State Legislative Trends in 2021
As we arrive at roughly the halfway mark of state legislative activity for 2021, I thought I would take a few minutes to highlight some legislative trends that we are seeing in various states across the country, along with the top arts related topics. Currently, 42 of the 50 states are in session with eight having already adjourned for the year. Most of the rest of the state legislatures will adjourn by July 2, with six meeting all year. While a firm number of bills being introduced is not readily available, the number is in the tens of thousands. As of this writing, Americans for the Arts is tracking 841 pieces of legislation across all 50 states, many of which could have an impact on the arts. While the vast majority of this legislation will not become law, it is always important to keep a watchful eye to prevent any bad legislation from being signed into law and to support legislation which is helpful. You can see which arts-related bills are in your state’s legislature by visiting your state page right here on our website.
The Creative Impact of COVID-19 on Intentionally Marginalized Artists and Creative Workers
In the initial days of the pandemic, I—like many of you, I’m sure—imagined that I’d have so much more time to create. As a writer, I envisioned using what would have been my commute to crank out the draft of my next novel. However, my good intentions quickly faded as the reality of living through a pandemic set in. I find some comfort in knowing that I’m not alone. Our survey of artists and creative workers found that 64% experienced a decrease in their creative productivity during the pandemic. Much of this decrease is due to logistical reasons: in-person events have been cancelled, venues have been closed. Additionally, artists are finding that their time is being spent on other responsibilities: homeschooling kids, taking care of elderly parents, or sifting through grant or loan applications to supplement lost income. Plus, it’s hard to create when everything around you feels like a fire that needs to be put out. Perhaps not surprisingly, over half (53%) responded that their decline in productivity was due to stress, anxiety, and depression about the state of the world, and 19% said that their health or their family’s health had been impacted by COVID-19, preventing them from working. This last finding was true for 25% of BIPOC respondents, compared to 15% of white respondents. 
Member Spotlight: Jenice Gharib
Jenice Gharib serves as the grants program and policy director at New Mexico Arts (NMA), the state arts agency and a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs. NMA’s primary function is to provide financial support for arts services and programs to nonprofit organizations statewide and to administer the 1% public art program for the state of New Mexico. Gharib manages the department's Arts & Cultural Districts, Local Arts Councils & Service Organizations, Arts Trails, and Economic and Entrepreneurial Development programs. Her varied experience includes running an organic coffee company, starting a joint venture in Poland, and turning around a bankrupt cable TV company. As a writer, she has published articles, reviews, essays, poetry, and short fiction, and has had three plays produced. 
Alan Michelson’s Public Art: History and Place Matter a Lot
According to the artist Alan Michelson—a Mohawk member of the Six Nations of the Grand River who is currently based in New York—history is unfinished business demanding our attention. He believes that American history needs to address some hard truths if we are ever to progress beyond this tragic juncture. Alan also believes that the arts generally, and public art in particular, play significant roles both in addressing complex issues and making important social change. From his Indigenous world view, the violent and fraudulent dispossession of Native people is a significant issue that must be front and center in the national discourse. He has contributed considerably to this discourse, especially in the last couple of years. The Whitney Museum presented his solo exhibition Wolf Nation (Oct. 25, 2019 through Jan. 12, 2020) and College Art Association named him one of their two Distinguished Artists for their 2021 conference. He has made substantive contributions to the national cultural conversation for years. As Alan conveys, “My work is very much grounded in the local, in place, and place can be fraught when you’re Indigenous.” From his perspective, understanding the historical and cultural dynamics of place is at the heart of his work. 
10 Reasons to Support the Arts in 2021
The effective arts advocate needs to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic—and to deploy the right case-making tool in the right moment. Consider these “10 Reasons to Support the Arts” as your Swiss army knife for arts advocacy. It can feel intimidating Zooming with, or walking into, a legislator’s office—even to experienced advocates. To always feel prepared, I break the advocacy process down into three questions: Who gets the message? What is the message? and, Who delivers the message? When you are preparing your case for the arts, remember The Golden Rule: No numbers without a story, and no stories without a number. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. Share yours. It is engaging and draws your listener in—and then pair it with the research-based findings in “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten!
10 Trends that Will Impact Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy in 2021
About this time last year, Americans for the Arts staff put our heads together to create a “Trends in 2020” blog post. We didn’t anticipate an economy-grinding pandemic, which has devastatingly shaped everything this past year, but we did hit some of the other trends that occurred—demographic change, rising division and distrust, shifts towards equity, the fight over who would get to vote and political power, and the primacy of data. Across the arts field, most of us would agree that 2020 was a humbling, surprising, traumatic, and frustratingly unpredictable year. While trend forecasting in this moment is a tricky business, understanding what might be coming around the bend is crucial to our success as a field, particularly as we navigate such a volatile time. Who knows, honestly, what 2021 will bring—but the staff at Americans for the Arts got together (virtually, this time) and here’s what we’ve come up with—10 trends that we think will impact arts, culture, and the creative economy in 2021.
Arts Spaces for Queer BIPOC During COVID: Paris Has Burned
Community as a concept is understood universally; in function its possibilities are inherently dynamic. However, community becomes a necessity when it supersedes formation through common interests and is developed by way of shared experiences. For some queer individuals, and specifically ones of color, the ballroom scene is an example of a community formed through the need to have a space where everyone understands each other through shared experience. In interviewing Noelle Deleon, a Black trans woman from Texas, we are allowed insight into the ballroom community that she recently found herself a part of. When asked about the importance of ballroom she says, “It's where queer men and trans women can go to be free. There is an absence of the influence and presence of people who don’t understand us.” However, there is an elephant in the (ball)room, and that is COVID-19. What happens to trans women when it is no longer safe to host these grand balls with hundreds of other people in the room? 
Art Performs Life on the 10th Anniversary of the Fukushima Disaster
Ten years ago, on March 11, 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants suffered massive damage in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami. A dance artist, Eiko Otake, long familiar to audiences at the Flynn Center in Burlington, Vermont where I live, felt compelled to perform in the irradiated disrupted landscapes. “By placing my body in these places,” she says, “I thought of the generations of people who used to live there. I danced so as not to forget.” Joining her was a colleague from Wesleyan University, William Johnston, professor of Japanese history. The two co-teach a class on Japan’s nuclear disasters, with Fukushima now added into the curriculum along with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Johnston, also an esteemed photographer, journeyed along to document Eiko’s performances as an artistic collaborator. Art performs life in this luminous project, reminding us that the role artists play in commemorating losses can never be underestimated. 
Connecting the Dots: Why the SheCession Is an Arts Story
Women in the United States suffered a net loss of over 5 million jobs in the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of which were held by women of color, wiping out at least a generation’s worth of progress in the workplace. As women continue to bear the brunt of childcare and domestic responsibilities, many are left wondering if their hard-won positions will ever be restored. Meanwhile, the U.S. arts and culture sector has suffered an estimated $15.2 billion in financial losses (admissions, non-admissions and expenditures), as performing arts organizations also are dealing with an additional estimated $15.5 billion reduction in sales and audience spending. These are two devastating blows to the U.S. economy, yet they are too often treated as if they are separate issues needing wholly different solutions. Federally mandated paid family and medical leave would offer women, especially women in the arts, the ability to maintain their jobs, destigmatize familial responsibility in the workplace, and pour billions of dollars back into the U.S. economy.
Buy Fine Craft to Invigorate your Local Creative Economy
For me, handmade objects have “sparked joy” long before Marie Kondo became a household name. A fine craft collector invests in the artist and the story of the artist. The artist’s journey to learn their craft is a part of that object. As many of us re-learned in 2020, our conscious choices to purchase local and handmade have reverberations through our community and country. I serve the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen (PGC) as its Executive Director. Founded in 1944, and headquartered currently in Lancaster, PA, the PGC is one of the oldest and largest professional craft guilds in the country. The PGC was born out of an effort to promote wider awareness of the contributions that craft can bring to a community through the stimulation of achievement and enrichment of cultural, aesthetic, and educational interests. Its very existence was inspired by the recommendation of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to find ways of transferring wartime skills to peacetime work. Our state’s fine crafts are not just beautiful, useful objects; they also demonstrate Pennsylvanian practicality and authenticity, speaking to our state’s historical Quaker roots.
Sparking Economic Recovery Through the Arts
When Pericles convinced his fellow Athenians to build the Parthenon in 447 BC, he shared a vision that would reflect the magnificence of Athens and be a monument to democracy. He also knew it would be a post-war economic driver that would put thousands of citizens to work and attract visitors who would travel to see the architectural marvel. 2,500 years later, Pericles’s prescient understanding of the value of the arts to inspire, define a sense of place, and strengthen the economy remains evident. As government leaders work to position their cities and states for a post-pandemic recovery, new research shows why they too should look to the arts as an essential tool in their economic recovery arsenal. The arts are economic catalysts. They do not just reflect the state and local economy, but actually accelerate economic recovery. A growth in arts employment has a positive and causal effect on overall state employment.