Sunday, February 12, 2017

States Arts Advocacy Report Update

Good morning.
"And the beat goes on.........................."

Updates to the State Arts Advocacy Scan Report.

1.  Florida was inadvertently left off the list.  It should have been listed as a Tier I organization.

2.  Nina Ozlu Tunceli, at Americans for the Arts, asked me to clarify the legal position of the Arts Action Fund.  Here is her suggested language:

"Federal:  Americans for the Arts is the primary organizer of arts advocacy at the federal level.  Their grassroots advocacy arm – the Arts Action Fund – has a PAC and it is the only really viable PAC for the nonprofit arts in the country, and their annual war chest to award to candidates at the federal level who are arts supportive is the largest and basically only financial clout the arts have.  Working with AFTA are the NASAA, the national service provider organizations representing the various segments and disciplines within the arts sector, which organizations also rally their memberships in support of federal arts issue positions, and provide them with advocacy tools, training, information and advice."

3.  Narric Rome at Americans for the Arts provided me with new information suggesting changes to several of the classifications as listed in the report.  Based on the information from Narric,  and at his suggestion, I am pleased to move the general advocacy arts organizations in Arkansas to Group I, and North Dakota and Virginia to Group II.

Narric had several other suggestions about moving a number of State Arts Education Advocacy organizations higher in the Groupings - mostly from Group IV to Group III, with some from Group III to Group II.   This State Arts Advocacy scan was attempt to get a picture of the status of state advocacy efforts - both as participants in supporting federal advocacy efforts, and as organizations able to advocate on behalf of state and local issues - but beyond just arts education issues.  The various Arts Education Advocacy groups were included in the scan primarily to note some state advocacy presence in those states where it appeared that there was either no active general state arts advocacy organization (Group IV), or the general state arts advocacy organization was largely dysfunctional (Group III).  Indeed, in interviews many stated that they actively advocate for support for their state arts agency.  Narric also noted states that are in the process of launching (or re-launching) general arts advocacy efforts, and those states will hopefully, at some future point, then more appropriately be grouped in higher tiers, but that reality awaits further progress.  Finally, the Washington D.C. advocacy organization was not included as the scan was limited to the states.

As stated in the initial report, Americans for the Arts is the premier organization organizing and coordinating national advocacy at the Federal level, and they do an extraordinary job.  As such, their principal concern is federal policy.  The AFTA State Arts Action Network (SAAN) includes many state Arts Education Advocacy leaders as state captains, primarily in states that don't have a general arts advocacy organization, and while their participation is no doubt invaluable in helping to organize on the state level for federal advocacy and, in all likelihood, to the extent they are able, on the state level for state issues advocacy as well, the scan's focus was on the existence, or non-existence, of general arts advocacy organization structures that had as their charge the full range of arts issues.  The Arts Education Advocacy groups, by definition, as well as practice, for the most part focus the lion's share of their energies and resources on Arts Education advocacy, and that is their purpose.  They do excellent work, and many help, when and where they can, in general arts advocacy efforts, but Arts Education Advocacy organizations are not the same as having a fully functional and formal general arts advocacy organization.  Thus, for the purposes of the scan in identifying functional state arts advocacy organizations that have the full complement of nonprofit arts issues as their portfolio, state arts education advocacy organizations don't really qualify.  Their groupings in the scan were indicative of their assuming, from time to time, and in specific instances, a modest role of a general arts advocacy group.

The takeaway from the scan was the reality that there is a relatively high proportion of states that do not have a solid general state arts advocacy organization, or which have a barely functioning organization.  I note that even allowing for upward movement of all of the state arts education advocacy organizations included in Narric's analysis, there would still be roughly 28% of the total that would fall into Group III or Group IV - non functional or non-existent.  I would also note that the criteria was a fully functioning organization with staff, resources, a structure and means of communication.  Without criticism, Board run organizations, those with Facebook presence, and organizations that limit their activities to an Arts Day or the like aren't really the fully functional kind of advocacy effort we really need in the arts to protect our interests and advance our priorities.  That is not  meant to diminish their support, nor a criticism of the efforts out there, but rather a lamentation that we haven't yet been able to do better.  As noted in the previous blog, the scan was not a comment on the efforts and / or successes of advocacy efforts in any state, on any level; nor, as noted, was it a comment on the Herculean efforts of thousands of dedicated arts supporters across the country.  It's premise was that a formal general advocacy organizational structure was an asset every state ought to have to maximize their potential effectiveness.  The grouping of states into various tiers was meant to give a thumbnail assessment of the existence (or absence), and the relative strength, of such a formal structure - one dedicated to general arts advocacy.

We believe every state should have both types of organizations.  It is our hope that every state will continue to try to do whatever is necessary, and within their means and abilities, to insure that they have solid, funded, staffed, advocacy organizations for both general arts issues and for arts education issues specifically.  And we hope many of the players, including State Arts Agencies, funders, AFTA and other national organizations, will devote their funding, personnel, expertise and experience to help every state achieve that benchmark.

Advocacy and lobbying on all levels is getting ever more important, while simultaneously more complex and competitive.  We need the best infrastructure and tools we can get to do the best job we can in furtherance of our positions.  We need to ask why our state advocacy infrastructure isn't as formidable as we want, and whether or not we can do anything about that reality.  As said in the last blog, We can and must do better.   Many states need help.  I hope that help can be forthcoming.

Have a good week.

Don't Quit