National Arts Advocacy Day is the largest gathering of its kind, bringing together a broad cross section of America’s cultural and civic organizations. Grassroots advocates from across the country come to Washington D.C. to meet with their members of Congress in support of issues like arts education policy, the charitable tax deduction and funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. This year, DeanLucinda Lavelli and President of the Friends of Music Cherie Fine attended on behalf of the College of Fine Arts.
Events got underway the evening of March 24 at the Kennedy Center with a humorous and poignant introduction by Alec Baldwin who has been an arts supporter for over 24 years. Baldwin discussed his passion for classical music and his concern about pending federal legislation that could asphyxiate the arts. He was followed by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Maureen Dowd, as the Nancy Hanks Lecture on Arts and Public Policy. She related personal stories and spoke to the arts expanding the limits of our personal boundaries.
The following day, attendees heard from legislators who support the arts and visited Florida senators and representatives or their aides. A partial summary of legislative requests were: restoring the NEA budget to $155 million; appropriating $30 million for the Arts in Education program; preserving of the charitable giving deduction in the tax code; allowing artists a tax deduction for charitable gifts of their own works; protecting wireless technology for the arts and improving the artist visa process.
The week prior, College of Fine Arts representatives attended Arts Advocacy Day in Tallahassee. Among the attendees were Stefanie Anarumo, a fourth year BFA theatre performance student; David McDermott, who is working on dual degrees in music education with an instrumental emphasis and Spanish; Amanda Kegu, a third year student studying art history and management; and Jennifer Squires, who is pursuing her BA in dance with a certificate in Dance in Healthcare.
Students and College of Fine Arts faculty and staff members met with Florida state legislators, Representative Keith Perry who has been advocating a change from STEM to STEAM to include the arts, Senator Rob Bradley, Representative Elizabeth Porter and Representative Clovis Watson Jr. All four CFA students were also awarded a Florida Higher Education Arts Network Student Arts Advocacy award.
Throughout the day discussions were held about funding allocated to the arts, emphasizing the importance of art and music in school education and the fact that studies have shown that children who participate in the arts perform better on standardized tests, work better in groups and build better academic discipline overall.
For Jennifer Squires the most memorable part of the day was participating in a drum improvisation. “The woman who led the group brought in 30 djembes, all hand-crafted from tribes in Ghana, and placed them in front of people,” she says. “The experience immediately put a smile on everyone’s faces once we began to drum. It highlighted the essence of music and demonstrated how art can truly make a difference.”