Sunday, November 21, 2010

Speak Up For Art 2012 Campaign

Good morning.
“And the beat goes on…………………”

Speak Up For the Arts:
The 2012 Election cycle will begin in January. Soon hopeful GOP Presidential candidates will set up shop in Iowa and New Hampshire and the media will begin with endless and relentless coverage, so called analysis, punditry and projections. The same thing will begin to happen off camera as it were for lesser races from Congress to City Halls all across the country. And all of that will filter down as the parties and special interest groups begin the process of gearing up for the defense and advancement of their own interests, pet causes and the like.

Frankly, we ought to be doing the exact same thing. In a more perfect world we would be setting up local and state committees and PACs and trying to identify arts friendly candidates to support, or even those from our own ranks that we could convince to run. We would be identifying specific legislation and policies we would hope to advance and / or defeat to protect our interests. We would begin to raise funds, do benefits, reach out to stakeholders to form alliances, and begin our media strategy to get the public on our side.

All of which takes sophistication, money, organization and commitment – none of which we have unfortunately. But we might just be able to focus on a single strategy that could help us. There are lots we could choose from. I have a suggestion: A national word of mouth and quasi media campaign (I say quasi because we can’t afford a real full blown media / advertising effort and there is probably too little time before 2012 to get an Ad Council or other pro bono effort launched) that urges people everywhere (parents of school kids, the PTA, everyone involved in the nonprofit arts and the for profit entertainment industry, artists both professional and amateur and any and everyone else we might convince to join us) to SPEAK UP FOR ART at every opportunity they get – to their local elected officials, to the media, to their colleagues at work, to people in groups to which they belong, to their neighbors – to anyone they can – and tell their stories of why and how the arts are valuable in people’s lives, to communities, to business and the economy, to education and civic life. Op Ed pieces in newspapers, a letter campaign, email petitions, viral videos on You Tube, public opinion surveys, release of new or even repackaged research and data.  A two year grassroots campaign to enlist the help of all those people for whom the arts have meaning to SPEAK UP FOR ART – loudly, often and with conviction. It would be relatively easy to set up a web site, provide people with talking points, aggregate poignant stories and the like and promote it across America.

If we could get it to catch on, we might make it grow exponentially and by the time we got to November 2012 it might make it much easier for us to leverage what we had grown to political action on our own behalf with the goal of making the arts a bi-partisan “good” which everyone supported; if not sacrosanct, then at the least, embraced by so many that attacking us would not be as easy an option.

I would call this campaign SPEAK UP FOR ART 2012 – and here’s the logo

Sé4A 2012

Speak Up For Art 2012

The point is if we want to be better positioned in the next election cycle, we need to begin to strategize and implement strategies on the local level and moving up now.  If we started some campaign like this now, we might be able to position it by 2012.  If every organization included the logo and a link to a site, and promoed it in their newsletters, advertising and the like we might have a chance to fix it in the public's mind. Of course, it would take a large percentage of all arts organizations to join in and promote and hype the logo and idea of the effort so as to involve as many people, communities, groups and organizations as possible.  Not an easy task, I know.

Random Acts of Art:
Here’s a link to a Random Act of Art from the Opera Company of Philadelphia unwritten by the Knight Foundation. I think I’ve seen one or two of these kinds of things before including a recent one at the Heathrow Airport outside of London. Basically it is a coordinated, yet unannounced and seemingly impromptu performance piece not dissimilar from flashmobs done in a public place on an unsuspecting audience. Although very rehearsed and planned out, because it appears somewhat incongruously out of place, and initially unrehearsed and spontaneous, it is all the more enthralling and captivating – and leaves the audience feeling buoyant and upbeat.

Delighting those fortunate enough to be in the area at the appointed time, it is a great calling card for art and an unforgettable reminder of the power of art to alter moods and change perceptions, and simply make people happy.

I applaud the Knight Foundation for funding it and hope they do more.  Maybe other foundations or funders could join in.

Imagine the impact of something like this if it were done on a grander scale. In California we celebrate ARTS DAY (as part of Arts & Humanities Month) on the first Friday of each October. How cool would it be if this kind of impromptu performance was done in a score of places across the state on the same day by operas and symphonies and dance companies and theater groups and choruses and even visual artists and so on -- in malls and public squares and lobbies and on the street. What if the entire state just sort of broke out in displays of art.

Or maybe even bigger – what if we did this across the whole country on some appointed day as a culminating act of the SPEAK UP FOR THE ARTS 2012 campaign. In homage’s to Cristo, Spencer Tunick the Philippine Prison tribute to Michael Jackson and many more - one day of hundreds, even thousands of unannounced performances in public places all calling attention to Sé4A 2012

Think of the media coverage and the opportunities to tell our stories - how we might drive home the power and importance of art in everyone’s daily life, and get people who never give the value of art any thought at all to talk about art and its role in our lives.

Of course, all of this would be a Herculean task no doubt, but a lot of fun and the chance to be part of something so much bigger than what we do usually. And if everyone just ran with it on their own, we wouldn’t need a lot of national from the top down organization. Just empower people to buy-in and see where it goes – a national two year viral flash mob of inestimable size. Perhaps a true work of art in its own right.  Maybe the Knight Foundation could take the lead.

Just another thought. I can dream can’t I?  And maybe smarter people than me can come up with a far better campaign idea, slogan, logo or what have you.  We could / should be able to mount some kind of effort, no?

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Don’t Quit

Speak é For Art 2012