas Arts Learning Initiative, the Ohio Department of Education initiatives to strengthen innovation along with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) through imaginative learning, and the Oklahoma Creativity Project. Each of these initiatives is successfully engaging all levels of leadership and mobilizing public support for a new vision of education that will put imagination at the core of learning in all subjects taught in schools.

Support for national research to gain better access to information is provided by the National Education Association (NEA), the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), and NAMM, the International Music Products Association. Support for site development work is provided by The George Gund Foundation.

For additional resources and more information on the poll, please visit

About the survey: Lake Research Partners (LRP) designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached a total of 1, 000 likely registered voters nationwide. The survey was conducted December 15th to 20th, 2007. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 3.1%.

Characteristics of the “imagine nation:” Fifty four percent of these voters are women. Their geographic distribution is similar to voters overall. Over half of voters in the imagination constituency are swing voters, that is voters not identifying strongly with either party. Seventy four percent are under the age of 65. The majority of these voters are married (59 percent). 

Thirty percent of voters in the imagination constituency have children ages eighteen or younger. Among parents in the imagination constituency, more than half have children 12 or younger. The majority will vote in upcoming elections.

About the Arts Education Partnership: The Arts Education Partnership (AEP) is a national coalition of arts, education, business, philanthropic and government organizations that demonstrate and promote the essential role of the arts in the learning and development of every child and in the improvement of America's schools. AEP was founded and is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and U. S. Department of Education in cooperation with the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies. The Partnership includes over 140 organizations that are national in scope and impact.

Here is the INTERVIEW with Bob and Nina (speaking as President/CEO and Executive Director, respectively, of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.):

1. BARRY: Americans for the Arts has been advocating and even lobbying Congress for arts support for the NEA and otherwise for years. You’ve also established relationships with the Conference of Mayors, the Lt. Governor’s Association group and others in your attempt to educate and convert those groups to stakeholders in the success of the growth of arts & culture support. Several years ago you established the Arts Action Fund – one of the first (and I think perhaps the only) national Political Action Fund supporting arts & culture. Can you give us a brief summary of what the fund is, how it works, the current status of how many members you have, how large the fund has grown, and what you think you’ve been able to accomplish thus far?

Bob / Nina: The Arts Action Fund is the separate political arm of Americans for the Arts. The goal of the Arts Action Fund is educate and mobilize thousands of individual arts enthusiasts to become an organized network of well-informed and well-armed political advocates for the arts and arts education in America. The Arts Action Fund develops public policy platforms to begin a dialogue with candidates of any party running for public office. We also publish the results of our candidate arts policy surveys and score incumbents’ arts voting records in our biennial Congressional Arts Report Card. We currently have over 25,000 members and a larger network of 100,000 advocates.

2. BARRY: And what about the future of the fund – what are your long term goals for the PAC. Do you have a specific set of things you want to see happen and a timeline for those objectives? What do you see Americans for the Arts role to be in advocacy / lobbying efforts over the long haul?

Bob / Nina: The Arts Action Fund PAC was created just two years ago and our goal was to raise $100,000 in order to help support pro-arts candidates running in the 2006 Congressional elections. We exceeded that goal. Our goal this year is to raise at least $150,000 in PAC contributions to support more pro-arts Congressional candidates and support our ArtsVote2008 presidential primaries project to elevate discussion of the arts on the campaign trail.

3. BARRY: I think a lot of people suffer misconceptions about lobbying and Political Action Committees; what the arts can and cannot legally do; and how much money is necessary to really have an impact. Can you clarify what arts organizations can and cannot do legally, and comment on your experience thus far in terms of having an impact?

Bob / Nina: Good question – we try to educate our membership about this each year. 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofits under federal law are allowed to spend a considerable amount of money on direct and general public grassroots lobbying based on a percentage formula of their annual expenses, The formula they use is dependent on whether they take the “H Election” on their IRS 990 Forms, which provides the most clarity and the most generous allotment. Simplistically, the percentage is about 20%, but a nonprofit’s accountant will assist them in the details. On the other hand, 501(c)(3) charitable organizations are expressly prohibited from engaging in any political activity that would influence the outcome of an election or financial support a candidate running for office. No charitable dollars can be used for contributing to a PAC either. This is why the Arts Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization with a primary membership of individuals to support its political programs.

4. BARRY: You ran an experiment in New Hampshire this year in an attempt to get presidential candidates from both parties to take public stands in favor of support for the arts, and it would seem virtually all of the major candidates, including those still in the race, have taken positive stands in support of the arts. I think that is a remarkable achievement. How did the project come about, and what have been the specific results? What else can we do to make sure the arts are on every candidate for office’s platform, all across America?

Bob / Nina: We established the ArtsVote2008 national project this year to engage candidates running in the presidential primaries to start speaking more thoughtfully about their positions on advancing the arts and arts education in America. We kicked things off by partnering with the New Hampshire Citizens for the Arts to help raise the visibility of the arts in the New Hampshire Primary. We got started in May of 2007 – and hired a staffer on the ground in New Hampshire to do three things: 1) organize the arts advocates in the state; 2) meet with the political and policy staff of every presidential campaign with an office in the state and share our Pro-Arts Issue Brief outlining our vision for the arts; and 3) attend candidate events and talk directly to the candidates about their support for the arts. By Primary Day our advocates had had over 30 direct candidate exchanges and 5 of the candidates had produced statements explaining their support for the arts and arts education. The news coverage and advocacy meetings are all recorded on the website.

At this stage in the primaries, we have for the first time in history, extensive arts policy platform statements from the two top presidential Democratic candidates, but we still do not have a formal statement from the Republic nominee, Senator John McCain. We are still reaching out to his campaign, but we encourage all advocates who have a chance to ask Senator McCain a question to ask him to produce an official policy statement on his vision for the arts and arts education in America. We need to get something on the record.

5. BARRY: Arts Advocacy Day is coming up in March. Many states, including California, have their own arts advocacy days that dovetail with the effort you have led for these many years. Can you comment on what your goals are for this year and what is going on around the country with individual state and city efforts – either in support of your advocacy day, or in support of other campaigns being waged?

Bob / Nina: We had a huge victory this past year as the National Endowment for the Arts received the largest increase in 30 years. One of the reasons for this success was the presentation of the first Congressional hearing in 12 years to take place on future funding of the arts. The House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations, chaired by Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA), asked Americans for the Arts to assemble a national panel of individuals to testify on these issues. We have been asked to assemble another national panel this year, which will take place on April 1, 2008.

On the state and local levels, Americans for the Arts works closely with our network of state arts advocacy organizations that produce their own Arts Advocacy Day. In fact, our Director of State Arts Policy, Jay Dick, is in Sacramento today speaking at the California Arts Advocacy Day.

6. BARRY: As a follow up to that last question, what major successes come to mind across the country in the past year or two in terms of local arts sectors advocating and lobbying for specific results (be it more money or other legislation)? Are there any lessons the field can learn from those successful efforts?

Bob / Nina: The biggest successes at the local level have been stemming from tax/bond ballot initiatives taken directly to the voters to decide. Local arts funding ballot measures have been passing at overwhelmingly high margins and last year 100 percent of the measures passed. Some of the biggest highlights in the past few years include $800 million in capital funds for Miami County cultural venues and the Denver re-authorization of the multi-county sales tax for arts and science cultural organizations.

But many times, mayors are spearheading the efforts to apportion greater funds for the arts based on the solid economic impact data we provide. Specifically, I think of Seattle, Washington, and Carmel, Indiana.

7. BARRY: Your efforts have, for obvious reasons, been largely national (federal) in focus and scope. But you have supported a small number of more localized efforts, including Arts for LA. Tip O’Neal said that all politics is local. Do you see expansion of the Arts Action Fund to include state and local efforts some day? Are there any efforts afoot anywhere in the country to start local (state or city) PACs to lobby for the arts?

Bob / Nina: Americans for the Arts and the Arts Action Fund are already active in wide network of local and state advocacy organizations. We house the Capwiz online advocacy program for 30 state groups and provide training for all others who do not have the staff or capacity to have their own state capwiz site. We are in the beta testing stage of a local capwiz site for the Los Angeles area, through Arts for LA.

It will take a few years before the Arts Action Fund PAC can expand to the state and local levels. The capacity to handle all of the heavily-regulated paperwork and filing deadlines for each state and locality is quite significant.

8. BARRY: I know you experimented last year with mass mailings to potential arts supporters (but people not necessarily involved in arts administration) to increase participation in the Arts Action Fund? What success have you had in that effort and what percentage of the total fund does that now account for? Do you think local advocacy efforts might benefit from similar efforts?

Bob / Nina: Direct mail is a very expensive, but still effective, means of inviting individuals to join our movement. We have found that individuals who are pre-disposed to a sense of civic responsibility and also have an appreciation of the arts are our best target audience. At the moment, basic ticket purchasers at cultural events does not necessarily lead to an advocate for the arts.

9. BARRY: It’s been my position for some time that the arts sector has to do more than simply make an effective case for government support. While I think evidence in support of the value arts & culture brings to our cities, our states and our country (economically, civically, educationally and more), I believe we need to exercise raw political power and position ourselves to compete with the private sector lobbying forces to get the results we need. Does your experience with the Arts Action Fund and the success you have had via the political activities of that fund confirm or refute that theory? To what extent do you agree that the arts sector needs to mount meaningful political clout to achieve its goals? And how do you see us moving to achieve that end in the next two to five years?

Bob / Nina: We’ve found that as we’ve grown more sophisticated with our use of the Arts Action Fund, and increasing our grassroots strength, it’s had a dramatic impact with the attention we’re able to draw to our issues. When we combine engaged arts voters from a congressional district, with a report card on that Member’s voting record, and the possibility of a financial contribution for a pro-arts position – it can have a really positive effect on the future positions of candidates running for office and, as a result, on the policies that will impact arts organizations, schools, and the general public in years to come.

10. BARRY: I ask this question in every interview. If you had a million dollars to spend on organizing a state of the art advocacy / lobbying effort what would you spend the money on?

Bob / Nina: A million dollars? Some of this would depend if we had a supportive president, but a smart thing to do would be to hire staff in 50 targeted congressional districts and provide funding to expand the staff at the state advocacy level in all 50 states in order to do what we did in New Hampshire: organize, advocate, and get candidates and/or legislators on the record. Perhaps some media advertising would also help our efforts.


I again encourage everyone to get involved. All arts administrators and arts nonprofit board members should make advocacy (and yes even lobbying) a part of their job descriptions -- as important as program creation and oversight and fundraising. I hope many of you will support the Arts Action Fund with a small contribution (contrary to the widely held belief, it does NOT take nearly as much funding as people imagine to have real impact on elections). As all politics is local, I urge our leadership in each community to meet together to work to establish a local advocacy coalition of arts organizations that can build a foundation on which future efforts can stand. If the current efforts continue and expand, by the next presidential election, the Arts can claim a position of power and finally get elected officials at all levels to address our concerns and needs. Politics is about action and we need to continue to act. If you are contemplating trying to organize a local collaborative effort for advocacy please don't hesitate to contact me. I have a workbook of guidelines, forms and samples that will make organizing the effort much simpler for you and am happy to share it.

Thank you to all of those efforts across the country in the Arts Advocacy arena. YOU are responsible for making a major role in changing the paradigm for the arts with respect to government support for, and appreciation of, the contributions of culture to society.

Have a great week.

And remember, "Don't Quit"