If you follow this blog, you are probably culturally aware enough to know that included in the White House budget proposal released on March 16 was the elimination — not cut, but complete elimination — of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), and Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In total, these three agencies’ budgets represent only .02% of the national budget, less than a quarter of one percent. These agencies serve not just all 50 states in the nation, but every congressional district, and produce a return of $9 in economic impact for every $1 spent. In other words, arts and culture in the United States is a $22.3 billion industry (repeat: that’s billion with a “B.”), revenues that are all counted in our nation’s GDP. And then there’s the principle on which these agencies were founded: that art is a part of any advanced civilization.
“an advanced civilization must not limit its efforts to science and technology alone, but must give full value and support to the other great branches of scholarly and cultural activity.” — President Lyndon B. Johnson, when signing the NEA and NEH endowments into effect in 1965
The Arts Endowment’s mission was clear: to spread this artistic prosperity throughout the land, from the dense neighborhoods of our largest cities to the vast rural spaces, so that every citizen might enjoy America’s great cultural legacy. This mission has lived in service for up to 75 million people annually (source: NEA, 2012) for the last 50+ years.
Time to Speak Up
The California Symphony is raising our voice as part of National Arts Advocacy Day on March 21, 2017. We’ve developed this tool kit to help anyone and everyone be a part of the national conversation. Each tool is outlined below, and everything here is completely free for you to use, download, share, copy, and distribute. Whether you are reading this as a leader of another organization, or as an individual who values the arts, we hope this is helpful to you and encourages you to make your voice heard, too.
Tool #1: Contact Your Elected Officials (So Easy!)
You can do this in about 2–5 minutes right now. To begin, click here and enter your zip code, and then your specific elected officials will appear. Check the boxes for whichever of your officials you want to contact. At minimum, we encourage you to select your congressional representative, as Congress ultimately sets the national budget.
Next, you’ll be taken to a screen where you can add your personal message. Here is sample text you can use; copy and paste, and then add 1–2 sentences (or more if you’d like) to make it your own:
SUBJECT: Support Funding for the NEA in FY17 and FY18!
BODY: I am writing to urge you to support FY17 and FY18 funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The NEA is a critical component in the network of public, private, corporate, and philanthropic support. Total direct grants by the agency are anticipated to reach more than 33 million people attending live arts events through NEA-supported programs. Grants to orchestras build innovative and civically vibrant communities such as ours by supporting arts education for children and adults, providing citizen access to performances, preserving great classical works, and nurturing the creative endeavors of contemporary classical musicians, composers, and conductors.
[Add in a few sentences here — or anywhere — to make this personal. Talk about how you’ve been to a California Symphony concert (or any arts performance anywhere!), or have been a beneficiary of an educational or community program. Maybe you know (or are) a musician, amateur or professional, and the arts literally are your life. Whatever your connection to the arts, work it in somehow. Personalization is what makes a difference.]
An NEA grant helps leverage additional forms of support — a dollar invested by the NEA is matched by more than $9 from other state, local, and private sources, magnifying the impact of the federal investment. As your constituent, I urge you to support funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Investments in the arts strengthen our local economy and improve the quality of life in our community. Thank you for your support!
SIGNATURE: At the end, you have the option to sign your name.
Click here to find your representative(s) and customize your own letter. Thanks to the League of American Orchestras for this very handy set up! P.S. It’s mobile-friendly, too!
Tool #2: Read Our Open Letter
Read it. Share it. If this inspires you in your own personalized outreach from Tool #1 above, even better.
Tool #3: Get Busy on Social Media
Save and use any of the graphics we made just for this occasion, or scroll down for the quick share options to post directly to your own social media account(s).
QUICK SHARE #1: Share the California Symphony’s Facebook post below. Click, click, and you’re done.
QUICK SHARE #2: Share the California Symphony’s Twitter post below. Click to retweet, and you’re done.
QUICK SHARE #3: Share the California Symphony’s Instagram post below. This works best on your phone and requires a reposting app.
Your Voice Does Matter
Research shows that when a group of constituents weigh in at the same time on a particular topic, the elected official takes notice. In conclusion, we hope this post gives you tons of ideas of how to join in this day of National Arts Advocacy, particularly at a time when our collective advocacy for the arts matters most.
About the Author
Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director, California Symphony
Aubrey Bergauer defies trends, and then makes her own. In a time when many arts organizations are finding it more and more difficult to meet rising ticket, subscription, and fundraising goals, Bergauer has dramatically increased earned and contributed revenue at organizations ranging from Seattle Opera to the Bumbershoot Music & Arts Festival to the California Symphony. Her focus on not just engaging — but retaining — new audiences grew Seattle Opera’s BRAVO! Club (young patrons group for audience members in their 20’s and 30’s) to the largest group of its kind nationwide, led the Bumbershoot Festival to achieve an unprecedented 43% increase in revenue, and propelled the California Symphony to quadruple the size of its donor base. From growing audiences, increasing concerts, and expanding programs to instilling and achieving common goals across what are usually siloed marketing, development, and artistic departments, Bergauer is someone you want to follow — on the nationally-recognized blog she created to discuss what actually works in a changing arts landscape, and in real life, too.
A graduate of Rice University with degrees in Music Performance and Business, for the last 15 years Bergauer has used music to make the world around her better, through programs that champion social justice and equality, through ground-breaking marketing and audience development tactics on the forefront of technology, and through taking strategically calculated risks in a risk-adverse field. If ideas are a dime a dozen, what separates Bergauer is her experience and record of impact and execution at institutions of all sizes. Praised for her leadership which “points the way to a new style of audience outreach,” (Wall Street Journal) and which drove the California Symphony to become “the most forward-looking music organization around.” (Mercury News) Bergauer’s ability to strategically and holistically examine and advance every facet of the organization’s mission and vision is creating a transformational change in the office, on the stage, in the audience, in the community, and going well beyond the industry of classical music.