Each year, AAEP students travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in American's for the Arts' National Arts Advocacy Day. Arts Advocacy Day brings together a broad cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 700 grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts. Arts Advocacy Day also provided the opportunity for our students to receive advocacy training from experts and put that training into practice. Our students met with our members of Congress in support of issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
An Advocacy Story...
For more than 10 years, the Department of Arts Administration, Education and Policy has had a long-standing commitment to sponsoring student attendance and participation at Arts Advocacy Day, a national meeting of arts advocates, convening in Washington, D.C., and sponsored by Americans for the Arts. This event brings together a broad-cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations along with more than 500 grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts and arts education.
Attending this event gives students practice in communicating a unified message about the critical importance of the arts to policy makers, members of Congress and other key stakeholders.
Demonstrating their passion for the arts and their knowledge of key policy issues, 28 AAEP students (12 graduates and 16 undergraduates) and seven Columbus Emerging Arts Leaders convened at this event March 6-8, 2016, thanks to support from the department, the Ohio Arts Council and Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the organizational efforts of Central Ohio Student Advocates for the Arts (COSAA) advisor Jim Sanders, alumnae Gretchen McIntosh (PhD, 2015) and Elle Pierman (PhD Candidate), and faculty Deborah Smith-Shank and Sonia Manjon. These hands-on experiences create vital opportunities for students to learn about National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding, policies affecting arts education, records for each member of Congress and their stance on arts issues, as well as statistics and strategies to force strong arguments in support of arts education. Teams of students and working professionals were scheduled to meet with two members of Congress or their legislative aides. Teams were encouraged to share personal reflections on what the arts mean to them, and to explain their position in support of arts education.
"Luckily for my group, both of our Congress members (Steve Stivers and Marcy Kaptur) were already members of the Congressional Art Caucus, so their aids were excited about what we had to say," Pierman said. "I felt very empowered when I lobbied, and I realized how important it is to come together as a nation and really make an effort to advocate for what you believe in."
Gtechen McIntosh continues to make this trip a priority post-graduation. "I believe it is a priority to meet with our representatives and tell them what is important to us. I also believe it is a priority to provide this opportunity too the next generation of arts leaders," she said. "My involvement after graduation is a communication of my passion; i think it is empowering as an American citizen to express your voice and have it heard."
This article originally appeared in the 2017 edition of the AAEP newsletter, Chiaroscuro.