The President’s budget proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts is merely an “opening argument.” A very long legislative process now begins which will, hopefully, culminate in a budget that reflects moderation and compromise.
Our advocates at Americans for the Arts have long prepared for this day – and it’s reassuring to know that the arts have friends on both sides of the political aisle. Of course, nothing is assured until the votes are counted, so until then, we must proceed from the position that the NEA’s very survival is on the line.
And for that reason, Congress is not the only place where this debate must take place.
For those of us who support public funding of the arts (plus any/all of the other programs slated for reduction or elimination) – it’s time to accept a concurrent personal responsibility to identify a friend, colleague, relative or neighbor who SUPPORTS the President’s position and engage them in an informed, respectful, and constructive dialogue. (Such supporters shouldn’t be hard to find, the latest Quinnipiac poll (March 7, 2017) reports that the President enjoys a 91% approval rating among Republicans.)
Outrage is easy. Cynicism is futile. We must resist the urge to throw up our hands in disgust.
Now is the time to redouble our efforts to understand the concerns and objectives of our fellow citizens – especially those with whom we disagree. Respecting them is essential to being heard when we communicate our own concerns and objectives. (As Michelle Obama would say, “When they go low, we go high.”)
I’m not suggesting that you pick a fight and wrestle anybody to the ground. Start easy… how about inviting someone to join you for a show, concert, or museum visit? Talk about the things that you both enjoy; discover the pleasure of common ground. It’s not phony and it’s not a set-up to a future argument. It’s about helping other people discover whatever it is that you enjoy/love/appreciate about whatever arts & cultural experience you are most passionate.
Yes, the stakes in this particular legislative battle are incredibly high. BUT OUR AMBITION SHOULD BE EVEN GREATER!
Let’s each of us – and the artistic causes, organizations, and communities that we champion – recognize this situation as a precious and critical opportunity for our own effort at audience development. Now, more than ever, we must work to attract, sustain, cultivate and diversify the population of people who recognize, enjoy and respect our nation’s arts & cultural offerings.
You want votes in Congress? Do your part by cultivating applause in your community.
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