Making the Case

In 2009, Americans for the Arts presented its policy recommendations to the Obama-Biden Transition Office on how arts groups and artists can be supported in the economic recovery plan.  The focused efforts of Americans for the Arts are not only dedicated to sustaining the health of the arts field, but also on helping it gain momentum so that the arts can grow and prosper in the first half of this new century.

The policy recommendations:

 national arts indexThe National Arts Index

The National Arts Index, created by Americans for the Arts, is a highly distilled measure of the health and vitality of arts in the United States. It is composed of 81 equalweighted, national‐level indicators of arts and culture activity that covers a 12‐year period, from 1998 to 2009.

Each indicator is updated annually and a new report is produced.

Economic Recovery & the Arts
Arts & Economic Prosperity III Economic Impact of the Arts 
Corporate and Foundation Giving to the Arts

Americans for the Arts has kept a steady eye on private sector giving to the arts, due to the alarming news that over the past 15 years, private giving to the arts had fallen more than $8 billion annually. Through convenings of the National Arts Policy Roundtable and a collection of diverse programs including the MetLife Forums, the Arts & Business Council, and the Business Committee for the Arts Forum for New Ideas, American for the Arts has been able to make a focused examination of private sector giving to the arts. This study of private sector giving has demonstrated just how crucial business and foundation support is to the arts and has further shown that the arts sector must focus its efforts even further to reverse the decreasing funding trends.

Advocacy for Public Support of the Arts

Americans for the Arts also engages the public sector and local, state, and federal officials to advocate for public support of the arts and to better understand the ways in which the arts sector can leverage this support. The organization maintains a comprehensive view of public-sector support for the arts through a number of strategic alliances, national events, and targeted projects. Each spring, Arts Advocacy Day is an opportunity for arts leaders from every state to speak to the value of the arts in their own communities. A varied group of government officials, as well as prominent artists, help make Arts Advocacy Day successful. During the event, Americans for the Arts also brings together more than 1,000 participants to its annual Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy at the Kennedy Center. The free lecture affords the general public the opportunity to better understand the critical nature of public support for the arts.

In 2008, Americans for the Arts and the Harman-Eisner Program in the Arts at the Aspen Institute co-convened 23 distinguished philanthropists, business, public-sector, and cultural leaders in Aspen, CO, to discuss the role of the arts in our 21st century society. Participants debated ways in which the public and private sectors can work with the arts to assure our advancement as a society and suggested cultural policy options for a new presidential administration to consider as it forms its priorities for the nation.

Other partnerships have helped form a clearer picture of public-sector support for the arts from around the country. Americans for the Arts’ long-standing work with The United States Conference of Mayors included having the arts represented in the mayors’ policy recommendations and forums for the new presidential administration during the 2008 election. Additionally, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), championed public support for the arts in the October 2008 issue of its Public Management magazine.

Civic Engagement and the Arts

The arts are also a potent tool for civic engagement and the work of Animating Democracy, a program of Americans for the Arts, has proven this time and again.  With the support of important partners such as the Ford Foundation, Animating Democracy has studied the intersection of arts and civic engagement in depth, working in more than 40 communities across the country. From workshops on civic engagement to full-fledged arts projects, these programs provide a catalyst for civic discourse on a range of critical issues including race, gentrification, shifting demographics in the United States, and others.

Civic engagement through the arts was also advanced at the 2008 National Arts Policy Roundtable. The Roundtable focused on the Animating Democracy’s core values: that the arts play a unique role in fostering citizen engagement by offering new ways to view an increasingly complex world, and providing creative forums in which difficult issues can be addressed and solutions can take form. The Roundtable recommendations include the creation of an “Arts Corps” as part of any national service and/or national jobs programs by the federal government.

In 2008, the Americans for the Arts Action Fund raised the public dialogue about the arts and arts education throughout the entire campaign cycle: from presidential primaries in New Hampshire, national political conventions in Denver and St. Paul, to congressional races in all 50 states. Through its ArtsVote2008 initiative, the Arts Action Fund successfully advocated for presidential and congressional candidates to make strong, public statements and commitments in support of arts and arts education.

Earned Income and the Arts

Americans for the Arts has a broad professional membership base of 6,500 members and organizations consisting of both local arts agencies and presenting and performing arts organizations. For the presenting and performing arts organizations, particularly, earned income is a primary concern. While public-sector and private-sector funding can wax and wane, many arts organizations seek greater financial stability through higher levels of earned income.

Arts Education and the American Workforce

Though financial support was found to be the most critical issue facing the health of the arts in the United States according to the 2007 arts environmental scan, a second overarching theme of arts education seemed just as broad reaching. The scan noted the decreasing amount of arts education in United States schools while also pointing out how crucial arts education is to the continued health of the arts sector and to the strength and dynamism of our American workforce. 

Within the past year, Americans for the Arts partnered with The Conference Board and the American Association of School Administrators to produce the study Ready to Innovate: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce? which stresses the need for better arts education for workforce development; best-selling author Daniel Pink argued this same point at the 2008 Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts & Public Policy; and the topic was also echoed at the convening of the 2007 National Arts Policy Roundtable, Thinking Creatively and Competing Globally: The Role of the Arts in the 21st Century American Workforce. Additionally, Americans for the Arts has joined more than 60 other national arts and education organizations as a part of the Arts Education Working Group to strengthen arts in our schools by working to improve No Child Left Behind.