How you can help prevent the DC government from cutting the arts budget in half

Arts Advocacy DayWednesday, April 17, 2013 is DC Arts Advocacy Day. Every year around this time, I write about  advocating for the arts not only at budget time, but also advocating year-round. So while I am listing things you can do now, we all should be developing relationships with the DC Councilmembers and Mayor throughout the year – not just when we need their support.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray has proposed a more than fifty percent cut to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities budget for FY 2014. DC Advocates for the Arts and arts organizations across the city are meeting with DC Councilmembers to urge that they at least maintain the same level of funding as this year. You can also play an important role  in arts advocacy.

On Wednesday, April 17, here are a few things you can do:

  • Send an online Action Alert to DC Councilmembers
  • Call or send an e-mail to your Councilmember (see contact info here)
  • Call or send an e-mail to members of the Finance and Revenue Committee, which has oversight of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities budget (see contact info here)
  • Join DC Advocates for the Arts for their rally outside the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Ave, NW) from 12:15 to 1:00 pm

On Wednesday, April 24, the Committee on Finance and Revenue is holding the budget hearing for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities. This starts at 10:00 am in Room 500 at the Wilson Building. If you would like to testify, contact Sarina Loy at (202) 724-8058 or e-mail

Whether you are reaching out to the DC Councilmembers on the 17th or providing testimony at the hearing on the 24th, it is important to include compelling anecdotes about the difference the arts make combined with facts.

For facts, here’s a great report — Arts Education Navigator: Facts & Figures — that Americans for the Arts released last month with colorful graphics that bring to life statistics about some of the benefits of arts education.

Examples from this report can be helpful in making your case, such as the following:

  • Low-income students who are highly engaged in the arts are more than twice as likely to graduate college as their peers with no arts education.
  • Low-income students with high arts participation have a four percent high school dropout rate — five times lower than their peers with low arts participation.
  • Students who participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
  • 72 percent of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring.

Related to the last statistic, Yo-Yo Ma gave this year’s Americans for the Arts Nancy Hanks Lecture “Arts for Life’s Sake” last week. This was a beautifully crafted speech with moving performances. One of Yo-Yo Ma’s points was that experts state that the qualities required for students to succeed in the workforce are to be collaborative, flexible, imaginative, and innovative — all skills that one uses in music and the performing arts.